It's what, not who

It’s what, not who

By Okey Ndibe

Each day Nigerians are saddled with the diversion of third term is another day lost to productive meditation on the nation’s myriad problems. The rhetoric of term elongation amounts to a wastage of national time and energy. Nigeria’s malaise has nothing to do with who occupies Aso Rock as well as state gubernatorial houses. It has everything to do with the distortions, missed opportunities, untaken roads and tragic choices of our national experience.

I shared the foregoing thoughts with a friend who rang me up recently to discuss, what else, third term. Did I not realize, he asked, that Obasanjo’s exit meant the return of Ibrahim Babangida or Atiku Abubakar? Since the choice was between these three men, why did I not recognise the wisdom of supporting Obasanjo’s extended tenancy in power? Did I not know, he queried, that the present president was an infinitely more attractive choice than the other options? If I was unimpressed by Obasanjo’s war against corruption, was I aware that Babangida was more likely to wage a war against the war on corruption? If I regarded the current dispensation’s anti-graft enterprise as puny, could I imagine an Atiku even deigning to read a single speech against corrupt enrichment, much less lift a finger to combat the scourge?

As a first principle, I had to disavow my friend’s central thesis, namely, that Nigeria’s leadership pool was reducible to exactly three men. To make that contention is, I believe, not just fallacious; it is nothing short of moronic. Anybody who imagines the three men as a troika of titans is admitting, perhaps without knowing it, a fundamental defect in the polity we know as Nigeria. That defect is this: that Nigeria is a malformed entity, at best a nation waiting to be born, but more akin to a space (to paraphrase Wole Soyinka) with no national spirit inhering in it. The Nigeria in which men like Obasanjo, Babangida and Atiku are seen as defining the limits of leadership options is a bandit nation where mandates can be carted off by men steeped in the logic of guns and wealth.

In fact, the nation in which the issue of Obasanjo’s continuation can be raised at all, much less commandeer the discourse, is indistinguishable from the one in which Babangida’s candidacy, or Atiku’s, is taken seriously. Nigerians have been compelled to invest tremendous energy in the debate over third term, a non-issue. What we should be focusing on is how to conceive and bring about a nation in which poseurs like Obasanjo, Babangida, and Atiku will not show up on the radar at all.

Both Babangida and Atiku are apt to thrive in the same political economy that threw up and sustains Obasanjo. It is a system where supposedly elected officials bear the appellation of rulers. It is a system where the president is treated by his aides as if he were god, and where he acclimates himself to acting like one. It is a rubric where the national treasury is treated as the private bequest of the man of power, to be dispensed at his pleasure and whim. The Nigeria that Obasanjo inherited, and the one he wants to maintain, is one where oil rigs blocks are handed to party faithful, where the anointed few are permitted to enrich themselves from the public till, where court orders are flouted with impunity, where party thieftains and other unctuous sycophants of the man in power are regaled with national honours, where blatant rigging is ascribed to divine acts. It is a nation where iniquitous men strut the public stage, where the parvenu daily enact opulent displays of spectacular wealth whose provenance is, to be euphemistic, suspect.

Nigerians, it is clear, desire a break from that aberrancy that announces itself as a nation. That explains the multiplication of groups whose sole catechism is ethnic separatism, whose purchase on public sympathy grows by the day, and whose incendiary rhetoric is sometimes wedded to violent action. The drumbeat of secessionism is being beaten by the hordes of the disaffected, the millions of Nigerians sick and tired of being discounted in the scheme of things. Many so-called ordinary Nigerians, aware that their names are subtracted whenever the crowd in Abuja talks about the nation’s “stake holders,” are raising a battle cry: “Destroy this temple!” Long victimized by the drear prospects of Nigeria, they now fantasise about beginning anew within a different, ethnic template. Convinced of the bankruptcy of Nigeria, they are willing to try a different option, however uncertain. It is less a vote for the miniaturizing of Nigeria than a declaration that Nigeria, as currently constituted and operated, has become an insupportable absurdity.

About twenty years ago, the novelist Chinua Achebe told me in an interview that the Nigerian nation had not yet been founded. Lacking his depth of knowledge about the vicissitudes and misfortunes of Nigeria, I was somewhat scandalized by his claim. Today, I know better. And I know too that Nigeria is even less founded than it was when Achebe delivered that trenchant assessment.

