Rebuilding Nigeria’s Broken Walls: From Emotional Patriotism To Nehemiah Complex
I believe in Nigeria. This is an affirmation that I do not need to prove to anyone. It is just a simple affirmation that sums up my professional commitment to the very idea of a Nigeria that would regain her capacity to become great. Greatness, with regard to the Nigerian state, comes with a historical demand. Like most African states, the amalgamation conditioned Nigeria into a plural entity made up of various ethnocultural constituents willfully merged together into a mechanical unity that lacked any organic wholeness. Unfortunately, that mechanical unity seems to have been grafted wholesale into the constitutional framework that holds the Nigerian state together. And this began with the 1914 amalgamation and compounded by the Ironsi’s 1966 unitary illogic. And from 1966 to date, Nigeria has been struggling with the debilitations of that structural albatross. Everything that is wrong with the Nigerian state, from misgovernance to underdevelopment, derives from that historical misstep.
It is this historical misstep that has made a mess of the issue of national integration, what we all call the Nigeria Project. It seems a pretty simple project: Nigeria needs to convert the ethnocultural loyalty of her varied constituents into a civic nationalism that makes Nigeria the center of an energetic patriotism, the type we witness with other nations. Nigeria needs to transform herself from “a mere geographical expression” into a fulsome nation made up of patriotic believers who have infrastructural backstops for their belief in the greatness of Nigeria. Nationhood derives from the conversion of Nigeria’s ethnic capital into national capital. And that conversion rides on the performances of the structures and institutions that undergird Nigeria’s democratic experiment. Without these performances, demonstrated by a high productivity profile and infrastructural development, the possibility of the national integration project manifesting is shaky.
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It is my ardent belief in such a possibility that is driving my institutional reform agenda. For me, leadership recruitment dynamic, values reorientation and institutional reform form the bedrock of Nigeria’s striving for greatness. And I have located this reform imperative within the governance space, and especially within the public administration system. In theory and practice, the public service, constitutional order and a development-rooted national value system are the genuine complements to an effective democratic governance. This means that, in the case of Nigeria, when the state system itself is caught within the grasp of Nigeria’s historical predicament and cultural illogic, the only change management instruments to deploy are reform, governance and institution. I believe in Nigeria because I hold strongly to the possibility of unleashing Nigeria’s greatness through an institutional reform of her governance and policy space in ways that are sufficiently developmental to backstop the efficiency of democratic governance.
In a critical sense, Professor Oyewale Tomori’s emotional deliverance in the last few weeks lamented Nigeria’s institutional capacity that had gone bad. Everything he had to say about his educational maturation within a context of national security and moral dynamics pointed at a time when Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief Simeon Adebo had a firm understanding of the relationship between politics and administration as the basis for good governance. It was a time of an acute awareness of the proper roles of the regions as genuine federating units for Nigeria’s emerging federal stature. And then, everything went historically and politically berserk
My belief in Nigeria speaks insistently to the possibility of a providential and institutional rescue of her greatness. My fervent belief dispenses with any form of historical determinism founded on either the amalgamation or the entire colonial narrative and its epochal significance. A firm grasp of the political and socioeconomic dynamics of the present seems to lead inexorably towards pessimism. Gloomy statistics confirm and reinforce the harsh reality of living in Nigeria. It is as if we are tumbling towards a precipice. Even 2023, as the moment for an electoral repositioning of Nigeria’s fate, holds no succor given the level of political scheming that is already going on at the moment to secure or retain power by parties without any ideological clue as to where to direct the ship of state. However, if politicians do not have a clue, intellectuals and well-meaning patriots have the responsibility to provide one.
