NIGERIA @ 55
The objective of this piece is to probe the sad role of the corruption in ongoing economic crisis, and what can be done to rescue the Nigerian state from the capture of the governing elite. Focus on the Nigerian economy derives from considerable interest has been shown by people from all walks of life in the socio-economic development of the country, both in the advanced and developing countries. As a matter of fact, politicians and statesmen, administrators, civil servants, international organizations, foundations, social and research scientists have shown such increasing concerns that are now cumulating in a supposed commitment to solving the problems of lack of development.
I use the occasion of the country’s celebration of fifty-five years of political independence to share with you my reflections on the problem as I have formulated it in preceding paragraphs. My point of departure is twofold. First, we need to revisit the concept of the state with emphasis on the state in Nigeria and the extent to which it exists for the public good. Secondly the role of the state as an instrument of appropriation and accumulation and how these interpose with other sociological variables to impoverish the citizens whose interest the governing elite ought to defend and pursue as a sacred duty. Little is realized that the crisis of lack of development is intricately and /or inextricably intertwined with the nature of the state and the role of the governing and business elites who have captured it and patterned themselves into specific ways of life against the interest of majority of the citizens.
It is my contention that the profligacy and corruption in government combine to eventually rob the country of the necessary development it should have witnessed in the last sixteen years. Put differently, the nature of the state as a mechanism of private accumulation punctuated by perennial instability and apostle of neo-liberalism lurks the germs of success or the viruses of failure of the Nigerian economy. Against the points of my departure, let me outline my reflections on the subject matter.
Nigeria is a classic case of paradox of riches. As a country, it is wealthy in natural and human resources as some of her citizens are counted among the richest persons in the world; sadly its economy is underdeveloped and majority of the population wallow in abject poverty and misery The average Nigerian lives on less than one dollar a day, most of our roads are in deplorable conditions, just as the public hospitals themselves are “dead” and the higher education sector practically broken by Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASSU) strikes over the Federal government’s unfulfilled agreement, while the culture of impunity has become an integral part of the norm of political appointees. The adoption of neo-liberalism as a development paradigm by the political leadership brought to the fore a constellation of ideas and forces promoting economic growth- based development strategies. Spearheaded by a variety of institutional sources – including the World Bank, international organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and governments, this inarticulate approach to development dominate contemporary development policy and is being increasingly employed in the current government’s “rescue mission”.
The impacts and implications of the government reform programme raise a number of important questions regarding governance and development. On the one hand, an unlikely convergence between neo-liberalism and people oriented development in terms of service delivery and empowerment of the most marginalized social groups. On the other hand, a body of scholarship highlights key transformative potentials of neo-liberalism with inflation rate moving in the right direction. Critics raise particularly serious concerns regarding the critical disconnect between growth and development as epitomized by rising misery index, poverty, unemployment, and lending rate and exploitative labour processes. Primary production and export of crude oil continue to define the economy, while level of moral depravity and political degeneracy among public officers is worsening on a daily basis.
What is the explanation for this apparent inability of government’s development strategies to contain the nagging problems of underdevelopment since 1999? What can be done to reverse the prevailing condition? I argue that the nature of the state located at the conjuncture of intra-elite dynamics and wider political and economic forces offer a more sophisticated understanding of the possibilities of transformation, corruption of power, executive impunity; and the failure of law in regulating the accumulative propensities of the governing elite. It is difficult to explain the persistent diversion of state resources by politicians and private sector officials for personal purposes outside the general framework of perceiving state and corporate powers as the means for appropriation and accumulation. For majority of the governing elite, power is conceived as a prebend.
A prebendal system is one in which the legal/ rational and other societal norms of authority merge, producing a hybrid that cannot be conveniently subsumed under any specific heading. The point being made is that there are specific legal rules guiding the purview of offices, however, personal loyalties and communal identities, the private appropriation of the means of administration, and the transformation of offices and their administrative purposes into a direct or indirect economic resources, have equal weight in determining the nature and exercise of public power. The existence of a prebendalized state, and the easy adaptation of traditional patron- client relationships to the pursuit of modern material goods, means that prebendalism and clientilism-are mutually reinforcing. Prebendalism is encouraged by the existence of patronage system in which an individual/individuals of higher-socio economic status(patron) uses his or their influence and resources to provide protection or benefits or both, for a person of lower status(client) who for his/their part, reciprocate(s) by offering general support and assistance, including personal services.
