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The Jonathan Presidency: Setting the Agenda of Hope and Fulfillment (Final Parts)

By: Franklin Otorofani, Esq

 Published June 22nd, 2010

In his address to the US Council of Foreign Relations, then acting President, Goodluck Jonathan, promised or hoped rather, to offer the nation what he termed a transformative leadership in the remaining part of the administration. And, may I add, thereafter in his first term after the next general elections for which I’m personally sponsoring him on behalf of myself and millions of Nigerians at home and abroad, who have now come to believe in the Jonathan promise after his impressive and exemplary performance during and after the Yar’Adua crisis.

I’m no longer interested in wasting my precious time debating Jonathan’s eligibility and candidacy for the 2011 presidential election because as far as I’m concerned it is a done deal. Only a sick nation would engage in the sterile debate as to whether or not a citizen and an acting president for that matter, who succeeded a dead president, should or should not contest an election in his own right in a democracy when he is otherwise not disqualified under the law and the constitution. Those who have nothing better to do with their time can continue to dance themselves out in public before the real party begins in a few months. 

The debate is sickening and becoming irritatingly infantile and provocative to me. And it is a shame that the Nigerian press is unable to enlighten and educate the nation on the constitutional rights of every citizen to vie for any elective post in the land in our young democracy and instead feeding fat on the antics of primitive forces bent on pulling us back into the Stone Age in the 21st century. We will not allow that to happen in our nation.  All I would say for now and repeatedly so, is that our public affairs should and must, at all times, be governed by law and the constitution and nothing extraneous to them. It’s the meaning of rule of law, which the late president had made the cornerstone of his administration. His kinsmen must respect that. 

However, President Jonathan is hereby advised not to be distracted by the noise coming from disgruntled elements in the North seeking political relevance by purporting to be fighting for the interests of the North. He should not tip his hand either way as to whether he will contest or not at this time and allow his detractors burn themselves out fighting his shadows. He should keep his decision to himself and concentrate on productive governance by delivering on his promises to the nation and understand that his fate will be determined by his performance not by his Northern detractors. With the electoral reforms in place it will be up to ordinary Nigerians to choose their leader through the ballot not disgruntled Northerners. He can be rest assured, however, that when the time comes, he will literarily be dragged into the race by Nigerians themselves putting out of business the thinning clan of naysayers.

I am saying it straight up like it is. The North has a weak case by trying to impose on the nation an alleged phantom party agreement. How in the world could a mere party agreement, assuming it actually exists, be equated with a national accord? What if the AC, ANPP, APGA, PPA, or any of the other parties pulls out a purported agreement from its hat zoning the presidency to the South? What is the business of the North in PDP affairs anyway? Is the North now trying to appropriate the PDP as its own party to the exclusion of other parties? These people have completely lost their political bearings and seem headed toward political wilderness.

However, let me make it abundantly clear that any purported gentleman’s party agreement, real or imaginary, that is directly in contravention of the law and the constitution is null and void and of no effect whatsoever.  The North cannot disqualify Jonathan or any Nigerian for that matter, from contesting election into any office if he so wishes. They can make all the noise in the world, hold clandestine meetings every hour, and threaten fire and brimstone, but it will not change the law and the facts on the ground. The only way open to the North is to play smart and find some accommodation with Jonathan before it gets its fingers burnt. Or, as I had advised in earlier write up, quit the PDP and try its luck elsewhere. It should stop turning Nigeria into another Iraq because it is not in its interest to destabilize the nation. Enough is enough.   

Regardless of the antics of naysayers, however, I make bold to state categorically that Nigeria and Nigerians owe Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, a debt of gratitude for weathering the political crisis that almost consumed the nation in the recent past, and he deserves to be rewarded appropriately, subject to his performance. That Nigeria is still standing on her ever so wobbly four legs today comprised of three major ethnic groups and the so-called minorities put together, is due largely to Jonathan’s handling of the national crisis, otherwise Nigeria would have gone the way of the Koreas, former Soviet Union or even Somalia right here in Africa.

A nation of strange bedfellows clobbered together by the strong arm of British imperialists and thus condemned to co-habit in perpetual ethno-religious and political crisis, Nigeria is a combustible keg of gunpowder. And all it takes is a little spark to turn the vast blessed land burdened with cursed leaders into a wasteland of ethnic conflagration as the recurrent ethno-religious crisis in Plateau state and parts of the harried North have amply demonstrated.

