Well meaning Nigerians carefully watched our
politicians as they dramatised their mealy-mouthed skill on various stages all over the country during the electioneering campaign season ostensibly to hoodwink the electorate.
Some made us to believe they are magicians who will turn the country to a Utopian State over-night. But looking at where we came from and where we are today and where we would like to be, it is obvious that there are things that will not change. There are those that actually need time to change and there are others that have developed or in the process of being developed into an agreeable norm or status those efforts are needed to work on and consolidate them. Then there are others that actually need to be changed or transformed altogether.
To tackle these problems, our leaders have a huge assignment in their hands. They must look at all these with critical appreciation and face them squarely. Examples abound where the people are promised heaven on earth by new administration but it proved to be a nightmare. And when it increasingly became difficult to effect the changes they promised they resort to seek the indulgence of previous regime elements to help improve the situation.
As Nigerians the future will hold us accountable for the actions and decisions we are taking at this critical time of political transformation. We need more rationality and less emotion otherwise we risk driving people on each other necks and sometimes on our own necks. At this time leaders are supposed to prepare the people on what they should actually expect and what it takes to achieve them.
Certainly, the two major political parties have national outlook and the appearance of competence, although the outcome of the last election showed some signs of ethnic and tribal politics. This should not be allowed to re- surface in Nigeria because we have over the years endeavoured to stop that nonsense.
At any stage, National or State level team-work of all the other crew is very necessary. Politics in Nigeria should no longer be a winner takes- all game.
In the words of the outgoing President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan – “The present system of winner takes all is causing problems. We should come up with, a system that ensures that when a party wins the Governorship or the Presidential at the national levels in forming cabinet the parties that did very well will also by right, by law and not by privilege or discretion of Mr. Governor or Mr. President, be meant to have a share of appointments in that government. If this is done, they will be mindful of their conducts and utterances”. Mr. President said this at the 2015 General Elections Sensitisation Workshop on Non-Violence held in Abuja on Wednesday, January 14, 2015.
A world renowned political economist and son of the soil, Late Professor Claude Ake had this to say some twenty-one years ago on this critical issue – “In Nigeria the struggle for political power is so intense that political competition escalates to a form of warfare. What causes this is the simple fact of political power being so highly valued. The more political power is valued, the more intense the struggle for it. In Nigeria where the capture of state means everything, it is naturally pursued with maniacal zeal. Those who win State power can have all the wealth they want even without working while those who lose the struggle for State power cannot have security in the wealth they have made even by hard work. The capture of State power inevitably becomes a matter of life or death. This is one reason why our politics is so intense, anarchic and violent”.
And a renowned Professor of History, Prof. Philipp Gigantes in his book – Power & Greed, described some human beings thus – “There are people who insist on breakup or circumventing society’s rules. They always want more and more and hence they disturb the social order. They are Manichaean, creators as well as destroyers. They can be compared to the dominant male in a pride of lions. The rest of the pride does all the work to get a kill, the dominant male gets the best share of the meal, all the sex and he does the serious roaring, the dominant lion has the power and he has the greed …Augustus, the first Roman Emperor acquired absolute power which led inevitably to absolute corruption”. It is obvious he was referring to Nigerian leaders.
The need to carry everybody along cannot be over emphasised. Team-work is the greatest source of power and popularity for a leader. There is no better time to start this than now. The first assignment of our new President should be to assume the role of political agent of national unification. He must rule with a truly national face. He must dare to offer the country the truth in the hope that it will have the sense to embrace him. The duty to cast coyness aside in the interest of national unity does not lie upon the President alone. But he as the leader cannot afford to be reluctant to tell the nation of its sickness and to specify his remedies.
There will be people of proven political integrity who may not belong to the same political camp with the President. Mr. President should endeavour to bring such men and women to his fold to help build a healthier and happier nation. It requires great political will to take such a decision. But it is time to set aside old bitterness and rivalries.
Many will say that such unification is impossible and that one excludes the other, but nothing is impossible in politics. The division and animosities of the past should be forgotten. It is time we forget our personal antipathies.
