Turmoils of Nigeria's Statehood: Views on Emerging Trends in Africa
The reactions from within the country were predictably resentful. The President, Olusegun Obasanjo, denounced the report as being predicated on hollow knowledge of the continent and therefore wide off the mark. He asserts, in the strongest possible terms, that those who authored the report were people who were incapable of noticing and appreciating the positive strides that Nigeria is making and the determination of the country to join hands to consolidate democratic sustainable gains and developments. He further observed that the report appeared to have been based on old ideas and dreams as well as stereotypes in relation to capabilities and that this made it difficult for the authors of the report not to see the new Nigeria beyond its past. The response from the House of Representatives appears to have been more measured. Indeed, for a change, some of the legislators appear to suggest that immediate steps ought to be taken to address some of the contentious issues that may have been sighted in the report which threatens the corporate existence of Nigeria.
NAS believes that this is the more pragmatic and less sentimental approach to take. This is particularly important because the issues raised in the report, whether they belong in the past, present or future, represent an appraisal that may not be predicated on either complete fiction or conjecture. The report, in particular, noted that there were separatist tendencies amongst the country’s leaders; violent unrest continuing in several regions including, in particular, the oil rich Niger Delta and the restive Muslim North leading to the view that the countries shaky 6 year old experiment with democratic rule may yet end in disaster. The report further observed that Nigerian leaders are locked in a bad marriage that all dislike but dare not leave and that there were possibilities that would destroy the precarious equilibrium in Abuja.
It is difficult to suggest that some of the issues raised in the report do not exist. Indeed, it would be churlish to ignore those observations, however significant the strides that the current Government has made in a number of directions. Nigeria would be deluding herself by heightening sentimentality in the appreciation of some of these views that have been expressed, however malformed some of them appear to be. As a nation, we have deep-seated, fundamental problems. If we did not, the whole idea of a National Conference would be a comical waste of resources and time. It is to eke out the solutions to these problems that various formats of the national discourse have since commenced. The current National Conference, with its quite prominent imperfections, in itself, represents undisputed vindication of this position.
Although the reactions to this report cuts across diverse social-cultural, economic and political leanings, the most common feature of these responses is the perception that if the problems of the country continue to fester without being radically checkmated, Nigerian’s circumstances would degenerate to a historically fiefdom. There are a number of ways out. A consummately flavoured diet of good governance as is evident in some of the First World Countries is a sine qua non. Transparency; due process and a work ethic that is anchored on merit are necessary ingredients. A prescription of aggressive, undiluted, anti-corruption therapy occupies a position of unavoidable significance in this much desired feast of inevitability. The Nigerian Government has made a very noticeable and much awaited movement in this direction. The momentum must be sustained at the highest levels. NAS suggests that an irrevocable commitment to some of these desirable objectives must be embarked upon, in a wholesale fashion.
It is right that there should be concern from Government about the consequences that could emanate from this report. The negativity of the report may have an adverse impact on the stable investment climate that this Government has heartily committed itself to, from its inception. Having said that, better counsel appears to be that the report or its conjectural postures should be referred to appropriate or social intelligentsia for reflective appraisal, even if it results in an exercise in scenario-planning. To ignore some of the issues raised in this report, however malformed or mis-conceived they may appear to some would be inept; indeed may amount to mal-administration. The stark reality of the situation is that it is difficult to divorce the past (even if distant) from the present and the future. Nigeria, it must be accepted, will not achieve that kind of sharp break from its past. The painful lessons of the past are difficult to forget. The result of vast fortunes earned from oil revenue is inversely proportionate to the tangible benefits. The anti-corruption graft is visibly undermined by an ossified social ethos of corruption and the incapacity or failure in the implementation of infrastructural objectives. The advent of the 2007 elections on an electoral terrain that is still, in many respects, banana-skin slippery offers little assurance of problem-free elections. Nigeria’s commitment to agriculture remains a niggling problem. In all, the consequences of some of these and many more problems is such that the plans that must be made for the nation to prosper have to examine, from every dimension, these problems howsoever they present themselves.
Our view is that it would be a mistake to ignore the assertions made in this report. Government is strongly encouraged, whatever its position is, to give closer and anxious consideration to the issues that emerge from this report. We can only gain, not lose, by ventilating of those issues more comprehensively.
ANDREW OBINNA ONYEARU
National Association of Seadogs (NAS)
30th June 2005