National Confab: Before Nigeria Tears Apart By Esanerovo Agbodo
I am writing this piece because I am not tired of Nigeria. Nigeria is my country and will continue to be my home. I may travel to other parts of the world and even stay there for a while but that does not stop me from seeing Nigeria as my first home. There is no place like home and situations have proved this saying “there is no place like home” true over and over again, so I stand by Nigeria because Nigeria is my home.
Therefore, since Nigeria is my country and home and I have no other, it is pertinent that when critical issues arise, I should meditate, think deeply and propose solutions whether right or wrong. To hold my peace and say after all Nigeria is not my father’s property like some people say is most ungodly and unpatriotic.
I therefore enjoin the readers of this piece and other articles I wish to churn out before and perhaps after the confab to meditate on the issues raised and possibly counter my propositions or improve on them by way of suggestions or adding new angles to it. Let’s keep discussing our country and make her the greatest nation on earth. This dream is possible for with God all things are possible.I love Nigeria and I hope you love Nigeria too. Nigeria is our only country, so we must love her, cherish her and build her up to favourably compete with the greatest nations on planet earth. God Bless Nigeria!!!
Firstly, l want to share my views on some critical areas that may be discussed, or I feel should be sorted out at the national confab being put together by the federal government. And one of the sensitive areas which I believe every Nigerian should be concerned about is how Nigeria should run her kind of federalism. I have read about different positions taken by Nigerians from far and wide in the National Newspapers and have also listened to divergent views on Radio and Television stations on this subject, however, after careful dissection of the issues at stake, here are my submissions.
To begin with, in response to the proposition by some people and ethnic nationalities calling for regional autonomy or a federal or a form of confederation to engender competition and in turn enhance development in Nigeria, my submission is that regionalism or any form of federal structure that recognizes regions as the federating units will divide Nigeria the more so should not be adopted. In fact the problem of Nigeria started from when it was divided into three regions. The regions produced three different characters that rarely had meeting points.
Although there was a limited form of development in the Northern,Western and Eastern region then, there was no proper national integration of the different ethnic groups in Nigeria. The making of a nation is not just by driving the infrastructural development of different regions, but there must be a harmonious meeting point for all stakeholders. This can be achieved by effectively integrating the people together in love, in order for them to believe strongly in the ideals of the country and also to have a common national vision and goal. The regional structure could not integrate Nigeria into a nation but instead succeeded in bringing out three visions and goals without strong ideological convergence to make a Nigeria nation.
Yes, the United States of America brand of federalism may be working for them and even uniting the people to be more committed to nation building, but that same model will not work in the Nigeria of today. Why? Unlike the United States which is a land of migrants except for the minority Red Indians who are the real natives, Nigeria is a country of native inhabitants, therefore have already different established cultures, traditions and beliefs that make it almost impossible for migrants from other ethnic groups within the state or from other states within Nigeria to be accorded the same recognition and acceptance like the native people.
On the other hand, in the United States of America ethnic groups are so integrated and detached from traditional cultures, beliefs and primitive values that they voted Barrack Obama, the son of an African who sojourned in the country some years back as President. The question I want to ask here is , “in the present state of Nigeria,can an Isoko man from Delta State become the Governor of Taraba State even if the Isoko man was born in Taraba State and lived all his life there?” No, he cannot in the present state of Nigeria because most of us still cling to the primitive values of not considering the content of the character of individuals but consider ethnic,religious and selfish interests in taking decisions like electing leaders. This is the present state of Nigeria, so separating the people further through regional federalism should not be encouraged as it will divide the people the more and cause more chaos in the future.
In fact, there is the urgent need to break down the thick walls of ethnic nationalities in Nigeria in order to pave the way for the building of a Nigerian nation. Currently, the bitter truth is that Nigeria is a country of many nations (ethnic groups) having mutual suspicion among each other because of the colonial structures left behind and the lack of a strong and patriotic national leadership immediately after independence to chart a visionary national course. The military coups, counter coups and civil war did not help matters. But all that should make us stronger because there are countries that had worse setbacks yet are very great nations today. The past is past so let us chart a brighter future for ourselves. For Nigeria to become a developed country like other developed countries of the world, we must build Nigeria into a nation where Nigerians will truly share common goals and aspirations without ethnic sentiments, as well as motivate and support citizens to greater heights.
