The Nigerian Problem and the Pathway to a New Nigeria: Different Perspectives – Pastor Tunde Bakare

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The Nigerian Problem and the Pathway to a New Nigeria: Different Perspectives – Pastor Tunde Bakare

The Nigerian Problem and the Pathway to a New Nigeria: Different Perspectives – Pastor Tunde Bakare
April 03
16:35 2016

The conservative, reformative and revolutionary schools of thought tend to consider the Nigerian problem and the required resolutions from broadly different perspectives. I term these perspectives the five hypotheses on the path to a new Nigeria.

Hypothesis 1: The current problems of the nation are due to global economic cycles which are outside domestic control and will self-reverse in due course

This assumption is hinged on the notion that local economies are not immune from global economic vicissitudes. However, historical evidence[14] shows that, by plugging regulatory leakages with the two-pronged valve of integrity and skill, countries can ensure that their economies wade through unfavourable cycles unscathed or with minimal loss.

This explains why, for instance, Singapore stood resilient in the last decade of the 20th century while the other Asian Tigers were deep in economic crisis[15]. It explains why countries like Australia withstood the 2008 global financial crisis while other developed economies battled with recession[16]. It explains why the United Arab Emirates boasts a Sovereign Wealth Fund worth 1.2 trillion dollars[17] while Nigeria, a fellow oil producer, is scraping the bottom of her foreign reserves.

It is a symptom of chronic national laziness to blame the global economic downturn for Nigeria’s economic woes, or to wait expectantly for a rise in crude oil prices in order to sustain our consumptive economic patterns. Our problems are not the result of global economic cycles; our problems are the result of counterproductive national paradigms and self-limiting frameworks of state.

Hypothesis 2: The state of the nation is an unfolding transformational process and requires patience

When Nigeria returned to civil rule in 1999, the conservatives attributed our national problems to the “nascent” state of our democracy. Sixteen years down the line, our democracy is still in the so-called “nascent” state. Elections have remained a great source of anxiety for Nigerians due to the associated tension and violence that reveal how divided we still are as a nation. Meanwhile, the hydra-headed monster of corruption appears to have grown yet more heads with hundreds of thousands of ghost workers haunting our civil service. In the absence of standard handover procedures, government has failed to function as a continuum. Where is Vision 2020 today? Where is the Seven-Point Agenda? Where is the Transformation Agenda? If bold decisions are not taken at this time to do the right things, not just to do things right, few years from now, we may find ourselves asking: “Where is the Change Agenda?”

Brothers and sisters, fellow Nigerians, I submit to you that the state of the nation is not merely a phase in a transformational or evolutionary process. In fact, the process has hardly begun! Not yet! What we have is an opportunity to begin the process, to lay a new foundation and to build upon that foundation using a pool of resources that include selected materials from the unsustained successes of previous administrations.

Hypothesis 3: The state of the nation is merely symptomatic, requiring curative policy initiatives
Between May 1999 and March 2007, Nigeria’s external reserves compounded from 4.98 billion dollars to 59.37 billion dollars[18]. Aside opportunistic factors such as the oil windfall, these results were the outcome of astute economic management by an economic team comprised of the likes of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, Dr. Charles Chukwuma Soludo and Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, among others. That economic team was arguably the most competent ever assembled by any government in Nigeria’s history till date. Credit must be given to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for assembling that team. Armed with the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), the economic team began to re-engineer Nigeria’s macroeconomic landscape.

However, side by side the macroeconomic successes and rapid economic growth was a dismal microeconomic and human development performance that saw over 84 million Nigerians living below the poverty line, aside other woeful indicators[19].

Today, due to the negative global economic environment, the prospects look much bleaker. If mere policy initiatives without foundational and structural changes could not deliver the promise of a new Nigeria when the global and local economic climates were favourable, why do we think that they will at this time when the wells have almost run dry? I am reminded of the biblical parable of the green and dry trees:

“For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”[20] (Luke 23:31; NIV)

Hypothesis 4: The national challenges are systemic, requiring reformative interventions such as institutional reforms and constitutional amendments

This assumption is based on the recognition that policy and investment intervention in governance are insufficient in dealing with the Nigerian problem. It recognizes the role of leadership in institution building based on the rule of law. However, it argues that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) suffices as the basis on which the rule of law can be guaranteed. This position assumes that, barring the need for few amendments which can be effected as the democratic process evolves, there is nothing essentially wrong with the constitution and that the problem is largely with the operators of the document and the bureaucratic systems by which they operate.

