Nigerians, Where Do We Go From Here? By Leonard Karshima Shilgba
Only a few Nigerians may not be aware that their country is presently engaged with too many problems on her plate. But how do we articulate those problems in a way that facilitates an understanding of both the dimension and probable solutions? There are some Nigerians that hold the view that Nigeria’s fundamental problem is “corruption”, by which they imply misappropriation of the people’s commonwealth. Some believe that Nigeria’s problem is “lack of true federalism”, which they mean the absence of resource control by local governments, regions or states, and the presence of so many legislative restrictions that frustrate regional security, regional economic agendas, regional justice, and regional infrastructural development. But are those two broad categorizations of Nigeria’s problems truly representative of the problems of Nigeria? Where do we go from here?
Corruption in Nigeria is brought about generally by loose enforcement of law, selective enforcement of law or the complete negligence in enforcement of available laws. This scenario in turn breeds a strange culture of impunity. The situation has become very daunting in Nigeria with the latest complicity of the judiciary in delaying justice, denying justice, or destroying justice. The cliché, Justice delayed is justice denied, if held to be true, provides a convenient reference to buttress the argument that there is no justice in Nigeria. Let me provide an example of legislative duplicity that the judiciary has used effectively to deny justice. The 180 days limit imposed by both the amended Nigeria’s constitution (2010) and the Electoral Act (2010) on litigation of electoral petitions provides no remedy for the petitioner who has for no fault of his been denied fair hearing, a fundamental principle in law. Can the aggrieved contestant in future elections have confidence in the ability and willingness of the Nigerian judiciary to dispense justice timeously without denial of fair hearing? I foresee violence in future elections in Nigeria because another instrument of rigging has now been legitimized both by the Nigerian legislature and by the interpretation of the Nigerian judiciary that does not provide the petitioner with any remedy in order to uphold the universal principle of fair hearing in law. This is corruption in law. And where the law is not fair anarchy shall be fair game. Nigeria has created one more problem that threatens her future; and it is sad. I call on the legislature to correct this indiscretion without further delay.
The Nigerian has heard too much about “reforms”, “agendas”, and “visions” that have added nothing to their quality of life. Accordingly, we have another problem in Nigeria, which is linked to corruption—corruption of integrity. The greatest asset of any government is its integrity. There are many Nigerians who have lost interest in listening to news about what the Nigerian government says it will or will not do. For how many years have Nigerians been promised 3000+ megawatts of electricity by the PDP-led government? We have heard that since Obasanjo’s government and yet, electricity generation in Nigeria has never reached 4000 megawatts. In fact, it has dropped sometimes to below 3000 megawatts. The Nigerian government has lost integrity, and this is a serious problem. There is yet another example. Many times after a security crisis, the Nigerian government has told Nigerians to “go about your normal businesses” without making adequate provision to protect the people. I find this highly deceptive; and many people have lost their lives relying on the empty promises of government. The security crisis in Nigeria, which forced President Jonathan’s cowardly response in not holding the traditional Independence Day ceremony at the Eagles square in 2011, presents clear evidence that Nigeria has no leader who is in complete control. It is then ludicrous that the government takes exception to warnings by some responsible world leaders to their citizens about visits to some locations in Nigeria.
The Nigerian constitution itself indicts the present leadership in Nigeria. “The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”, states section 14(2) (b) of the Nigeria’s constitution. No sane observer will disagree that the security situation in Nigeria has deteriorated and the welfare of Nigerians has eroded, throwing more than 110 million Nigerians below the poverty line. Where do we go from here? Every problem of Nigeria is an offshoot either of corruption in public and private endeavours or a consequence of lack of true federalism. And corruption, as I have argued, thrives when there is no enforcement of available laws. We love making laws, and enjoy breaking them or forgetting they ever existed.
What then can Nigerians do? A government that cannot or will not provide its people security and the basic requirements for decent living has compromised its usefulness and authority. The citizens owe their government no more than it has given to them. The responsibility of citizens is only a return on the investment of government in their lives. No man can give what he does not possess. The Nigerian citizen does not owe the current Nigerian government loyalty. Loyalty is based on assurance of returns. The leader as a minister is to provide safety and welfare; and to the extent that the PDP government has failed, its authority is greatly depreciated. The PDP government has become an intractable oppressor, extorting from the people without commensurate rewards. It has inflicted only pains on the people—increase in fuel prices, increase in electricity tariff in exchange for darkness, extortion of trillions of naira from the people’s treasury in the name of “fuel subsidy”, and increasing harassment of the hapless Nigerians by security forces and a general state of insecurity.
I believe that the PDP is overwhelmed by the problems it has helped create. It will only be to the shame of Nigerians to let the party continue to rule over Nigeria. The arrogance, impunity, and care-free attitude of the party cannot be overlooked. I called on Nigerians last year to vote against any candidate (even if he is an angel) that contested on the platform of the party. But, whether by rigging or otherwise, the party still retains power at the centre and in many states in Nigeria today. Either Nigerians are fools or something worse. But until Nigerians start punishing failed political parties they cannot be taken seriously. Non-cooperation with the PDP government is required at this time. The fuel subsidy probe report presents just a cause, but it is not the cause.
In an organized opposition to the ruling party we shall have presented a warning to any future ruling party that compromise of the people’s security and welfare compromises the authority of government over our lives. Let us be ready to support any mass protest that seeks to register our displeasure at the wastage that the PDP has come to represent. I do not belong to any political party, but I am not satisfied with the one that has ruled over my nation for more than a decade, with unprecedented violence since I have been an adult. I agree that if the issues I have ventilated above are not addressed we may have no nation to call our own. I believe in prayer, but just like prayer without works cannot produce an excellent college degree, so also is it a poisoning of theological wisdom to abdicate our responsibilities to God. No abusive and stolid government sustains the support of divinity. Nigerians, where we go from here depends on our collective will and boldness. But we cannot survive without a revolution—a turn-around from impunity to rule of law; and from injustice to true fiscal federalism, which can only be achieved through a sovereign national conference. We cannot run away from this. President Kennedy said, “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” No matter how long we live in denial of our problems they just won’t go away. We may not delight in the right answers, yet they cannot cease being such. Let us go upward from denial.
Leonard Karshima Shilgba is an Associate Professor of Mathematics with the American University of Nigeria and chairman of the Middle Belt Alliance. TEL: +234 (0) 8055024356 EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org.