In essence, we have to achieve the Nigeria nation first in the sense of the word before real development and patriotism can be achieved. Then, should we fold our hands and wait for Nigeria to become a true nation first before we practice federalism and engage in infrastructural development? No! We can still practice federalism while the country is metamorphosing into a nation, but let it be a brand of federalism that will integrate the ethnic groups into the Nigeria nation and not the form that will further strengthen ethnic groups against the country Nigeria. We must get to a level where Nigerians will see Nigeria first before their ethnic groups. Irrespective of any level of infrastructural development we may achieve If we don’t get to this level of citizens taking Nigeria first, the soul of Nigeria will be weak and once the soul is weak Nigerians will not bond with the Nigerian dream, and hence will not be willing to sacrifice for Nigeria the way the average citizen of the United states will sacrifice for his or her country.
Therefore, instead of bringing the Ibos, Yorubas,Hausas, Fulanis and other ethnic groups together in different clusters to form different regions, let people from the same ethnic groups be divided on ideological grounds and also be in different states for the Nigeria nation to survive. Also, let the state of residence as being proposed by the constitutional reform at the National Assembly be adopted and let there be a strong law against discrimination against Nigerian citizens on ethnic basis and let the law be implemented without fear or favour. Let Nigerians feel free to contest elections anywhere in the country without succumbing to intimidation. Let objectivity and national interest drive our decision making processes and let us play down on ethnic divide. After all, we are all from the same ethnic group of Adam and Eve our first parents, so nobody should deceive people to tow selfish lines in the name of supporting one ethnic group against the other. If Nigeria must be called a developed nation one day,let us take a cue from how the developed nations of today got to where they are. Acting otherwise will mean we are not still serious with achieving a first world Nigeria from its present distant third world position.
The message is “Nigerians should say no the regional federalism” at the confab. It is better to strengthen States as federating units.
FISCAL FEDERALISM AND USE OF CRUDE OIL PROCEEDS
It is my conviction that before any form of resource control is adopted for States, let there be a defined transitional period (may be 5 to 10 years) for States to adjust and create revenues for themselves. Whether we like it or not, the welfare of every Nigerian is important and affects the entire country, so every proposition for fiscal federalism in Nigeria should have a human face and should not be done abruptly. Fiscal federalism is good for national development but the model to adopt should be well crafted not to compromise national unity.
Also, I suggest that every state of the Nigeria federation should look inward and increase internal generated revenue to pay workers’ salaries at the state and local government levels while allocations from crude oil sales and sales of solid minerals in the future be used by the federal government solely for infrastructural development, national security,implement social security for the jobless and the elderly, and fund research and development as well as save for future generations. The dependence of states and local governments on crude oil revenue to pay salaries and meet basic needs is making them lazy.Even the federal government should pay workers’ salaries and fund most of its activities with internally generated revenues alone. Proceeds from crude oil or any natural resources will dry up some day, so Nigeria should focus more on building the right environment for the private sector to thrive with this money rather than spending majority of it on unwarranted recurrent expenditures every year.
SCRAPPING THE FEDERAL CHARACTER PRINCIPLE
Adopting the principle of federal character in employment at federal and states’ institutions, by my understanding is supposed to strengthen the unity of the country by carrying every part of the country along, but in the real sense, it is promoting mediocrity and down playing excellence in Nigeria.
The business of managing government is supposed to be reserved for excellent and hard working citizens and not just people who see it as an avenue for whiling away their time. The level and quality of policies emanating from government is a function of the quality of personnel in government, so working for government should not be seen as a career for unserious and lazy people in the name of implementing the federal character principle. Nigeria is competing with the best nations in the world so we must always field our first eleven and not recourse to mediocrity in the name of promoting national unity.
If the best people suited to work in the civil service are from one section of the country, so be it. Well, this may be termed an unrealistic proposal by conservative elements, but we must realize that the vision should be how Nigeria can be the best nation in the world and not limiting ourselves to playing the second fiddle in world affairs.
However, there should be in place a strong anti-racial or anti-tribal law just like anti-racism law in developed countries.
Everybody cannot work with the civil service or government institution. What we need to achieve is to make the government service system efficient while the citizens become more innovative to develop themselves privately or otherwise.
A situation where people or companies who are not qualified for a position or contract are helped to get such by unfair means will also be promoting mediocrity, and if we continue with such practice, we should not even think of leveling with other serious developing nations or even developed ones. What is helping nations to develop today is adopting global best practices and not promoting mediocrity because when citizens are not allowed to compete in a free and fair environment, talents will be wasted and nobody will be patriotic to the nation.
My proposal is that the Federal Character Commission should be scrapped and replace by another commission that will have the mandate of ensuring even spread of infrastructural and development projects across the country. In this way, the clamour of different ethnic groups to produce the President at the federal level as well as produce the Governor at the state level will be reduce because what the people are basically clamouring for when asking for the zoning of political offices in the Nigeria of today is that apart from fair representation, development should also go to their zones, because the trend most times is that development projects are concentrated more in the zones where the heads of different strata of government originated from, and this to a large extent is true. So, to settle the issue of uneven development at the federal and the state levels, we should adopt another form of federal character principle that will accommodate every nook and cranny of Nigeria. The way the federal character principle is being implemented today does not promote excellence therefore counterproductive. The oil wealth Nigeria has today should be used to develop the right infrastructures to sustain national growth in the future and not just shared in form of overloading the civil service and promoting mediocrity.
