Well, the countdown to elections has begun. In less than a month we would be back at the ritual, the four-yearly ritual of putting our lot as a country into the hands of those we believe can best lead Nigeria out of the wilderness of want and suffering even in the midst of plenty. By this time next month we would virtually know who our president, governors, and lawmakers for the next four years would be.
Ours is one long story of missed opportunities, of drunken profligacy, of unfathomable cluelessness, or of just plain thoughtlessness. It has been our collective misfortune to have leaders who are too consumed in their own self-centeredness to lose sleep over a country adrift. And we the led, after years of helplessness, have cheaply resigned to fate, and in the chaotic milieu of misgovernance and inverted values each man seeks for self, grabbing at all kinds of straw just to stay alive. The boat is threatened to sink by the pandemonium: economic pandemonium; structural pandemonium; moral pandemonium.
We are beset by many ills; evils that are bound to lock us down into perpetual underdevelopment; ills guaranteed to reduce our struggle for emergence out of the rot to the “rock of Sisyphus” syndrome – rolling all the way down each time near the top!
Methinks the evils that are the bane of our country’s development can be narrowed down to core three upon which everything else hangs, and, unresolved, our democratic ritual remains nothing but a waste of time. They are things about our country we need to look at and figure out who, of all the presidential contenders, can best help in confronting the ills and getting us out of the rot.
The three are: Indiscipline; Corruption; Structural deficiency.
This encompasses the whole gamut of our behaviour, attitude, and moral values. Without meaning to put any of the contenders at an advantage over the others, “Indiscipline” is a buzzword that reminds us of the focus of Gen. Buhari when he came as a military head of state, back in 1984 some 27 years ago. He was so riled by the unrestrained disorder characterising our way of life that he made it the cardinal thrust of his government to force us to order. He introduced the “War Against Indiscipline” (WAI) and set about enforcing new code of conduct on us. It seemed to work while it lasted. Perhaps the most visible signifier was the orderly queues that returned to our lives. Unfortunately it was short-lived as he was booted out in another coup less than a year into his government.
I am persuaded that “Indiscipline” is a virulent cancer in our system and our lives. Indiscipline breeds many other ills, including even corruption. Thieving, Armed Robbery, Illegal Bunkering, Sloppiness at work, Celebration of criminality, and virtually all anti-social behaviour – cheating in exams, forging certificates, nepotism, sabotaging public infrastructure like Power, Railways, etc, chaos on our roads, chaos in public offices – are owed to indiscipline.
As Buhari believed 27 years ago, could this then be the chiefest of our ills? Tackle “Indiscipline” and all is given?
But, stretched to perhaps an absurd limit, someone has suggested that not only was Gen. Buhari’s shooting his way to power to truncate our democracy and violate our Constitution the height of “Indiscipline”, his wanting to come back to power through a process he truncated, and almost three decades after, reflect some “indiscipline”, the unrestrained ‘lust’ for power!
Nevertheless, who, of all the presidential contenders, is most likely to curb the rampant indiscipline in our system and society?
There can be no gainsaying the fact that corruption stands out as the bane of our development. As my friend, retired Colonel Dangiwa Umar, put it in his Foreword to my book: “the country is rotten through and through”!
Another friend, Lawson Omokhodion (OmoLaw) elaborated more forcefully: Corruption “is one big problem in Nigeria. It stands in the way of all sectors: education; health; agric; roads and other infrastructure; aviation; manufacturing; etc. Have you not asked how come we poured billions of intervention Naira into textile reforms; into SMEs; into power sector; into FERMA; into oil sector/ refineries yet no jobs created and no sign of economic recovery? It’s because the money doesn’t get down. Too many layers of corruption in the PDP-led federal government. Corruption is that crucial independent variable that is our own tsunami; it’s our own earthquake; our own nuclear melt down; corruption kills our present and our future; it kills our young and old.”
For years Nigeria ranks shamefully as one of the most corrupt countries in the world on the Transparency International (TI) ranking index. At one point we were the Most Corrupt but one! And I think we felt cheated then that another country had beaten us to the “prize”!
Could “Corruption” then be the chiefest of our ills? Tackled, would all else be given?
Just like it’s sibling “Indiscipline”, “Corruption” is a buzzword that may confer some advantage on one of the contenders, namely, Nuhu Ribadu, for it was him as the founding chairman of EFCC, the anti-corruption Agency established during President Obasanjo’s administration, that brought the country’s focus unto the evil and drove fear into the polity to reduce the recklessness, if not the scale, of corruption, albeit with criticism of bias and “selective policing” from some quarters.
So then, who, of all the presidential contenders, is most likely to tackle “Corruption” headlong and wrest our country from the evil? For, let it be known, unless “Corruption” is dealt a terminal blow, all our struggles for development comes to nought.
This is yet another buzzword that raises untoward alarm within certain sections of the country, with many seeing it as synonymous with “Sovereign National Conference” and others with “Resource Control”. But the reality is that the country as it is presently structured is programmed to fail.
It could be argued that even when “Indiscipline” and “Corruption” are controlled to tolerable levels, the country is going nowhere with the progress-negating, self-debilitating, idleness-pampering, sloth-inducing load it carries. Indeed it could be argued that it is symptomatic of the insincerity, of the indiscipline and corruption in the polity that we carry on with sham federalism, with all the constituent units enshackled by bogus structures bequeathed by the military and their unitarism.
Structural Deficiency brings about the lopsidedness in the number and fiscal arrangement of the States and the Local Governments; it is at the root of the Niger Delta agitation and continued unrest; it is responsible for difficulties in tackling infrastructural problems such as Power, Roads, Railways and Waterways; it’s at the bottom of weak or nonexistent institutions that would ensure working system of governance and accountability; nay, it’s the cankerworm that breeds “Inefficiency”, “Indiscipline” “Corruption”, et al. It drains the country of a “soul”; it discourages excellence and enthrones mediocrity.
So then, who, of all the presidential contenders, is most likely to tackle “Structural Deficiency” headlong and set the country on the path of true federalism such that would free the latent energies of the constituent units to pursue their vision and realise their potential unfettered?
As we go into elections, unless we avert our minds to these evils, and challenge and weigh those who seek our votes on these key issues, then nothing is about to change.