We Dare To Be Different.
Strategic Actions for the Development and Enhancement of Nigeria: An Advice to the President
By Priye S. Torulagha
It is inferable that Nigerians suffer from “wanti wanti no get and geti geti no want” syndrome. Translated, this is a profound philosophical and parabolic statement which implies that those who have tend to have no value for what they have (geti geti no want) while those who seek to have find it difficult to get what they want (wanti wanti no get). Otherwise, it is difficult to imagine why Nigerians do not appreciate themselves. In other words, Nigerians do not seem to value themselves as Nigerians the way non-Nigerians value them. As a result, they spend most of their time trying to humiliate and destroy each other. On the other hand, non-Nigerians tend to have a greater respect for Nigeria and often wonder why Nigerians cannot put their act together and enable the country to be the beacon of Sub-Saharan Africa and the African Diaspora. Similarly, while Nigerians do not seem to be very appreciative of the potential of the country in becoming a great nation, non-Nigerians tend to have a much greater appreciation of the country’s potential for greatness.
Due to the feeling that Nigerians do not appreciate being Nigerians (geti geti no want) while non-Nigerians appreciate what it is to be a Nigerian (wanti wanti no get), what most Nigerians do not recognize is the fact that Nigeria is more than merely being a territorial entity encompassing a certain section of the West African region. Most non-Nigerians (other Africans, African-Americans, African-Europeans, Afro-Caribbeans, and Afro-Latin Americans, it seem, view Nigeria not only as a country but also as a concept, a philosophy, a dream, and a commonwealth for people with African ancestry. Similarly, for Americans, Asians and Europeans, Nigeria supposed to be the leading light for the stabilization of the African continent and the advancement of African civilization in terms of culture, politics, economics, and technology. Currently, in the comity of the continents, Asia, Europe, North America, South America, Australia are advancing politically, economically, agriculturally, scientifically, and technologically while Africa remains stagnant. Thus, Africa is not represented as a major contributing force in the advancement of the world because Nigeria has failed repeatedly to serve as the beacon of light for the advancement of the continent. The country has been unfortunate to have series of short-sighted, and corrupt political and military leaders who care only after their self interest, those of their wives, children, relatives and friends, thereby, ignoring the interests of the generality of the population.
Therefore, non-Nigerians are highly unimpressed about the inability of Nigerians to put their house in order and move the nation forward. In various discussions between Nigerians and non-Nigerians, whenever a Nigerian makes a statement that does not encourage national integration or suggests the possibility of dissolution, non-Nigerians get angry and wonder why should any Nigerian talk about disintegration, given the creative and highly industrious manpower and abundant natural resources. Non-Nigerians, more than Nigerians, pray that Nigeria survives as a modern state and grows to become a great nation because their destiny is greatly or somehow connected to Nigeria. Resultantly, Africans want Nigeria to be democratic, prosperous, and strong so that it can serve as an example to other African countries, help to stabilize the continent and lay the infrastructure for continental unity and development. For African-Americans, Afro-Caribbeans, and Afro-Latin-Americans, Nigeria is like the lost Egypt that must be revived. Their pride is tied to Africa and they are tired of Nigerian and African leaders turning the continent into a disaster zone in the world due to short-sightedness, greed and lust for power. The Americans, Asians, and Europeans are getting tired of seeing and hearing about African misery, hopelessness, and constant bloodbath. They are disappointed that Nigeria is unable to lead the continent to a better future. The outside stakeholders in the Nigerian project are totally disappointed that the only thing Nigerian leaders are noted for internationally and have done exceedingly well is their ability to loot the wealth of the country and stashing the loot in foreign banks to enrich themselves.
The purpose of this article is to suggest ways in which the new president could boldly take Nigeria to a much better future for Nigerians, Africans, Africans in the Diaspora, and the world. It is subdivided into four parts. The first part deals with internal development, the second part deals with African development, the third part focuses on the African Diaspora and the fourth part deals with global relations.
PART I: Internal Development: Bringing the government closer to the people by embarking upon programs that directly benefit the citizens.
To lead Nigeria, Africa, and the African Diasporic world into a better future, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua should look at the following suggestions:
1. The Relationship between President and the Vice President
Both must work together as a team. To work as a team, they must share information and be honest with one another. The president should listen to the vice president and the vice president should take policy directives from the president.
a. Accessibility: The president should make it easy for the vice president to gain access to him so that both can meet, talk, and strategize without impediments. This is intended to avoid miscommunication and rumor mongering.
b. Common Strategic Ground: Both the president and the vice president must strategize and establish a common ground before they go out to speak to the public. This is necessary so that both can speak from the same point of view and not contradict each other. Nigerians do not want their leaders to speak in a contradictory manner, thereby, creating unnecessary political tension in the country. Nigeria was a laughing stock when former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Vice President Atiku Abubakar openly washed their dirty linens in the public.
c. Respect for the Vice President: If Vice President Jonathan is disregarded or ignored by the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and those who make decisions for the country behind closed doors, the situation in the Niger Delta will not be calmed. The reason being that many people in the South-South and the South-East are convinced that Dr. Jonathan was chosen as a vice presidential candidate in order to neutralize the efforts of the South-South and the South-East to produce presidential candidates for the PDP during the 2007 elections. Many people also believe that the vice president was chosen in the hope of calming the militancy. Consequently, if he is politically sidelined or ignored, the people would say, he was merely chosen to knock off the two regions in the South so that the PDP would be able to transfer the leadership position to the North. It is crucial for him to be relevant in the decisionmaking process of the nation.