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This is where the Nehemiah narrative holds the most theological and political appeal for me. What sets Nehemiah’s patriotic blood boiling? It was just the news that more than half-century after the temple was completed, the walls of Jerusalem still lay in ruins. He just could not bear that news and all it connoted. He broke down and wept. But then as he wept, his mind was already exploring possibilities of remedying the situation. And his plan required theological understanding, leadership forthrightness and political acumen. In other words, he needed to know what God’s will is and, even more important, how God would enable him walk the tight rope of getting the permission of King Artaxerxes. This was crucial because building the wall of Jerusalem was a secular matter (compared to the religious assignment of building the temple, given to Ezra). Rebuilding the walls had a significance for the restoration of the State of Israel, and the possible threat that could connote. But Nehemiah was a pragmatic believer! He did not just sit lamenting the broken walls and waiting for God’s intervention. He acted. And his twelve years serving as the governor of Judah, with the economic and religious reforms that heralded his successes and achievements became significant.
This is what I call the Nehemiah complex for rebuilding the fallen walls of the Nigerian state. The lesson is simple: the walls of the Nigerian nation-state are broken. And we have reasons to weep and lament. But then, after lamentation, what’s next? Like Nehemiah, I hold strongly to a belief about a providential understanding of the place of Nigeria in global order and in the transformation of the lives of Nigerians. But then, the evidence of that providential assistance lies in the reform imperatives for transforming the predicament facing the Nigerian state. The key element of the Nehemiah imperative, as I read it for the Nigerian condition, is two-fold. The first is the need to restructure the Nigerian polity. The second lies in the urgency of building a coalition of patriotic leadership across different sectors and strata of the Nigerian society.
In calling for the restructure of the Nigerian polity, I know I am treading a dangerous path. It is dangerous essentially because of the abuse of the concept of restructuring. There are so many who hear the word and just tune off, not least the present crop of political class in Nigeria. Many members of this class hold the misplaced fear that restructuring is synonymous with the dissolution of the Nigerian polity. Nothing could be more illogical. What is logical is this. There is no one who does not agree that our federal structure is not working because it is lopsided under a unitary framework. No one will also disagree that outside of a functional federal arrangement, Nigeria’s democratic governance is doomed to keep failing. Nigeria’s strange contraption of unitary federalism denies the federating units the capacity for creative governance that regionalism afforded the regions in the first republic. To restructure therefore simply means opening up Nigeria’s plural dynamics to a constitutional arrangement that allows for the sharing of power among, in Nigeria’s case, three tiers of government. This federal arrangement not only allows for the various ethnic nationalities and cultural constituents to enjoy a modicum of self-determination that allows for the expression of their ethnocultural identities, it also facilitates a measure of fiscal autonomy for the federating units. The constitutional situation now, on the contrary, is that only the federal government enjoys constitutional overlordship at the expense of the state and the local government (of course the states also virtually obliterate the presence of the local governments and their autonomy). With this unitary arrangement, no federating unit is motivated to explore its comparative advantages. This is because there is now a bail-out mentality that drives everyone to Abuja to partake of the dividends of Nigeria’s virtually bankrupt mono-economy.
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The promise of fiscal federalism makes it possible to consider the six geopolitical zones as the regional alternative for rethinking federalism. These zones become economic corridors that function on the internal economic and cultural dynamics and advantages of the regions in ways that undermine the illogic of Nigeria’s mono-economy. And second, these zones take the burden of governance away from the federal government which is then allowed to focus on core national issues like currency and international relations. This regional alternative is not new; it is only Nigeria that is decidedly ignoring its possibilities. Or to recast, it is Nigeria’s political elite that has refused to take up the challenge of articulating that regional vision of federalism. And this is where the second leg of the Nehemiah complex becomes significant: if the political class is not seeing the connection between Nigeria’s lopsided federal arrangement and the need to restructure it, there is the urgency of building a broad-based coalition of leadership that has the capacity to see the situation as Nehemiah saw it. In building the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah called on those who saw the walls and what needed to be done the way he saw it. We need leaders across generational divide, from Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, Prof. Pat Utomi, Prof. Attahiru Jega, Olisa Agbakoba, Akinwunmi Adesina, Aisha Yesufu, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, for instance, to what we can call the EndSARS generation; and from corporate professionals to intellectuals and scholars—people who share the patriotic desire to see Nigeria become truly great and responsible for the well-being of her citizens.
