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At 57, Nigeria needs introspective stock-taking for growth

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Chief Ralph Obioha

Any entity at 57 years is grown and matured but that cannot be said about Nigeria. As a country we shall repeat the usual ceremonies associated with independence celebration only this time with suspended apprehension over threats about quit orders that if carried out will lead to bloodshed, civil disorders, dislocation and what have you. Personally I don’t see that happening because there is no reasonable cause for that.

Nigeria’s issues are too complex for many known reasons and over the years have been left unattended hoping that these issues will just disappear. Let us not dwell on what we were supposed to have attained, how our economy was supposed to have blossomed beyond those of the Asian Tigers, how we were endowed with human and natural resources, how potentially we would have been great but unfortunately we are none of the above. So realistically, let us assess how we move forward now.

We must admit that Nigeria is not prepared to what is evolving today, the cacophony of voices of what is wrong with Nigeria. In all these complaints, one thing was missing, an expression of what we need to
sacrifice for our country to get going again.  It seems that we are all in frenzy for some implosion to occur in Nigeria.

Some sobriety is required to visit our collective psyche to avert a massive civil strife that will do no group any good. Ndigbo in general centers their displeasure on marginalization, which they claim started after the civil war that broke out 50 years ago. If one talks to five Igbos each explanation of the imagined marginalization is different from the other.

The Igbo from Anambra views marginalisation as the inhibition pertaining to market activities in various parts of Nigeria. The Igbo from Abia complains about being marginalised in the distribution of amenities especially roads and other infrastructure. The Igbo from Imo State will allege that appointments in the Federal Government do not reflect Federal Character and Ndigbo are left out in these appointments. The Igbo from Enugu views marginalization as the non-creation of Adada State with capital at Nsukka and the Igbo from Ebonyi is declaring that they are not for any regional arrangement whatsoever. Just as Boko Haram missed the opportunity to carry other Nigerians along in their ill-fated campaign by not insisting that what they were after was a fight against corruption.

The Yoruba centered their grouse against the centre by calling for restructuring and have not advanced any cogent reasons for such restructure except to convey the simplistic solution of each region developing at their own pace. Both the Southeast and South-South have bought into this Southwest position with North central just watching from the sidelines. The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) missed the train by not starting with the time tested adage that: “Charity begins at home” by not calling on their five governors to account for the billions of funds they have received and continue to receive from the Federation Account and Internally Generated Revenue (IGRs) to at least prove that a Biafra of their dreams will be that shining beacon on the mountain top. It quickly became obvious that IPOB is another Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) preying on peoples fear and in the process, acquiring money and power. Not equating IPOB with Boko Haram, both bodies have no discernable agenda to promote public progression. Boko Haram and IPOB are contrived bodies, organised by some hidden hands with specific agenda to supplant the present occupiers of power.

It does not require the genius of a nuclear scientist to figure out, first how Boko Haram was able to acquire its arsenal of arms and funds to carry out its vicious campaign and their insistence on ideological extremism give them away of their true intentions. If in broad day light, a criminal outfit will invade a community, remove 200 plus girls and were able to sequester them in only God knows location for over a year and releases batches as and when it pleases them and to add insult to injury an international entity pays them ransom, Nigeria indeed is drifting to a failed state status. When IPOB reared its head, the respected Dr. Dozie Ikedife was touted as its head and many of us viewed the body as something that can be one of the tools in the Igbo tool box to constructively ventilate the core Ndigbo concerns in the Nigeria Federation or use the popular description of calling it the Nigeria project. Hopes were quickly dashed when the former Ohanaeze leader was bashed mercilessly in the social media by the very members. Not long after that bashing Mr. Nnamdi Kanu appeared on the scene with characteristic modus operandi that contained an expert propaganda method and system never seen in this part of the globe. It again exposed IPOB as an outfit with a hidden agenda contrived to wrest power through the backdoor exploiting the fears, feelings and hopelessness of Ndigbo in the Nigeria Project. For over 20 years, Mr. Ralph Uwazurike has used MASSOB to acquire for himself tremendous wealth and influence and Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, a student of his simply supplanted him with a more superior method to continue the exploitation of Ndigbo youths’ frustration and hopelessness. Whilst Igbo elders watched helplessly, Igboland is being pulverized with foreign culture passed through social media.  The old time Ndigbo spirit of Onye asha Nwaenyi was turned into tigbutigbuo and that community building effort disappeared from our culture. Ndigbo progressed in the 40s, 50s and 60s not by complaining endlessly of marginalisation but with their indomitable spirit of hard work, unity and commitment, which elevated them in the Nigeria space. Let Ndigbo return to that era and march on with progress of a new renaissance.

Marginalization has been so flogged that Ndigbo must rediscover an era to propel them to great heights in Nigeria. An adoption of this spirit is not surrender rather it is wisdom. Let Ndigbo shift the Nigeria discourse to promoting the generic topic that emphasis on strengthening the core government institutions for restructuring than those ephemeral-restricting ideas that begin and end on catering for a minority few. If Nigeria installs a strong and professional police and judiciary, all Nigerians will be secured in that sector of the building of a stable Nigeria were human rights are guaranteed and protected, a sign post of a good society. If we strengthen our education and health institutions, Nigerians will appreciate their government. If we discourage wastages in government and channel the country’s resources constructively, Nigeria will enjoy better infrastructure in roads, railways and airways. These are what restructuring should focus on and search for a transformational leader that will regard all regions of Nigeria as his or her constituency.