The return of democratic rule in 1999 revitalizes and promotes clientelistics networks because of its vast array of political appointments( legislative, and executive) and private staff positions to be filled is a veritable boom to prebendal politics. Opportunities for access to the state are multiplied as political appointees and their
clients enjoy new leverages to procure preferential treatments. Although social commentators and scholars have sought to distinguish clientelism from prebendalism, the two constitute complementary aspects of a general phenomenon. Clientelism defines the nature of individual and group relationships within the wider socio-political sphere, while prebendalism is primarily a function of the competition for, and appropriation of, offices of the state. Prebendalism therefore is the treatment of state power as a congeries of offices which can be competed for, appropriated and then deployed for the benefit of positional incumbents and their support groups. How the nature of the Nigerian state and associated social forces led to this process will become clearer.
One of the key issues associated with underdevelopment of Nigeria by 2002 was corruption as an overwhelming majority of Nigerian companies were continuing to pay bribes to secure the services they needed. Virtually, all indices of governance are in the negative. Peace has become elusive, unemployment is increasing, hunger and poverty has become pervasive, while insecurity has enveloped the economic and political terrain due to greed, inordinate ambition of leaders and winner-takes all approach to governance. Corruption was institutionalized as the foundation of governance to the extent that institutions of society easily decayed to unprecedented proportions as opportunities were privatized by the powerful.
Power became nothing but a means of accumulation and subversion as productive initiatives were abandoned for purely administrative and transactional activities. The process of conducting government business degenerated to such an extent that Public service Rules, Financial Regulations and Ethic and Norms of the Service were jettisoned either due to sheer ignorance or to further primitive capitalist accumulation. Consequently all elements that enhance efficiency, reliability and continuity of the system were tempered with resulting in major and severe setbacks for the conduct of government business.
The country’s situation was so bad that in 2008 a Global Competitiveness Report released by the World Economic Forum ranked Nigeria’s economy as the 99th in the World among 133 countries assessed by the forum. The Forum also ranked Nigeria in terms of security, corruption, wasteful expenditures by government, infrastructure availability, health and primary education where it was placed the 117th, 122nd, 127th, and 132nd position among 133 nations. A 2009 World Bank and the International Finance Corporation report ranked Nigeria 125th among 183 economies in the world in terms of the general regulatory ease of doing business. These rakings is an affirmation that Nigeria is a country wracked by poverty, insecurity, corruption and general despondency.
Government reasoned that part of the problem emanates from lack of discipline. It is against this backdrop that privatization was conceived as the key to reinvigorating public enterprises that had fallen due to poor management. Government’s intention is for these enterprises to benefit from private-sector discipline. Privatization is a neo-liberal policy fashion of the 1980s and 1990s. Under this policy, monopoly utilities were deregulated and subjected to competition. Purported aim of the process is to ensure that government enterprises operate on commercial basis or subject to fair competition .The attraction of privatization to government is profit making, as asset sales led to huge injection of cash into its treasury. In many instances, Nigerians were skeptical about the acclaimed benefits of privatization.
An important component of the privatization programme was the unbundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) in 2005 into 18 separate units for the generation and transmission of electricity across the country due to the organization’s consistent failure to provide enough power to meet demand, despite consuming more than US$6 billion in state subsidies between 1999 to 2007. The problem is that the issue of provision of power was politicized as politicians took over the responsibilities of technocrats in the sector . Generally, a political contractor who have no expertise whatsoever nor even the intention to perform, simply sells the contract to a third party and pocket the commission running into billions of naira for acting as a conduit of executive fiat.
Leadership in Nigeria in both the public and private sectors at a time lost public trust because personal and corporate integrity in leadership is low. In the private sector, there were glaring cases of betrayal of public trust by Chief Executives of business organizations who falsify records and produce accounting reports that do not reflect the true health of their organizations, making the gullible public invest in their organizations, only for those shares to become worthless in the shortest possible time. The banking industry was a classic example as the sector’s regulatory supervision was too weak. In fact, the collapse of some of the new entrants led to severe loss of confidence in the system.
Despite government’s effort to enthrone transparency and accountability in the oil and gas sector, corruption in this vital sector of the nation’s economy subsists. This disturbing information about the corruptibility of the oil sector was brought to the fore by the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Industry (NLNG)/Halliburton bribe scandal. The security situation and level of corruption is alarming. The nation’s current security landscape contains potential threats such as sectarian violence, civil crises, communal clashes, cultism, killings and robberies, vandalism, proliferation of light weapons and small arms, and terrorism. Kidnappings, hitherto restricted to the Niger Delta, have spread to other parts of the country, just as more cases of assassination have joined the long list of unresolved cases in the country.
