A paper presented at the Professor Bayo Okunade Hall,
CASO GLOBAL EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTE.
In Ibadan, 2nd October 2017.
Distinguished guest of honour (Chairman of the day, Chief Oludele Ajibade, The special guest of honour, Mr Ahmed Adelaja and Pastor Akin Adelani. My other co-speakers, Prince Adekunle Adetayo Abimbola, Mr Wahab Yusuf, Comr Azeem Salako Oladimeji, and Mr Oyetunde Olusola). And our ladies and gentlemen sitting in the audience, I want to use this opportunity to welcome you all to this maiden event of ‘Let’s discuss Nigeria.’ Whose theme have being tagged “Issues, Challenges, and Prospect of the Nigeria State.”
For the most part, Saturday, 1st October 1960, is well-known as an emblematic day in the annals of Nigeria. It was a day when Nigeria broke into pieces the gates of brass and cut in sunder the bars of iron to free herself from the shackles of colonialism. Significantly, the year 1960 marked the end of the British reign on the Nigerian terrain. It was the year in which our highly-prized independence and highly-sought self-governance was conferred upon Nigeria. John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, couldn’t have nailed it better when he said, “The great revolution in the history of man, past, present, and future is the revolution of those determined to be free.”
When she gained independence from the UK, hopes were high that with mineral wealth and with the most educated work force in Africa, Nigeria would become Africa’s first super power and a stabilising democratic influence in the region. But as the years of nationhood rolled by even at the belaboured speed of an old snail, these towering and exalted hope were soon dashed and inoculated with different vagaries of pandemonium and crisis. With the democratic government eventually being overthrown in a violent military coup in January 1966, we couldn’t expect a greater doom. From 1966 up till 1999, praetorian government held sway almost continuously (except for a short-lived return to democracy between 1979 and 1983) under a concatenation cycle of intensifying, authoritarian, and profligate maladministration of military governments and military coup. All these anomalies began as an emergency aberration, but it soon became a constant feature of Nigerian Politics.
Indeed, Nigeria has been democratic since 1999. The period from 1999 till the present is the longest period that Nigeria has ever gone without interference from the military. It’s also notable to state here that despite freeing ourselves from the shackles of military rule, we are still tied to the apron of powerful personalities behind military governments even though they have removed their uniforms, they have transfigured into domineering democrats and commandeering civilian rulers.
In terms of general characterization, the parliamentary system of government bequeathed to us from the British was the Westminster-style parliamentary democracy. The country was fictitiously created by our erstwhile metropoles without the consent and unison voices of her citizens. Nigeria was so ethnically, religiously and linguistically complex that some of her leading politicians initially doubted that it could form a real country. It was infamously referred to “The mistake of 1914”. By Ahamadu Bello. During one of Nigeria’s early constitutional conferences, future Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa stated that Nigeria “existed as one country only on paper. It is far from being united. Nigerian unity is only a British intention for the country.” Obafemi Awolowo in one of his famous book “Path to Nigerian Freedom.” clearly expressed that “Nigeria is not a nation; it is a mere geographic expression. There are no ‘Nigerians’ in the same sense as there are English or welsh or French. The word ‘Nigeria’ is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria from those who do not.”
Nigeria is dichotomised into two region. (North and South). The largest ethnic groups in the North of the country were the Muslim, traditional, and socially conservative, Hausa and Funlani ethnic groups. Sandwiched in between them are another 250 diversified and contrasting ethnicities.
The South of the country is dominated by two competing ethnic groups: the culturally rich Yorubas occupying the South-Western hemisphere of the country and the energetic and vibrant Igbos in the south east. The difference between this two region is accentuated by religion. The South of the country is predominantly Christian and the North predominantly Muslims. With religion, cultural values and ethnicity being the major different trait between the North and South, this made a constant face-off between the North and South inevitable.
Additionally, party politics took on the identity and ideology of each region of each of the three geo-political regions in the North, South-East, and South West. The preponderant and most influential political party in the Northern region was the Northern People’s Congress whose motto of “One North, One People” gave an entirely accurate description of it objectives. The NPC was unashamedly a regional party it did not bother to field a candidate outside the Northern region and was dismayed that it did not receive reciprocal treatment from the Southern parties to field candidate in the Northern region. Southerners view the NPC from the perspective of the Hausa-Fulani ethnic group. The Western regions dominant party was the Yoruba led Action Group and the Eastern region was dominated by the National Council of Nigerian Citizens which was controlled by the Igbos. The regional based parties assured two things: Firstly, that none of the parties could govern Nigeria on its own, and secondly that ethnic conflict was just a matter of time away.