In this regard, do not saddle him solely with the responsibility of solving the Niger Delta problem. He should be treated as a vice president of Nigeria and not merely as a troubleshooter to resolve the Niger Delta issues. If he is assigned merely to deal with the region, people in the South-South would say the ‘power-wielders selected him as a vice president so that they can have someone to blame if the Niger Delta is not stabilized. The Niger Delta problem is a Nigerian problem created by Nigerian leaders. Consequently, solution must come from Nigeria. This means that Nigeria must negotiate in good faith by willing to give and take on the crucial issues. If Dr. Jonathan is assigned to facilitate the process, he must be given sufficient power to make deals that are binding. He should not be sent to the region merely as a messenger to deliver ‘Nigerian Orders’ to the people of the region.
2. Recycling of Non-Performers: President Yar’Adua should make every effort to resist stocking his government with former public and elected officials who failed to perform while they were in office. Former ministers and governors of the immediate past regime who did not perform well while they were in office or violated the law should not be reappointed. Such individuals have too many financial skeletons in their cupboards. Why reward incompetence, non-performance and corruption just because they have political connections and are members of the Peoples Democratic Party?
Those clamoring for federal appointment should be asked to explain what they intend to do for Nigeria if they are appointed. In other words, instead of appointing people merely to create political opportunities for them to have their own share of the ongoing loot of the public treasury, they should be asked to explain what they intend to do to advance the progress of the country. This is similar to what President John Kennedy of the United States did when he said “Do not ask what the country can do for you but what you can do for the country.”
Already, it is a bad omen that former President Olusegun Obasanjo is now the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the PDP. He is too manipulative, conniving, and too arm-twisting to make decisions that benefit the country. One had hoped that he would retire and go back quietly to Otta Farm, considering the fact that he is the only Nigerian who has had three opportunities to rule Nigeria. The president should try to bring new blood into the political system and force many of the old political warriors to retire and allow Nigeria to prosper.
3. Fight Corruption:
Develop an effective mechanism to eradicate corruption. It is impossible for Nigeria to develop politically and economically when those in positions of power are given a free hand to loot public money without any consequence. Consequently, the following actions might help in the war:
a. Declaration of Assets: All high level public and elected officials must declare their assets before assuming their new positions. Anyone who refuses to declare his/her assets should be disqualified from holding any public office. The declaration of assets must involve both national and state officials. The president and vice president should be congratulated for declaring their assets publicly. He should make the declaration of assets by public officials an official policy of his administration.
b. Background Investigation: In addition to declaring assets, every nominated and appointed high-level public official must have a background check conducted by the State Security Service SSS). Right now, it is very embarrassing that former governors who are now senators are being probed or arrested for previous misconduct. Thus, if the SSS had been allowed to conduct background investigations of political candidates before the elections, the fact that these former governors had questionable financial backgrounds would have been uncovered before they were allowed to go through the electoral process and now serves as senators.
c. The Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) must be allowed to continue their investigative work and prosecute those found to be in violation of the law concerning embezzlement and corruption.
The chairman of the EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu must be allowed to continue to head the commission. The reason is that he has a comprehensive tract of who has done what and who should be held for what. Moreover, since he has been in the trenches, fighting political wars to probe the most powerful people in society, he has developed a thick skin and cannot easily be sidetracked. A new chairman could be unduly influenced or intimidated since he would be fighting to maintain a foothold in the corridors of power at Aso Rock while trying to pursue those who have committed illegal financial acts but have strong foothold in Aso Rock through the Peoples Democratic Party. Now that EFCC has been put under the supervision of the Attorney General, the president must make sure that the AG does not play politics with the EFCC.
d. Returning of the Loot: Those who embezzled must be compelled to return stolen monies. If they are allowed to keep their loots, it will send a wrong signal, telling others that there is no punishment for committing the crime. It is very easy to know who has looted. Generally, throughout the world, it is impossible for public officials (civil servants, military, police, customs, naval etc. officers) and elected officials to become multimillionaires just by relying on their salaries. The only exception is that they were already wealthy before getting into government service. Therefore, when a Nigerian president, presidential assistants, ministers, governors, senators, representatives, local government chairpersons, permanent secretaries, directors, police commissioners, military officers etc. become multimillionaires while they are in office or are retired, that is indicative of the fact that such people might have misappropriated public funds while they were in office. Similarly, when a public official or an elected official lives in a house worth millions of naira, without any evidence of previous wealth or a loan from a bank to build the house, it means that a crime had been committed against the state.
e. Cleaning the Electoral Process: It is necessary to thoroughly clean the electoral process. Since 1999, almost every elected political office has been occupied through electoral rigging. It is a fact universally acknowledged that in 2007 April elections, a sizable number of Nigerians did not vote. This means that most elected officials today got into office through other means and not through the electoral process. Thus, the legitimacy of the entire Nigerian governmental leadership, both the at the federal and state levels is very questionable.
f. The Obasanjo Problem: If President Yar’Adua and Vice President Jonathan were to survive with their reputations intact and move the country forward in a progressive manner, they must distance themselves from Chief/Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo’s brand of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) politics. It is very Machiavellian, corrupting, corrosive, poisonous, authoritarian, destructive and unprogressive. Nigerians are tired of that kind of political shenanigan.
