Author Archives: odunze
Nigerians criticize the government because they love Nigeria. Patriotism is not love for one’s government; it is love for one’s country. Theodore Roosevelt said in 1908 that “patriotism …does not mean to stand by the country or any public official save to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is unpatriotic not to criticize the leaders to the extent that by inefficiency or otherwise they fail to serve the people.” With that statement, Roosevelt articulates the notion that progressive dissent in form of criticizing one’s government is a democratic instrument. Criticism is an important democratic tool available to the people when the government fails to meet their aspirations and hopes. What the rod is to the child, criticism is to the government; spare the government your criticism and you spoil it. Governments that bear any resemblance to tyrannies hate to be criticized.
Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency was the closest Nigeria has gotten to tyranny. Therefore, I was not surprised when, a few weeks ago in London, Obasanjo told a gathering of Nigerians that criticizing the government in a foreign land is an unpatriotic thing to do. He also said that any expectations that Nigeria will be a better country in our lifetime are unrealistic. I find it contradictory that while telling Nigerians to be patriotic Obasanjo painted a gloomy picture about Nigeria’s future in a foreign land. That in itself is unpatriotic.
My first reaction to Obasanjo’s admonitions was to write and explain to the General that the concept of patriotism revolves around love for one’s country, which I doubt that most Nigerian leaders have. Scholars of politics and national character have included constructive criticism of the government as a form of patriotism. What Obasanjo and people like him fail to understand is that Nigerians criticize the government not out of hatred for Nigeria. Nigerians criticize the government because it has continued to fail to meet their aspirations and hopes. In the political climate that Nigeria has been in since independence, anybody who believes that Nigerians should not criticize the government is advocating blind patriotism. It suffices to say that Obasanjo was asking Nigerians to blindly support the government.
But these are not the only trepidations I have with Obasanjo’s sound off about patriotism. If you consider that the paramount task of a patriot is to defend the constitution of Nigeria by any means necessary, then Obasanjo hardly passes for a patriot. Clearly his third term aspiration warrants a circumvention of Nigeria’s constitution. If I put Obasanjo’s third term aspirations next to his comment that Nigeria will never be a better nation in our lifetime, my questions are: why was he seeking a third term? And when did Obasanjo realize that Nigeria will never be a better nation in our lifetime? Was it before or after his desperate attempt to change the constitution and run for a third term? Only in Nigeria can a former president make such a comment and still remain relevant in discussing the future of the country.
However, I must say that Obasanjo’s advice to Nigeria’s Diaspora not to criticize the government raises a very important question: is criticizing the government really unpatriotic?
I raise this question because Nigerian leaders have mounted propaganda to make Nigerians believe that criticizing the government is unpatriotic. They are afraid of being criticized. Yet, they have failed the Nigerian people at every turn and in every respect. It reminds me of the proverbial goat in an old Igbo saying; the goat ate the child’s yam and still forced the child to submission. While it is not unusual for government to push any kind of agenda or propaganda, my fear is that many Nigerians now believe that criticizing the government is unpatriotic.
The right to criticize the government is a very important aspect of democracy. In fact, in a democracy like Nigeria’s, where elections are not necessarily a reflection of popular choice, it can be reasonably argued that criticizing the government is the only option left for Nigerians to voice their opinions. It is the last democratic tool left for Nigerians.
Criticizing the government is also an indication of the palpable anger against those whom Nigerians have entrusted with leadership positions.
Yet, those who have the power to change the trajectory of Nigeria pretend not to see this palpable anger. Throughout history, there have been courageous patriots who hated the government but loved their country. For instance, Martin Luther King stood up against the government in times of oppression. But he loved the United States. The Magna Carta was forced on the English King by patriots who hated the government but loved their country. It required that King John of England accept that his will was not arbitrary. Nigerians are patriotic. They love their country, but they hate the government. Loving the country and hating the government are mutually exclusive concepts. The passion with which Nigerians discuss the need for change is an indication of how much they love Nigeria and desire change.
