This article first appeared on BusinessDay online edition
In 2010, I wrote a book with the title: Nigeria @ 50 -Time for the evolution of a new nation. The book was revised in 2013 with a slight change in title to: Nigeria – need for the evolution of a new nation. A few days ago, a friend of mine called me to say that he just re-read the book and realized that it seemed to have been released ahead of its time. He opined that the book was written with today in mind. He regards the book as the most comprehensive manual for restructuring Nigeria- politically, economically and socially. He wished Nigerians, especially the leadership class had paid more attention to the contents of the book and similar publications, perhaps we would not have arrived at the current disquiet in the country. He encouraged me to reprint the book and make it widely available to Nigeria’s leaders and elite as it will help better frame the current debate on restructuring Nigeria. The critical issue is that our federation is operating on an unstable foundation and the structure is perverted. Since 1966 we have moved from one crisis to another. Sizeable amount of resources have been wasted in dealing with crises and putting off fires. These resources would have been better applied to the growth and development of the nation, and not on operation Python dances or crocodile tears. I have heeded his advice and authorized my publishers to reprint the book in paperback and distribute widely. The 230-page book is divided into ten chapters, each addressing specific critical area of our national life that requires restructuring or reformation.
I do not think there is any difference of opinion amongst Nigerians that the country we have today is neither what our past leaders struggled to liberate from the colonial masters nor what we desire that it is in the 21st century. The dream we had in 1960 of a great, peaceful and prosperous nation that will be the hope of the black man, projecting Africa and being a leader in the global economy, made an early start but faltered fatally and got aborted or nearly so. Some of the reasons for the abortion were identified with the military carrying a chunk of the burden.
Political reformation imperative
Here the point is made poignantly that the evolution of a new Nigeria must start with Political-restructuring or fundamental reformation. This is the crux of the matter and represents the critical assignment that we all must face now. It is the main issue, which is at the centre of most of the agitations for self- determination or resource control. We badly need to restructure the federation so that we can have stability and run a true and balanced federation. We posit that the federating units as currently existing are very fragile and must be strengthened and the divisive issues of sharing responsibilities and resources among the tiers of government renegotiated to create equity and fairness while promoting competition and cost savings. We are of the firm conviction that that there must be better ways of conducting politics and that the rabid competition for political offices especially in the centre can be attenuated by devolving power to the federating units while aggressively deregulating and privatizing government business. We desperately need to make political office less attractive.
Political leadership and governance
Here the focus is on the central problem causing our overall underdevelopment which is political leadership and governance. A case is made that we must be painstaking in choosing our leaders, so that the best in character, discipline and experience will emerge. Every political aspirant must be scrutinized even before he becomes a candidate and as a candidate, we must ensure that criminals and novices do not assume political leadership in our country ever again. We recommend 24 core competences of political leadership to serve as a template for our aspiring political leaders. These include sound education, capacity to envision, high level of intelligence quotient, high level of emotional intelligence, ability to translate ideas into action, ability and willingness to make sacrifices, high level of integrity, a deep seated desire to achieve, a keen demonstration of accountability, humility of spirit, a measurable ability for hard work and courage, a demonstrable understanding of profit and loss and balance sheet statements and a true fear of God. We need to device constitutional provisions that will help cleanse our leadership and governance image.
Political elections and selections
A major fault line in our political practice is the difficulty we have had in organizing and conducting free and fair elections. Nigeria is notorious for this and it remains a major destabilizing factor in the nation. Many of our national crises have roots from disputed election results including the current security crisis. We have therefore made critical suggestions to reform the electoral process to make it water tight, so that all the leakages become blocked. Yes, we have had some improvement but we are still far from satisfactory. Nigeria must determine to have credible, free and fair elections better than we ever had.
The executive ,legislature and the judiciary- the three sides of the same coin and the machinery of governance
On this subject, we explore the responsibilities of the three arms of government and prescribe code of conduct and charter for relationship. We posit that the three arms require major restructuring to create efficiency, reduce cost of running government so that money can be left to deliver critical services to the people. It is our belief that the judiciary must shake off the image of being corrupt with undue delays in concluding court processes; the legislature must change its image of being over paid with low productivity while the executive must shed the toga of arbitrariness and corruption.
The 2020 economy: Job creation and poverty alleviation
Nigeria has been described as a rich country with poor people. We make far reaching suggestions on how to restructure the economy to achieve double digit growth in a manner that will result in trickle down ensuring a fairly even spread of the national wealth. The focus must be on job creation and poverty alleviation. And to achieve this, we must create a most attractive investment climate, enthrone law and order, create well thought-through stable policy environment, secure lives and property, eliminate corruption, maintain macro-economic stability, create irresistible incentives and encourage massive investment in infrastructure.
Building competitive human capital and restoring the dignity of man: The social issues
The case is made that the true measure of our economic growth must be the quality of life of Nigerians. We cannot be speaking of economic growth while the standard of living of the average Nigerian is on the decline. Far reaching proposals are made on how to raise the quality of human capital through education, healthcare, population control and environmental management. Some thought is focused on what the country must do to restore the dignity of the average Nigerian including some social welfare provisioning.
Policing and security: Creating a safe heaven
The issues of policing and security are in the front burner of critical national challenges. The centrality of having a safe and secure nation as primary governmental responsibility is underscored. A thorough review of the national security challenges are presented while a robust menu of actions that must be taken to reinvent and integrate our security outfits with a view to turning our nation into a safe haven. It is doable.
Creating the followership that deserves the leader: Citizen/corporate responsibilities
This is a fundamental issue that is often ignored when discussing ways out of our national challenges. We believe that we need to reform the followership that will produce the reformed leaders that we badly seek. To ask the leaders to reform while the followers remain unchanged will achieve very little. A holistic change of attitudes by Nigerians through the inculcation of ennobling values is mandated and the means well elucidated. This must be what some of our leaders including Olusegun Obasanjo mean whey they say that what we actually need is to restructure our thinking and not the country. I insist that we need both.
In 2005, we lost a golden opportunity to set our nation on the right path for sustainable and peaceful growth by abandoning the recommendations of the National Political Reform Conference as tenuous as many of them were. We could have at least averted the many months of militancy in the Niger Delta and the huge price we paid. The 2014 National Conference offered us another opportunity to reinvent the Nigerian nation. Thankfully the increased agitation for self determination led by Nnamdi Kanu has created additional urgency to take the bull by the horn and evolve a new nation, that we all will be proud of and which the international community will respect. I have created this nation in my book and urge our leaders and all who are rooting for a united, prosperous and peaceful nation to read. Otherwise, the blood of innocent Nigerians which has been needlessly and wantonly shed because of the contradictions, inequities and instability of our Federation as it stands today will stand against us in judgement.
Copies of this book are available at Amazon and in some bookshops. Our Publishers, Real Value Trust (07083808940) can deliver hard copies on request or you can email:email@example.com
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR