The trouble with Nigeria revisited at 59
– By Chukwuemeka Otuchikere
The Nigerian model for sharing of the National cake without any consideration for the baking of the same has turned out to be the albatross to achieving our strategic development goals. These many years after independence, we have continued to do the same thing, same way, expecting a different outcome. Over centralization of power within the presidency at Aso Rock, has rendered the states over dependent on the allocations coming in monthly from the Federation Accounts. This has stifled the creative initiatives of states to become fiscally independent.
Lack of transparency, openness, and equity in the running of the state has equally created an atmosphere of suspicion, fear and unhealthy competition among the federating ethnic nationalities. The rule of law appears to be hamstrung by parochial interest which makes those wielding the instrument of state power to erroneously think that the judiciary is an appendage of the executive arm of government. Like one emperor boasted ‘I am the state and the state is me’.
Former United States President Barack Obama captured it succinctly in his speech on a state visit to Ghana in 2007, when he asserted that Africa should strive to build strong Institutions against the current reality whereby our collective energy has been geared towards creating and sustaining the myth of the ‘strong man’ leader. It is axiomatic that strong men come and go but strong institutions outlive them all. It is in the actualization of this powerful man image that successive coup d’etat have been plotted against duly constituted authorities across Africa.
In other climes where institutions are strong, the constitution, laws and policies are respected above any individual and as such, systems work in the interest of the generality of the people. The converse is that where men are stronger than institutions, they manipulate the system to work for them as we have witnessed in this country.
Since independence, individuals in authority have connived to convert the commonwealth to personal estates. These ‘strong men’ have become richer than the states that they administer, while subjecting institutions of the state to criminal neglect. Our health clinic, tertiary, secondary and primary schools are the worst impacted. Many past and serving Heads of state, governors, including political office holders, are now proprietors of private educational institutions, while the state schools that produced them are in a sorry state of disrepair.
Some of these men and women now own petroleum refineries abroad even as the nation’s national petroleum corporation is a study in mismanagement, posting colossal losses yearly: Perpetually unable to refine crude oil from our backyard: Perennially engaged in importing refined products from abroad amidst allegations of subsidy scam.
What is more, many leading politicians now have interest in hospitals both locally and globally. The same is true of other sectors such as agriculture, real estate in Dubai and the United Kingdom which seems to hold the greatest attraction for many of these politically exposed persons.
We currently operate a system that does not demand accountability from those with responsibility to superintend the affairs of the nation.
Nigeria does not only need restructuring, but a deeper surgical dissection and a new political re-engineering to help her back on the path of progress. She can be likened to a train that de-railed and heading in the wrong direction at full throttle. Banditry, kidnapping, terrorism, ethnic agitations for separation and the total disregard for court rulings by state actors are all symptoms of a failed or failing state.
However, the recent call by the APC led administration for an overhaul of her economic team looks like the politically correct thing to do given the alarming state of economic depression. Beyond mere cosmetic dressing or face-lift, Nigerians need to carry out a more in-depth forensic and scientific analysis of the many challenges be-devilling our nation.
Just this last week, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai called for spiritual intervention in the war against Boko Haram insurgency. This is a welcome development given that corruption and violence are more like Siamese twins, sharing one heart. Where you see one, the other is present.
Beyond treating the symptoms of these malaises, and reacting to the present problems in a knee-jerk manner, a classic example is governors in the north paying bandits to steer clear of their domain. Government will do better to ask questions and borrow insight from such countries as Brazil, India, Malaysia, Singapore and others that have broken into the industrial age.
We need to begin to build our institutions above ethnic and personality cults. Secondly, there is an urgent necessity to rightly reposition the rule of law above every partisan affiliation, while creating a more equitable society where hard work, talent and industry are rewarded. We must discard this present model that promotes mediocrity above merit and excellence.
Mr. Chukwuemeka Otuchikere, a geologist & Businessman wrote in from Calabar, Cross River State.
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