3. Transparency and Accountability:
Rumors continue to circulate that some of the states treasuries are empty. In other words, some of the states are broke because the previous governors made a thorough vacuuming of the treasuries before leaving office. Unfortunately, according to the rumors, the bankrupt states also include some or most of the oil-producing states.
Having publicly declared his own assets, it is necessary for the president to make it a duty that the federal government and the states issue quarterly financial reports detailing their expenditures so that the public is aware of how their revenues are spent. Such reports should be published so that Nigerians know what their governments are doing. The previous governors must be compelled to give account of their management of their state budgets.
3.The Rule of Law
The president must bring sanity to the law enforcement process in order to reinforce the rule of law in Nigeria. Right now, Nigeria is like the Wild West.
a. Enforcing the Law: In Nigeria, today, the law is not enforceable because of massive subversion of the judicial system through corruption. Police officers are poorly paid and expected to do so much in a country rife with political, economic, ethnic, and religious problems. There is total lack of trust by the public on the law enforcement agencies. In the 1960s and 1970s, the police station was the safest place for travelers to spend the night if they got to their destinations in the middle of the night. It was not uncommon for somebody going to Lagos from Calabar or Kano to spend the night at a police station until the morning before heading to his/her destination. In fact, during those decades, in any part of the country, if a Nigerian did not know where to go at night, the person would head to the nearest police station. Today, any Nigerian who goes to the police station to spend the night would be inviting trouble.
b. Conducive Legal Environment: Create a political and legal environment that would allow judges to perform their judicial duties without fear of intimidation or corrupting influences. It is crucial for judges to be able to make decisions based on the merits of the law so that the concept of “equality under the law” can be functionalized. Currently, only the powerless are sent to prison. The rich and or the powerful subvert the law at will.
c. Depoliticization of the Legal System: The law enforcement and judicial process must be depoliticized. It is unfair that those who were charged for various criminal offences during Gen. Sani Abacha’s regime, including Maj. Hamza al-Mustapha and Lt. Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi are still held. Why are their cases not resolved by now? Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha case was finally resolved after he had been held for two years Why is Ralph Uwazurike still in detention when others with similar charges have been released? The inconsistency in the application of the law creates political tension as people interpret the actions and the inactions of the political leaders.
It is necessary for the president to streamline the judicial process. In this regard, those who have been detained and are still waiting trial after one or more years should be discharged and all the charges dropped.
d. Politicians and Political Thugs and Cults: The rule of law is not possible if certain politicians are allowed to recruit and sponsor thugs and cult groups to cause mayhem in society. In some parts of the country, the police are totally powerless to enforce the law or protect life and property because some youth gangs are empowered by very powerful politicians to roam free. Therefore, to crack down on criminal elements, those politicians and elected officials who sponsor the gangs must also be arrested. It is not enough to merely go after the youths, after all, the youth gangs were recruited by the politicians to create and protect political territories and intimidate opponents during the elections of 2003 and 2007. The PDP contributed immensely to the situation in Port Harcourt and other parts of the country because the party wanted to win at all cost, hence, recruited storm-troopers in 2003 and 2007 to intimidate political opponents.
4. Government of the People for the People
The Federal Government, in the past three decades, catered mostly to the elite and ignored the masses. It is time to focus government attention on the needs of the people.
a. Rehabilitate the Infrastructure: Put emphasis on building and rehabilitating the infrastructure. Roads, airports, bridges, educational facilities, etc. need to be rehabilitated and or built. Right now, Nigerians are at the mercy of their creator whenever they take a road trip because the roads are in a very bad shape. Water and electricity should be basic necessities.
b. Modernize the health care system . Nigeria needs modern hospitals very badly. There should be a major federal medical center in every state of the nation. In addition, the Federal Government needs to institute a drug manufacturing program so as to make drugs readily available. The states too must build hospitals and health clinics to provide health services to their citizens.
At the same time, it is overdue to stop high-level public officials from traveling overseas for medical care. It is a financial drain on the economy as well as a social crisis when political leaders refuse to invest in medical facilities in Nigeria. It does not make any sense to fly certain individuals overseas for emergency medical treatment through government funding when medical facilities would have been built right in Nigeria to serve all Nigerians. Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha was sent to Dubai for medical treatment. Why is Dubai capable of instituting advanced medical facilities to help its citizens while Nigeria is unable to do so?
Part of the program to modernize the health care system should include efforts to resuscitate the decaying medical schools in Nigeria. It was doctors from these schools which performed medical wonders during the civil war.
c. Educational Institutions: The educational sector has suffered severely for lack of attention, maintenance and enhancement. It is time the Federal Government pays more attention to rehabilitating and enhancing the universities, colleges of technologies and federal owned secondary schools. To successfully do so, some of those bureaucrats who helped to destroy the public educational system must be let go and possibly prosecuted for endangering the future of the country.