When the issue of a Nigerian revolution is discussed, the only indication of such a possibility is that Nigerians are becoming increasingly vocal in criticizing the government. Anybody who is opposed to Nigerians criticizing the government, even in the current political climate, is afraid of the Nigerian revolution. They are the same people who have weaved corruption into the fabrics of Nigeria.
+1 781 975 1554
Nigeria is a nation with many abstract pundits. By that I mean those who analyze Nigeria’s problems without any historical or concrete evidence to prove that their analysis is correct. Mention Nigeria’s problems, and you will be confronted by these pundits. They all claim to have a good grasp of what ails Nigeria. Yet, the solutions they proffer, even when implemented, have not resulted in lasting solutions. These pundits remind me of the proverbial visit seven blind men made to the elephant. After groping the animal, they each gave a different and inaccurate description of the elephant based on the part of its body they touched.
When the question is asked: what is the problem with Nigeria? The answer you get depends on who you ask, the time you asked and the interest they are seeking to protect at the time.
Yet, history has proven that any nation serious about solving its problems must understand those problems thoroughly. In fact, in a world that is increasingly globalized, conscientious nations understand their problems to the point where they can relate them to the problems of other nations. For Nigeria to solve its problems, they must be analyzed in line with global trends. Indeed, any analysis of Nigeria’s problems without proper comparison to those of other nations is an abstract analysis. The reason is because Nigeria cannot afford to ignore current global issues while trying to address problems that the rest of the world has put behind them many decades ago. It is important that both current global issues and Nigeria’s peculiar problems be addressed simultaneously. But Nigeria’s abstract pundits are parochial. They do not understand global issues, especially economic ones.
For instance, abstract pundits are now arguing that all the government has to do to put Nigeria on track toward economic growth is to make electricity services reliable. The premise for this argument is that the private sector will pick up and drive Nigeria’s economic growth once electricity supply becomes constant. While no one can argue that a reliable supply of electricity coupled with a modern infrastructure is not a good start for Nigeria’s economic growth, it is important not to overestimate the results of such measures. When the question is asked: is fixing electricity and other infrastructure the approach other countries are taking to solve their economic problems? The answer is a resounding no.
What other countries are doing is strategic government involvement in calibrating and providing support for the private sector. From Japan to China and even to the United States – an ultra capitalist country – governments are taking strategic actions to win the global race for the future. The most common action these governments are taking is sponsoring research and ensuring excellent university education. It is only those not abreast of these global trends who argue that constant electricity is all it takes for Nigeria to get on track for the race to win the future.
While a constant supply of electricity and other infrastructure improvements should be a priority of the Nigerian government, it should not lose sight of other strategic actions as well. For instance, the government should encourage research, education and technological innovation. This is the only move that will guarantee Nigeria a realistic chance of becoming a major player in the race to win the future. To prove my point, here is what President Obama said in his State of the Union address back in January: “For America to win the future, it must out-innovate, out-educate, and out-compete other nations.” In saying this President Obama set a global strategy for the future. China, Japan, and India have all adopted the same strategy. So, for Nigeria to achieve reckonable economic growth, the government must follow these quantifiable global strategies. It must not be distracted by the analysis of abstract pundits.
Any analysis of what will solve Nigeria’s problems should be serious and well thought out by a competent economic team. Such analysis should also take history as guide. Remember the early 1980s when companies like Peugeot, Toyota and Pfizer operated in Nigeria? Power supply then was just as bad or even worse than it is now. Communications were not nearly as effective in Nigeria as they are now; yet, these companies thrived. Today, these companies are all gone. Private businesses now find it harder to survive in Nigeria. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the naira as a currency was more powerful than the dollar. Yet, Nigeria was in the throes of a long civil war that destroyed almost all infrastructure. Between then and now, something went fundamentally wrong. And, the problem is not electricity supply. Infrequent supply of electricity and the lack of other infrastructure is only a symptom of what went wrong, and not the cause.
