Why we must restore Nigeria

I HAVE many friends who are worried that I am so worked up about the Nigerian condition that I have chosen to bring much trouble to myself by being so concerned as to become engaged in what they consider murky waters. My response has become a long hard look at them and a parting greeting - see you in the refugee camp. It may seem funny but I am absolutely certain that if we are lucky, that friend and I, we may meet in a refugee camp. If we are not so lucky our fate could be much worse. That is the trajectory business as usual in Nigeria is taking us down.

I have read most scenario planning outputs for the region and the consequent prediction, given elite conduct in Nigeria, is a journey down the road to Somalia. My natural instinct as with most we most people is to dismiss them, my intellectual upbringing however, commends evaluating them. Then I remember the counsel of my Liberian friends and the observations of the Cote d' Ivoire experience. I long came to the conclusion that the biggest losers when what seems to be coming to Nigeria takes place, if we do nothing, is its professional and business elite, those of us so desperate not to have our comfort zones disturbed by murk who may yet be consumed by mudslides. Of course the pain for the base of the pyramid is much, as the cry of Rwandan-poor show us but it is the elite that is more responsible for the tragedy by omission or commission and their loss when what they wish away happens is more devastating.

Not long after I returned home from graduate school in 1982 an old school mate from the United States was named Liberian Ambassador to Nigeria, I recall so vividly our conversations regarding how the middle class kept complaining about "these terrible politicians" and how to stay clear away from them. Then they watched their descent into anarchy, the loss of the fancy homes and cars they sort to defend, by being distant and condescending towards the soldiers and politicians.

In Cote d' Ivoire, the one time bastion of stability and progress in troubled Africa they said "it can't happen here". Other Africans at the African Development Bank told me it was not possible in Ivory Coast, as we call it. I still recall an evening by the Lake in Annency, France nearly a decade ago with the then IMF Deputy Managing Director and later candidate for the presidency in Cote d' Ivoire, Alhassan Quattara, and a bright young Mckinsy Consultant Tijani Thiam who become a Minister in Cote d' Ivoire before things fell apart. As we talked about Nigeria and their country I could feel the cold wind blowing in. But everyone seemed to think it could not happen, until they all became refugees.

As a voice crying out in the wilderness of Nigeria today, I sometimes feel that my great "reward" may be the moral high ground to laugh at some people in the refugee camp and say, at least I warned you when the thought of the discomfort of not losing that additional new Mercedes, if you spoke truth to power or contributed to organizing the rule of law and institutions that assure all of justice kept you away. leadership that can dream, think and drive progress for the greatest number advancing the common good, But what would be the use of such refugee camp jokes. I know refugee camps; I was in one nearly 40 years ago. I hope none of us have to live in them, but our level of involvement or lack of is making change happen is an open invitation to the refugee camp.

Unfortunately, the truth is that the nature of our extant culture and political process can only move us down the road to Somalia. Failure to be perceptive enough to recognize this and act is for me criminal negligence. My personal role and that of the Restoration Group is to awaken our collective consciousness to the looming anarchy. The portends are there in Anambra, in the new dimensions of the battle against injustice by the people of the Niger Delta, in the types of Robin Hood armed robbery we witness in Imo and Abia, in religious and ethnic strife North of the Niger-Benue confluence, but even more remarkably in the barbaric attempt to prevent decent people from participating in the political process through the killing of several aspirants to public office and the violent muzzling of others.

Why, in particular is the quest for political position, to render service, so desperate that the ultimate value, human life, has come to mean so little? To me it is partly because the stakes have become so unbelievably "high" for those with a small sense of self worth, because a society in the throes of collapse, apologies to Jared Diamond, has allowed a state Governor to become the owner of a state, pillaging the treasury, determining who breathes and who laughs, terrorizing the citizenry at will, every scoundrel is willing to stake everything to be a Governor.

The way the so called high and mighty pay obeisance to a Nigerian president, crawling prostate into his presence has made those not big enough to realize how small that is to believe not being there is denial of life itself; the crisis of the moment is one of the restoring Nigeria to the values of earlier times when man's dignity was more assured. Even with much less known natural resource endowment, those days of life remind us of the need to re-invent Nigeria. The need check the powers of those in authority and to diversify centers of prestige away from politics. Checks and balances from our institutions remain key.

Unless the people get out of the cynicism mode and take hold of the idea of re-inventing Nigeria, our history may be a sad historical footnote. But we can reclaim this land, we can consign the big man syndrome to history's dustbin, have high ranking politicians walk around among the people. Leadership quest then becomes largely a middle class pursuit of ideas and ideals rather that of a game of fat cats and scoundrels that has made policy implementation a nightmare in Nigeria. The starting point is for people to believe that change is not possible but imperative. In some ways this must involve a journey to the old values that made Nigeria hold out so much promise that sunny October 1 1960 morning when my father dressed me up as a Fulani prince and put me on a horse back in Kano to imagine the bright new future that has come upon us.

