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Nigeria yet to achieve nationhood – Odumakin, BudgIT boss

One of the greatest contradictions of present-day Nigeria is that while leaders continue to mouth the slogan ‘One Nigeria’, there is really no nation-building going on.
In an angry letter to his father in 2014, Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, daughter of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, said, “Every public official in Nigeria is working for himself and no one really is serving the public or the country… When no one is planning the future of a country, such a country can have no future.”
Fifty-six years after independence, Nigeria continues to have a precarious existence, more divided than ever. The country is still groping in the dark in search of unity, with the landscape littered with glaring signs and symptoms of a house divided against itself.

These symptoms manifest in the form of the post-election triumphalism often exhibited by any section of the country that produces the president, the unending fears of domination and cries of marginalisation, the deafening calls for restructuring of the federation reverberating across the land, the gongs of secession resounding in every nook and cranny, the agitations for resource control, the religious wars, and many more.

They manifest in such groups as Niger Delta Avengers, Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), O’odua People’s Congress (OPC), Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), and even in the murderous campaigns of the rampaging Fulani herdsmen, Boko Haram and other Islamist killer groups.

These, according to political pundits, are all glaring signs of a nation not built, a nation where citizens’ loyalty to their ethnic groups or religion comes first before loyalty to fatherland.
According to pundits, the most unfortunate thing is that successive governments, both civilian and military, over the decades failed to make genuine commitments and efforts towards building a truly strong, united, virile and stable Nigeria where the principles of freedom, fraternity and egalitarianism will be enthroned irrespective of tribe, tongue or religion. Rather, these leaders continued, and still continue, to sow seeds of discord among the citizenry, adopting divide-and-rule strategy and often whipping up ethnic and religious sentiments just to score cheap political goals. Even President Muhammadu Buhari, on whom high expectations were reposed, has continued to sow seeds of division through some of his actions and utterances.

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On July 22, 2015, less than two months after his inauguration, Buhari told a gathering at the United States Institute for Peace, “I hope you have a copy of the election results. The constituents that, for example, gave me 97 percent [of the vote] cannot in all honesty be treated on some issues with constituencies that gave me 5 percent. I think these are political reality.”

Many analysts believe that Buhari has lived up to the above statement through his subsequent actions, especially in his appointments of person to key political offices which are skewed in favour of the North against the South, particularly South-East and South-South, as well as his administration’s policy choices – such as initial refusal to deregulate oil prices, preference for a fixed exchange rate, attempts by the president to foreclose discussions relating to the 2014 National Conference and political/constitutional restructuring, concerted attempts to force through grazing routes/reserves for Fulani herdsmen across the country, the silence over the herdsmen menace, among others.

In an article titled “A more divided people”, Opeyemi Agbaje, a Lagos-based public policy analyst, said that today, “every major security and law enforcement position, with the exceptions of the Chief of Defense Staff (who has no operational troops under his command) and the Chief of Naval Staff (which has always been treated by the powerful army as a ‘civilian’ institution), is occupied by a Northern Muslim”.
“I believe the obvious and apparent inclination towards regional preferences in appointments and policies has led to an escalation of ethnic and regional grievances in Nigeria. The security forces have dealt in a harsh and repressive manner with peaceful demonstrators, whether they be Shia Muslims in Zaria or pro-Biafra activists in Onitsha. In both cases, it appears unarmed protesters have been mowed down in a manner that may rise to the standard required for characterization as crimes against humanity,” Agbaje said.

“The only group the administration has dealt with in a sober and considered manner, after an initial attempt to apply force, has been the Niger-Delta Avengers who have their own apparatus of violence and ability to inflict damage on the nation’s oil economy. The other group the government has treated with kid’s gloves has been the so-called Fulani herdsmen, the AK47-wielding terrorists who have killed, murdered and pillaged across the country, while government argued for grazing reserves on their behalf. Again the ’97 percent-5 percent’ principle appears to explain government’s curious restraint in this regard,” he added.
Highlighting some of the divisive tendencies in the country at the moment, Agbaje said that “in the Niger-Delta, oil production volumes are being disrupted by resurgent militants; pro-Biafra sentiments are surging again in Igboland; calls for restructuring and ‘true federalism’ are rising again in the Yoruba West; fears of Fulani domination are elevated in the Christian Middle-Belt; and concerns over religious marginalisation and sectarian differences are topical once again”.
Yinka Odumakin, publicity secretary of Afenifere, the apex pan-Yoruba social cultural group, told BDSUNDAY that with the way things are run in the entity called Nigeria, it may not survive the next 56 years unless the country is restructured to reflect the interest of its diverse tribes and geo-political zones.
According to him, 56 years after attaining independence from colonial masters, Nigeria is yet to achieve nationhood, blaming the situation on what he termed ‘defective structure’ which puts too much focus and powers on the central government, hence successive governments have not seen the need to devolve powers to the federating units.