Imagine the replication of Plateau in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja!  That is what could have befallen the nation. If some elements in the North want to start another crisis they’re welcome to do so, but they should be ready to bear the full consequences of their actions. Those old guards elements in the North who cannot survive without wielding political power will soon come to terms with the reality that the game has change in Nigeria and the pendulum of political power has swung to the other end and likely to remain there for a while before it swings back again to the other end. It’s all natural and not a contrived occurrence. Unlike Northern elements, Jonathan did not execute a coup to get to power and he did not seek power either. It was delivered to him by divine happenstance and no one should fight against God because doing so may not produce a happy ending for those involved in those diabolical moves.

But thank God, Nigeria dodged the bullet that wheezed morbidly past her ear, which was directly aimed at her heart by forces of evil some of whom are now seeking accommodation and rehabilitation with Jonathan, thus making it possible for the president to turn to developmental issues of urgent concern.

Said he, ”... we are committed to ensuring that the remaining period of the administration...will one day be viewed as a watershed, a transformational time in our young democracy.” He did not stop there but was generous enough to crack open a window that enabled us take a sneak peek into his modus operandi in the attainment of his transformative agenda. Here again is Acting President Jonathan elaborating at the same event: “For us in Nigeria, this is our time. Either we continue with more of the same or we change the game.”

Changing the Game

Aha! There we go—changing the game!  Changing the game is an idea whose time has come. And it is for that reason and that reason alone that the third and final part(s) of this groundbreaking series, dedicated exclusively to the unfolding Jonathan presidency, is devoted to a closer examination of what the idea of game change entails in nation building in the Nigerian context. What would it take to change the game in Nigeria? What is the significance and implication of the president’s statement and how might it become the philosophical seedling that could be planted, watered, germinated, nurtured and grown to birth the political vineyard of this administration for a better Nigeria?

The president says we cannot continue with more of the same and expect different results.  Therefore, we must change the game to get different results. What exactly does the President mean by changing the game and how is the game to be changed? Can the game ever be changed in Nigeria that is wedded to doing business as usual? What is the nature and character of the game to be changed and who will be the winners and losers in the game change?

Unfortunately, the president did not elaborate further other than the generalized indication that things would be done differently, which has now become his fervent gospel ever since he assumed office as president. But is the gospel of game change resonating with Nigerians? Put differently, are Nigerians on board for a game change? It’s hard to tell since the nation has yet to be mobilized and sensitized to the new paradigm beyond presidential statements. However, for Nigerians to be on board, they need to know the philosophical underpinnings and the precise contents of the game change agenda because it is an agenda that is all-encompassing with the potentials of affecting all facets of our national and even private lives. Such an agenda must be clearly articulated, spelt out and burned into the nation’s consciousness.

However, it is not enough simply to issue forth a promise or even commitment of doing things differently because doing things differently does not necessarily entail changing the game. After all, every successive leader in Nigeria had done things differently in the past without changing the game in any significant sense despite their professions to the contrary. It’s human to do things differently even if only slightly so in some cases. But on the whole it’s been the same game in town all over and over again, leader after leader. And the reason for that is not too difficult to fathom because it is difficult to change a left-handed man to a right-handed man overnight. Nigeria’s leadership has been recruited from the same pool that is used to doing things in particular ways and therefore has developed its own culture of corruption, planlessness and outright indifference to the plight of the people and development generally.

Our leaders are content to escape abroad to enjoy better facilities rather than replicating those facilities in their own country. They are content to send their children abroad to better schools rather than replicating those schools in their own country. They’re content to jetting out abroad at the nation’s expense for medical check-ups and treatments rather than replicating those medical facilities at home. They’re content to jetting out on vacation to tourist attractions abroad rather than developing their own tourism industry to attract tourists to their own country to grow the economy. What they cannot bring back with them from abroad like uninterrupted power supplies, they make up with automatic generators and private water works. And if they cannot bring better roads from abroad to drive their posh cars on they take to the air to avoid the potholes and armed robbers on our highways. People like Abubakar Rimi (of blessed memory), who fail to do so do not live to tell their horror stories on our roads. May his soul Rest in Peace.

The nation has thus been cursed with leaders who do not want their fellow country men and women to enjoy the good things of life by replicating them at home but would rather have them abroad and condemn their fellow citizens to live in ramshackle, sub-human conditions and infrastructural decay. Doing things differently means dismantling this paradigm altogether and replacing it with a more wholesome alternative that caters to the welfare and wellbeing of ordinary Nigerians inside and outside their homes because government exists not for the rich and the strong but for the weak and the poor. It’s time our leaders are made to understand and appreciate why we have government in the first place. 

Nigerians are yearning for a change in direction and contents of governmental policies. But it is not enough for individuals to clamor for change in the abstract as an impersonal thing by expecting it from others except him or herself, for, one who desires change must be the change itself he/she desires from others. In other words, no one can rightfully clamor for the change he is unwilling to embrace himself and be the substance of the change himself. But it is not enough to desire change and go to sleep on it hoping for it to be delivered on a platter. The people must do their part by constantly and insistently demanding change, because as one famous man puts it, power concedes no ground unless and until it is demanded.