We must dream new dreams if anarchy is to be averted and the true promise of this land claimed, for me that promise is one in which social harmony is driven by economic prosperity and values which elevate the dignity of the human person to the center point of public policy. The pathway to this state is massive job creation and infrastructure development which are twin components of the RG initiative and a second twin component of two securities- security of life and property, and food security. So it is simply about jobs, the rule of law, our values, and economic growth.

Given where we are, this desired outcome will not be delivered by transactional leadership modes of negotiating power shift. It will require transformational leaders, servant leaders with knowledge who are driven by a clear vision of a triumphant Nigeria, and are impassioned about the common good. To use the democratic process to advance the good of all, we must also remain sensitive to structural impediments that are anti-democratic in nature and struggle to eliminate them. As things are the electoral act seems designed to make mergers of political parties problematic.

This at a time our economic reform agenda is promoting such logic for banks and for insurance companies. Is this the deliberate to sabotage the will of the Nigerian people who may be desirous of progressive parties coming together to provide structure for competing against a party they are thoroughly dissatisfied with. Our voice must rise against these provisions of the electoral act so we may not be covered in shame as we watch smaller neighbors like Benin Republic use more liberal electoral laws to elect leadership of a quality higher than the giant across the border has been "favoured" with.

To achieve the promise, this great potential of Nigeria, we need to forge elite consensus. This is why this village square meeting crosses party lines, involves the partisan and non-partisan. It is this quest that pushed me into the murky waters that we must purify. If I can be guaranteed that this course will be pursued if I should withdraw from the purified, formerly murky waters. I will do so immediately. I have only one interest-that my children may not lament living in hell called a country because their father could not see visions or was so big a coward. May God and history show mercy to us all


    Professor Utomi is a Presidential aspirant and convener of the Restoration Group (RG)



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    Re: .Why we must restore Nigeria
    Oghre posted on 08-22-2006, 02:35:47 AM
    I can understand the concerns and fears of your family and friends, it is indeed true that you are in murky waters and also expose yourself to the dangers of Nigeria's politics. No man is an island; a tree cannot make a forest. Voices like yours and Gani Fawehinmi's are not enough to rescue Nigeria; the country has been cornered by a cabal of ruthless criminals, masquerading as politicians, ex military men and elder state men, bent on bleeding the country dry for their kit and kin. You alone cannot salvage the existence of this once great country, you are not a goliath and you know it!

    Rather than simply writing verses of how Nigeria should be, perhaps you should embark on a mass mobilisation of the youth, young and old, educate them of the dangers of mortgaging our future to the likes of Babangida and Atiku Abubabkar, now and in the future. You are not doing enough to foster awareness, you are not connecting with the ordinary Nigerians who don't have electricity or web access, the majority that can cause such upheaval like this country has never seen before, those that will and can say enough is enough.

    The only thing (I repeat, the only thing) that can save Nigeria is nothing short of a revolution, yes, a mass revolt. As far as I can see, come 2007, the likes of you and Gani will not smell the presidency. As gullible, corrupt and inept as the average Nigerian is, they will have their votes and mandates stolen from them without so much as a single voice of opposition. The average Nigerian is afraid of dying even when they know they have no means of survival until the next morning, fear and uncertainty that has made us laid back and carefree.

    We are in the era of money politics, where the opposition can be murdered in broad daylight even before campaigning and election starts. This is done in the full glare of the police and the government of the day.

    Now, Professor Utomi, how do you plan to defeat the combination of serious amounts of cash, police complicity, corruption and a witting and gullible citizenry?
    Re: .Why we must restore Nigeria
    BOE posted on 08-22-2006, 04:21:08 AM
    My concern is simply the idea that any one person can change the rot that took over 40 years to take hold is erroneous and most people do not even care about who the all powerful chief executive is. The state of being completely subject to someone more powerful is still widespread in Nigeria today, the people have been conditioned to servitude and as such hail the next person that brings the "cola". When will you start thinking out of the box? Create excellence (not of the Lagos State type!) in any part of our society and people and cash will follow your dream.
    Re: .Why we must restore Nigeria
    Techsista posted on 08-22-2006, 06:10:35 AM
    Please keep up the good work and don't forget to reach out to people in rural areas. It is the efforts of people who persevere against all odds, who try to rise above in a society that celebrates mediocrity and worships thieves, that give me hope for Nigeria.
    Re: .Why we must restore Nigeria
    EezeeBee posted on 08-22-2006, 07:09:57 AM
    The most important thing for me, reading this latest article by Dr. Pat Utomi, was that I never once saw the word 'rule' (as in ruling Nigeria); instead I saw a lot of the word and derivatives of the word 'lead' (led, leadership).

