By Chief Otu Ita-Toyo
“….We don’t want southern or northern confrontation any more we are one people, all we need is to try to increase the percentage of people participation in elections to defend our right…”
My dear brother Yusuf,
Your brief but very touching reply to my postings of different essays on why we Nigerians must make bold and restructure our failing union to save it from a consequent disintegration tugs at my heartstrings. It will not fail to move anyone who loves this country in reality, the way we all profess to do. Let me expand a little on my point of view as a believer in the APC backed gospel of restructuring. You can then, if you so wish, take it from there.
You See Yusuf, you are very right to state that we the embattled citizens of this grossly mismanaged country do not want any confrontation of any kind. we are already paying the prize of the mismanagement of the kleptocratic gang who have held us in total captivity since 1966.
But of course we do need, as you have pointed out, to increase the percentage of legally qualified people’s participation in elections for the sake of national development and defense of our equitable and universal rights. The popular practice of loading up the voters register with fictitious or unqualified names is like committing slow suicide. It distorts attempts to plan and organize. That of course is another story.
I also read your cry on the wish to act as one people. A desirable sentiment Malam Y, but pretend as we may, this country is not yet a nation and every honest Nigerian knows it. We all owe our primary loyalties to our ethnic or sectional cleavages before remembering the entity called Nigeria. That is why there is the broad sense of insecurity if someone from another ethnic divide is in charge of any sphere of our National or even local life. More often than not, the fear is justified by the personnel largely because they too see it as a privileged opportunity for their section of the country. Just cast your minds back at the distribution of projects and appointments over the last 50 years. Most don’t make economic or administrative sense. If you are both a nationalist and an APC supporter as I believe you are, the current APC list of appointees and projects will cause you to do a quick rethink. The more nauseous part of all this is the energy we nationally invest in denying these self evident truths. Gradually we have become a nation conditioned to telling herself lies and subsequently shrugging off same in acquiescence. This is the tragic pass of our nation.
Every paper or national news reel report is replete with serial issuance of threats emanating from all sections of the country in all sorts of imaginable permutations and unimaginablely hostile language: Arewa to the South, Middle belt to the north, Rangers to the rest of the country, IPoB to Nigeria, Oduduwa to anti restructuring groups, Boko Haram to government, Government to Shiite groups etc. Would this by any stretch of imagination connote that we are indeed one people? Yet we carry on in pretence, hoping that the hot air will get cold and we can continue in our rape of the national resources for our selfish ends in the names of our ethnic or sectional groups.
That time is gone. We must grow up. Poverty plagues every part of Nigeria in direct proportions to the number of national resource rapists from every enclave who claim the loot in their names. In the mean time ordinary folks are squeezed dry from Oron to Laura Namoba. The people are now aware and are on the look out for a Savior, but as a first warning to all that they mean business, they got together and booted out the PDP whom they identified as the main coordinators and beneficiaries of the national rape. That was APCs gain but it will be a fatal mistake to think that the people’s rage with insensitive politicians has abated. On the contrary they have tasted blood and are baying for more.
To be clear, it is my unwavering believe, given my experiences, the evidences and chatter after the event, that it was the PDP that lost the last election, even more than APC can lay claims to winning it. I can confess to personally voting against the PDP by rooting for and joining the APC. It presented at the time, progressive promise. I forgot that the Nigerian politician has very short memories and even less honor.
Conventional wisdom has determined that, since the political organisations had learnt how to win without the people, the people have also learnt how to abandon them without warning. Any other political party which thinks it can fly without the people’s support, will meet the same fate as the PDP did. Particularly if they don’t distance themselves in words and deeds from the rape, sycophancy and pretences which have brought us to this mire. This should put the APC on high alert but do you feel that we are working hard enough for the people to notice? I doubt it Malam Yusuf.
For over a hundred years, greed and nepotism have prevented us from moving in the direction of conscious nation building. The sad part of this entire parody is that this glaring, factual and openly practiced drama of self deceit had been passed on for over five generations and accepted as a normal. It is, as we can now testify, a road which leads no where. Only the operators of its kleptocratic mechanics have benefited from the lies. and accompanying high caliber theft.
