Daily Trust (Abuja)

2 February 2013

Nigeria's Memorandum of Misunderstanding

A colleague of mine in the University of Abuja was fond of saying that the problem with Nigeria has to do with basic issues that the elite class competes on in the process of struggle for the allocation of the nation's scarce resources for their selfish reasons.

Ordinarily struggles by federating units whether taken from the political conglomeration perspective or the ethnic nationalities platform is essential to the extent that every group struggles to achieve and obtain what is due for and to it within the alliance for the general growth and development of the specific category as part of the law of motion of the entire federation.

What we have in Nigeria instead is a scenario where by few privileged members of the upper class, using the platform of their unique categories to secure political, economic and social disadvantages that are not for the good of the whole or at least most members of that specification. In the process, intense ethnic tension and competition are ensured and the result of the massive theft and backwardness that we see palpable in all our communities while a few from amongst us lavish in squandermania and ostentation.

Yet, most people including the elites hardly ask questions on why things are going the way they are. We seem to be comfortable in our penury as long as those who are plundering our resources are from our divides. The thief from my part of the country is not necessarily a thief but the other from the other part is guilty.

Unfortunately members of the elite class have apparently internalized this misnomer and seem to be comfortable with it may be because every elite expects that it is turn by turn. If it is not you that is eating today, your turn may be tomorrow and therefore can't afford to either blow the whistle or insist that the right thing be done so that you don't likely spoil your chance in the future.

Governance at most levels seems to be taking this dimension but the one that is palpably visible is that which happens in Abuja. We can see it right in the presidency. The president once said that he was the most criticized president Nigeria has ever had. He never gave the right reason why. Could that presidential assertion be in correlation with the actual capacity quotient of the president and those who advise him on critical national policy issues?

Nobody talks about competence these days; we retire to our cocoons and exploit trivial issues to define reasons why popular agitation shouldn't be seen as legitimate. Instead, they are seen as grievances from either political opponents or those who believe it is their natural rule to rule the country. This was particularly the paradigm that the Jonathan administration came with and in my view contributed immensely to the degeneration of national security challenges and apparent failures in political brinkmanship and economic policies.

People like Ahmed Gulak are always ready to say President Jonathan is unjustifiably criticized because he is a minority, a southerner or a Christian. What balderdash! A minority won presidential election in a country of major ethnic majority groups and yet you turn the other way and bury visible manifestations of incapacity with sentiments?

In the first place such thoughts were responsible for the hoisting of incapacity at the highest level of government in the country. Nobody can change what the reality is by evoking cheap sentiments. An effective Ijaw man anywhere in the country is effective while those who are ineffective would remain so unless they change. Similarly is the case with the Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Kataf or any other group for that matter.

The sooner we come to terms with the reality that it matters less where a person comes from but what he or she is made of in politics the better for the nation now and in the future. We cannot survive on the basis of cheap nepotism and blackmail.

I do not believe that any section of the country possesses the monopoly to provide political leadership but what is certain is that our system has been badly percolated by the weak against the rest of the nation. One of the major qualities of acceptability amongst the power brokers in the country is that one has to be lame duck if he desires the support of those that literally install leaders especially at the center.

This is the story of our current president and anybody disputing this will have to enroll again into the school of Nigerian politics.

Those at the top of Nigerian society are jittery and afraid of independent and strong people. That is why the strategy has since been that if a presidential candidate or governorship aspirants are shopping for a vice or deputy, the first criteria is to look for someone who is not 'ambitious'. This is a tragedy because more often than not we end up with un-ambitious second becoming the first. That is why governance, and its quality, is at the lowest ebb in the country today.

In the United States where we borrowed this system from, the choice of a running mate by any presidential aspirant is critical to his acceptability by the American people. Yes, spare tyre you may call a vice or deputy but very critical in the event the main actor becomes incapacitated or out of office.

I believe that Nigerian federal structure and governance are not working not because certain documents were not signed or ratified at the time the union was created in 1914 but because of the inordinate and divisive nature of the Nigerian elites who out of selfishness have chosen to exist in confusion and disorder. That is why there is mutual suspicion amongst the ordinary people as an integral part of the federal agenda.

What the people need in my view is good life and Nigerians from no matter what of the country that are capable of providing this objective reality are needed to move the country forward. We must work towards diffusing this apparent national apprehension deliberately created by the elite and ruling class to either achieve the objective of plundering or covering the mess of incapacity and inability that quite a lot of them are made of.

I think it is about the memorandum of misunderstanding that the elites have since subscribed to that the confusion within the nation thrives. All hands must be on deck to reject opportunism and make the nation work. What the people need in my view is a new reality and that is good life. Good governance is absent in our system. Nigerians deserve much better than they are getting from this government. Leaders must know that things can't continue the way they are. Certainly, things have to change.

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