A concomitant of that conclusion is that Nigeria stands today in desperate need to be fundamentally re-imagined. It is a task that President Olusegun Obasanjo might have undertaken. Perhaps it was too much to ask of a man whose gifts and inclinations lie elsewhere. Perhaps he was blinded by a desire to bask in the sheer glamour of power. Perhaps he was too deeply invested in the arid version of Nigeria to lend his energy to the heraldry of a new, invigorated nation. Whatever the reason, he has done his nation a disservice and his legacy a discredit by substituting his personal ambition for the national imperative.

Anybody who begins by asking who will have his address at Aso Rock come 2007 already has tragically missed the point. The issue is, what kind of Nigeria do we envision in 2007 and beyond? It is a question that the delegates at the ongoing PRONACO parley are admiringly grappling with. Nigeria must become a nation founded on equitable laws, a nation underwritten by the principle that no citizen is above subjection to the rule of law. We must become a nation where citizenship counts for something, where each citizen has a robust sense of belonging to a purpose-driven national entity.

We ought to be dreaming a Nigeria where public funds are put to public purpose, not emptied into private bank accounts; a nation where leaders are held truly accountable, where citizens are guaranteed access to public officials’ asset declarations; a polity whose soldiers would not be instruments of genocide against fellow citizens, whose police would refuse to carry out an illicit order, however exalted the order’s issuer; a Nigeria where voters are truly sovereign and elections are not doctored by false gods; a nation whose three arms of government functions independently and with integrity; a collectivity whose leaders do not rule but lead; where politicians espouse sound visions rather than spout the facile cliché about “moving the nation forward.”

While we distract ourselves with false elixir of third term and seek to frighten its opponents with the spectral figures of Babangida and Atiku, we woefully fail to take the path that alone offers us an opportunity to rescue Nigeria from moribundity. While we fritter away precious time on the outsized ambitions of three men with questionable leadership credentials, our nation slips ever closer to the edge of the chasm. 



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Re: .It's what, not who
Positubosun posted on 04-26-2006, 08:03:33 AM
Truly we should be concerned with what happens to Nigeria after 2007, and for now think less of the 'evil axis' of the trio of IBB, OBJ and Atiku. Certainly if OBJ was a statesman in the class of Nelson Mandela, he should have lobbied the House of Assembly to sponsor bills that bothered on satisfying the agitations of the federating units, so as to douse the tension in the land.

By now questions on revenue allocation, whether or not to adopt a cheaper parliamentary system of Government, restructuring Nigeria along regional lines rather than economically unviable states, marginalisation and many more should have been properly addressed through the various committes on constitutional review set up by this government. Certainly there is no political will to do so on his part. The incumbent had 8 years to sponsor review of the constitution along this line, but was wasted away!

If OBJ succeeds 'temporarily' this time with his pet project called third term, the consequence can be found in the article published on this link titled:'Nigeria chosen to host 2008 Genocides'

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/30814

This is WHAT may happen, WHO will then be irrelevant!

'Posi Olatubosun
Economic Development in Emerging Markets
University of Reading
UK
.It's what, not who
Okey Ndibe posted on 04-26-2006, 08:04:52 AM



It’s what, not who



By Okey Ndibe



Each day Nigerians are saddled with the diversion of third term is another day lost to productive meditation on the nation’s myriad problems. The rhetoric of term elongation amounts to a wastage of national time and energy. Nigeria’s malaise has nothing to do with who occupies Aso Rock as well as state gubernatorial houses. It has everything to do with the distortions, missed opportunities, untaken roads and tragic choices of our national experience.



I shared the foregoing thoughts with a friend who rang me up recently to discuss, what else, third term. Did I not realize, he asked, that Obasanjo’s exit meant the return of Ibrahim Babangida or Atiku Abubakar? Since the choice was between these three men, why did I not recognise the wisdom of supporting Obasanjo’s extended tenancy in power? Did I not know, he queried, that the present president was an infinitely more attractive choice than the other options? If I was unimpressed by Obasanjo’s war against corruption, was I aware that Babangida was more likely to wage a war against the war on corruption? If I regarded the current dispensation’s anti-graft enterprise as puny, could I imagine an Atiku even deigning to read a single speech against corrupt enrichment, much less lift a finger to combat the scourge?



