WEDNESDAY COLUMN BY USSIJU MEDANER
In the midst of infinite, compounding misnomers that have come to characterise the Nigerian public system, when our social infrastructure has been bitten by our very bold selfishness, and lack of considerations for the consequences of our actions, reactions, and utterances on the sanity and sanctity of the nation, it become clear that huge and coherent forces of conspiracies, divisiveness and despotism have arose and taken over the inviolability and workings of the country; and unfortunately, the only and best frontal response, the patriotism of the citizens to act collectively in defense of the country and uphold justice that guarantees liberty and safety of lives and properties, has gone over the fence.
Over the last few weeks, I have repeatedly written about the Nigerian national insecurity, in many attempts to unravel what could have gone wrong, and to seek solution among many possibilities. I have thrown tantrums at perceived individuals behind the woes of the nation as much as I have both strongly and feebly present pliable solution pathways to resolving our common national challenges. Just now, in my many ruminating, I came to the fresh realisation that we wouldn’t achieve much confronting insecurity as a national problem, until we first travel down memory lane, to identify the precursors to insecurity in Nigeria, which are numerous, requiring technically and sincerely removing them wholesale to pave way for a feasible and result-oriented fight against insecurity.
The problems we face now cannot be traces to a singular causative factor; many things were going wrong simultaneously in the past that we failed to check and redress them because part of the problem was our innate inability to speak truth to issues and respond in ways that benefit the country without prioritising personal and sectional gains. Immediately after independence, we knowingly allow the seed of tribal and religious discords to be sown in the country; rather than concentrating on developmental agendas, as early as 1965, we were already engulfed with internal chaos that till now we failed to address or mitigated in any form and by any means. As at 1965, the country was already divided; and for the next fifty six year, we have not for once been able to converge on a coherent solution to the division so created. Instead, we continuously deepen the gulf created by the problem in the country.
We have had several meltdown points as a country; ethinic and religious driven coups, civil war, unnecessary killings and displacements across the country; we have seen corruption eaten deep into our common wealth. We have survived by chance despite a couple of attempts to sever our unity; we have by chance survived too many near misses that could have ended our being as a nation. Yet, it had never occurred to us, at any point in the past till now, to ever think of discussing these issues. It is unimaginable that we have not discussed the civil war as a people; that we have not constructively discussed ending corruption. Yet, we want to end the hatred-induced insecurity without taking away the underlying entrenched hatred; we want to end the corruption-induced uprising against the country while corruption still thrives everywhere in the country. We choose to ignore the law of action and consequence. The insecurity of today are the consequences of our many wrong doings against the people and the country, in the past and till now; and ending them will also begin with righting the wrongs and stopping the wrongs.
At no time in the past had we sincerely converged to discuss solutions to the very many cracks in our corporate existence as a national entity. What we saw again and again, are politicians using the gimmicks of peace to deepen their political dominance; giving the citizens and the country an illusory arrangement of peace talks that ends up creating more divisions and cracks in the country. At a time, the Oputa panel would have been the turning point for the country, but unfortunately, we couldn’t overcome the political dilution and the stench of hypocrisy in our actions as Nigerians, and once again, the much anticipated gains of the panel were lost on us. Graduating from ethnic and religious motivated coups, we moved on to selective disparaging, killings and displacement along tribal and religious lines of citizens from regions and locations across the country, and an outburst of hatred that pitched Nigerians against Nigerians almost irreconcilably.
The population of Nigerians that were at various times before now killed or displaced by religious and ethnic attacks across the country would most probably be at par if not more than the population, affected by the current insecurity; Boko Haram, banditry and kidnapping altogether. Killing Nigerians without cause has been an issue we have refused for decades to address. Post-election crisis, land boundary disputes and electioneering outings have so many times ferociously cost Nigeria more lives than the bandits are doing presently. But we have never, not during any of the past administration or now, recognised the need to address this as a critical insecurity disposing factor for the country. We claim to be serious at ending chaos in the country, we fill the air with a gyration of call to end insecurity; forming seriousness across regions, but pretend not to recognise that we still hate ourselves and would not hesitate to pull the dagger at ourselves if and when the need arises.
