Change: Any Prospect for Nigeria
by Salihu Moh. Lukman
The common saying is that change is constant; so what? Do we desire it?
Perhaps, yes! If so, what are we doing to facilitate or accelerate it? This
is not a new question, particularly in the context of the debate around
challenges of governance, democracy and economic development. The challenge
facing Nigeria today borders on how we respond to the question of change.
The general perception in the country is that conditions are degenerating.
Economically, more than 50% of the population live below $1.00 per day
poverty threshold. 35% live in extreme poverty. Measured in terms of
household consumption, 75.5% of our people are poor. The 2007 report of
National Bureau of Statistics estimates that 63 million Nigerians go to bed
hungry every day. Infant mortality is 110 out of 1000 live birth and
maternal mortality is 1000 per 100,000 population.
The World Bank has projected that 99% of the nation's oil revenue accrues
only to 1% of the population. This is compounded by very high unemployment
rates, which the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) estimated to be 16%.
Underemployment rate was estimated at 17%. These projections, certainly
under estimated the unemployment realities facing the country. This is very
easy to prove.
First, using the national average household population of six (6), there is
hardly any household in the country with less than 2 unemployed persons.
Secondly, tertiary graduates' unemployment is 15% per annum with about
600,000 students graduating annually while the labour market can only absorb
10%. In addition, annual employment growth rate is 1% while labour force
growth rate is 2.8%. Thirdly, with a total labour force of approximately 60
million, only 4 million Nigerians are on paid employment in both public and
private sectors of the economy. Open unemployment of youth aged 15 - 29 is
estimated at 60%. In the face of all these, 17% unemployment and 16%
underemployment rates are jokes.
What is the prospect that this ugly reality is going to change? What are we
doing, whether at the level of governmental, non-governmental organisations
or in our private capacities, to facilitate the process of driving our
institutions to serve as change catalysts? Or put differently, are we, in
anyway, committed to lead the process of change in our society and nation?
Politically, democracy and party systems should produce choices and
alternative strategies of addressing problems of poverty, unemployment,
illiteracy, etc. Unfortunately, we have 'parties' that have failed to offer
choices, politicians that are genetically the same and ideologically united.
We have governmental and non-governmental institutions that either subvert
democratic norms or are feeble and therefore unable to secure liberalism and
freedom. As a result, elections are never free and are mockery of every
known principles of fairness. Rule of law is reduced to slogan.
Political culture therefore is fundamentally oriented to entrench current
realities that allow only 1% of the population to access and enjoy the
resources of the nation. The consequence is that although the country was
reported by the Central Bank of Nigeria to have earned N8.875 trillion or
$71.12 billion between 2002 and 2006 from the sale of oil, only 1% of the
population could have benefitted.
Socially, our society and social institutions are perplexed, dilapidated and
inept. The family as a primary institution for socialisation, behaviour
moulding and support is being eroded. Children are confronted with realities
that threatened their future and survival with no support structures.
Organisations, at all levels, only serve the leaders, their agenda, work and
therefore outcomes only influenced by, and beneficial to managers. To the
ordinary citizen, the existence of these organisations, including the family
to some extent, constitute a burden.
By the way, this is the result of years, if not decades, of neglect,
mismanagement and abuse of resources. It is the common attribute that both
characterises and connects preceding governments. This begs the question,
why did we allow things to happen this way? Correct or incorrect, how far
can our assessment facilitate change?
Geoge Manbiot in his book, THE AGE OF CONSENT: A Manifesto for a New World
Order, emphatically made the point that any change worth fighting for will
be hard to achieve; indeed if the struggle in which you are engaged is not
difficult, you may be confident that it is not worthwhile, for you can be
assured by that measure that those from whom you need to wrest power are not
threatened by your efforts.
Change in politics, economy and society requires a deliberate, planned,
organised and conscious approach. This is today a national imperative in
Nigeria, which regrettably is reduced to sloganeering. Interestingly, across
the length and breadth of the country, Nigerians have common and modest
hopes, which can be reduced to finding jobs that guarantees livelihood.
Nigerians want to be able to settle their medical bills, pay school fees for
their children, have access to clean water, safe and secure environment,
There are very little illusions today that government meant little to
nothing. Few organisations support the hopes of Nigerians. To a considerable
extent, the challenge before us today is simply that of creating new
organisations that have the necessary orientation, meaning and value to
support the hopes and aspirations of Nigerians. These new organisations
would then be the levers for new governments with promising programmes and
potentials to produce high quality changes in the realities facing citizens.
What are the prospects? 2011 is only about 2 years away. Very soon,
politicians will start parading themselves as saints, righteous individuals
and saviours requesting for our votes. The process will be driven largely by
money-politics. In which case, the elections have been concluded long before
the votes. The ruling Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP) has won all the states
but one. Why is this so and which is the one state that it will not win?
