TIME FOR A STRUCTURED ENGAGEMENT

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Ernie Onwumere

These are very trying times for our country, when many ethnic groups in Nigeria are campaigning for the restructuring of our country and some are pushing for an independent state of their own. Whichever part of the divide you belong, the fact remains that the Nigerian nation seems not to be meeting the demands of the various tribes that make up the nation since the 1914 amalgamation and subsequent independence in 1960.The insecurity of Nigeria has not been this bad. The policies and lopsided appointments of the federal government have worsened the issue and provided the opportunity for the agitators to win easy converts both from their tribe and across the region. The converts include an assemblage of minorities and those genuinely denied a share of their constitutional entitlements. Regrettably, the federal government appears to be fanning the embers of disunity rather than addressing the obvious injustice that is glaring in appointments and execution of projects. The frenzied approach with which the government has gone about the issue of response to the agitators, especially the IPOB, is a rare show of brute force. One would have expected a structured engagement with the deployment of diplomacy in navigating through the murky waters.

The government, as usual, would declare October 1 as a public holiday to celebrate our independence as a nation. One would ask: are all the ethnic groups making up the nation truly free and the resources extracted from the regions shared following the federal character structure? I have observed that the excitement and the expectations associated with the celebration have been relegated to the rear because of the resentment for government management of our resources and concentration of political appointments to a sector of the country without considering the interest of co-owners in the Nigerian Nation. Although high preparations are in highest gear all over the country ostensibly because an independence anniversary in the life of a nation is very significant, the preparations are low keyed primarily due to the recession and apparent confrontation from those being marginalised.

Accordingly, in the midst of the ceremonies being organized at both public and private levels, there are very few attempts to do something more concrete about finding solutions to the myriad of national problems that have slowed down the progress of Nigeria. So far, there has been a more pronounced emphasis on deploying government media machineries in propaganda than on reinventing the Nigerian nation whose gargantuan potential greatness has been mired in a cumulative mess all these years.

That is why it is a welcome and commendable development that a patriotic and notable Nigerian has devoted his time, energy and resources to thinking about the problems of Nigeria and proposing possible solutions that can move us forward. This concerned Nigerian, an active leader in many economic ramifications of our national life, has decided to donate an enduring useful contribution to societal reformation. The result of this one man’s selfless effort is the book being reviewed here: NIGERIA: NEED FOR THE EVOLUTION OF A NEW NATION by Mazi Sam I. Ohuabunwa.

The book is a serious intellectual attempt at dissecting the diseased Nigerian condition and proposing viable ways of amelioration so that a new nation can be birthed from the atrophy of yesteryears. Comprising ten (10) solid chapters written in a lucid and accessible style, the author takes us through the various troublesome aspects of our national life where ameliorating attempts must start to evolve a new Nigeria. Thus Chapter One comes captioned as A Dream Aborted, tracing the beginning of the journey of an independent Nigeria from 1960 through the 70s, 80s to the 90s. As the author was already 10 years old at the time of Nigeria gaining independence, he was quite aware of the bright beginning of a great promise. The new Nigeria was radiant and vibrant, rearing to launch into great nationhood. Nigerians were like Alice in Wonderland, as they carried themselves with pride and optimism towards a brighter future. Life was good and the living standard was quite high. Education was qualitative and affordable, with opportunities for scholarship awards for brilliant students. Healthcare was excellent and cheap to get. Other social infrastructure and conditions were decent as you would have a well-ordered society. The author experienced all that good life in the newly independent Nigeria and captures the story vividly. But then, there was a twist in the Nigerian tale when political leaders started misbehaving and military coups began to intervene in our national life. The lofty dreams of the beautiful beginning and a promising future began to disappear in the ruins of successive military adventurism, multi-layered corruption and political fraud that seeped into every aspect of Nigerian life.

Having x-rayed where Nigeria was coming from and how it, unfortunately, got to where it is today, Chapter Two of the book launches into the necessity of political reformation as a way to begin the process of evolving a new nation that we all desire. Thus the author explores the various organic dynamics of our political construct: federal political structure, the six geo-political regions, devolution of power, derivation principle, political parties and internal democracy in political parties. It is interesting that the author declares his support for a radical political revolution, but one without bloodletting. In Nigeria today, however, there is a growing public opinion that only a bloody revolution can give us a new Nigeria. Eminent Nigerian patriots like Professor Ben Nwabueze, a foremost constitutional lawyer, has proposed that only a violent revolution can save Nigeria from becoming a failed state. So, it seems pacifist ideologues like Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa still have a lot of radical opinions to contend with in realizing a new Nigeria.