Oftentimes, however, when people clamor for change they tend to pay little or no attention to the type and content of change they desire and how it can best be brought about. For the most part, they’re content to leave both the substance and the details in the hands of their leaders many of whom quite regrettably turn out to be political demagogues full of hot air with no real substance to their messianic posturing. What is happening in Edo state of Nigeria under Governor Adams Oshiomhole and in the United States of America, under President Barak Obama, for instance, where political rhetoric and electioneering grandstanding have both fallen short of people’s expectations and turning their hopes and dreams into hopelessness and nightmares, bear eloquent testimonies to the gulf between political promises and political deliveries. Today those who fought so hard to put President Obama in the Oval Office and Governor Oshiomhole in the Edo state Government House have cause to doubt their sense of judgment.

While reactions may vary with different groups and constituents, the one group that would certainly do so in the case of Obama is the immigrant community and minority racial groups in the US who have invested so much in the Obama presidency but who now watch with alarm and morbid trepidation as the state of Arizona bares its fangs against immigrants with a law that was designed to directly challenge the authority of the US government headed by President Obama, which is totally outside of state jurisdictions.

But all Obama could do was to puff and huff and voice his outrage, with his promised challenge of the racist Arizona law still in cooler two months after it was enacted. And the petrified immigrant community who had looked up to the president to protect them from racial profiling inherent in the enforcement of the law, are wringing their arms hopelessly in disbelief as Obama dithers perhaps in the hope that the bad news will go away to be replaced with something else in our 24-hour news cycle. And sure enough, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has displaced and consigned the Arizona law debate to the back seat. Obama is now all over BP mauling the British oil giant, not the Arizona Madam Governor, who is defiantly determined to execute the racist, Hitlerite scripts of the Republican, tea-party, racial cleansing agenda.

I understand that the Gulf oil spill has transformed itself into a major national crisis of Biblical proportions and therefore demands presidential attention round the clock, but it didn’t happen yesterday, it happened today, and immigration issues could have been addressed long before this crisis in fulfillment of Obama’s own promise to address the issue within his first year in office. Healthcare and economic battles shunted the immigration agenda thereby giving the Arizona Governor the leeway to stick her racist law in our face and call the bluffs, catching the Obama administration by surprise and flatfooted.

But even with President Obama literarily sleeping under the cushion of the thick oil sludge in the Gulf, with his third trip to the region so far; and even with the clubbing of BP to death, the hard to please Americans are not impressed with his performance in the crisis and are now comparing his response to President GW Bush’s response to the Katrina disaster. In the latest Associated Press-GfK poll, 52% majority of Americans are unhappy with Obama’s handling of the Gulf oil crisis.

It goes to show just how difficult and insatiable human beings are with all the efforts Obama has put into the crisis from day one. But as noted in my previous write up, when the economy is down though not out, and people are hurting, nothing a leader does is good enough and disaffected citizens would look for reasons to vent their anger on the symbol of their sufferings, which, in this case, is the president. Americans are hurting from economic woes and they’re loath to give Mr. President any credit whatsoever even if he lands a man on Mars for the US to brag about. It will make no difference whatsoever unless it brings their lost jobs back and gives them their paychecks to settle their mountains of unpaid bills starring at them unblinkingly in their faces. So Obama could relocate the White House to the Gulf of Mexico if he likes, but it will make no difference to economically beleaguered Americans. That’s the reality. 

I am, therefore, not in the least surprised by the poll results for, anyone who imagines that the over ten million Americans who have lost their jobs since the financial crisis began in 2008, and the additional millions who are graduating yearly into unemployment in the US would have the grace and large heart to pat Obama on the back even if he puts a man on Mars for America, has got to be kidding me. At the end of the Obama honeymoon disaffected Americans have since dialed back to transfer their anger against GW Bush onto Obama. Poor Obama! He inherited not just the crisis but the anger of Americans against the government of GW Bush. He has been left to carry the can of worms left by his predecessor and he cannot let go of it. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. 

Perhaps even more disappointingly is the African American community who had put invested every penny they had in the Obama presidency but whose socio-economic conditions have gotten even worse not better under Obama not unlike their South African counterparts under black rule. Their hopes are dreams have spilled into the gulf of poverty and misery but there is no Obama there for them to contain the spill and no emergency efforts either to address their losses. They’re on their own, it seems. And they’re hurting real bad and burning on the inside unable to openly take on Obama publicly because he is their own. Were he white, they would have been jumping all over and mauling him for not looking their way as they did during Katrina. 

