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War against indiscipline: Substance or just slogan?


President Muhammadu Buhari as military head of state of Nigeria before his regime was truncated. PHOTO: William Campbell/Sygma/Corbis

President Muhammadu Buhari as military head of state of Nigeria before his regime was truncated. PHOTO: William Campbell/Sygma/Corbis

Federal Government’s plan to re-launch a national re-orientation campaign, War Against Indiscipline, WAI, which the military regime inaugurated 32 years ago, has expectedly elicited mixed feelings within the polity. In the first instance, it is an admission that Nigeria has not made remarkable progress in the area of social mobilisation and development of a national culture of discipline in the last three decades. However, a recourse to the military tactic of whipping people into line in a democratic dispensation may lead to some conclusions that leadership creativity is in short supply at the moment.

It is, of course, unfortunate that since the Major General Muhammadu Buhari-led military regime launched the then famous campaign to instill discipline more than three decades ago, Nigerians have hardly changed their ways. Before democratisation barely 17 years ago, campaigns and sloganeering in various forms had also been executed to little effect. Immediately after the Buhari regime (1983-1985) that launched the WAI campaign and brigade, General Ibrahim Babangida’s regime (1985-1993) also sustained his own variant called Mass Mobilisation for Social Justice and Economic Recovery (MAMSER).

The office was later changed in name to the National Orientation Agency (NOA) by a successor administration and till date, the chief executive officer (CEO) of the NOA is a director-general. But it is sad that there has been no remarkable achievement by the orientation agency with offices in all the states of the federation in its core mandate of building a national culture of discipline and decency. It is, therefore, intriguing that the same NOA has come up with the new plan to mobilise Nigerians to imbibe some ethical values, including discipline. What is more, the new deal from the same NOA does not seem to be a derivation from the NEED 1 document of the Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration (1999-2007), which recommended that “value re-orientation’” should be a core part of Nigeria’s socio-economic development strategy. There has been no reference to the NEED implementation strategy developed by the then office of the Chief Economic Adviser to the President and if this new plan is rooted in it, the contents are shallow.

This is quite curious at a time governments all over the world are mobilising their citizens through technological breakthroughs to compete even in space science and other technologies that drive global competitiveness. All these feats begin with serious attention to and indeed strategic investment in education, a route Nigeria is yet to take and which NOA should crusade for.

All told, all Nigerians are aware that there is a culture of indiscipline and impunity at all levels and in all facets. In fact, corruption has become Nigeria’s public enemy No. 1. And so, no one would want to repudiate any campaign against indiscipline or enlightened self-interest, veritable aspects of corruption, which is now part of the insignia of office of the ruling elite. Most citizens indeed, still need to be educated that corruption goes far beyond financial misdeeds and that a certain “moral pestilence” which rages in Nigeria is the essential breeding ground for corruption. So, any plan that can drive home the point must be supported.

However, such campaigns in most parts of the world have always been part of the core governance system. They are not ad hoc arrangements that an agency advertises on behalf of government from time to time to score cheap political points.

In this connection, there is need to examine the fact that in all the battles against indiscipline in the last three decades, the leadership itself has not been disciplined enough to lead by example and therefore, defeated the campaigns even before take-off. It is only a disciplined leadership that can inspire or mobilise a disciplined followership and nurture desirable values in any nation. At this time of economic depression, it may be doubly difficult a task to mobilise a hungry and angry citizenry. Yet this must be done.

Therefore, while citizens must be appealed to on what to do to maintain discipline in the country, those in authority should lead by example, render genuine service and think seriously of a credible way of mobilising the citizens. This is why, of both the government and the governed, the question to ask and to which all must give answer is: Are we all doing our best to salvage this country together? Nigeria needs more than the revival of a slogan or an acronym to mobilise Nigerians for the fight against indiscipline.

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  • Joseph Ubiagba

    I could not read all the stories before commenting. My question is will politicians, from president to councillors aides abide by its enabling act when put in place? Will those who consider themselves as tin-gods abide (such as tunubu) abide by it? Any law that makes exception in favour of Nigerian politicians will fail. Buhari himself having made rules about travel, had his children break it, just the way he allowed Idiagbon to take his minors to hajj in 1985 after decreeing that minors should not be taken to hajj.

  • EyeServis

    It was showboating through the unfortunate use of naked aggression and crude use of raw state power in 1984 and knowing the antecedents of the sai baba chanji therefore, now wont be any different.

    I have therefore yet to see any position paper marshalling what we stand to gain or achieve with such amorphous, incendiary and terro-inducing grouping and program.

    Fast forward more than 30 years later, same old shyte. Mtschew!!