If possible, the Federal Government should compel the states to also rehabilitate educational facilities in their territories. In Nigeria today, school buildings are like structures put in place temporarily in war zones to assist refugees.
d. Private Secondary Schools and Universities: Some of the private secondary schools and universities built with embezzled public funds should be seized and converted into public institutions. In this regard, private universities in which the owners could not convincingly account for how they were able to acquire the wealth that led to the building of the universities should be seized and incorporated as branches of the main public universities.
Public educational institutions began to suffer in the early 1980s as private institutions began to crop up in the country. It appears that those that were strategically placed in the public educational sector sacrificed the sector in order to allow private educational schools and universities to thrive. In particular, private universities became a symbol of personal success as some of the elites competed to establish the best private universities. Thus, as soon as one person established one, others immediately followed. There is no doubt that many private universities were (are) built with looted money, judging by the way the universities crop up so suddenly in many places in the country.
In Nigeria, since most privately held wealth is embezzled public funds, quite often, the looters really do not know what to do with the looted wealth. As a result, when one individual invests in a university, other embezzlers immediately follow suit. If these Nigerians are truly committed to higher education, they should donate money to the established universities. They can donate money by building dormitories, laboratories, libraries, equipments, etc. They can also donate money for scholarships, research grants, research projects, and help to turn the established universities into first class educational institutions, instead of draining public education of much needed money to build ego-boosting educational facades. In the 1960s and 1970s, Nigerian universities (University of Ibadan, University of Lagos, Ahmadu Bello University, University of Nigeria Nsukka, Obafemi Awolowo University, University of Benin etc.) were superior centers of academic learning. Today, they are mere shadows of their past.
It is really unfair to the Nigerian masses when high-level public officials destroy public education in the country and then send their children away to study in foreign countries.
5. Economic Development, Modernization, and Enhancement
It is shameful that Nigeria is still largely a raw-material exporting country, despite a very rich and enhanced manpower and natural resources. At this stage of its history, Nigeria should have been competing with Brazil, India, China, South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan. These countries have industrialized and are able to convert raw materials into finished products and compete globally. Right now, China and India are competing with the United States and Japan to import oil for their growing economies. The only specialization Nigeria is noted for is oil exportation. It is not even good at it due to massive corruption. It is not able to use the revenue from it to advance its economic development. The failure of Nigeria to join its contemporaries has helped to reinforce the racial theory that the black man is intellectually inferior and incapable of competing with other races. The Africans in the Diaspora bear the brunt of the racial theorization, stigmatization and slurs.
It is critical for Nigeria’s leaders to change their conduct and behavior if the racial theory of inferiority is to be eliminated. Otherwise, the black person will continue to be at the bottom of the socioeconomic order in every part of the world.
a. Diversification of the Economy: Diversify the economy by consciously allocating funds to develop and enhance other sectors. It is insulting for a country like Nigeria to depend entirely on only one product. It shows that the country’s leaders have been incompetent and lazy, hence, are not creative enough to develop other economic activities. Indeed, Nigeria’s leaders have been lazy intellectually and corrupt. On the other hand, the Arabian Gulf states are turning their desert kingdoms into flourishing centers of global economic activities while Nigeria stagnates due to massive foraging of its financial resources by its own leaders.
b. Local Automobile Production: Make sure that in four years, Nigeria is able to produce an automobile. It is overdue for Nigeria to produce its own vehicles. Generally, every country starts from somewhere and builds upon the experience. When South Korea began its automobile industry, people mocked its inferior cars. This is no longer the case as the country now competes globally with other automobile giants. Nigeria continues to rely on import, thereby, draining its foreign reserves. There is a potential huge market in Africa for an African automobile.
c. Global Telecommunication Effort: Turn Nigeria into a global computer and telecommunication business center. This means manufacturing as well as selling products and services.
d. Economic Plan: Set up a strategic economic plan in which Nigeria and South Africa become the nerve centers for the development of the African economy.
6. The Economic and Transportation Blockade of the South-South and the South-East:
People in the SS and SE feel that their zones are blocked tactically from engaging in direct international business through political subterfuge. They raise concerns about the following:
a. Direct International Flights: They wonder why it is so difficult to open the South-South and South-East to direct international air flights. They are tired of always passing through Lagos to go to Port Harcourt or Enugu or Calabar or Warri or Owerri or Ogoja or Benin or Uyo. They believe that somebody or some group in the Federal Government is manipulating the process, thereby, making it difficult to open the two zones to direct international flights. The effort to make Port Harcourt Airport a direct international flight center has been epileptic. As a result, the people in the South-South and the South-East are choked and frustrated. The risk factor is multiplied 100 times when someone coming from overseas has to land in Lagos, then find his/her way to the domestic airstrip in Lagos before taking off to his/her final destination in the country. The financial factor is multiplied when someone has to go to Lagos to clear up business deals.