Essentially, the fall out of the major expounded issues of religion, ethnicity, and Party politics have had a devastating effect on the polity. Some of the major unrest that the above malady have caused over the years on the Nigerian terrain are the 1962/1963 census crisis that paralyzed the hallowed chamber of the federal parliament for three days. Though the initiators of the head count meant well for Nigerians, they wanted official figures that will be used for developmental matters viz constituency delimitations, allocation of seats to the parliament, boundary adjustment and distribution of natural resources to different regions of the country.
The action group entanglement of 1962 that later led to the declaration of state of emergency the first of its kind in our fledgling independent locale was another issue that kept the nation on the edge. Because of the constraint of time permit me to mention some of those major events that have shaped the history of our nation. Events such as civil war of 1967, the lingering Niger Delta crisis, the secessionist agitation of the separatist group called IPOB in the South Eastern region, the quota system which have perpetually sacrificed merit on the altar of cronyism and ethnicity, the illegal ultimatum given by the youth of the Arewa Consultative Forum to all the Southerners living in the North.
Without mincing words, that Nigeria has not fared well in some certain quarters, since her 57 years of existence is conveyed within the walls of our historical catalogue. Even though the resources are there to provide a better life for her citizenry the country is still grappling with the following challenges.
One, Curse of Oil. Crude oil was first discovered in Nigeria in 1956 by shell at Oloibiri in present day Bayelsa State of Nigeria. Further exploration led to the discovery of onshore and offshore deposit of crude in other areas. Although, the discovery of crude oil increased the spending of the federal government but it caused more problem than it solved. Take for example, the total neglect of the agricultural sector which has continually contributed greatly to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (according to the CBN agriculture contributed 24.18% to our GDP for the 3rd quarter of 2017.) and the highest employer of labour. Again, take for instance, the wasteful and extravagance of government also means that at one point in the history of this country, the Federal Military government placed orders for half of world’s cement without considering how such a massive order could be unloaded. This act alone caused a massive blockade at the Lagos port as over four hundred ships battled for dock space and waited to offload in what was termed a “cement armada.” And ships that couldn’t berth for more than one year received hefty demurrage fees.
Two, corruption. In the context of this presentation, I want to limit my discourse to financial corruption alone. Corruption is a hydra-headed monster whose head is supposed to be dismembered from its body to ensure its final death. There is unprecedented corruption going on at the level of politics and governance. The political class is violently vehemently and voraciously corrupt as well as the public bureaucracy which is also corrupt and ineffective in service delivery. The multiplier effect of financial misappropriation has brought untold hardship and pain to the general populace and it has hindered them from enjoying the benefit of good governance.
Three, over concentration of power at the centre. The advent of military incursion into governance created a highly centralised political and economic system, with enormous power and resources concentrated at the centre. Instead of using the resources to build a solid economic base for Nigeria, a regime of over-bloated federal recurrent expenditure (almost 80% of budget year-in-year-out, subsidised government owned monopolies (NITEL; NEPA; Nigerian Railway; Nigerian Airways; NNPC etc…) with huge unfunded pension funds were foisted on the nation. With the over-concentration of power at the centre, it shows that Nigeria runs a system that CANNOT guarantee prosperity for the majority of Nigerians. It can only make a tiny, select few extremely rich.
Four, incompetence of Leaders in governance. Incompetence in governance undermines the very basis for the state. From 1960 till date, Nigeria have been unfortunate to have incompetent leaders manning her affairs. Incompetence on the part of our leaders in the handling of a growing economy is the reason why Nigeria slid down the ladder to almost rock bottom as the number one destination for foreign direct investment. Incompetence of leaders is the reason why the government will increase the size of the projected federal budget from N4.49 trillion in 2015 to N6.1 trillion in 2016 in the face of dwindling oil prices. Incompetence in leadership is the reason why the government will increase budget for non-oil receipts from N800billion to N1.5trillion without a corresponding structure to drive the increase. Incompetence in leadership and governance is the reason why a leader who is supposed to engineer national reconciliation in a divided country will continue to mark election result like exam script by categorising regions as 97 percenters and 5 percenters respectively.
I have only taking time to critically enumerate four out of the multi-faceted challenges facing Nigeria as a state. Personally, I believe that the rationale behind the enumeration of this four challenges is that if well tackled it will solve 70% of the challenges plaguing this nation. Come to think of it, 70% is enough to fetch you a distinction in a reputable tertiary institution. And I dare say that if we can record 70% success rate in our concerted effort of tackling these challenges, it’s enough to make Nigeria distinctive, distinguished and dignified among the nations in the international circle.