We must encourage the spirit of healthy competition to bring out the best in our youths and not recourse to undue quota system which is denying the nation of best services and even killing the potentials and loyalty of citizens to the nation.
But remember, all this will not work if we don’t get our political system right.
HUGE ELECTIONS’ SPENDING: A MAJOR FUEL FOR CORRUPTION
A situation were politicians spend so much and even borrow to win elections must be stopped, because it is just logical and human for those who have spent so much to recoup their expenses when elected, and that of course will be the beginning of corruption.
This is what has happened in the Nigerian democracy. Until we support a system where politicians spend minimally to be elected, the clamour to fight corruption will just be a waste. Nobody will borrow money to give electorates to support him for an election and come back to work 100% for those electorate. Even if this happens in USA or England, the politicians will find a way to recoup.
That is not to say that there is no element of corruption in every system, even in developed countries. This proposal however, is on how to minimize corruption to the barest minimum so that true development can take place.
With the current system where politicians spend heavily to win elections, juicy contracts will continue to be influenced by politicians to themselves and their cronies because this is the only way they can recoup after spending heavily to get elected.
Then how can we solve this issue of heavy election spending? I do not think there is a full proof solution, but first and foremost, there should be a law that no politician should give anybody including traditional rulers gifts during campaigns.
In fact, anybody (Politician or recipient) caught should be disqualified and genuinely prosecuted to deter others. Security forces and underground agents should be mobilized to ensure that this law if already existing in our electoral act is strictly obeyed, or if the law is not clearly stated, a bill should be sent to the National Assembly immediately to enact it.
Yes politicians must visit people to sell their programmes and manifestoe so let it remain just selling programmes and manifestoes and not giving any form of gift or money, because this is creating serious problems for us.
Any politician that loves his or her people so much should wait till when he is elected and can even donate their salaries and all their allowances to the people to show that love and not before the election.
Once we get our political system right,there will be a full proof service delivery system devoid of nepotism or undue favouritism. In this system, contracts will be given to the best companies and employment will be given to the right candidate in the civil service.
THE NEED FOR A COMMON NIGERIAN LANGUAGE
Language unifies, this is a truth that has been established over the years, so I am not the one propounding it. The English speaking country will naturally align with another English Speaking country than aligning with a French speaking country if there is a choice to make.
So, Nigeria as a multi-ethnic society where we have about 250 or more ethnic groups and about 500 languages, it will be suicidal not to have a common Nigerian Language.
The Nigerian Language, not English will first and foremost create an identity for citizens of the nation in a distinct manner from other citizens of the world. This is important because Nigeria is our primary constituency even though we love the whole world and all of us are siblings from the same parents, Adam and Eve according to the history of creation.
In fact, most developed nations and even serious developing nations of the world today have a national language they rally around. Even when English is a lingua franca, there is still a local language that creates a different identity for the nation.
In India, Hindi and English are the national languages. In Phillipines, it is Tagalo and English. Even in Ghana, they have national local languages that unite the citizens of Ghana. Even the brand of English the United States of America speaks is carefully branded as a distinct national language from the traditional English Language.
There is the need for a child in Owerri to learn and speak a language that a child in Maiduguri learnt and grew up with. This will foster unity and make us to understand that we have a common destiny.
A situation where some Nigerian citizens speak Arabic only as a foreign language and imbibe Arabic culture while others speak English and imbibe English culture is creating two different and opposing identities for our citizens and this is dangerous for national cohesion. We must device a new national language that our children will speak and see themselves as one people.
There should be a scientific approach to indoctrinate Nigerians that this country and its economy have to survive first before individual survival.
Even religion should play the back role, because when a highly religious person is highly deprived of basic economic benefits, there is the tendency for him or her to deviate from the tenets of the faith he or she proclaims just to survive.
Nigerian citizens should know that Nigeria must survive first before individuals and this ideology must not only be said but engraved into the personalities and subconscious of the citizens.
Why will a soldier move forward to fight in a war even when he just saw his colleagues gunned down, it is because of the ideology that he has been fed with. Any soldier that does not have not imbibed a strong ideology to defend the nation, will drop his weapon and go (awol) run away when the chips are down.
Written by Engr.ESANEROVO AGBODO(email@example.com),Publisher of International Opportunities Magazine and National Coordinator,Goodluck Voters Forum.
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