However, abstract pundits have a simplistic understanding of Nigeria’s problems. But the rest of us know that Nigeria’s problems have metastasized. It is no longer reasonable to argue that starting to solve Nigeria’s problems from one point will guarantee a spill over to other areas. The only sensible solution is one that will address different areas simultaneously. Usually, addressing different areas simultaneously is the best way to deal with problems in a vicious cycle like Nigeria’s
As a matter of priority encourage the diversification of Nigeria’s economy. It is the only viable way to survive the current environment of global economic uncertainty. It is crucial that President Goodluck Jonathan and his economic team do not believe, like most Nigerians, that oil provides an endless source of revenue. It is also important they do not believe that oil is the beginning and the end of economic sustainability. The most dangerous advice the President and his economic advisers may heed is the advice that the United States and the rest of the world will perpetually depend on foreign oil supplies for their energy needs. A few years ago in Abuja, the OPEC Secretary, General HE Abdalla S. El-Badri, suggested that the United States will perpetually depend on oil for their energy needs. He stated that the “global debate on finding alternatives to oil would not yield results because of the strategic importance of oil.” Back then I wrote on African Analyst and on Sweet Crude that the scribe’s optimism was unfounded. Recent events continue to point to the fact that his optimism about the future of oil is in fact misguided: the era of the United States depending on foreign oil may soon come to an end.
Society gave oil value by inventing combustible engines that operate on oil energy. Finite oil reserves necessitate human ingenuity to find energy alternatives to oil dependence. This is why the diversification of Nigeria’s economy is an imperative for long-term economic sustainability. Yet, Nigerian leaders play the proverbial ostrich with their heads in the sand.
The need to diversify Nigeria’s economy begins with the United States as the largest single buyer of Nigerian oil. The United States buys 40% of Nigeria’s oil. Yet Nigeria is the fifth supplier of America’s oil. But the deep economic recession has forced a debate in the United States on how to cope with oil dependence. Recently, President Obama vowed to expand oil drilling in Alaska and to explore for new oil sources off the Atlantic coast – two measures for which many Americans have been clamoring for years. I am sure that President Goodluck Jonathan and his advisors understand the economic ramifications of boosting drilling in Alaska to mitigate America’s oil requirements. Yet, for many Nigerians, it is important to put things in perspective. If President Obama’s determination to expand drilling in Alaska becomes a reality, America’s need for foreign oil will be drastically reduced.
So, many people now agree that diversification is the only realistic solution to a better Nigerian economy. But it raises a number of questions. What is diversification? I don’t think we have a good grasp on the concept. But we will know when it is achieved. The most conspicuous outcome of diversification is that Nigeria will not depend on oil for 95% of its GDP. It also means that, with a more robust and diversified economy, Nigeria will join the ranks of more economically diverse and industrialized nations like the US, China, Japan and India.
In hindsight, if Nigeria had continued on its economic path before the oil boom, the race to win the future through innovation and a diversified economy would have been a lot easier. Prior to the explosion of the oil industry, Nigeria had a thriving mining and agricultural sector. In the 1950s, Nigeria was a major exporter of coal and tin. Even as late as the 1970s, Nigeria was also a major exporter of agricultural products like palm oil and groundnut. But Nigeria’s mining and agricultural industries failed as oil started flowing. Diversification may mean a revival of these industries. But the global economy has grown into a very complex and sophisticated web. A mere reviving of the mining and agricultural sectors may not be enough for Nigeria, but it is a start.
Why did these industries fail in the first place?
Nigeria’s agriculture and mining industry failed because it relied on foreign equipment for support. If these industries are to be revived as a means of achieving economic diversification, they must not be sustained by foreign innovation and technology. The only sensible and durable way to sustain these industries is Nigerian innovation. In fact, local innovation in support of local industries is the new direction of the global economy. China leads the pack with wind turbines, high speed rails and solar panels. If Nigeria does not find a way to join this trend, its sweet crude may not be enough to sustain the economy. This is one way in which Nigeria is being impacted by this new global economic trend.
Yet, it is the direction of America’s innovation that is more troubling. President Obama has repeatedly stated that the key to winning the future is better American innovation. With sky rocketing oil prices, Americans agree that the focus of America’s innovation should be on finding alternative energy sources. Car manufacturers are currently making more fuel efficient cars. For instance, Ford Motor Company has a line of cars that are currently on the US Government’s list of most fuel efficient cars. Additionally, Toyota is making hybrid cars and trucks that get 48 miles a gallon in the city and 51 miles a gallon on the highway. This direction of American innovation is a direct threat to any economy, such as Nigeria’s, that depends solely on oil production.
