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Home Events NIGERIA, ‘United we fall.’

NIGERIA, ‘United we fall.’

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By: Liborous Oshoma

The stream will not permanently rise higher than the main source; and the main source of national power and national greatness is found in the average citizenship of the nation. Therefore it behooves us to do our best to see that the standard of the average citizen is kept high; and the average cannot be kept high unless the standard of the leaders is very much higher” Theodore Roosevelt (being a part of his speech delivered at the Sorbonne, Paris, France, April 23, 1910.

No nation can progress beyond the intellect of her leaders and Nigeria as a country is not an exception. Right from the first post-independence military coup, the country have had the misfortune of being govern by leaders with low intelligence capacity, ill prepared for leadership positions, mediocre masquerading as leaders.

90% of leaders that have ruled the nation had the responsibility of leadership trusted on the laps with little or no preparation for the responsibility and demands of the office, hence their leadership style had been trial and error.

From the administration of Gen. Aguiyi-Ironsi up to Gen. Yakubu Gowon, down to Gen. Sani Abacha, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo to the current President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, none of the leaders has ever been prepared for the enormous responsibility associated with the office of the number one citizen of this great country Nigeria. Its either they were called to “come and govern” as it’s “their turn to rule” or a vacuum existed as a result of a failed coup and the hierarchy feels they should take over the reins of government.

Often government appointment are made on the basis of anything but qualification, hence the mediocrity exhibited in government in the country, starting from the public service office to majority of the private establishment. As a result of the lack of leadership at the top echelon of the society, there are no standard at the lower level, the system of governance in the country is only described in the imagination of the leaders.

Under a democratic dispensation in the country, selections are regarded as elections and the people rejoice and celebrate simply because a winner was declared, while they pray fervently to God for a savior to come from heaven, but will do nothing to demand from the leaders the process that will guarantee the coming of that savior, as they (the people) are polarized along ethnic and religious divide.

An American writer, predicted the disintegration of the country by the year 2015 and all the signs leading to the actualization of the prediction are patently evident in the polity as inflamed by the politicians.

From the kidnapping in the Niger-Delta region, to the Boko Haram in the North-Eastern part of the country, to the desperation of the politicians to outdo one another by any means, including blackmail, unnecessary killing and preparation to massively rig the votes in the forth-coming election coupled with the docility of the followership, the ship of the country is heading towards a political iceberg.

The easterners don’t trust the westerners, the south don’t trust the north, the Christians don’t trust the Muslims, even the electoral umpire does not enjoy the trust and confidence of either her staffs or the electorate, but most importantly the leaders are not worthy of the peoples’ trust.

How did such a great and promising nation get to this sorrowful and sorry state of odium and ridicule?

Some have argued that the nation was designed by the colonial masters, the Britons, to fail. Their argument is premised on the fact that the marriage that gave birth to the country was a marriage of strange bedfellows and was bound to fail. They maintained that since the amalgamation of the country by Sir Lord Lugard in 1914 was for the enhancement of the business of the then Royal Niger Company and for administrative convenience of governing the north and southern, then British “protected kingdoms” they posited, that at independence the colonial masters ought to have allowed the component units go their separate ways.

Others have disagreed with the above position largely on the ground that since the colonial masters handed over the administration of the country to Nigerians 54years now, the leaders ought to have been able to re-direct the floored amalgamation, if at all, towards a positive direction. As other former British colonized countries, like India and Ghana have through purposeful leadership re-directed the affairs of their states from what they inherited from the Britons to what it is presently.

This second school of thought argued further that, the leadership of the country in the 1st republic understood the ideological difference amongst the various nationals that were amalgamated in 1914 to form the nation called Nigeria, hence their insistence on a system of government operated independently from the region with a not so powerful government at the center. Which was why they never at any time attempted to unify the entire country under one government as is currently being practiced. Even when it was a parliamentary government, each region had a distinct strong and focus parliament not dictated to by the parliament at the center. They operated a system of government you can call, in modern time, loose federation.