While I cannot fault certain aspects of this assumption, I must, nevertheless, ask a few questions: Why have almost all our attempts at institution building fallen like a pack of cards upon the exit of the spearhead whether or not succession plans were put in place? Why has our budget office metamorphosed from an office of “due process” to an office of “budget padding”[21]? What has become of the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE), with its questionable transfer of PHCN assets to GENCOs and DISCOs that lack financial and technical capacity[22]? How did EFCC become a “toothless bulldog”[23]? Worse still, why did the Obasanjo administration bequeath to us a legacy of lame and limping successor governments? Have the subsisting amendments to the 1999 constitution made any significant differences? What significant difference have the subsisting amendments to the 1999 constitution made? I submit to you that the state of our nation calls for more than mere reforms or amendments.

Hypothesis 5: The state of the nation is due to fundamental flaws and requires a complete rebirth of nationhood and a rebuilding of the frameworks of state

The inadequacy of the four assumptions we have so far considered is simply a clear indication that there is something fundamentally wrong with the very essence of our nationhood. This fundamental error in our national configuration has consistently manifested as defects in the framework of state; it is an error in value configuration, the output of which has been structural deformation, institutional degradation, constitutional aberrations and governmental incapacitation. For Nigeria to overcome her limitations, her nationhood must be reconfigured and the framework of state restructured. We shall now examine this process.
1. Value Reconfiguration

To understand the error in our current national value system, we must first take a look at the premise upon which the nation was engineered. Despite the pointers to the destiny of our nation, the colonial masters – who became instrumental in the union of the hitherto separate entities that constitute the Nigerian nation – had a different agenda. To them, the area around the Niger was a piece of real estate which had been purchased from the Royal Niger Company in 1900 for eight hundred and sixty-five thousand pounds[24], which, in today’s value, is about eight hundred and twenty-five million pounds, labour and income values inclusive.

This commercial premise for the concept of an amalgamated Nigerian geopolitical entity determined the priorities of the colonial government. Consequently, although the British government established local structures and programmes, its concept of Nigeria as an instrument of British imperial interests shaped its policies, which were aimed at serving the British economy as against integrating and developing the budding nation. Its divide and rule policy resulted in socio-economic disparity and distrust; and soon, distrust escalated to discord. This misconception of nationhood was transmitted to the generation of our founding fathers when they received the baton of leadership. It soon divided the nation, the noble intentions of these national heroes notwithstanding. Since then, that seed has been transmitted from generation to generation. Some manifestations of value misconfiguration are as follows:
i. Patronage networks as against Patriotism
ii. Spectatorship and Sabotage as against Stakeholdership
iii. Preservation of narrow sectional interests as against Pursuit of sublime national interests
iv. Emphasis on Consumption and Commerce as against Capacity-Building for productivity
v. Devouring as against Discovery
vi. Imitation as against Innovation
1. Mediocrity as against Meritoriousness
2. Inclination to Opportunism as against utilization of Opportunity

In the words of Khalil Gibran of Lebanon:
Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion.
Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave, eats a bread it does not harvest, and drinks a wine that flows not from its own wine-press.
Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful. […]

Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox, whose philosopher is a juggler and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking. […]

Pity the nation divided unto fragments, each fragment deeming itself a nation.

This consummate patriot said elsewhere:
If Lebanon was not my country, I would have chosen it to be my country.

If these words are anything to go by, then the process of national rebirth must begin with the creation of a new national value system, which entails a reversal of all the elements of our past and present negative value configuration.

To obtain the buy-in of the people, the value reorientation drive must be productized. In the perception of the people, an association must be created between the new national value system and the components of good governance, which Nigerians sometimes refer to as the dividends of democracy. This necessitates structural reconfiguration.

2. Structural Reconfiguration
Central to the delivery of public goods is the devolution of powers. Political power is the vehicle through which economic value is allocated. Therefore, power must be devolved to the levels of government that are closest to the people and that can best deliver public goods.
Political power must then be used to facilitate the development of clusters. Clusterization arises from the need to factor into the value creation process the cultural, geo-economic and bio-geographical peculiarities of the various sub-national entities as well as the need to create competitive economies of scale. This necessitates the formation of zonal or regional structures. The zonal blocs will become distributors of governance, channelling good governance to states which will act as wholesalers.