The rest of the country are at their mercy and will remain so except we all realise that we are only pawns in a big game of graft which has no plan for the future of this potentially great nation. That realization should prompt us all to consciously unite and rise up to stop the misfeasance. Not to egg it along by playing blindfold and protecting indigenous predators.
The APC has a choice, whether to lead that liberation movement or be confined to the scrap heap of history as another political SPV “(special purpose vehicle)” contraption in the hands of the predatory militician class. Thus far this party does not appear to be pulling it’s weight in this direction. The actions (and indeed inactions)of most of her major operatives can not be clearly distinguished from those of the operatives of the defeated mega party or classified as people centred. Two years on, we have run out of excuses.
We must learn from the last election that even if Nigerians have not yet made a choice of which party to entrust their collective destinies to, because thus far, they have come to the conclusion that no party has walked the path of truth with them, they now know how to reject the party which has messed up the opportunity granted them to build a nation for all. They will not stop with the PDP. Therefore all subsequent inheritors of that mantle must be very wary, lest they also stumble and fall.
No union, no country with diverse peoples and interests runs on lopsided and clearly very inequitable rules of engagement as Nigeria does. The rules which govern every successful union must be clad in iron cast logic, fairness and equity. It is inconceivable why we know the truth but always want to win without the sacrifices victory demands. It has become a troubling culture. Check out our sports, education, healthcare, administrations, pretty much anything. It is in fact a mercy, given the enthronement of this culture, that our aircrafts, for instance, don’t fall out of the air more regularly the way our road vehicles do. We even loose more lives everyday on our roads, hospitals or collapsed buildings than certain countries export finished products. That is exactly why others have left us wallowing in our vomit.
Successful unions all over the world run on genuine federal and federated structures. Not unitary arrangements which pretend and audaciously calls itself a federal state. What other level of self deceit remains for us to climb to? Our unitary federation clearly and purposely, given it’s origins in non democratic circumstances, clearly put vast populations of this country at undeserved disadvantages (others do enjoy some undeserved advantages, if you like). This is the nature of all the partisan Nigerian Military inspired constitutions.
Just to contrast with our experience, countries like Ghana, South Korea, Indonesia and Boukina Fasso, where the progressive wings of their military took over power, those patriotic officers fast tracked their nations on a path to nationhood and prosperity. They are not known to be richer than their nations. Nigeria has been unfortunate in that, other than the brief flash by the memorable Murtala Mohammed, only the reactionary and selfish wing in her military ever got the chance to seize power and they did that always for parochial and non nationalistic reasons. Invariably they succumbed to sectional pressures and pecuniary interests. Nationalism never reared its head except in their deceitful attempts at propaganda. Today, to a person they are stupendously wealthy from the advantages of office, while the distressed country they presided over is reeling in poverty and backwardness.
The people of Nigeria gave themselves a workable constitution at independence, more than fifty years on, we have experimented with different kinds of constitutions but always under the barrel of military guns. We did not even know what was in the current 1999 constitution before GENERAL Abdulsalami Abubakar presented it to GENERAL Obasanjo, that fateful July morning in Eagle Square just before he swore under blind oath to defend it. Even he Obasanjo, fresh from military prisons, had not read its contents. So I ask, can anyone infer that this is a reasonable way to build a nation?
If we are a people who sincerely desire unity, why do we shy away from confronting the devils and evils which we know are slowing down our match to nationhood? Instead of turning double speak into an acceptable national habit. Why don’t we turn our attention to cultivating a habit of zero tolerance for those actions which do not engender national trust and collectively agree to deal with the inequities and misplaced concepts and skewed drifts contained in our current schedules of engagement as a union? Those definitive elements of our National life which breeds serious malcontent?
Do we also want to pretend that we are not aware of the growing restiveness in most parts of the country where there is unpretentious free speech? Given an identical environment and the protection as enshrined in the constitution, I am persuaded that most of the people who are under heavy restrictions from guaranteed individual expression would also support a reengineering of our country along the paths which guarantee growth and empowerment through hard work and talent as is being advocated by all lovers of this potentially great nation.
