There is need for few remarks as we embark on this course. In taking up the task of maintaining this weekly outing, the corresponding challenges are fully understood. There is first the obligation to truth; truth to God, humanity, the job and self. The complexities of Nigeria’s environment, especially with the rapidity of the unusual, make the exercise more demanding. Objectivity, however, remains the only way to go about the schedule. We consider this as the only way to establish The Template for national rebirth and widen the frontiers of knowledge and constructive debate. The column could not have taken off at a more auspicious time than now that Nigeria is at the crossroads in virtually all aspects of its national life.
Every Nigerian should be concerned with the recent call by the country’s senior citizens that it is time to pull back the nation from the brink. The elders, who spoke at the 2021 Obafemi Awolowo Virtual Lecture, identified the factors currently putting the country under stress. These include the rising spate of insecurity, unemployment among youths, ethnic tensions, the skewed structural framework of the country and consequent agitations by separatist groups. The concerned patriots included former seretary-general of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku; the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Sa’adu Abubakar; Nobel laureate, Professor Wolé Soyinka; former Central Bank of Nigeria governor, Malam Sanusi Lamidi Sanusi; and Dr. Awolowo Dosumu. These are not men and women of frivolities.
Their passionate stance indicates the level of despondency in the land. Nigeria is presently at an uncertain bend in its statehood. This is the truth we must acknowledge, if we are to make any reasonable headway. It is facing an acute existential threat. There is hardly any day now without gory details of lives wasted and properties destroyed in many parts of the nation by violent groups. In the North East, insurgents are on rampage, leaving in their trail blood and gloom. In the North West, bandits, murderous herdsmen, kidnappers and other criminal elements virtually operate unchallenged. Abduction of schoolchildren also trends among the outlaws these days. Elsewhere, ethnic champions and separatist organisations make life difficult for the people. We continue to share slots with Afghanistan and Iraq as the three most terrorised states in the world.
On the economic front, the country is not faring better, it is rather going south, increasingly. The latest report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) indicates that the unemployment rate in Nigeria has risen to 33.3 per cent. Inflation has also hit 17 per cent with prices of essential items on steady rise. The national currency, the naira, has been on free fall, inching to an exchange rate of N500 for the American dollar. In the face of the unwholesome development, the government appears handicapped, lacking in precise solution.
No nation survives on this trajectory. These are clear indices of state failure. To pull the back from the brink should, therefore, be the immediate concern of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. The citizens are no longer willing to be regaled with the stories that the challenges at hand predate the administration. Governance is a continuum. Even at that, a government that has been in the saddle in the last five years with an overwhelming majority in the parliament has no basis to blame anyone for its failure to provide an enduring template to pull the country out of the woods. For the President, it is time to roll up the sleeves for the energy-sapping task of reinventing the nation. Winning the office is not a prize but a duty to be performed. Modest achievements may have been recorded in infrastructure development and the battle against corruption, going by the arraignments and convictions, but more needs to be done.
The country is at a critical juncture. These are moments, according to Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, the authors of “Why Nations Fall,” when major events or confluence of factors disrupt the existing balance of political or economic power in a nation. This edifice called Nigeria is falling, if care is not taken. The crushing economic climate and uncertain steps of the government have seriously alienated the majority of Nigerians from the system. What presently operates is democracy in name without the people’s participation. This is against the definition of democracy, which foremost American President, Abraham Lincoln, proclaimed as the government of the people, by the people and for the people. The Nigerian version lacks the people content. It is close to anarchy, in a way. This accounts for the leadership failure and the consequent tension in the land.
All hands must be on deck to put the country back on track. There is no more time for grandstanding by senior officials of government and the leadership of the ruling party. It is apparent that the challenges of the moment have gone beyond the capacity of the President and his team to handle. Averting the looming implosion demands loosening the suffocating pull by the centre. This is the time to convoke a national platform for Nigerians to discuss the future of the country. The call is not a no-confidence vote on the President or members of the National Assembly nor an agenda to dismember the country. It is, rather, a forum for Nigerians to fashion out a framework for harmonious existence by the various ethnic groups in the country. Nigeria’s current structure is anachronistic and unsustainable. It stultifies the potential and the productive enterprise of the component units of the federation. What we have is a system anchored on a faulty foundation. In such a situation, the bubble is bound to burst.
There is need to rethink the country. Creating an environment for this will not count against the President. It is not a sign of weakness. It will in fact count for him as one who in the midst of uncertainties provided a way for repositioning the country. This is a major attribute of statesmen.