NIGERIA @ 55
Eme N. Ekekwe
One does not easily remember the last time Nigeria’s independence anniversary came around and we celebrated in joyful gratitude to the Creator and Ruler of the all the worlds, happy that, at least, we look like the giant of Africa, compete with all the necessary endowments. We have never used the opportunity of this anniversary to look back and to showcase what we had contributed to the humanity of which we are a part, and in particular, to the Black race whose potentials we carry in our national genes. Every anniversary Nigerian leaders more or less make the same bland but decent and familiar noises. They call for prayers in churches and mosques (it is not fashionable to include the shrines!). They urge Nigerians to be their brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. None of this is complete until they include the call for sober reflection. On the Friday and Sunday nearest the anniversary day the churches and mosques fill up and television cameras follow these leaders in their pious best as they perform that necessary ritual. Outside the mosques and churches, goodwill messages fill the pages of newspapers and magazines, complete with those pictures posed for effect. All this could have made good entertainment except for that small point about sober reflection which may even have been made absent-mindedly. It gets one thinking.
Come to think of it, nobody sees any of those who call for it doing anything resembling sober reflection: not on television and not in either print or electronic media. Yet, this is what we need most, especially at the level of our leadership. One thinks that those who tirelessly call for sober reflection do so out of mere habit. Perhaps, they are sincere about it. But let’s face it, what else could they reasonably say at such times? The phrase “Sober reflection” sounds responsible and mature; it suggests a deep – or even a sophisticated – mind. Coming from politicians, it gives the citizens the impression that their leaders are capable of, or interested in, something deep and profound – the sort of thing that should result from reflection, especially the kind of reflection that is truly sober!
In a country whose leaders are even faintly familiar with sober reflection, government would have been doing all that was necessary and possible to ensure that poverty was reduced to the barest minimum. Leaders who engage in sober reflection would have known that their best resource is in the people and they would have ensured that this resource was truly cared for and nurtured. And what better way to nurture it than to ensure that the youth were in some reasonable employment; to ensure that there would have been active policies to reduce poverty, and to pay salaries and pensions (such as they are) as and when due. But here, 55 years after the formal departure of our colonisers we are living with over 25% unemployment level, excluding the underemployed. It is a major news item when salaries get paid! A society whose leaders engage even only occasionally in sober reflection does not have about 70% of its population poor and hungry after many poverty reduction programmes have supposedly been implemented. Then there is that something cynically called ‘stomach infrastructure’ which appears to be the height of sophisticated policy that some of our leaders are capable of. Charity may begin at home but it makes a very poor substitute for policy. If this was a country where leaders do any sober reflection, it would not have taken 55 years for Nigeria to be declared polio-free. These are sobering thoughts, if ever we needed some.
Over 30 years ago the late Professor Chinua Achebe explained very lucidly that “the trouble with Nigeria” was the poor quality of leadership it has had since independence. Of course, we know the very serious damage that colonialism did to our national psyche; we know how Britain used the resources from here to help rebuild its economy after World War II. And, of course we can show that the damage done by Britain still haunts our development efforts. All that is true. All that is also what should have made sober reflection an on-going engagement of whoever had the privilege of ruling Nigeria. But even though they have occasionally identified periods for sober reflection, there is little evidence that our leaders take their own advice.
A cursory review of how we have spent 55 years of national independence suggests that many among those who have led Nigeria show they learnt and imitated much that was wrong from their colonial masters. Many, but mercifully not all of them, of course. The majority in that group simply appropriated for themselves the same instruments of political domination and economic underdevelopment. In changing nothing from the colonial past, these leaders simply became the new conquerors. They were our brothers and sisters with whom we worshipped in same churches and mosques and this masked the fact that they had merely replaced our colonisers but have not come to represent us. Even now, when any segment of the society does a little sober reflection, and argue that leaders have been capitalising on these primordial issues to confuse, that segment is dismissed out of hand.
Just like the colonial masters, this majority in the leadership cadre has treated Nigeria as some real estate to be plundered. This plundering is often done legally, of course. Who has not heard of the mind-boggling figures about looted funds in foreign countries? Who has not seen the figures that represent the salaries and allowances of our national legislators and many other political office holders? All those figures were taken from the national treasury because the papers and contracts had been signed. Repeating the numbers here would just be an exercise in tiring the mind and courting frustration. Nigeria must be one of the few countries where a Governor, a Legislature or Local Government Chairman comes into office as poor as the next man without a godfather but leaves office rich enough to be a godfather in his own right.