In Chapter Three, the author underscores the quality of leadership and governance as a major undermining factor in our national underdevelopment. For him, the choice of the right and competent political leadership should be based on merit, principles and integrity in order to foster a new nation on all fronts. There is no disputing that fact because while Nigeria is stupendously endowed in many respects, leadership and governance have always been our spoiling negation.

As there cannot be quality leadership and governance without proper political elections and meritorious public appointments, Chapter Four examines the electoral process and proposes ways to re-introduce integrity into it all, so that the recurring problem of electoral fraud and controversies can become a thing of the past.

Chapter Five examines the major machineries of governance – the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary – and the vital roles they play in the making or marring of our nation. Of course, the author also recommends ways like the speedy dispensation of justice, application of modern technology, promotion of investment milieu and fighting of corruption by which the three crucial vehicles of governance can be made more functional and cost-effective in making a positive impact on the lives of Nigerians.

In Chapter Six, the economy comes into full focus. And the author extensively applies his experiential knowledge from involvement in significant national economic policy formulations like Vision 2020 to analyse what is wrong with the Nigerian economy. As a company chief executive himself and an entrepreneur, he also identifies job creation, poverty alleviation, electric power, transportation and other critical infrastructure as central to our national economic recovery.
Meanwhile, in a highly endowed country of abundant human talents like ours, the author does not forget to devote a chapter in his book to the all-important factor of human capital. Thus, building competitive human capital and restoring the dignity of man are social issues duly explored in Chapter Seven. This is a worthy consideration because political leadership and governance would be ineffective without a quality citizenry to make the desired societal change happen.

Today, security of life and property seems to be at the lowest ebb in Nigeria, as armed robbery, kidnapping, assassination, ritual murders, political banditry and the like are as rampant as the air we breathe. It is then in order as the author takes a serious look at policing and security in Nigeria and recommends effective measures which can help us create a safe haven for all Nigerians and foreign investors. This is the focus of Chapter Eight of NIGERIA: NEED FOR THE EVOLUTION OF A NEW NATION.

Moving on, the interconnection between leadership and followership in a society like ours becomes the concern of the author in Chapter Nine. There are an observation and recommendation that the quality of leadership is necessarily influenced by the quality of followership. Thus the civic responsibilities of both individual and corporate citizens of Nigeria are harped upon to ensure harmony with the right leadership.

The author rounds up his thought-provoking analyses and recommendations in Chapter Ten of the book with a more personal story of his life, which has a lot to do with service to humanity, call to leadership, noble principles which he lives by and a God-driven value system.

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa has given us, in the book, a mirror that reflects our battered national essence and how we can reinvent our destiny. His analysis is right on the spot and his recommendations are as idealistic and pragmatic as they come. The truth is that Nigeria is never short of ideas and solutions to evolve a new nation. The problem is lack of political will to change the current narratives. And of course, the multicultural, multi-religious nature of our society has always been a decisive factor in how we can move forward without primordial sentiments rearing their ugly heads as drawbacks. Most of the recommendations that the author puts forward in the book are being daily repeated in many different ways as policy papers and informed opinions in the public mass media, but are the targeted people listening? If they listen, do they act on all these recommended solutions? The rat-race to materialism and megalomaniac occupation of power, morbid capitalism, moral cesspit, value poverty, unprecedented political marginalization in governance and lack of decisive political will are among serious issues that will make peaceful change impossible in Nigeria. The reality is that a more radical revolution is what Nigeria may need to evolve a new state.

All the same, NIGERIA: NEED FOR THE EVOLUTION OF A NEW NATION is a highly recommended and commendable intellectual gift to Nigeria in a period when everybody is jostling to have their voice heard and the citizens are being hounded for speaking out against oppression. Seeing Nigeria with so much promise, so many natural and human endowments, and so little to show for its 57 years of independence, reading and applying the insights contained in Ohuabunwa’s book prescribes a better way for leaders and citizens of Nigeria to approach the current power restructuring blowing across the country.

––––Onwumere is a cultural activist, book enthusiast and brand management consultant based in Lagos.