By Lateef Adewole
“For how long are we going to continue to endure all of these? When will these end? Who will save us?”. And on and on. These are lamentations I heard as I called a long term friend from Kaduna some days ago. He is a friend since my time while I worked in the north. We worked together when I was transferred to Kaduna and he is from Southern part of the state. I had called him to wish him compliment of the season after a long time. Only to be bombarded by the barrage of these questions and many more. I could only imagine what must have caused his out-pouring of emotion. This was a guy who is a jolly good fellow but I could feel his frustrations even without seeing him physically.
For over forty-five minutes, he poured out his heart, laddened with emotion, pains and sadness about what they have experienced and still experiencing, as far as the emasculation of the state and the region by bandits. How kidnappings have become child’s play. How their girls and women became vulnerable and raped at will. How they have been set back many decades economically, as their investments got destroyed. Their massive farmlands burnt down in many instances, with all the crops and harvests therein. How their communities are now in ruins, shadows of themselves. How thousands have been killed. How millions have been displaced. I was overwhelmed as he told me all these and I listened with rapt attention. Despite that these are things I already knew and have written about, numerous times in the past, having a very close friend narrated his personal experiences and agonies to me, broke my heart all over again.
It was at that moment I truly appreciated what must have driven Mrs. Kadaria Ahmed to speak the way she did in her last video that went viral. Its heart-rending. I once resolved not to write about the insecurities again. Sincerely, now, I hardly read details of countless reported cases of kidnappings, raping and killings that still happen daily. I just scanned through the headlines. Isn’t it enough to get someone tired?
When I read about the directive of the Katsina state governor few days ago, that residents should buy guns and arm themselves to defend themselves against bandits, I just sighed and said that was complete failure of government. By the way, why are we running away from brutal reality? Many people criticised him. But, at this rate, with the state of insecurities in the country and the North in particular, won’t that advice be considered timely? Ironically, that’s the state of Mr. President. So, we have sank that low. That’s incredible.
Like I wrote last week, “Can we afford to give up now?”. Definitely no! I believe we have to keep faith. Understandablely so, as the Yorubas will say: “eni ija o ba, lo n pera re l’okunrin” (he who has not faced calamity, would think he is undefeateable). It is easy to feel one could not be shaken, until one is faced with real life challenges.
Nigeria is blessed. Nigerians are great people. We have almost everything. What we don’t have is quality leadership.
All across the country, we have abundance of mineral resources deposited beneath our ground. Not until these few years back, we never knew there was enormous deposits of gold all over our community where I lived as a young boy. There were many areas which were even reserved as grooves and shrines for deities. It was sacrilege for “non-initiates” to enter there. Only to discover huge gold deposits there. Many houses were built for many decades, sitting on gold. This is just one community. Imagine different mineral deposits across Nigeria, with 923,768 square kilometre landmass. But what have we done with them?
We are blessed with water bodies, rivers (small, medium and big). We have tens of kilometres of coastlines bordering many rivers and the Atlantic Ocean. More crude oil deposits are still being discovered, after 65 years of the first discovery in commercial quantity. In the Niger Delta, the crude is almost at the surface of their soil. Into the ocean shallow and deeper, crude oil is being explored in millions of barrels per day. In the course of doing this, billions of cubic feet of natural gas has been accidentally found. This might have been the reason for our wasting it through gas flaring. “Ajogun ewu etu, ko mo iyi agbada nla” (he who inherits unexpected fortune, would never know the value of hardwork). These are resources we never worked for. Nature gave them to us free of charge. Nigeria has one of the largest gas reserves in the world.
What about weather and climatic conditions in our country? The areas with harshiest conditions is the northern Nigeria. Yet, that area is feeding the country in agricultural products now. With sparse rainfall, the area was rejuvenated with the help of irrigation. Not to talk of the southern part, whose weather is nearly perfect. Adequate rains for agriculture. Rivers for fishing. And moderation in most other factors. What else could we ask for? All these are natural endowments.
Let us look at human endowments. Where do we start from? On record, Nigeria has a population of over 200 million people. That’s the seventh in the world and largest in Africa. We are about 15% of the whole of Africa population of 1.388 billion and a country with the highest concentration of black people on earth. Not just people but quality people, most of whom, unfortunately, are undeveloped, underdeveloped, underutilised or misutilised, precisely just like our natural resources.
If I have to begin mentioning great individuals which the world has been blessed with, who hail from Nigeria, the list is inexhaustible. Brilliant, intelligent, cerebral, competent, geniuses, who are Nigerians are too many to mention. In all facets of life, in all fields of endeavour, in all works of life, Nigerians are always found among the top, among the best. Sadly, this same quality of human capital, is what is lacking in our leadership of the country. How come we still make references to the leadership era of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and co., after many decades? He was only Premier of the Western Region between 1951 and 1959.
By now, subsequent leaders who emerged after him ought to have outperformed him with their achievements, such that whatever he did in those years would pawn to insignificance. But, is that so? What changed was true patriotism and genuine love for the ordinary people. Now, it’s more of self-service, self-agrandissement, selfish love. Leaders vie for public offices to line their pockets. How could a country have outstanding human resources but led by near worst among them?