In conclusion, if the new global economic trend in which countries are innovating to avoid foreign dependency continues, Nigeria will be adversely impacted. The number one reason is because it is not innovating to support diversification. But the most troubling reason is that countries like the United State, who buys 40% of Nigeria’s oil, will reach a point of innovation where they no longer require foreign oil for their energy needs. The days of Nigeria throwing oil at every economic problem will then come to an end. read more
Dear President Jonathan,
I am not in the habit of writing letters especially when the chance of reaching the intended audience is slim. However, I decide to write you because a few days ago, my nine-year-old daughter asked me if I am proud to be Nigerian. If this letter reaches you, I will tell her that the first reason why I am proud to be Nigerian is that I can reach you as easily as she can reach President Obama.
Let me first say though that her question did not come to me as a surprise. She has seen on CNN the carnage surrounding the elections in Nigeria. She has also heard me complain ad nauseam about the issues Nigeria faces as a nation (something I have vowed not to do in her presence anymore). When she came to Nigeria, she stayed without electricity most of the time. While she was in Nigeria she also noticed that only kids from affluent parents can afford many of the things she considers as basic. All these put together, it is understandable why she is curious to know if daddy is proud to be Nigerian. As she is a child, I did not expect her to understand that the lack of these basic things underscores much deeper issues.
I know that the obvious emotional answer to her question is that, yes, I am proud to be Nigerian. Like many other honest Nigerians, my pride in Nigeria is out of emotions rather than reasons. But as a man who likes reasons more than emotions, I have always emphasized to my daughter the importance of backing her answers up with reasons. To achieve this goal, I formed the habit of throwing her questions back to her. On this occasion, it meant asking her if she proud to be American. I know she has a catalog of reasons why she proud to be American. So, let’s just say that the chickens have come home to roost.
Whatever reasons her young brain can come up with, I know that the main reason why Americans are proud of their country are freedom, liberty, equality and the pursuit of happiness. From an early age, Americans think that these are the core aspect of their nation.
These pivotal aspects of democracy are embedded in the foundation of America as a nation. For instance, when the founders declared that the government of the United States was instituted to protect inalienable rights bestowed on citizens by the creator; – the rights to freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, they gave generations of Americans a reason to be proud. It is clear that we have not been so lucky as Nigerians. Yet, these are the cornerstone of democracy; it is from liberty, freedom and cultured desire to pursue happiness that innovations flow. Any democratic nation without these values should not expect to prosper.
Many people think that modern infrastructures make a great nation. True a 24/7 supply of electricity, good drinking water, good schools, beautiful cities with good road networks are important aspects of what makes America a great nation. Yet, what makes Americans proud is a foundation that protected their inalienable rights.
The burden falls on you to lay a foundation that will protect our inalienable rights as Nigerians. It is time to move Nigeria to a time when every Nigerian can question the actions of the government without fear of reprisals. It is when there is a general understanding that Nigerians are equal before the law that to change the trajectory of Nigerian history and I am rooting for you.
As I conclude this letter, let me hope that the next time my daughter asks me if I am proud to be Nigerian, I will give her good reasons why I am proud to be Nigerian.
public officials can be held responsible for their actions.
I urge you to make the declaration that Nigerian government is instituted to protect the inalienable rights of all citizens. I am sure that you are aware that the foundation of a nation provides the framework for its governance and progress, so said Alex De Tocqueville after observing America’s democracy for the purpose of recommending democracy to France. If this statement is relied on, it means that the challenges Nigeria faces today as a nation exist because of its foundation. Nigeria’s foundation is not rooted in democratic values that give Nigerians good reason to be proud. Now is the time read more
Corruption is a universal indicator of social malady. In 1997 the World Bank described corruption as the misuse of public office for private gain. Based on this definition, Transparency International has ranked Nigeria as a perennially corrupt nation. In fact, Nigeria is ranked as one of the most corrupt nations in the world. So, it is not news that Nigeria is a thoroughly corrupt tree; however, what is news is that the discussion about how to deal with corruption is gradually changing.
