Artisans … as Leaders … Zoning to Power
Governor of Enugu State
Organized by Human Rights, Justice and Peace Foundation (HRJPF),
Kaduna State Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists,
and Arewa Progressive Youth Coalition
Arewa House, Center for Historical Research and Documentation,
Old Ministers’ Quarters, Malali
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
… elite opportunity for power grab rides the cymbals of the
preachments for rotation as power distribution principle;
of which the whom – beneficiary of the down-the-ladder,
has yet to be determined, for the African
States devoid of stakeholder comprehension
of the mechanics of responsive
… Jan Gilder (in African sub-awake)
If you do not mind, permit me to ruminate on this repeated chance offered by civil society groups in this ancient city of Kaduna. That is, a chance to take the podium, once again, to bring to the foreground, my personal views on the trend of political development Nigeria has assumed since our democratic re-inception, in 1999.
Of course, you very well recall that about this time, in July of 2001, I had this special privilege of being the guest lecturer in that year’s edition of the annual guest lecture series of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Kaduna State Council. Then, we had responded to the need to examine the topic entitled The Nigeria Idea… Can the press sustain the nation’s interest in democracy?
The challenge as posed by the nation’s incomprehension, or is it confusion fueled by elite deception, albeit derision of fuller democratic development, motivated my deeper reflection. What I conclusively pinned down as the pretensions associated with such preachments rubbing off on our social development, I dare stated, stunted the finer points of objective conditioning, which put in flight, more meaningful or organic rise of leadership elite.
Indeed, I had anchored my argument on a seasonal point in one strong admonition by our own Mr. President, Olusegun Obasanjo, who, in an exercise in dead-right reflection, in 1994, objected to such elite pretensions and deceit of which, as he puts it, “Nigeria is a country perpetually potentially great, almost permanently in crisis, regularly threatened with disintegration… forever talking about democracy but retreating from democracy.”
And having weighed the strong position of His Excellency, Mr. President, whose benefit of the hindsight has yet to be equaled, the situate political behaviour of the elite class, be they in the civil society, the media, Government, business and the likes; easily reveals a large scale preference for chasing the shadows rather than riding the hard road to an all-inclusive national formation, vision and development.
Largely, as the case was in the season, which prompted our 2001 lecture topic, issues germane were simply sidelined for the electoral drives of political gladiators who force the citizenry to hook on to what were merely selfish, but powerfully urged, views. As such, they were hardly presented in their narrow prisms as serving the eventual political opulence of the high and mighty.
Indeed, I had also referred to such tendencies as those representing a large-scale negation of the profound nationalistic thesis of Thomas Jefferson, former leader of the free world (America) and one of the framers of the constitution of the United States. He states, they who abandon the high ideal of nation for the benefit of provincial cubicles (or selves) are as guilty as those who oppose the liberty of men.
Of course, I never undertook the lecture of 2001, on issues relating to elite deception and exercise in misdirection, believing that I had come to town with the all-season, unimpeachable argument, and to finally settle the matters at issue. In the same vein, I have not taken the assignment of the current podium – even if again – in Kaduna, holding up the mantle as the final word or an overlord’s wisdom in the ensuing cacophony over power sharing and the likes.
But one truth stands today. I am again in this ancient city of Kaduna, the great crocodile city and of course, I am coming, as you know, from Enugu, the great Coal City; that city known to be on the hills – with breathtaking valleys, streams, escarpments and gullies – clearly, to meet minds again, with my fellow countrymen.
Perhaps, you are most likely to have perceived – if only by body language – that I am profoundly in love with Kaduna, as I am with our Enugu. As I stated in my last lecture trip here, I am a great fan of the all-ennobling similarities of the uniqueness of Kaduna and Enugu. I reminded our audience, as today, that both are polyglot and cosmopolitan regional power bases, harbouring in full complement, the combined vestiges of regional infrastructure, though as stripped of commensurate socio-political and economic clout, couldn’t live their national intervention assignments.
I did also admit that both also took their part in revealing the clear indicators of a failure of the nation to organise its phases in growth and development. This is especially so, as they appear to be arrested, in the chaperoning processes of lifting previous divisional headquarters, which are, today, made peer state capitals, alongside the erstwhile regional capitals.
Kaduna, Enugu, Ibadan and Benin City, we will always be reminded of, are such old capitals, which must pay the pensions of the old region staff, old state staff and even some national staff. Yet, they do not have the commensurate resource allocations to hold on to their past, so as to sustain such heritages embodied in healthy coalescence of national oneness, among citizenry and the others.
I wish to restate that without prejudice to the new state capitals; the old regional bastions, Enugu, Kaduna, Ibadan and Benin City; retain the right kind of social coalescence of which the blending of forms and art, reveal gainful creative possibilities of which national political and social re-alignment can be strongly expanded.
As I did in 2001, I salute the custodians of this city and their heritage. I join to restate that this city which is in form and national meaning, a great umbrella – the Gamji – has lived up to the dreams of one of the most famous of the past custodians – Sir Ahmadu Bello – whose stand for all inclusion may have paved the way for a certain Hon. Iyke Madu, an Igboman from the South East, who served in the Kaduna State House of Assembly, 1999 – 2003. He rode on the graceful popular will of the Kaduna South constituency.