Nigeria needs more than her political class. It needs all those who believe in her greatness—all those who can see the wood for the trees; those who are capable, unlike the political class, of seeing what needed to be done in taking Nigeria out of her predicament.
In concluding, let me utilise some prose from my earlier contribution titled Federalism-Restructuring Fixation: What’s future for Nigeria? And my take is this, to move forward, there are three clear options for Nigeria to pursue. First, her political elites could resolve to put their acts together and get the basics right in the effort to move Nigeria forward on the federal path and achieve success like the United States, Switzerland, India or Australia. Second, the same political class could bury their heads in the sand and watch as everything degenerates to the point of implosion. This was the terrible fate of the former USSR, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia.
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Third, and even worse, Nigeria could just be allowed to keep up its dynamics of motion without movement that will either perpetually keep it as a reference point for academic and practical underdevelopment thesis and hypothesis for developing states (an exemplification of Princeton Lyman’s “greatness to irrelevance thesis”), or we eventually arrive at violent implosion due to lack of attention to what matters in nation building. So, is federalism the ultimate end to Nigeria’s hydra-headed predicament?
As a political scientist and institutional reformer, I am sufficiently aware of the limit of theory especially in a complex political and institutional situation presented by the Nigerian state. Thus, while it is futile to hanker for what is often termed “true federalism,” there is no doubt that federalism serves a critical purpose in Nigeria’s political rehabilitation and restructuring. In other words, federalism is not an end in itself, a panacea to end all national evils. In simple language, one that should be intelligible to expert political scientists with sufficient knowledge of comparative federalism in the democracies around the world. It is this, that the worst thing that could happen to Nigeria’s envisioned future is for her to have gone full-swing, to restructure the federation with a “true” federal constitution to boot, only to discover that her developmental problems have not been resolved by far.
As should be obvious, the whole Nehemiah complex requires committed leadership—a new breed of patriotic individuals and political elites who instinctively understand what is required to make Nigeria great. This new breed of Nigerian leadership will be committed to a pan-Nigerian ideal or dream—a pax Nigeriana—around which a strategic governance framework can be built to rally Nigerians to the urgent imperatives of sound development blueprint, good governance and social justice. It goes without saying that such a leadership will immediately recognize the significance of education and value reorientation as key elements in the restructuring of the mindset and attitudinal behaviour of Nigerians. Education instigates in the citizens a state of mind that is reflective, respectful and ethically aware of the shades of difference—ethnic, sexual gender, cultural—that makes up a plural state.
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This is the ultimate challenge of the Nigerian political class: to dedicate its attention and political capacities and competences to articulating a vision of what Nigeria should be, and how to achieve national integration. And at the very heart of such a vision is the blueprint for building an active citizenship that will be patriotic and willing to contribute to the challenge of national development. Outside of these, Nigeria’s future is very bleak, and all debates about Nigeria’s envisioned greatness are a sham.
Olaopa is a former Federal Permanent Secretary , and a Professor of Public Administration, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS),
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Death At Dawn, Rebirth At Dusk
By Toyin Falola
Twilight-zone, Afterlife, What-Mays, and Whatnots;
Questions that transcend mortal thoughts.
Uncertainties plucked by the hands of certainty
pondering life beyond the galaxy.
Philosophies, religions, and sciences;
Ancient lenses to dissect and ponder.
Beliefs, opinions, and standpoints in their multiplicities;
Scalpels that open the heart of certain death
Blazing free the skins of uncertainty.
Science, a nobility I revere,
But it stammers answering to the afterlife.
For science is knowledge and knowledge from experience
But the dead neither speak, nor take records.
Their journeys, ordeals, triumphs or woes?
No one bears witness.
But as dead, we must all be witnesses;
witnesses that testify not.
So, for now, we survive the knowledge of death.
On my Agbàlàgbà head lies my Ọ́kpụ́ Ágwụ́
With eagle feathers, rare and honorable
Adorning it for three scores, a decade, and some more days.