As a first principle, I had to disavow my friend’s central thesis, namely, that Nigeria’s leadership pool was reducible to exactly three men. To make that contention is, I believe, not just fallacious; it is nothing short of moronic. Anybody who imagines the three men as a troika of titans is admitting, perhaps without knowing it, a fundamental defect in the polity we know as Nigeria. That defect is this: that Nigeria is a malformed entity, at best a nation waiting to be born, but more akin to a space (to paraphrase Wole Soyinka) with no national spirit inhering in it. The Nigeria in which men like Obasanjo, Babangida and Atiku are seen as defining the limits of leadership options is a bandit nation where mandates can be carted off by men steeped in the logic of guns and wealth.



In fact, the nation in which the issue of Obasanjo’s continuation can be raised at all, much less commandeer the discourse, is indistinguishable from the one in which Babangida’s candidacy, or Atiku’s, is taken seriously. Nigerians have been compelled to invest tremendous energy in the debate over third term, a non-issue. What we should be focusing on is how to conceive and bring about a nation in which poseurs like Obasanjo, Babangida, and Atiku will not show up on the radar at all.



Both Babangida and Atiku are apt to thrive in the same political economy that threw up and sustains Obasanjo. It is a system where supposedly elected officials bear the appellation of rulers. It is a system where the president is treated by his aides as if he were god, and where he acclimates himself to acting like one. It is a rubric where the national treasury is treated as the private bequest of the man of power, to be dispensed at his pleasure and whim. The Nigeria that Obasanjo inherited, and the one he wants to maintain, is one where oil rigs blocks are handed to party faithful, where the anointed few are permitted to enrich themselves from the public till, where court orders are flouted with impunity, where party thieftains and other unctuous sycophants of the man in power are regaled with national honours, where blatant rigging is ascribed to divine acts. It is a nation where iniquitous men strut the public stage, where the parvenu daily enact opulent displays of spectacular wealth whose provenance is, to be euphemistic, suspect.



Nigerians, it is clear, desire a break from that aberrancy that announces itself as a nation. That explains the multiplication of groups whose sole catechism is ethnic separatism, whose purchase on public sympathy grows by the day, and whose incendiary rhetoric is sometimes wedded to violent action. The drumbeat of secessionism is being beaten by the hordes of the disaffected, the millions of Nigerians sick and tired of being discounted in the scheme of things. Many so-called ordinary Nigerians, aware that their names are subtracted whenever the crowd in Abuja talks about the nation’s “stake holders,” are raising a battle cry: “Destroy this temple!” Long victimized by the drear prospects of Nigeria, they now fantasise about beginning anew within a different, ethnic template. Convinced of the bankruptcy of Nigeria, they are willing to try a different option, however uncertain. It is less a vote for the miniaturizing of Nigeria than a declaration that Nigeria, as currently constituted and operated, has become an insupportable absurdity.



About twenty years ago, the novelist Chinua Achebe told me in an interview that the Nigerian nation had not yet been founded. Lacking his depth of knowledge about the vicissitudes and misfortunes of Nigeria, I was somewhat scandalized by his claim. Today, I know better. And I know too that Nigeria is even less founded than it was when Achebe delivered that trenchant assessment.



A concomitant of that conclusion is that Nigeria stands today in desperate need to be fundamentally re-imagined. It is a task that President Olusegun Obasanjo might have undertaken. Perhaps it was too much to ask of a man whose gifts and inclinations lie elsewhere. Perhaps he was blinded by a desire to bask in the sheer glamour of power. Perhaps he was too deeply invested in the arid version of Nigeria to lend his energy to the heraldry of a new, invigorated nation. Whatever the reason, he has done his nation a disservice and his legacy a discredit by substituting his personal ambition for the national imperative.