About the same time, in the ancient city of Zaria – outskirts of this capital – another Igbo man served as a councilor in the Local Government. As we savoured that development and hope to build on such promises of clear popular mandate, which can permit participatory processes to call the democratic shots, we attest that this City and State have continued to live the noble challenges as the Umbrella – Gamji. It was on that note that we boldly join in chanting along that …. he who built the city, he who holds it and he who lives it with faith, shall be blessed of the creator, as believed among the Nyanwezis clan in Eastern Africa.
If again I am in Kaduna, quite in time to respond to the demand of further debate in Nigeria’s growing transition industry, I elect to view this as one gesture to solidify an affinity with a city whose people and structures remain noted players on the front rung of national redefinition and reformation processes.
Kaduna, we all know, cannot be discountenanced if we hope to bring in the entire dimensions of the issues germane. This easily situates the concern of the Arewa Youths Progressive Coalition (AYPC), the Campaign for Democracy; Human Rights, Justice and Peace Foundation; the Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union of journalists (NUJ), Kaduna, as well as the other civil society organizations involved in this enterprise.
Of course, besides the fact of my inclination to speak in Kaduna as an inspiring city, it has remained my strong position that our democracy, evolutionary as we insist, can only be assured of greater leverage with conscious effort at expanding the debate about all issues.
Indeed, I never minced words about my preference for matters elaborately debated. On that note, I remain firm on the viewpoint that the current stage of national reformation, as driven by the Federal administration of Olusegun Obasanjo, has rightly anchored on stakeholder participation in governance, of which we can attest to the fact that the three major cannons of globalisation – stakeholder-driven governance (democracy), information technology and free enterprise (privatization) – have taken firm roots in our polity.
It cannot be gainsaid that democracy derives its strongest vent in popular participation and Nigerians, riding the strong crest of a robust civil society and vibrant media culture, have not failed to pick the vibes offered by resulting alternative viewpoints.
Remember, we have just emerged from a political culture of all-knowing governance as practiced in non-democratic societies. We had assumed that those merely privileged to assume positions in government had the entire answers and could not be faulted in argument. We could not have been more misinformed in that practice. We could not have been more misinformed because we had hardly tried to comprehend the patterns of emergence, particularly when most of the cases were simply devoid of objective conditions capable of throwing up the kind of responsive leadership that would seek stakeholder perspectives in governance.
Moreover, the principles of statecraft, as previously vested in princes and princesses of the days gone, had their disruptive tragedies in the wake of the arrogance of colonial overlords and emergency military administrations of our own era.
So, the bold move, if you like, as made by the various civil society organizations in today’s initiative, may have come handy for our yearnings for the matters at issue to be tabled.
It is, indeed, commendable that Arewa Youths… in Kaduna and Human Rights, Justice and Peace Foundation in Aba, view the season as demanding of fuller inspection, if only to ascertain the extent Nigeria has democratized rather than the known meanderings of custody-power players whose stock in trade is cartel-politicking and sacred power benefaction.
Of course, I did not miss the point as hinted by these groups that my one major press interview with a national news magazine spurred a consideration for issues previously viewed as settled.
Although I make no pretenses to any extra reason for motivation for the positions I argue for, in principle, I have wondered whether, as a power player, as I am, I could rightly be impelled to seek to see matters that could be corporate from a personal perspective.
After due consideration, it came clearer to me that issues of national advancement must ride bold departures from the norm, and matters for reformation could not be worth their claims if such hurtful stalwart positions are not spurred to move. And as you know, we cannot be static.
This was why I could not have been more impressed by the tips of the South East coordinator of Campaign for Democracy (CD), Comrade Chidi Nwosu, who thundered across to my staff on the telephone that this whole argument about zoning must be fully challenged. He had continued on the stead that zoning was favourable to solid political power blocs and their appendages, and certainly not relating to the dire interests of the masses.
When I closely questioned my staff who was in touch with Nwosu, what occurred to me was that perhaps – and rightly if so – should zoning be accepted formally in Nigeria power equation, it must be expanded to accommodate the varying interests of regions, geo-political zones and states. Of course, senatorial zones, local government areas, wards and social classes, as historical epochs, stages of national transitions and the other various categories of the citizenry, would not be left out.
To be frank with you, much as I do not doubt the vigour and potency of Nwosu’s chagrin, my further rumination over the subject matter revealed zoning as not only a mere political pretension or a cowardly enclave of elements of the political class frightened by objective conditions and indices of social comprehension; it has, also, represented the major point for avoiding the deciding, though complex, factors of a multi-ethnic nation. But above all, it represents a throw back to the opportunistic and shoddy maneuvers which ripped power from our own liberation fighters, who, on their own, could not fully claim the prize of the entire struggles for independence of Nigeria, in early to mid 1950s.
For now, I am all for such positions as demanding strong definitions of the forces and counter forces if Nigerian power equation will have to be taken to the bits of regional task masters against regional past masters; the rich negotiating power rotation or zoning with the poor, faiths entrenching and slugging it out with religions, retired
military going for the jugular of serving military and zero-to-peak civil political class holding it to chest, fending off such middle-to-peak civil classes as the retired military, professionals, foreign returnees and the likes. An endless internecine war induced by state against itself and among citizens.
Put through my prism, it was like a clatter of voices and indeed a rowdy attention-grabbing exercise in an already bone-cracking stampede.