I had flipped my Kente given by the Gaa
And danced to crescendos from Gàngàn drums
I have been celebrated and celebrating
For the miracles, I have worked with pen, paper, keyboard, and brain
I have taken the tales we tell in my village square beyond the Atlantic
Changed the songs that disdain us into appraisals
I have called my brothers not to point to our fathers’ house with their left hands
I have honed Africa and beyond
To answer the calls of the people’s need
I have reached the thinkable and done the unthinkable
So, I danced and keep dancing.
Suddenly, I felt a touch on my host?
Electrifying my hand, leg, brain, and my whole
Telling me that my jur from the Dinka people awaits me.
That my hourglass tells of crossing the bar.
I thought I knew what it was like,
But my grasping convictions of approaching jur were perceptions
Just surviving the death of the knowledge of death
So, arms wide open ready to abound
What was there to fear?
No catacomb of secrets
No palm oil-drenched white garments
I have taken many to my gourmet
To feast and to see.
What was there not to fear?
With medicine men and women,
Syringes, lights, water, ECG, Oximeters, voices, and touches
Hovering around me like a sacred etutu
Making conversations with me and beyond
I was thrown into a pool of reminiscence
one leg and a part of me were already in the boat
It beckoned but I heard another.
A loud voice like my mother’s.
Who takes a journey without locking his home?
Who takes the jur with unpatched palm fronds on his hut?
While the thunder rages up the sky?
The walls are broken and Balogun journeys?
So, I left the sea to clear the cobwebs and light up the night lamb.
The past few weeks have opened new lights of understanding to me. I now see the world from different hills and have helped to reach new resolutions. I know I have written about “transitioning to nothingness,” but my emphasis was on the “nothingness” with lesser attention on “transitioning.” I think we need to continue to ask questions. Philosophies, religion, sociology, psychology, science, and other ramifications are mere perceptions and we are uncertain. The transitioning occurs when death becomes an angel to hug not a beast to fear. We do not know what it entails but one must always endeavor to go with clean hands.
My recovery from an illness may have offered me a fresh opportunity to shout some more, point to societal needs, and settle unfinished businesses. No, not those caused by my personal undoing, but rather those of the people who would be left unguided, and for matters untold about life, society, and individuals. I can say I have passed through the lessons of tantra transfiguration, to use an elegant phrase that I recently came across, to move from secular to sacred activism. No one survives death because of its finality, but when it seems that you did, it is a renewed quest, offering a new purpose.
Professors On INEC’s Will (3)
By Tony Afejuku
The debate has progressed well so far. Our professors, whose strokes have centred on their fellow professor’s manned INEC have tried as best as they could not to confine their impressions solely to the prism of subjectivity. Even when their impressions seem to be subjective, they still make allowance for contrary views, for opposing views. This obviously gives clarity, objectivity and logic to the subject at hand. Is the will of INEC of a professor minder and mincer of words’ control the will of the people or of the masses? On whose side are the Professors who are as concerned as almost everybody is with what is going – or with what has gone on – primarily about our Presidential 2023 elections? Our Professors who are debating the subject constitute the courageous and prophetic Nigerian voices of our day. Their authentic and responsible thoughts are not restricted to the local or regional. They are also not confined to electoral duties and responsibilities expected of the umpire and the will that belongs elsewhere. The truth about the quality of leadership about our country and elsewhere is also told in the debate of the literati.
Professor (Mrs.) Razinatu Mohamed in her submission, in her salvo-cum-explosion actually, drew attention to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s explosive explosion in the presidency. If Professor Osinbajo had provided the right vice-presidential leadership there would not have been the need for him to explode as he did as per a viral video Professor Razinatu Mohamed referred her fellow debaters to. “What has he been doing in the eight years of their administration? Irritated my foot; he is complicit.” Not done, Professor Razinatu drew attention to the kind of leaders that Nigeria and Africa need: “Leaders that understand the rudiments of modern socio-economic development and systems; Leaders that understand the crux of requirements for economic growth. Leaders that could demonstrate to the rest of the world that just as the world needs Africa, African countries need the world in a symbiotic relationship and partnership context where assistance becomes a dual role…..”
