In Need of Shock Therapy

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AKIN OSUNTOKUN: DIALOGUE WITH NIGERIA

It is safe to assume that all enlightened Nigerians are agreed on the proposition that Nigeria is in dire need of a drastic reset and redirection towards a development oriented society. Rather than revolution, I call the need a shock therapy-‘sudden and drastic measures taken to solve an intractable problem’. This perspective is derived from the identification of the underdevelopment malaise of Nigeria as the syndrome of a consumption driven (as opposed to development driven) economy. The interminable socio political crisis Nigeria has endured mostly stem from contestations over access and expropriation of the national largesse. Needless to suggest that if our primary concern and motivation is the development of Nigeria, we would complement rather than antagonise one another. There would be no need to obsess for power in Abuja and the lesser tiers of government if the motive for political participation is to add value; to ask- as in the idealistic exhortation of John F Kennedy, ‘not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country’.

Karl Marx and Max Webber of the differing socialist and capitalist schools of thought similarly (theoretically) attested the primacy of the work and productivity ethic to national aspirations for development. ‘From each according to his ability and to each according to his need’ is the utopian evangelical mission statement of Marxism. In his attribution of capitalist development as a derivative of the Protestant ethic-of being motivated to produce wealth as a calling (beyond the desire and gratification of personal consumption) Webber was making the same call.

On the main issue of the day, namely the proposal of a constitutional restructuring of Nigeria, both proponents and opponents are equally pledged to the common objective of the ethical overhaul of Nigeria. Where the two camps begin to diverge is the instrumentality through which this end may be best achieved. What then are the options available? The spectrum of options runs the gamut of the propositions of the political status quo bulwarks like former President Olusegun Obasanjo and incumbent President Mohammadu Buhari to the fundamentalist repudiation platforms of Nnamdi Kanu. Between the status quo bound responses of the two Presidents and the extremism of the secessionist contenders lies the middle ground advocacy for restructuring.

Said Obasanjo “My own restructuring is what I have said, we have to restructure our mentality, we have to restructure our mind, we have to restructure our understanding of Nigeria. What country do we want? And if we decide on what kind of country we want, how do we get that country? All hands on deck, how do we get inclusive, how do we get every Nigerian feeling a sense of… having a stake in the country”.

On his return from extended medical attention abroad, Buhari reflected ‘This is not to deny that there are legitimate concerns. Every group has a grievance. But the beauty and attraction of a federation is that it allows different groups to air their grievances and work out a mode of co-existence. The National Assembly and the National Council of State are the legitimate and appropriate bodies for national discourse. The national consensus is that, it is better to live together than to live apart’

On behalf of Nnamdi Kanu, Professor Ben Nwabueze stated their joint position thus “President Buhari will be looking for trouble if he tries to usurp the constitutional powers of the people to ask for a better Nigeria through a change in structure. The power to restructure belongs to the people, not the National Assembly, and the government must not toy with this for the peace of the nation. Kanu has mandated me to declare to Nigeria that he is ready to call off the struggle for Biafra if progress is made in restructuring Nigeria.”

The truth is that the election of President Mohammadu Buhari in 2015 was neither accidental nor unwitting. Those who voted for him knew precisely why they cast their ballots accordingly. The preference was attributable to either one or a combination of the following factors. First was the facility of the perennial ethno regional predicate of Nigerian politics; second was the reinforcement of the former by the near total ethno regional animus of the Moslem North on the perception of being cheated of their turn at the Nigerian political throne ( following the premature exit of late President Umaru Yar’adua); third was the rounded personification of this pan Islamic/regional irredentist outrage by the political profile of Buhari; fourth was the conspicuous and self-destructive incompetence of the Goodluck Jonathan Presidency; fifth was the allure of federal government power to the dominant faction of the South West political establishment; sixth was the covert support of the international community.

The most significant, for the purpose of our presentation today, was Buhari’s reputation of a tough minded anti-corruption, anti-impunity crusader. The reason it is significant is that the critical support of the national intelligentsia and the international community was predicated on the philosophy that whatever he lacks in detribalised nationalist profile would be offset by his potential ability to tame runaway impunity and paralytic corruption in Nigerian public life-the prioritisation of the utility of the latter over the deep seated misgivings of the former. The enormity of the scourge of corruption and impunity was reckoned to have attained such proportions that little else mattered. Buhari himself captured the rationale in the pithy campaign rhetoric that ‘Nigeria needs to kill corruption before corruption kills Nigeria’.

