Can Nigeria attain the “Next Level”?

Can Nigeria attain the “Next Level”?

By: Idumange John

When I reminisced in my quiet times, I sometimes wonder why the Nigerian State has not collapsed. I am thoroughly perplexed why 9ja has not gone the way of Yugoslavia,
Bosnia or other states that have disintegrated. I then realized that Nigerians
are a unique people with an inelastic capacity to endure bad governance and
tolerate rubbish. It is the uncanny ability to endure excruciating pains - like
the proverbial bedbug, that distinguishes us from the Tamils in Sri-Lanka; the
Moros Islamists in the Philippines, the people Chechnya in Russia and the
Zapatistas in Mexico. Nigerians are naturally obedient, pious and good natured
people – a reason Dora’s rebranding balm is soothing.

It is a herculean task to operationalize the term “Next Level” because the general connotation is that “Next Level” implies a better standard of
living, a level where the peoples happiness is maximized. In Nigeria, it is a
tricky assignment to decipher whether or not Nigeria is developing, stagnating
or even retrogressing. Fifty years after independence, Nigeria still cut the
figure of a colossus walking in crutches, and our leaders are very comfortable
with this permanent incapacity. Nigeria we hail the!

Again, “Next Level” may appear nebulous; because any attempt at measuring the height Nigeria has attained in good governance, economic development and social
progress bristles with some identifiable difficulties. Nigeria is richly endowed with human and
material resources, yet the nation is categorized among the Highly Indebted
Poor Countries (HIPC), with very low Human Development Index (HDI), Gross
Domestic Product (GDP) and low life expectancy rate. And whatever direction we
turn and whichever development indicator we look at, Nigeria is harassed by bad
statistics. Succinctly put, Nigeria is a “Failed State” (no apologies to the Vision
20:2020 dreamers)

Since independence in 1960, the various odd ethnic nationalities precariously lumped together by the Lugardian Fiat have not coalesced to become socially and
functionally integrated organic community. This situation has placed national
integration at high risk. The
Presidential System we have adopted since 1979 has not fared better either.
Fifty years after independence, the story line has not changed dramatically.
Nigeria has remained a victim of high-level corruption, bad governance and
cyclical illegitimacy.

Most of the challenges facing the legitimacy of our nation bother on the economy and the allocation of scarce resources. Some of the fundamental issues that have
triggered centrifugal pressures in Nigeria’s body politic include: revenue
allocation among the three tiers of government; the struggle for equitable
fiscal federalism; state and LGA creation; boundary adjustments issues
concerning federal character and good governance. We may also add zoning of
poverty to the long list of troublous issues.

In my considered opinion, the concept of moving Nigeria to the next level presupposes that we are not satisfied with where we are, and this unsatisfactory situation provides renewed impetus
for positive change in all facets of life in a rapidly globalizing world. But social injustice walks with four legs in
our Of course, there is social injustice and inequity in all facets of our
national life. Any nation, which fails to enthrone social justice, is marked
out for self-destruction.

The Federal Government has created a situation of inequality in the development arithmetic of the geo-political zones making-up the country, such that access
to and participation in the oil and gas business is dominated by people who
contribute virtually nothing to the economy. The unacceptable status quo has
been legitimized by the implementation of obnoxious laws such as the Land Use
Act and the Petroleum Act among others.

Public office holders at all levels of government are dominated by powerful mandarins who use their offices to cultivate personal militias to secure their estates
acquired with public resources. As a
nation we have dallied with all types of government. We have also tried to
erect a truly united, democratic and self-reliant nation anchored on justice,
equity and fairness. But because of lack of sincerity, these laudable efforts
evaporated in a puff of elusive smoke.

There is public outcry about the declining quality of the product of our educational system. The poor quality is reflected in the very low productivity and job performance of graduates which
is not matched with the amount certification.
The credential gap poses a challenge for quality. It is a national shame
that most Nigerian Universities can conveniently be labeled as glorified high schools. Our cherished
values are fast fading. Values such as honesty and hard work, probity,
accountability and community spirit are being replaced by dishonesty, greed and
individualism. The value flux in the larger society has made a wild incursion
into the ivory tower where most youths tend to adopt the short-cut tradition
rather than painstakingly going through the long, tortuous way that leads to
academic excellence.