A little sober reflection would have shown those who grow filthy rich just from being in public office that all of this is eventually a waste of time and effort! All the wealth an individual amasses is eventually eaten by termites. So, why spend all that effort working for termites? There is an old saying that nobody in his right mind should busy her/himself cracking palm kernels only to feed them to the fowls. A little sober reflection would show that those who use public office for self aggrandisement as opposed to giving the genuine service they promised the people are doing just what the elders condemn. Soon or late, here or there pay day will come. The Good Book says the Almighty is not mocked!
Besides, being so rich in an environment where an overwhelming majority is poor is dangerous. It cannot be good for one’s psychology to see so many poor and hungry in the neighbourhood while one and one’s friends/associates are the only ones who afford decent shelter and two or three meals daily. Who knows how far hatred, envy and frustration can drive those who are weak? And what if the many that, rightly or wrongly feel deprived, turn on the few who are rich? Some may be quick to dismiss this possibility on the ground that those rich and mighty also pay for security. True, indeed, but a little sober reflection shows that before the so-called Arab Spring, few could have believed that one day – and soon after the World Bank forecast a rosy future for their economies – political office holders in Libya, Algeria, and Egypt, that they would be attacked by mobs, some of which would feature women, the most deprived of segments in the Arab world. These, indeed, are days when the unexpected and even the improbable are happening with frightening regularity!
From all that one has seen these past 55 years, Nigeria’s ruling class has not shown any capacity for sober reflection. The political arm of this class (comprising both civilians and military) has been good at copying policies from others, and seems incapable of offering something original and new. It believed it was doing something new when it abandoned the Westminster parliamentary model and opted for American-type presidentialism. And it thought it was being original when it tried something called ‘home grown democracy, when, in fact, this was the same dictatorship re-christening itself and making “home grown” look like a bad brand. In both instances, the result has been highly questionable. The Americans our leaders copied operate a passable democracy and strong federalism compared to what is happening here. What we copied from them has left us still clamouring for internal party democracy and true federalism. We bought the World Bank’s structural adjustment even as we were pretending to be doing something original and new. And when it seemed that there could be and outbreak of real democracy, Babangida and his cohorts aborted it and stepped aside for full blown dictatorship to overtake the country.
From America’s constitution Nigerian leaders copied that great phrase, “We the people”. But in the same breath they went right ahead and imposed a constitutional document on the people that was drawn up by a few. Recent attempts under Olusegun Obasanjo and later Goodluck Jonathan to review that document have been met by roaring failure because at each turn the rulers displayed their chronic inability or unwillingness to engage in sober reflection. This is a class that substitutes navel-gazing for serious contemplation.
At the economic and technical levels, this ruling class has fared no better. The vast graveyard of economic waste speaks to this. Industries that could have employed thousands of people have been abandoned. If this nation had leaders who engaged in sober reflection, it would not have gone for decades without investing in electricity – yet, it was building industries and its population was growing. These same leaders repeatedly announced their intention to have Nigeria join the league of economic power houses in the world. They apparently believed that one could run an economy meaningfully by relying on imported generators and petrol.
But make no mistake; there is hope for the country. Even as it is, some progress has been made. As the country lurches from one confusing situation to another, experience that was not there is being gained. It only seems nothing or very little has been achieved because there is so much confusion among our leaders that the rest of us tend to despair. For instance, our democratic experience is much higher today than it was in 1990, even though our legislators still run out of debating points and have to resort to using their fists occasionally to drive their points home in the hallowed chambers.
On their own, our leaders appear to have failed in moving the nation forward by much – to use their favourite and popular phrase. From all indications, circumstances will force them to look for critical ways to improve in the difficult task of sober reflection. The contradictions of uncritical engagement with neoliberal economic policies are becoming more glaring by the day. The corruption that has fed their private wealth has also driven the economy down on its knees. This, along with unforgiving and harsh international economic environment, will force some degree of sober reflection at least among a few of these leaders. This few will realise the need to think along more progressive lines, and to clamp down on some of their obvious excesses. This condition will be fraught with the danger of reaction and backsliding. However, it also holds the promise of once more opening up the political space just that much wider. Already this is happening even though a relapse cannot be ruled out. All said and done, the majority of the people are a bit conscious of their rights today than they were yesterday. It is a very gradual process.