Government in 2000 established the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to address the economic problems of the oil rich Niger Delta region. The sad paradox is that the Commission rather than extricate the inhabitants of the region from the stranglehold of poverty turned into a patronage agency to benefit the rapacious governing elite through reckless award of projects and flagrant breach of the Public Procurement Act 2007. While unrest in the Delta has sharply declined since the 2009 amnesty deal, there is now the incredible growth of oil theft and illegal refining of petroleum products in the region in spite of the clamp down on the illicit trade by Nigeria’s security forces. It is estimated that some 150,000 barrels of oil are stolen from facilities every day. This is huge amount and the effects of this industrial scale theft are devastating for both the people and the environment. Oil theft industry is almost becoming the biggest economy in the region contributing to employment and income generation in communities. The rouge industry is a monopoly business with established command and control structure comprising the ex-militants and segments of state security force established for protection and security of oil and gas infrastructure in the Niger Delta.
Corruption has grown enormously in variety, magnitude and brazenness because it has been extravagantly fuelled by budgetary abuse and political patronage. Consequently, public and private sectors funds were channeled to political allies, business surrogates, personal or family friends either in the guise of contracts to execute public works of one kind or another. Proceedings of the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee on fuel subsidy revealed a high degree of manipulation and sharp practices officially engineered by top government functionaries and corporate executives. It is estimated that over fifty percent of nearly N3 trillion paid out as subsidy to fuel importers and marketers in 2011 was fraudulent.
Corruption is a national malaise that has crippled national progress repeatedly confirmed by Nigeria’s ranking in international corruption perception survey. There is also agreement among scholars and social commentators that addressing the cankerworm of corruption is key to realizing government development goals and collective welfare of citizens. Little wonder all post independence regimes denounced corruption and over the years enacted plethora of laws as well as put in place institutions to deal with this problem. It is important to emphasize that political corruption more than any other type has a crippling effect on the democratization process and the democratic state because it erodes the sanctity of the votes and the quality of elections, and consequently governance.
In consonance with its economic reform framework, Government’s strategy for fighting corruption is drawn from market approaches rooted in neo-liberal economic theories which perceive corruption as a product of excessive state intervention and rent seeking behavior. The neo-institutionists on the other hand, sees corruption as driving from the weakness or failure of governance and state institutions which yield to the argument that institutions need to be strengthened. There was therefore an urgent call for Reforms and enthronement of Due Process in the Nigerian public sector. Consequently, the Public Procurement Act 2007 otherwise known as Due Process was enacted. Due Process implies that government activities can be carried out openly, economically and transparently without favouritism and corruptible tendencies. The essence of Due Process is to ensure that rules and procedures for procurement are made in such a way as to be implementable and enforceable. Some state governments domesticated the Public Procurement Act.
The establishment of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) demonstrates government’s commitment in curtailing endemic corruption which taints Nigeria’s business environment. The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) Act was enacted in 2000 after so much public debate and disagreement between the Executive and the National Assembly. The Commission’s mandate empowers it to effectively adopt a 3-pronged approach in fighting corruption namely, to educate against, prevent, investigate and prosecute cases of corruption in the Public sector and to a limited extent in the Private Sector.
ICPC enjoys some latitude in prosecuting cases of corruption as it could, in the absence of directive of the Attorney-General of the Federation proceed based on the provision that every prosecution for an offence under the Act or any other law prohibiting bribery and corruption will be deemed to be performed with the consent of the Attorney-General. ICPC secured only 2 convictions of minor individuals out of 27 in the first 3 years highlighting poor investigation skills. By April 2005 the Commission had in its employment 32 investigators and 17 prosecutors out of 271 workers; and another 45 out of 152 employees in October of the same year.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission was established in 2003 in response to the obvious gaps in the Act establishing the ICPC; notably exclusion from investigating offences committed before the passage of the Act and omission of financial crimes. The Commission was specifically charged with the responsibility of conducting investigations into crimes of a financial and economic nature; money laundering, counterfeiting, 419, capital and market fraud, cyber crimes, credit card frauds, contract fraud, terrorism and terrorism financing. The powers of EFCC also includes identifying, monitoring, freezing and confiscating proceeds from financial crimes in addition to coordination role with all institutions charged with fighting corruption including the police, Ministry of Justice, Customs, Immigration, Prisons, Central Bank of Nigeria and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency(NDLEA). The EFCC Act was amended in 2004 to provide for the establishment of a Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit within the EFCC.
