Many people like this author have become very impatient with the current Nigerian government for many reasons. The most important of which is its apparent lack of real patriotism and national pride. The President and his co-conspirators called governors may in deed say they have national pride but their words are so far from their actions. For any keen observer, there are political, economic, social reasons to dislike and disrespect the current wielders of power in Abuja and the thirty-six state capitals in Nigeria. In other words, no matter how you look at their actions, you must find serious faults and astonishing ineptitude. This is not just nitpicking on the part of this writer. It is a well-considered indictment of a government that has thoroughly betrayed it mission where it really matters.
From the political point of view, President Obasanjo and his Party, the PDP have already set an unprecedented standard for electoral malpractice in the country. In many ways, they have unwittingly absolved the military of previous charges of mal-administration and abuse of power. They have abused democracy and the rule of law beyond what even Abacha could do. They are killing the members of both their party as well as the opposition. They are destroying the inherent pluralism in Nigeria due to inordinate ambition of remaining in power with really earning the right to do so. There is corruption everywhere and selective justice against the presidents opponents, thus undermining the very legitimacy and credibility upon which the government depends. We can go on and on.
Yet I am not saying that Abacha's regime was better. Comparing this government and previous military regimes is like comparing apples and oranges. For one thing, Obasanjo's government had a lot of goodwill on its side. It cannot be compared with military nonentities who usurped power for nearly two score years. As military cabals we could only expect them to be reasonable not creative and certainly not progressive. After all, what do they know about Nigeria's position in the world? What do they know about the insolence we experience for being citizens of the disappointing polity called Nigeria? The only thing they seem to know is how to loot the country's treasury and transfer their ill-gotten fortunes to alien banks. What do they know about the entire Negro race that is looking up to Nigeria to help reassert its equal humanity with the other races of the world? What do they know about how to lead a country that has more than enough resources to transit from developing to developed society in only a decade? What do they really know?
Politically, why can't they let the federal system, which the country went to a bloody civil war to protect, operate as it should. Recall that General Aguiyi Ironsi was accused of abolishing federalism in favor of a unitary government. Yes General Ironsi was murdered for supposedly tampering with the Nigeria's federal structure, which was then considered sacred. Any truth-loving Nigerian can now judge how many subsequent heads of state now qualify to die for grossly distorting the country's federalism, should we use the same standard by which Ironsi was judged. Be that as it may, Ironsi has died, obviously as part of the unending litany of Igbo sacrifices for Nigeria, and may his soul rest in peace. Yet four decades later, Nigeria remains a federation only in name. The federating units have neither political nor economic autonomy. Instead, there is now a morbid fear that some states would become supper state to quote one of our so-called legal luminaries--Justice Ajibola. Yet Lagos state is already a supper state given that its annual budget is about five times the size of the average budget of the other thirty-five states. We really wonder who is kidding whom. In an honest society that wants to remain true to our constitution and its promise of equal citizenship should we really fear that some place might be more prosperous than another, in one and the same country?
For instance, why should a bona fide Nigerian not be able to move to Port Harcourt from Potiskum or vice versa and live in the new location permanently after a six-month's proof of residency? Why is freedom of residency not an inalienable right of any Nigerian, rather the ridiculous and shameful situation of settler-indigene dichotomy? In a modern polity, which should be the dream of any patriotic Nigeria, shouldn't all citizens be willing to live and work in any part thereof provided their rights are absolutely respected by an impartial state? Shouldn't all Nigerians have a positive relationship with their government, a relationship imbued with a true sense of belonging irrespective of region, race or creed? In a just and equitable Nigeria, should any rational person be scared that one region is developing faster that the other? Instead shouldn't the natural outcome be a beautiful division of labor, which would make Nigeria the envy of all humanity? Yes, Nigerians must reject this unfounded fear that is making us victims of one another thus diminishing us so thoroughly and making us the laughing stock of the world.
Economically, with our size can't one easily say that Nigeria is one of the most blessed countries in the world today? First of all, we have one of the highest proportions of arable land of all countries at about 40 percent. Second, we have recently been declared the best cassava province in the world. This is very significant because China has concluded an MOU with the Nigerian government for the supply of cassava products to the tune of $10 billion. Third, our natural gas reserve ranks among the largest in the world, with projected revenues from natural gas reaching the $10 billion mark in the next five years. Fourth, last month, the minister for solid minerals and the World Bank declared that our solid minerals could yield about $40 billion annually if properly developed in the next five years. Fifth, Nigeria also has about $11billion as sales from excess crude outside of the budget. Sixth, currently we are getting about $15 billion dollars from oil sales and royalties. Seventh, Nigeria has about $23 billions in its external reserve.