When it is obvious that the status quo cannot be sustained, sober reflection will no longer be just an option; it will become an imperative for the very survival of the ruling class and the rest of the society. That is when the possibility of genuine and sustained progress will be once more within reach. This is where we are now, and that is the burden of the Buhari administration. As was pointed out earlier, this is indeed the season in which the improbable and the unexpected happen. Only some sober reflection can help the country move from the slow to the fast lane of development. As this same Buhari once reminded us, this is the only country we have and we have to salvage it. Doing so will be relatively easy once we take stock of where we have been, where we are (and why we are here), as well as where we intend to be in a clearly defined time frame, with realistic milestones. This will be the result of continuous and sustained sober reflection, and it is bound to yield a better future for everyone. Already one can see in some segments of the youth, evidence that they are fully aware that business as usual is unsustainable, and they are beating new paths to the future. It is still the case that most youths are imitating the bad habits of my generation, but these are the ones who will be left behind. All is not lost and much can be gained.
Eme Nwachukwu Ekekwe is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Port Harcourt. He holds a PhD degree in Political Science from Carleton University, Canada. He is currently the Director, Claude Ake School of Government of the University of Port Harcourt as well as the occupant, Claude Ake Chair of Political Economy.
Ekekwe has wide ranging work experience in both the public and private sectors of the economy as well as in international development. He is a teacher, public speaker, researcher, mentor. He has written several books and journal articles in his area of specialization.
Nigeria At 58: Anything To Celebrate?
Nigeria clocks 58 years today as she gained her independence from the British colonialists on October1,1960. Fifty-eight years down the road, how has the nation fared? Is there anything to celebrate? Our correspondent went to town to get the views of a cross section of Nigerians and their responses are as amazing as they are interesting. Exerpts.
Hon Awaji –Inombek Abiante, House of Representatives member for Andoni Opobo/Nkoro
What are we celebrating? Are we celebrating constant power or free education? Our contemporaries have gone ahead of us. If you look at countries that started like us, many of them have left us behind. At 58, Nigeria is now the world capital of poverty. If really we are going to celebrate development, which one have we seen? Is it for the attainment in respecting the rule of law?
For us, if we cannot have an honest leadership recruitment process, then, we cannot be celebrating anything. In the last elections, we had reports of vote-buying. Is that progress?
To my mind, the independence anniversary calls for reappraisal and sober reflection, and rededication for better foundation.
Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe (Ijaw Leader)
Well, there are lot of things to celebrate. Over the years, there have been several attempts to disintegrate the country, but it has failed, secondly, seemingly, we are alive, thirdly, we are moving towards democracy, even though what we have now is still military democracy. The America we are seeing today is over 200 years and Nigeria is just 58. So despite the crisis, we are still alive.
We are moving from a poorer nation to an average one, looking at our population and we are able to feed our people.
“However, there is need for improvement. Our democracy and political system is not yet mature. We should see politics as service, we must not see poltics as self gain, and for self enrichment. We should ask ourselves what we can do for our nation. We should rather move our economy from public to private.
We should also think of restructuring the country, so that every section can move to contribute to nation building. Restructuring is the way forward in this country. Our security architecture also needs to be changed. It should be spread in such a manner that every part of the country will have a say in the security apparatus of the country. If we can do all these, then our country will change for the better.
For me, this year’s independence anniversary celebrations should be reflective. We have to look back and see how far we have come as a nation. There is a saying that ‘when you look at your neighbour, you will know what God is planning for you.
So, the question is: who are we looking at? You cannot really achieve much if you don’t have a goal. When it comes to the comity of nations, other nations that are developed and are where we aspire to go should be our model. Today, people from Dubai and the United Arab Emintes are no longer going to America. When you get there today, you will discover that at a time in their history, they were looking at America and today, they were able to achieve something close to America. Today Americans are visiting United Arab Emirates. Even we Nigerians leave our country to go visit Dubai. Unfortunately, these are countries that we were better than in the 60s and 70s, but today, they have gone past us. In the 50s and 60s, people were riding on camels there, but today it’s no longer so because they had a vision and pursued it.