National Assembly when it made moves to investigate then Senate President and Speaker whose vendetta in amending the Commission’s Act was reversed by the Court.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) despite criticism of high handedness and human rights violations, proved to be more effective compared to the ICPC because it was better funded, politically protected and with more skilled manpower. For example, by June 2006, it had received 5, 400 petitions, investigated 2, 103 and prosecuted 550. The Commission was estimated to have recovered over US$40 billion at the time Ribadu left as its chairman. In some instances funds were paid back to the public treasury from state officials and convicted persons in the private sector.
With regard to management of revenues from the oil and gas sector of the economy, Nigeria signed on to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and established the Nigerian subset known as Nigeria Extractive Industries transparency Initiative (NEITI) with the mandate of ensuring transparency and accountability and eliminating corrupt practices in payment and receipts within the extractive sector. The Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-Corruption Reforms (TUGAR) was established as part of government’s anti-corruption intervention in Nigeria. TUGAR was established to address the need to generate coordinated country-specific data as a basis for isolating and addressing issues of corruption and governance, while also facilitating coordination, synergy and strategic linkages among anti-corruption and oversight agencies (TUGAR).
Similarly, the Public Complaint Commission (PCC) conceptualized and established as the ombudsman with the mandate to investigate and redress complaints of citizens relating to administrative injustice and anomalies against government or private entities, while office of the Auditor-General of the Federation and States are established by the Constitution to audit public accounts and present periodic reports to the National Assembly. Despite these embedding ant-corruption measures pursued in context of a comprehensive Economic Reform programme, bribery of public officials, intentional abuse of office for the purpose of obtaining an undue advantage, illicit enrichment by officials of the state and private sectors, embezzlement, misappropriation, and other diversions subsist. These underscore the fact that generally, broad-based progress in the fight against corruption became slow.
Although there have been more determined efforts by the governing elite to provide so-called people oriented or inclusive development models and strategies to advance the development of the country, such attempts have failed to satisfy three main requirements namely, theoretical adequacy, empirical validity and policy effectiveness. The consistent irreconcilability between previous and contemporary development approaches heavily drawn from variants of growth models and superficial structural frameworks, and the incontrovertible reality of state managed underdevelopment in present-day Nigeria, apart from accentuating the Nigerian crisis, has added impetus to the continued quest for an alternative national development orientation which must take into account the current development impasse in the country. Few examples why an alternative and authentic development strategy is unavoidably called for will suffice.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed that N51.50 trillion accrued to the state as proceeds from oil in the last thirty one years, a stark contrast to the poverty that pervades Nigeria. The Bureau further captured the grimy situation of the country in its survey in which it noted that about one hundred million Nigerians live below $2 per day. The report also showed that poverty was worse in the North West and North East geo-political zones while the South West and South East zones recorded the lowest poverty rates in the country. The impressive performance of the two zones notwithstanding, the report indicated that the number of Nigerians living in poverty has been on the increase since 1980, yet the economy has been recording impressive Gross Domestic Product (GDP)..
Poverty in Nigeria is not necessarily a consequence of the global economic crisis that was triggered off in 2008, but to a large extent rooted in corruption, greed and poor governance at all sectors and levels (public and private), in what the leaders have done or failed to do especially, in the application, deployment and management of the vast human and material resources available to the nation. The N255 million bulletproof cars scandal accentuated the high-level impunity, corruption and propensity of politicians and other public officers to squander the nation’s riches. This transaction viewed largely by Nigerians as an abuse of office by the Minister threw the aviation community in particular and the country into confusion. Revelations at the House Representatives hearing in Abuja had it that the approved 2013 budget was inflated.
One of the audits of the country’s oil and gas sector by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) showed that after over five decades of commercial oil production, the country lacks capacity to measure the quantum of crude oil it produces. Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) has no system for measuring production other than through monitoring terminal receipts. Consequently, the amount of oil produced at the well-head is not known. Poor management of the oil industry nurtured all manner of mafia groups who shortchange the nation. Although government made effort to reform the oil industry, it does appear that all the leakages were not been blocked. Accusations of fraudulent allocations of oil blocks and misappropriation of huge sums of money continue to trail some of those at the highest levels of government and the national oil company-NNPC.