I shall go to Kaduna, was my resolve. But in so resolving, I did agree with these organizers that I would delve into issues, which festered this political bad behaviour and the attendant mindset called zoning. I did hint that I am aware that the travesty of Nigerian political development, way back in the 1950s, presented a less sophisticated and less committed leadership class with no option than to see power as a massive chunk of meat to be carved on the glorified dinner table of the high and mighty. You will soon find out that many thought differently but few did not fail to exploit a chance at the large, mahogany, table.
Prior to this moment, as I did state earlier, I had ruminated strongly over the chances of Nigeria, with that same kind of leadership, which saw the nation as one large sack of groceries. A large sack; dropped sagging, of which each barrel-chested player who elbows his way up the front row, either by hollering to high heavens or hitting the opportunistic viewpoints, becomes a representative of wherever he comes from and for which he can be assigned any national function, irrespective of capacity and know-how.
But before we get into this, we may take a closer look at where we are now. Clearly, we are at the juncture we have been compelled, for our political conveniences, to talk about power sharing or zoning.
To grasp this, we just have to go back in history, to ascertain the departure points for the brilliantly pursued liberation struggles, anti-colonialism and pan-Africanism/ Nigerianism, which got truncated and whittled to narrow interests, of which the bargaining chip soon became the innermost recesses of places of parents’ accidental birth/origin and early-life habitation. In other words, at this stage where the world is perfecting on the principles and practice of objective rise of leadership elite, we are talking about zoning.
At the moment, we need not bother about the fact that in the days immediately before colonialism, an elaborate empire, holding in reserve the entire trappings of a fabulous state, had presided over what is known today as Northern Nigeria and beyond. We also remember that, the depth, reach and striking power of that empire named after the then small city of Sokoto, were such that its custodians did not even bother to pretend about their design to run on religio-conversionist fillip, even as such ignited strong opposition and caused a great deal of bleeding on the lands they over-ran.
In the same vein, we remember that the Ijaiye wars in the Yoruba areas, which enveloped most of the territories in present day Southwest (Yoruba), Benin and Togo republics, erupted on the designs of those who sought to build empires appreciated in both expanse of space and resources within the conquered areas. Of course, it was about the same time the Aros in the Igbo areas had amassed a certain Abiriba/Ohafia war machinery to over-run most of the present day East, parts of present day Delta and Middle Belt, so as to carve, without mercy, an economic empire, fit to nourish the overlords and their collaborators stationed in the various princely locations in those areas.
In each of these cases, the opinions of the peoples whose territories were over-ran and finally seized by brutal force of arms were never invited. Indeed, such opinions could not have been invited, and touching on the clear patterns of political dominance as already perfected in the Western World, British colonial agents swept in and knocked together what they wanted to be a State – Nigeria.
Remember, prior to the final British colonial onslaught, most of the southern parts had been engulfed in similar forceful sweeps of which the target were men, women and children, fit to serve as slaves in plantations in the New World.
The idea of inviting the opinion of the victims was completely out of it. In the same manner, the colonial overlords, ruling from London, but with effective outposts in Lagos and elsewhere, ruled, designed and tinkered repeatedly with their initial Nigeria creation.
Of course, the arriving political and military order, rode on the admonition of gladiators like Sir Ralph Moor, who never minced words about the might of the imperial order in the threat never to brook any native opinion. He growled, at the bank of Uriam River, in November 1901, that the natives must be made to understand that the government is their master and is determined to establish in and control their country.
Indeed, prior to 1900, on the suggestion of Flora Shaw, then of Time Magazine in London, Colonel Fredrick Lugard, strode to stop the entire bickering of the natives in carving his super state, with an acquisitionist mindset rooted in the Colonial London Gazette of June 5, 1885. It was unequivocal as it was to the point, without apologies … the Niger Districts.. .have come under the gracious protection of Her Britannic Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the First.
In the days when David Livingstone proved to be a better colonizer, especially as he never pretended on the use of force, the then clarion, christianisation, commerce and civilization, was quickly added with the refrain of subjugation – force – for effect and furtherance of European supremacy.
As colonialism dug in and the masters grappled with the challenges of holding out on their conquest, William Crocker, one of their noted anthropologists and political field officers lamented, there is little or nothing to build any homogeneity of feeling in African territories, such that Europe or the great Asiatic groups have had…the influence extending over centuries of common corpus of beliefs and loyalties. He was really angry and he went on to state that if you walk along a straight line merely a hundred miles or so…you traverse peoples and cultures, which for all their similarities, scarcely touch on a single point down at bottom.
As we can see, what was uppermost in the minds of the new masters was, to put together a vast territory of peoples who would accept the arriving notion of larger political entities.
In this logic of force, what the colonizers had set out to establish was not to have us look back on our small territories as new power bases but ones accepting the supremacy of the new order. Although the lure of commerce and political influence was great, it was unlikely that the British colonizers, who sought to do this, did not realize that they would have to leave, when the time came. They already had the ugly experience of the New World – the United States, Canada and other territories – as strong notices were already served in India and the Far East.
And when it was time to quit, what was left behind was a modem empire comfortably having in its kitty, ‘the then all powerful Sokoto, Kanem-Bornu, Benin, Igala, Aro, Igbo republican states, the Jukun, Oyo, etc.