They understand the ideological differential that existed from one region to the other and so refrain from attempting or foisting a unifying system, like we currently have, on the people.

The leaders created plans and programs that were in tandem with the aspirations of the people in their domain, since they knew their people well enough, more so these leaders were operating from amongst their people. There was heavy competition amongst the regions, in terms of development, but it was healthy. Whilst Chief Obafemi Awolowo concentrated on educating and liberating the mind of every westerner, Sir. Ahmadu Bello (Saudauna of Sokoto) succeeded greatly in agriculture in the northern region. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe also was able to explore the commercial and entrepreneurial potentials of the easterners, the leaders in mid-western region which later became known as Bendel succeeded also in agriculture before the discovering of oil in commercial quantity in that region.

None of the region depended on the government at the center or the other region for existence, rather it was the center that depended on the regions for its existence. All the regions were independent of one another, even though they collaborated in a lot of ways.

The moment the military usurped the political space through a coup-d-tat and destroyed the democratic structures in the early sixties coupled with the subsequent discovery of oil in commercial quantity in the Niger-Delta region, the system of governance in the country was altered to a unitary one, though cloak in federal robes, to accommodate the none oil producing region and also enhance even development, albeit for personal gain and self and personal aggrandizement as is evident in the way the affairs of the nation had been ran from then till date.

While there are genuine agitations by majority of politicians from the western part of the country to revert the system of governance back to regionalism of fiscal federalism, most of their counterparts from the north feels the nation is not ripe for it, forgetting that it was the same introduction of unitary system of government in Nigeria that led partly to the death of the first military Head of State of the country, Major General Johnson Umunakwe Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi in the hands of soldiers of northern extraction led by General Yakubu Gowon in a retaliatory coup of 1966. The pogrom that followed and the subsequent unnecessary civil war, which claimed the lives of more than two million Nigerians mostly of Ibo extraction cannot be forgotten in a hurry.

If the politicians and leaders in the first republic were as visionless as the current crop of leaders, it would have been convenient for Chief Obafemi Awolowo to enter into an alliance with the then Sir. Ahmadu Bello led Northern People’s Congress (NPC) since it was impossible for the NPC alone to form a national government, not having won the required majority votes/seats that would enable it form government at the national level. But Chief Awolowo refused, on the ground that his party the then Action Group (AG) did not have the same ideology with the NPC. This eventually led to the alliance between the NPC and the National Council of Nigerians and Cameroon (NCNC) that saw the emergence of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe as the Ceremonial Head of State, while Alhaji Tafawa Balewa became the Prime Minister.

The same vision and awareness led to the formation of the United Middle Belt Congress (UMBC) led by Senator Joseph Sarwuan Tarka who subsequently became a Minister of Transport and later Communications under the government of General Yakubu Gowon.

With all the alliances of parties who were once sworn enemies and marriage of strange bedfellows called “progressives” these days, coupled with the desperations for 2015 by the ruling party at the center under the current democratic dispensation, it is convenient to conclude that the nation Nigeria lacks political leadership. One is even more bewildered by the behavior and style of leaders who claimed to be followers or are inured in the philosophy of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. They are more “Awoist” in costume than indeed, maybe their claim to Awolowo’s political philosophy is further enhanced by wearing his costume.

The first republic leadership preference for regional independent government was conceived and practiced, because of the peculiarity of the different regions and also ensures that they are allowed to develop at their individual pace as dictated by their strength and resources. The system also ensures that autonomy of the Native Authorities, or what we call Local Government these days is enhanced. All these were possible because of the vision of the leaders in the country at that time as they understood the impossibility of growing and or developing the country’s economy to meet up with the stride of their counter-part in other part of the world if the government were run in a unitary manner of center to bottom approach.

