By Tunji Olaopa
It is often said that a large part of problem-solving is achieving an acute understanding of what the problem is. If this is not done, then critical time could be wasted on resolving what is not properly understood. It is this axiom that makes it imperative that we keep coming again and again to the perplexing question of what ails Nigeria and the Nigerian state. How do we understand what is wrong with us—where, according to Chinua Achebe, the rain began to beat and is still beating us? Within the whole gamut of socioeconomic and governance woes being suffered by Nigerians, this might seem to be a mere academic nitpicking on theoretical matters. To parody Karl Marx, scholars have only hitherto analyzed the problem of leadership in Nigeria in various ways. The point however is to change it. Unfortunately, this way of looking at it is not accurate, unlike what Marx said about philosophers changing the world. This is because there is a key relationship between analyzing the problem of leadership in Nigeria and understanding the way to achieve socioeconomic and political transformation for Nigerians. And more so, given the global, national and local dynamics over time, there is a way problems and predicament keep changing their texture over time such that we need to keep tracking what the problem means within the context of the changing time.
In Nigeria, the problem of leadership seems to have become aggravated even with the outset of democratic experimentation in 1999. If successive governments since then have failed critically to translate the idea of democracy into a better standard of living and empowerment for Nigerians, how do we continue to understand democracy and leadership in Nigeria? When Mills and Herbst talk about Africa’s Third Liberation (2012), after the fight against colonialism and postcolonial authoritarianism, they had in mind the liberation of Africans from the incapacities generated by political economies founded on corruption, graft, nepotism, cronyism, and widening social inequality that, for instance, keeps widening the gap between the rich and the poor in Nigeria. In other words, the third liberation needed in Nigeria is the liberation from bad policy and policy makers who have put the hope of good governance in abeyance since independence. Mills and Herbst’s book has, as its subtitle, “The New Search for Prosperity and Jobs.” Indeed, it is this bad policy architecture that summarizes the terrible state Nigeria finds herself in at the moment. It is bad policy, or even the lack of political will to create a good one, that has allowed the Boko Haram insurgency to attain the status of a national emergency, the same way the Fulani herdsmen menace is fast becoming one. It is definitely bad policy initiative that leads to the appointment of mediocrities as ministers and commissioners when there are those who have the requisite competence and skill set to adequately comprehend and tackle Nigeria’s problems. In the final analysis, the Mills and Herbst’s hypothesis about Africa’s third liberation—and even Acemoglu and Robinson’s Why Nations Fail (2013)—speaks to the availability of a leadership dynamics that possesses the capacity to turn bad politics into a good one. This bad politics is characterized by a decision deficiency that affects the kind of policy that a government puts in place. Unfortunately, it would seem that Nigeria lacks the wherewithal with which to achieve the third liberation that will enable her to translate bad politics into good policy framework for achieving good governance.
Democracy has become critical to the understanding of good governance anywhere in the world today. Unfortunately, democracy does not always sit well with elite nationalism tied around the desires of the political class of a country. And this derives from the fact that the political elites often define their interests in ways that are antithetical to the demands of the people on whose behalf they are often called upon to make political judgments that orient national policies. The real problem with democracy now is that it makes it possible for unconscionable elites to politically bamboozle hapless and unsuspecting followers. In other words, democracy’s frame of operation leaves a tenuous line between it and demagoguery. A very smart and eloquent politician can scuttle the imperatives of democratic aspiration by merely speaking what the electorate want to hear. The democratic process got Donald Trump elected in the United States. It also got elected Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil and other fascists and virulent nationalist regimes from India to Hungary.
It gets increasingly worse within the postcolonial context of Africa. And Nigeria is a prime example. 2023 is near, and we have got right into the depth of political campaigns, intrigues and chicanery. So far, and as the political drama keeps unfolding, we have been treated to so many obscene narratives and melodramas—from the number of candidates vying for elective offices to the sheer poverty of ideological moorings for their campaigns. We have seen the back and forth negotiations between the North and the South. We have also been treated to the hanky-panky political behavior of aspiring leaders in the face of serious national issues. Most of the aspirants have unfortunately been silent about the blueprints that speak to the revamping of the Nigerian state and economy. And the electorate are swept clearly along in the tidal wave of ideology-less bad politics that is a façade for good intention. Unfortunately, good intentions do not transform a nation’s economy. It is only good policies that do. And good policies emanate from an ideological commitment to a policy architecture that define good governance. Nigerians are therefore caught in a bind: we have an ongoing democratic experimentation that is not delivering any transformation of governance dynamics. And as 2023 approaches, there is that sinking feeling that we are doomed to another eight years of lackluster leadership that further dehumanizes Nigerians.