Razinata’s concern is clear. Nothing in Nigeria will climb out of its hollow hole. In fact, the will of the people will remain hollow so long as a hollow mincer and minder is in charge of its electoral affairs.
Professor Da Sylva perhaps responds better to Professor Razinatu Mohamed’s algebraic stroke. “Unfortunately, Nigeria’s democracy is trapped in its primordial self-made ethnic and religious sentiments and so, standards, merit, competence and pedigrees are measured by their curious divides of religion and ethnic inclinations. Until we all come to realize that heavens help those who help themselves, Nigeria ain’t going no-where – meeen!”
But below is Professor Da Sylva’s sledge hammer response to Professor Razinatu Mohamed’s Osinbajo hammer blow:
“Prof Osinbajo’s office demands he does what he did. Besides, it shows maturity and spirit of sportsmanship on his part. Every loser in a game “healthily” contested, is naturally expected to do the same. The only difference which again shows Osinbajo’s magnanimity is that in this context, the contest under reference was neither healthy nor just. The umpire seemed compromised and merely worked to a prepared answer. Yet the gentleman did the needful. I guess, brothers and sisters, that we should put all that behind us, and work for our common good, and the wellbeing of the country, provided the mythical Aso cabal will let the President-elect be, and let the masses be, and as such, they should not create any cause for us to think otherwise, lest they provoke our sense of patriotism to take appropriate action! I guess that those were the reading or feelings of the dirty-minded Aso Villa cabal. People that kill with sword never wish that any folk should pass a sword over their heads, a wise saying goes in Yoruba. The human principalities simply suspected that should they allow PMB to give the VP the intended latitude, they might not be able to control him. I remember on his return from London, he commended the efforts of his VP while he was away. He said he would still continue acting while he would still have some more rest at home. The following day everything changed, PMB decided to take charge as the President. I suspected some back door politics was playing out. My co-debaters, quite naturally, you’ll agree with me that, it is not over-ambition or sheer opportunism as you might insinuate for any deputy in an office to aspire to the next higher office, in a legitimate manner, there is nothing really unusual about it, and it would amount to killing a mosquito with a sledge hammer, should Oshinbajo be crucified for that, if at all. And as for his wishing Buhari’s non-recovery, I think that, again, like my Sister R, is a little unkind and not fair to the gentleman who I know to be a servant of God. He knows as much as I do, by our true Christian orientation and Biblical injunctions that, should he ever wish Buhari’s death or wish him any form of misfortune in those trying periods of the President, God Almighty who we serve would deal mercilessly and ruthlessly with him. That is what Psalm 41:1-13 is all about. So rule that out, because it is not, and could never be in his character. I can vouch for him. Rather, I saw him in those times that he acted for his principal, as someone zealous and appreciative of the trust his principal invested in him, and as such he tried to do his very best to merit the trust and the opportunity! I know and I am also sure that this is what an IBK, or a Razinat, would have done too had they found themselves in a similar situation! It does not amount to wishing one’s principal any evil, not at all. Not everyone can be like Chief Obafemi Awolowo who resigned his position under Gowon when the regime became financially reckless shortly after the civil war. Awolowo also gave very profound argumentation to justify convincingly his actions. He also turned down some other appointments including the “49 Wise Men of the Constitution Drafting Committee.” Oshinbajo couldn’t have resigned, normally, and naturally his principal, PMB should have supported him as a capable successor, but again, the President’s ethnic and religious bigotry took the better part of the President. Besides, PMB’s mind was long poisoned against his VP, a clean job by the Aso Villa cabal. IBK, Lady R, until the faceless cabal is permanently silenced the wheel of Nigeria might continue to go round in a circle, and to nowhere in particular”.