In all these observations, a common denominator which has prevented the country from attaining its potential is poor leadership. The last time Nigeria made properly focused progress was pre-independent self-rule period up 1959 and the post-independent democracy up to 1966. That was before everything went up in flames. During this period, Nigeria operated regional and parliamentary system of government. There were three and later, four regions. Each chose their learders who drove their regional interests and developments, while each contributed to the center. That was the system inherited from our colonial masters, Britain, who we copied the style of government from.
The coming of the military changed all that to a unitary system, and later presidential system of democracy, model after the America’s. But, has our own presidential democracy served us like that of America? The kind of wastages, ostentatious lifestyles, fiscal irresponsibility and financial recklessness, the unwieldiness of the whole system that has kept everything aground and not working, the endless motion without movement, and on and on. Were they also copied from America? I don’t think so.
As the Yorubas will say; “t’iwaju o ba se lo, eyin a sa se pada si” (if it has become impossible to move forward, should it be impossible to turn back and take other route?). From 1966 to date, we have continued to practise a system that has ruined the little progress inherited from our founding fathers, despite continued efforts at amending the constitution that guides it, with little or no success. Why should we stubbornly continue in such path? Why can’t we look back and borrow from what worked for our heroes past?
The process of choosing political leaders in Nigeria has been rigged against genuine people who sincerely want to serve their fatherland. Is it the monetary demands we should talk about or the gangsterism that is embedded in it? Violent has become a major tool and politics is now a do-or-die affairs. How can “normal” people get involved? My very close friends have been involved and contested some years ago. They got their fingers burnt because they are “alakowes” (Yoruba name for people with elitist disposition, who follow the rules and do not want to soil their hands).
What about spirituality part? And I am not just talking about going to mosque or church to pray to God, but serious “juju, odeshi” or whatever it is called in different languages. The kind of things these so-called politicians get into behind the doors are better imagined. Was it not in this country that a prominent politician was seen in a viral video, stark naked and bathing with blood in the dead of the night? We could not say whether that was animal or human blood. Where is that politician today? He is occupying very sensitive and important position in Nigeria today. That’s the kind of politics we practise now.
If good leadership has been identified as what is missing in our developmental journey, why is it difficult to achieve it? It’s all because of what were described above. However, we cannot give up. We must keep faith. As we move to 2022, the tempo of political activities will increase. This is pre-election year. But, have we remedied the foundation on which to build our political supper-structure?
Firstly, as the country is configured today, it is not working. Nigeria needs to be restructured. Who will do it? This remained the problem. Those in positions to do it are not interested. They make all efforts to frustrate any clamour for it. Secondly, the constitution. Are we satisfied with what we currently have and operate? Many people called it a “military” constitution or “decrees pretending to be a constitution”. This might be due to the autocratic nature of some of its content. A proper structure will address the anomalies in the constitution concurrently.
Where these two have not been done, what about electoral amendments? What is its fate as we speak? Dilly-dallying. President Buhari has just refused to sign it once again, despite the enormous work that went into it by all stakeholders. The national assembly members (469 of them). The civil society organisations, INEC, the political parties, different interest groups and the public. They all laboured to get those amendments done. All that went to waste by the refusal of one person. Isn’t that abnormal, but for the constitutionality? One man’s wisdom has surpassed the collective wisdom of thousands of others. This is part of the anomaly in presidential system of government. That’s the fourth time by the president since 2015.
Unfortunately, constitutional provision made available to remedy such action of the president can never work in a country like Nigeria, where a president is like a demigod! Especially not with this present 9th assembly that has served more like the extension of the executive. They are “toothless bulldogs”. They can only bark “sometimes” but not bite at all. We saw that played out as they mustered effort to override the president and veto the amended electoral bill. It fell flat on its face. It failed woefully. That’s our type of democracy.
So, on which foundation are we going into the 2023 general elections? The same electoral act that is fraught? That’s like building a house with spittle. Mere dews will bring it down. “Ile ti a f’itomo, iri ni yio wo”. We must keep faith. Whatever the concerns raised by the president, some of which are genuine, should be addressed and necessary corrections made, so it could be sent back to him for his assent immediately.
Some stand-alone elections preceed 2023. Ekiti and Osun gubernatorial elections. They need proper, explicit electoral law. The political parties will start organising their conventions and party primaries to choose their candidates soon. They are guided overall by the electoral acts. The conduct of the general elections will be guided by same. This shows how critical it is to get it right with the desired amendments aimed at improving the process. Our lawmakers should rise to the occasion and not give room for any future excuses from the president.
Citizens should do their parts by active participation. They must get involved at different stages, depending on individual’s interest. Party membership, party positions, candidacy, contesting in the general elections. Even if someone does not do any of these, they should vote. But to be eligible to vote, they must get registered and collect their voter’s card. That’s the least any serious and responsible citizen could do. “Ti a ba fi were sile ko se oku iya re b’ose wu, o le sun je” (if we allow a madman to handle the corpse of his mother as he wishes, he could roast it and eat it). We cannot abandon everything for the politicians. We must be part of it and keep faith. All is well that ends well. It shall all end well.
May God continue to protect us and guide us aright.
God Bless Nigeria.
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