Anybody who begins by asking who will have his address at Aso Rock come 2007 already has tragically missed the point. The issue is, what kind of Nigeria do we envision in 2007 and beyond? It is a question that the delegates at the ongoing PRONACO parley are admiringly grappling with. Nigeria must become a nation founded on equitable laws, a nation underwritten by the principle that no citizen is above subjection to the rule of law. We must become a nation where citizenship counts for something, where each citizen has a robust sense of belonging to a purpose-driven national entity.



We ought to be dreaming a Nigeria where public funds are put to public purpose, not emptied into private bank accounts; a nation where leaders are held truly accountable, where citizens are guaranteed access to public officials’ asset declarations; a polity whose soldiers would not be instruments of genocide against fellow citizens, whose police would refuse to carry out an illicit order, however exalted the order’s issuer; a Nigeria where voters are truly sovereign and elections are not doctored by false gods; a nation whose three arms of government functions independently and with integrity; a collectivity whose leaders do not rule but lead; where politicians espouse sound visions rather than spout the facile cliché about “moving the nation forward.”



While we distract ourselves with false elixir of third term and seek to frighten its opponents with the spectral figures of Babangida and Atiku, we woefully fail to take the path that alone offers us an opportunity to rescue Nigeria from moribundity. While we fritter away precious time on the outsized ambitions of three men with questionable leadership credentials, our nation slips ever closer to the edge of the chasm. 



..Read the full article
We've Gone Past Dreaming! It's SHOWTIME!
UNREGISTER posted on 04-26-2006, 08:27:31 AM
STAY THE COURSE
...AND ECONOMIC PROSPERITY WILL FOLLOW!


By Dr Chamberlain S Peterside (NIGERIAWORLD)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


...Mixed Bag

igeria has been going through quite a bit of topsy-turvy lately. The first quarter of 2006 was marked by a mixed-bag of events. Two hostage crises in the Niger Delta and religious riots in the North and Eastern parts of the country made the newswire, dwarfing a lot of other more comforting economic events like the historic debt deal, banking reform/liberalized exchange regime, assignment of (BB minus) sovereign credit rating etc. The IMF in one of its recent reports, indicated that thanks to robust emerging markets, foreign remittance and on-going reforms within the continent, capital flow has been on the upsurge as growth forecast is poised to surpass the 5% mark over the next few years.



Nigeria has set a long-term goal of growing its economy at 10% or more annually and becoming one of the 20th largest economy in 2020. Incidentally, earlier this week we learnt that Nigeria would be the first Africa country to become debt-free from the Paris Club of Creditors, upon payment of the second installment of the $12 billion deal. These might all sound frivolous to critics and perennial skeptics. But the ray of positive outlook is better than the roller-coaster the country has experienced in past decades and could suggest that the economy is on the mend.

...Mad House
During an earlier congressional testimony, Mr. John Negreponte - US Director of National Intelligence warned that an attempt to seek a third term by President Obasanjo might result in dire consequences for the country. Soon after, Senator Barak Obama, New York Times and a California tabloid newspaper all joined the chorus of soothsayers. Meanwhile there is a groundswell of opposition at home against the constitutional amendment, with some politicians promising fire and brimstone should the so-called third-term agenda sail through. Quite frankly, I have become accustomed to doomsday prediction of the intelligence community and often take it with a grain of salt, especially as history has proven the contrary in several regions around the world.

They never seem to get things right before it happens or often exaggerate the obvious. It all boils down to intelligent guessing. The velvet revolution early 1990s in Eastern Europe (Czechoslovakia, and Romania to be exact), genocide in Rwanda and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia unfolded under everyone's nose, yet they didn't see it coming. Soviet Union's collapse was greeted with all sorts of catastrophic predictions that never materialized. The British House of Lords in their deliberation about Nigeria's situation took a more cautionary look at things preferring to leave it in the hands of "Nigerian people". The crux of the matter is that after such a tumultuous history, Nigeria has come to stay and needs to remain focused on its problems to survive and thrive.

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The clamor to become the next president seems to be overshadowing more serious and substantive issues for the common man. The effect of over 30 years of military mismanagement is written all over the faces of poor citizens, whose lives have been rendered hopeless. Affording "one good meal" a day in the current environment is a tall order, yet all we hear is the hue and cry for or against third term - what an errant nonsense.

Not to minimize the role of politicians in any democratic dispensation, I'd argue that there is a clear-cut misplacement of priority in Nigeria.

