Lessons from RUGA  Controversy

Creativity is ‘thinking up new things’, innovation is ‘doing new things’. In any society, there is no shortage of creativity or creative people; what is in short supply are innovators. These scarce people are the ones, who have the know-how, energy, daring and staying, power to implement ideas’—Professor Thomas Riskey Odhiambo

Like the Vietnamese attack on Cambodia on the 25th December 1978, and subsequent occupation of same till 1991, threatened Asean solidarity, so was  the corporate existence of our nationhood, in the last few weeks confronted by challenges that had  its origin in the Federal Government proposed but now suspended establishment of Rural Grazing Areas (RUGA), across the whole states of the federation.

What is however different in the two similar but separate examples are that while the Asean crisis was creatively managed by innovative leadership, Nigerians were like sheep left in the image of their actions to fight for the reversal of the proposed programme.

Notably, in such superficial exchange, we often lose sight of the real and lasting meaning rapped in the occurrence while allowing lessons to go with the political wind.

Aside from teaching us that as a people, there is little hope for us until we become tough minded enough to break loose from the shackles of prejudice, half-truth, and downright ignorance, the RUGA challenge has further amplified the belief that our leaders are yet to internalize the consequences of our past failures or recognize that it requires a prolonged effort and productive collaboration to administer a country well.

Again, not only did it bring new awareness to the government that time has come for as a nation to stop enforcing national unity but starts promoting national unity, RUGA debacle  underlines  the obviousness that some of the provisions of the nation’s constitution are not achieving its goals and objectives, and calls for examination to identify the non-performing aspect of the constitution in order to engineer a redesign or overhaul as Nigeria’s federalism remains so only in name-making restructuring not just imperative but eminently desirable.

From what Nigerians are saying; a planned restructuring will be collaborative, systematic, and redesign Nigeria, yet keep it whole.  A default restructuring will happen, certainly not by choice, but definitely, like an uncontrolled experiment with attendant risks and indefinite outcome. The challenge confronting Nigeria now is that the long overdue restructuring will happen when the cost of not restructuring far outweighs the cost of restructuring.

Without a doubt, it is certain that Nigeria is in the dire strait that threatens our corporate existence, which Mr President must find the courage to take some theatrical steps that will douse the impasse.

Another basic lesson is that, like every other socioeconomic issue which comes with intrinsic opportunities and challenges, the RUGA controversy on a personal note enlightened me that there existed some vital but silent concerns in the country.

For instance, before this bro, I, just like the vast majority of Nigerians weren’t aware that during the colonial days, that cattle route running from the North to the South was well gazetted in this country. Though the use of such document many argue has been  invalidated by another  but more recent document- the Land Use Act that needs all the land in the state to the governor of a state as a trustee for the real owners of the land.

Whatever the true positions maybe, it was also within this space and time established that rearing of cattle is a private business just like every other.

Fundamentally also, the undeserving silence maintained by Mr President all through the period that the discord raged, is another grave problem that we must collectively condemn if we are to live in political and socio-economic harmony. In fact, with that style of leadership, to think that he will in future creatively think up, or innovatively do something new to resolve similar challenges may be a sheer waste of time.

Though the programme is been suspended, why Mr. President’s approach remains a puzzle to me is that as far back as 1998, General Abubakar, the head of state (as he then was) was quoted on page 2 of the Guardian Newspapers of Saturday 3, 1998 as saying; I believe that whether I like or not, the leadership of this country should be taken over by a different, honest, dedicated and credible person in the country. It is also inevitable and paramount for a credible but, trustworthy person to come in and contribute his/her own quota in leading the country to greater economic and political heights’.

Two decades after such expression of hope, instead of the honest, dedicated and credible persons that Abubakar hoped to be around to creatively destroy the backward attitudes of our nation, here we are with a president that abandoned us to our fate in a period of national animosity.

And even as we focus on the enormous task of nation-building, those of us who believe in the unity of Nigeria may not agree with the campaign of any group or ethnic nationality to dismember Nigeria, but  the truth must be told to the effect that the whole gamut of restiveness, whether in the South east, South-South, North or Southwest, and resurgence demand for the dissolution of Nigeria’s stem from mindless exclusion, injustice, economic deprivation and leaders mindless expression of personal interest, cronyism and nepotism.

As an illustration, while President Buhari continuously mouths his determination to preserve the union, his inability  to ensure that the 2014 confab report which will take care of this occurrence is implemented is doing the country more harm than good and quickening  the  disintegration of the country that is right now in its most fragile state since the end of the civil war.

To, therefore, straddle the m,middle ground and calm the polity, Nigerian Government must learn to be the coach and not captain on thorny issues such as the rural grazing areas. They must also drop the attitude of enforcing national unity and creatively look for ways to start promoting national unity.

Finally, if we are able to manage the issue of restructuring the nation and other social menaces effectively and navigate out of dangers of disintegration, it will once again, announce the arrival of a brand new great nation where peace and love shall reign supreme. But, then, no nation enjoys durable peace without justice and stability without fairness and equity!

Jerome-Mario (jeromeutomi@yahoo.com), writes from Lagos.

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