By Sanusi Muhammad
For Nigeria to move forward as a progressing entity with a promising future, the country desperately needs a ruthless leader supported by improved laws to handle its affairs. It needs a leader that knows what leadership entails and how to sanitize a corruption infested country where certified rogues and criminals are celebrated. Where the society celebrates crimes and provides protection to same criminals known to be looting and stealing from the majority.
Nigerians had expected their exiting President Muhammadu Buhari to have introduced death sentence for identified criminals not only armed bandits and robbers but even the shielded pen robbers on the corridors of power should be made to face death for causing the death of others through stealing funds budgeted for vital services. Hope is not lost there would soon be a time for that in the near future.
Although Nigerian governments past and present, have made serious efforts to propagate policies and programmes that are geared towards national integration with little success due to several factors. Despite such well intended and unity oriented programmes and policies, unity has continued to be plagued and threatened by embedded socio-cultural, religious and political dichotomies.
Nigeria’s efforts at achieving national integration has so far remained largely unrealized due to several identified factors artificially created for pecuniary interest. The integration crisis facing Nigeria is manifest in the minority question, religious fundamentalism and conflicts, ethnic politics, indigene-settler dialectic, resource control, youth restiveness and militancy and the clamour for a sovereign national conference or conversation about the terms of the nation’s continued unification.
The status quo has convulsed the productive sector, limited the impact of government’s economic programmes on the people, threatened food security, complexified social security, deepened the deterioration of physical and social infrastructures, distressed the living standards of a vast majority of Nigerians, militated against the educational system and resulted in the ostracisation of the generality of Nigerians and their exclusion from the political and economic space, among other glitches. The entire social matrix in Nigeria is characterized by inter- and intra-community, inter and intra ethnic, and inter and intra-religious strife. Some of these conflicts are as old as the history of the Nigerian nation.
While it is easy and very tempting to blame the colonialists for all of Nigeria’s woes, history and recent events in the country have revealed the covert selfishness, hunger for power and primitive accumulation of wealth exhibited by the political elite masquerading as leaders. Much worse than this, many political leaders exploit ethnicity and religion for personal advantages.
Consequently, the first hurdle in the path of national integration in Nigeria has been a regenerative breed of selfish and greedy political gladiators who seize power through the barrel of the gun or through stolen electoral mandates. As they compete for power, prestige and associated benefits, the political elite in a bid to secure the support of members of their own ethnic and religious groups accentuate ethnic and religious differences and demonize members of other ethnic groups. The random brutal killings of people in the northern and other parts of the country, speaks volumes of the naked motif of shambles in the country’s security.
Secondly, corruption has so permeated the entire fabric of state that the issues that cause disaffection among ethnic nationalities in the country such as poverty, hunger, illiteracy and its attendant limited opportunities, unemployment, marginalization, infrastructural decay, homelessness and lack of access to quality health are seen as products of corruption. Rather than look to the West to find solutions against corruption, Nigeria should begin to look to the East (Asia) where capital or severe punishment is meted out on corrupt state officials. In such a situation, most retired and serving public office holders could have since joined their ancestors wherever they may be. Rawlings tried it in Ghana, as he cleared the corrupt vandals that retarded the progress of Ghana. He restored sincerity and honesty in government business before he exited the scene. What stops Nigeria from applying same treatment to identified, corrupt public servants and their collaborators?
Imagine a civil servant working in a subsidiary of the nation’s Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) but operating a private limited liability company against the rules of engagement and still beating his chest of being innocent while all relevant documents associated with his offences and those of other family members including a woman masquerading as a contestant in the coming 2023 elections and their children speaks the opposite of innocence.
As a clever pedestrian crook with low mental equilibrium, he works on the advice of a street rogue, a bragger and mere claimant who hurriedly tempered with earlier submissions for company registration with the relevant agencies to have an escape route forgetting that the dates of the change are still there for verification while his Code of Conduct Form and those of his sister and her daughter are there to disorganize their claim. That guy and his surrogate swim in a fool’s paradise. But history will vindicate the just soon.
Skewed federal system as it is being practiced in Nigeria today is another challenge for national integration. In their very thorough study on the failure of the federal system to address the question of unity, local rule and development in the country, federalism as it is presently practiced suffers because of lack of fiscal federalism, over-centralization of power, laidback or non-viable states, absence of committed police organization among others. More importantly, federalism in Nigeria has woefully failed to guarantee national integration on one hand and yet fails to guarantee local rule on the other hand. Although Nigeria does not have a better option for democracy, it cannot continue to administer the polity based on the existing federal arrangement.
