We don’t lack solutions for our myriad problems. The tragedy on our hands is the deaf rulers in power, who have vowed to have mufflers in their ears as long as we the people allow them to. And we Nigerians are often angered when a patriot tries to make us face our cowardice and consequential indolence, aren’t we? Let me remind Nigerians and their friends what our problems are, what the possible solutions should be, and why we are yet far away from the solutions.
What is the kind of environment that favours corruption? Absence of justice and the rule of law motivates corruption. When punishment against a misdemeanour in public or private life is absent or unnecessarily delayed and frustrated people don’t learn to do right. And when a past misconduct is overlooked it becomes an incentive for similar acts to be perpetrated in the future. Eventually, wrong is adorned with a perception of right; a confusion of values sets in. The soul of a nation is lost. It is a grave injustice to take possession of a people’s resources and plunder at will. It is an injustice to allocate resources (including state or local government creation) in such a way that glaringly disadvantages certain groups of people. It is a greater injustice to pretend about this and continually call for “unity” while the very basis for it is being eroded. Because ownership of natural resources is no longer based on natural endowment but rather on selective human intervention, corruption becomes a natural response. But what is corruption? It is simply the use of public trust for private personal gain.
In the midst of injustice a silent war, masquerading as competition or quota system, has set in among the nations that make up Nigeria. Various groups pretending to represent their respective nation groups nominate and send their representatives to Abuja to get their share by whatever means possible. Accordingly, representative democracy in Nigeria is not what it should be in a clime where there is justice and rule of law. Those representatives only serve at the pleasure of their godfathers, to take as much as they can from the central government (The same happens at the state and local levels, where the representatives serve at the pleasure of their godfathers). And when such a representative falls foul of the law, rather than the rule of law to have a free course, the godfathers intervene; the culprit is thus allowed to go with a slap on the wrist. No “war against corruption” will succeed until we tear down this building and erect a new one, where each nation, community, and hamlet shall take full control of their resources, and manage them in the way they want. When those privileged representatives of the godfathers display their ill-gotten wealth, which is a reward of their meritorious service to the godfathers, the people behold and see that they are cheated. They conclude that integrity doesn’t pay; that the law courts can’t help either, since justice is now for the highest bidder or the most connected; that unless they help themselves none will remember them. Then, violence erupts. Lack of depth goes searching for solutions in the ends of the earth, yet ignoring the simple solution in the bosom. Insistence on quota system without resource control by their natural owners is the right recipe for violence. Resource control shall eliminate waste and intellectual idleness.
Our rulers have remained deaf. They know what the solution is, but lack the will. They know that we need to allow Nigerians to negotiate how they will live and relate to one another, and consummate such agreement in a people’s constitution. Then, we shall determine the policing of our communities, the type of education to give our children, the judicial systems to adopt, the manner of exploitation of our resources—human and material, and how we shall govern ourselves.
The obvious reason for the lack of will is fear. From the president to the local government councillor, there is the fear of loss of relevance should the country be re-structured and the right of the people to give themselves a constitution be restored. They become paranoid and try so many things to frustrate the inevitable. One of those things is the recent constitution of the so-called eminent group of Nigerians under a National Constitution Group (NCG), who seek to “negotiate the unity of Nigeria.” I took a look at the composition of the group, and how they have started to go about things, and was sad that we have always been a nation of comedians, who take pleasure in turning serious issues into entertaining comedies. The same names of people that are usually featured whenever an undertaking will be a failure in Nigeria are there; the same old men and women whose dates with Nigeria for decades have only produced misery; the same people who have been in government at one time and another, and yet only shame has been the product. Governor Amaechi said at the recent annual general meeting of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), that lawyers in Nigeria could not fight the cause of Nigerians. The Senior Advocates of Nigeria, who cannot stand on the truth, who speak from two sides of their mouth, cannot be at the forefront of such a project. Civil rights activists, who by their actions and inactions show they know nothing about civil rights, cannot lead such a noble cause.
To contemplate such a project without communication with people in the trenches, who have advanced practical steps on the way forward, and yet having the papers report apologies for absence at the last NCG meeting from people like Jerry Gana, Adamu Ciroma, etc., is a sad commentary on our lack of seriousness. That is not the way forward. I would appeal to Reuben Abati to advise President Jonathan not to take the Nigerian people for granted. The NCG is not the vehicle, and it cannot be. We shall not ask the government to waste public funds on people, many of whom are part of the problem. The reader can read “A manual for a Sovereign National Conference” for my latest ideas on the issue. We have born with the deaf for too long.
Leonard Karshima Shilgba is an Associate Professor of Mathematics with the American University of Nigeria and President of the Nigeria Rally Movement (www.nigeriarally.org ). Leonard Shilgba is also the Coordinator of the Middle Belt Federation under the Middle Belt Coalition agenda.