By Yvonne Ishola
THE saying that every great man came into the world in a dramatic way is very true when one takes Nigeria as an example. The most populous black African country, acclaimed giant of Africa came into being after travails, labour pain which at some point was thought hopeless. Nigeria’s colonial masters held tenaciously to the reins of power which they had been wielding over their colony since 1900.
The colonial masters had adopted the system of indirect rule which ruled the people through their traditional rulers whose allegiance was for the colonial authorities. This means any chief that proved stubborn was replaced with one ready to work with the colonial masters and do their bidding.
Fortunately, the system of indirect rule had some advantages. It prevented the British (colonial masters) from dominating the economy. A substantial export trade in cocoa, groundnuts, leather, cotton and vegetable oils was opened as a result.
In 1914, the Southern and Northern Protectorates were merged. The marriage of 2 strange bed fellows as some Nigerians refer to it. Six Africans were also brought into the governor’s advisory council same year. 1922 was the year a legislative council was empowered to legislate for the South. It was made up of ten Africans, 4 of them elected, and 36 Europeans. Their authority was later increased to cover the whole country but with additional members – 28 Africans (4 elected) and 17 Europeans.
Through the years that followed, foundation for an Independent Nigeria was laid. The 1947 Constitution set up Regional Houses of Assembly in the east, west and north with a House of Chiefs in the North.
In 1951, the balance of power was given to Nigerians by the 1951 Constitution. And in 1954, Nigeria became a federation. Eastern and Western regions gained internal self government in 1957 while the Northern region gained its own in 1959. Elections into the Federal House of Representatives held in December 1959 bringing in a new government. At its first meeting, the House requested full sovereignty. Everything being equal, Nigeria gained its independence on October 1, 1960.
Nigeria’s new government had at its helm of affairs Northern People’s Congress in alliance with National Council of Nigeria ( a largely Igbo party) with Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as Prime Minister. The country became a republic in 1963 and Dr. Nnnamdi Azikiwe became Nigeria’s (non-executive) President.
59 years have gone past since the Nigerian flag-green, white green was hoisted. A high point, the birth of a new nation full of promises. Very hopeful for the independent Nigeria, Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa expressed himself in these words: “When this day in October 1960 was chosen for our Independence, it seemed that we were destined to move with quiet dignity to our place in the world stage. Recent events have changed the scene beyond recognition, so that we found ourselves today being tested to the utmost. We are called upon immediately to show that our claims to responsible government are well founded, and having been accepted, as an independent state, we must at once play an active part in maintaining the peace of the world and in preserving civilization. I promise you, we shall not fail for want of determination. And we come to this task better equipped than many.”
How very true! Nigeria had (and still has) a lot of promises. Human resources is very abundant; natural resources, a vibrant upcoming economy that attracted the colonial masters who were enriched by our rich natural endowments.
It was celebration galore for Nigerians on 1st October 1960 because they felt free. And the leaders that emerged successful at the polls were not imposed upon them nor warmed their way through money politics. The political class was made up of nationalists that had passion for the country’s independence and Nigeria’s good. They had been selfless in fighting for one Nigeria not with any coloration. No wonder Sir Tafawa Balewa could confidently say “We are called upon immediately to show that our claims to responsible government are well founded…”
Unfortunately, there is a departure from this in our leaders of today. Most governments in the country are led by irresponsible people not fit to be called leaders. They are self-serving and lack moral. Their first and last goal is power and money. Millions of money for running government are stashed away abroad while their citizens suffer depravity, lack of social amenities, unemployment, lack of roads and the available ones are either inaccessible or death traps. Our education system is in shambles while corruption and inflation are killing the economy.
All this spell out bad governance. A situation that is the root cause of the springing up of terrorists groups like Boko Haram, Niger Delta militants, etc., banditry, arm robbery, kidnapping etc. Crisis here and there is the order of the day. Discontentment, disagreements, dissatisfaction, the resultant consequences is disillusionment, disenchantment, drug abuse increased criminality. And it goes round again. It is a vicious circle.