The president would like to take credit for the latter, and perhaps he should, since previous regime only stole and squandered similar sums in recent past. But what is such a sum doing for us right now when we are still struggle with basic things like power and other infrastructure needed for real industrial take off? Does take a genius to know that destiny call for a sense of both emergency and urgency for Nigeria right now. Nigeria must be a desperate hurry to fulfill its destiny in Africa and the world for the sake of the black man. We are not asking these leaders to reinvent the wheel other races have done that. They should just do a few simple things and do them efficiently for the rest of the world to see that we too can do things right.
The paradox of Nigeria and poverty is that we are probably the only developing country that can write a check of over $12billion dollars to the world's richest countries in the name of debt repayment. Many developing countries can only dream of such sum of money.
With all these resources, shouldn't Nigeria immediately build four north south super highway running from the coast to the Niger border, that is, one more in each of the west and east axis of the country. This would ensure efficient transportation of good and people from the seaports to the hinterland and industrial areas of the north. Furthermore, it is time the country initiated ten east-west super highways cutting across the country after every one hundred kilometers from the Cameroon border to the border with Benin Republic. Still on transportation shouldn't we immediately develop our railway network, the most common feature, which distinguishes developed from developing countries? It is not time we linked the thirty-six state capitals of Nigeria with high-speed rail network. Looking at all the money coming in from here and there can anyone argue that we cannot accomplish all these within the next five years or perhaps ten with a visionary leadership, driven by senses of urgency and patriotism? What about the much mouthed dredging of the River Niger? Can't we bring in foreign partners to improve our aviation industry this time for those who would prefer that mode of transportation? Air travel should be a choice not a necessity if these other methods of travel are developed. Air travelers should be those who can afford to pay what it takes to have safe and modern aircrafts not victims of a make shift system permitting what some have described as flying coffins. Too many precious lives have perished needlessly in the current chaos. We can do better.
In a very interesting response to his critics reported in (December 16, Vanguard), President Obasanjo said, "My adversaries say that Obasanjo is not doing anything. When the CBN governor came to me and he said he had won an award as the African and Global Central Bank Governor of the year and that he was dedicating it to me, I said no. Keep it. My adversaries who say Obasanjo is doing nothing must admit that Soludo is doing something. They must agree that Ngozi Iweala is doing something. They must agree that Oby Ezekwsili is doing something. They must agree that Nuhu Ribadu is doing something. One thing they failed to recognize is that I am at the background to create the enabling environment for those who are doing something to do something. Obasanjo who is not doing anything has the job of seeking those who can do something and are doing something", he said. The president is right on this count. Recall that Ronald Reagan insisted that to be a good leader you must "surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and do not interfere as long as the policy you've decided upon is being carried out." Robert Half said, "There is something that is much more scarce, something rarer than ability. It is the ability to recognize ability." So we can give some credit to the president in this regard.
Unfortunately, the president is not showing that he can find a good successor to whom he should hand over the reins of power in Nigeria, and this is going to be the real test of his leadership. Does the president need a third term? In deed, there are many Soludos, Iwealas, Ribadus and more ready to make Nigeria great, and I think the president is right to claim that he recruited such good talents. Yes that is part of leadership. One can only hope they all have the leeway to do their utmost best for the country. It is true that the CBN under Professor Soludo has sanitized the nations banking system, while Dr. Iweala has indeed repositioned the finance ministry than ever before, and Alhaji Ribadu has made some serious headway in combating the hydra-headed monster of corruption. The now consolidated and viable commercial banks should assume commanding role in the development of the country together with the rest of the private sector by identifying and sponsoring viable economic ventures across the country to enable the country's huge human resources to achieve our manifest destiny for Africa and the black race. We can easily become both the Japan and China of Africa, and why not?
Culturally, we must expose all manners of corruption and the personality cult, which have allowed some Nigerians to think they are above the law. We must enthrone the rule of law and the constitution, making sure that every Nigeria is given a sense of belonging. If we only do these few but critical things, I have not doubt that would soon hear others talk of the Nigerian giant not just of Africa but also of the world. This would be positively different and exceedingly exhilarating than the present when we are the only ones proclaiming our "Tigeritude," to borrow the word of one of our jewels and Nobel Lauriat--Professor Wole Soyinka.
Chieke Ihejirika, Ph. D
Lincoln University, PA.