I cannot pretend to be oblivious of the various arguments pushed against that attitude of might and disregard to opinions of the people.
Indeed, fueled by the mindset of zoning and the likes, some arguments are strong on the walkway that discussions had to be entered to obtain the views of those others who claim the heritages accumulated in the Empires of Sokoto, Oyo, Benin, Igala, Kanem-Bomu, Igbo Republics, Aro, etc, but which were snatched and knocked together; and of course, handed back to us as Nigeria.
We are also aware that a follow-up response had been that if such opinion should be sought, it had to be on the basis of the political, albeit imperial, settings prior to colonialism. That is against the contention that discussions would be based on previous, pre-1963 regions or post-1995 geo-political zones.
Initially, I was inclined to consider such view as mere academic, if not clearly a flight of objective analysis. I had previously anchored on the admonition that we chased shadows in such pretensions devoid of the reality of a whole century post-dating such political settings. A century of conscious colonial and citizens’ control of their country, with the attendant responses to matters in disagreement.
However, midway, I had appreciated these to signal the catch phrase for dissatisfaction and weapons of attention. And as it snowballed into a national political habit in the name of a modem political lexicon called national conference, I got alarmed that what major political players selfishly apply too often to get to the center stage had been dangerously etched in the political mind of the citizenry. I even got more worried that politicians carried it far by refusing to accept that we had had a nation in perpetual discussion and tinkering. Today, we can boast of so many political constitutional discussions and reviews; so many conscious, all-inclusive, policies to reassure and to reassess; all in response to political incidences and tendencies.
In a previous talk in Sokoto, September 2003, I got the challenge to personally review the dimensions of the call for Sovereign National Conference. I had tried to counsel my fellow countrymen that such discussions, as they sought, had been on and those actions, as being sought, were taking place at each stage of policy decision, implementation and evaluation. I did argue and I still hold the view that what had been sought in the form of a time-bound round table talk – that is replete with the same fancies in creating.. .they who are in the inner room against those out – would still present a people polarization.
Moreover, it was unrealistic to me that we would seek a return to the pre-Nigeria bogus claims of the likes of Mungo Park, John Beecroft and the Lander brothers, who had claimed discovering thousand-year old River Niger, towns, villages and kingdoms. And neither can anybody who lays claims to such pre-colonial heritages step forward, to be precise, about the then power equation among the nations/empires.
This had left many a scholar to accept that for clarity, the proper point of departure was at the lowering of the Union Jack, in 1960. In other words, presupposing that such contentious issues which were not immediately settled could be swept under.
It is not for me to determine whether that was actually the case. It is neither my worries that the tactics adopted by the last phase of colonial administrators left much to be desired. Rather, I have been worried that my countrymen have yet to fully comprehend the fuller texture of the various clarions embarked on by political men of the moment.
You remember, one common decimal of the kingpins of this mindset sometimes fail to handle such urges to reveal a certain level of parochialism. According to Prof. Okwudiba Nnoli, such, in most cases, pitches a war of mind fueled by ethnic jingoism, which in turn is characterized as ethnicity, but which definitely leaps beyond undefined boundaries to the snapping point of ethnocentrism. The difference, as we may all know, is that the one is a healthy expression of ethnic characteristics, fully appreciating the presence, relevance and contributing values of other ethnic feelings. But in the case of the other, every matter is dangerously narrowed to reject the feelings of other ethnic groups, proceeding to mount a mindset, which sees every facet of life from his/her own ethnic perspective or prism.
In my calculation, it was such abysmal departure points, which bothered the South East branch of the Campaign for Democracy – that is as represented by Nwosu – that the question of who among the beneficiaries of zoning had not been settled. The fundamental point in that argument was that it looked like another refrain to defraud the masses and feather the nests of make believe political elites.
My rumination on the subject caused me to try to keep a record of these segments of the society now considered as political categories, which must partake of plum positions for fairness to be seen to have been done. And for each identified category, there is a pitching segment set for battle against it. You name them: ethnic group against ethnic group; civilian political class against (then serving) military political class; civil political class against civilianized (now retired) military political class; codified Christianity against codified Islam (both organized) against African religion; the rich against the poor; the educated against the illiterate; old power cabal (assumedly pervading and unrelenting) against emergent power tendencies; old wealthy families against the noveau riche; pre-1900 empires against post 1914 political structure; post 1966 political attitude against immediate post 1993 grandstanding as well as civil society/press against current administration. The list may even be longer.
Put mildly, zoning political power, if it has to be effected in the national code, as a form of power sharing, must take into consideration such surging claims of affinity and pretension to cohesion.
In that vein, the day of decision would have drawn a timetable for power rotation such that each member of these groups, if ever he would live to take it, would wait to govern his State and impact on it the way he feels. Besides, such decisions, which may resolve on geographical location of power as a way of ensuring some chances of each area having a shot, will, about the same time, seek to clarify matters of social classes or other affinities.
Simply put, if it is the turn of Kaduna State to produce the president of Nigeria, there must be the explanation of which religious group, among the many, takes the first kick, and whether the rich would let the poor do their own in earnest. Perhaps, we can convince retired soldiers, the civil society/press, professional class, business class and the others, to wait. After all, no person of little means has ascended that throne before now.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the whole matter may be amusing but I must tell you that I am worried. I am not worried that it appears to have become a part of our place to raise questions. I am not worried that way back in the 1980s, the intellectual storm troopers of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), which was heavily harassed and accused of hegemonic intensions, gave vent to these incidences of zoning as a cogent political power sharing formula. I am not worried that eventually, it became one silent point such that it has assumed a ‘a must ask’ to ascertain ‘who from this area made the high table.’