The electorate in any democratic experiment has a significant role to play in defining the shape of governance and development. It could either watch as politicians perform blatant stealing of the collective aspirations or it could stand vigilant to protect the democratic future of the country. In Nigeria, there is a vicious cycle that ties poverty and lack of political sophistication and education with the widespread and bare-face stealing of the common weal by the political class. Thus, elite nationalism has a fundamental role to play in not only the birthing of a nation but also in keeping that nation together, stable and progressive. The elites are the set of representatives that stand in the place of the demos, and are meant to make informed decisions that conduce to well-being and human flourishing. And they are supposed to deploy democratic ethos and processes to initiate a trajectory of good politics that conduces to good governance. But where the political class is essentially rapacious, feeding on the future of the citizenry, I argue that it is not only democracy and elite nationalism that are to blame. The people themselves—the active citizenry—features largely in the blame game.
An active citizenry is the key to a functional and developmental democracy. An active citizenry focuses the energy of elite nationalism. It essentially shores up the flexibility of democracy in electing just any comer, as long as he or she has the demagogic capacity to sway with the force of fake political promises that bedazzle the electorate into signing off their future for pottage. The beginning of a bright political future for a country like Nigeria commences when the electorate become so politically sophisticated as to constantly refuse to be tempted into mortgaging its future. And yet, the active citizenry must emerge, within the Nigerian political space, amidst a crippling space of poverty, deception and illiteracy. And emerge, it must. Or else, the unimaginative and aggrandizing logic of elite nationalism in Nigeria will keep the country’s greatness at bay for eternity. It behooves the enlightened citizenry to question the array of aspirants for any post, chairmanship or presidential. It is the prerogative of the citizens to stand guard over the collective wealth and future of the polity, and insist that no political robbers will gain access. And poverty cannot be an excuse. There are poorer nations that stood guard over their electoral and democratic future. Singapore used to be like Nigeria. Botswana is African. There are so many examples that damn us and our electoral complacence.
To return to the title of this piece. There is no disjuncture between democratic leadership and elite nationalism. The former is supposed to be the procedural sphere for the operation of the latter. In fact, elite nationalism becomes liberating when it synergizes with the vocal demands of an active citizenry to facilitate a blueprint of democratic governance that keeps the well-being of the citizens in focus at all times as the objective of any politics. In Nigeria, we are still far from this point. Our politics is still fundamentally bad. And that is what makes the prospect of a democratic succession in 2023 both exciting and dreadful.
. Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and Professor, National Institute For Policy and Strategic Studies
(NIPSS), Kuru, Jos.
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Tussle For Supremacy: A Catastrophic Phenomenon Of Power Failure In A Lawless Society
By Grace Ego Omoni
In the literary world appreciation of the works of art such as the novel and the play is used to explain the author or playwright writing style. One major feature is the plot. Sometimes, a novel or play might have only one plot but is not uncommon to see or identify a plot or plots within a major plot in the narration or drama. The essence is to make the work more interesting and exciting. The subplots hang on the main plot tenaciously. In other words, there is harmony between the subplots and the main plot. The subplots act as support to the main story.
The writer sees the happenings in this nation from the perspective of the above literary style used by authors and playwrights. The events and occurrences in such a time as this in Nigeria can be labelled as a dilemma of a collapsing nation. How do you fathom a situation where some areas in this country especially in the northern geopolitical zones where they now have illegal and unscrupulous individuals governing, making obnoxious policies or laws and imposing them on the citizens of a democratically elected government with impunity ? How do you describe a nation where this new breed of lawless bandits impose taxes of various kinds and degrees on helpless rightful inhabitants? How do you explain a situation where people are restricted from the freedom to live, to work, to worship, to express themselves and of movement? Are we being made to conclude that there is another “government” within a GOVERNMENT legally and democratically elected to govern the people?
On the 27th of June in Channels Television, two Honourables from Kaduna State and specifically in Birin- Gwari Local Government area were interviewed about the state of security there. The responses are very worrisome.
According to the Honourables, their people are being taxed unabated three times a year for the past three years. It was also revealed by one of them that about 300 to 400 million naira has been paid to these imposers to allow the people plant, grow and harvest their crops. Apart from the above, the farmers are forced without any choice to give these men two bags of grain from every ten bags produced at the end of the harvest season! The farmers cows are rustled indiscriminately.
