• Utomi: Restructuring is not panacea for Nigeria’s challenges
Notable Nigerians on Monday agreed that the current situation in the country characterised by hate speech, sectional agitations and separatist movements was precarious and requires urgent and strong collaboration between the leaders and the followers to curtail it and bring about peace and unity.
This was the position collectively taken by eminent Nigerians, including the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah; the Bishop of Sokoto Catholic Dioceses, Bishop Mathew Kukah; Chairman, THISDAY Editorial Board, Mr. Segun Adeniyi; former Super Eagles player, Chief Segun Odegbami; and Professor Pat Utomi, while speaking at “The Platform,’’ a national discourse forum organised by the Covenant Christian Centre in Lagos.
Kukah, who addressed the topic: ‘Weakness of Power’, was particularly disturbed about the ethnic fault lines now common among the people of Nigeria, noting that every Nigerian feels disgruntled about various things.
“All of us are unhappy and I believe the president too is unhappy because this is not the country he sacrificed for. The president said he fought a civil war to keep Nigeria as one, but if we fought a civil war over 40 years ago and the problem persists, then it means something is wrong.
“The country has become chaotic. Collectively, we are frustrated in Nigeria. The issue now is, how do we process this anger?” He asked, stressing that “where we are now, anything can go wrong because we are at a tipping point. Nigeria is on a dangerous precipice and we must therefore be careful.”
According to him, anger is prevalent everywhere in the country, and the people are seeking means of expressing their anger, therefore, he argued that the best option is to address their grievances and not attempt to silence the people.
But despite this, he opined that the people should continue to enjoy their inalienable right to talk.
He however warned Nigerians against hate speech, which he said is always a prelude to massacre, adding that “we cannot begin to deploy hatred. Before every killing, you have to reduce the other person to justify the killing and that is what you do with hate speech.”
The cleric also expressed a situation where ethnicity is becoming a standard for evaluating persons.
But earlier, when delivering his keynote address, Enelamah, who had noted that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that Nigerians begin to feel the positive impacts of his leadership, said one major problem confronting the country is that not every hands are on the deck in the quest to change the Nigerian narratives positively.
According to him, “A fundamental flaw in the Nigerian debate is the absence of self-responsibility.” Drawing example from the Spanish miracle between 1959 and 1974 when Spanish technocrats brought about rapid development in the European country, he said: “It takes only one committed generation to build a Nigerian of our dream. We must start with the end in mind.”
He also stated that the current administration is working to change the Nigerian story by creating conducive environment for the people to thrive in their legitimate businesses.
The minister said: “We need to create an environment for us to succeed. Nigerians succeed outside the country but when you give them the same hurdle in Nigeria they fail. Government, civil society groups and the people must partner to inspire and foster the new generation of Nigerian to bring about a new Nigeria, and why not this generation?”
Adeniyi, who on his part dwelled more on issues pertaining hate speeches, which he said is further putting Nigeria on the edge, cited the reversed Arewa Youth Consultative Forum ultimatum to Igbo in the North to quit, which though had been withdrawn, saying: “The damage done was unprecedented.”
He added that: “However, the fact was that the ultimatum was triggered by hate speeches made by Nnamdi Kanu and many elders from other climes who felt that the Igbo elders who were old enough to give birth to Kanu failed to call him to order and were genuflecting with him until the situation nearly got out if hand.”
The former presidential spokesperson therefore advised that “rather than directing our angers at other ethnic nationalities, we should look for ways to move the country forward because bad governance is not peculiar to the federal government; it also affects the states and the local governments.”
On his part, Odegbami said corruption is one of the banes of the growth of Nigeria. He drew inference from sharp practices in the sports sector, which he said ought to have been one of the veritable tools to move Nigeria forward through empowerment of youths.
Also, Utomi said restructuring alone would not solve Nigeria’s development challenges.
Utomi said empirical evidence showed no link between more resources and development in the country.
He said some states with less resources were more developed than some resource-rich states.
The APC member, therefore, said that the belief that the states would do better with more resources was a myth.
He added that only those states that made the people the core of their governance would develop.
Utomi decried the costs of governance at the various levels of government, saying the situation was a drain on the country’s resources.
He described governance in most states as poor, while saying local governments in the country were dysfunctional.
“The local governments in the country are dysfunctional and are a bloody waste of resources,’’ he said.
The former presidential aspirant said the country needed to be restructured in a way that the costs of governance would be reduced, so as to be able to deliver the goods.
He said the country fared better under the regional arrangement as it fostered healthy competition at minimal costs of running the government.
Utomi described the call for the creation of more states as antithetical to development.
He said states creation would only cater to the needs of the political elite through appointments and would not serve the peoples’ interests.
Utomi said the destiny of the country was in the hands of everyone and urged Nigerians to work for the progress of the nation.