A time to talk

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At the security summit organised by The Sun Publishing Limited last year in Abuja, one of those who made presentations was a Professor of International law in one of our foremost universities.  In the course of his discourse at the event which was attended by the nation’s  military brass, civil society, the police, security agencies as well as other well-meaning Nigerians, the professor said something which still rings in my brain:  Nigeria had all the indices of a nation waiting to explode (in a revolution or uprising) in the mould of the Spring of Protests and Change which swept through the Arab nations of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, among others, some few years ago.

The great surprise, said the erudite scholar,  was that Nigeria still remained intact despite all the prevailing factors which could trigger a blow up.  No one, he argued, could say for certain how long the nation’s elasticity could stretch before it snaps. Before we lose it, he counselled, the nation’s leaders have to urgently tackle the many challenges bedevilling the beleaguered country. He went on to list the factors which were prevalent in the Arab countries before the people’s revolt, which he said were also highly present with us.

In Egypt and Tunisia, rising unemployment, joblessness and its attendant economic crunch had hit an all-time high before the youths took to the streets in protests. In Nigeria, said the prof, we are witnessing a worse scenario,  with thousands of our employable graduates,  unemployed.  It is so bad now that graduates are applying for jobs as cleaners, drivers, office assistants etc. when they do exist.  The unlucky ones are pounding the streets and pavements, clutching certificates and wearing hopeless faces as a bleak future beckons menacingly.

How long can these guys hold out before something snaps inside? The professor also listed a greedy and corrupt elite as precursor to a people’s revolt in countries where it had happened.  Is our situation any different?  Are we not in a country of a powerful, corrupt few?  Is corruption not walking on all fours in this country?  Are the many poor and dispossessed not witnessing the display of ostentatious and obscene wealth by leaders and those who have found themselves in government?  Are they happy about it?

Will they continue to fold their hands in resignation as things move from bad to worse? How much pain can the afflicted bear before he shakes off his shackles?    Despite the pretensions and hypocritical denials to the contrary, our government and  nation sit on a stench of corruption with funds needed to tackle infrastructural decay largely disappearing into private pockets. A recent US report, according to yesterday’s  Nigeria’s THISDAY newspapers,  reveals a thriving  corruption industry.  The damning report says no sector is spared the odium of the corruption spectre ravaging our dear nation.  “Massive, widespread, and pervasive corruption affected all levels of government and the security forces,” the report stated.

Even the hallowed chambers of justice, the judiciary, was similarly indicted for lack of transparency and graft in the dispensation of justice.  It also chronicled the rot in the petroleum industry and the inability of the government to decisively tackle it because its hands were tied;  relations, family, friends and cronies with link to ‘ogas at the top’ were those allegedly behind the fraudulent oil deals.  Truly, the US 2012 Country Reports as it affects Nigeria is a document that rankles;  a truth denied only by a nation without a sense of shame.

We ought to accept the findings in good faith and then move towards finding solutions to the issues raised.  However, no one should be surprised by a government statement dismissing the report as some ‘piece of hogwash, a smear campaign designed to denigrate our wonderful and performing president by envious detractors.’  In our country, every criticism, no matter how well-meaning, is often the handiwork of evil detractors on a pull him down endeavour! Now, the question is: for how long will this nonsense continue?  Are those leading the country not seeing the big sign on the wall? Are they doing something about it, before we lose it; before things get really out of hand? If our economy , according to the World Bank, has grown by 8%, should we not be witnessing an exponential growth in jobs and more jobs?

Are we seeing the jobs?  Where are the jobs? The brilliant professor also talked about tribalism and the ethnic cleavages  as a demon countries desirous of staying together must avoid.  He said they were twin evils that had polarised many countries as they went down. He talked about Somalia,  Malawi,  Ethiopia, Sudan, Zaire, as countries that had tasted the bitter pills of the damage tribalism and ethnicity could do.  What do we find now?  We are gradually regressing to the Pre-Lugardian era.  In 2015, the tribal card is bound to rear its ugly head.  We must do something to produce a Nigerian president, not an Ijaw, Hausa/Fulani, Igbo or Yoruba president.

That would prove disastrous for our country. If after 100 years of our marriage (forced or otherwise) and 53 years after political independence, we still find it difficult to produce one good leader irrespective of tribe or ethnic origin, who will lead us to the land of our dreams and possibilities, then we still have a long way to go.  We must be obviously deceiving ourselves that in brotherhood we stand.  This must be strange brotherhood, a brotherhood of deceit. Finally, the professor was sure that if we didn’t  quickly tame the monster of religious bigotry we would find it difficult, if not impossible, talking about one nation, one destiny, one people.

Nations, he submitted, may survive civil war, but no nation ever survives religious war.  His message: let religious leaders tame their tongues and call their followers to order. Let God fight His own battles.  No man is strong enough to fight God’s war. It is only an illusion of grandeur to attempt to be God’s defender.  I agree. Postscript:  We are a federation of the angry. That was my concluding remark last week.

I also called for a National Conference, where all Nigerians, representatives of ethnic nationalities, religious, social, political groups, would sit to trash out on the table of love and brotherhood what our grievances are, and reach an understanding of how we intend to live in peace and harmony with one another; how we intend to make our union work.  Things are still not right.  Trust is missing; love is faraway. Greed and blind ambition for personal aggrandisement is everywhere.   We must talk the talk, before it is too late. Is anyone afraid of a talk?

A recent US report, according to yesterday’s  Nigeria’s THISDAY newspapers,  reveals a thriving  corruption industry.  The damning report says no sector is spared the odium of the corruption spectre ravaging our dear nation.  “Massive, widespread, and pervasive corruption affected all levels of government and the security forces,” the report stated.  Even the hallowed chambers of justice, the judiciary, was similarly indicted for lack of transparency and graft in the dispensation of justice.