But the honeymoon Obama is getting from his own community, though prolonged for obvious reasons, will not last forever. As I listen, as I always do, to African Americans commentators in radio and television talk shows, all I hear are their cries of exasperation as they pose the questions repeatedly, “What about us?” and “what is in it for us, blacks?”

For them the more things seem to change the more they remain the same as the numbers of blacks and minorities in prison continue to grow; their school dropout rates continue to skyrocket, and their rates of joblessness and poverty continue to grow exponentially and disproportionately higher under Obama’s very watch. And they’re asking rather incredulously: Where is the change we can believe in? The change has indeed been long in coming and many may be dead before it arrives if at all. However, by the time they get answers to these nagging questions Obama will be gone and that’s when the scales will start falling from their eyes to see what hit them.

For now, however, the ennobling and elevating sights of a black man in the Oval office and a black woman as First Lady calling the shots in the US and around the world have provided spiritual and emotional nourishments to their beings and deadening their senses to their material deprivations even if only monetarily. As Shakespeare puts it, it’s a tale told by a fool, full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing.

This is not to say, however, that Obama does not have my support still. He sure does only with certain studied reservations because, in the end, we are all victims of political demagoguery. Yes, we are all victims of hope differed and promise postponed.

And just as it is in the United States and South Africa, so it is in Edo state. Impoverished workers and indigenes of the state who had danced themselves naked in the streets of Benin to celebrate the inauguration of Governor Oshiomohle as their Messiah have had their economic fortunes taken a turn for the worse. What, with government hospitals carrying on critical surgical operations under candle light, as reported, how much worse can it get? Oshiomohle has proved that it can indeed get worse than operating patients under candle and touch light in Edo state. It’s increasingly looking like someone is telling Edo people not so much in words but in deeds: “You ain’t seen nothing yet! Wait until I’m done with you.”

Edo people are now forced to sleep with one eye open as armed robbers and kidnappers rule the state forcing the highly revered Benin Monarch to direct traditional worshippers (as reported) to place traditional curses on the perpetrators of the horrendous criminal conducts in the state under Oshiomhole’s watch. And while hapless Edos are sleeping with one eye open and facing worsening economic conditions, their governor is busy consorting with the evil genius, IBB, and wasting the state’s scarce resources to organize a political jamboree at Ogbe stadium ostensibly to campaign for one man one vote, where IBB was billed to lecture us on free and fair elections. Wonders shall never end. Only in Nigeria!

Governor Oshiomohle and ex-military dictator, IBB, in a marriage of convenience! Was that really about electoral reform or the launch of the IBB/Oshiomomhle presidential ticket for 2011? True in politics there are no permanent friends but permanent interests and Oshiomohle has just proved that to us. It sounded to me more like someone positioning himself for the post of a running mate to the evil genius whose ambition to rule Nigeria again will not see the light of day until he is made to answer for June 12, and our missing $12bn Gulf Oil windfall, than a campaign for electoral reform. And good a thing, other invitees got the hint and voted with their feet putting Oshiomhole and his evil guest on the defensive.

But this much I predict with dead certainty: Oshiomhole will be flushed down the toilet with IBB, his newfound political godfather, having dumped Tony Anenih, in the fullness of time, because no one can fool all the people all of the time. He has given his second term a kiss of death with his flirtation with IBB. There is always a day of reckoning and that day is drawing nigh. Ogbulafor just got his day; Ibori is getting his day, and IBB will get his as well, ‘cos the ghost of MKO will never rest until justice is done and IBB is brought to book. June 12 is his political waterloo of all times of which time will never heal until the perpetrators of the satanic annulment of the people’s will are put behind bars. With June 12, the nation’s memory couldn’t be any longer.


New Game in Town

There is a new game in town and he is no other than the man Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Jonathan appears to be chip from a new block altogether and hardly your run-of-the-mill political demagogue. Sure he is a politician, born and bred in Nigeria and therefore a product of the notoriously destructive and anti-development Nigerian environment. He is a politician, who, until now, could not be distinguished from the rest of the pack of wolves ruling the nation. He has come to the presidency with lots of memories. He is a man brought up in a system that denied his people the benefits of their God given resources and instead used to turn other regions in havens of development. He is a man weaned in system that denied his people the right to aspire to the leadership of their own country and are now acting plotting to deny him a chance to rule in his own right. Yes, Jonathan is a product of all that and much, much more. Nevertheless, there is a tone of sincerity in his voice and one of urgency in his cadence. He may not be the Messiah yet, but he comes across as someone who truly desires to leave a legacy of transformative accomplishments for the present and future generations, not only in words but in deeds, and that’s an important difference to note. He strikes one as one who truly wants to leave his imprints in the sands of time like no other before him.