The problem we are facing today is because we don’t pay attention to history. Some of the mistakes we made before, today, our politicians and leaders are still making the same mistakes. Things that are happening today had happened before. We have to learn from history. So for me, we have to do a reflective celebration this year.
“Nigeria at 58, to me we have done well having sustained democracy for 19 years. It’s a pointer that the country is making headway. But more needs to be done among political elites who by their quest to grab power have thrown the country into a chaotic situation.
“The present administration headed by President Buhari has actually not performed creditably. The reasons are that the administration has actually not reached out to the people, and there is practically non-human capital development in the country. That is the more reason why there is tension among the citizenry.
“In the first place, Nigeria is an independent nation, and that is very key, but the persons who celebrate must have a good reason to do so. You know celebration is associated with two things, joy as against kill – joy. Now if you look at the masses, the question I would like to ask is “are the masses happy? Even if you go to the North, some Northerners are not happy. So many of their people have been killed and anybody in mourning cannot be happy.
“Now let’s come to the area, where civil servants have been agitating for salary increase, that too have not materialized. And as you the workforce in Nigeria has greater percentage of the population. These workers also have children in higher institutions and primary schools. If you go to some families, to eat three square meals has become a problem. So many children, those families who have managed to train their children out of school, their children don’t still have jobs and they keep on feeding them – for such families, there is nothing to celebrate.
“For the civil servant whose dream of acquiring new minimum wage, it has not materialised, so for civil servants I don’t think there is anything to celebrate.
“Now if you look at the political atmosphere, the only people who don’t have retirement age are politician. If my grandfather was alive today, as a politicians he would have gone to pick intent form to contest election even at the age of 74. These are the things we are talking about while referring to the youths as leaders of tomorrow. Forgetting that for anyone to be a leader of tomorrow, he or she must undergo tutelage or training, and given a sense of belonging. But you discover that it is not the case in Nigeria. All we see around are old people, who don’t want to leave the political stage, instead they are prepared to adjust their age, in order to perpetuate themselves.
Comrade Opi Erekosima, Rivers State Chapter Chairperson of Radio, Television Theatre Workers Union
I want to join my voice with many other well-meaning Nigerians to congratulate the country as we clock another 58 years. Whether we like it or not, there is every need for us to celebrate. Despite the challenges before us which I see as obstacle, we can surmount, these are things that can make us stronger. I want to congratulate Nigeria for clocking 58 years at least for the first of life. You will really appreciate life when you visit the hospitals and the mortuary. And every Saturday, you hear obituary announcement, at least, that’s when you will appreciate life.
So I have every reason to say congratulations, first to myself and to Nigerians, then to the nation and then to my state. Yes, we are approaching another triumphant entry, I am talking about the 2019 elections and tempers are rising. Nigeria right now looks like a pot that’s boiling and someone needs to open the pot to see what the content is. So whatever the content is, I want to appeal to everybody to be calm. We need to be patient and hardworking.
Godwin Oruigoni, Civil Servant
As far as there is life, there is something to celebrate, even as an individual, you will discover that as you grow old, you see people celebrate life even when they don’t have anything to show with the belief that their tomorrow’s maybe better than today. That’s the same picture we are putting Nigeria into.
Yes, there are a lot of pitfalls and people’s expectation of the country is not what it’s supposed to be and that is why a lot of people are not excited to celebrate. However, if we don’t celebrate, it will look as if we have lost hope as a nation.
So we are celebrating to keep faith that no matter the pitfalls stemming from bad leadership, poor economy and infrastructure, we are still hopeful.
“As a Christian “we are expected to believe that our tomorrow will be better. We are not looking at the indices but we are looking at our potentials. Before this government came on board, there was so much hope, but today we are disappointed.
So we believe that it’s much more than the indices we are seeing now. For me, I believe that at this point in time, there is more God can do to change Nigeria for the better.
Dr Isaac Mieiamuno-Jaja
My opinion will be based on the Scriptures. The Bible says in every situation, we should give thanks to God. At 58 years of our independence, the country may not have arrived to the level everyone may have aspired to be. So in all, every good thing that has happened, some people have lost and in every bad thing that has happened, some other people also gained. On the totality, Nigeria has not gotten to where it supposed to be, but that does not mean that we have not made progress in some areas.