Nigeria has a very dynamic population. Nigerians travel extensively, yet, the Federal Government seems uninterested in tapping into the rich commercial aviation business by opening up many airports to direct international flights. Why is it so difficult to open up Calabar, Owerri or Enugu, Warri or Benin, Ibadan, Kaduna, Maiduguri, Sokoto, Port Harcourt etc. airports to direct international flights? Why is Nigeria shooting itself on the foot by restricting the growth of an industry that can bring in extra revenue? For God’s sake, a country with more than 100 million people needs at least six modern international airports.
c. Port Harcourt Airport: It is incredulous that it has taken so long to fix the Port Harcourt Airport. It is also amazing that former Governor Peter Odili did not make any effort to fix the airport, knowing full well the importance of Port Harcourt to the oil industry and the people in the region. The new governor (Sir Celestine Omehia) too is not thinking about fixing the airport. In any case, the lack of interest on the part of the Federal Government to decisively fix the Port Harcourt airport shows that there is a political strategy to starve the South-South and the South-East of needed international business activities. Perhaps, this is done to make Lagos politically and economically dominant.
Due to the failure in fixing the PH Airport, Nigerians flying to Port Harcourt are being exploited financially. It takes at least N25,000 to fly into the old airport using Arik or Virgin Nigeria or Aero Services from Lagos. It is assumable that someone is manipulating the reconstruction of the PH Airport so that high fees could be charged for those wanting to fly directly to the city.
d. Southern Seaports: The people in the South-South and South-East also find it difficult to understand the reasons why Calabar, Port Harcourt, Warri, Sapele etc. seaports cannot be opened up for serious international sea trade. It seems that these seaports are intentionally controlled through Lagos, hence, are not allowed to grow to reflect the growing level of international trade among the citizens in these zones of the country. Currently, for certain international shipping activities, the individual must go to Lagos to clear up the administrative process before the goods are allowed into the country. Why, why and why? President Umar Yar’Adua needs to eliminate the roadblocks and allow economic trade throughout the country to flourish.
Although unimportant, these are some of the things that make the Niger Delta boils as the citizens feel exploited and trapped by national policies that penalize them for no logical reason. As a result, if Nigeria really wants to resolve the Niger Delta situation, it must adopt a comprehensive approach, thereby, examining all the potential causes of anger.
7. Stop the Privatization of Public Corporations and Properties
Since 1999, properties belonging to the Nigerian people have been sold to individuals without the permission of the citizens in the guise of privatization. The process has been very scandalous. Basically, the same individuals and groups are allowed to buy most of the properties, thereby, concentrating too much financial, economic, and political power in few hands. The most painful aspect of the privatization exercise is that many individuals who are allowed to buy public properties actually acquired their wealth through looting of public funds. This means that the buyers are given two opportunities to slap Nigerian people on the face. First, they either loot money belonging to the citizens or acquire oil blocks freely and then use the money to buy properties belonging to the people.
No government property should be sold by either the Federal Government or the states without public discussion of the merits and demerits. Similarly, no government property should be sold without legislative approval. The executive branch should not be given a free hand to dispose off the properties of the citizens. Under the leadership of former President Obasanjo, privatization enriched his close friends while leaving other Nigerians empty-handed.
8. Demilitarization of the Political Culture
Even though the present political dispensation is claimed to be civilian and democratic, in actuality, it is very militarized. The generality of the public has no input on the policy making process, whether at the national or state level. The political leaders do whatever that captures their imagination. The following attest to the militaristic nature of the political culture as perpetuated by government:
a. Freedom of Expression: Nigerians cannot freely express themselves due to the suffocating nature of the politics. There is fear of being detained or killed for saying the right thing at the wrong place and at the wrong time.
b. The Right to Assemble: The government has made it very difficult for people to assemble and express their political feelings without first getting permission from the police. Since 1999, the police have clammed down on any form of political gathering. The police have no hesitation to use excessive force in order to stop Nigerians from demonstrating.
c. Overreaching Security System: The intelligence services, as reflected by the State Security Service (SSS) operate as if the country is still under military dictatorship. A Nigerian can be easily arrested and detained without due process of law. It is very easy for a Nigerian to be accused of antigovernment statements or activities and picked up by the SSS. Government agents are almost all over the place, watching and listening to what Nigerians are saying.
d. The Use of Government Institutions Against the Citizens: Political leaders and public officials use government institutions, especially the police, army, and the SSS to protect themselves against the citizens. As a result, a governor can commit any act and get away with it. On the other hand, if a citizen tries to use the instruments of the law to encourage the governor to behave according to the law, the governor can use the police to silent the citizen. Generally, the police or army or the SSS do not ask questions about the constitutionality of an order before rushing to aggressively silent a citizen for speaking out.
e. Suffocating Political Culture: Although national and state political leaders are not aware that the suffocating political culture and environment are partially responsible for forcing some Nigerians to arm themselves, the fact remains that if Nigerians are not allowed to freely express themselves, then they would be compelled to speak through force in order to counterbalance the state use of force to impede their rights. The Oodua Peoples Congress came about because Yoruba youths felt that the Nigerian system was killing their people and they needed to protect their interest. Niger Delta youths believe that their future is being destroyed and no one seems to listen to their concerns, hence, they must arm themselves and counterbalance the state use of force to ‘occupy their lands and expropriate their resources’. Igbo youths feel that Nigeria continues to treat Igboland as a conquered territory, thereby, depriving them the opportunity to participate fully in the Nigerian project, hence, they are compelled to revive Biafra through Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra. Northern youths have felt for decades that their Islamic cultural interests were not reflected in Nigeria’s legal system, hence, they were compelled to forcefully enact Sharia law in many parts of Northern Nigeria.