But how does he go about doing that? Put another way, how does he plan to change the game? That is the crux of the matter and it raises the question as to the things we have been doing the same way that need to be done differently—in other words the “what” and the “how” of the matter. What have we been doing and how have we been doing them?

We need to first of all identify the problematic fields that have given the nation a black eye in the estimation of the world. The areas of our national life that immediately come to mind would include but not limited to the following in bold type: leadership succession, economic development, law enforcement and administration of justice, power and energy supplies, tertiary education, foreign relations, transportation infrastructures, anti-graft war, revenue generation and allocation, labor unionism, environmental husbandry, geo-ethnic and religious conflict management, sports and recreation, as well as tourism, productivity, just to mention but a few.

While by no means exhaustive, we already have a full plate in our hands to deal with. On the whole, there are fifteen items on our list above that we need to examine a little closer each one of which is enough to command a full treatment in its own right. But we don’t need to treat each and every one of the above categories. They have been highlighted to indicate the areas we need to work on if we want to change the game. Let’s take the first two to illustrate how we have been doing things in the past and how things should be done differently in the present and in the future in order to make the changes we all desire.  

Leadership succession: How has Nigeria been dealing with leadership succession in the past that needs to be changed now in order to do away with her recurrent leadership crisis?

The answer is pretty straightforward. As in all democracies (both young and old), leadership succession in Nigeria is  effected through periodic elections conducted into various local, state and federal offices by national electoral agencies (INEC) under different names every four years in accordance with the several constitutions we have operated and the extant electoral laws in operation at the time. Save for the military interregnum, the nation has been conducting elections the same way since independence and she has been getting the same results of chaos and anarchy in each and every election.

But what is wrong with the way elections have been conducted these past fifty years in Nigeria? The reader would be surprised at the answer: Nothing! Nothing, and absolutely nothing is wrong with the electoral laws or the methods of conducting elections in Nigeria. But everything is wrong with our politicians and the particular governments that have been conducting elections in Nigeria! The fault is not in the electoral laws or methods, but in our own selves and in our governments. Put another way, the “Nigerian Factor,” which has come to define us as a people, who seemingly have been programmed to destroy or render ineffective every operation, exercise, process or institution in the land including our laws, is responsible for electoral failures and the consequential endemic crisis that has attended every leadership succession in the nation at every level.

It’s instructive to note in this regard that the same tribes of destructive political gladiators that the British unleashed on the nation at independence and their graduates in politics are still with us till today. In season after season these political grasshoppers would descend on the political vineyard and completely defoliate it. It’s pretty obvious, therefore, that they’re responsible for the failure of every republic since independence. They are adepts at circumventing the rules and game the system to their advantage. They are those who, rather than seriously articulate and present their political manifestoes to the electorate and engage in serious public debates to sell their programs prefer to work overtime night and day to subvert the system through the recruitment and training of armed thugs and other political operatives to ambush the electoral process and render it totally effective.

And how have we been dealing with the consequent electoral failures in the past? Why ask? We change the leadership of the electoral body and tinker with the electoral laws in the name of reforms in the naïve hope that all would be well thereafter. Thus we have witnessed the nation throwing out the leadership of our electoral bodies and tweaking our electoral laws at the end of each and every election held since independence and called that reform. Let’s not deceive ourselves, that’s no reform but more of the same.

And gosh! We have just done that yet again in 2010! We have been doing things the same way and getting the same results and thereby allowing the malignant tumor all the time it needs to grow and spread its deleterious tentacles to every healthy tissue in the body politic. We have done nothing differently but in exact same way using the pre-existing template and yet expect different results. President Jonathan has, therefore, not deviated an inch from the old way of doing things with particular reference to electoral reforms. Like his predecessors down the line, he has chosen the path of least resistance of doing more of the same and yet expecting different results this time around. That’s not going to happen. Removing the symbol of electoral failures represented by the head of INEC while leaving intact and undisturbed the substance of failure is tantamount to mere window dressing that will get us nowhere, and that’s all we have been doing since independence.

Doing things differently would not entail changing the leadership of our electoral bodies and the rules of the game in the name of reforms, but changing the character of the players of the game through instrumentality of the law. We must induce or force attitudinal changes in ourselves. And this is where the government comes in because it is in a better position to effect attitudinal changes through a combination of law enforcement and moral suasion.

However, since the old guards cannot lawfully be prevented from vying for political offices to stop or mitigate their deleterious activities, real reforms would simply entail reinforcing and enforcing the laws that are already in the books to the letter no matter who is and what party is involved. Doing things differently simply means strengthening and enforcing the laws of the land. Allowing political desperadoes a free reign to mess up our political system only to turn around and scapegoat electoral umpires will not fix our electoral woes but aggravate them. Absence of law enforcement has allowed this problem to fester. This is what has been missing along in previous elections. This is the missing link that must be established firmly throughout the electoral process. The deterrent effect of the law has been deliberately muted by previous and present administrations with regard to electoral malfeasances and where that is the case, evil inevitably takes over our electoral affairs.