Democracy cannot be built or thrive on an dry patch. Given the current conditions in Nigeria, unless the lot of the people is drastically improved fast, real power would continue to elude the electorate and rest in the hands of few political opportunists who will consistently manipulate the society.

...Historical Lessons
The events of the last seven years at least has set in motion a process, albeit slowly, that would bring about long-term stability, if only Nigeria can stay the course. Does anyone sincerely think that the man on the street cares about third term, if he can't afford to eat? Come to think of it, the political elites creating this whole buzz are well-off. My case is simple - that economic prosperity is a long hard road, which can be achieved only through disciplined and sustained transformational process. At the end of the day, it won't matter who the president is or where he comes from, if people can be well taken care of.

The fortunate reality is that the center of gravity seem to be fast shifting in Nigeria and the economic terrain is transforming quite rapidly in such a way that erstwhile privileged elites are loosing ground and therefore putting a strong fight to sustain the status-quo in the name of democracy - change is a natural process my friends. Nigeria's situation will be no different than other countries around the world - like Turkey during the early 20th century when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, successfully eliminated the over-bearing influence of religion on the state by creating a secular society thereby setting Turkey on the path of modernization.

Russia during the reign of President Boris Yeltsin in late 1980s/early 1990s offers another vivid example. Despite being a former communist himself, he successfully dismantled the hegemony of corrupt and parasitic communist bureaucrats, fended off their spirited opposition and initiating one of the most radical socio-economic reform measures in modern times - not a perfect one for that matter. That process resulted in the ascension of Mr. Putin to office, who is still finishing the job. Today Russia has become a member of the exclusive G-8 club of wealthiest nations and still wielding authority as a major player in global geopolitics.

...Staying The Path
The task ahead of this administration is onerous, given the depth to which the country has sunk over decades. Whether this administration could deliver Nigeria to the "promised land" is early to say, but you must agree that it has undoubtedly set the ball rolling. Fight against graft and influence peddling, fiscal discipline and radical reforms have led to recent gains in the economic front both domestically and abroad.

To illustrate one of the ironies - as the country remains embroiled in a heated debate on whether or not it would survive as an entity, Kuwaiti based MTC/Celtel Group is forging ahead with its $1,0 billion acquisition of V-Mobile. China just got the nod to invest over $2,0 billion in the oil industry - yes you might say everyone wants our crude oil. In a series of recent meetings with financiers in Europe, the re-occurring theme was - what deals are there in Nigeria? Am quite sure other players in the industry share this growing sentiment, which to me are tell-tale signals of better times for the economy in particular and the populace ultimately.

...Not Yet Uhuru
It's not yet "Uhuru" (free and home safe) for the common man as they say in Swahili, but the reform process must continue, albeit with constant modifications and review. There is simply no alternative. The experiment of military rule on the guise of fighting corruption was all baloney that has led the country no where. It is natural for the opposition to aspire to power and there's no way to know if someone could do better until given the opportunity. My conviction is that the agitation should be within the ambit of law and through political dialogue like in other civilized societies. The plain truth is that Nigeria has gone beyond the stage of policy experimentation. The citizens cannot remain "guinea pigs" on the altar of extremist political brinkmanship. What we need now, is a committed, strong, disciplined and visionary leadership at all levels that could deliver the barest life minimum of clean water, electricity, affordable housing, decent infrastructure and security - those are true attributes of a virile and stable democratic society. Only by staying the course of market reform and rule of law can that be achieved - who leads that process is irrelevant.
Re: .It's what, not who
Igwe posted on 04-26-2006, 09:23:31 AM
With all due respect, I think this brilliant essay does what many like it do: point to the problem without pointing to the solution. In fairness to Okey, he did mention PRONACO, but only in passing. We know the kind of country we want but how do we get it? That is the question that many have not asked themselves. I'm sure that OBJ himself wishes, in his moments of utmost patriotic sanity, that Nigeria will be all the things that Okey rightly mentioned here. Wouldn't like to have his children and grand children studying in Nigeria instead of overseas and being proud about it? But how do we get there???


OBJ called a conference after so many years of clamoring for one and the result is in the negative. Now we know that the reason for he convocation of the conference was the ignominious the third term agenda.