If for nothing, at least Nigeria is at peace and that is enough for us to be happy and thank God.
“So in thanking God, there is nothing like low key and high key thanksgiving and I believe that we must thank God in all fullness, especially for the life that we have. There is every reason to thank God for our independence, the issue of low key and high key does not obtain.
Nigeria @ 58: The Journey So Far
Nigeria’s journey to independence came to fruition when on October 1, 1960 the British colonialists granted her request to be independent. Since then, the country’s development has been described by many from different perspectives all through the emergent Republics and actions of politicians.
On the whole, rather than see the country’s existence to date as development, many prefer to view it as mere “moving on”, because, as they are wont to put it, “there’s nothing tangible to show for it, only suffering”. To what extent this is true, is dependent on who says it. A cursory look at Nigeria’s political history puts a lot of what the country is going through under perspective.
At independence, or on attainment of the First Republic, the dominant political parties were Northern People’s Congress (NPC), led by Sir Ahmadu Bello, National Council of Nigerians and Camerouns (NCNC), under the leadership of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Action Group (AG) led by Obafemi Awolowo and Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU), with Malam Aminu Kano as its figure-head.
These parties were in control of their regions and areas of dominance. For instance, the Ahmadu Bello-led NPC was in firm control of the North, save for areas controlled by Aminu Kano’s NEPU. It is the same way that Azikiwe’s NCNC held sway in the Eastern part of the country, while Awolowo’s AG was in charge of the Western Region.
Some of the parties did well for their regions in such areas as infrastructure, education, and commerce. It is important to note here, for instance, that the benefit of Awolowo’s free education policy for the people of the old Western Region is still being reaped till date. The reason is that the people of the region embraced the policy and sent their children abroad to be educated. The result is that currently in Nigeria, the South West Zone has the highest number of educated people.
Awolowo also used proceeds from the sale of cocoa, which his region had in abundance, to build the first television station in Africa and the famous Cocoa House in Ibadan.
One notable snag in the politics of the period was the inability of the political parties to embrace unity and avoid electoral violence. This led to the first military coup of January 15, 1966: a group of young officers led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogu toppled the government of Tafawa Balewa, who was Prime Minister, while Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was President in the parliamentary government the country operated at independence. Following the coup, Major-General Aguiyi Ironsi became the first military Head of State.
Ironsi’s rule was cut short as it lasted for only six months, following a counter-coup staged by mostly officers from the North who believed that the first coup was one sided in favour of the South-East.
A young Colonel Yakubu Gowon was then elevated to the rank of General and became the second military ruler of Nigeria. He remained in power until August 27, 1975 when he was overthrown by another group of officers led by General Murtala Mohammed.
General Mohammed’s reign was short-lived as he was assassinated in another bloody coup. But the coup was aborted and Murtala Mohammed’s second in command, General Olusegun Obasanjo took over the reins of leadership and continued with the transition programme initiated by his predecessor in 1976. The transition was to put in place a civilian government in 1979, and also move the nation’s capital to Abuja.
Obasanjo successfully implemented the return to civil rule in October, 1979, which led to the emergence of the Second Republic, with an initial five political parties being registered: National Party of Nigeria (NPN), Nigerian People’s Party (NPP), Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Great Nigeria People’s Party (GNPP), People’s Redemption Party (PRP), and later Nigeria Advanced Party (NAP).
The NPN emerged as the ruling party after the elections with Alhaji Shehu Shagari becoming the first Executive President to be elected under the Federal Republic. This period witnessed some level of stability following the alliance of the NPN and NPP in a government of national unity. Although this alliance packed up later, the NPN still won in the 1983 elections. But no sooner had NPN won than the military struck again, this time under the leadership of General Muhammadu Buhari. The coup brought General Muhammadu Buhari to power on December 31, 1983.
Buhari’s government was toppled in another coup led by Brigadier Sani Abacha, which brought in General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangia (popularly called IBB) in August 1985 as Head of State.
One major innovation Babangida brought in his tenure was to change from multi-party system to two-party system with the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and National Republican Convention (NRC) setting the motion for the Third Republic.