After the patently partisan military coups which were staged under every imaginable anti democratic but sectional pretextes and their winner takes all mentality, GEJ and the PDP with a lot of help from a hungry and mismanaged nation and citizenry, did a largely acceptable job of consensual aggregation of our desires for a free, fair and equitable nation in their delayed national conference. That conference produced a good start-up document. It’s report. Nobody argues that it is a perfect document but it is a step in the right direction to Nationhood.
It was handed over to President Buhari at his inauguration. He dropped it on a shelf. By his own admission has not even opened it till he left for treatment abroad. While all Nigerians hope and pray for the Presidents full recovery, most thinking citizens and certainly all Nationalists hope he will, in the interest of the union, retrace his decision and reconsider this bewildering stand not to look into a veritable resource of Nigerian solutions to many of our ills and problems.
It can not be that he is not sensitive to the inequities tearing this nation apart, the answers to some of which are enshrined in that document? He and the acting President must find an elegant way to kick-start the process of evaluation, prioritisation and adoption of all the consensual arrangements reached in that conference.
Every genuine national effort deserves serious considerations. This conference report and very many other reports on the dust shelve of the Apo Villa are serious efforts and contain heaps of recommendations for energising the quest for proper national rebirth.
As it stands now, the APC is gradually and to my mind, needlessly, claiming the unfavorable distinction of deliberately turning those efforts on their heads without giving the nation any reason for their lack of enthusiasm for a job which they set upon themselves to accomplish. That is not the attitude of a party which aims to rule through the wish of the people and for a long time. It must get off that slippery slope if it wants to remain in charge. We owe ourselves and our party this truth.
I joined the APC because it promised to correct those wrongs. The APC won, in part, because it’s manifesto put that promise, amongst other nationalistic declarations, as No.1 on its manifesto during the last election and her constitution speaks eloquently to the subject.
That promise to the nation was to restructure our union and reorder our fiscal responsibilities for maximum production. Two years on, it has not addressed the issue. We must stop living in denial, deceit and outright lies. The APC owes this promise as a debt after its victory. It does not have the luxury to walk away from the solemn proclamations which helped it win the elections and propelled it to power nationwide. If it reneges on it’s own declared and unforced commitments, why would the Nigerian electorate or anyone, even our foreign partners ever trust the word of the party? This may prove to be it’s litmus test and it may do well to remember the experiences of That unsinkable sixty year “Titanic”, the PDP behemoth
This country must debate and write for itself a fair constitution, fair to every section no matter how weak ( in fact the thrust of the document must be to protect the weak), otherwise we must prepare for dissolution of this country; peacefully or in conflict, which has so much promise. Least any body doubts that prediction, an excursion into the history of defunct “federations” in all of history will show that all of them, without exception, failed largely because of inequalities embedded in the schedule of engagement of the union.
We have pretended for over 103 years, any honest observer can see where it has lead us. It is infantile to suggest that after all this time, we need to look up to the colonials who were the architects of this dislocation (for their selfish reasons) in the first place, for answers or even explanations. This country came of age long ago and must make it’s decisions to sink or swim together and in deep honesty. We can only reap what we sow.
Our party must rise up to the challenge of NATION BUILDING or like others prepare to drop from the pinnacle of leadership which the country entrusted in our care with a deal of positive expectations. It’s just that simple.
Let me ask you a simple question Yusuf. Are you satisfied that we have made the best and equitably productive use of the opportunities given this country by God? Must we continue to live under the shadows of mediocrity instead of fair and equitable national competition and investment? Can we afford to be left behind in a knowledge driven world because we chose the lazy path of indolence rather than in relentless pursuit of excellence?
Can we survive by depleting the resources from one part of the country to feed other parts which are even more endowed but are like leeches to the federation account only because it has an easy pot of funds to run up to to feed it’s contagious appetite whereas it can easily lift the national thresholds of development if it had to look inward to pay her bills. Is that even a fair way to do business?
No country transforms into a great nation by deliberately placing obstacles on the path of her best and productive population, rather than actively encourage the genuine production of a critical mass of star performers in her territory. Nigeria needs every talent to contribute. we must begin to reexamine the operations of obsolete concepts like the quota systems over merit, which have out lived their usefulness.