Local governments, functioning as retailers of governance, will deliver public goods directly to the grass-roots. Throughout the distribution channel, the objective is to ensure that each public good delivered fulfils the value proposition as defined by the new national identity. Therefore, by ensuring the efficient and effective delivery of public goods, the value proposition is fulfilled, the new national identity is effectively communicated and brand integrity is maintained.

The new national value system, combined with the new structural configuration, will produce a new kind of nation – the cutting-edge nation. The cutting-edge nation is nimble in structure and proximal in impact; it is knowledge-driven and wisdom governed; it is service-oriented and “glocal” in outlook. Such nations are characterized by strong and efficient local governments capable of maximizing local resources to create vibrant local economies that have global impact.
The cutting-edge nation recognizes that the people are simultaneously board members and customers.

As board members, they occupy the highly esteemed “Office of the Citizen”[25] and contribute to the national economy through innovation and enterprise, and to national governance through election, protestation and the power of recall. To facilitate the economic stakeholdership of the people, the government creates an economic system that is value-driven rather than currency-driven, where ideas thrive through innovative financing such that no value-creating idea is allowed to die over shortage of funds. Economic stakeholdership, thus created, facilitates political participation. As customers, the people are the beneficiaries of good governance; hence, to meet their needs, the government creates an enabling environment for efficient service delivery.

3. Institutionalization
To institutionalize the cutting-edge nation principle, the first step would be to ensure that every cadre of leadership is manned by competent persons who embody the new national value system. This necessitates minimizing the perks of office and emphasizing the responsibilities. It also calls for a competitive public revenue system that progressively eliminates the allocation principle which only creates lazy and dependent administrative units. Instead, subnational units in the new era would be self-sustaining, generating revenue internally. Federal government, on its part, will support subnational efforts and reward subnational productivity through competitive incentivisation. Within this competitive system, subnational leaders such as governors and local government chairpersons will be compelled to create innovative systems and strategies while the people will readily vote out or recall poorly performing leaders and representatives. However, to guarantee that no Nigerian in any part of the country is subjected below an irreducible minimum standard of living agreed upon by all, the federal government would create inclusive intervention policies. For such a system to thrive, a new constitutional order is necessary.

4. Creating a New Constitutional Order
Those who claim that the current constitution is sufficient as the national Grundnorm fail to recognize the aberrations which the constitution itself represents, or the import of these aberrations on our national psyche or value system. Contrary to its claim that “We the People” gave ourselves a constitution, the 1999 constitution was designed without the participation of the Nigerian people. This non-inclusion of a people in a process by which they supposedly resolved to give themselves a constitution is unrivalled in the history of political falsehood, thereby laying the foundation for a culture of political fraudulence. It was also a lost opportunity for a pre-transition learning experience in democratization.

An ideal preparation for a re-entry into the democratic era after years of democratic desensitization under military dictatorship would have been for the people to decide the frameworks by which they would be governed, prior to choosing those who would govern them. Instead, according to an insider report by a former director at the Presidency[26], Eric Teniola, the committee that produced the 1999 constitution “visited just few states, stayed most of the time in Abuja, held public hearings just for a few days, compiled its report and submitted”, doubting that the government of the day would even approve it.

It was so shoddily put together that “a clean copy of the constitution was not even ready until after Obasanjo and the governors were sworn-in”[27].

Can anything be more perfidious than for leaders to take oaths to govern a nation by a constitution prepared under such circumstances and whose content they had hardly imbibed? It was John Adams who observed that “the only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue”. The absence of virtue in the 1999 constitution is a fundamental flaw in the current framework of the Nigerian state. Little wonder the shoddily prepared constitution is fraught with inconsistencies and ambiguities which I do not have the time to enumerate.

The many breaches[28] to which the constitution has been subjected are an indication that constitutional conventions are already evolving in unconstitutional directions. The sooner we channel this discontent constructively towards constitutional rebirth, the better for us. Ignoring it is risking a revolution.