In all these, the Northerners adopted a siddon look posture believing that they are on the receiving end. Their huge mistake is that a major dislocation of Nigeria people will expose the Northern elites that are the primary beneficiaries of Nigeria bad governance. The various complaints by the various groups in Nigeria are just a scratch at the core ills bedeviling Nigeria. Nigeria is an unjust contraption pretending to be a country, which it is, and a nation, which it is not.

Both the Igbo and Yoruba should realize that 85 per cent of Northerners are uneducated and are living in an unimaginable condition without access to basic needs of life and both groups have failed to view those millions as fellow countrymen and women. Are these helpless Nigerians not marginalised by a minority elite? An Igbo or Yoruba hearing this will quickly answer back “is it not their people” in power. It flies
in the face of logic to make any meaning of the question. The call for a transformational leader for Nigeria is not a cliché but an urgently needed requirement if we expect Nigeria to progress.

For as long as a Nigeria leader that emerges looks at him or herself as belonging to a section what will be expected will be nepotism and nothing else.

We have tried this for 57 years and let us start by making basic assessment of what makes a country progress.  First and foremost the quality of the country’s institutions; Nigeria lacks these institutions and for as long as these institutions are the way that they are today, we shall only quicken our steps to a failed state status. We are all in agreement that our police institution is in shambles riddled with massive corruption. We are all in agreement that our state governments are one-man shows where the governors are be all and end all. In fact, the state assemblies and LGA systems are mere tools of the governors and even the constitutional requirements of state budgets are rituals, just mere rituals that in the case of Imo state in the past four years are not even carried out for appearance purposes.  The greatest danger is going on in our educational institutions where a massive dysfunction is taking place. Is it not a common knowledge that our prospective graduates are asking parents and guardians for money to do sorting, an euphemism for bribing with money or sex or both to have grades changed in order to qualify for graduation?  Do we visit health institutions to see the horror going on there?  To an average Nigerian, corruption begins and ends with taking not even giving bribes and to the same average Nigerian just take the bribes and give me some.  When nepotism becomes a culture, it corrupts the entire system and all suffer the consequences and reflect in the quality of what we get in the society. This leads to the absence of merit system in Nigeria and what it can produce at best are mediocre in position of authority and more and more nepotism. This narrative brings us to the issue of social media, which is now dominating our viral information network. It should be noted that this social network is good but mostly bad.  It is good in the sense that people are more widely informed of what is happening around them and yet mostly bad because 80 percent of the information are fake, false, manufactured and massively tinted.

At 57, Nigeria needs to make an introspective stock taking of how to proceed. If God willing Mr. President will call on Nigerians during his Independence broadcast to embrace each other for peace to reign because it is only a peaceful situation can make progress possible and allay the fears of all irrespective of group lineage. Appointments of ten individuals into offices are not the issue bothering Nigerians but what is in question is that those ten individuals should be selected on broad basis inclusive of all groups. Developing infrastructures for Nigeria should not be restricted to Lagos to Kano but should be also be situated from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri. Building roads should be spread in such way that all regions are touched.

These are the policies that the President should adopt to generate goodwill and restore confidence in governance. Rumours have it that some hawks in government are confusing the outcome of Operation Python Dance II (OPD) as a successful intimidation operation; they are grossly mistaken. There is always this calm before the storm. No government, British or American can watch the activities of IPOB and its language go on without taking appropriate action. If OPD II is government response to these IPOB activities it is within the government responsibility to nip in the bud any threat to peace and security. But like in all human undertaking the military failed to sanitize the public of their presence and the rules of their engagement, after all it is strange for civilians to see such military presence of such magnitude suddenly in their community.  One will believe that the outcome achieved its purpose but the military should quickly pull out and let the police do its duty to promote peace and security. Those calling for restructure should use the social media to convince more and more Nigerians the reasons for such a call.  The north views the call differently from the south and there is an urgent need to reach consensus if structural changes can be achieved. It is misnomer that of the six regions in Nigeria only the South East has five states whilst the others have six or seven states. As a starting point let Nigeria give the Southeast the sixth state. It will garner more confidence and remove the marginalisation slogan being exploited by those various groups on Igbo youths who accept their hate mongering.

Nigeria has gone through many challenges and will definitely overcome this one.  But we must collectively change the status quo. It is no longer sustainable.  The president cannot do the changes alone; this will require all men of goodwill stepping out to bring about the changes that will be just and equitable to all Nigerians. An outsider seeing the rate of development in the South as compared with the North will question what the South is talking about but beneath the surface both the North and South know what the issues are all about. A true Nigerian leader should not forget the marginalised critical mass of the Talakawas of the North or citizens of the Niger Delta who are suffering in silence over the destruction caused to their communities by the exploitation of hydrocarbons in their region. In bringing about the equitable changes let us watch our language, discard the hate mongering and conduct ourselves in peaceful manner. For avoidance of doubt this writer is a white flag bearer, it is not a signal of surrender but a banner of peace because the consequences of a war are simply too grave to contemplate.

Happy 57 years of Nigeria Independence and we shall continue to celebrate the subsequent ones in peace and happiness. May God Bless Nigeria.

•Obioha, former chieftain of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) was National Chairman of the Justice Party (JP)



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