The subsequent election that resulted from Babangida’s transition programme in 1993, though adjudged the “freest and fairest” elections Nigeria ever had, was annulled for reasons best known to the government then. The presumed winner of the elction, Chief Moshood Abiola, popularly called MKO Abiola, was not inaugurated as President.
Shortly after, the military set in motion another return to civil rule, following which the PDP won the 1999 elections to commence the present Fourth Republic, which set the record as the first time a civilian government handed over power to another civilian government.
So far, President Olusegun Obasanjo, who emerged the President of the Fourth Republic, had served two tenures of four years each and there had been Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan, and currently, Buhari.
In analysing the country’s political growth since independence, political analysts are of the opinion that what all the political parties in power seem to lack is ideology.
Two scholars stand out in this instance: Dr. Emmanuel Onah and Dr. Ferdinand Ottoh, both of the Department of Political Science, University of Lagos.
According to them, “the political parties have no ideologies. They do not have a guiding principle to run their affairs”.
Otto, for one, is of the belief that it is this lack of ideology by political parties that has played out in the recent massive defections from one party to another.
“If we have ideology-based parties, it will be difficult for politicians to leave their parties for another. Instead, members would remain in their parties to remedy any challenge or problem to make the party stronger.
“The defections are for selfish reasons, and what we are witnessing is not healthy for our democracy. Some politicians, unfortunately work to satisfy their selfish interests”, he said.
On his part, Onah said multi-party system is good, but having 90 parties to contest an election is outrageous.
According to him, “it makes the system uninteresting because the big parties will certainly swallow the small ones. I think it is better to have two or three strong parties that should have strong national base and ethnic or religious influence”, he said.
This level of selfishness has no doubt transcended to all facets of the country’s being, so much that every other consideration seems to supersede the show of patriotism to the nation, which is the essence of governance.
In looking at economic development, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, while stating the importance of budget in the economic life of a nation, was quoted by Observer in 2015 as seeing budget in the light of it being “the roadmap to our future. It outlines government revenue and expenditure for a given fiscal year”.
From the perspective of the layman, the budget is what guides a government in what money is available, what amount should be spent in what sector, and at the end of the total amount what is earmarked as expendi-ture? This means that care would be taken to plan and execute it. Anything less is likely to spell doom for a country. The question therefore is how has Nigeria fared in this wise?
An idea of the answer to this question can be imagined from the experience of 2017 in Nigeria: Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo signed the nation’s Appropriations Bill into Law on June 12 in 2017. This was well over five months into the 2017 financial year. What this means is that for over five months, the government was spending funds that were not appropriated.
Interestingly, this misnomer is not new to Nigerians, even as it runs contrary to the dynamics of modern development which weighs heavily on effective planning and management of resources in the attainment of development objectives. This no longer happens in developed climes.
In fact, in most developed countries, the time span from the start of the preparation of budget proposals by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to the enactment of the Appropriations Act before the beginning of the financial year takes at least 12 months and there are defined time limits for each of the milestones in the budget process. This is currently not the case in Nigeria. The result is that monies are often spent at will, and later “retired”.
What this means is that, unlike budgeting in the private sector, which relies on free-flow of information between consumers and producers, with price signals reflect consumer preferences, customer satisfaction, and supplier costs and producer performance, while competition eliminates poor performers and shifts resources to those entities that improve efficiency and elevate utility, in the public sector, governments generally use past funding levels to determine future resource allocation.
In doing so, they virtually do not consider reflecting on preferences, satisfaction, or performance of the previous budget. This has no doubt given room to avoidable profligacy, and encouraged corruption, which seem to be the only truly developing phenomena in the country.
To counter this trend, and hence be seen serious in developing its economy, Nigeria needs to, among other things, adopt Performance-Based Budgeting to checkmate unnecessary and unwarranted spending.
Religion in Nigeria’s political space has always been with the country right from its inception as a nation in 1960 when the British colonialists handed power to Muslims.
In their paper titled, “Religion in Nigerian Political Space: Implication for Sustainable National Development”, Ntamu, G. U. , Abia O. T. , Edinyang, S. D. , and Eneji, Chris-Valentine Ogar captured it thus:
”Given the philosophy of Islam as a complete way of life for Muslims, Islam has always been closely attached to politics in Nigeria, especially in the Muslim dominated north. As alluded above, the British government duly recognised this fact in their dealings with the northern Islamic societies and explored it to legitimise their colonial rule in the region.