f. Militarization of the Political Culture: The militarization of the political culture in a democratic political system was facilitated by former President Obasanjo, a former military general who acted as if he was head of a military regime. As can be seen, the PDP is operated like a military organization, hence, opposition is not allowed. As soon as anyone is perceived to oppose former President Obasanjo and or other top members of the party, the person is immediately thrown out of the party or humiliated. The PDP does not tolerate any form of opposition. Chief Audu Ogbeh, Ret. Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma, and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar can testify to the PDP system of authority.
President Yar’Adua must demilitarize the political culture and allow Nigerians to freely express themselves, as far as they do not threaten the safety and security of others. It was Sigmund Freud, the psychoanalyst, who suggested that people must be allowed to release their pent up energy. He called this catharsis. He explained that if people are not allowed to express their pent up energy, they would release it in a negative manner. Translated politically, if the state does not allow citizens to express their feelings freely, one way or another, they would do so, regardless of what the state says or do. As can be seen, Nigerians are expressing their pent up feelings in many different ways, regardless of what the government is trying to do to stop them. Evidently, it is more preferable for people to freely express themselves publicly than to be forced to do so violently. When they are forced to do so, they can become uncontrollable and threaten the existence of the state/government.
9. National Conference
Part of the need for Nigerians to freely express themselves includes the right to hold a national conference. Since independence, Nigerians have been prevented from discussing the future of the country by political and military leaders. For whatever reason, it appears that the leaders are always afraid of the Nigerian people, hence, do not want them to discuss their political existence. It is worth noting that the last major national effort by Nigerians to hold a Sovereign National Conference was scuttled by former President Obasanjo who hurriedly set up the National Political Reform Conference to manage the discussion. It is impossible for the country to grow and become stable if the people are not able to freely discuss how to set up a constitutional system that reflects their needs. The country seems to gallop along in a disorganized manner.
Nigerians have never truly discussed the nature of the Nigerian state. They have been forced to live under conditions set by the colonial system. The contradictions emanating from forced incorporation contributed to the civil war and are the causes of perpetual instability, bad governance, and pathological looting of the public treasury. It appears that no one, including elected and high public officials, have faith in Nigeria, hence, the rush to loot its resources.
10. Redefine the Nature and Role of the Armed Forces:
It is obvious that Nigeria’s armed forces continue to operate as if they are extension of the West African Frontier Force. As a result, their main task continues to be the physical maintenance of security.
The limited nature of their task forces them to become a negative force in the country. It is not a secret that military rule devastated the country. It is also not a secret that the wanton looting of the public treasury began with military generals who did not care about accountability, transparency and the rule of law. It is not a secret that Nigeria’s armed forces have always found it very difficult to coexist in a state of peace with the civilian population.
Caught in the cobweb of security, the armed forces are not growing psychologically, scientifically and technologically. Otherwise, the armed forces would have been the leading force for the industrialization of the country. Throughout history, the military have always led the process for technological advancement. Nigeria’s road to technological development would have started at the end of the civil war. Basically, the military would have set up a Research and Development program to tap into the technological devices that the war produced on both sides and use such devices to develop new weapons systems as well as consumer goods. It should also be noted that the civil war was a laboratory for medical experiments and practices as the doctors on both sides did wonders to treat the wounded. The armed forces would have recruited all the medical doctors who served in the war and set up a sophisticated medical research laboratory to advance the field of health care in Nigeria
As can be seen, due to excessive focus on security, the armed forces do not provide the kind of environment that allow for intellectualization, experimentation , and simulation of systems, models, and technologies. Nigeria continues to import most of its arms because of lack of R & D and industrial development. Even though the country is blessed with people who can build ships, the Navy still relies on imported ships, instead of building its own. Therefore, there is no growth in the armed forces. Soldiers and naval personnel are trained to fight only and nothing more. This is not good enough in a fast changing world.
The 2020 Year Mark for Nigeria’s Development: The yardstick of 2020 is politically misleading to the public. A plan should be based on five or 10 year periods. The reasons is that if President Yar’Adua really wants to make an impact, he should be able to achieve some measurable developmental goals within the duration of his administration. There is no guarantee that by 2020 the same regime would still be in power. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the regime that would be in power in 2020 would even consider some of the plans being proposed today.
PART 2: African Development: Improving Nigeria’s Role in African Political and Economic Development
Nigeria should play a greater role in the African continent. The following are some ways in which the country can become more proactive:
1. Create a Ministry of African Affairs to take care of matters dealing with the African continent.
2. Work toward the realization of the African Commonwealth or Federation. This is very important because the current European colonial model is very destructive to the development and progress of the continent. The current system is a drag because it was designed to serve the strategic interests of the colonial powers. An African Union or Commonwealth would eliminate the artificial colonial boundaries, encourage African leaders to pay closer attention toward the development of the continent, and apply African concepts, ideas, and practices toward solving African problems, instead of always borrowing from the outside.
