Salvaging Nigeria’s floundering ship

The world is moving on with new ideas, inventions, innovations, philosophies, political processes and jurisprudence. But where are we in Nigeria? We are apparently stuck in the old ways of doing things whilst expecting new results. We are not just stuck in one place, but we are heading south in all directions through stagnation, decay and always using our third to fifth eleven for events and contests where the first of the first eleven are required. We are always ready for apologies for failure rather than a celebration of reasons for success. But are we destined for the backwaters of human history and evolution?

The past couple of years witnessed the story of Africa and Nigeria rising. Things seemed to be looking up in major facets of national life. Suddenly, the bubble burst and the forces of development seem now to be pulling in dis-articulate directions. Evidently, we engaged the reverse gear in an attempt to move forward, out of the anger of the failing of the previous administration. What is our experience as the economic governance philosophy of the current federal administration? No one is in a position to figure out except those in the corridors of power who seem to be acting as their spirit moves them, devoid of any empirical basis. Yet, we want to attract investors and we believe they are foolish enough to put their money into a blind alley. We are witnessing the highest inflation rate in our history; the currency has taken a strong bashing losing almost 100 per cent of its value; unemployment is at an all-time high; capital importation into the country has nosedived. What is or has been the response of the administration – blaming previous administrations for the economic downturn and failure to lay out a coherent policy framework for economic regeneration.

 

Twenty months out of the 48 months tenure of the regime, Nigerians have been told that an economic blueprint is being prepared. Who has been consulted? No one knows. Where do you find the draft to make inputs? Not available at any public medium. Nigerians are told their ideas are not welcome and they do not have the capacity to contribute to economic governance; we should wait until the magical economic blueprint is ready and unveiled by the President. This is the height of arrogance coming from an administration that needs all the help in the world to steer the economy out of the deep troubled waters! I recall that Obasanjo’s economic programme, the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy, was out in the public domain as a draft and the former Economic Adviser, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, went round Nigeria marketing his ideas and asking for inputs before the final clean copy was unveiled. Why is it not possible to engage stakeholders and get the groundswell of support and public buy-in which is needed to get the economy out of recession?

For a good part of last year, the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Monetary Policy Committee took time blaming the managers of fiscal policy for the economic challenges facing the nation. Instead of working as a team, the managers of the economy worked in silos without a bigger picture and focus on the goal all the different components should be contributing to. For 2016 and 2017, the federal budgets were presented very late in the year when the opportunity to present same much earlier and have it approved before the end of the fiscal year was not utilised. The promise by the leadership of the National Assembly to open its budget and let Nigerians know the details of its expenditure has been discarded.

What do we now have in the name of political governance? What is the governance philosophy of the incumbent administration?  We now have disobedience of court orders and treating the rule of law with impunity. Even the Olusegun Obasanjo administration of the “do or die” infamy treaded softly in matters of court orders.  But we are now faced with a President who on prime time radio and television justified his disobedience of court orders. Court orders are only to be obeyed if they favour his mindset and narrow presumptions. And all the citizens can offer are tepid appeals whilst the Nigerian Bar Association does not consider disobedience of court orders serious enough to engage the government in a serious contest.

Just within last week, the US President, Donald Trump, issued travel restrictions “in a bid to protect the American homeland”. A federal judge has ruled against it and the American government has complied with the order of court reversing the ban whilst appealing the judgement. The government is obeying the judgement despite the fact that “extreme vetting” of migrants was one of the key promises of the President during the presidential campaigns.

Nigerians demonstrating in support of their political opinions are killed in broad daylight by security forces – the killing of pro-Biafra supporters in Port Harcourt; and the government justifies the death of unarmed civilians. Pray, have we elevated murder and extrajudicial killing as part of statecraft? The persons who perpetuated the murder are known, worked under the command of officers paid at the taxpayers’ expense and the country pretends that all is well. This is one of the few democracies where a police officer threatens persons who want to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and gets away with it. He forgets that his duty is to provide the secured environment where fundamental rights and liberties would flourish by escorting and keeping a respectable distance between the police and participants at the rally.

The few gains made under Prof Attahiru Jega’s Independent National Electoral Commission have been rolled back. Today, the result of an election seems easily predictable in favour of the ruling party. The Edo governorship election was postponed for specious reasons whilst in Ondo, the electoral umpire could not shift the polls when it favoured the ruling party, with a particular candidate having less than 48 hours to campaign and prepare for the election. Is this really the change and democracy Nigerians voted for in 2015? Also, tardiness has been elevated to statecraft; six months to appoint ministers and 20 months without ambassadors in major foreign countries. Yet, we expect good results from poor preparation.

The resolution of these challenges starts and ends on the table of leadership. The leadership recruitment process is flawed. The outcome of the 2015 presidential election and the state of Nigeria today tells us that Nigerians cannot continue to vote for leaders who cannot participate in a civilised debate to articulate their points of view; leadership is about ideas and a good candidate must be associated with a thought process that provides a back ground to a governance framework. Knowledge rules the world and any country that refuses to accept this aphorism will face decay and stagnation. We should be prepared to say a final goodbye to the military class of 1966 and 67 and their cohorts who have held the country hostage and severally took turns to rape the country. We can no longer elect presidents who have scores to settle with a lot of persons and groups of persons. Finally, in due time, the Nigerian electorate must scout for a President, not from the already known faces but from persons who are bringing knowledge and something new to the governance table.

 
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