The writer thinks the President and the rest of our leaders must acknowledge this fact with appropriate humility and offer themselves as true nationalists pledged to move the nation forward. This can only be achieved by team-work.
The plain truth is that what is necessary now is the re-establishment of solid moral standard of behavior. As a nation, Nigeria now stands at such an advanced stage of knowledge of all kinds – Medical, Technology, Scientific, Agricultural, and Educational. What a great opportunity. Never before in history, has there been such a colossal potential for achievement or wastage. Let us use our perception, intelligence, sensitivities and nerve ending to avoid disaster and to save something true and fine for the future generation and solidify our position as Big Brother in Africa. This will also in the near future pave way for Nigeria to become a permanent member of UN Security Council.
Let us therefore learn to tolerate one another and live peacefully together like brothers and sisters and let us avoid doing things that will make us perish together as fools.
Sir Ichoku is a retired Director of Public Enlightenment, Ministry of Information, Rivers State.
Agric Literacy In Secondary Schools
All over the world, educational institutions are known mainly as a platform used directly or indirectly to influence the general life of a person. The government, in most cases, through the school, plans and leads the study of experience, and also contributes to the continuous growth of an individual through the systematic reconstruction of knowledge and experience.
Haven known knowledge as a dynamic and functional element, there is every need to have it constantly reconstructed, especially in accordance with the change of time.
This is why in various spheres of life, interested parties always prefer using education to solve issues that limit social orientation and thinking. Harry Smorenberg, the founder and chairman of the World Summit on the Fight Against Corruption, realized this for which he said that “teaching financial literacy as a subject in schools helped other countries increase access to financial products and services.”
With the place of financial literacy in promoting financial participation, consumer protection and financial stability, Smorenberg advised Nigeria to teach financial literacy in schools. He believed that such idea would allow students to better understand financial planning, the importance of preparing household budget, managing cash flows and distributing assets to achieve financial goals.
However, Smorenberg is not alone in his thought. Tanner and Tanner (Tanner and Tanner, 1980) in their “curriculum” Development: Theory and Practice”, also recognized the role of the school in systematically building knowledge and experience, unlike the role of other institutions.
If the thought postulated by these educators and others like them is anything to go by, then it is enough to say that education is very useful to the society, and therefore, should be accepted and embraced by Nigerian leaders as a platform through which a faster sensitisation of the theory and practice of agriculture among the Nigerian citizenry could be achieved.
Therefore, if Nigeria is really interested in the development of agriculture as an alternative source of income, it follows that from the junior secondary level, emphasis should be placed on driving programmes aimed at promoting the understanding and knowledge necessary for the synthesis, analysis and transmission of basic information about agriculture to students, producers, consumers and the general public.
It is expected that such programmes will focus on helping teachers and other stakeholders to effectively incorporate agricultural information into subjects taught or studied for public and private purposes in order to better understand the impact of agriculture on society.
The writer is thus concerned about the aspect of agricultural literacy that acquaints and farmiliarises students or individuals with the knowledge and understanding of not only the concepts of health and the environment, but also their history, current economic and social significance for the people of Nigeria.
In this case, the knowledge of the production, processing and domestication of food and fiber, as well as international marketing through the school will ultimately lead to informed citizens of our great country who, in turn, will play an important role in the development and implementation of policies able to maintain competitive agro-industrial enterprises.
By this, young people with knowledge and understanding of nutrition system and fibers will naturally be able to synthesize, analyze and communicate basic information about agriculture, such as the production of plants and animal products, its processing, economic effect, social significance, marketing and distribution, etc.
Therefore, making agricultural literacy compulsory from the level of primary education through secondary education, regardless of the intended course of study, undoubtedly will have a significant impact on the rehabilitation and development of Nigeria’s difficult economy.
That is why Gbamanga (2000) advised students to plan the programme as necessary, to examine and interpret the nature of the society in relation to its basic stable values and the areas in which it changes, when choosing content.
While Nigeria is currently talking, preaching and dreaming about agriculture, individuals must be encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity provided by the prevailing economic crisis in the country to get involved in agriculture. It is advisable that every child be subjected to compulsory agricultural knowledge in school.