Once money is the driving factor in politics, PDP will emerge victorious
because the money that will be employed to campaign is not a function of
earned income but largely product of graft, underhand deals and unhindered
access to public wealth. This means that the bulk of the resources would be
public funds and therefore the current managers of public funds, which
dominantly are PDP members, would direct the process.
Ideally, one would have argued that parties controlling other states would,
by the same logic, retain their states. Alas! With no exception, given
current level of disorganisation confronting all the other parties, combined
with the phenomenon of decamping to PDP, it is just a matter of time before
the states currently being governed by non-PDP governors' collapse. Zamfara
is leading the pack! The only clear exception is Lagos, on account of three
The first is that the political team in Lagos state under the leadership of
Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola appears to be driven by a commitment to
serve. Without fear of contradiction, based on the programmes of the
government, one could argue that Lagos state is the only state with
functional and viable government. Functional because it is delivering
services to citizens and viable because its internally generated revenue is
adequate to finance its programmes, projects and services to citizens.
The second reason why it is very unlikely for PDP to conquer Lagos state in
2011 is that political structures in Lagos are well developed and relatively
entrenched and therefore could be deployed to protect the interests of
citizens. The third factor is that the functionality of government has
liberalised the economic environment and made income opportunities
What of Edo State? At this stage, it is only potentials that require clear
organisational and programmatic push. Developed political structures would
be needed to serve as the compass for socio-economic development. Current
twin parentage of Action Congress and Labour Party in the state must
translate into expanded political capacity to mobilise citizens. Also, the
expanded political capacity should confer economic opportunities to people.
Only then, can we equate Edo with Lagos. Until that happens, Edo remains a
potential. The 10,000 jobs programme embarked upon by the state government
is certainly a positive move.
The fundamental issue therefore, relates to the management of resources and
guaranteeing that leadership represent the best skill, embodies sacrifice,
modesty and service. Dispositions to negotiate choices and alternatives with
the people would broaden the scope and space for citizens' participation in
guaranteeing the realisation of hopes and aspirations of our people.
This is the organisational, leadership and political challenges facing us;
if you like, it is the 2011 challenge. How are we going to respond to these
challenges? Are we going to be able to produce new organisations that would
produce contrasting political values and therefore throw up new sets of
politicians? Or, are we just simply re-inventing and reproducing PDP in
different guises and forms?
So long as individuals would have to provide almost 100% of the financial
resources for their election campaigns, it will be disadvantageous for new
initiatives and new politicians to emerge. Why is it not possible for
campaign political initiatives to be organised based on delegated community
structures with accountability framework such that the candidate is only a
functionary? In other words, the candidate is selected based on established
criteria and by that measure could be disciplined accordingly, including
The main focus thus is the ward and local government levels. The theoretical
orientation would then be bottom up rather than the current top down
approach where the focus is on higher offices. As we progress toward 2011,
the political landscape will be saturated with people aspiring for
Gubernatorial, Senatorial and House of Representatives positions. And it is
these people that would dictate placements for offices at lower levels i.e.
house of assembly, local government chairmen and councillors.
Often times, it will be a case of positioning cronies and yes people.
Because of this approach, you find that there is no any form of correlation
either with reference to performance or any other rational index driving
issues of vertical mobility in our polity. As long as this is the case,
political progression will be driven by access to resources and capacity to
We need to pose clear alternatives that are capable of emphasising our
collectivity, resourcefulness and modesty. It should be possible to organise
these campaign structures with credible people at local level directing the
campaigns and resources managed collectively. These campaign teams don't
have to be partisan. It would then be possible for campaign teams to be
expanded to serve more than a candidate. If you like, they could be
cross-partisan, drawing participation across two, three or more parties and
to that extent supporting candidates for different offices. That would then
make it possible for campaign teams to finance the political activities of
more than one candidate even if such candidates are poor.
Once the campaigns are directed by skilful people, interest negotiations and
reconciliation is possible and political contest would then become a game.
The main thrust of the game is the development of strategic programme that
seeks to enable the realisation of the hopes and aspirations of Nigerians.
The scope for the activities of these campaign structures would determine to
a great extent the spread of coverage and the propensity for political
change to happen nationally.
What we do today, individually and collectively therefore is the
determinant. Lamenting about current situation will not produce political
change; joining the bandwagon of money politicians will only consolidate PDP
rule, entrench current unjust setup and increased the misery of our people.
Help setup community political action groups today; begin to form community
campaign teams in our localities; mobilise humble, credible and resourceful
people to provide leadership for our community campaign structures; and help
facilitate political change in Nigeria NOW!
Salihu Moh. Lukman
Suite 301, Zeto Court
No. 3 Oshogbo Close
Area 11, Garki