Below are three of the responses to my three-limbed series on the above. They were selected for publication because I feel they brought in some perspectives that extended the discussion.
“I have carefully read your three-part analysis on the trouble with Nigeria in the Daily Trust Newspapers. I must say that I cannot fault your analysis because I have always held the view that no matter who becomes the President, corruption will continue. In the same vein all the problems of insecurity and weak institutions will never abate until we take another look at the structure of our society. You rightly identified the problem as the crisis of nation-building. However, reading through your article, I can observe that there is a link between leadership and this crisis of nation building. It becomes more of an issue of the chicken and the egg – which one comes first. I can see a loop which you need to resolve and this is where the proponents of leadership as the central problem of Nigeria appear to have a point. Your point though appears to be that given the crisis that we now have we need just more than one charismatic or dictatorial leader to correct things. On this I whole-heartedly agree with you.
For very obvious reasons you skirted round the concrete issues without nailing them in properly. The citizens cannot just wake up to start losing confidence in the legitimacy of their country and its institutions. There are concrete issues that produced this loss of trust in the state and its institutions. Pretending that the issues do not exist or wishing them away will not help in resolving them. Furthermore, insisting that the citizens’ perception of these issues is wrong will also not help because as they say in marketing perception is everything. We need to say them no matter how disagreeable they may seem to us. Some of us pretend that there are settled issues in Nigeria. From what we are seeing, it is obvious that no issue is settled, because there is no issue on which we agree. In fact, we don’t even agree on the main point of Nigeria’s existence as one indivisible entity. We only pay lip-service to it and act in ways that suggest otherwise.
My observation is that after the Civil War, there was an upsurge of optimism and patriotism in the country. However in the course of time, some sections of the elite began to feel that the section that controlled power at the centre had other agenda that are not consistent with what they perceived to be the general interest of the country. The state creation exercises, the implementation of the federal character principle, the abandonment of merit in the civil service, etc all served to feed this feeling. At some point in time, certain positions like the Minister of Internal Affairs, the Chief of Army Staff, the heads of Customs, and the Heads of Immigration appeared to be off-limits to some sections of the country. Things came to a head with the annulment of the June 12 election and moved into more dangerous dimensions with the introduction of sharia in some states in the North. Please do not misunderstand me. I am not blaming any particular section of the country for the crisis of nation-building. However, the leadership that supervised this process should stand up to admit that they did not get it right. Not just that, we must identify the specific things they did not get right if we are to avoid the mistake all over again.
I am sure many people have observed that in any part of the South West where the OPC is in charge of security, there is less crime. In fact criminals do not go there, and people trust them, despite isolated cases of reported misdeeds by members of the group. You know what happened when the Bakassi Boys were in charge of security in Abia State. They enjoyed far more legitimacy than the Nigerian Police. Do I support these groups? Definitely not because I feel that they will eventually create more problems than they will solve. However, they help to underscore the real problems with our nation-building and also give us credible pointers to the solution. Some people are advocating a revolution that will involve massive shedding of blood. That is a recipe for unmitigated disaster because it is the present Nigerian system that will produce the revolutionaries. However, I must say that there has to be some form of “shock” to the system to get the elite to wake up from their slumber.
When you say that people should resolve to change their ways, I do not think that is a solution because we all know that people will not change unless there is an incentive to do so. I like the approach of economists to the issue of behavioural change. They believe that for this to happen the incentive system has to be altered. The question we therefore need to ask is what are these incentive systems that need to be altered to make people begin to have legitimacy in the Nigeria project? Alternatively, since the Nigerian brand appears damaged, are there other creative arrangements we can put in place which people will trust and believe in but which will directly feed into the Nigeria project? I believe that if we focus our minds on these issues we should come up with practical ideas.
Thank you for the wonderful article and have a blessed day.”
Richard Osuagwu Lagos, Nigeria (email)
“Good day Adibe.
I sincerely followed your column on the topic “The Trouble with Nigeria” and I enjoyed every word of it. It is commendable and such issues should not be allowed to waste on the pages of Newspapers. I suggest if you can please compose these articles into a small Handbook and be made available to students of Nigerian tertiary institutions at least because they symbolise the hope we have for a better Nigeria.
I know this will involve so many things, especially finance, but the likes of T.Y Danjuma’s Philanthropic Foundation may be contacted, I believe this will help circulate your good intentions about our country-Nigeria.
However, I waited to read the last part (III) in order to see if you may specifically discuss the role played by indiscipline in making Nigeria what it is today. To me the root cause of the trouble with Nigeria today is indiscipline. All other things you analysed were the tentacles of indiscipline.
When the former Military Head of state, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari diagnosed Nigeria’s problem as indiscipline, people thought the man was joking and was never taken seriously, so he was not allowed to take his plan to incubation period and that is exactly why we are where we are today. If we can have a well disciplined generation, the greater portion of Nigeria’s trouble will be a history.
It is an act of indiscipline for anyone to purvey that Nigeria is standing on a tripod of Region, Religion and Tribe as is being witnessed in Nigeria today. Only public office holders without discipline steal from the treasury. Look at how indiscipline turned our security agents; corruption on the street during the day time! Prolonged trial/detention of people in prisons just for the prison contractor to have more food to supply which makes more money for him and his cronies of course. That is why we have prison congestion. Every institution in Nigeria is overstretched due to indiscipline.
Truly, as you said and I quote that ” …strong institutions are often found in countries where the nation building has succeeded or is succeeding and where rule and law observances have become habituated“, but the issue of nation building, adherence to rules and laws are for those who have discipline. You see the point? Let there be people that are sincerely disciplined in a generation, then nation building will succeed because corruption will be conspicuously absent. Indiscipline begets all the vices you can name in the society.”
Dahiru Haruna Shira. F.M.C Azare, Bauchi State 08036881457 (email)
“Your series on above was informative. My contribution is to opine that while I agree that the solutions must begin with us, they are not likely to manifest, finally, with our generation. Citizens’ mindset is what sets any nation on path of belongingness and good governance. Only the right forms of education, as part of the correct socialisation process of future Nigerians would give us good citizens. Most, but not all of the present crop of Nigerian elites, have developed too thick skins of selfishness, nepotism, greed and corruption to be relevant. Their mindsets are too far skewed from taking corrective measures. The few instances we saw correction (Murtala & Buhari) were done under coercion. Questions – whether the present elites could develop and sustain the right form of education that would transform future Nigerians? How can this be done?”
No name, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org