This is the hardest part and the real reform. As in the anti-graft war, a major crackdown is required to exorcise the demons of elections. Jonathan himself, who is a primary beneficiary of the old order, must be willing to take on the powerful interests who are now in power courtesy of rigging because they will come again as usual to mess up the system under his watch. In fact, they’re already in the works for business as usual in the next elections, because nothing has in fact changed at this moment. He must be willing to do the heavy lifting and not stop at merely sacrificing the leadership of INEC and call that reform. Let me tell him how that might be accomplished. The president should constitute an “Election High Command” made up of a crack team of detectives and law enforcement officials of impeccable character who would police the entire electoral process in real time to detect and punish infractions before, during and after elections. Let’s get serious with our problems for once. Let’s see some big name politicians in handcuffs and beyond the bars for electoral offenses as in the anti-graft war to serve as deterrence.

As I have argued in previous outings and needs to be repeated here, mere change of guards at INEC headquarters is merely whitewashing the outer walls of the edifice to create the illusion of reform. The incorrigible and irredeemably corrupt and lawless Nigerian politician needs a strong arm of the law to beat him into line and the president must be committed to doing just that whether or not doing so will affect the fortunes of his own ruling party including his, and let the chips fall wherever they may. I’m afraid the present game of musical chairs at INEC headquarters will not cut the deal, because it never has in the past and will not in the present and in the future, either. While the change of leadership might satisfy political cravings of the opposition elements, that, in and of itself, is mere band aid on a festering sore.

Additionally, President Jonathan must quickly take steps to reduce the lure and material attractions to political offices and thus minimize the cut throat competition that it engenders thereby leaving the field for those genuinely interested in service to their people so as to weed out the political contractors, wheeler dealers and opportunists that now dominate the system. The present situation where public office holders are allowed to live like Arabian oil sheiks at the expense of their impoverished constituents is not only obscene, but an open invitation to political anarchy in the system variously manifesting itself in electoral robberies and debacles. 

Notwithstanding anything said to the contrary heretofore, I would hasten to add that electoral failures in Nigeria are not carved in stones.  In other words, electoral failure is not the nation’s inevitable fate. It is, therefore, entirely possible for the political class to have a change of heart and refrain from egregious abuse of the electoral process by respecting the rules of the game in tandem with the rest of the civilized world, just like the nation’s military has now learnt to respect civilian authority by refraining from plotting coups against civilian administrations. Therefore, in spite of the misgivings expressed above, it lies within the realm of possibility for the nation to get it right the next time around as indeed happened in the criminally annulled election of 1993, which was widely regarded as a huge success and a turning point in the history of elections in Nigeria. 

Will the political class turn a new leaf like the nation’s military and do the nation proud for once? Would politicians place national interest over and above their personal interests and play the game according to the rules? Could the nation pull off the June 12, 1993 feat again in 2011 under President Jonathan’s watch? It’s entirely possible that could be the case. Already the present INEC has improved somewhat with the last three elections conducted under Jonathan’s watch which the President himself and the nation have hailed as successes. Though localized, if such successes could be replicated nationally in the general elections, it would be a re-enactment of the successes of the June 12, 1993 elections. Optimists can, therefore, justifiably look up to that scenario possibly repeating itself because history tends to repeat itself.

But what exactly was responsible for the success of June 12, 1993, presidential elections? Was it the ban on old breed politicians? Was it the adoption of Option A4? Or was it the appointment of a professor of political science as head of the INEC that made the difference? These are difficult questions crying for some answers before we restart our journey yet again on a blind alley. A professor of political science may have conducted the best election ever in our national history and another has been tipped as head of INEC, but it would be a leap of faith to put our faith on the academic credentials of the head of the electoral agencies while continuing business as usual.  I’m, therefore, cautiously but not overly optimistic for the reasons stated above.

Economic Development:

This is perhaps the biggest ticket on the list. How has the nation been doing things on the economic front? How the nation has been doing things in the past is responsible for our success or failure thus far in our quest for economic development. If the nation is an economic success it means we should stay the course, but if not we must change course and do things differently. By and large, the unflattering verdict is that the nation has failed on the economic front and must therefore change course.