It also chronicled the rot in the petroleum industry and the inability of the government to decisively tackle it because its hands were tied;  relations, family, friends and cronies with link to ‘ogas at the top’ were those allegedly behind the fraudulent oil deals.  Truly, the US 2012 Country Reports as it affects Nigeria is a document that rankles;  a truth denied only by a nation without a sense of shame.  We ought to accept the findings in good faith and then move towards finding solutions to the issues raised.

However, no one should be surprised by a government statement dismissing the report as some ‘piece of hogwash, a smear campaign designed to denigrate our wonderful and performing president by envious detractors.’  In our country, every criticism, no matter how well-meaning, is often the handiwork of evil detractors on a pull him down endeavour! Now, the question is: for how long will this nonsense continue?  Are those leading the country not seeing the big sign on the wall? Are they doing something about it, before we lose it; before things get really out of hand?

If our economy , according to the World Bank, has grown by 8%, should we not be witnessing an exponential growth in jobs and more jobs?  Are we seeing the jobs?  Where are the jobs? The brilliant professor also talked about tribalism and the ethnic cleavages  as a demon countries desirous of staying together must avoid.  He said they were twin evils that had polarised many countries as they went down.

He talked about Somalia,  Malawi,  Ethiopia, Sudan, Zaire, as countries that had tasted the bitter pills of the damage tribalism and ethnicity could do.  What do we find now?  We are gradually regressing to the Pre-Lugardian era.  In 2015, the tribal card is bound to rear its ugly head.  We must do something to produce a Nigerian president, not an Ijaw, Hausa/Fulani, Igbo or Yoruba president. That would prove disastrous for our country.

If after 100 years of our marriage (forced or otherwise) and 53 years after political independence, we still find it difficult to produce one good leader irrespective of tribe or ethnic origin, who will lead us to the land of our dreams and possibilities, then we still have a long way to go.  We must be obviously deceiving ourselves that in brotherhood we stand.  This must be strange brotherhood, a brotherhood of deceit. Finally, the professor was sure that if we didn’t  quickly tame the monster of religious bigotry we would find it difficult, if not impossible, talking about one nation, one destiny, one people.

Nations, he submitted, may survive civil war, but no nation ever survives religious war.  His message: let religious leaders tame their tongues and call their followers to order. Let God fight His own battles.  No man is strong enough to fight God’s war. It is only an illusion of grandeur to attempt to be God’s defender.  I agree. Postscript:  We are a federation of the angry. That was my concluding remark last week.

I also called for a National Conference, where all Nigerians, representatives of ethnic nationalities, religious, social, political groups, would sit to trash out on the table of love and brotherhood what our grievances are, and reach an understanding of how we intend to live in peace and harmony with one another; how we intend to make our union work.  Things are still not right.  Trust is missing; love is faraway. Greed and blind ambition for personal aggrandisement is everywhere.   We must talk the talk, before it is too late. Is anyone afraid of a talk?

 

…Hon. Emeka Ihedioha rises to the challenge

Leadership is everything.  In nation-building, in governance,  in legislative business, in all spheres of life.  Indeed, our nation is where it is today essentially because of its leadership deficit.  But some Nigerians who have found themselves in leadership positions are doing what they can to prove that when opportunities arise, they could give a good account of themselves;  that all hope is not lost as far as the leadership question is concerned. So, as we condemn tunnel-vision leaders, we must equally commend those who have demonstrated admirable leadership in national assignments as a way of encouraging others.

One of such men is Rt.Hon.Emeka Ihedioha, the deputy speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, and chairman of the House Constitution Review Committee which last Thursday submitted its report. When he was made to chair this all-important Committee, not many Nigerians thought Ihedioha and his men would discharge their duties  to the satisfaction of majority of Nigerians, given the contentious nature of issues involved in the exercise, including  states’ creation.  They thought it would end up as a failed exercise reflecting the jaundiced views of members of the Committee and powerful, vested interests.

They didn’t believe that the masses or their representatives and groups would ever have a chance to partake in the exercise.  Hon. Ihedioha and his team proved us wrong.  Here is how he did it: he turned the whole exercise into a quasi-referendum, making the voice of the people matter.  He organised town hall sessions across the country’s geo-political zones, where all spheres of interests were accommodated: the civil society, town unions, professional groups, the students, intellectual community, etc,. all had their day to share their views on the proposed new constitution.

The people’s public sessions,  I am told, held across 360 constituencies in the two years the committee lasted;  receiving over 200 memoranda from various interest groups and members of the public.  Such transparency in the Committee’s assignment made it virtually impossible to manipulate the process.  Thanks to Ihedioha’s leadership.   When he presented the report last Thursday, Ihedioha was naturally full of smiles, even as he admitted he and his team couldn’t lay claim to have done a perfect work, being human.

However, he had given the job his best shot. He said: “This process may not be perfect, but I dare say, that it is the first time in the history of this country that Nigerians at the grassroots have been made part of the Constitution Review Process in a practical and transparent manner. We promised Nigerians that we shall be transparent and accountable. Indeed we made a commitment to do things differently in our Legislative Agenda, unveiled at the beginning of the 7th House of Representatives.

This public presentation is a fulfillment of this commitment and promise. We have responded as best as we can within the limits of the constitutional and legal framework to the demands of Nigerians for greater voice and involvement in the constitution amendment process.”  With young, visionary men like Ihedioha, there is yet  hope that all hope is not lost. Congrats, Hon. Deputy Speaker!

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