    If nothing else, this represents a marked departure from so many other people who have sought to be at the apex positions of Nigerian government. (recall the Babangida whitewash interviews linked from Youtube where that moron -IBB - talks about what kind of person is required in HIS opinion to 'rule' in Nigeria.)

    Dr. Utomi is correct: if the imperatives of change for the better are not followed in Nigeria, we all, near or far, in diaspora or at home will be refugees, those of us in diaspora even more so than we currently are!
    Re: .Why we must restore Nigeria
    Akuluouno posted on 08-22-2006, 07:48:36 AM
    A very good piece indeed. I challenge other aspirants to tell us what they want to do with Nigeria or shall we meet at the refugee camps? I lived in one just like Prof Utomi nearly 40years ago. For Nigerians who have not had the opportunity of living in one, I wish to refer them to an advert previously run by the UNHCR which vividly captured all it takes to become a refugee. A second. As for the conditons in the camp, let us leave that for another time.
    Having said this, I wish to observe, albeit, fearfully, that Nigeria is not yet ripe for the politics of ideas. We still operate at the level of induced subhuman docility, topped up with sentiments of all kinds viz the nascent zonalism and personality cult.
    My vision is that this quagmire will remain until we get to the nadir. Then survivors if any will tell the forthcoming generation how a nation was brought to its knees by unconcerned persons squabbling over non-essential matters while the core issues were alowed to fester.
    Re: .Why we must restore Nigeria
    Akuluouno posted on 08-22-2006, 07:52:25 AM
    A very good piece indeed. I challenge other aspirants to tell us what they want to do with Nigeria or shall we meet at the refugee camps? I lived in one just like Prof Utomi nearly 40years ago. For Nigerians who have not had the opportunity of living in one, I wish to refer them to an advert previously run by the UNHCR which vividly captured all it takes to become a refugee. A second. As for the conditons in the camp, let us leave that for another time.
    Having said this, I wish to observe, albeit, fearfully, that Nigeria is not yet ripe for the politics of ideas. We still operate at the level of induced subhuman docility, topped up with sentiments of all kinds viz the nascent zonalism and personality cult.
    My vision is that this quagmire will remain until we get to the nadir. Then survivors if any will tell the forthcoming generation how a nation was brought to its knees by unconcerned persons squabbling over non-essential matters while the core issues were allowed to fester.
    Re: .Why we must restore Nigeria
    DaBishop posted on 08-22-2006, 09:14:45 AM
    Good policy beginning.
    Please have Uche my friend spell check you. Uche, you dey sleep?

    I surmise that this is a reaching out by the candidate himself, in his own hand (or is it keystrokes) to like minded persons.

    To the cynics among us, permit me to note that by virtue of the facts on the ground in our country viz; electricity, computer and internet availability and access, Pat is reaching out to the appriopriate class of persons (elite, if you will). In every society, the elite have as a collective, some power. If they choose to use it for the common good, then they influence policy and maybe government. Power is contested for and taken, sometimes by force. Persons who have access to NVS can speak to power and make things happen. One phone call can unsettle some arrant looter-in-chief.

    More importantly, we are diverse and represent each of our communities. If each netter sets aside just $500 to influence his/her village a month, he would have control of what goes on there because of the goodwill of $500. Politics takes action; Gani is already acting, Okotie is acting; Falana also acted; now Pat is venturing, let us all act. Do your part is all Pat is saying. If you do nothing, IBB would seek to 'rule' over you although he is a bungling unrealistic mischievous moron (waiting for that libel suit). I love the icon so permit me to

    By the way Uche, have you called Ngozi to congratulate her yet?
    Re: .Why we must restore Nigeria
    Willy posted on 08-22-2006, 09:49:51 AM
    Dear Prof. Utomi,

    I could have addressed you in a more private forum but decided otherwise for many reasons we do not need to get into on these pages.

    First, I must say that I was unhappy you decided to run, not because I think you will not win which is besides the matter as winning is not everything, but because I believe your partisanship might erode the wide appeal that has seen you inspire many albeit quietly in a country lacking in role models.

    My initial response to your North America campaign committee on being invited months ago was that we need to create a culture and tradition of transparent elections, a situation that makes every vote count, which I believe that few in the country today - maybe yourself and WS have the stature and energy to put in place than your stepping into elective partisan politics, your essay today further convinces me on that position.