Nigeria Union of Journalist Jos Council recently celebrated its press week (25rd of September – 29th 2019). At a colloquium it organized at Eliel Centre with the theme ‘Insecurity in Nigeria and agitations for restructuring’, one of the points the guest speaker, Prof. Dakas C.J. Dakas hammered on as root cause of Nigeria’s woes was bad governance. The 3 discussants, Joe Lengs, Prof. Sharubutu and Prof. Izang agreed with that sentiment pointing out in their different submissions how bad governance could trigger crisis.
Cases of bad governance can be seen in every sphere of governance or leadership in Nigeria. Coup a ’tats have been traced in some cases to bad governance that is excluding the very first one spear headed by Aguiyi Ironsi that claimed the life of our amiable leader Tafawa Balewa. Even though It is not unconnected to power drunkenness, greed.
Most of Nigeria’s problems, if not all, can be traced to bad governance. Is it insecurity? Is it unemployment? Is it infrastructural decay? Is it poor standard of living or lack of social amenities? Is it gender inequality, nepotism or favouritism in appointments and of course corruption, governments ineptitude etc. These all point to bad governance.
It is discontentment, lack that pushes one to engage in criminal activities. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. An able bodied person who could be educated and cannot get himself employed because the economy is unfriendly might resort to criminal activities to take care of his needs. For some of the youths, they cannot gain admission into tertiary institutions even though they have all the requisite qualifications. Out of frustration, they might resort to drugs and under its influence or even peer pressure, they may become criminals. In this condition/situation, they are easy targets for conflict brokers and trouble makers who use them as tools for stipends.
In subtle manners most of our youths are introduced into criminal activities because of the failure of the state to engage them positively due to the stringent rules guarding tertiary schools admissions. And due to failure of government to provide more schools, vocational and technical schools where they will discover their talents and put them to constructive uses. In addition, they become employers of labour apart from becoming self-employed after their course.
In his remark during the colloquium referred to earlier, the Deputy Governor of Plateau State, Professor Tyoden traced even the root of insecurity to poor governance. He emphasized that “if people were given proper participation in governance within the government structures from the national, state and local levels ….; If our roads were good; if power was consistent, if hospitals were better equipped; if schools were well run; I bet you, we will not hear about restructuring. Similarly, the issue of insecurity would have gone down.”
The 3 discussants before the Deputy Governor’s remark had blamed the so many problems bedeviling the country on poor governance. The failure of the government to provide enabling environment for the youth to be hopeful and discover their talents, to read or study what they want to study not what they are forced to study or continue waiting for admission which may not be forthcoming.
Insecurity is the monster that our dissatisfied youths have availed themselves to be its servants. It assumes different faces – conflicts, insurgency, terrorism, armed robbery, cultism, rape, murder, kidnapping etc. Deaths are on the increase not only because our roads are death traps but because of activities of armed robbers, ritual killers, kidnappers etc.
Instead of government to channel its resources to projects that have direct bearing on its people’s lives, the interest of most governments and their officials is to amass wealth to the point that they vacate their seat richer than the state or country at large.
History has it that Nnamdi Azikiwe was the first major figure investigated of questionable practices in Nigeria. In 1944, a firm belonging to him and his family bought a bank in Lagos. The bank was said to have been procured to strengthen local control of the financial industry. Others followed suit. Later on, it was the British administration that was accused of corrupt practices in enthroning Fulani political leadership in Kano.
From time immemorial, Nigeria has rarely experienced an incorruptible government. If the head is not bad, his kitchen cabinets activities may label him as bad. As in the case of Gowon (1966-1975). It was reported that his governors, lieutenants ruled and lived as Lords.
The military junta came back again in its characteristic manner with Murtala Mohammed at the helm of affairs in the year 1975 to 1976. The administration was focused on reforming the state. All those accused of abused of power during the previous administration were sacked.
After Murtala was assassinated, Olusegun Obasanjo ascended the throne. He focused on completing the transition programme to democracy started by his predecessor. He implemented the national development plans, engaged in major projects like building new refineries, pipelines, expanding the national shipping and airlines as well as hosting FESTAC.