Rather than converging to discuss real, feasible, and sincere solutions, we gather under umbrellas of tribal, religious and regional foci, to create a new line of separation, while discussing interest of alignments instead of the progress of the country. in the midst of the mounting security challenges, we haven’t been able to convene, whether at private or government level, a unity conference to discuss the problems, but have, with all the ease, been regularly gathering on the platforms of religious, tribal, regional and political differences to discuss and proclaim resolutions that both directly and indirectly further deepened the national chaos.
In the midst of the national insecurity, what matters to the East is autonomy of governance; they want Biafra; for the West is a clamour for Oduduwa Republic; for the North central is being mugged to organise for their own separation. Political parties are strategising on how to profit from the chaos instead of sincerely contributing to solve the national problem. All of us, we are busy at our many corners, meeting, reporting and responding to the chaos in ways that improve our personal lots and standings but pull the nation deeper into disunity. While we are being plummeted on all sides by insecurity, rather than discussing the problem and way out, the national airwaves is filled with struggles for self determinations, spreading of rhetoric that justifies cause for balkanisation of the country, setting up the population against the country and setting up the atmosphere for greater chaos.
From the beginning, we accepted corruption to thrive and watched as the nation got paralyzed by the unbridled magnitude of corruption perpetuated by citizens against the country. The nation gradually groomed rebels against the system without caring. There is no way to not expect that eventually some Nigerians would rise against the system given the extent of the non-stop oppression by the leaders who chose to corner the wealth of the nation into private purses. If till today, all the mouth watering revelationa of corruption under the Jonathan administration and the perpetrators remain at large enjoying proceeds of their ill-gotten wealth in a country that continuously becomes impoverished, how could we expect citizens who took to kidnapping to willingly rescind? How many would become desperate to access a portion of national wealth or forcefully acquire wealth within the country, without minding the consequences on the citizens and the country, in the manner of the politicians and leaders who pilfer the country without caring for the welfare of the state and are not facing any consequences.
From the outset, we virtually reconstructed the mindset of the citizens to overtly hold the government at the center responsible for the entire woes of the country, while ignoring non-performances of elected officers at state and local government level. We choose for ourselves the federal system, giving ample power to the states to run, administer and guarantee the availability of basics that allow their citizens to enjoy their fundamental human rights and their shares of the resources of their states. The state, governed by their respective governors are not controlled by the federal government, but represent autonomous, immense power blocs within the country. The states monthly access their agreed share of the national wealth for the development of their various states, exclusive of their internally generated revenues. Some of these states outside these regular income sources, still enjoy intervention funds and additional legislated revenue for further development capacity; yet, the underdevelopment of states in the country is at an alarming level. Infrastructural facilities are either non-existing or dilapidated, states workers continually groan under state government insensitivity to their plights, job creation for the youths is totally off the table in most states of the federation. All insecurity crumbling the nation today are state issues that boomerang because they were not addressed timely. More Nigerians are turning to kidnapping because they could not survive in their various states any longer. These states access and share as much as N2.30 trillion every other month while the 774 local government areas share as much as N1.60 trillion every other year; we have never bothered to ask why living standards could remain as they are in almost all Nigeria states despite the huge monthly allocations. We have never bothered to ask the question: why there are no job creations at state level for Nigerian youths; we have never asked questions as to why life is still as poor as it is for us in our various states. Not at any time have we questioned the stupendous wealth of elected political officeholders in our states while the states get poorer and underdeveloped. Instead of holding our state leaders accountable for non-availability of food stuff or the high cost of the same in our state; instead of asking them question on why the health sector in the states remain moribund; instead of asking question why state-run education sector stays crumbled, and why there are no job creation pathways to absorb the youths of the state, both into government and private sector; instead of asking to what use has the states been putting the non-accountable security votes they receive regularly, and yet there have been no semblance of peace in the states; instead, we have chosen to erroneously lay them all at the step of the president.