On the assumption of office in 2015, the President wasted little time in giving credence to the saying that a leopard does not change its spots. On a goodwill visit to the United States and in the presence of bewildered American officials, he, in remarkable candour, wondered aloud why anyone should expect him to deal equally with those who gave him 95% and those who grudgingly gave 5%. In fairness, he, in characteristic tactlessness, was merely overstating an implicit doctrine of partisan politics. In the United States (redoubt of western democracy) for instance, brazen partisanship is exemplified in the standard practise of Democratic Party and Republican Party Presidents to alternately appoint ideological partisans to the bench. Pushing the boundaries of acceptable partisan behaviour, Buhari subsequently upped the ante to a point where legitimate partisanship degenerated to outright nepotism. Still, the prevalent opinion was that this disappointment is acceptable collateral damage for the promise of the anticipated deployment of messianic zeal to humble corruption and associated vices.

But in vain does Nigeria wait. Going back to the drawing board we made the following findings: First the fault does not all lie in Buhari’s star. Second is the limitation of the contextual difference between military dictatorship and democracy. By definition, democracy has to necessarily constrain the leadership latitude license of dictatorship and so the latitude that enabled Buhari to exercise those virtues (as military head of state) was rendered nugatory in a checks and balance participatory political milieu. Third is the toll of naturally degenerative advancing years-both physiologically and in old age compromised political character that could no longer meet the demands of ethically defiant aggressive leadership. Fourth was the desire to fill the vacuum for an Islamic North irredentist leadership provoked by the regional loss of political hegemony hitherto enjoyed unfettered before 1999. In other words, his political behaviour is liable to the interpretation of his return to the pinnacle of political power as a mission to re-establish Northern hegemony in the politics of the Fourth republic. These three factors constitute the hurdle that has precluded him from manifesting the anticipated shock therapy leadership utility.

Beyond Buhari and before 1999 there was the predisposition of projecting and perceiving military intervention in Nigerian politics as serving the shock therapy utility. However, after repeated loss of credibility and governance failure especially since the 1993 debacle, public perception of military rule intervention has become that of a cure worse than the disease. Whatever the extenuation, the reality today is that a combination of happenstances including governance inertia and poor crisis management skills has once again driven Nigeria to the cusp of acute socio political disorder.

The ramifications of a potential Buhari Presidency failure are far reaching. It will foster loss of faith in the capacity of the status quo to self-correct and undermines the notion that all it takes to solve the governance problem of Nigeria is a federal character search for the right leadership. In the aspiration for the socio political reformation of Nigeria, leadership change is the irreducible minimum-which falls short of the promise of other available options and beggars the following posers: When would the meritorious leadership emerge? For how long can Nigeria be subjected to the whimsical experimentation and expectation of the messiah? And If and when the messiah cometh, is his kingdom not subject to term limitation? I have argued several times on this page that it is scientifically wrong to predicate the enduring development of a modern society on individual leadership capacity and competence. Such a philosopher king predicated utopia belongs in the antiquity of Athenian democracy and the fertile imagination of Plato.

In the design of any human mechanism, science assumes the worst case scenario not the best case. If I may again borrow the American democracy analogy, the American constitution does not assume that good and competent actors would constitute government. As a matter of fact, it assumes the contrary and thereby instituted structural (federalism) and institutional constraints of checks and balances and separation of powers to limit the damage that mediocre or rogue leadership can inflict. This is the containment strategy whose utility is being presently validated in the reining-in of the one man wrecking crew of Donald Trump.

Political advocacy has been my caller identification and I shall remain true to myself once again. Since the departure and deviation point of 1966 we have experimented with a number of shock therapy measures and all seemed to have ended in futility. Shouldn’t we go back to the drawing board and embark on a journey of rediscovery? Beyond its theoretical and practical applicability to our unique aspiration for unity amidst diversity there is also the potential of restructuring (federalism) serving the utility of shock therapy-a structural reinvention of Nigeria, but a reinvention nonetheless.

  • Prof. Sebastian O. Uremadu

    … agruesome civil war between 1966-1970 in which many Igbos died and their economy/envirpnment destroyed.These ugly trends we must not lose sight of. Restructuring must not be now or we destroy Nigeria as a nation wgen Mr President himself has rightly admitted in his August 2017 broadcast to the nation and he needs time to address these imbalances existing among all Nigerians of tribe and tongues. But it must be come to pass at the right time.

