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Nigeria’s greatness, beyond rhetoric

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Nigerian Senate. PHOTO:nta.ng

Nigeria suffers from a crisis of leadership and followership and reminds me of Julius Nyerere’s Tanzania. The Tanzania of Julius Nyerere’s era was poor and lacked capacity. Sisal, its principal export crop was cultivated by foreigners on foreign-owned plantations. And coffee by the peasantry. The level of education was so abysmal that at independence in 1961, for a country of 12 million people, there were only less than one hundred university graduates and the per capita income equals £25 annually.

Nyerere, a well-educated Tanzanian, became prime minister in 1960 and president in 1961. The Tangayika African National Union (T.A.N.U) which he led instituted reforms to free the country from massive poverty, lack of infrastructure, encourage self-reliance and freedom from total dependence on Western countries (notably Britain and West Germany of that era).

The Arusha Declaration of February 1967 even though was successful in the area of education, as school enrollment doubled, was not successful economically, because of the high level of unemployment and social instability.

The Declaration, promoted the ideology of equality and traditional values as a gateway to development, as opposed to individualism and capitalism, which encourages social stratification in western countries. The motive was to have a classless society, where every citizen can engage in community service for the good of all. A country where non-material objectives are given utmost preference over material ones.

Primary school levers were given a self-contained education after which they went to work on collective farms. Higher education stressed the need for community service rather than for self-reward. No farmer was to be a Lord, to hire the services of another (Serf), thereby eliminating the emergence of individual wealthy farmers.

To achieve this, emphasis was placed on community engagement at the rural level, to self-help away from government intervention. Schools and Ujamaa villages (joint decision making council) were saddled with the task of indoctrination. The challenge, however, was that most elite who had been educated, gained power, wealth and prestige before independence and afterwards found the Arusha Declaration not only discomfiting but caviled at it openly.

Even though, senior government ministers and civil servants took 20 per cent and 10 per cent salary cuts respectfully, and though others gave up their government-assigned Mercedes, the Arusha declaration stood on weak wicket. How can you explain away the famous quotation from Tanzania of that era, can one have socialism with one socialist? Julius Nyerere was the only socialist in Tanzania and Ujamaa failed.

Tanzania is no different from Nigeria. The lack of enthusiasm by the educated elite, legislators, from the president’s men, institutions of state, the civil service and the masses to own the fight against corruption clearly shows that the fight against corruption is on a weak wicket.

An officer in a time of war, who lives far-away from his soldiers and subordinates all of his duties to his soldiers shouldn’t expect respect from his soldiers.

Ours is a country where politicians behave like mercenaries and petty Pharaohs.

Where parties don’t groom people for elective offices unlike in the first republic. Here, we do not fight for the things that move states forward, we scramble, belly-aching over how the patrimony should be shared.

We cannot move forward without creating the chance for everyone to have accessible and affordable education, tackle unemployment, security, housing problems, and reasonable wages for all. Away from the dog-eat-dog mentality, the snarling posturing which we have put up with for decades to justify our actions against people.

Nigeria is like Tanzania, because our political parties encourage the emergence of Johnnys-come-lately, weak leaders that took us to where we are. These same people who should be angry at the level of poverty in the country, fail to shape the social process by directing thoughts properly. Since when is a country built by only one political party?

Maybe it’s time we began to set very high standards and not low standards. To engage in ferocious Chutzpah to put elected officials on their toes. It would appear that to survive has taken over the place of heroism for many of them. The political parties must do well to ensure that candidates contest electoral offices after being well-groomed and enter politics not by accident but by training, especially those who have inherited the privilege of public service. People so well-groomed never lose view of the future.

I don’t see how wearing an academic gown to a respectable parliament shows how democratically serious we are in this country. I watch clips of The Prime Minister’s questions elsewhere enough to know that we are having democratic fun in Nigeria.

If politicians lead ascetic life-styles, then it would be easy for followers to trust the statements they make. Not when we see their wives acting like Hollywood stars, when they acknowledge their presence in The Lord’s temple, taking photo-ops after Sunday Masses, guarded by fiery looking policemen in states not at war.

Until we position our political parties and the internal democracy of parties aright to the level where it counts for nothing to be faddish by joining the winning party, we would continually see people who decamp from APGA to another party even after swearing to an oath on the Holy Book to Odumegwu Ojukwu as alleged by his widow, that they wouldn’t decamp.

That day will see politicians become ideologues to fight corruption, invest in education so that more people would wrestle free from the exploitation of the few educated elite. The small things like feeding and other basic necessities would then become priorities. So also would investment of generated revenues and accruals from the central government be made in gilt-edged securities and return on investments used for critical development away from ending in contractors’ pockets. Until then, a piece from a politician strikes me as building the fortissimo for a hidden agenda.

Abah wrote from Port  Harcourt.



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