Resurrection begins from the tomb
Nigeria, a year to its diamond jubilee, is a wounded entity with a deep physical gash on her body, inflicted by terrorists and criminals.
This physical injury is, however, nothing compared to the bleeding sore on the coun- try’s soul, festered daily by corruption, waste and poor management of resources.
With ethnic and religious divisions as well as distrust, the emotional injury is also deep and raw. And it is only a matter of time before one or all finish Nigeria off if not well treated.
Muhammadu Buhari ran unsuccessfully for president three times over a period of 11 years and, of his own accord, came to the conclusion that Nigeria had had enough of him. He then said, publicly, that he was through with the quest. But in 2015, he came along with a message of change just when the nation needed a figure of discipline and integrity, having lived for so long with sloppiness or a leadership with neither direction nor vision.
The man and the moment then met. He was elected, but with a unique mandate: To heal Nigeria, renew her essence and be the architect of a national renaissance.
Four and a quarter years after, with a renewed mandate to boot, Nigeria, at 59, remains in dire straits.
The country can hardly run without dependence on oil and external borrowing while the noise of economic diversification has yielded little in concrete terms. Most of the states are actually bankrupt and cannot pay workers’ wages let alone embark on any capital project without help from the central government. Debts, incurred by those unviable states, are now a mountain. Infrastructure across the country remains decrepit, efforts by governments at all levels notwithstanding. Production, which ought to be taken for granted in a country abundantly blessed with resources, is on its way downhill and appears to have received a ticket for the fast track to extinction. The GDP growth rate is slow and waste continues unabated in governance processes.
Opinions may be divided on whether the Buhari administration can lay claim to any worthy accomplishment so far. But there is a unanimity of opinion that expectations are far from being met.
Up till now, Buhari and leaders of the ruling party appear to have made many promises of prosperity with facts and figures that were largely unexamined, under-estimated or misunderstood by them and hardly interrogated by the people of Nigeria who elected them twice. Meaning: the reality confronting them and all Nigerians today is anything but comforting.
More than the roads, dams, and bridges he has promised to build, more than the power he may supply or any infrastructure he may restore, President Muhammadu Buhari has a responsibility to build Nigeria’s future on a solid foundation.
We are a country that has chosen to be governed by law. But what kind of law? Nigerians see the genuine exertions of President Buhari but they may never see the results in ways they wish or deserve. This is because the symptoms of what ails Nigeria have so overwhelmed the country. The conventional wisdom is to peel away, incrementally, at a multi-layered pile of problems. Unfortunately, that conventional wisdom is the least useful to Nigeria.
With this contraption called Nigeria, there is only one place to start from: the roots!
The consensus today is that the 1999 Constitution in operation is thoroughly flawed and should be substantially amended if not completely replaced to cater for the good governance and wellbeing of Nigerians. This is an incontrovertible truth.
Even if a debate on the contradictions in that Constitution could be entertained, any shred of credibility in it is undermined by the blatant lie in its opening line, saying “we the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria… do hereby make, enact and give to ourselves the following Constitution…”
Of course, there is no need to belabour the processes leading to that Constitution. The truth is: It was not made by the people of Nigeria but by a funny-looking man called Abdulsalami Abubakar who is even funnier in looks now, with a year-round Father Christmas visage. Assisted by a few of his military colleagues and some lawyers, he dusted up the 1979 Constitution, edited a few paragraphs and dumped it on a nation in crisis as he quickly beat a retreat from the leadership of Nigeria.
But, granted that Nigeria has moved on since 1999, things have happened to suggest that the country is not making progress on that constitution as injustice reigns and agitations for a redress grow louder by the day.
Nigeria, therefore, remains a Lie! And to make this country a Truth is the job Buhari should do.
A constitution has been described as ‘an autobiography of a nation’ and the ‘repository of the national soul.’ A constitution is the set of a nation’s commitments, the mirror unto itself and the moral compass for its various journeys.
This, according to scholars, is why the contents of a Constitution are just as important as how they got in and put in there by whom. It is therefore not enough for a Constitution to reflect the wishes of an elected majority as being argued by some of Nigeria’s legislators, a constitution must reflect as far as possible the widest consensus of all citizens through the involvement of all stakeholders across all divisions in the country.
