Addressing Nigeria’s litany of discord
I believe the more we understand one another, the more we will reduce the chances of war or terrorism and of man’s violence against man’ -Hiebert (1988) Each passing day brings yet more evidence that we are facing a national challenge-such evidence made manifest during a conversation with some Pro-RUGA advocates. The position which I had not only considered a strange logic but left me lost in the maze of high voltage confusion centred on their claim that neither Mr. President nor his handlers should be blamed for the dust raised by the national debate construed around the now suspended rural grazing area (RUGA), even when the nation is now so fragile and divided along ethnoreligious lines that it is difficult to build consensus around important things that matter for our progress. Essentially, they were of the views that his handler’s failure to analyze and predict its consequences before the announcement should not be considered a fault or weakness on the part of Mr President as no leader is held to perfection in formulation and execution of policies. Noting that RUGA was conceived principally to curtail the perennial farmers/herders clashes and reduce the spread of animal-related diseases while submitting that the issue was disproportionately harnessed by enemies of the government for personal and sectional political gains using politics rooted in the peoples’ bankruptcy of idea.
Though I was totally disoriented by the logic, but even as I laboured to fathom how palatable these arguments could be, I tried not to betray my disconnection with the topic. Alas! my utter confusion and frustration soon gave way to interest as I suddenly gained a new awareness of intrinsic grains of truth situated not on RUGA as a topic, but in their belief that; when it comes to national discourse, we are influenced by personal and sectional gains as against the consideration of greater good for greater number.
These are my reasons. First, history indicates that at a time, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the late Premier of the Western Region once described Nigeria as a mere geographical expression’. And later threatened; about 50years after, Chief Awolowo’s comment has become a word made flesh as our federal system seems to exists only in the name. Likewise, the Northern Region under the Premiership of the late Ahmadu Bello never hid its desire for separate identity. Just before independence, the Region threatened to pull out of Nigeria if it was not allocated more parliamentary seats than the south. The departing British colonial masters, desirous of one big entity, quickly succumbed to the threat. In fact, the North at that time did pretend it never wanted to have anything to do with Nigeria. For example, the motto of the ruling party in that region at that time was ‘One North, One People, and One Destiny’. And the name of the party itself ‘Northern People’s Congress, NPC, was suggestive of separationist fervour and distinct identity. But, of all the secession threats since independence, it was the one issued by the Eastern Region in 1966-67 following the bloody counter-coup of July 1966 and subsequent genocide by Northern soldiers and civilians in which thousands of Easterners living in the North lost their lives or were maimed, and the failure of Gowon to implement the Aburi Accord which was aimed at settling the crisis, that was much more potent because it was actually carried out. The result was the declaration of Eastern Region independent country with the name, “Biafra” on May 30, 1967, by the then Military Governor of the Region, the late General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.
This litany of discord in Nigeria, like in other parts of Africa has without doubt ‘stifled innovation and fractured the fabrics of the society. And instead of unifying the country to move forward on solving problems, it divides neighbour from a neighbour’. However, the above in my opinion does not in any appreciable way exonerate this administration of blame for the present occurrences and poor handling of policies in the country, but underlines strongly its inability to depart from the tradition of keeping things the way they are hoping that luck will correct our part and put us on the right part. More particularly, the present state of insecurity, infrastructural decay, terrorism, a high rate of out of school children and youths unemployment, unchecked population explosion, technological backwardness, corruption, poor planning and implementation of policies, are but testaments that this administration like its predicessors neither understand nor possess the needed expertize to perform modern jobs of leadership. To explain, regardless of the field, for one to do any job creditably well, certain steps must be followed. This step in the words of Lance Bettencourt includes; defining what the job requires; identifying and locating the needed inputs; preparing the components and the physical environment; confirming that everything is ready; executing the task; monitoring the results and the environment; making modifications and concluding the job. Because problems can occur at many points in the process, nearly all jobs require problem resolution steps. Some steps are more critical than others, depending on the job, but each is necessary to get the job done successfully.
Regrettably, such logic doesn’t hold-up here. For example, if the present Government is in the habit of identifying and locating the needed inputs, preparing the components as well as confirming that everything is ready before introducing new policies as specified above, the issue of the now-suspended RUGA wouldn’t have come in the first instance. What is more, if Mr President had expressed a little interest in monitoring the outcome of his past actions with the hope of making modifications, Maybe, he would have neither declined assent to the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) as recently passed by the 8th Assembly nor ignored the deafening call by well-meaning Nigerians to have the future of this country discussed or better still, have the 2014 national confab report implemented; as the content of that report has the capacity to make this political entity and its integral parts, more efficient, more acceptable, more productive, more functional and above all, more equitable. Finally, the truth is that the root of our national malady goes beyond ethnic discord, to include tragic leadership gaps. But, the greatest of all these challenges is Nigerians’ unsuccessful attempts to electing as public officers those that can help reduce the chances of war or terrorism and of man’s violence against man’
Utomi wrote from Lagos