It used to be a common viewpoint that for Nigeria to be on the right track for growth and infrastructural development, it is imperative to rid the country of corruption. But now it seems that many Nigerians are at the upward stage of accepting the existential reality of life in Nigeria, which is that corruption has come to stay. In the cycle of dealing with difficult situations, the upward stage is when people begin to adjust to situations that cannot be changed. If we have adjusted and accepted corruption as part of who we are, then the argument that we need a new way of dealing with the realities of corruption makes absolute sense. After all, it was Victor Frankl who once said that “when we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change how we deal with it.”
Based on Victor Frankl’s philosophy, should corruption be institutionalized in Nigeria as a means of combating its effect on Nigeria’s image abroad?
Many Nigerians are now arguing that institutionalizing corruption is a good way to achieve that goal. By institutionalizing bribery, pilferage, theft, nepotism, kickbacks, and other illicit activities that have eaten deep into the fabric of Nigeria, these things will no longer be referred to as corruption. Instead, these social ills will be seen as “the way Nigerians do things.”
The major premise for this argument is that the stigma that comes with Nigeria’s label as one of the most corrupt nations in the world will be negated.
The argument continues thus: negating this stigma will encourage multinational companies to bring their business to Nigeria. The implication is that multinational companies wishing to do business in Nigeria would be required to earmark two types of capital– “the way Nigerians do business capital,” which would have otherwise been known as corruption capital, and investment capital.
Anybody who wants to support the argument can give the example that companies doing business in the United States make provision for lobbying, which in Nigerian parlance would be called bribery. You must also believe that the problem with Nigeria is corporate-level corruption. Institutionalizing corruption can only work if Nigerians will confine corrupt practices to the part of the money earmarked for lobbying or earmarked for “the way business is done in Nigeria.” But because Nigerians have an inherent nature that makes them want that part of the largesse that will not be accounted for, institutionalizing corruption is not a solution.
But is it true that corporate-level corruption is the problem with Nigeria?
If the primary reason to rid Nigeria of corruption is to give multinational companies an incentive to do business in Nigeria, or for Nigeria to be favorably rated by Transparency International, the argument for institutionalizing corruption does not consider the impact of corruption on the Nigerian masses. But the primary reason to rid Nigeria of corruption is that it threatens the survival of common Nigerians who have nothing to do with multinational corporations or Transparency International. When hard-working Nigerians are owed for months of unpaid labor because funds meant for salaries have been used for corrupt activities by public officials, corruption ceases to exist at the corporate level only.
For me, Nigeria is more crushed by the extent of street-level corruption than it is by corporate-level corruption. If institutionalizing corruption is the solution to what ails Nigeria, it must also be true that much can be achieved in infrastructural development even when public officials are corrupt. But what fuels corruption in Nigeria is greed and the insensitivity of leaders to the problems of the Nigerian masses. This insensitivity has been on the increase. This is why past administrations seem to have done better than the current ones in infrastructural development.
Anybody who has carefully observed the trend of corruption in Nigeria can easily argue that the problem with Nigeria is indeed the motivation behind corruption. As a people, Nigerians have no sense of collective welfare. There is lack of determination for common well-being, but any effort to combat the ills of corruption in Nigeria must start with just that —determination for collective well-being.
Institutionalizing corruption in Nigeria is not an option. It is a bandage approach to the country’s ills that does not go to the root of the problem. read more
Like me, anybody who has broadly followed political democracy will easily notice the difference between Nigeria’s political rhetoric and the political rhetoric of advanced democracies like the United States and Britain. By political rhetoric, I mean the language and choice of words with which candidates address the masses. As I think about this difference, what comes to mind is the usual argument that Nigeria’s democracy is in its infancy; it will someday become what advanced democracies are today. Such an argument is lame. If Nigeria does not lay a solid foundation for democracy, the result will be different.