On this point, it is doubtful whether Nigeria is capable of taking proactive measures toward the realization of an African Commonwealth. The doubt is based upon the fact that for most of its existence, it has pursued a reactive African policy. As a result, it has not contributed intellectually toward the maturation of the dream of a United Africa. On the other hand, Ghana has been the most proactive force toward the integration of Africa. Even though the Late Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was greatly influenced by the Late Dr.Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nigeria’s leaders have been very conservative toward Africanization of the continent. As a result, Ghana holds the title for the intellectualization of the dream toward creating Africa in the image of the African people.
The only time Nigeria became active was when Gen. Murtala Mohammed took over the leadership of the country and decided to launch an African policy intended to bring changes that would benefit the continent. President Obasanjo tried by actively being engaged in solving thorny political and military problems in Sierra Leone and Liberia and Sudan. However, the score card for him is a mix bag because he helped to perpetuate the exploitation of the Niger Delta and attempted to forge military alliances that would have been to the disadvantage of Nigeria.
3. Establish a functional African Military Command.
It is time for Nigeria to take active role in creating an African High Command (AHC). This is necessary because foreign powers are only interested in their strategic goals, not those of Africa. The AHC should be responsible for managing conflicts in the continent. On this point, Nigeria, South Africa, and Egypt should join forces to create the machinery of the command. When this command is fully established, the United Nations and other foreign organizations would be compelled to work through the African High Command to resolve any matter involving Africa. If an African High Command was in place, the Darfur situation would have been different since the matter would have been exclusively discussed by African leaders, thereby, minimizing foreign meddling. The Sierra Leonean and Liberation situations were brought to an end because African leaders did most of the work to diffuse the conflicts.
4. Integration of African Economy
There is no doubt that the present economic system is not beneficial to the continent since it is based essentially upon the exportation of raw materials. On the other hand, most finished goods are imported from abroad. An economic system based on exportation of critical raw materials can never lead to economic and political stability since the prices of both raw and finished goods are set by countries which produce finished goods. Thus, countries which produce raw materials are always at the mercy of those which produce finished goods. As can be seen, Nigeria is a major exporter of petroleum, yet, it is unable to provide petrol and gas to its citizens. Nigeria even imports petrol from other countries to satisfy its market. Almost every African country, with the exception of South Africa, depends on others to maintain their economies.
The strategic goal of Nigeria should be to work toward galvanizing a new economic order in which both raw and finished goods are produced in Africa. This requires the mobilization and integration of economic activities in the continent through the establishment of an African Economic Market or Common Market. An African Economic Market would lead to an increase in the economic value of Africa in the world.
5. Traditional and Scientific Medicine: Nigeria should also lead the effort to integrate scientific medicine with traditional medicine. Africa is a great pharmaceutical laboratory with all kinds of fauna and flora that have chemical components capable of curing various ailments. Yet, instead of tapping into this rich continent for its medical needs, there is a tendency to wait for imported medicine to arrive before any major medical activity takes place.
PART 3: Uniting and Enhancing African Diaspora
The African Diaspora needs active participation on the part of Nigeria to advance its goals and objectives. In this regard, the following steps or actions could be very crucial for Nigeria:
1. Establish a Ministry of African Diasporic Affairs.
It is significant for Nigeria to establish a ministerial organization that focuses on the African Disapora, There are about 250 million people of African descent in the Americas and Europe, excluding pockets of blacks in Russia, India and other places. Brazil alone has about 80 to 85 million people of African ancestry. Thus, after Nigeria, Brazil has the second largest population of black people in the world. Generally, it is estimated that there about 150 to 170 million black people in Latin America, including Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Honduras, Peru, Cuba, Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rico etc. The United States has about 35 million black people. The Caribbean Islands have a total population of about fifteen million people of African descent, stretching from Bermuda to Trinidad and Aruba near Venezuela.
In many parts of Latin America, there is constant denial by the governments about the existing of black people in their countries. Consequently, most people with African descent live like ghosts in a state of non-political existence. They are seen but rarely heard from. They are at the very bottom of the socioeconomic and political order.
a. Relationship with African Diasporic Communities: Nigerian embassies and consulates in most countries in the Caribbean and Latin America need to be more proactive in establishing relationship with the African communities. This is necessary to create a sociopolitical bridge and let them know that their kith and kin are interested in their affairs.
b. Cultural and Information Centers: Nigeria needs to build cultural and information centers around their embassies and consulates. Such centers would promote cross-cultural activities, disseminate cultural information about Nigeria and Africa, exhibit African arts, and organize conferences dealing Africa and the African Diaspora. Most Afro-Caribbeans and Afro-Latinos are very interested in African culture and African Affairs. Unfortunately, a vast majority of African countries are not helpful at all in providing the kinds of information that would enable people in the world to understand Africa.
c. Teach Foreign Languages: To institutionalize the effort, it is necessary for Nigeria’s secondary schools to teach English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. These are the most spoken languages by the people in the African Diaspora. Thus, more Nigerians need to know how to speak these languages so that some can be sent to countries in which these African live.
d. Training Centers: It is necessary to create educational and training centers to help increase the rate of education and the ability of these Africans to survive. In most of the countries, they are ignored and have been feigning for themselves since they were forcibly taken out of Africa. Surprisingly, Africans in the Diaspora have been the most fervent promoters of African traditions and religions. Most educated Africans either claim to be Christians or Moslems. In Haiti, Cuba, and Brazil etc., African religions are openly practiced and promoted. In Africa, there is a tendency for Africans to shy away from their own religious heritage due to the colonial influence on the educational system.