And Professor IBK takes the floor: “Prof. DAO, yours is a powerfully convincing submission, at least in a large measure. Now I am willing to hold a slightly different opinion about Osinbajo. Yet, I cannot fathom why he chose to run against Tinubu, days or weeks after the latter had begun his campaign in the party primaries. There’s much we don’t know about why OSBJ decided to run against BAT. Nothing is wrong with that politically but a little problematic from an Ethical or, at least Moral, point of view. Osinbajo did a poor job of it and came out a distant 4th in the primaries. I think he didn’t read the situation correctly and was probably misled by some cabal of sorts. Either way Osinbajo made a politically fatal error in this regard. Perhaps he must have sensed, or was told, that BAT was not the anointed candidate, or that BAT would be crippled by some ill-health or a medical condition. I remember the party’s screening committee publicly recommending that only younger contestants would be recommended to the NWC or such. Clearly there was an attempt to sideline BAT. Whatever the explanation, Osinbajo make the error in his campaign of promising to be more Buhari than Buhari. A man despised by whole sections of the northern population, a man whose reputation for laziness and incompetence was on the ascendant. Anyway, all is now history and Osinbajo has not given a good account of himself in this particular case. Prof DAO, I think your concept of the Trickster should account for Osinbajo’s situation here. FULL DISCLOSURE: a very close family member of mine was drafted to head Osinbajo’s campaign effort in Kano. We discussed extensively about Osinbajo’s pledge to carry on with Buhari’s policies. There was bewilderment and shock within the members. A week later half of the membership resigned on account of Osinbajo’s increasing identification with Buhari’s policies. Many mistakenly thought that Osinbajo was Buhari’s anointed one! I could go on…”
Interestingly interesting and intriguingly intriguing, dear, dearly dear readers: this debate.
To be terminated by the columnist-terminator and terminator-columnist next week after Professor Olu Obafemi’s summation of the debate he presided over.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
With Us, Not For US
By Ijeoma Fynecountry
The 21st of March of every year is international day for the celebration of persons living with down syndrome. The advocacy and push for communal and political recognition of the basic fundamental rights for persons living with various types of disabilities, particularly intellectual disability, just as enjoyed by their peers who do not have any form of challenge – physical or intellectual has recorded a substantial success around the globe, especially in more developed climes.
While the same cannot be said of the situation in Africa and Nigeria in particular, scanty breakthroughs have also been seen over the years, with the consistent and dogged efforts by some specialized organizations such as Down syndrome Foundation, Nigeria (DSFN).
The theme for this year’s celebration is “With us, Not for us”. This theme is apt particularly in the current era where the push for inclusion has taken a center stage in the campaign worldwide. While it is comforting to know that people, government and communities alike are now becoming more empathetic to the plight of persons living with disability, it is also necessary and most important that their rights as human beings deserving of not just empathy but actual concrete benefits accruable to other citizens without disability, is massively taken into consideration and actually provided for.
Therefore, it is not enough for the government to map out and create as in Lagos state and few other states, sections in the public schools to admit children or persons with intellectual disability, it is necessary to adequately equip these special schools with the needed “specialized” manpower, infrastructural and educational aids to attain the targeted educational goals for these persons. Likewise in the provision of better healthcare, economic, social needs of persons with disability etc.
Persons with intellectual disability do not just need to be specifically educated in accordance with his or her type of disability, but MUST also necessarily be able to aspire to or expect to be employed according to his or her learned ability. That way, a full right, befitting of a person, be him a person with disability or not, is assured. For what is the need of going through a learning process, acquiring a specialized knowledge about a craft or handiwork and eventually still not being given the opportunity of gaining employment as supposed, not due to lack of knowledge but for having a disability? No human being should be subjected to such. Our government should do better. The society at large should do better.
The theme for this year is enjoining all stakeholders – the government, communities, corporate organizations, religious bodies/organizations, individuals to open up their hearts, and recognize the very urgent and important need to help in the actualization of these basic human needs, rights of persons living with intellectual disability as we are all human. No human rights or needs should be prioritized over the other no matter the state of their health, mental and physical capacity. Stand with us by taking actual intentional steps towards uplifting and elevating the humanness of persons living with disability. It is not enough to say that you are for persons living with disability, your specific, intentional, targeted actions toward ensuring the practical applicability of these rights matters.
Fynecontryis a Lagos-based legal practitioner and the legal resource person for the Down Syndrome Foundation Nigeria.
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