- Posted by Editor
- On October 7, 2019
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Nigeria @ 59: Ambiguities, contradictions and expectations
By Samuel Akpobome Orovwuje
NIGERIA’S independence anniversary is an interesting moment for exploring the impact of governance and development, not only because it is emerging from over 59 years of untrustworthiness between her leaders and the people but also because of a wider splitting up in the country. This year independence messages by politicians as usual are full of lies and it comes to me as spectacle of ridicule and an abominable muck upon the nation in need of durable solutions.
Nevertheless, as we celebrate, it is worth reflecting on our earliest days in 1960. With fervent sanguinity from the heroes of Nigeria’s independence, the first objective was to create a nation of altruistic leadership, regional and national development, to foster a movement and forum for cooperative and competitive federalism and to work with the urgency of the challenges facing developing world in the public eye. Today, the core mission of nation building has not evolved and the challenges remain daunting.
Indeed, there has been much soul- searching on how best to mark our 59 years of inglorious democratic experiments and nation – building efforts and the nagging question on how we build our Nation?. Should we trumpet our achievements, or sound a warning bell? Should we congratulate ourselves as the governorate and treacherous political elites will do today with empty and vague promises of unity in the face of insecurity and poverty or mourn the fact that Nigeria is work- in – progress in the approval of the shaky signs of outfitted vulnerability and governance paralysis?
Can we really be very proud of our standing and the operating political environment, the implicit lack of opposition politics and credible alternative voice? What of the negative visibility in international politics and diplomacy particularly in the twilight of xenophobic attacks and cybercrimes? What of the negative balance sheet on multidimensional poverty and ease of doing business? Is it the shadows of military and authoritarian overhangs over the democratic space and process? What of the political play-actors constantly committing irresponsible acts of provocations? The culture of impunity and banditry is also playing out in many states and the grandstanding of government spokespersons on policies and programmes is stomach – turning.
The answer has to be a combination of these, so the tone of our 59th year is one of celebration with the usual complacency of the political elites and their collaborators. There should be no room for complacency in our nation building agenda particularly with the new wave of nationalism, climate and resource justice across the global north and the centres of political gravity are shifting from non-state actors. Increasingly, emerging economies are investing in and trading with each other and across the global south, without recourse to traditional economic powerhouses.
Frankly, a new geography of political leadership is evolving from the world turmoil. Democracy is essentially about the wishes of the people and we must operate within the rule of law, which consist of the respect for fundamental rights and the aspirations of all including minorities and alternative voices. During the past 20 years or so, some achievements need to be acknowledged and applauded. These include some milestones improvements in the legal and institutional frameworks for the protection of citizens, episodic elections and strengthening of the democratic process. Nonetheless, the changes on the ground are not visible as compared to previous years.
Indeed, one of the major impediments and drawbacks to nation building is equity. Inequity is emerging as a common challenge. Equity is central to democratic norms and human development. President Mohammadu Buhari led government should focus on economic growth, education, health, child well- being or human capacity outcomes at every level. Untying the knot of multidimensional poverty is essential to moving forward. Of all the flashpoints in today’s Nigeria, none poses more of a direct threat to its corporate existence than multidimensional poverty. Sadly, the current and fragmented government policy on social protection for the poor should have a human face with a robust and inclusive law that alleviates poverty and deprivation. The government must pursue an agenda that focus on mainstreaming social protection frameworks beyond the tokenism of constituency projects of boreholes and empowerment schemes for cheap political gains. A new geography of chronic poverty has berthed in Nigeria. The sad reality of the moment is that political leaders and bureaucrats often underestimate the issues of poverty sparking violent conflicts and social ills.
For the avoidance of doubt, the government must draw critical lessons from the positive impact of social protection programmes on child welfare in Ethiopia (The Productivity Safety Net Programmes), in India (The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, Midday meal Scheme) and Peru (The conditional cash transfer programme) amongst others to unleash unemployment and multidimensional poverty.
Additionally, focusing on the contentious issue of electoral management and reforms, and greater citizens engagement will help to shape governance realities on the ground and politicians must reflect on the growing importance of political parties as partner and solution in building better governance template, because no other actor can easily replace their strategic roles in aggregating and representing citizens interest.
Therefore, the national assembly leadership should recompense a greater attention to understanding and managing political risk and help to identify feasible legislative solutions that can lead to key development results. Interestingly, the political sloganeering of next – level and change mantra is nothing new to Nigerians. Our collective ability to be ahead of the curve will shape our future. The heart of blame in our national consciousness is the real issue and the leadership that cast blameworthiness on anyone else is bound to fail.
Looking ahead, Nigerians would like to see concrete and measurable report sheets, timelines, outputs and compelling evidence – based budgeting initiatives intended to improve on the socio – economic opportunities for the poor and the most vulnerable persons. Above all, a national conversation template on our common identity and a heritage charter that takes cognizance of our pluralistic nature and diversity will help to galvanize the citizen to a common future.
One of the proposals going forward is that the Independence day instituted as an act of parliament as heritage day that symbolizes and emblematizes unity and social cohesion. Further, National Reconciliation and Truth commission is needed as a strategic gateway to resolving some of the social and political ills plaguing the nation. Therefore, we want to see a value – based governance architecture that sustain, punish and reward national values and ethos beyond the current awards given to state operators and oligarchic proxies.
Undeniably, the price and opportunity cost of corruption is overtly huge and painfully so and we must be reminded that no country can successfully develop its people through political tokenism of cash transfers and fighting corruption particularly, where the engine room of governance (The bureaucracy) smell horrible in the face of the EFCC and its twin sister agency – ICPC. Let the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and the EFCC order a small commission to find out what is happening to Nigerians and the way various institutions work. To what extent have politicians corrupted them? Why are Nigerians so glued to trashy ethnic sentiments and mediocrity? What happen to truth and justice? When will our leaders study and rewrite a national rebirth strategy document that address the fundamental issues of nation building, truth, reconciliation, resource and restorative justice, territorial dimensions of the state and devolution for real prosperity.
Lastly, with 59 years of voodoo politics and elite complacency behind us. What matters now is reflection on our aspirations, dreams, pains and hopes regarding the project Nigeria and our task as a people is to ensure that the country remain fit for a genuine nation building – flexible, dynamic and forward – looking. It is the desire of Nigerians that the policies and plans of governance should be translated into deliverable actions on ground and we can now move on. Happy Independence Day!