The fear of losing control by the ruling class is another issue standing in the path of national integration to hold a National Conversion to address the present political configuration all to no avail. The ruling class inherited a state structure and has left it without any form of modification or moderation up till now. The ruling class is preoccupied with the use of state paraphernalia for accumulating surplus without producing the surplus. The resultant contradiction is an institutionalized myopic and visionless ethnic-centred leadership with separatist and particularistic political outlook.
Fifthly, lack of political will to do the right thing by the political leadership has remained one reason the country has continued to flounder in the sea of confusion and tottering the precipice of ethnic and religious divisions. Another hurdle to national integration is the existence of weak institutions of the state. It seems these institutions are kept weak to feather the political and economic fortunes of the ruling class. In Nigeria, it is criminal to be honest and honest to be a criminal. Such weak, embryonic, sterile, insensitive and amoral characteristics of state institutions have further tilted Nigeria to the precipice.
Lastly, luck of fairness, justice and equity with regard to resource allocation and distribution, power sharing, enjoyment of fundamental human rights and punishment of criminals, who hide under political umbrellas or bunkers created by the ruling class takes the country backwards with regard to national cohesion.
As a recipe for Nigeria’s growth and development, and by extension cohesion, there must be the need to recognize that none of the ethnic or religious groups, big or small, shares a uniform dream about Nigeria. This is because the ethnic and religious groups’ worldviews are completely different such as their expectations from their leaders, their notions of government, their moral standards and their perceptions and understanding of religion, their ideas of how to live and regulate their lives and their goals and missions as ethnic nationalities are at variance with global best practice.
Nigeria’s heterogeneity can be seen in this wise; whereas one group would want their children to go to school, some others would want theirs to go to farms or places of worship; while a group could relate with adherents of another faith without any friction, another is odiously intolerant; while some are willing to move along with the 21st century and be part of the world, others want to bask in the bliss of culture and tradition. These choices are not wrong in themselves; ethnic groups must be allowed to make their different choices, being different people with different cultures and traditions, dreams, hopes, aspirations and orientations.
This cannot obviously happen until a consensual agreement is reached by all on the future of the country. By inserting in the Constitution the indivisibility of the country, the military drafters of the 1999 Constitution failed to respect the wishes of the Nigerian people and that sovereignty lies in and with the people.
In order to achieve national integration, therefore, not only must the government reel out fantastic policies and programmes, it must begin to build enduring institutions bigger and more powerful than the leadership. The leadership must become more accountable to the people and those members of the ruling class who fan the embers of hate, exploitation, religious difference, ethnicity, marginalization and underdevelopment must be made to face the full wrath of the law.
Corruption which has become endemic must be fought until it is either eradicated or forcibly severely punished so that those who engage in it do so at their own peril. Mass mobilization of the hot polloi is necessary to reorient them with the right values consistent with a modern and emerging economy.
Nigeria’s diversity is not the problem but, the managers of the state are the problem. Nigerians must arise from the ashes of fear, wrongly inspired awe for political leaders and timidity and begin to make demands on the political leadership on what they actually want to be done or wrongly done.
“Whenever I commit any blunder in the cause of my assignment in the National Assembly, or act wrongly from the rating of my constituents and Nigerians, I stand to be corrected and am always ready to offer explanation for my action or apology where necessary
“As a representative and principal officer in the National Assembly, my target is to give my best to the good of Nigeria with emphasis on my immediate constituency that labored to mandate me to represent their interest at the national level. My best is yet to come and so far, I have not performed below expectation from the records at my disposal
“I have opponents against my re-election bid that I respect. It is their right to oppose my re-election as it is my right to fight back for re-election based on my performance index. But, I nurse and hold no grudge against the aspiration of any opponent. What I know is that we shall play the game with maturity, brotherliness and decorum as the law stipulates and together, we shall celebrate who ever emerges victorious”……….Rt.Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase CON
“My unalloyed commitment to the development of my federal constituency drove me to accept to join partisan politics to mortgage my comfort and that of my family to contest the highest elective office in my federal constituency not for any personal benefit but to change the narrative and give a direction of inclusiveness without strings as my contribution to building a better and progressing federal constituency
“I hold no personal grudge or animosity against my opponent who is serving presently. We are all brothers in the struggle to usher in developmental strides but from different manifestoes and prisms. We are playing the game according to the rules without offence or rancor”……..Ibrahim Bawa Kanje SAN
Muhammad is a commentator on national issues