That vision also made it possible for the then Western government to establish a Television station in 1963, even before France, built the Cocoa Dome in Ibadan in 1964 and execute her policy of free education without financial constraint. In the same vain the Northern Government were able to build the famous groundnut pyramids in Kano and more, while the Eastern government under Sir Michael Okpara was doing the same thing.

Since all politics is local, as it evolves largely from the people at the bottom to the top, the regional system practiced then made government closer to the people and ensure wider participation, thereby making it possible for the people (electorate) to keep a steady tab/check on the political leaders to enhance probity and accountability. But what is obtainable under the present unitary/federal arrangement is a far cry from participatory government, as the center collects everything (revenue) and in turn shares to States according to land mass or size, irrespective of population, in some cases as dictated by the wimp and caprices of the President, e.g. the withholding of Lagos State Government funds by Rtd. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo between 2003 to 2007.

No nation can thrive under the present lopsided structure currently in operation in Nigeria. Even small and medium companies succeeds greatly when responsibilities are divided and assigned for the collective goal of the group, though with institutional checks.

The present arrangement will continue to breed disaffection and mutual distrust because whilst a section of the country believes that they are the ones laying the golden eggs oiling the economy of the state, and so should have unhindered access to the seat of governance, some others believe that they are more in numbers and should be allowed to govern in perpetuity, another section believes that their intellect is more than that of anybody else and so should naturally lead. Majority, who are highly mobile, republican in nature, entrepreneurially driven and have attempted to secede through a civil war sees themselves as being short-changed in the equation largely because of the war. Lastly some feudal oligarchy who contributed next to nothing to the national purse but collect the chunk of the revenue sees themselves as those born to rule. With situations like these, no matter how seemingly united the parties may be before elections, the crises that usually engulf them after the elections reveals in most cases that the initial unity is mostly at cross purposed, never disclosed at the pre-election negotiation table.

During elections, because of the concentration of political powers at the center, weaker parties strive to form alliance with other parties. Most often these seemingly genuine alliance are usually at cross purpose with each party coming into the alliance for a personal benefit rather than to propagate the collective interest of the nation. To this end, desperation becomes the order of the day, the electorates votes are not allowed to count. Immediately after the election, rather than stop politicking and concentrate on governance and allows for peaceful co-existence and even development, what is prevalent is mutual suspicion, blackmail, avarice, and a further confused electorate who had been cajoled into voting along ethnic, tribal and religious lines while at the same time pretending to be nationalistic in thinking.

Enough of the pretense, a situation where a Federal government led by the President corners all the resources of the state (nation) and shares, and/or deplore same according to the dictate of their conscience will not yield meaningful development in any nation with serious minded leaders. It will continue to attract selfishness, mediocrity, laziness and this ‘born to rule’ syndrome.

The proponents of the current system of government in Nigeria are doing so to feather their own nest. As the saying goes, when you have a glutton on the dining table, he insist that you all eat from the same plate, under the guise of promoting love and peaceful co-existence, even though it is for his self-satisfaction.

The current arrangement will never yield meaningful development in this country, as each region has its own political, traditional, cultural and religious peculiarity which are very dear to them individually and a breach of any of these peculiarity which might go unnoticed in some parts, can be sacrilegious in some other part.

Nigerians have never been nationalistic and don’t pretend to be when it matters most. We were more united and progressed better when we were govern along divided lines of regionalism, since the military government decided to govern us as one united people irrespective of our difference, we have been more divided, apart from when our national football team is playing.

The only solution out of the directionless leadership presently bedeviling the country is to divide the nation along regional boarders and grant each region fiscal autonomy. So that the Yoruba man can deal with his problem separately from the Hausa man and Ibo man who will also have to face and deal with theirs squarely. The fears of the minority can be allayed by aligning them with people of similar culture, tradition and religion, then the government at the center which then will be less bogus and unattractive can provide institutional frame work for the co-existence of the federating unit.


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