“The Nigerian state is in sad situation. The desire to control of every region in Nigeria is the main bane of Nigeria’s underdevelopment. Somehow, our leaders have refused to address this issue of true nationhood. We have again been voted as the most corrupt country in the world,” Odumakin said.
Regarding the current economic situation in the country, he said, “If leadership knows what is wrong with us, this is the time to have a strong economic team that works round the clock to tackle the situation we are in. There is no such team in place at the moment. We ought to have seen fiscal stimulus measures put in place. It makes no sense to lock N3.5 trillion in TSA while the economy is collapsing and commercial banks are dying.

“I accept that the Federal Government could have been scandalised that it was buying treasury bills from its own money kept with commercial banks, but you can’t withdraw such funds overnight without doing substantial harm to the economy. In any case, those banks are locally owned and those who work in them are Nigerians. You spend your way out of recession and not lock money up.”
Data from the 2016 Best Countries rankings in February had ranked Nigeria as number one among the 10 most corrupt countries in the world by perception. The rankings were a characterisation based on a survey of more than 16,000 people from four regions, and over 60 countries were evaluated.
Oluseun Onigbinde, co-founder, BudgIT, said at independence Nigeria was the projected bright light of Africa but ironically, it is common to hear citizens of African countries say in hushed tones that Nigeria is actually dragging Africa behind on socio-economic indicators.

He said considering that Nigeria is at the moment in recession, Nigerians should introspect a lot about the current structure of the country that has proven to be grossly ineffective, noting that since the Unitary Act by the Ironsi regime, Nigeria boldly incentivised laziness in states and gradually, easy money from oil compounded the nation’s woes.
“Not putting in the hard work to truly diversify our export base is hurting us and we truly have the fiscal crisis with the currency going out of hand. In our 56 years, counting our gains singly has to be that we have remained a single state despite the crisis in different parts of the country, but when we look at our indicators from power, health, education, infrastructure and so on, we have not done well as a nation,” he told BDSUNDAY.

“Years of military rule made things worse but the politicians have not also shown exception that the Nigerian problems are squarely based on lazy, corrupt and unimaginative leaders that intentionally advanced a psychological rentier approach into the entire polity,” he said.
Admonishing that Nigeria has to find its path, he said the country is lost into gradualism that even the millennial generation has to curiously think through if they will ever make a mark in the country, adding that one thing he is quietly accepting is that Nigeria will not suddenly change.
“I am 31 years and next five election cycles, if things don’t change for the next generation, we will also carry a failed generation tag. Nigeria still has a problem with leadership,” he said.
“Buhari appeared with a messianic perception but even with non-coherent anti-corruption strategy, he has failed to do the right things in time to fix the country. If we keep producing leaders from the 1966 class, how do we move forward? Nigeria needs a visionary, honest and a true pan-Nigerian. I don’t think we won’t go far, we will, but would we go fast? This is the question. Do we have the luxury for this kind of speed?” he queried.

He said Nigeria’s religious outlook has not helped the country because most Nigerians make religion a fodder to keep hope alive but that when they need to stand firm, expediency usually gives way to graft.
“Look at the number of churches, mosques and their faithful! So, who are the corrupt people? If every faithful of both religions decide to stand for honesty, where will corruption stand? There has to be strong and independent institutions of the state that enforce the law. BudgIT is currently working with the US Embassy to push anti-corruption conversation with the leaders of the Christian and Muslim faith. We keep trying our best,” he said.

He lamented that Nigeria has been unlucky as a country, not because it lacks natural resources, geographical positioning, hardworking population and other advantages, but that Nigerians just happen to chose “the wrong eleven to lead us at most times”.

“We have to deliberately fix this and I can assure you the political elite are not fully committed to this. Look at how much money goes into elections, isn’t it the treasury that is indirectly spent? We need honest solutions to trim waste and this will happen with more transparency and accountability of public treasury. When we put efficiency on every single kobo spent by government, we are ready to move forward.
“We have earned almost $1trn from oil since our exploration and look at other countries, such as Norway and even UAE. Look at countries that also don’t have oil and placed the knowledge economy ahead of natural resources, such as Taiwan and South Korea. We have failed this country with gross theft and abysmal infrastructure. We even left the Niger Delta in tatters with more strife and sectionalism. We need a new narrative and visionary leadership with pragmatic attention to the Nigerian problem. This is a key way that we can advance forward.

“That we were able to come back to democracy and foreclose conversations on return of the military is a big win for me. The next step is to ensure we make this democracy count. We need citizens awake to their responsibilities,” he said.

 

 

CHUKS OLUIGBO & NATHANIEL AKHIGBE

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