“Oyegbile and Abdulrafiu, (2009) observed that after the 1914 amalgamation of Nigeria and emergence of indigenous national politics, Islam has effectively represented a source of ethnic identity, group unity, political mobilisation, de-mobilisation, regime legitimisation and de-legitimisation in the country.
“As a result of this, the northern Hausa-Fulani therefore see themselves as the off-springs of the Sheikh Uthman Dan Fodio, representing the epitome of the Islamic holy Jihad and a product of an enviable Islamic socio-cultural history.
“Based on this, the popular Hausa-Fulani Muslim cleric, Sheikh Abubakar Gumi, asserted that Islam has a cultural and religious affinity with its members, thereby providing ‘many common cultural elements’ that united the people of the region who become adherents together (Human Rights Watch, 2005, Ihedirika, 2011 and Okune, 2011) thereby empowering them to be politically cohesive and formidable and using same for political mobilisation.
“It is however popularly held that the north were absolutely been held in contempt because of its unique historical, religious, cultural and political antecedents (Akaeze, 2009). Thus, Islam has since been conceived to be synonymous with the North in the political matrix of the entity called Nigeria”.
The result is that this has set the pace for religious politics in the country. The fact that political parties are still formed based on religious (geographical) divides, and efforts are still being made deliberately to balance positions within political parties along religious divide only confirms religious politics in Nigeria. Another way to note this is deciphering the origins of most top government functionaries.
Religious politics has in Nigeria’s 58 years proven to be a key factor of under-development as it encourages people being appointed to positions of trust just for the reason of them being of the same religion as the President, without recourse to their competence. It has also comes to play in political leanings in which incompetent persons are handed positions for which they have little understanding of.
The late playwright, Chinua Achebe summed it up in his book, “The Trouble with Nigeria”, when he said the county’s problem “is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land, climate, water, air, or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to their responsibility, to the challenge of personal example, which is the hallmark of true leadership”.
Consequently, the state of Nigeria’s pitiable socio-economic development has been a direct consequence of the actions and inactions of the leadership class that has managed the affairs and wealth of the country since independence. The result is that at 58, Nigeria is still yet to find her fit as the acclaimed “Giant of Africa”.
The situation is such that the numerous achievements of Nigerians the world over are greatly dwarfed by the bigger picture of the country, even as countries still respect individuals who have genuinely excelled in their fields of endeavour.
As Nigerians mark 58 years of nationhood, therefore, one key factor that should never cease to bother their leaders is how the country can truly allow the Rule of Law to take its rightful place: How can Separation of Powers be made functional? And, when shall the people truly enjoy their resources?
These are the banes of Nigeria’s development.
Wike: An Agent Of National Cohesion
With the passage of time, the familiar refrain, “though tongues and tribes may differ, in brotherhood we stand”, may long have been forgotten by many Nigerian citizens.Yet, a few, into whose consciousness this has permeated and still rings a note, have continued to uphold our unity in diversity as the basis on which our collective independence was signed.
For such ones, issues of peace, brotherhood, unity and national cohesion come tops in their daily decisions. They are found in virtually every geo-political region of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Here in the South-South, when it comes to forging common alliance to promote unity and advocacy for cohesiveness, especially among a people already fragmented by religious, linguistic and cultural disparities, one name stands out.
His Excellency, the Executive Governor of our dear Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike, has remained a personality driven by the goal of nationhood, in keeping with the dreams and aspirations of the founding fathers of our great nation.
Chief Wike’s passion and drive for national cohesion dated back to the year 2003 when he was elected into the national presidency of All Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON). This opportunity provided him the leverage to interact with 774 local government chairmen across the country. Their deliberations on issues affecting the politics and policies of the country, no doubt, may have constituted a springboard upon which the nationalist fervor in him was stimulated.
Amazingly, his appointment years later as a Minister of Education, precisely in 2011, took him deeper into the mainstream of Nigerian politics. This further elicited the nationalist potentials in the governor believed to have been incubated in his early years in local politics. His footprints in Nigeria’s political landscape are living testimonials.
Governor Wike’s ministerial portfolio did not only launch him into the national political theatre, it also signalled the dawn of his ministry as an agent of national cohesion. It is therefore, significant for providing a window through which the long-incubated nationalist tendency in Mr Governor was hatched.