Although the country’s airports are being refurbished, the poor state of the aviation industry has been linked to poor leadership, unbridled corruption as well as poor financing and management of the sector. Consequently in the past two decades, nearly 1, 000 people have been killed in plane crashes in Nigeria. Most of the deaths were between 2006 when after a series of deadly crashes Nigeria passed new legislation and improved its air record, yet crashes continue. On June 3, 2012, Dana Airlines Flight 9J 992 carrying 153 passengers onboard crashed at a residential area of Iju-Ishaga, Lagos killing all the people onboard. Similarly on October 3, 2013, Associated Airlines plane crashed at Lagos airport, killing 15 out of 20 persons onboard. Granted that plan crash can occur in any part of the world, but the amount of plane crash incidents in Nigeria compared to other parts of the world calls for concern.
The foregoing underscore the fact that poor economic management; rising poverty level; decline of effectiveness of institutions; and infrastructural decay are the outcome of the nature of the state and its development engineering policies.
As a consequence of years of failed dreams, shattered expectations and betrayed hope, majority of Nigerians have lost hope in their political leaders. The bewildered electorate believes that elected representatives and other political office holders are acting for themselves and in their own selfish interests. In fact, for many citizens, the politicians are not statesmen. What is required is a proper diagnosis of the problems and challenges confronting the Nigerian economy with a view to arriving at an appropriate development framework. The concept of inclusive growth bandied about by managers of the economy failed fundamentally to reduce the rate of unemployment in the long run.
It is pertinent to note that Government had no doubt created both strong and weak institutions to tackle corruption and promote good governance. To a great extent, there are institutional disconnect between the citizens and government. There is thus the need to prevent these institutions from being turned into oversized patrimonial and predatory organs. For example, in politics, a strong electoral institution, free and fair participatory democracy should ensure that politicians who have acted only in their self-interest are voted out at elections. The judicial and law enforcement institutions should also ensure that those who commit crime or steal public funds are caught, prosecuted and punished as deterrent against corruption. In the private sector, the regulatory institutions should conscientiously ensure that the corporations are governed well for the greater good of the shareholders who owned the companies and the larger society.
For the anti-corruption agencies to discharge their duties honestly and faithfully as intended by the laws establishing them there is an urgent need to address the seven sins that undermined their effectiveness. These sins are Economic “sins” or lack of resources; Political “sins” or absence of political will; Legal “sins” or lack of inefficient legal system or framework or structural dependence; Organizational “sins” or Leadership weakness such as poor administrative style; Governance “sins” or lack of effective complimentary institutions such as the police and the judiciary; Performance “sins” or level of efficiency; and Public confidence “sins” or lack of public trust and confidence.
Nigeria must invest in the knowledge production industry. Thus it is essential for funds to be provided to encourage the development of knowledge and marketing of ideas. In truth, the private sector cannot optimally support this process, hence the urgent need for government to provided the much need fund. This also calls for a fundamental link between universities, research institutes/centres and the market as a means of bridging the divide between the town and gown, between the intellectual world and the world of commerce and industry.
The country’s political leadership must take interest in diversification of the economy away from heavy reliance on oil and gas as chief sources of public revenue. Although I advocate strong state intervention in the economy it is pertinent to state the need for government enterprises to operate according to the principles inherent in commercial and efficient business enterprises best practice as a safeguard against corrupt practices.
Nigeria is not beyond change, but can only change if the citizenry discover leaders with the will, capacity and vision to turn the country around. Such visionary leaders are rare to come by, but it is the duty of the citizens to create the enabling environment for their emergence. The process of transformation either in an organization, or a nation, requires transformational leadership- that unique set of change agents united in vision, purposefulness of mission and, sustained by such shared values as motivation and morality that progressively elevate one another and the followership to higher levels.
Dr. Sofiri Joab-Peterside earned PhD in Sociology from the University of Port Harcourt with specialization in Sociology of Development and currently a Senior lecturer with the Department of Sociology, University of Port Harcourt, Associate Research Fellow, Centre for Advanced Social Science (CASS), Port Harcourt and Assistant Director Claude Ake School of Government, University of Port Harcourt. He became first Luce foundation Fellow (Fall 2005) on Green Governance and Green Peace at University of California, Berkeley, United State of America. Dr. Sofiri Joab-Peterside has solid grounding in development theory and methodology of the social sciences, which he has brought to bear, with remarkable insights, on relationship between democracy, ethnicity, federalism and intergovernmental relations in Nigeria. He has extended the scope of his earlier focus on the dynamics and contradictions of development politics and processes in the Niger Delta to a more comparative canvas, covering resource rich countries like Brazil and Indonesia, as a member of cross national, multidisciplinary team of scholars, working on a project “Green Governance and Green Peace”.
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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