I will tell you my worries, shortly.
Devoid of the elements of the traditions and conscious designs of objective ascendance depicting Western leaderships as steeped in full comprehension of their respective social, political and economic responsibilities to citizens, Nigerians have yet to be given enough reasons to, trust fully, persons and groups outside their places of accidental birth/origin.
And standing virtually dwarfed by the promises (or deception) of zoning, as it were, the unimpeachable globalisation dicta of participatory-stakeholder-driven governance, may not suggest the rise of high political worth.
Such antithetical thrusts have readily suggested that such leaders rising on the wings of one section of the country would dis-empower, un-empower or outright, ill-accommodate, if not relegate, others.
On this account, there have been fears leading to such tendencies that ignoring the indices of power as in not bothering where the next ‘Mr. President or governor or senator’ and the others come from may amount to political hara-kiri; if you like, suicide.
Let me make this point very, very clear. This is just like pulling from both ends of the rope. You cannot say you want to modernize; you want to be like the West, yet you insist that you will not let the rise of national leadership take its normal course.
Many of us appear, in this argument, to harbour one or two, or even more, strong reasons or complaints against some areas where national leadership had sprung from.
I must tell you this. I had this special privilege of reviewing the issues arising from the annulment of June 12, 1993 elections and in the studies that went with it, I came close to understanding that the whole thunders about power shift had their origin in the foregoing. While some held that the annulment was to deny the South of political power, some felt that it was targeted, specifically, at the Yoruba elite who was then adjudged extreme, vociferous and critical of various administrations.
I did observe that if the southern elite were trenchant in their response, the benign response of the government of the day was virtually without a touch of clarity and so appeared inexplicably condescending. Granted, whatever full scale explanation as would have been attempted by the then helmsmen would still have been viewed with suspicion, if not derision, as the action was already adjudged an outrageous conduct depicting disdain and imperiousness.
But, these notwithstanding, such persons who appreciated that everything virtually came to power play by varying contenders, who never really disclosed their innermost intensions, left the people far more confused, or to put it differently, deceived.
Today, twelve long years since that epochal event, we have yet to come to terms with such objective analysis of our time and future, such that the entire blitz about globalisation, about the whole world turning to run on one or similar principles, appear to elude us.
By the way, you would ask; what, in clear terms amount to this matter called zoning by political power players and their choreographers? Your answer may not be as good as mine. According to the NPN note on power sharing, the principle of zoning is to ensure that every geopolitical area of Nigeria is offered the opportunity of producing the president of Nigeria in their turns. This position found its way in the post-1983 constitution making and review efforts that it became so argued about and government had to firmly declare that it had to be a matter for the parties.
In taking that way out, government was only being realistic, admitting in the main, that such matter, if enshrined in the constitution, would arrest the political development of the State and raise the ante of instability. Subsequently, further arguments, both inter-and-intra-parties, got stronger that it became standard measure to ensure the responsive attitude of one to a people it seeks to govern.
Frankly speaking, the real issue is not even the principle as in the practice of which we can see the easy rancour generated in the various arguments making the storm these days. The question I have ascertained at present is the tendency of political players to augment their worth and assume a bargaining power on the strength of such belief as having come from where it should be zoned to. So, while we, the politicians seek to bring power to our door steps, we fail to realize that if the ultimate search for Nigeria headship is narrowed to one zone, it is like taking Nigeria, all at a season to one-sixth, if based on geopolitical zones, or one-36th if by states. For the former, we are leaving out five over six while for the later we are leaving out 35 over 36. Countrymen, that is not being fair to a nation that has to move forward.
In other words, the supposition is that if it is assumed the turn of a section of Nigeria to take power, it may not matter to the people that the very fellow they have staked the whole complex Nigeria on may not even have developed to properly comprehend the entire dimensions of the nation.
This got me thinking along the line of J. P Tolland. The factors defining the character and qualities of a leader of a multi ethnic State cannot be defined in the appreciation, perfection and well honed practice of one culture, even if such had been provably elevated, since history has revealed a reciprocal hatred of such a champion honoured at home, for urging that which put his immediate society ahead of others. Of course, Tolland was not denouncing acknowledgement of basic cultural bearings or rehearsed mindfulness of cultural cultivations, neither was he recommending an obliteration of one’s feeling for immediate society and culture. But he has, indeed, pleaded pannational thinking, feeling, outing and practices, devoid of viewing a multi cultural/national environment from very narrow perspectives.
Yet, as strong as Tolland’s argument has been and as decisive as it has proven in making or marring many an aspiring leadership person, it did not answer the immediate Third World question of complex states as both providers and guiding lights for the simple horde. That is my departure point with Tolland.
Soon, I had the cause to consider our peculiar problems from the standpoint of developmental scholars, one of whom is Jan Gilder, who in his seminal work, African sub-awake, moaned painfully that elite opportunity for power grab rides the cymbals of the preachments for rotation as power distribution principle, of which the whom-beneficiary of the down-the-ladder, has yet to be determined, for the African States devoid of stakeholder comprehension of the mechanics of responsive and participatory governance.