The recovery of Nigeria from the impact of fallen crude oil prices will certainly not be sudden. In fact, there is a need for an orderly organization of a series of courses and support activities aimed at helping young Nigerians to rediscover themselves in the field of agriculture.
Nigeria, Not Ripe For Democracy
The word ‘democracy’ which has been mostly used, misused, confused and abused by many people for centuries and, in recent times, also badly maimed by most Nigerians in their understanding and application of it, especially since our return to it in 1999, is a concept whose understanding, as universally accepted, should ordinarily not herald any controversy.
Most people, particularly our leaders in Nigeria, and I dare say in Africa, use it in some ways only to fit their idiosyncracies selfish, parochial end they imagined it can be achieved through its practice. They push it down the throats of their people as if to say ‘you asked for it and here it is’ discountenancing the fact that it takes preparation and information massaged by quality institutions to make democracy and its practice possible and seamless in any country.
Democracy is not an orphaned child or a toddler that was born yesterday. As with most other concepts and human reality, it has its own history and parentage etched in known and universally acceptable minimum standards. Even though still evolving, some of these standards are sacrosanct and characteristic of what constitutes a democracy.
Democracy originated over 2,400 years ago in ancient Greece. The word “democracy” comes from two separate Greek words (‘Demos’: people and ‘Kratia’: rule); meaning ‘Rule by the people’, leadership that takes authority and legitimacy from the people.
Citizens of a democracy govern their nations through a proxy selected or chosen by them in the presence of information and working institutions to lead them.
Democracy is simply people’s power to make a choice and determine who should lead or govern them for the attainment of certain fundamentals like the protection and promotion of their rights, as well as the protection of their interests and provision of welfare for them.
Democracy is about the people and for democracy to function properly in any country, it must ask and answer the following questions in the affirmative. The proper answering of these questions would determine whether indeed such country can or should practice democracy or choose other forms of government that would best suit their peculiarities:
Are the people ‘educated’ enough to make informed decisions without prevarications that are devoid of sentiments and biases such as religion, ethnicity, colour, tribe, sex and other intangibles not necessary for making informed decisions?
Are the institutions through which choices are made calibrated to be free, fair and incorruptible enough to only reflect the choices of the people at all times in Nigeria? Ask INEC and the process of nominating its chairman.
Are the people equally motivated to come out in their number to make their choices about who would govern them without being driven by unnecessary enticements provided them to so do? Reflect on what happened in Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun States and even in the 2019 general election.
Are the people able to make choices without poverty as the chief consideration that influences such choices?
Are the people able to collectively share or have expectations from the candidates they wish to choose or have others choose from or simply have expectations of the process? Reflect on the standard of education in Nigeria and the unwillingness of people from where majority of the votes came from to go to school.
Is there a guarantee that the process of the people making their choices would not be thwarted by the activities of state actors like the military, the police and other law enforcement agencies, and even cult groups and gangs whose only interest is to sabotage the will of the people? This we have continuously seen in the various and several elections that we have had in Nigeria since our return to democracy.
Does everyone who is ‘qualified’ to make this choice of who should govern them have similar or near similar levels of information, intelligence, exposures and awareness that would enable him/her rationally assess the candidates for competency to lead and administer our common wealth?
Should the court as an institution be used to usurp the people’s choice and will by always deciding for the people who to govern them through their very suspicious, frivolous and, in most cases, anti-people rulings that are based on technicalities to determine leadership for the people? It should be the people’s choice and not the choice of the court as it were in democracy. Judges must not be allowed to, as a result of political recklessness and rascality, always determine who should lead the people. Today in Nigeria, politicians no longer care about the people’s choice but bother most about judges’ choice and do all what is necessary and possible, including but not limited to giving of bribes, to secure judgements in their favour to become the people’s choice.
What really is the importance of ‘structure’ and ‘godfatherism’ in how the will and choice of the people are allowed to be?
Do all the candidates have similar levels of playing field that make it possible for them to be heard and seen so that choices can be said to be truly rational?