However favouritism surfaced in enriching connected politicians. Another conduit pipe was Operation Feed the Nation which he used to reward cronies. Otta Farms Nigeria Ltd was alleged to have been borne out of that national project. It would seem, you cannot have it all.
Alhaji Shagari came with the fresh air of democracy in October 1979 – December 1983. Corruption was reported to be very prevalent. Some Federal buildings which mysteriously caught fire was attributed to corrupt practices covering their tracks. It happened at a time when investigations were prying into the activities of top officials (1988). John Mathey Bank of London shed light on some of the abuses carried out during the second Republic. The bank had acted as a conduit to transfer hard currency for some party members who had amassed stupendous wealth at the expense of other Nigerians. Other corrupt practices were noticed too.
The military junta reared its head again in 1983; this time around spear-headed by Muhammadu Buhari. He took the reins of leadership to right the wrongs in governance as Nigerians were told. Buhari began by convicting a cross section of politicians that were accused of corruption practices under the previous government. However, it was also accused of lapsed ethical judgment. Its activities were short-lived.
Ibrahim Babangida ousted Buhari out of power in 1985 and he reigned in his stead from 1985-1993. It is adjudged as the body that legalized corruption. It refused to give account of Gulf War windfall estimated at about $12.4 billion. IBB rigged the only successful election in Nigeria’s history in June 12, 1993 denying MKO Abiola his win. Instead he was jailed, a situation that led to his death. Corruption became policy of state and vehicles and cash gifts were routinely given to earn loyalty. IBB boys emerged who were fronts for the head of state’s dirty deals. He used government privitization to reward cronies. He earned himself the ranking of richest ex head of state due to his large investments.
Abacha made his grand entrance in 1993 and ruled till his death in 1998. His death unearthed the global nature of his graft. Investigations into his affairs led to the freezing of his accounts containing about $100 million US dollars. A total of more than $1 billion US dollars were found in various accounts throughout Europe.
Abdulsalami Abubakar. 1998-1999 focused on transition. However, he was accused of acquiring humongous amount of wealth for himself and his small circle during the short period. Halliburton scandal implicated his administration. It was alleged to have financed his opulence.
Obasanjo’s second coming was as a civilian in the year 1999 – 2007 during a democratic dispensation. His administration was caught in many corruption scandals including one of international dimension when his vice – Atiku was caught in cahoots with a US congressman stashing cold hard currency (literally) into freezers. Others include the KBR and Siemens bribery scandal, issue of Transcorp shares scandal, his third term bid marred in bribery, lobbying to alter the constitution to suit his purpose.
Yar’Adua’s administration was short-lived due to ill health but had its ups and downs. A lot of corrupt practices by his predecessors came to lamplight but due to ill health and lack of political will, he let it go. Wikileaks revealed that the Supreme Court justices were bribed to legitimize the corrupt election that saw his emergence as president.
Goodluck, who was Yar’Adua’s vice took over the mantle of leadership when his principal died. Corrupt practices were prevalent. NNPC was found wanting. Close to $20 billion was missing or misappropriated or spent without appropriation, BMW purchase by his Aviation Minister, $250 million plus security contract to militants in Niger Delta, massive corruption and kickbacks in Petroleum Ministry, Malibu oil International scandal etc. And more corrupt practice came to light after he handed over the mantle of leadership.
The present government is not innocent of corrupt practices by government officials. Examples are Babachir Lawal’s N200 million contract scandals for the clearing of invasive plant species in Yobe State. He was sacked after investigation. Others include Mainagate, Dasukigate e.t.c. Buhari’s administration is accused of lopsided judgment and alleged witch-hunting against its perceived foes.
From every indication, issues of governance in Nigeria over the years have been personalized for personal aggrandizement, self-service and vendetta. No wonder the economy and the masses are bearing the brunt.
Nigeria is a great country with talented human resource that are being celebrated all over the world. We have some of the best brains as doctors around the world but we embark on medical tourism where most times we end up in the hands of our doctors.
Government should not only equip our hospitals, schools etc, but provide a conducive atmosphere for one to live at peace. Without peace there is no development.