Indeed, barring the now so loud elite shenanigans at mobilizing the common herd of citizens in the direction of having power zoned so that those who cannot compete or who have yet to develop what it takes to emerge can lay hands on the soul of the nation, there has hardly been any argument in fully delivering on what had long feasted on the nerves of the people.
So, if Gilder reasons that our lack of comprehension of the dynamics of participatory governance, such as driven by stakeholder interests, had done incalculable damage, I dare to add that such inability to appreciate multi-lateral approaches to decision making in government had in the past obscured elite perception of their environment and had led, ultimately, to bad governance.
My personal experience, as both a player in political court and student of power, is that the vocal elite hardly ever understands the issue. The entire hollering, the back and forth argument and the seeming swinging attitude of the so-called common man actually came down to one simple but devastating word, poverty.
I will go ahead to explain my understanding of this raging word and the grip it has on our political people. In the words of Elizabeth Wilkins, poverty is termed the income of a community which in subdivision among families and kindred, is less than 40 per cent of the norm (living below one US Dollar, a day) …and such manifests more in poor infrastructure, poor health, poor nutrition, poor self esteem, low hygienic standards, low intellectual development and lack of capacity to articulate social, economic and political environment and low per capita income. .
In our local parlance, poverty is seen as not having enough to eat, to use and cater for our dependants. In a related form, and directly linked with political participation and aspiration, it pales to inability to muster enough resources to spend in search of political power.
In his deep study, Crisis in Post-independence Africa, Samuel H. Burton definitively places the blame on what he calls the inability of leadership to appreciate the environment, which, according to him, rides institutional failure of regimes, right through the institutions of colonial rule, to properly situate political cum developmental tendencies as would be gainfully appreciated by all.
Beyond this point, Burton delves further into the various stages of transfer of leadership, which came on sentiment rather than perceivable capacity, and understanding of the complex State. According to him, the deliberately planned shoddy transfer of power which gave greater recognition to mediocrity rather than merit – that is – against what obtained in Paris, Brussels, Lisbon and of course, London; only revealed a crafty transition which exploited the ignorance of the larger number, in isolation of what should have been the functionally emerging ruling elite.
Many have hit hard at Burton and so mounted severe ideological allegations against his claims, simply on the ground that their kind was largely overwhelmed by the complexity of the modem administration, which they inherited. And while doing that, they failed to represent that the real tragedy of the era was the failure of the leadership class to grasp the shifting nature of the emerging environment.
On the strength of what had bothered Burton, it becomes necessary to point out that poverty, which plays hard and successfully against the greater number, had not been selective in its approach, but rather invades any area where the right thing is undone. Put differently, the State system, which ignores the real issues of development, perhaps on account of its leadership to comprehend and address them, will degenerate and crumble. But on another hand, the state which runs its course with the entire productive and development indices deployed for the good of all will have such citizenry not the least bothered about where the next president comes from. In other words, if there should be the kind of social and economic environment in which a citizen does not have to seek for a relation to be in government so as to live his life, certainly the days of zonal agitations are numbered.
Basil Davidson has an idea of what a negation of the above principles would amount to. He formed a major thrust of thesis stating without equivocation that everything depended on the leadership, which emerged.
According to him, rather than constitute the true advancing force against poverty and degradation, the post-colonial nation-state had become a shackle on progress, as more and more critics in Africa seem to agree…
The low quality of regime, the poverty of policies and the inadequacy or imprecision of actions, he argues, reveals lack of comprehension because, according to him, such new or prevailing leadership had been enthroned without regard to objective factors which ensure a good thrust of political leadership.
In fact, Davidson is so convinced of the factor of mediocre leadership as the nemesis of the Third World that he concludes that rather than seek to ameliorate the citizens’ pains, the State was constricting and exploitative…not liberalizing and not protective of its citizens… and never evolving policies that could transform the societies.
Advertising guru and president of Kruger Dein & Lipston Branding, Michael Kruger, stated in his 1000-word thesis, Forget Africa that such societies which ignored merit as the determinant of leadership, both locally and nationally, would reap from the inglorious kitchen of the incompetent. To him, African States, including Nigeria, simply failed to operate in any workable social sense, as leadership has no inkling of the trend of thought of the moving world.
I am sure that I am not alone in wondering why we have been so lowly considered, especially against the backdrop of our famed capacity for organization, prior to European imperialism. I had bothered that perhaps, our countrymen have not realized that the storm has since broken and we must sail with the tide or wallow in shallow waters, the rest of the voyage of life.
Elsewhere, I did state that we are all aware that the common herds, usually located in the downtown or rural areas, were simply made to perceive the emerging leadership, if they sing ethnic or zonal tones, as posting a clear El dorado, and on which their version of the national vision could be realized. I did say that I believe that at each time of these, as has been evidenced, the true promises of national birth and social cohesion had been severally aborted.
In reviewing what the Kogi State Council of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) called Gap Crisis and the Challenges of Expectation Framework, in September 2003, I conclude that had the mainstream liberation fighters clinched power, their hard-line stance against begging the colonial question, would have culminated in the pursuit of a post-colonial economic agenda, which would have removed the gap mounted on the storms of fabulous liberation struggles. This particular argument was continued as explaining the slight (though quite long, now) delay in the fuller realization of the relationship and responsibilities of State and the citizenry, to each other. That is to say that on the eve of political independence, Nigerians, dancing to the tunes of liberation struggles, geared for a certain trend of development actions which could not come because the liberation fighters had lost out at the final stage of transition.