This is not because we don’t know how to ask questions or what questions to ask; but because we have been programmed to see the President or whoever heads the federal government as the problem of the country. I was reading a comment about Edo state a few days ago. I read of the outcry against non-performance of the state government. Benue state is more of a leaderless state considering the almost absence of development in the state. The South-south states are the worst, considering the overwhelming resources at their disposal and the obvious non-development of the region over the years. The local government has literally become a monthly money-sharing center for those who corner the revenue of the local government in all the 774 local governments in the country. It is very rare to see an exception to that.
Yet, these governors are vocal voices against the Federal government. Governor Ortom in Benue is bold to accuse the Federal government of the underdevelopment of his state, of the insecurity of his state. Governor Obaseki is much bolder to castigate the Federal government for non-performance; and so are the other governors. Yet the citizens are behind the governors, singing their praises as mouthpieces of the suffering masses. What an irony! At its best, it wouldn’t still be the job of the Federal government to develop our states, and as long as we refuse to put pressure on our state leaderships to become accountable for the resources and wealth of the states, we would continue to have states that breed dissidents, kidnappers, bandits and steady supply insurgents, as an alternative means of survival in a system is that careless about their citizens survival.
It is a fact that we are at a critical crossroad as a country and as a people, but as blunt and darkened the states of national security, economy and social interactions are, they are not completely beyond redemption. We can still get Nigeria back on track; we can still have our peaceful cities and towns. The state of Borno can return to live up to its slogan, “Land of peace.” We can still become an economically viable state and consolidate our title as the giant of our continent. This will however come with a price; are we willing to pay the price?
At the background of solving our many problems, whether economic, security or social breakup of the units, is the need for the country to resolve its non-alignment and separation issues. Until we are ready to pay the price that brings us back together as a whole to discuss Nigeria and not sectional or regional comforts, we are yet to begin. Until then, we will continue to have criminals, bandits, terrorists and kidnappers hiding behind the cloaks of the division we created to torment us.
The leaders from all regions must become ready to take the frontal role of waging in their region to let go of their many grievances and anger against the center and be ready to engage other regions, sincerely on the way forward for the country – as a first time in the history of the country. This is the time to halt the many drifting away from the center in the interest of the nation; the time to speak to ourselves that the differences between us is not the South and the North, but the good and the bad. The bad, the enemies of the country, are our common enemies and are not localized to any specific region, but equally spread across the country. We must converge to resist them in the interest of all good Nigerians. This is the time for us to be ready to pay the price for the indivisibility of Nigeria; the time to shelve all of our disagreements and differences. This is the time to come together across all tribal, regional and religious demarcations that we have for too long carved out for ourselves.
Meetings of the divided Governors’ Forum are a signal to more doom for Nigeria. How do we talk of uniting as a country to solve the national problems, when the leaders of the states are already polarised to achieve regional agendas? The need to shelve our differences must begin from the governors. The Governors’ Forum must unite, not to flex muscle with the president, but to collaborate with efforts to move the country forward and if possible recommended measures to move the country from where we are now to where we want to be.
When we have the sufficient capacity to come together to discuss Nigeria on a common front, then we must recognise that it is only the truth that can set us free. Speaking truth to issues is an agenda we must all embrace; we have lied to ourselves for too long and we have covered up too many things that make peace impossible for the country. We cannot begin to ask for a united, functioning Nigeria when we are not ready to discuss accountability from leadership; when we are not ready to discuss equality for citizens; when we are not ready to discuss the huge gap existing between the rich and the poor in the country; when we are not ready to finally withdraw all support for corruption and set our minds to defeat the menace wherever it is found in our system.
We must discuss Nigeria; the equal chances of survival of various units within the enclave; the right of all units to the wealth and blessedness of the country. We must find a way to reset the working structure of the country for efficiency of sectors and peace of citizens. But this discussion cannot take place in the atmosphere of rigid desires for regional interests. This is the time for compromises from inside and from all sides. If we can find it, this is the time for love.
GOD BLESS THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA.