Two days from today, our country will be marking 59 years of Independence. As has become usual we will be asking whether we have done well or not; views will differ depending on where one stands. A friend told me last week that in many instances societal chaos is the benefit of some people. The friend said specifically that it is to the benefit of the ruling class. As in the past we are expecting to see establishment people tell us that if we have not achieved anything we should at least pat ourselves on the back for achieving unity, as if unity is a substitute for proper development of humans and materials. Left to me I will be definitive on my position on Nigeria and the journey so far, but this time I intend to reproduce Thisweek magazines extracts from the 1987 Political Bureau reports and their comments about the making of a New Nigeria and allow readers to judge if 32 years after we have made progress or not.
Let’s start: “The question this nation is trying to answer can be briefly summarized as: how to achieve a stable polity that guarantees social justice and progress. Since independence, the nation has failed to make either the Westminister model of government, the presidential or the military ‘rescue’ effort, work. The main postulate is that Nigeria’s problem lay in the structure: men and materials it inherited from colonial Britain. The argument is that both have not been thoroughly Nigerianized and internalized. Of men: incipient colonialism has engendered a value system diametrically opposed to the genuine foundation and building of a virile nation-state. The Nigerians who took over political independence were little more than black colonialists. Of material: the institution left behind were thinly disguised extensions of colonial administration.
The Civil Service: the thinking of the civil service was, and still is, geared towards, firstly, providing mass employment as a factor of social stability with little or no premium to producing. Secondly, to execute lethargic documentation of day-to-day public administration without bold or radical move towards progress. Thirdly, to imbibe conservatism which even though is in line with attitudes in other public institutions serves exclusively the interest of the minority status quo. Fourthly, the process of Nigerianization of the civil service, only replaced one white face with a black one, without changing the structure and realigning it towards the nationalistic goals of building a nation state.
The educational system: we inherited a liberal arts syllabus, which suited colonialist more – producing administrative staff, clerks etc. Technical education was de-emphasized because it suited the colonialists for us to import technological knowhow and be perpetually dependent on them for our technological needs. Our worldview and indeed our perception of ourselves have been largely through distorted colonial lenses. The subtle internalization of these values are the reasons government policies often times seem to be externalized. This is the ‘Long live the Queen’ mentality.
The Judiciary: the judiciary and the police are still preoccupied with the protection of government and property as opposed to uplifting and protecting the individual rights of the citizens of a state. The body of laws is largely antiquated and bear little cultural relevance to society. The process of appointing judges has been bastardized. Mediocrity is growing and affecting dispensation of justice. Bribery and influence paddling have become real issues. The police, a victim of mental colonization, still enforce values that sought at a time to protect the interest of the Queen of England. The government is now the substitute model. His argument can be extended to encompass the military.
The economy: while displaying the predatory aspects of capitalism – profit motive and maximization – is not really laisser-faire. The mixed economy handle is more mixed up than “mixed”. The reason: our capitalism is non-productive and mercantilist. We do not generate capital through industry but largely through mono-cultural dependence on oil. The government is still the biggest source of wealth generation in the private sector through an extensive network of contracts and patronage dispensed on religious, ethnic and international grounds. The variable and interest of the economy are too externalized to be of use to achieving economic self-reliance.
Electoral reform: it is obvious that electoral commission stands at the helm of credibility in any political system. In the Second Republic, the federal electoral commission failed to inspire the electorate with its performance. In its report to the federal government, the Political Bureau made the apt observation that “an honest, competent and non-partisan administration to run the elections” is basic to the conduct of free and fair elections. It recommended a national commission on political parties and elections whose functions would go beyond the conduct of elections alone. The electoral body should have an overlapping five-year tenure, which should not coincide with that of the government. The tenure of the critical personnel of the electoral body should bridge election date. It should be an autonomous body with its own consolidated vote and right to employ staff along the same line as other federal institutions. Appointments should be from within the body subject to ratification by the National Assembly after the Judicial Commission would have screened and approved the nomination.
These problems have established between leaders and subjects, tribe and tribe, region and region, objective and result and insurmountable wall of suspicions it is a thorny, intricate problem. If Nigeria is not to subordinate the imperative of development to these revolving problems, it befalls all who care to contribute ideas at a time such as these. This is a patriotic call. This is what the situation was 32 years ago; what do you make of things today, have we progressed? Is our country better today than 32 years ago? I am confused. I must confess I am finding it difficult to piece some sense from the data available. Part 2 will bring out solutions proffered 32 years ago by Thisweek magazine. Wishing us happy Independence Anniversary in advance!