Moreover, this new breed of unconstitutional governance has a team of soldiers with their own outfits parading and harassing the inhabitants. It was also stated that movement from one village to the other or the farms is now highly restricted because of the the insurmountable insecurity saga in this local government where there is a chairman with his elected leaders and a state government with a sitting governor.
When Channels Television interviewers asked whether the government in power was aware of the situation and the predicament of the people, he cleverly dodged the question by asserting that everybody knows about it! Incredible!
Why are the State and Federal Governments not saying or doing anything? Would they say that they are ignorant or oblivious of the fact that there are people exercising power and authority in this Local Government and probably other constituencies in and around the country? Why the silence knowing very well that silence means consent? Do they not have security agents and CIDs who from time to time give pieces of information and security reports to the government? How do these men communicate with one another? Is the government no longer in control of the communication networks in this country? Is this illegal “government” making policies and laws and imposing them on the helpless inhabitants being recognized and authorized to carry on like this? This unconstitutional independence seems to have come to stay.
However, Nigerians have not been officially informed that the country now has another “government” within this nation called Nigeria. Is it not a shame and unthinkable that a group of mad infiltrators have overrun some parts of the country just like Russia is doing to Ukraine? Unlike Ukraine, there seems to be no resistance on the part of the leadership of this nation. Are there no strategic synergy and efficient professionals to track down these imposers? Are the security plans being given prominence in the social media just a mirage? Are the Federal and State Governments by their slow actions and silence implying that the tussle for supremacy between them and these bandits or terrorists or rebels or secessionists has overwhelmed them? Can there be any tangible explanation why the government of the day cannot crush and squash this mindless killers but could proscribe IPOB from existing? Why this lopsided mentality? Why this nonchalant attitude from the powers that be? Why this unwritten compromise? Are the State and Federal Government technically waiting for these bandits, terrorists and killer herdsmen to hold the other geopolitical zones to ransom, topple and take authority over a democratically elected government? Has insecurity now become one of the rights of the Nigerian citizens today? Is the government of the day not seeing the impending catastrophe speedily meandering into the nation? Is Humpty- Dumpty the new name for the government that is supposed to be in control of all affairs in this nation? The situation reminds me of a poem titled: “Humpty-Dumpty”
“Humpty-Dumpty sat on the wall;
Humpty-Dumpty had a great fall;
Not all the kinsmen and and not all the horsemen can put Humpty-Dumpty together again”!
Take it or leave it, Nigeria is tearing apart. There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria has been overrun by a deadly generation of evil men and are operating an “illegal government system” in various parts of the country. The people are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Loyalty to the terrorists is now being forced on the inhabitants. The people are under serious pressures! Insecurity is becoming more threatening than ever before. There is defence for them and the government is not forthcoming.
Solutions to this situations are not being wholly accessed by the government of the day. The economy has deteriorated and crippled. Farmers can no longer produce crops to sustain them not to talk of distributing to other consumers near and far. The common man is helpless. School children in these affected areas cannot access quality education due to the vulnerability of the terrain. Travelling as part of life has been terminated. Movement from one place to the other is now restricted for fear of being kidnapped, raped, robbed or killed by these infiltrators.
Traders cannot engage in businesses for fear of being stripped of their goods and money. Worshippers stand the risk of losing their lives in their churches and mosques. In fact, these so-called bandits are by their actions, placing ban on Christianity as a religion. Thus, freedom of worship as the individual’s right is already being wiped out in this nation.
Again the latest according to one of the Honourables is that a law has been imposed by these bandits that there should be no election campaigns in the area for the forthcoming general elections. Politicians cannot go to this area to campaign due to this instruction. Do people abide by it? Do we have a government within a government just like we have a story within a story in literary works? What a disaster!
Strategies towards the government restoring and regaining authority and supremacy over those trying to usurp power
*Government should legalize the possession of firearms. After all bandits, terrorists and killer herdsmen are freely moving about with sophisticated guns and weapons without being arrested and prosecuted. This suggestion has become inevitable so that people can defend themselves when attacked. The Zamfara State Government and some others are advocates of this suggestion. If implemented, it will curb the excesses of these bandits. The Judiciary, the legislature and the State Government should as a matter of urgency pass a bill and implement this policy;
*The security system of the country should be beefed up; sophisticated weapons, walkie talkies, good network services and sound vehicles should be made available for the law enforcement agencies to combat insecurity. You do not expect the police or the army to confront terrorists with inferior weapons;
* The police, navy, army and the air force need to facilitate their people with modern tactics and methods for maintaining peace and order;
* The communication networks in this country should be utilized by the government to fight and win this tussle for supremacy;
*Government should come up with a policy or a statement to condemn and crush the activities of these culprits trying to usurp power. Arrest, prosecute punish them accordingly;
*Government should find a way of handling this issue of paying ransom to kidnappers. Imagine paying criminals and authentic government workers do not get good pays or even being paid on time. University lecturers have been on strike for the past five months because of failure of the government to do the needful;
* The security and care of those in the IDP camps should be improved upon;
*Government should create jobs for the teeming youths. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. Today, the only jobs available in Nigeria are Yahoo syndrome, Keke and Okada riding, Uber driving and permit me to say, banditry, kidnapping and killing;
*In the meantime, the government should stop pursuing shadow! This madness of election campaigns should stop. Who are these politicians going to govern? The people who have no means of livelihood, dying of hunger, living under fear of insecurity and whose land are being grabbed under their noses?
