Will Nigeria Survive 2015? By Sonala Olumhense
And the Government of Nigeria, bristling with outrage, asserted otherwise.
The truth is that we have never lacked words in Nigeria. But words are not action, nor do they correct the impact of negative actions. As we inch towards the political watershed of 2015, the dissonance between words and action, along with insincere, incompetent and malicious governance, could make seers of the Americans.
For some people, all we have to do to make Nigeria better is replace the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with another party.
That is simplistic. Our problem is not about parties; it is about the Nigerian politician. That explains why, at the National Assembly which has emerged as some kind of legitimized looting institution, there are no arguments between parties, as they all have equal access to the money. There are no party differences or loyalties there.
Will there be a difference in approach should one of the new parties win at the centre in 2015? Not unless such a party, long before that time, can demonstrate the mettle of which it is made.
We already know there are two conflicting Nigerias, whatever direction you look. For instance, there are those who have, and those who lack.
Those who have, usually people with access to the government, often have a ton of money lying around, but with money-laundering being considerably more difficult these days, they spend the funds on property: expensive homes, land, and cars.
They would repeat that scenario in another town, another city, their home village, and sometimes your village or mine. Most of the $18 billion that is guzzled by corruption in Nigeria every year goes towards feeding this monster, which feeds private greed but not the economy.
All over Nigeria, those who lack continue to grow poorer and more disenchanted. While the country is dotted all over by expensive property into which stolen funds have been deployed, our people are dying: hunger, road crashes on account of horrendous roads; in armed robbery because there is no security; and from guns shot by policemen or soldiers that are more dangerous than kidnappers or religious zealots. We have neither hospitals for our families nor jobs for our children.
Two more Nigerias: the rift between the moral space and the political.
Think about it: President Goodluck Jonathan says he does not “give a damn” about declaring his assets, that is, about leading by example.
Yet the same man says he has a “transformation” agenda. How can you lead the way forward when you cannot lead by example, that is, when you are behind? How can you transform when you are unformed or—worse still—malformed?
The natural order for national transformation is that first, you must provide the moral framework, or compass. Only then can you provide a political or economic compass. It is the absence of this understanding that makes the Jonathan administration so unworkable and could make it the last government of Nigeria.
This is also why, when the new parties say they are the answer to the PDP, for instance, they must understand why we must laugh and remind them this is not a game of substitution.
I believe that the starting point for these parties is to throw their energies into the quest for a viable electoral law and strong institutions openly devoted to the national interest. Without a formidable electoral law that not only makes rigging difficult but also opens the turf to a new generation of good leaders, a lawless country such as Nigeria is headed for disintegration, or at least regression.
Think about it: some of those governors who claim to be the signpost to the future are the very Nigerians who, in their executive jets, are allegedly buying up weapons in preparation for 2015. Why? Is there a war scheduled for 2015, or are they scheduling one by themselves?
And while we are at it, what are these governors doing to provide leadership by example or selfless service?
The new parties are beating their chests, but if there is 2015, or if there is to be life after 2015, their best contribution would be in how much selflessness they are willing to invest, starting from now, to enable Nigerians to assess the quality of their hearts.
Such selflessness would aim at giving Nigeria institutions that are, in practice, bigger than anyone and any party. It would encourage a new public attitude indexed on merit and service, not luck or political affiliation.
Such an orientation would focus on putting Nigeria first, the rule of law, and justice. If Nigeria were to go into turmoil in 2015, one of the reasons would be the institutionalization of injustice in our country. If you want proof, do a simple computation of the vast numbers of high-profile crooks in high places, enjoying official pardon or comradeship, or flying private jets. That never happens in a society that is moving forward.
The new orientation would focus on Nigerian leaders being sensitive to the challenge not simply to accelerate national development, but of a bold and honest “Marshall Plan” to fight corruption, and so open up the country to the best of our energies as well as foreign investment; build infrastructure and electricity, so that Nigerians can engage in more productive activity everywhere and at any time; develop security that wins success from being partners with the people rather than their overlords; invest in education with great vision and vigour; and break with a tradition where the government holds the poor in contempt.
The truth known to the world is that Nigeria has failed to develop not because we lack the resources, but because of pathetic, insincere and incapable leadership. Our national concept of leadership lies not in developing society, but in dividing it. The exercise of power comprises not in multiplying opportunity for the people but in doing so for ourselves. Followership has helped to perpetuate this crisis because as a people, we are either deathly afraid, seem to believe that the blind can lead the sighted, or both.
As a result, the North and the South mistrust each other, the East and the West look away from each other, and Country Hide Knows not Country Seek. Our institutions are barely there, and there is little pride in our common bonds. Politicians seem to believe that the vast population of the unemployed proves not that our system is collapsing, but that they are a special breed that has “risen” above it.
The comforting thing is that Nigerians realize they are stronger together, and guaranteed nothing should they walk apart. Hopefully, they will increasingly realize they are united by a common betrayal, and therefore work together to take back their country.
In the end, it is not those who say Nigeria will disintegrate but to whom Nigeria is of no particular consequence, or those hypocritical Nigerian leaders who say it will not although they consistently subvert her progress, who will determine the future of Nigeria.
That responsibility and privilege belong to the ordinary Nigerian. But we must do it by finding the courage to rise to our feet before it is too late.
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