Just for starters, the guy Jelani Aliyu at General Motors who gave that global company her current best seller, the electric Chevrolet Volt is a Fulani chap from sokoto state. Philip Emeagwali the globally celebrated computer wizard is an Igbo who was born in Akure the capital of Ondo state, the reigning heavy weight champion of the world is Anthony Oluwafemi Olaseni Joshua, a Nigerian who was born in London before him was Samuel Peters who comes from Akwa Ibom state. Genius is everywhere Malam Yusuf. It is the duty of leaders to nurture and groom them. Investing quality funds and genuine efforts in genius or plain productive human capital took Papa Awo less than six years, the results have been felt globally from there on and the positive and exponential expansion of beneficial dividends will keep accruing till eternity.
It is abject laziness and fraudulence to keep the country hostage with a centrally planned obsolete educational system which slides backwards qualitatively and takes forever to get into grove. We must be honest to put the blame where it belongs: corrupt and incompetent products of a failed system. Quota Products? Well, just maybe. You see, excellence can only beget itself and vice versa.
Awolowo had only one education Minister, today we have thirty six, still we are miserably outclassed and out performed by the quality of products from the old Awolowo schools. If anything points to restructuring, it must be this because that is where the future is predicated.
With restructuring, every federating unit must forge it’s path to excellence and competition spurs productivity into high gear. It is only a fraudulent mindset which expects a 17 year old whose parents who have Anambra State origin but who have been resident in Sokoto for over the past thirty years and who has spent all of his/her life in Sokoto schools to compete in JAMB with Anambra residents while her classmates who are sokoto state indigenes and whose exposure is exactly the same as hers, get by with half the cut off points the (sokoto brought up) Igbo student needs to score to qualify for admission. One does not build a country that way. The Ignorance student grows up on a rage against her country for the unfair treatment, while her sokoto classmate grows up into a pampered executive who rapidly climbs to the top on the wings of quota without the temperance acquired by competition. That is why, at least in part, our institutions don’t work. Quota executives are definitely part of their failure. Recall that genius is spread evenly, what excuse do we have for this lopsidedly unfair generating system which works in reverse.
To make matters more exacting, all the operators of this system have their children in schools outside the country, powered by the proceeds of uncommon graft we have become all too familiar with lately.
This whole thing is crazy and suicidal propped up by lazy and corrupt bureaucrats who do not have the capacity for the offices they have been entrusted with.
I can go on and on but just examine every Global Developmental Index and see where we have rated over the last decade or more compared to ‘weaker’ and smaller nations who have followed the honest and tested paths to development, growth and nationhood and you will get the picture.
In my estimation, 100years is enough for any group of people to catch up with the competition. Remember that Indonesia, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Brunei, Pakistan and Iran, all of which are now productive and actively growing economies, were at about the same level with or lower than us at independence. Who, pray, has placed a curse of backwardness on us?
Please let’s avoid this confrontation you have talked about by rising up and building a productive, fair and equitable country. Not one which perpetually ties the hands of its more productive citizens (and these are found all over the country) behind their backs.
Busy countries have less stress and a lot of opportunities for a well trained and educated citizens population to engage in profitable activities. Nigeria in the hands of knowledgeable nationalists, as opposed ethnic and sectional irredentist would have qualified for the more enobling description over 30 years ago. As we return to the path of progress and quit living in denial of the fundamental dislocations within our polity and nation. The search for national and patriotic leaders must also proceed apace. This country needs strong medicine.
Again the APC must rise up and live out the contents of its creed and promises. It’s the only way any mass movement survives and the only time it can truly become a national party. If it does not, it courts certain removal from power
This is the Holy month of Ramadan. It is a season of piety, humility, peace and truth. Our National concern and prayer are that this holy month lives up to its deep promise of liberation from earthly weaknesses and brings forth sincere revelations of love and peace, spreading and guaranteeing equity and justice to all Nigerians by Allah’s mercies.
Ramadan Mubarak to you and all our brethren on this platform my brother and countryman Yusuf.
Ita-Toyo (TotalChair), a chieftain of the All Progressive Congress (APC), writes from Uyo