* Government should in all ramifications rise up and squash and crush the activities of these men now operating as a “governing body of a new nation” within a democratically elected government with immediate effect and alacrity.
Nigerians rise and demand your security, peace and tranquility now instead of selling your votes to those who are out to keep you in perpetual slavery and fear of a bleak future.
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End Of A Beautiful Debate On Women
By Tony Afejuku
At the point when I was readily ready to bring to an end a debate with happiness on the subject of women in our polity of politlies of politrickians, my inspiration waned because it lost its enthusiasm. I don’t know why. I didn’t know why. I could not know why. On my writing table there was no wine of inspiration for me to sip from. And the idea I earnestly wanted with excelling quality in its galloping train neither yielded nor illuminated itself to me forthwith. But something else did. It created its peculiar raptures which indicated that what was debated was worth it and that what I am going to express now to sum up the debate is worth saying. Now what is this something that entered me to toss my heart into raptures and to remint my brain with flavours of fragrant sensations which yearn after thirst that is thirst after thirst on behalf of women?
A day before this column appeared last Friday, an event of monumental significance world-wide escaped us all in this land of lands: your country my country our country. Thursday, June 23rd “marked on the United Nations Calendar” the “International Day for Widows.” And the broad theme was “Invisible Women, Invisible Problems.” All the professors who debated what I wish to call the Nigerian women conundrum did not remember the event, and made no ounce of reference to it. Of course, their respective blossoms of ideas reached me before Thursday, 23rd of June, but it is still bewildering that they did not anticipate the event in their submissions. Even yours sincerely the seemingly ingenious columnist did not remember the great day. Why? The answer is simple. A widow is a woman. And no widow in our part of the world is in full fig in our imagination. June 23rd never rang a bell in Nigeria. It was invisible here despite the visible problems they face month by month, week by week, day by day, second by second, minute by minute, and hour by hour. Our governments – central and states – did not galvanize us to mark the day. Our civil societies’ organizations completely ignored or did not remember the day. Our media also unremembered the day. Even Nigerian women themselves in vantage positions by-passed the day without qualms. And surprise, surprise, surprise. Professor Mrs. Razinatu Mohammed, the only female debater mysteriously forgot to give form to the “International Day for Widows” in her lavish debate. How could this sumptuous writer, critic and feminist to the core forget to defend widowhood in her delivery which she did with grace and sweetness in this column? Widowhood has its challenges in our society. It degrades the woman immeasurably. And the younger the woman, the younger widow, the more immeasurable is her degradation and predicament and trauma. Even if she is rich and a woman or widow of substance, nothing is guaranteed in her favour. Her status, whatever it is, has no bearing to her advantage.
Our men in politics in their Ogbonistic characteristics, sensibilities, temperament and countenances victimize the widow exceedingly without inhibitions. Their ogbonism (as Tony Eluemunor would say) overshadows their concern, regard and sympathy for widows whom they show no kindness as they should. Widowhood is victimhood with a greatly tragic theme in Nigeria. I don’t want to navigate the depressively depressive nuances of widowhood – because widowhood and its tragic theme of victimhood was never really carved or scripted into any shape in my initial delivery and the debate it inspired. But it should have crossed the minds of the debaters starting from the irrepressible columnist Mr. Tony Eluemunor and Professor Agharese Osifo, the eater of books, on to Professors Igho Natufe, Razanatu Mohammed and Ibrahim Bello-Kano. In fact, let me take Professor Ibrahim Bello-Kano to the dock. His rich remarks were rich perplexities which he expressed in terms of ANTINOMIES, contradictions that cancel contradictions and re-introduce contradictions – as his reflections clearly did or seemed to do – as I perceived. And some examples he tendered in his endeavor to lay blame on women in politics sounded as those of the far-gone pessimist and the ultra-conservative male chauvinist who would want us to see or admire him as a “Feminist-Not-Feminist-Enough.” He called the late British female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher “milk-snatcher,” for example, to undermine her political sagacity, combat of light philosophy and intellect. For Ibrahim Bello-Kano, a Professor of Critical Light, a term I am coining for him, Margaret Thatcher was possessed of the treacherous spirits of darkness.