Since 1998, Nigeria was classified by the World Bank as a fragile State with a soft economy. Our debts have been written off but the present administration has
not stopped borrowing. The Minister of finance declared publicly that Nigeria’s
economy is on the upward swing, yet we are intensifying borrowing. The nation can
only sink deeper in the quagmire of financial anomie.

In the area of governance, we seem to have taken a giant leap backwards. Our electoral system is far from transparent. The new Electoral Act is yet to be
tested. Free, fair and credible elections do not end with the appointment of a
tested umpire; it also involves aggressive voters’ education to discourage
vote-buying and ballot rigging. More than three years after the present
administration was took office, there is still sprinkling of cases pertaining
to electoral fraud in the law courts. The absence of morality in politics has
often dragged the judiciary into rough waters
of politics such that people have started to question the integrity,
independence and apolitical stance of the Judiciary.

There is every indication that Nigeria is gradually degenerating into a one-party State. The dominance of one-party presents no competitive ideology and
programmes for the people. Democracy can only thrive when we nurture the
culture of tolerating opposition parties founded on the basis of sound,
progressive ideology. In Nigeria opposition parties only appear during
elections and disappear soon after. Without a virile opposition, democracy can
only thrive on the dictates of political entrepreneurs. Edmund Burke rightly
said “He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill.
Our antagonist is our helper…” This encapsulates the beauty of opposition
politics, which our public office holders deride and at best tolerate with
contempt and morbid hatred. In most
States opposition politicians are sentenced to perdition.

Even if Nigeria spends the whole budget on the electoral process, it has no meaning to the masses. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi
“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except
in the form of bread,
”. Therefore, the first step in
entrenching an enduring democratic culture is to resuscitate all collapsed
industries to create job opportunities for the legion of the unemployed.
Poverty is a weapon of terror that keeps the people perpetually subservient and
vulnerable to electoral corruption.

In most of the 36 States of the federation, the Chief Executives rule like the Tzars of Russia, where they maintain outfits like the Gestapo to torture, maim
and kill without scruples. In Rivers State, the main policy of government is to
demolish structures whether such actions negate the modern concept of urban
renewal or not. In Kwara State, governance has been privatized as a family
affair, and soon, a primogeniture would be entrenched. In Akwa-Ibom State, the
power tussle has instituted a regime of might-makes-right, and this rule of the
jungle has intensified a climate of fear in the land.

In such States, debates at the hallowed chambers are usually coloured by partisan rancor rather than issues. The political landscape is still besieged by
politicians who do not know why they want elective offices. Personalities and
sectionalism rather than issues remain the basic desiderata for electoral
contests. It is a clear indication the State cabinets are dominated by
politicians rather than technocrats. In genuine democracies, only are technocrats appointed to constitute the engine
room of development.

In most States of the Federation, Executive Council meetings have been stripped bare of their intellectual glamour and titillating debates on policy issues.
What is in vogue now is that Commissioners and Special Advisers act like pious
choristers and sing a chorus of yes
to all nasty decisions taken by the Chief Executive. This tendency stifles innovation
and discourages cross-fertilization of ideas, and our public office holders are
never in a hurry to revive dying traditions.

Nigerian can only move to the next level if political offices are made less attractive. A nation that rewards a local government councilor better than a University Professor
ultimately discourages research, innovation and intellectual property. The
strength of a nation’s economy depends on the existing stock of its manpower
and no amount of crude politicking can change that well established fact. On the economic plane, Nigeria’s mono-product
economy may not endure the rude shocks of fluctuations in the global oil
market. The economic heamhoraging can only worsen.

Our leaders have not demonstrated that the nation lacks clear direction, hence we cannot move to the next level - where
the citizenry will imbibe civilized values of honesty, probity and
transparency. We cannot move to the next level because we have a group of
self-chosen opportunists who apply tricks and treachery to capture public
offices and their attendant benefits. This cabal of self-serving kleptocrats wearing the messianic toga
of leadership constitute the brain box of Aso Rock. President Jonathan should
do more than pamper those usurpers of the destiny of the people.

Idumange John, is Senior Advocate of the Masses

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