Making Nigeria Work
By Kayode Oladele
How can we make or construct a Nigeria of our dream? How can we create a place where everybody will have a fair share of whatever that exists, where citizens' rights are not trampled upon, and where people are treated with a sense of dignity? How can we build a Nigeria where people can realize their potentials where merit counts and where hard work is rewarded?
Four things must happen even though, they are not exhaustive. First Nigerians must be truly patriotic; second they must be hardworking; third, they must be accountable, and lastly, merit must be core in appointments into public office and governance.
Let us take each of these factors and examine or explain them. Patriotism defined as love of and/or devotion to one's country. However, patriotism has had different meanings over time, and its meaning is highly dependent upon context, geography and philosophy. Although patriotism is used in certain vernaculars as a synonym for nationalism, nationalism is not considered an inherent part of patriotism. In the United States of America, for instance, it is better for somebody to accuse one of corruption than to question one's patriotism. In America, patriotism stands first before anything else. However, patriotism is also the reason why Americans will not expect that anybody will do anything that undermines the union, that will do things to undermine the effort to build a better society and state.
Nigerians are very proud of their country, they are also very patriotic, but they feel let down by their leaders and our value system. This has made some of them to act or behave in ways that undermine the pride of the country thus given it a bad name and terrible image abroad. In a sense, some Nigerians do not see the connection between their love for country and their behavioral activities. They do not perceive that it is important for them to be consistent in what they do or say to tally with their love for country. Patriotism is not just about love for country but also duty and commitment to that country. Our duty to Nigeria is not to engage in 419 or undermine other people or to dupe them. As citizens, our goal should be to live a decent life, to be upright at all times and to serve as role models to others.
Second, Nigerians are hardworking and goal -oriented people. They can do anything just to survive in order to keep afloat or eke a decent living. They earn poor wages and engage in multiple modes of livelihood just to keep afloat. However, Nigerians want accountability, personal, institutional and public accountability. The questioning of accountability starts when it comes to public institutions and structures. People believe that government business is nobody's business. The fear of tomorrow, greed and selfishness make people to be corrupt and unaccountable. However, accountability is not just about money, it is also about attitude and disposition towards other people, it is about opening the books, and it is about collective responsibility. In a word, accountability is the opposite of arbitrariness. The insensitivity of those who hold public posts/positions, their arbitrariness that often manifests in authoritarian disposition towards subordinates is core to the crisis of patriotism in Nigeria. It is impossible to say that those who loot public treasury and who are arbitrary are patriots. The psychic impact and ripple effect of such values are quite devastating and destructive of the political system and social fabrics.
The most tragic thing in Nigeria is lack of merit in governance and government appointments. Although I believe that, the consociational or coalitional principle of federal character allows for an inclusive and harmonious political mode, however, there is need for merit to be applied even in reflecting the federal character principle. The bane of Nigerian politics is that those who govern have no business with governance; those who lead have not business with leadership. Many of our leaders, lack ideas, they are shallow, hedonistic, selfish, individualistic and they do not share a wider vision like the ordinary people of Nigeria. They are driven by selfish instinct rather than the public good. The sad aspect of it all is that everything conduct of such people suggest that they prefer external and foreign things than Nigerian derived and Nigerian made things. They shop abroad, even for their drinks and body lotion. Their children study abroad, they have foreign bank accounts, they go for medical treatment abroad, they own property abroad, their feeling is that abroad is better, secure and safer than Nigeria.
These same leaders join other ordinary Nigerians to complain about the "Nigerian problem". However, they little realized that just like Chinua Achebe state din the first paragraph of his little pamphlet titled The Trouble with Nigeria, that the real problem with Nigeria is the failure of leadership. There is leadership failure because what we do in governance is not driven by ideas, merit and hard work. The most uncreative and unimaginative people are the ones governing Nigeria today. As such, they do not know their left from right, they are best in corruption. They do not know the limits of arbitrariness because of the fear of their own weakness-they are victims of their own phobia. To cover up and turn attention away from themselves, they begin to bully and harass their subordinates and people. They deny their subordinates their rights, and they insist on the wrong way of doing things. To them, followership should be blind to what they do, because followership means total submissiveness. This sis what ahs been happening in all public institutions in Nigeria from Local Government level to the federal level. In our schools, hospitals, water and energy Boards, to any sphere of public institutions that exist.
Nigeria needs reform, but it is not the reform that says "mirror others only and leave me out". It is not the reform that says a few privileged people can steal the wealth and resources of the country and people should turn the other way, while those who commit minor crimes get severe punishment. It is not the system that has abused Plea bargaining in a situation where entire states and communities have been denied basic utilities and services because of the misdeeds of a few public officers. Accountability in governance is important, but that accountability starts with how we consider public officer, the premium we place on the political mandate and our collective will to bring about change in society. We must all be interested in politics, we cannot abandon politics to others and say government business is nobody's business, or that politics is a dirty game. Such claim is convenient to the polite elite who continue to use that slogan to scare people away from active political participation while they have a field day. We must not allow ourselves to be deluded or deceived. As citizens and responsible ones at that, as tax payers and people who believe in accountability we have a right to ask for accountability in all public institutions. To have the moral basis to do this, we too must be accountable.
It is unbelievable that enormous amount of money that is daily declared by EFCC were stolen in Nigeria. It is unbelievable that, with utmost contempt and insensitivity, some Nigerians collude with others to defraud their country, all in the name of doing sharp and quick business or moving on the fast lane. This is not patriotism. However, those who give Nigeria a bad image abroad are few. They are not just the Cybercrime or Yahoo-Yahoo boys, they are not just the Mugu ideologues, they are also people who hold responsible positions in government; they are also people who rule over us. It is therefore an irony that many of the unpatriotic people are found in responsible leadership positions in Nigeria. However, this group are what we call a dominant minority. This is what makes people outside the shores of Nigeria to have the feeling that majority of Nigerians are corrupt. The first major way to tackle this cankerworm is to internalize the principle of leadership by example. Our leaders must see themselves as role models that the youth will want to copy, for good or for bad. They are a window on Nigeria for which every foreign dignitary, foreign journalist and research will wish to relate with on first hand to know their values and disposition. Second, we must mainstream best practices in all we do. This will make public departments and agencies to instutionalize a culture of probity and accountability. If our leaders practise these, then the followership will take a cue from them; learning by example and precepts will become the rule and not the exception. This is the way we can make patriotism have meaning and well rooted.
We need to realize that the ordinary Nigerians have nowhere else to go except Nigeria, if the health centers and schools are bad, they still have nowhere to go. That is why patriotism is their generic condition because patriotism to them is about survival and it comes so naturally to them. Whereas to the elite, patriotism is a pass time, a luxury that they can decide to indulge in or jettison, they wear it when it is convenient and abandon it when it is expedient. However, the ordinary people cannot afford such a luxury, because for them, ground is the limit and the stakes are so high amid no-choice situations.