Ethnic and religious loyalty have supplanted national solidarity, says ACF’s Anthony Sani
•‘Nigeria is a trust fund state funded by oil where taxes are not paid’
Secretary General of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Elder Anthony Sani, who spoke to SAXONE AKHAINE on Nigeria at 59, said although the country got Independence in 1960, Nigeria is still struggling for development and growth. He, however, said there have been some levels of achievements in some areas, but urged Nigerians to stand up in unison for the liberation of the country from poverty and other social woes. Sani also spoke on other issues hindering Nigeria’s progress after 59 years of independence and other salient issues. Excerpts:
Nigeria will be 59 by October 1. How do you see the journey so far after independence from the British colonial masters?
The journey so far has experienced ups and downs typical of a growing nation, including a civil war that constituted a cog on the wheel of nation-building. The country has passed through unconstitutional changes of governments as processes of nation building. In the attempt to build a nation where Nigerians’ aspirations can find expression, the country has been restructured several times by the leadership, be it political, physical, geographical or economical. Yet, we have myriads of challenges besetting the nation by way of insecurity, poverty that come with unemployment and corruption that has combined to detract from national solidarity which is being supplanted by mistrust among groups and among individuals to the extent of desecrating our faiths and our sense of sanctity of life. As a result, many Nigerians have started to question their faith in the Nigerian project. But this is odd in the sense that order, justice, liberty, common decency and prosperity for all are never natural order of things but attained through ceaseless hard work by not only leaders, but also the led.
Do you think Nigeria has been able to realise its aspirations as a country?
If you consider the number of states or regions, including the Federal capital territory (FCT), the number of local governments, the number of educational institutions, health institutions and the level of infrastructural development, etc, at independence and compared with what there’s today, you can hardly avoid the conclusion that the nation has recorded some level of socio-economic development, albeit not at the pace most Nigerians expect. Nigerians want development to be at a faster pace. We should therefore count our blessings one by one and resolve to work harder and at a faster pace.
What do you think have been the militating factors to the nation’s progress and development?
The militating factors have been the collapse of national ideals and moral values as well as fall in social contract and a sense of what is right and what is wrong. As a result, ethnic and religious loyalty has supplanted national solidarity. We also have unbridled growth of population which is not matched by economic growth. The rate of growth in population is faster than that of GDP. Consider that our population was on even keel with that of Britain at independence; but now while that of Britain is not up to 70 million, our own is about 180 million. Hence, the topsy-turvy in the cockpit of politics. But the situation is not beyond redemption given purposeful leadership and the best in every one. All we need do is to learn to be distant runners through using what we have to get what we need and even want by foregoing part of our today’s comfort for the good of tomorrow. This is because diversification of the economy cannot be a day’s job but a result of consciously directed efforts by purposeful leadership and the best of everyone. This is because any ailment that requires surgical intervention cannot be without pains.
And is democracy a curse or blessing to the country considering the persistent level of poverty, underdevelopment and other social woes?
Democracy is never a curse. The challenges are that Nigerians are not playing it right. Democracy may differ in form. But when it comes to its three elements of justice, liberty and common decency, democracy is about the same and universal. Those who seek to redefine the elements of democracy can as well reinvent the wheel and redefine truth or evil.
How can Nigeria be salvaged from the current woes bedeviling her?
It is left for Nigerians to retrace their paths in favour of supporting the government in the fight against insecurity and against corruption in order to create the path for the economy to take root and thrive through consciously directed diversification of the economy away from over dependence on oil which is not a result of hard work. Also, voters should make judicious use of their democratic rights and ensure that votes count so that the ensuing leaders would be accountable to the people. Nigerians should pay taxes as a way of inspiring civic responsibility away from the present status of the country which is not more than A TRUST FUND STATE funded by oil. A situation where 81 per cent of Nigerians are reported not to pay taxes cannot augur well for the speedy socio-economic development as a collective devoid of corruption. This is because non-payment of taxes by individual Nigerians can detract from civic responsibilities on the part of both leaders and the led with far-reaching consequences.
What is your view on Igbo presidency in 2023? There are already some strong voices in the country in support of zoning the presidency to the Southeast in order to sustain the country’s unity. Do you support this school of thought?
I have said it over and over again that it is too early to start talking of politics of 2023 when the current regime is just about three months old; more so considering that Nigerians are expected to take into account the performance of any outgoing government in their judgment, as to whether to vote the ruling party or to reject it. All the same, I wish to say the decision on where presidential flag bearers would come from is exclusive preserve of political parties. This is because the constitution does not provide for independent candidacy. So, any political party which considers fielding its candidate from Igbo, as the party’s winning game plan, is at liberty to do so. In the end, it will be Nigerians who will vote the president.