He may be right (without my conceding that he really was/is). But was/is he right to employ her to make a blanket statement regarding infamous political leadership and fallible rule of women? Certainly not, I submit. Angela Markel, a Ph.D. in Chemistry, like Margaret Thatcher, until recently was Chancellor of Germany for several years. Until the end of her healthy tenure Germans felt and enjoyed the fortune of happiness. Most of their debatings were preciously in her favour.
READ ALSO: Where Are Our Women?
I can go on and on to deconstruct Professor Ibrahim Bello-Kano. But he is my reader whose response(s) to my essay and column I should applaud whether or not I am in perfect agreement with him. I am glad that he and others read me. But he cannot be criminalizing and decriminalizing women at the same time; he cannot be invalidating and validating at the same time; he cannot be validating and invalidating at the same time, and his intellectual gymnastics and acrobatics in argumentation do not really do credit to his intended point, effect and result. The confusion and contradictions contained in his sumptuous submission put our women-folk in jeopardy. Nigerian women should unite, as Professor Igho Natufe, a foremost Political Scientist of uncommon objectivity and transparent radical engagements, enjoins them to do if they must eject themselves from the clutches of their male oppressors. In the great Warri Kingdom of the Itsekiri centuries ago two enchanting sisters and princesses – Uwala and Iye – did precisely this – what Professors Natufe and Razanatu Mohammed, rainbow writer from the savannah, have enjoined them to preach without a mask that grieves or grins. The men must loose, untie their tyrannical hold on the women. And they must compel themselves to change their attitude to widows in the spirit of nobility that should give us a new society – as Professor Igho Natufe informed me via a post of an ample helping. Professor Rajan Barret of Mahatma Ghandi’s land concurs. Nigerian women are not the property of Nigerian men. I concur and re-concur. Women, unite! Break the yoke of oppression! You must! You have the power! You have the bosom of positive courage! Unite!
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
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Poverty, Ignorance As Political Weapons
By Victoria Praise Abraham
The Nigerian people have been reduced to a bowl of rice and Amala, come every election cycle and this time it is no different, but worse. Poverty has been weaponized to the point of no return. We have never had it so bad.
Poverty has been weaponized. Ignorance and illiteracy rule the average Nigerian and we are in dire straits, totally impoverished by the politicians who rule as kings and Lords in Nigeria today. It is a sad day to be a Nigerian
This particular pathetic situation started many decades ago but over the years, it has become magnified and greatly enlarged to a horrific point .
Politicians are ready to kill to win elections, they engage in open vote buying and selling in our political landscape.
The same obviously played out in the Ekiti elections of last weekend. The same happened in the Osun elections and we are in a very perilous time because Nigerians have never been poorer.
Poverty has become weaponized and sadly the average Nigerian is very hungry and has refused to think beyond his belly.
A hungry man or woman is totally desperate and can only answer the call to satisfy his or her stomach nudgings.
The years of political mismanagement have gone on to pulverize the economy and the average Nigerian.We are now in sad times. The Ekiti elections show us that our politics is now for the highest bidder.
Unfortunately, all political parties use this political tool of trade called vote buying.
Where do we go from here? How do we stop this menace? Where did we miss it? Who do we blame for this disease called vote buying in our political landscape?
It seems that we are bedeviled with bad leaders, politicians and bad people who cannot always do right by their conscience.
This whole charade will certainly play out in a bigger version in the 2023 general elections and this means that the entire process will play out in the interest of the highest political vote buyers winning most if not all the elections.
Poverty has been weaponized. The Nigerian people have been pulverized and we have all entered one chance! The word one chance is a Nigeria word for a bad situation…… Entering a kidnapper’s vehicle.
Only God can deliver us from the hands of our politicians, and only God can help the average Nigerian because it is a very pathetic situation that they have to go through every election year that continues to leave them with bad choices of leaders decades after decades.
May God Almighty be the 3rd force that will save the Nigerian nation from further sliding and degeneration come 2023.
Let us all be prayerful as true patriots and lovers of Nigeria so that we can be saved from ourselves because Nigerians are the biggest problem of Nigeria. We must become the solutions to our problems going forward.
. Abraham is a writer based in Lagos.
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