Though essentially a capitalist economy, Nigeria has been practicing mixed economic model in which economic activities are shared between the public and private sectors. However, up and until recently the state had appropriated to itself the so-called commanding heights of the economy in power, energy, shipping, aviation, rail transportation, postal services, and even higher education, which was denied even to the states, in addition to its traditional areas of security, defense, and foreign affairs to mention but a few. This was compounded by the Indigenization Decree of 1977, which prevented foreigners from investing in certain sectors of the economy.  Although this decree has been amended/repealed and foreign investors are now being actively wooed to come and invest in any sector of the economy they wish to put their money in, the facts remains that the government is still holding on tight to its commercial investments in energy and power sectors of the economy. That’s why government still operates refineries and power plants, all of which have been grounded or at best providing epileptic services to the nation at great costs to the treasury. 

Government’s best efforts over the years to make these services efficient and effective have been met with dismal failures for reasons that are not altogether farfetched—sabotage and political interferences, which is the bane of government owned enterprises. There is no reason, therefore, to expect different results by doing things the old way. We must change course. It means both privatization and deregulation now, freeing government from the business of big business to concentrate on its core competencies of regulation, enforcement and monitoring. Nigerians who are now resistant to changing in the way government has been running the show need to change their resistant attitude to change if they truly desire change.


Doctrine of Functionalism

As a strong advocate of a philosophical approach to governance because of my conviction that governance means a whole lot more than the annual rituals of budget presentation and execution, I had severally advocated for the president to articulate a grand vision for the nation to be vigorously and relentlessly pursued with messianic zeal by the administration, not the bogus and utterly nebulous Y2020 abracadabra that would make Nigeria become one of the twenty largest economies in the world by that year.

Rather than aiming at reaching the moon on foot, it’s more profitable, realistic and doable to articulate a governing philosophy that is geared towards making the nation and her citizens whole again. Such philosophical, or if you like, ideological enterprise, I would term “Functionalism,” for want of a better word. Its goal is to make the nation functional in every department and at every level of government.

I’m, therefore, a functionalist who is out to promote the functional philosophy or ideology of growth and development. What does it mean? In practical terms, it means making and keeping our roads and highways motorable and in top shape all year round through regular maintenance and upgrades. It means setting up and maintaining effective and responsive law enforcement agencies capable, able, and willing to respond, confront and take down criminal affronts and challenges to the law within minutes, not hours.

The present situation in which armed robbers invade the premises of their victims including banks at will unchallenged and spend hours therein operating as if they are on duty tour at those premises is clearly indicative of failure of governance. A situation in which armed criminal gangs takeover our highways literarily and rob innocent motorists and passengers for hours unchallenged, to their hearts’ contents, is the very definition of failed administration and rubbishes the institution of government itself. There is, therefore, no use deluding ourselves about Y2020 unless and until we’ve addressed the basic issues of governance.

A functional state is one with a functional and effective internal security apparatus able to guarantee to its citizens, residents and visitors alike, security of lives and property. Functionalism dictates that the nation institutes a functional and effective Emergency Response System (ERS) to help those in distress whether it is about natural or man-made disasters, medical or crime related emergencies, at every level of government in the nation. This is a basic function of governance and it’s a tragedy that we’re still talking about these things fifty years after independence.  

Functionalism means having a working, modern, postal service, public libraries and fire stations in city neighborhoods, not one or two fire stations and libraries for an entire city, and colonial postal service. It’s a joke. We must not be seen to be offering token services but be truly committed to offering robust social services that are sorely needed by our people for their welfare, protection as well as their personal growth and development. Our cities are towns must be fitted with functional and regularly updated libraries and post offices in every neighborhood or districts to promote knowledge and postal transactions to grow our economy and provide jobs for our youths. A functional, well digitized postal system is a catalyst for economic growth and development in our modern world and the benefits of well stocked public libraries in towns and cities are self evident to warrant enumeration here. It’s time to change the game.  

The Jonathan administration is well positioned to up the ante and multiply the indices of growth and development in our nation. That is the very essence of functionalism. It means instituting effective and modern garbage collection, disposal, processing and recycling systems in cities and towns throughout the length and the breadth of the nation. I don’t want to see men and women carrying brooms to sweep our streets but modern mechanical sweepers barging through our streets to take out trash. The world has moved beyond manual brooms. It’s time to change the game.

It means instituting and enforcing standards in roads, and building construction and renovations. It means enacting zoning laws for our towns and cities in order to properly demarcate the boundaries of industrial/commercial undertakings from purely residential domains. Our roads must properly be posted with road signs demarcations and markings to aid vehicular traffic and not the caricatures that we see in Nigeria. We want to be like developed nations then we must act like developed nations! It’s the bottom line.

Functionalism would involve maintaining safety standards in dwellings such as the installation of window guards, fire and gas alarms in homes and fire systems and elevators in commercial buildings. Nigeria must begin to move away from third world conditions and ways, and begin to embrace first world best practices. It’s pointless shouting about Y2020 when our towns and cities are worse than human jungles and studies in chaos and planlessness.