    May I quickly state that I do not believe my position to be sacrosanct, and I may be out rightly wrong (posterity will prove that) but my instinct which are not facts point to the unwillingness of the July 1966 junta to let go of Nigeria.

    I am happy you have started asking the question I have been screaming about - INEC and the electoral laws, however, I think you can do more and I say so with every sense of responsibility and regards for your person.

    You reach into the inner recesses of UNN should have unearthed the sordid past of INEC chief, Maurice Iwu.

    I bet you already know, or can easily verify the fact that Maurice Iwu and Ugochukwu Uba were buddies at Nsukka under the guise of ASUU struggle though that relationship transcended matters we will prefer not to discuss in public, but that is by the way, the issue is that Iwu is a hireling of the latest members of the July '66 cabal, he owes his job to the Ubas (they need no introduction here) and will satisfy their wishes.

    So what do we do?

    We need to get Iwu out of that job, how? He lied about his age, his first son that stayed with Ugochukwu Uba in late 1989 to write his SSCE because he, Maurice Iwu, had left for the U.S.A. earlier in same year falls within the 32 - 34 age band, yet his father claims to be 56, little wonder his resume on INEC site is sketchy about his beginning. Do I need add that a little checking out of his age group in the village and marriage license will bring his house of cards crashing down? And before you think of the countless reasons for that, may I state his other children follow in the expected age sequence.

    Another angle to look at is the ownership of the companies that INEC has patronized since Iwu took over (including sub-contractors). You have the resources, contacts, and reason to unearth the sleaze in that institution. That Iwu is insisting on electronic voting machines even as American opposition and civil societies fight against the same is enough pointer that the theory of a bigger heist in each succeeding election is about to repeat itself.

    Not that I needed to prove to you nor anyone of Iwu's plans - INEC's prayer at the appealate court hearing of Obi vs. Ngige speaks volumes and your relationship with that state makes it all the more imperative you save all from the scourge of these scoundrels.

    With Iwu out, Obasanjo and co will have been set back as the new person will take a while to perfect the plans they have been hatching for several years, besides, INEC chiefs do not come any worse, so what is there to lose?

    Obasanjo has never been a decent man, that we expect him to conduct a transparent election will be asking too much, he has been a principal player in 3 elections, each succeeding one was a bigger fraud than the former, we need to put him on the retreat.

    I pray you to use your position to mobilize students, and professionals alike for election monitoring, you have the appeal and name recognition. If you must under a partisan position, good, but that might hamper you as we strive to save our corner of the world from becoming a dire refugee camp.

    Regards to your wonderful family
    Re: .Why we must restore Nigeria
    VOR posted on 08-22-2006, 10:14:59 AM
    @ Willy

    Thank you for this, I did not realise such information about Iwu existed. If you dont mind me using this information, I will forward it to the appropriate people.

    On election monitoring, I started a thread in the main square a couple of days ago wanting villagers opinion on having independent electoral monitors from the diaspora for the election next year, I have not got one response to that, is it because people don't think its a good idea or they just don't give a hoot?
    For people like Utomi to succeed, we ALL have to get involved, I keep saying that we can talk all the talk we want but if you sit back and do nothing, it will be the same 'ole same 'ole in Nigeria come 07 or even worse.
    Re: .Why we must restore Nigeria
    Whytboi posted on 08-22-2006, 13:36:24 PM
    Good day Oghre.

    I read your reply to Pat Utomi`s article and i must say you asked some very important questions which need to be answered. I totally agree with you on the idea that Mr Utomi needs to bring his campaign right down to the grass roots level were there are no web accesses, electricity and the likes of such.

    But i don`t really understand your idea of a revolution. A revolution in what sense? The likes that brought about the civil war? Or the likes of which helped win an election in the Ukraine?

    I want to believe you also share our dreams of being the greatest nation on earth some time in the near future. Therefore, i would advice that you help all of us progressives (Pat Utomi inclusive) spread this message of renaissance or rebirth.

    We are all guilty of writing verses, i believe we all have a small part to play in making things happen. We should begin from our local communities and try to make some impact. We must not become president of our dear nation to do something positive. For instance, we can mobilize people of like minds in our neighbourhoods, into pressure groups.

    These pressure groups can help check not only the excesses of our present political leaders but can, through some kind of neighbourhood meeting or the likes, help enlighten the people on the dangers of letting the present crop of politicians remain in power. I think we need to do a lot work and say as little as we possibly can.

    My dear friend, we all can help Mr Pat utomi turn things around. Besides he is just one person, just one "broomstick". Let us gather ourselves into one strong "broom" and sweep our the rubbish that is threatening to overwhelm us all.

    May God help us all.
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