    Again, President Obasanjos concept of restructuring like other positive minded Nigerians alike have been advocating for should be seriously looked into in line with Mr President’s recent broadcast towards implementation by the executives and all Nigerians.

    Well done your long essay Mr Akin Osuntokun. it has been a well articulated and specialised essay by no other less than Chief Osuntokin himself! May also thank two northern elder statemen and my humble self, hughly revered Alh. Tanko Yakassai, Prof Sebastian Uremadu, respectively, who saw the need to intervene on 4th July 2017via AIT Live programme, KAKAKI, to try to douse fire of ethnic hatred generated by quit noticed served to Igbos living in the north by a coalition of Arewa youths and worsened by the vexatious hate speeches wrought by Igbo youths via iPOB of Mr Nnamdi Kanu. Pls remember to forward yur emailto/phone number to me for contacts with you. Mine are:sebauremadu@yahoo.com. Thisday/other media houses to pick my pix from facebook.

  • Prof. Sebastian O. Uremadu

    contd from my last comments:..lucres that made PDPthin like enthroning culture of impunity, massive corruption, lack of internal democracy, imposition of candiadates against population ones, marginalization of sections, inequality, sectionalism, etc that ran rampant in the party before it exitted power in 2015!

    I totally agree with you on your advocacy howver, the timing should be given serious thought so as to guide It to right atmosphere in time considering the history of our country since 1966-to present day. Just as the NASS for a shift in time fo toal restructuring to occur, it is imperative that we so adopt in the times to avert war or impending nation crisis. However, no doubt, other tactical adjustments / restructuring could go on unabated via national assembly and executives via Gov policis/programs. Strategic restructuring can come afterwards and not now that lives of Igbos/Hausa-Fulanis and other Nigerians have been put online via unguarded actions of CAG/iPOB outfits or agitators as took place in 1966/67 that led to civil war

  • Prof. Sebastian O. Uremadu

    well
    My friend Chie Akin Osuntokun, is right in his narrative that we need tomove away from a consumptive economy to a saving and investing society which creates adequate capital formation for national growth and development.Mr Osuntoku has expertise in political horse trading , tact and irredism and mastery of the Nigerian system which he put at President Obasanjos disposal in the hay days of PDP before era of impunity took sway leading to its loss of election in 2015.H owever, he (Akin) did not guide his principals in PDP well to desist from those filthy to tho

  • Political Affey

    Max Weber amd Karl Max were great European thinkers who lived at a different era in history. Somehow Europeans have successfully kept their tradition of progressive philosophy going. That is why Europe remained governed by ideology. You cannot say that about Nigeria. We are just a bunch of literate people. Nigeria lacks the institutional capacity to replicate the ideological framework on which to construct a functional state. That is because we are not organic yet. We are still mechanistic.
    That is why we are clamouring for restructuring. Every state functions on purpose. Think about all these European thinkers who spent their time thinking of the purpose of their states.
    Restructuring is good as a conceptual and pragmatic tool for realising our ideal of the state. Some groups in Nigeria will take off as soon as we restructure the polity. They have inherent pragmatic ethos which they only need a true state to unleash. Unfortunately there are still many saboteurs who lack understanding of the whole campaign.

    • Abia_Man

      Thank you. Restructuring or succession is not Utopia. But it will allow different groups to flourish or fail on their own accord. It is better than the hell we have now, where every group have been reduced to fighting for Niger Delta Oil and gas revenues from the federal government .

    • FrNinja

      Before the europeans philosophized first they got christianized and educated. The citadels of learning and thought which were universities in Europe were not bastardized by the church or state. In Nigeria see what ibadan has become, UNN, Ahmadu Bello. From creating the Soyinkas to pumping out the Dino Melayes. From world renowned professors to lecturers renowned for bedding their students. Tragic.

  • Olufemi Bello

    Mr Akin and Counrty man have made my day. Thank you. The earlier Nigeria is restructured the better as the country is already sitting on kegs of gun powder.