Indeed, it was on the vent of this position that this argument on one hand presupposes that the loser-elements at the end of the liberation struggle would have presented better leadership. To me, it was a wonder that those who surged forward in this frame of mind did not consider the factors inherent in transfer of power by dictatorial regimes as the colonial governments. Then, it was not hidden that with the running cold war, the British order actively squared up against such tendencies posturing on the sidelines of those liberation singsongs, which were viewed as renegade ideologies easily accused of cultivating the then irritable communist grandstanding.
It is not impossible that such leadership, which would have articulated the society and people, culture and economy, nation and state, on one hand; and government and the structures – substructure, infrastructure, the superstructure and the likes – on the other, could not have risen in our time. But in our case, it appears as if there is an elite agreement that we must run a permanent situation of makeshift leadership rise and the attendant socio-political reengineering, usually occasioned to placate agitators who feed on either the frenzy of clamour for ethnic powered personalities or arrangee benefactors.
At the beginning of this discourse, I did relate to you what admonition Mr. President, then a retired General, growled across to our countrymen, Nigeria is a country perpetually potentially great, almost permanently in crisis, regularly threatened with disintegration… forever talking about democracy but retreating from democracy.
Now, talking about democracy, which is one major cannon of globalisation, we appear to ignore the fact that deep appreciation of such profound values of multi-dimensional development challenges, would stand as the only guarantee to deliver a society from its doldrums, and only leaders rising on the steam of competence, knowledge, strength of character and vision, rather than zoning would represent such grasping of the environment.
It is in that regard that it is held that the real challenge of ascendance to power carried with it the weight of living up the full course, and in so doing, as demanded by the principles of participatory governance, the seeming cacophony of stakeholders’ view must be expertly comprehended, articulated and blended to produce quality decisions for the onward journey of the State and the peoples. Put the other way, it cannot be predicated upon such simplistic gestures recurring on the vent of zonal overlords, puppets of godfathers and the other simple sentiments.
I am not sure I can tell how much of these we did appreciate in our various rattles for power, especially now that it has been made clear to us that the sum total of today’s enterprise in leading States, even if it is in Africa, can hardly again, be narrowed to the prism of cluster-region power overlords. Certainly, it has to go beyond cartels known to be shorn of the creative demands and studious applications relevant to values in this 2151 Century State complexities.
And, we have not actually been shorn of the history of the greatest world, America, where President Kennedy, an Irish Catholic, arising from Massachusetts, held a successful ticket with Lyndon Johnson, a Western Anglo-Saxon Protestant (wasp)-(ish), from Texas State, to run the United States of America. Even less than a decade ago, Bill Clinton from a backwater southern State, Arkansas, ran and ruled America for eight years, with Vice President Al Gore from the neighbouring Alabama, another southern state. At the moment, we are witnessing the prevalence of the George Bush family concurrently producing the president of America as well as the governor of Florida State.
In each of the cases, the issue had been to throw up the leadership that would be at duty, giving Americans what would propel their society or impose efficiency in every facet of life.
Against this background, it is necessary that I repeat my questions: With the intensification of globalisation, which rides on objective (merit) criteria against mediocrity, would Nigeria have taking any notch on the road of development if it digs in on mere sentiment as its culture of leadership emergence? Would Nigeria have followed the right path if it preaches reforms and development for the lower echelon of the society. while national leadership formation and course remain stagnant? Would any good be done the country when its peoples set in harmonization and coalescence but forced to see matters of state merely in ethnic light?
And lastly, are the national elite engaged in this power game likely to be sincere to tell the simple Nigerians that when we say zone power to the East, West, North, Middle Belt and the other areas, we indeed mean zone power to me…?
Granted that when deeply examined, leadership in our case has yet to be such that we will all agree on the definite criteria for its emergence. This is especially the case in the prevalence of many emergency periods, which had compelled sporadic rises of leadership elites. This forms the major plank of the argument that narrowing the State as in organizing or running one every other day life, in which some emergency operatives, like artisans, are forced on us, either by mere place of birth or cost or fancies of political power benefactors, is indeed, taking it too far.
Yes, for the low level of development and absence of proper order, the Nigerian has had to, times without number, be compelled to patronize roadside mechanics, whose entire study and experience of intricate automobile engineering is limited to a six-month workshop apprenticeship or a few days’ glances at the complex system of powering automobiles.
Daily, we call in the barely baked electrician who takes the seat of the electrical engineer, so that we can have electricity, anyhow. For the high cost of material and labour, rather than seek the educated, trained builder/civil engineer/architect, we have always resorted to mere draftsmen and bricklayers as designers and builders of our edifices, even though we have to tell them what to do, based on our guesses or hunches. Truth remains that we have placed our fortune in the hands of artisans.
In the fullness of time, Nigerians preferred to deal with the patent medicine dealer who may not even understand the simple instruction on the drug or cannot properly diagonise the ailment, simply because it appeared easy fetched and close by. But the truth is that we have entrusted our lives to a non-knowledgeable merchant propelled by huge profits.