2. Establish an African Diasporic Fund
One way to facilitate African Diasporic affairs is to create an African Diasporic Fund. This fund should be used to develop projects where African people are located. For instance, out of the fund, a certain percentage of the budget could be allocated to the United Negro College Fund and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in the United States. The UNCF is greatly responsible for funding Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) that train African-American youths. The NAACP is greatly responsible for fighting political and legal rights for African-Americans and other minorities.
A certain percentage of the fund could be sent to the Caribbean Islands as a form of development fund to help them boost their educational institutions and economies. In particular, Haiti needs Nigeria’s help very badly. What stops Nigeria from participating in a peace keeping operation in Haiti? What stops Nigeria from sending Nigerians to serve as teachers in the country?
A certain percentage of the budget of the fund could be set aside and send to Latin-American countries so that the blacks could develop training centers, institute health care facilities and build small business programs. A certain percentage of the fund could be set aside for Afro-Brazilians. The African people there are just beginning to develop political and cultural consciousness.
It should be noted that African-Americans have been the driving force toward the reawakening of African cultural and political consciousness in Afro-Latin America, instead of Nigeria or South Africa. In Africa, Ghana gets the credit for serving as the center of Pan-African consciousness, not Nigeria.
3. Establish an African Diasporic Scholarship Program
As part of the effort to mobilize the African Diaspora, a scholarship which brings students together to study in Africa would be very beneficial. The scholarship should enable students with African ancestry from the United States, Europe, Afro-Caribbean Islands, and Afro-Latin America to study in African schools. It will also enable African students to study in various parts of the world where a sizable population of people with African ancestry exist. Currently, the Yoruba language is being offered as part of a degree program in the Federal University of Bahia, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. Since knowledge is power, it is crucial for African youths to know themselves across the board.
PART 4: Increasing Nigeria’s Global Presence
Internationally, Nigeria must begin to act like a decisive power and not like a confused state. To do so, the country needs to do the following:
1. Minimize Outside Political Assistance:
Nigeria must stop seeking political assistance from the outside to solve its internal problems. Anytime Nigeria seeks outside help to solve its internal matters, it weakens itself by opening itself up to outside manipulation of its internal political situation.
Thus, Nigeria’s ability to get respect and increase its value in international relations would greatly depend upon its ability to accomplish the above three parts. By improving its internal political and economic situation, strengthening African political unity and boldly reaching out to the African Diaspora, Nigeria would automatically increase its value world-wide as a major player. It is the surest way for Nigeria to get a seat as a permanent member of the Security Council of the United Nations.
2. International Military Alliances:
Avoid forming military alliances that could destabilize the country and the continent. Nigeria should adopt a non-aligned military policy so that it can be seen as a neutral force and be able to intervene in any hot spot, especially in the African continent without being accused of serving foreign interests. Moreover, it is laughable to hear of India and Pakistan attempting to offer military assistance to Nigeria in the area of terrorism. If these two countries were so effective in curtailing terrorism in their own backyards, they would have amicably resolved the Kashmir problem. It is due to their failure to resolve that problem that has forced them to acquire nuclear weapons. Likewise, the Indian sub-continent is crawling with armed groups and the two countries have not been able to deal decisively with such groups. Right now, Pakistan is griped with a severe case of armed resistance in some of its regions. Similarly, in India, no month goes by without an incident of bomb explosion. Therefore, it is not possible for these two countries to offer any help to any other country in the area of terrorism. Perhaps, they wish to extend their rivalry over Kashmir to Nigeria, hence, the competition to have a military foothold in Nigeria. Likewise, perhaps, they are interested in having a foothold on Nigeria’s oil wealth.
3. International Financial Loans:
Avoid taking loans from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. International loans from these banks have a tendency to impede the sovereignty of the country since the conditions for gaining such loans often result in surrendering to the whims and caprices of the countries that dominate the international money lending organizations.
As indicated by the suggestions above, it is obvious that the seven points enumerated by the president are not enough to move the country into a better future. It is necessary for Nigeria’s leaders to look beyond Nigeria so that they can conceptualize and analyze the forces at play internationally. Similarly, the statements made by the new minister of foreign affairs regarding focusing the attention of the government on the Nigerian people is not enough to make much difference in the lives of the Nigerian people.
In any case, President Yar’Adua has his work cut out for him. His place in Nigeria’s history will be determined by his commitment to actually changing the culture of corruption in the country. He will not succeed if he does not fight corruption with all his might. Consequently, the success of his administration greatly depends upon his ability to tame the uncontrollable monster that is destroying the country from top down. Therefore, President Yar’Adua and Vice President Jonathan must think like intellectuals and act like carpenters. Intellectualization is necessary to conceptualize various ideas and acting like a carpenter is necessary to produce practical results.