In spite of the challenges and issues that has bedevilled Nigeria, the country has done well to record some level of successes in her socio-political economic life. At least, in the last 57yrs of nationhood, Nigeria has constantly bounced back from economic comatose. For example, economic reforms during the President Olusegun Obasanjo’s era brought about debt relief. The Paris club announced a debt relief worth $18billion and overall reduction of Nigeria’s debt stock by 30billion pounds. Because of the constraint of time, I won’t mention other achievements recorded in our 57years of existence but I want you to be rest assured that it has not been a total gloom and doom for the Nigeria state.
For Nigeria to arrest the aforementioned challenges above and combat them decisively, the following recommendations which are subject to further elaboration must be adopted.
One, Nigeria must endeavour that she stops it’s over reliance on crude oil. The world is moving from crude oil to shale energy. Enough of using massive state funds to look for oil in Lake Chad Basin and Sokoto State. Nigeria must take diversification seriously. There are low hanging fruit for the diversification of revenue in other natural resources that abound in various states of the federation. Kogi state for instance has tantalite deposits. Tantalite is used in the electronic industry for capacitors and high power resistors. It’s also used to make alloys to increase strength, ductility, and corrosion resistance. In the international commodity market, tantalite traded above $250/kg which has now fallen to $132/kg compare to crude oil price that has being fluctuating between $50 and $55 per barrel. Agriculture which was formally the mainstay of our economy should be given the desired seriousness. This sector could boast of about a quarter of our GDP, yet we have not been able to achieve self-sufficiency in food production. A swift correction of this menace will create thousands of jobs, less pressure on our foreign exchange and indeed a good narrative for our food security.
Two, “The inherent corruption of man can always bring down the best system.” to give coherence to these wise words from Alexis Denisof, the Nigerian system is arguably one of the best systems in the world but the rapacious, avaricious and kleptomaniac class of people have decided to disdain probity and accountability by advancing solipism, treachery, rottenness, bribery, profligacy, and dishonesty to debilitate and bring down the system on its knees. Those that are saddled with the insignia of power now sees political office as an El Dorado where they can milk us dry. When one look deep into the history of corruption in Nigeria and balance it with our culture and poverty, the ultimate solution is to adopt technology to combat corruption. Technological solution like Integrated Payroll Personnel and Information System (IPPIS) etc… To win the war against corruption Nigeria’s, institutions like EFCC must desist from the usual media trial. Corruption cases are not won on the pages of newspaper and social media. Nigeria anti-graft agencies fight corruption on the mentioned medium above and bungle their cases in court just because they chose to only prosecute corruption in the media alone. Government should also endeavour to train and retrain prosecutors, parade the best of our criminal lawyers in court to prosecute corruption cases, strengthen the laws, Build and strengthen institutions and also work with private institution to fight this cancerous tumour called corruption.
Three, to combat the challenge of quasi-federalism that the Nigerian government operate, the existing structure must be pruned and divested away from unwarranted administrative responsibilities. Ministries must be reduced, and more responsibilities must be devolved to the state, abolish the law that vests all mineral resources under the soil of Nigeria in the federal government. This will allow states to partner with the private sector to exploit mineral resources and pay agreed derivation to the federal government. Adopting these measures will dismantle the over-concentration of power at the centre and the structural rigidities that have held the country economically prostrate for decades.
Four, when a country is being fed with incompetent leadership, such a country will be reduced to midget thinking, midget vision, midget planning, midget strategy, non-performance, which can only lead to midget achievement. Before we choose our leadership in Nigeria, citizens must endeavour to scrutinise Leaders antecedent, insist on debates, in order to help guide our choices. Overtime, I have found out that leaders can’t succeed on their own thus the reason why I will advise all and sundry to rise above partisan politics and put pressure on leaders that are saddled with the responsibility delivering governance. No true leader has ever failed because he was criticised. Sycophancy ruins leadership faster than criticism.
On a final analysis, I implore all and sundry to be a catalyst for change not a beggar for naira at the tables of our corrupt leaders. Free your selves from violence, march to financial freedom from the rags of obscurity. The freedom train is running really fast on the rails informed by our heroic past. Don’t be a political condom, seek no populist refuge in corruption’s sodom, let’s solve these problems, let’s make a change to get an exchange for excellence let’s gather our strength and take chance to stand up in other to stand out. Don’t let them fill our heads with doubt. We can create the Nigeria we want where we can be, what we want to become. Where the excellent things we imagine comes to life, where our minds connect and reesonate as one. Where anger, corruption, ineptitude, mediocrity, and sorrow will be confined into the dustbin of the past. A good man leaves a good inheritance for his children’s children. As the present trustees and in my own case a future trustee of our prosterities let’s leave a resounding legacy that will be engraved on the template of their hearts. God bless you all and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen thank you for listening. Good Afternoon.