As the country’s education helmsman, Chief Wike explored the role of education in fostering peaceful and harmonious coexistence as well as unity. He held many expectations for the education sector. Thus, constructively and holistically, he drew plans for implementation and helped midwife and breathed life to the sector.
His faith in the school as an instrument to raise an ideal labour force for the country’s manpower requirement, seasoned leadership for its bureaucracies as well as refined citizenry for an enlightened social order, made him to embark on a massive investment in teacher education.
Wike’s detribalised posture manifested in his execution of Almajiri Education Programme (AEP). Irrespective of whether a place is Islam –prone or not, Almajiri schools were established in all the geo-political zones of the country. This did not only serve as integrative mechanism, it created an atmosphere of homeliness for a folk which ordinarily was alienated by religious disparity.
The extent to which he used education for the purpose of national integration is a remarkable indication of his desire and willingness to foster ‘‘one Nigeria.’’ This is because he realised that the country was in a real crisis situation that could only be resolved through education.
Even as a state governor, Wike has continued to build bridges of friendship across different frontiers both within the country and beyond. His administration has played host to several national and international retreats and conferences. They include the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA), Rotary International , the African Bar Association (ABA) just to mention a few.
The Governor’s flare for national cohesiveness has earned him many encomiums which are absolutely devoid of flattery as is common with people in power and their psycophantic fans.
To further buttress his passion for national unity, Governor Wike delved into sports development which he describes as a string that binds all Nigerians together with no visible political party as a rallying force, having very crucial impact in our lives.”
The Governor believes that inspite of our political differences, there is always no differences among Nigerians when it comes to sports. For this reason, he said “whoever wants this country to be united will always support sports”
His choice of sports development as a unifying factor, did not only earn him a local recognition by the national and Rivers bodies of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN),he was also honoured by the International Sports Press Association (AIPS) in Brussels, Belgium, where he presented a paper on “Peace and Progress through Sports in the Niger Delta”
The governor’s recognition was hinged on his consistency in raising the bar of sports matters as well as effectively using sports as a veritable vehicle to fast track communal growth along the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and engaging a booming but restive youth populace.
During his investiture as the national patron of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), by its National President, Alhaji Saidu Abubakar, he said “ I believe it does not matter which party you belong to, what matters is to promote the image of Nigeria and its unity.”
In his demonstration of the spirit of oneness (Espirit de Corp), Governor Wike extends his scepter to all irrespective of party affiliation, religious and ethnic differences. Leaders and renowned personalities in rival political parties have at different occasions been invited to inspect and commission projects executed by his administration.
It would be recalled that on June 27, 2017, Governor Wike paid a Sallah visit to the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III in faraway Sokoto State just to felicitate with him and his caliphate members on the Eid-el-fitr celebration. The reception accorded him during the visit was not only unprecedented but also instructive.
While in Sokoto, the governor was quite unequivocal on his stand on national unity.
September 18, 2017 witnessed a delegation of Northern Governor Forum led by the Governor of Bornu State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima to Chief Wike in Government House, Port Harcourt, to express their gratitude to him for what they described as an urgent step he took to nip in the bud, the crisis that erupted between members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra(IPOB) and some Nigerians from the North in Oyigbo Local Government Area of the State.
Again, the visiting governors commended Governor Wike for his strong commitment towards national unity. Their words, “Governor Wike we are mightily proud of you and to associate ourselves with you. Nigeria is greater than political differences. We belong first and foremost to one political family, and that is the Federal Republic of Nigeria. You believe in the Nigerian project, for that we remain eternally grateful’’.
Most importantly, Governor Wike’s state wide broadcast in the wake of the IPOB crisis in Oyigbo will forever be remembered for not only dousing tension in the air, but for also restoring peace in what would have possibly degenerated to an ethnic squabbles.
His words,’’ As a people, we shall continue to support the unity and peaceful co-existence of all ethnic nationalities and work towards actualising our collective aspiration for a just, inclusive and progressive nation’’, clearly demonstrates his zeal in promoting national unity and cohesion instead of encouraging unnecessary animosity in the polity.
In all, Governor Wike’s verbal expressions, body language and actions in his political life, summarise him as a rare breed, bridge builder, ambassador of peace, above all, an agent of national cohesion.
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