Currently, there doesn’t seem to be any safety standards in buildings and people are allowed to store inflammable and hazardous materials in buildings apparently with no information or training in the handling and storage of such materials. Every now and then, we read in the papers about whole families perishing in their own homes while asleep from generator fumes because they have moved generating sets to or close to their windows. This is unacceptable and a serious indictment of the authorities. It seems nobody cares about anything in Nigeria even lives and property. Public safety is the duty of the government and it should be properly articulated and formulated into an enforceable policy. The absence of electricity is no excuse for people to operate generators right in their bedrooms.

Functionalism means setting standards and benchmarks for the civil service and ensuring a responsive civil service for the citizenry. In short, functionalism is the sum total of all that is geared toward ensuring quality of life for the citizens in all departments of their existence and in all of their interactions with state agencies and institutions. It therefore, means raising not only the quality of life of the citizens by promoting their material wellbeing, but the quality of the physical environment in which they live in.

There is no reason whatsoever why Nigerians should be condemned to live in squalid, sub-human conditions in shanties.  And it is disgraceful that even the wealthy in Nigeria are condemned to live in ill-planned, ill-maintained towns and cities in degraded environments. It’s time to change the game and do away with the slums. Why are we still keeping the slums in our towns and cities? Is that to show the world that we like living like pigs? It’s time to do away with the pigsties we call homes in our city slums. It’s time to change the game and embark on a massive urban renewal programs nationwide. It’s about time. 

The recent outrage against the BBC documentary on Lagos should, therefore, be turned inward by the government to turn the page on our terribly degraded environments. It will not break the treasury, and even if does, it is money well spent for the wellbeing, health and general quality of life of our citizens. Our people in general and the government in particular, must understand that a degraded environment invariably produces degraded humans and a breeding ground for poverty and misery. This is not about lack of resources, but lack of vision and political will power. I made bold to state that our governments at all levels have the wherewithal to design and maintain minimum standards in our homes, offices and the environment in general. Functionalism dictates that the process should begin now, not a day later and Jonathan should blow the whistle and kick start the program.

Functionalism is making Nigeria work again. It means keeping water taps running and public buildings clean and well maintained—in other words keeping our porters, painters, plumbers, electricians, and building inspectors, and others busy round the clock—and  why not? Is it too much to mandate local authorities to provide potable water for residents within their respective jurisdictions? Is it such a big deal to keep our public buildings well maintained with functional facilities? Are Nigerians allergic to clean and well maintained environments? Don’t Nigerians deserve to live the good life in a country that blessed but roundly abused? And don’t we have the means and the required skill sets to provide ourselves decent environments and to live the good life in our own country? What does it take? Trust me, not a whole lot. We can do it. All developmental efforts must be citizen centric and that includes the environment. Both go hand in hand, because a degraded environment translates generally to degrade citizenry. Nigeria must turn the page and make her citizens and environment whole again, and the attendant blessings will be unfathomable. 

Functionalism means raising the productivity of Nigerian workers in tandem with the rest of the world and keeping our children and wards in school. It means having a functional judiciary that’s alive to its constitutional responsibilities. President Jonathan should forget about Y2020 and make Nigeria work again and by the time he’s done, he will discover that the nation has already arrived Y2020 without knowing it!  Rather than setting wholesale target for Y2020, the government should set targets sector by sector as indicated above and be sure to meet them one at a time because development is not a wholesale but a retail enterprise.

The government should be mindful of overloading the system with too many programs at the same time because government has neither the executive capacity nor the resources to implement them all at the same time and, in the end might be able to implement none while dissipating energies on so many fronts. That is the disease that has afflicted President Obama in the US who is busy launching one program after another and getting tepid results at best. All of a sudden the man has aged considerably within just one year in office. He is burning himself out by packing too much on his plate at the same time as if there is no tomorrow for him, forgetting that Rome was not built in one day.

And that’s why it makes absolute sense for President Jonathan to do away with Yar’Adua’s unwieldy 7-Point Program and replace it with a leaner and more manageable one at this point in time. It makes no sense to carry Yar’Adua’s elephantine, back- breaking agenda on his back. Mr. Lamido Sanusi, the CBN Governor, had advised Yar’Adua to prune it down to manageable proportions and Yar’Adua lashed back at him through his spokesman, Olusegun Adeniyi, who has since lost his job and fled abroad from the wrath if his countrymen and women over his role in the Yar’Adua crisis. Many well meaning Nigerians have equally weighed in with similar suggestions, but the government appears tone deaf about these suggestions preferring to lumber along with the Yar’Adua baggage on its back for political reasons. It makes no sense. While doggedness and consistency are welcome virtues in governance, foolhardiness is not.       

May God bless and keep the nation. 

Franklin Otorofani, Esq. contact:

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