It's all nice and good for Achebe to say that the nation has not been built at all. But did he say how to build it? Saying, as he did that the problem with Nigeria is bad leadership is attacking the symptom and leaving the disease itself to get stronger.

PRONACO is tugging it out now but still their effort is rather isolated. They are not getting the coverage, much less the support they need from Nigerians.


We need to begin to redefine ourselves, by ourselves. If PRONACO helps us in that direction and I believe that's their mission, then we will be grateful to them. But too many Nigerians want to continue with the status quo, preferring only cosmetic changes. And that is why we are hooked on personalities, as Okey rightly pointed out. We should go as far as questioning the meaning of the word NIGERIA and why it was created. Our emancipation lies in that direction.

It's only when we're sure of "who" and "what" we are that we can create the kinds of institutions Okey spoke about. My difficulty with his prognosis is that he thought those institutions will just come from our mere wishing that they come.
Re: .It's what, not who
Hakim posted on 04-26-2006, 09:59:01 AM
"Nigeria's malaise has nothing to do with who occupies Aso Rock as well as state gubernatorial houses. It has everything to do with the distortions, missed opportunities, untaken roads and tragic choices of our national experience."


I came accross the above quote and i couldn't believe my eyes. Is this the same Okey Ndibe who have spent the last six years castigating Obasanjo alone for everything that is wrong with Nigeria? i thought maybe this is an impostor but i kept reading and then another nugget:

" What we should be focusing on is how to conceive and bring about a nation in which poseurs like Obasanjo, Babangida, and Atiku will not show up on the radar at all.


Oga Ndibe, i agree with you completely on this one, we should all be dissipating energy on how to bring about such a nation and not waste too much time on bashing an individual even if such person is the president.
Re: .It's what, not who
Denker posted on 04-26-2006, 11:21:35 AM
mr igwe,

with due respect, either you're just awaking from your slumber of mind or you have failed to do your homework of mind properly....if you're told that 1+1 = 2, and you jump up and ask where does 2 comes from, either you don't want to use your mind-power or you're being schamless...have a nice da..!
Re: .It's what, not who
Gwobezentashi posted on 04-26-2006, 14:40:13 PM
@ demonteufel, it's the chicken and egg situation - which came first? The institutions or the leader? Who builds the institutions as they do not build themselves? The people need leadership to develop the institutions. Of course it matters who leads.

Aluta!

Gwobezentashi
Re: .It's what, not who
Tochukwu posted on 04-26-2006, 16:10:15 PM
Mr Hakim

What Mr Ndibe meant by not minding who occupied Aso Rock applies to the problem of ethnicism in Nigeria. Personally, I do not care if the president of Nigeria was from the moon in as much that he leads well. The problem with Obasanjo is that he has continued to prove that he lacks every quality required of a good leader. That is the reason why well-meaning Nigerians like Mr. Ndibe have always opposed Chief Obasanjo.
Re: .It's what, not who
Nnodi posted on 04-26-2006, 18:09:42 PM
Obj's Great mistake is that he has made himself become the ONLY embodiment of Southern political leadership capable of facing Babangida and Atiku in a presidential election. Meaning that if he is somehow out of the picture, the South becomes quite vulnerable, with the complicity of the army and Northern political leaders. His position of strenght is actually more illusory than real, as time will show.

While it is true that the political process should be more about "what" than "who", it is equally true that Nigerians are not even sure about what constitutes the "what" yet.
It is unfortunate that, for the many, the "what" which has drowned all other consideration is the pursuit of the one Nigeria without a stated and objective purpose. This pursuit, without the creation of institutions which enforces one Nigeria which operates with total impartiality to ethnic group, language or religion, will continue to leave us in a limbo which will outlast us.

I have to say that the Nigerian intelligentsia (including internationally known journalists/writers) haven't pulled their weight in educating the people about worthy "whats".
Re: .It's what, not who
Nnodi posted on 04-26-2006, 18:16:03 PM
"Personally, I do not care if the president of Nigeria was from the moon in as much that he leads well."

So why don't we get some a tested and experienced administrator from another country, since we don't care if the president is from the moon?
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