LESS than 10 minutes from the Presidential Villa in Abuja, there is a very hopeful community of Nigerians. They live with no pipe borne water, no toilets and no system of garbage disposal and they have lots of children. The Local Catholic out-station facility is used as a school during the week. Two collapsing structures provide additional classrooms. One of them, for a cowshed, would be inappropriate to host 12 cattle, but it hosts three classes with no demarcation.
There are 47 of the children in class one, 19 in primary four, and 10 in primary five, in that classroom that could not take a dozen sheep conveniently. And the shepherds of these 66 children, the teachers, NCE graduates, each earn about nine thousand Naira a month. It would seem that all the teachers in this school of several hundred pupils have emoluments which put together for one year, was still less than each PDP delegate to the last 'transparent' convention got as inducement to vote their conscience.
Across the road still being asphalted, the Kpaduma community can see N800 million to one billion Naira private residential palaces, almost all being built by politicians and people who have hardly ever created any wealth. This contrast, within shouting reach of the Presidential mansion, is emblematic of what could be the basis of our accounting when the rage of Tunisia comes. This accounting will also be required by history, then, ultimately, for those who believe, the judgement of the Almighty will provide further accounting impetrative.
Is this the reaction of a starry-eyed idealist or of a left winger to social inequity. Consider some of the labels that have been hung on me in years past, by foes and friends, "Bourgeois apologist" evangelist of free enterprise, Business Angel, Market economy zealot'. It is not left wing quizzling. It is closing in on one of the symbols of a disconnected political class unwittingly paving the road to Tunisia, Egypt or may be Somalia. But it is also about why 2011 is close to last chance to salvage the Nigerian experiment in nation building.
Before you get comfortable with the fact that the judgement which is surely coming to this land will be for politicians alone let me shake your comfort zone by assuring you that guilt will be more widespread. The media in becoming so corrupt, corrupted and lacking in imagination of how Nigerians can escape the current bondage; the business community is becoming prostitute to all who have temporary power; the intellectuals have either abdicated or fail to seek redemptive options in their analysis; middle class people who find such security in their SUV, that they fail to be citizens, and even the poor that cannot network and use people power to force the system to become more accountable, will have to account.
We do not have to love Franz Fanon to accept the truth that every people are faced with the challenge of discovering the mission of their generation, either to betray it or deliver on it. What has happened to us is significantly a betrayal of the mission of our generation. Compared to emerging countries of our size and endowments in this age of demographic dividend, where large populations are nor liability but advantage if the right investments are made in the social sectors like education and healthcare, Nigeria is exceptional in lying prostrate, as Brazil, India, Indonesia etc, surge forward in progress. In any normal country the elections of 2011 should be a plebiscite on the Nigerian condition and the political party that has dominated Nigeria for nearly a dozen years.
In normal democracies ruling parties run on their record and those who oppose then run on the strength of a competing vision. In Nigeria where the evidence exists that it is not so much about good or bad people in that party but about a culture of elite accommodation in the scramble for economic rent, the need for a plebiscite is even more urgent for democratic contestation between record and vision. This is why all who cannot focus on 2011 as a referendum on the last 12 years of PDP dominance subscribe to the betrayal of the mission of this generation.
It is no more a matter of whether we think it likely or possible; the wind of change is blowing. The question is to where does it blow? The Harold Macmillan wind of change blew Independence our way in 1960. The wind which started in Tunisia and is rocking Egypt will blow freedom our way. The question is what kind of freedom. It could be the freedom of Malaysia after Mahathir Mohammed was expelled from the Malaysia 'PDP', the United Malay National Organization, (UMNO), and he wrote the book the Malay Dilemma which snowballed into the resignation of the then incumbent Prime Minister and the Road to Mahathir leadership and the New Economic Policy (forerunner of Vision 2020) or it can be the road to Somalia. The frightening truth is that if you scope developments in Jos, Niger Delta, North East Nigeria and the security situation in the South East it is hard not to hear echoes of the US global trends report that predicted drift to failed state status for Nigeria, and see Robert Kaplan's book "The Coming Anarchy" which predicted a descent of the West African sub region into anarchy. Jos was a major fault line in this projection from 15 years ago, when the Plateau region was still very peaceful, that West Africa could descend into anarchy from ethnic and religious troubles underpinned largely by "the revenge of the poor" in a region where leadership has been unable to advance the Common Good and decrease the incidence of poverty even with enormous endowments. This is why what we face is a national emergency and elite should be rallying in the way leaders of thought were rallied in 1966/67.
I think the looming danger can be averted only when key stakeholders pull together and empanel a best in class grouping, not just a government of national unity or transitional government and charge them with a historical mission to rescue their country almost in the way Suharto worked the Berkeley (University of California Berkeley trained Economists) Mafia and rescued the Indonesia that was said by the Nobel Prize winning economist Gunnar Myrdal to be locked in intrinsic stagnation, or as Pinochet Chile turned to the (University of ) Chicago group. This passionate economist brought their country from the brink just as the team Fernando Cardoso built as Finance Minster of then faltering Brazil.
First of all we must kill this PDP mindset that politics is about a scramble of the toughest to share the booty of economic rent, even if it stalls progress, or creates income distribution so scandalous social revolt remains only a matter of when. This is the time for elders to rise and speak up. We cannot afford to wait. Danger is far too imminent. May it not happen on our watch, on your watch. The cost is too high to contemplate.
• Professor Utomi is SDMP Presidential Candidate.