When you most rationally and critically answer these questions in Nigeria and in most African countries, placing them side-by-side our recent statistics in the world as poverty capital, a country with the highest illiteracy rate and out-of-school children, uneducated youths and adults, etc, you would, just like me, come to the conclusion that democracy cannot work in Nigeria today and that we should immediately seek an alternative form of government that would appeal to our peculiarities until, maybe, we mature and evolve enough for democracy tomorrow. But again, tomorrow is far yet near. Therefore, leadership now has a huge responsibility to bring the tomorrow that would make for the conditions precedent to good democratic practices guaranteeing good democracy, even closer today.
Akpotive is a Port Harcourt-based social reformer and activist.
Open Letter To Nigerian Politicians
Dear Honorable Politicians of Nigeria, events taking place in the country in the recent times demand that you hear how those that you represent feel about you hear how those that you represent feel about you and your activities. In the first place, Nigeria is larger and greater than a few powerful individuals who represent the masses. Secondly the task of political leadership is a serious responsibility meant to be undertaken with patriotism and a volition to serve.
Money and power rarely on their own make a good and responsible leader, but personal integrity comes in as a strong factor. Politics as a calling is obviously being debased and distorted considering the way it is being practised in Nigeria. If you would be perceptive enough to look into the souls of those that you lead, you would see disillusionment, disappointment and hunger. There is a longing for a change for the better. There is a need to bring down the level of anxiety and frustration in the land.
One of the key responsibilities of national leadership is to manage the economy in such a way that the masses can be motivated to strive diligently and honestly to earn a living and contribute positively towards an up-building of the nation. To beg or steal in order to live would not be an ideal situation in a well-managed economy, for any citizen.
Unfortunately, Nigerian citizens have the impression that politics is a means of personal and sectional aggrandizement rather than opportunity to serve and make personal sacrifices for the sake of the well-being of the masses. Ordinary Nigerians feel that politicians constitute a part of the problems which they have. Money and power cannot be the key issues of life, but those who possess them can utilize them, with maturity, for the well-being of the struggling masses.
There is the story of Timon of Athens whose misapplication of his wealth through over-generosity resulted in his fall and banishment. In his dying statement he wondered: “What a god is gold, that he is worshipped in a baser temple than where swine feed!” There is also the story of Macbeth whose ambition for power led to a personal and national disaster. One of his dying statements was that “There’s nothing serious in mortality, all is but toys: renown and grace is dead …”
The purpose of the two examples cited above is to remind those who possess wealth and power that material possessions and positions are transcient. One great man who had tasted wealth and power left or will which contained the following statement: “There are two things to aim at in life; first, to get what you want, and after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind achieve the second.”
The nature of Nigerian politics was portrayed in an unguarded statement as a “do-or-die affair,” by an ex-president. Majority of Nigerians would have wished that politics should be about service to the nation rather than a gangsterist affair or “dirty game”. Through monetization it has become a “cut-throat business” whereby huge financial investments must be recouped in a gansterist manner. There must be some good politicians who have the interest of the masses at heart.
There is a general impression that politicians are oppressors rather than friends of the masses. This perception should be altered through patriotic and exemplary service which would not be difficult for the people to observe and appreciate. It is obvious that the task of nation-building is enormous and demanding, but there would be a focus on providing an enabling environment wherein the masses can put in their best willingly.
Perhaps, unknown to many people, there is a global cleansing process, meant to correct past imbalances brought about by human greed and ignorance, largely. A few people who are permitted to perceive the trend of this global phenomenon, see that Nigeria is a flash point where there must be diligent care with regard to the practice of politics. Politics should not degenerate into conspiracies and gangsterism.
Without being specific, it is necessary to advise Nigerian politicians generally to bridle personal ego, vanity and vaulting ambitions. To plunge a community into anxiety and instability cannot be described as good politics. There is an old prophecy that those that the gods would destroy, they first make mad. A “do-or-die” system of politics can be described as politics of madness. May be time will unfold what cunning intrigues hide away now. The military and police should stay away from the growing madness.
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
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