Image Credits: Temilade Adelaja/FT.
THERE is virtual chaos in the country today. The right hand does not seem to know what the left is doing. The presence or absence of President Muhammadu Buhari in the country, makes no difference; the country is on some autopilot. The tragedy is that we did not design the system that seems to control the trajectory of the country. So the position of the Presidency, that despite weeks of the President’s projected absence in Britain for his seasonal medical tourism, he does not need to handover control of the country to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, is quite correct. Frankly, there is nothing to handover.
The main problem of Nigeria is that yesterday we did not prepare for today; today we are not learning from yesterday and are not preparing for tomorrow. However, our decision today can assure us of collective prosperity tomorrow or mutually assured destruction.
We can begin with a collective decision to rid our country of the ravaging bandits and terrorists irrespective of their ethno-religious or national origins. Rather than watch our school children abducted and people always on the run from armed terrorists, we can have a national mobilisation of all willing citizens, train and prepare them to defend every street and hamlet, village and town. So when the terrorists are coming, they know they will have to confront defended, not defenceless people.
Given the critical state of the country and finances, we can vastly increase the size of our army within weeks by transforming the police into a fighting army; let the Nigeria Civil Defence Corps perform police duties, and extend the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC into a two-year compulsory military corps performing the jobs of the Civil Defence and capable of defending areas they are deployed to for their primary assignments. In other words, we must put in place, a mass peoples’ defence force that can defend the country. If Nigeria is worth living for, it should be worth dying for.
In pari passu, we must embark on a different trajectory of running the country based on social justice and in accordance with the Constitution which guarantees equality and justice for all, not one in which some have a proprietorial mentality with a sense of impunity, and others have a sense of being treated as second class citizens or even being threatened with extinction. In moving forward, a basic necessity is to send the army and security to retake all hamlets, villages, towns and forests, especially in Plateau and Benue states occupied by armed invaders of whatever description.
The Buhari government must also retreat from its atavistic policies by obeying the Constitution which prescribes a Federal Character system in which all sections and parts of the country have fair and effective representation in all structures. Appointing only those President Buhari is familiar with, and basing this on a screwed and dysfunctional system of rewarding personal loyalty and not merit and patriotism, is a further invitation to national disaster. This system on the long run destroys all. Let me give an example. In the 1980s and 1990s, a number of persons in the name of quota system were used to fill high positions they did not merit. There were people who read political science appointed to run national financial institutions, and low grade officials in states, ‘seconded’ to the Federal Public Service as Directors. But two to three decades down the line, these places are full, the privileges are no longer available and the country is the worse for it.
We cannot hope to build a prosperous country by appointing the incompetent and parasitic when every part of this country has educated, competent and hardworking people. We are like a team in the Premier League fielding fifth rate players because we do not like the origins of our Messis, Ronaldos and Mbappes. This is why today, we are dribbling ourselves over the appointment of an Inspector General of Police preferring to keep a legally retired policeman on the job because the most qualified person in the force given the express provisions of the Police Act of 2020, is not from the favoured part of the country.
I am a pan-Africanist and a follower of Kwame Nkrumah who believes in the unity of Africa. But Nkrumah’s vision is not a plan-less unity in which uncontrolled armed men are allowed to roam the continent kidnapping, looting, maiming, raping and killing. It is not about uneducated, unskilled and desperate Africans populating parts of the continent as parasites. Rather, it is about developing our human resources and collectively building our economies and armies for shared development and security. This is far from the irresponsibility of allowing anybody walk into the country when there are no provisions for his education, vocational training, feeding, shelter or a social safety net. This mind set, is simply preparing the country for disaster and we can see this in the level of banditry which has made some states ungovernable. Where serious countries invite people with needed skills, it is unconscionable for some of our leaders to invite or allow the dregs of other countries flow into Nigeria.
Leaders like Nkrumah were not blind to the fact that African countries had diverse nationalities and religions. But what they did was to try to evolve pan-national consciousness and culture which, while recognising diversity, worked for unity and common good. The task of nation building is not an option for patriots; it is a duty and an ever-challenging one. However, it can only be built on common citizenship, equality, respect for all, willingness to sacrifice and a sense of fairness with the citizenship feeling wanted and appreciated. It cannot be a country where the dominant values are those of sharing or looting the common wealth and encouraging an ‘Abdulistic’ mentality of wanting to be rich without working. This will require a national reorientation or rebirth; a dismantling of the rickety structures of imbalance, tearing down the military-imposed unitary contraption and its replacement with a federal system as proclaimed by the constitution. If we marry this with making Chapter II of the Constitution which sets out the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy, justiciable, we shall have a new country.
The basic steps I have enunciated above will curb insecurity, desperation, especially among youths; lower tension, redirect our energies, check impunity and drastically reduce agitations for secession. The alternative is unimaginable.
Let me warn that there are those who benefit from this chaotic system and are ready to fight for its continuation. But the vast majority of us who want not just a new tomorrow, but a better today, have the duty and responsibility to impose our vision by any means necessary.
- Owei Lakemfa is a journalist, activist, and socio-political critic.