Preempting the Legacy of President Buhari

It is obvious to all that there is a new sheriff in town and that this is not an era of business as usual. Now, all that is required to give Nigeria a national rebirth is the political will of a president who enjoys a great deal of respect from the Nigerian people, including those who do not support him. The president may exercise this political will by creating a novel institution – a Presidential Commission for National Reconciliation, Reintegration and Restructuring comprised of a team of highly respected national influencers of high moral standing and unquestionable integrity, and having bridge-building antecedents.

This commission should be mandated to work closely with stakeholders and power blocs as well as legislative houses to create a new national identity for the Nigerian people; promote forgiveness and reconciliation among contentious interest groups in Nigeria; foster the integration of the diverse sectional groups in Nigeria into true nationhood; facilitate the creation of an acceptable functional governmental structure for Nigeria; and midwife a process of constitutional rebirth that will culminate in a referendum by which the people will adopt a new constitution. The report of the 2014 National Conference with its Nigerian Charter for National Reconciliation and Integration will provide a ready-made operational springboard for this team.

In a three-dimensional strategic arrangement, this national rebirth process can go on seamlessly alongside socioeconomic development championed by the economic team of this administration headed by the Vice President as well as a national security and anti-corruption strategy spearheaded by the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. However, within the allowance provided by the current constitution until it is replaced, socioeconomic development and national security strategies will be channeled in line with the cutting-edge nation philosophy from which the new constitutional order will emerge. Very importantly, this process will also result in the adoption of a long-term constitutionally backed national vision that will subsequently guarantee accurate succession as well as guide policy-making for many generations, irrespective of the party in power. Partisan elections and leadership selection will then be based on determining which political party and which candidates have the best strategies to achieve the national vision. That is the pathway to the New Nigeria.

On the occasion of my 60th birthday, I spoke of this New Nigeria:
…a nation built on the pillars of…righteousness and peace; a land of freedom and of justice and a home of equity and fair play…where, though creed and tongue may differ, the people will unite in the pursuit of a common national destiny…it is a dream that is rooted…in God’s plan and purpose for our nation and whose fulfillment I desire to see in my lifetime.
Like Abraham Lincoln who laid the groundwork for the unification of the United States of America by winning the war against the forces of disintegration and championing the Emancipation Proclamation, President Buhari has the opportunity to leave a legacy of a new Nigeria. I pray he gets the priorities and strategies right in Jesus Mighty Name, Amen.

Where do we begin?
National rebirth can truly begin only when the sons and daughters of Zion take responsibility for our national destiny by tackling headlong the giants confronting our nation. First, the trajectory of the sons of Ishmael clearly reveals that exclusion and rejection are the harbingers of terror and violence (Genesis 21). Like David who killed Goliath and whose name means “beloved”, men and women of stature both young and old must arise in every sphere of our national life, to uproot violence and terror through inclusion propelled by love, rather than exclusion that produces rejection and alienation; the Davids in governance must combat violence with inclusive policies motivated by service rather than exclusive politics driven by self (2 Samuel 5:12). Like Abishai, whose name means “gift from God”, who killed Ishbi-Benob, the giant of corruption, sons of God must begin to manifest their God-given gifts in their respective sectors of influence as good stewards of the manifold grace of God, so as to deliver the nation from the bondage of corruption. Like Elhanaan, whose name means “God is good and gracious”, who slew Lahmi, the giant of commerce, a new breed of entrepreneurs must arise with new models of commerce and enterprise that will spread the goodness and graciousness of God through innovative problem-solving strategies that facilitate wealth redistribution.

Like Sibbecai, whose name means “the Lord intervenes”, who killed Sippai, the giant of injustice, the saints of God must accept the honour of executing the judgment that is written (Psalm 149:9); crusaders of justice must stand to “defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy; deliver the poor and needy; [and] free them from the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82:2-3; NKJV). Finally, like Jonathan, whose name means “God has given”, who killed the six-digited man of great stature, sons and daughters must arise from Zion in the name of the Lord who is our Judge, Lawgiver and King (Isaiah 33:22) to set and enforce standards in every sphere of our national endeavor and to eliminate the spirit of lawlessness, “for out of Zion shall go forth the law”, as it is written in Isaiah 2:2-3 (NKJV).

Therefore, with faith in God who determined the times and boundaries of nations from the beginning, let us all rise to give our president the needed support in the making of a new Nigeria, doing so with the assurance that God, who ordained our national destiny, is greater than our challenges.

Nigeria will be saved, Nigeria will be changed, and Nigeria will be great

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