Hope Uzodinma, the Imo state governor’s repeal of the Governors and Speakers Pensions and Privileges Law of 2007 last week is a glimpse of hope. If it can happen in the Imo state of Nigeria, it can happen in Nigeria if we have the right leaders in the right place irrespective of the leadership and institutional voids.
For nations to move from traditional societies to the take-off stage of civilisation and economic development, leaders who are creators are needed. When leaders take on their positions, they are likely to fall into two categories. Some leaders will be what John Maxwell called ‘maintainers’ in his book, the Leadership Shift. Others will be what he termed as creators.
Nigeria judging by the current political structure, which has led to the glamour for self-succession among some of the federations has mostly led by leaders who are maintainers. They have maintained the forced amalgamation of Lord Lugard in 1914. Our leaders have seen what is beneficial to their regions, ethnic groups or their pockets in the creation of Lord Lugard rather than seeing the benefits of agreed, equal and mutual federation could bring to all Nigerians irrespective of their affiliation to their tribes.
Our leaders are contented with the status quo in power and resource sharing and they want to stay in the comfort zone of power and only manage what was established by the colonial masters who did not understand our culture and diversity as a nation. It is the failure of our leaders to create a new and equalitarian society that has led to Nigeria being predicted as the next Soviet Union if nothing is done. Even, the region that always shout ‘one Nigeria’ because of the benefits from Nigeria’s resource and power arrangement cannot sustain her people and the one Nigeria is a slogan for the privileged who will rather die for the status quo to remain.
We have drafted and approved many constitutional reforms, yet we have not made drastic changes that can manage our diversity better except for the benefits to the ruling elites. Our politicians have been playing “ludo” with our existence. Give a governor a mandate for four years. He will use the first tenure of four years to dance to the tune of the godfathers and the political gladiators of the state. From his first day in office, he is calculating how to be re-elected for the second term at all the possible cost. He will be using the state’s resources to execute ill-thought and white-elephant capital projects to satisfy the psychology of the people at inflated prices to get funds for his re-election. He will do everything possible not to offend the sensibility of the godfathers and if practicable open the vault of the state to his political sponsors.
After his re-election, his desire to be brave and be a creator as a leader will be short-lived by his willingness to appoint his successor and be the godfather of the state. He will want to be the significant political gladiator and sponsor, all at the expense of the majority who are living below the poverty line. He will make the option to be elected as a member of the senate a priority to remain relevant politically or prevent the anti-graft agency going after him.
At the federal level, we have created many institutions without strengthening those that could assure accountability. We have selected government based on the promise of fighting corruption with lopsided vision and use the fight as political tools. Our leaders dribble or makes U-turns at will and throw passes more than the legendary footballers. Recently, Olusegun Obasanjo makes a bold declaration asking the government to listen to the agitation of the people for restructuring the country to safe the country from plunging into another war. He gave his reasons for something he had vehemently ignored while in office. Let’s leave that for another day. I will be back on that with a befitting title like Obasanjo: dribbles, U-turns and passes. Let’s take it or leave; it is either with listen to one another to get the benefits of our diversity or go the ways of the Soviets. In the long run, it is either we restructure the inequality between the rich or the poor, or we dismantle it in its entirety.
Nigeria needs leaders who are creators. We need people who will do things in the interest of the people with or without the prospect of the second term or continuity in office. I will not shy away from acknowledging a bold member of the Short Man Association of Nigeria. I am sure he is likely to be the vice president of the association if the current vice-president of Nigeria is the president of the association. Mallam Nasir El-rufai did the unthinkable as a first-time governor when he sacked over 25000 unqualified teachers in his state. He wasn’t afraid of the influence of these teachers and their sponsors in his quest for a second term election. Again, let’s leave El-rufai today but for another day. Is El-rufai among the prophets is a title for another article.
Now to Hope Uzodinma, a man who has given a glimpse of hope to the people of Imo state. We don’t care if his victory is from the court. His decision to repeal the law that pays ex-governors, deputy governors and speakers’ huge pension payment at the expense of the poor people of the state is commendable. His decision is an attestation that there are leaders who look at tomorrow different from today, who are likely to do what hasn’t been done before and take risks as long as it is in the interest of their people.
At the federal level, we need detribalised leaders who are not the apostles of any of the religion and ethnic nations. We need leaders who will see beyond maintaining the status quo. We need leaders who will take the right steps to keep all the federating nations in Nigeria united with a sense of equity and justice because a united Nigeria is more honourable among the committee of countries in the world. Whatever it takes, to keep Nigeria together amicably should be the focus of leaders who are willing to create a new Nigeria from the Lugard’s imagination of the North and the South. We want leaders who understand what Jeremiah said about what will break out of the north to all the inhabitant of the people and prevent it with justice and equality.
Why should any state government pay a pension to a governor after eight years of collecting unaccountable fund as security votes? Why should an unborn generation be impoverished at the expense of others? Why do the rich want to get richer at the expense of the oxygen of the poor?
Uzodinma has answered the questions. He has given a glimpse of hope to his people, and one thing he needs to do is to sustain the hope. The hope is in his boldness to repeal the law that was meant to steal legitimately from the majority to the minority, from the poor to the rich. The glimpse is, however, not enough for the people of Imo state. They need the hope of an assuring glimpse that the money saved from the unpaid pension and other savings from inflated contracts will not go the same way as they came. They want to see their money channel into infrastructure and education for their children and will hope that this glimpse is not a temporary hope for them.