  • KWOY

    1. Since he is opposing restructuring, Obasanjo shd be asked why he organized the 1995 Pol. Reform Conf.?
    2. Bcos of their deeply-entrenched interest in STEALING in Nig, d international community is opposed to evrytin dat can lead to Nig’s break-up. Dis was why they sided wit d dominant factions in 2015 to ensure dat d criminal contraption is preseved. D SW media joined Boko Haram to make Nig ungovernable.

    • Arabakpura

      Obasanjo has always worked for the interest of the North! Obasanjo is a coward who got reformed by old age! We all remember what happened after the demise of Murtla Mohammed that led Obasanjo to request for a junior Yaradua to be elevated to serve as his 2IC!

  • Tunde Oyeyemi

    The United state of America is working and will continue to work because of their fundamental and foundational mechanism which cannot be truncated by anyone. Anyone vying for the exalted position must either align to it or run afoul at his own peril. Their structured system evolves a good leadership. Unfortunately, the obverse obtains here in Nigeria where the system aids and fosters mismanagement and poor leadership. Until we betake ourselves from the reclining dormancy and ask for what we really want, such utopianism is still farfetched. Would you expect the legislative members to promulgate laws that will put paid to their sleazy, ill-gotten money? That is tantamount to given somebody a gun and shooting himself. It will never happen. We must arise and demand for what we want.

  • Country man

    Mr Akin,
    Your last 3 paragraphs said it all.
    The status quo cannot, and will not self correct necessitating the need for a complete overhaul of the present system
    Obasanjo can talk about the mentality of Nigerians as much as he wants but with the present system, anyone who gets into leadership position will be a failure or at best mediocre (him being a classic example of one who says the right things but failed when leadership mantle got to him twice)
    Nigeria needs a system that works, not a fantastic leader. THE NASS will never deliver that system cos the present structure suits them just fine.(no one in his right mind, votes for freebies and awoof to stop coming)
    The onus now lies with the people to take back their country and make it what they want it to be

    • Iskacountryman

      which people?

      • Fula

        Aliens perhaps?

        • Iskacountryman

          dont mind them…

    • Michael Kadiri SocioPolitical

      Thank you.
      However well he paddles, a sailor cannot sail a canoe faster than the worst driver in a sports car.
      The system is evidently more important than the actors within.
      God punish our actors who are even paddling the ship of state backwards!!

  • RumuPHC

    An interesting perspective and a more centralist view . Apparently Akin Osuntokun is beginning to shift ground even though the columnist is fully aligned to a Nigeria structured according to regions.

    I suppose the middle is usually the safer and more rational bet in social engineering. Nigeria is indeed in dire need of changes but these changes cannot spring up in the midst of the status quo or under the chaos of a the country splintered along ethnic identities. These are the extremes preached by members of the current administration and secessionist .

    The middle ground is therefore to use what is available on ground to get what we seek in a brighter future for Nigeria. A combination of quest for good leadership, pursuit of excellence in government and amendments to the the constitution should do this trick. We don’t have to break it to mend it!

    • Jon West

      Why dont we just have a We The People Constitution ? Why all this rigmarole to solve a very simple problem. The Kenyans did after their election debacle, an are better for it. Why is Nigeria always in a race to the bottom?

      • Iskacountryman

        because he that is down needs fear no fall…

        • Intrepid

          This old man, stop your clownishness in this forum.

          • Iskacountryman

            do you have something against old age?

          • RealityCheck

            When I grow old, I want to become like you…Love your one-liners…They are epic! How do I become an Iskacountryman adherent?

          • Iskacountryman

            how many wives do you have?

          • Intrepid

            No, but I am against clownishness from old men.

      • FrNinja

        The Nigerian lazy bums called the elite want to continue getting free checks in the mail and then jetting off to London and Dubai to spend it while singing One Nigeria for the wretched of the earth left to fend for themselves in human shtholes without light, water or decent schools or hospitals.

      • RumuPHC

        We have a constitution despite the circumstances of its birth and besides numerous gaps and follies . Everybody cannot participate in constitution making proces and every agreement no matter the author(s) is made more valid through participation and by inheritance.

        It is only government that can change a constitution. People in government must necessarily share your view if the constitution is to be changed; anything less than this is hot air. I suppose there are more people in government than a few vocal lot searching for a new constitution.

        Rather than waste your time in pursuit of mirages it could be better you and your group seek elective positions in the forthcoming national election and seize the NASS so that you can change the constitution to whatever form you wish. You guys are beginning to bore some of us.

