As a follow-up to last week article “Emi l’okan” which is still generating a lot of conversation all over Nigeria and beyond, fortunately, most of the critics have been very patronizing but the positive comments reminded me of a similar article that I wrote in this same column almost six years ago with the above topic. Please pardon me for repeating an article written years back, but we cannot afford to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So please read me once again.
It is not a written law in the constitution but to be a Nigerian is to be fully aware of the unwritten law of power-sharing in the country. Borne out of a desire to maintain balance in the way regions get access to power, the power-sharing culture says that once a region has completed a presidency tenure (irrespective of competency) the next region on the list now has a claim to the throne – forget the different names of candidates from varying regions. The powers that be usually have decided the most likely candidates based on their regions.
This unwritten constitution is partly or wholly responsible for the underdevelopment of the Nigerian nation that has remained a Third World country like was mentioned in my previous columns whereby we eat the cake and share the cake at the same time and this is what we have done after five decades.
The Nigeria that I was born into over eighty years ago, planned and executed short-, medium-, and long-term development projects which were inherited by our founding fathers over fifty years ago. We have very little to show and it appears that the future is going to be worse. That is so because of the sharing mentality that has eaten into our political blood cells. Even the states have started sharing development and political appointments among senatorial districts. The civil service and the local government structures have not been left out; even the traditional institutions to the point of inventing and manufacturing traditional heads in every town and village. In the process, it has come to everyone to himself or herself, and the country as a nation being left unattended to.
This same sharing formula has distorted every developmental plan that was handed down to our founding fathers. In one of my earlier columns, I wrote about the need for Nigerians to imbibe patriotism as a vital component in the pursuit of development. The love of our nation by every Nigerian – irrespective of tribe, the respect for the national anthem and flag must be enforced regardless of the share of the national cake.
In my research and travels around the country, I found out that anytime an ethnic group a local government, or a political structure – even the civil service – is left out in the sharing of that national cake, the patriotism and love for the nation from that particular group vanishes into thin air and all we hear then is marginalization. For “we the people” to be able to evaluate our problems properly without referring to what the colonial masters did to us, we must get away from the blame game because the British handed over power to a solid nation that was meant to build on what was left. Nigeria had men and women of sound minds – the best you can find anywhere in the world – immense resources and a political structure that was well-tested and still in practice in the UK and many other countries. Therefore, I cannot go on to talk about our failures without disagreeing with myself over the blame game narrative, but I must talk about the constitution prepared by us and suspended several times by us. The same military Head of State who became President through a political and democratic structure assembled the best brains in Nigeria to come up with a structure to give Nigerians a constitution that was to be the best but derailed because of a third-term agenda.
Also, a democratically elected President followed up with yet another constitutional conference that never saw the light of the day because of the sharing mentality.
The same intrigue we have seen over the years affected the development of the new city of Abuja which was to be a milestone development and a world-class city to behold. If Abuja continues with the present level of “development” the city will become a very big slum in the next twenty years. The architect of the city of Abuja engaged the services of one of the best consultants in the world to develop what was to become the best new capital city to follow the movement that was made from Rio to Brasilia in Brazil and from Sidney to Cambria in Australia. These countries made their moves just before us and were visited by our consultants mainly to learn from their mistakes because you don’t make such a monumental move without running into crises. But from what I have seen over the development in the last twenty years, mistakes upon mistakes have been made because at a stage the master plan was abandoned.
I was one of the first people that worked in the new capital city that was no city. I had to operate from Suleja, about one hour drive to the city of Abuja because there was not even a place to stay in Abuja. A few years into the building of the new capital city, the sharing of positions, the sharing of lands, and the sharing of the cake made nonsense of what was intended, and the master plan was no longer adhered to. I was part of a team that established a soil database for the whole territory; thereby any building of a major infrastructure must refer to the database before designing the foundation of such a structure.
For me then, the building of a new city from scratch was to showcase the immense human resources that were put together, drawing Nigerians from every part of the world, from ministries and professional bodies. Not too long ago, I was shocked to know that the authorities did not know about the soil database. In all my activism, as some may see me, especially since turning eighty almost a year ago, I not only state the problems as I see them backed by facts, but I also proffer solutions to the issues that have befallen our nation.
Therefore, we the people must admit that we have failed our nation in many ways. We must not wait to be told by outsiders anymore. We must learn from what was done with the telecommunication industry that made it possible for the poor to own phones. The same partnership can be introduced so that the poor can have electricity and water. The same partnership can be employed to give our nation airways, airports, and railways. The same can be done with our steel plants, refineries, motor assembly plants, pulp paper mills, the river basin authorities, and saving Lake Chad for our agricultural pursuit. We borrowed money from around the world to prepare the nation for industrial take-off many decades ago but somewhere down the road, we have presided over the collapse of that foundation, and we spend almost half of our resources servicing our debts despite the debt forgiveness that was offered by both London and the Paris Club.
My take, therefore, is that if Nigeria must move away from the present quagmire, we must move back a little, accept our failures, and begin a process of repositioning so that we the people can make and rebuild once again. For the
sake of the present and future generations, we the present actors must leave the nation a better place than we met it and we must start to change today not tomorrow.