In the case of automobiles, electricity, buildings, etc, we achieve a seeming but actually temporary relief, only to return repeatedly to the same problems until we get the right kind of check and solution. In the case of the ailment leading to the patent medicine dealer’s, it continues getting bad until we find our way to the hospital, if not too late then, to get the proper diagnosis and eventual treatment nom qualified medical practitioners and other health providers.
One truism is that, practised in this makeshift, if not make-believe, attitude to matters as important and decisive as running the state as our personal lives, the chances of lasting repairs, treatment or the leadership, always hung in waiting for the qualified person to have a shot at it. Or, it will never get better.
I have heard arguments to the effect that these right persons may never appear, and that our pattern of politicking had prevented good men nom contesting. That way, we explain away our laxity, lack of studiousness and incoherence/incomprehension of character and values of permanence.
Contrary to the lame excuses of what is available, I believe that the attitude to wait for the right course is ingrained in us, via our various cultures. In mid 2000, Umaru Dikko, a logician and one of the strikers of the NPN hue, was quoted as admonishing a Hallmark newspaper editor that the right thinking man does not go by any available train. You get to the station and pick the ticket you want, he said. And when the train comes, he continued, you check if it is going your way. If it is, you get in. If it is not, you stand and wait, because it would be foolish and of course costlier to go on a wrong train, just because one has surfaced at the station.
Dikko, a logician, could not have been more apt. And related to our political scenario, the situation of zoning easily compels the State to go on any available train, even when huge sums of money and time had to go with such misadventure. To that effect, the chances of generations raising leadership elite based on abilities, knowledge, vision, competition and the proper hunger to serve got severally truncated and postponed.
To say the least, it is quite shocking and difficult to fathom that in the 21st Century Nigeria, the State is so taken for granted that nobody considers vision and proper national feeling as the issue rather than shifting power to one who may never have prepared for it but simply picked for the simple practice of zoning, as arranged by political wheelers and dealers. In other words, while we pretend to be in search of the right weather to sail, hoping on the best voyage, it has not been our concern that the right kind of captain must be identified and put in headship, because such is the one who can read the compass, decipher the climate and position the rudder for the ship to properly put to sea.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am not just alarmed because I have the podium of the Civil Society organizations bringing about this forum for discussion. It is not a matter of one mounting the rostrum just because it has gotten to the season of speeches. Ours has become a matter of national survival and direction, which must be anchored on leadership, and taking the cue from other inspiring societies, we do not need the gourd to be bounced on our forehead to realize that – the wine is finished – very simply put, the game is up.
I am deeply bothered that grabbing power, which is the business of a politician, has been translated into national aspiration such that personal desperation for power grab is smartly secreted in group pretension to seeking an all-group/zone inclusion which is neither here nor there. Moreover, the attendant blackmail and frightening of the simple citizenry, by proffering a fight rather than discussion, looks to me like forcing attention and taking the prize by all means.
But in the event that we advance on the walkway, reminiscing on the challenge of the organizing civil societies here today, and bearing in mind that whereas the local electrician can change lighting bulbs as the roadside mechanics can change our tires, and that the bricklayer can lay blocks; the ultimate job of designing or comprehending the jigsaw of the intricate mechanical and electrical devices lies with the engineers, we will follow suit to appreciate that national vision, will of state and the ultimate leap, cannot be undertaken by political jobbers, who are indeed on the same pedestal as the artisans.
For us, in Enugu State, we have elected to pursue that which shall set our people motivated to climb the competitive but gainful ladder of life. We have embarked on it, bearing in mind that a well run society and one which provides the level playing ground for all, will be the one that will raise every consciousness to confront and reduce poverty to the barest minimum.
This accounted for our highly ambitious projects. We have done over 508 kilometres of asphalt roads – both federal and state; created seven effective health districts with over 54 cottage hospitals; compelled grassroots development by compulsory projects placed on our newly carved 39 area development centers; reticulated over 26 kilometres of water pipelines and electrified over 147 autonomous communities. We have also embarked on the construction, from scratch, of over 164 faculty buildings, hostels, administrative buildings, professors’ quarters, senior and junior staff quarters, for the permanent site of our 24 year old state university. Alongside, we have embarked on an ultra modem teaching hospital and college of medicine project, with hostels built to en-suite specifications, for both the college of medicine and State University. We are building a dual carriage tunnel to ease traffic congestion in the metropolis. We have dualised the Chime Avenue in central Enugu, just as we have commenced a link road project to connect Nza Street in the high brow Independence Layout with Chime Avenue in New Haven. We have done more, many of which were in our first tenure in office.
And we believe that as time unfolds and we put things in their proper perspective, we would not only have shaken the foundation of urban squalor and rural blight, we would have set the stage for every citizen in our little Enugu State to be whatever he can be; wherever he seeks and determines to be such.
We believe in the Nigeria Big Prize – a standing giant, confidently striding and focused on the great vision of the founders of the nation – which overcomes and climbs out from the slimy pit of political opportunism characterized principally as zoning, by the jobbers whom we call artisans in search of power. And if we respond to the tune of the present federal administration, joining in setting the stage, we sure would have poised to breast the tape and confront the tomorrow of our generation, for which foundation as being laid in time, we shall continue to say, as in Enugu State,
To God Be The Glory.
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