        • Jon West

          Don’t get bored so soon. Your fraud of a country is disintegrating for the reason of a fraudulent constitution. Enjoy the coming hurricane.

  • Nathan

    Apples of gold, in settings of silver….
    Thanks Akin!

  • Darcy

    I have given up. I’ll watch these futile debates with wry bemusement.

    You supporters of “restructuring” remind me of the Right circa Germany 1933 or perhaps the countless Socialists who went for a common front with the Leninists, how many survived?

    But sure, let’s all keep pretending that it’s matters of intellectual bent driving this debate, and not extremists blinded by hate who would subject laws of Economics to divine will.

    As always, my stance is simple, within the present structure, what hampers your individual progress?

    Right now for me, they revolve around issues of Ease of Business in Lagos and the insane idea of overcrowding our public Universities with mediocrities in pursuit of a Socialist agenda that dictates University education as a human right.

    But go on my acquaintances, indulge in Utopia, my hope is that it stays a dream…already we have bigots appealing to “the people”, madness all. But I digress, wry bemusement from henceforth.

    • Intrepid

      What hampers my progress is to see my fellow compatriot who scored 120 points to secure a better University placement, ahead of me who scored 300 points.

      Those who are in support of the present flawed structure, are the real enemies of Nigeria and progress. Those who see black and call it white.

      Why do the black African always see evil and call it good, whenever he savours from the transcient dainties falling off from such evil?

      • Musibau Adebayo

        Whaooo. What a simple, short, straight forward and honest response. Respect

      • Darcy

        “What hampers my progress is to see my fellow compatriot who scored 120 points to secure a better University placement, ahead of me who scored 300 points.”

        Ranting nonsense!

        I scored 303 in my JAMB, and was top of the merit list where I belong.

        I am damn tired of this meme. Personally I favour scrapping, supplementary lists, but the idea that if you do well, somebody with a worse score will supplant you is a bold-faced lie.

        • Musibau Adebayo

          Quota system is real but people like will call it “meme” when it favors you.

          • Darcy

            It has never favoured me, I always got in on merit. Why I resent it when Nigerians make unfounded statements.

          • Dayo Akom

            If it is real, why then do you call it meme? Without justice and fairness, it is impossible for any nation, organisation or community to survive.

          • Darcy

            You did read what I wrote correct?

            I called it a lie, the opposite of “real”. I repeat, if you score 300 in JAMB, this won’t happen: ” my fellow compatriot who scored 120 points to secure a better University placement, ahead of me who scored 300 points”

        • Intrepid

          The nonsense is what you responded to. Your so called Nigerian federal system is a FRAUD. There is no federalism in going cap in hand, every month, to prostrate before one old man in Abuja, for survival stipends.

          You can call this one CRAPOLA, is part of freedom of speech.

          • Darcy

            Name a single country in the world where its regions do not go cap in hand to the FG. One!

            FGs are always richer than the State. Nigeria’s problem is exacerbated by the country’s general poverty.

      • FrNinja

        What grade did the Queen of England score that gave her the crown? Democracy is the outcome of a successful war fought by the nobodies to get a seat at the table.

      • Arabakpura

        The leader of the pack you presented as enemies of Nigeria may be a certain Buhari!

    • Abia_Man

      What we can’t live with is a Nigeria where no one owns any land or mineral resources. It is all owned by the federal government. We can’t continue to have a situation where I can’t barter or cash buy oil or fuel from my Ogoni or Ijaw neighbors legally. It is really economic slavery and apartheid. Even Ironsi and his stupid advisers did go this far.

      • Darcy

        I agree. For me, it’s total land reform or nothing. Which is why the ones who simply propose devolving it to the states, disgust me.

        • Abia_Man

          Then stop pretending you don’t understand the issues

          • Darcy

            I’m not pretending. I’m merely realistic. Devolution is not land-reform. I want the government to act purely as a regulator. It is a proven method.

            If that isn’t what isn’t being offered, why should I pretend that it is?

        • Iskacountryman

          which land?…we have the right to graze all over nigeria unhindered…

          • FrNinja

            And nigerians have the right to free ngwo ngwo when a cow loses its way.

        • Edon B.

          You have said all. The only thing to restructure in Nigeria of today is that ‘nonsense’ land use act. As long as Nigerians remains a slave in their own home land, the federation will continue to be a slave Republic!