That is why a national conference or a referendum is often called. It allows the people, by consensus, to reclaim their sovereignty by fostering an enduring legal order to which they all willingly subscribe.
For some strange reasons, genuine federalism, or federalism in its real essence, restructuring, fiscal federalism have become not only trite but feared words to some people in Nigeria. Yet they are words Nigerians must not only live with, they are words without which Nigeria cannot survive!
And this is why President Muhammadu Buhari’s continued denial of, if not disdain for, the report of the 2014 National Conference shows that he does not fully appreciate his real assignment as President at this time in Nigeria’s history. That assignment is the re-birth of Nigeria! Though he has uttered a few unconvincing, if audible, remedial statements on making Nigeria a genuine federal state, he appears unyielding from his original attitude of indifference to the idea and has thrown away the key of the archives into which he admitted he had consigned the report that could help kick-start Nigeria’s journey to nationhood.
No one should need any persuasion that a situation in which the individuality of the different groups in Nigeria is denied while forcing unitary system on a naturally federal state can only breed discontent and eventually cause implosion triggered by injustice.
Painful as the attitude of the ruling elite to the structure of Nigeria is and disgraceful as its non-interrogation by otherwise critical minds in the polity is, I am, ironically, comforted, almost to the point of feeling triumphant by the fact that there are no surprises: The Nigerian state’s reputation as an undertaker has no equal and the rulers’ predilection for the entombment of their own opportunities for redemption is legendary. History has shown that Nigerian leaders have always made the best coffin or dug the deepest grave for the blessings divinely, freely bestowed on the country. Hence the archive of the Nigerian state is the cemetery of great ideas for the people’s progress.
For civil service reforms, go to the archives and you will see enough ideas on how to make that engine of government function better. For private sector reforms or public-private sector partnerships for development, there are enough ideas on the shelf! For campaign finance reforms, electoral integrity and deepening democracy, the archives have it! For fighting corruption, go to the archives! So, to find a way forward, Nigeria only has to look backwards. In her search for life, our nation only has to go back to where the dead is buried!
Nigeria’s purpose is crystal-clear: a rainbow nation in which all find a shade, an umbrella under which all, big or small find shelter, a land rich enough, square metre for square metre, for all to till and to feed or prosper from. Diverse in people and diverse in resources, Nigeria has it all.
But this diversity, a most potent strength, is one attribute Nigeria has done its best to deny or undermine because of laziness or convenience which has engendered the destructive mindset that oil alone is what can sustain the country and that an acknowledgment of our political diversity, which would necessitate adoption of economic diversity models as well as the need for individual hard work, undermines the nation’s unity.
As with all fallacies, this has, of course, resulted in a multiple deck of fallacies, culminating in distrust, inequity, poor governance and the kind of economic stagnation Nigeria reels in today.
The trouble is not Nigeria. It is the leadership, a leadership that has been relentlessly unreasonable in the quest for solutions to the country’s problems.
To escape the harsh judgment of history, which would tag him part of Nigeria’s leadership burden, therefore, Buhari must go back to the tomb and exhume an idea that can guide the country’s journey to true nationhood, peace and prosperity.
Unless we do away with a system that shackles the country to the hegemonic fantasies of a few, one that unites the people in poverty by caging their creative abilities, and breeds a deprived majority, prone to easy manipulation by a thieving minority, Nigeria cannot make progress into unity and prosperity.
A country that fails to appreciate that its true essence flows from its diversity of blessings and deliberately undermines the individuality of the different threads that make up its quilt primes itself for implosion. The greatest effort at undermining Nigeria, therefore, is made by the state or leadership that finds comfort in the exist- ing dishonest federal structure. th
On this occasion of Nigeria’s 59 Independence anniversary, the current leadership can choose to put an end to poverty and underdevelopment in Nigeria, put an end to inequity, discontent and so much grumbling by instituting a structure that respects individuality of the units and unleashes all of Nigeria’s hands on the work of building Nigeria.
Devolving power to the federating units in the spirit of true federalism is an urgent task that must be done so that each of the federating units can begin the process of building its own economy based on the resources available to it.
With that, we would have cured Nigeria’s ailment, not just the symptoms.
Adesina is the Chief Operating Officer/ Editor-In-Chief of The Guardian
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