In Nigeria, statements like “why I want to rule Nigeria” are commonly thrown around. While the word “rule” can be used in a broader sense to mean govern, its underpinning psychology suggests a master-servant relationship. When people have lived with this type of collective psychology for too long, they begin to perceive themselves as existing under the state described in the rhetoric. So at the back of their minds Nigerian masses perceive themselves as people who are being ruled instead of being served by public servants whom we have entrusted with such an honor.
On the other hand, imagine that President Obama titled one of his campaign speeches “Why I want to Rule America.” his campaign would have died as quickly as it started. When Robert Munford wrote in The Candidates that “in order to secure a seat in our August senate, `tis necessary a man should either be a slave or a fool; a slave to the people, for the privilege of serving them and a fool for himself, for thus begging a troublesome and expensive employment,” he captured the tone of politics in the United States. He also confirmed that the essence of democracy is that power belongs to the people and that the masses rule. Because of this understanding that power belongs to the people, those who aspire to leadership positions in advanced democracies, like President Obama, talk about serving the people as opposed to ruling them. So Americans see themselves as people who are being served, not ruled.
It is the lack of these fundamentals of democracy that makes me question, as I have done in the past, whether Nigeria as a nation has laid the necessary foundation for democracy. Anybody who accepts that democracy is the only system of government designed to respect the masses and give them some sense of responsibility will wonder if the political rhetoric in Nigeria is in sync with the values of democracy.
The language of politics and governance in Nigeria needs to change. I draw attention to this because it has been proven that when democracy is conducted in the appropriate language, over time the role of the masses in a democratic process becomes very clear. For instance, the masses will begin to realize that those whom they have voted for are there to serve. Also, when a democratic process is conducted in the language of democracy, the masses engage more in the system. The American voters understand their responsibilities in a democratic process because the language used in politics and government places some responsibility on them – to choose a good servant of the people.
How the masses are governed and the role of government are often echoed in political rhetoric. With time, the prevalent political rhetoric begins to shape the masses’ collective psyche. While citizens of advanced democracies like the United States and Britain are likely to believe that the role of public officeholders is to serve the people, Nigerian citizens are likely to believe that the role of public officeholders is to rule – in the negative sense that the citizens are second class.
I am not surprised that as a nation Nigeria is stuck in its despotic political rhetoric. The country has seen many years of military rule. Unfortunately, its democracy has become an extension of that rule both in terms of rhetoric and of those who aspire to lead. Nigeria’s political rhetoric is spoken as if the country is still under military rule. Many of those who aspire to lead Nigeria are military men who have not undergone any formal leadership training to acquire democratic values. Yet they assure Nigerians that they are coming back to “rule” because they want to correct the ills of Nigeria. Their reason clearly shows that they do not understand the process of democracy. Whatever good deed they did not achieve for Nigeria as dictators will even be harder to achieve because of the very bureaucratic True democracy starts with a general understanding that power belongs to the people. My argument is that Nigerians need to hear why people they vote into office want to serve them, not why they want to rule them read more
In the past few weeks at Harvard University, the discussion has been on the revolution in Egypt. Many African students have discussed the possibilities of an Egyptian-type revolution happening anywhere else in Africa. Nigeria was at the center of the discussion and the question was: Can the kind of revolution we have seen unfolding in Egypt happen in Nigeria?
I do not do sequels. Otherwise a discussion like this would warrant a follow-up because there are so many aspects to it. But as a matter of principle; I will cram it all into one article which will discuss the lessons of the Egyptian revolution.
But first, Egyptians have proved that even in today’s world, revolutions remain the only universal language used by oppressed people to correct the ills of their society. The second lesson rests in the words of John F. Kennedy when he said that “those who make peaceful revolutions impossible make violent revolutions inevitable.”
The Egyptian revolution has been peaceful and purposeful – peaceful in the sense that the number of deaths has been very minimal, considering the number of people marching in the streets of Egypt for change. As a Nigerian, it is shameful to me that in less than a week, in one local area of Jos, 200 people were killed in a mere riot. In the Egyptian revolution, looting has also been very minimal. This is one of the few times an African nation has proved to the rest of the world that we could be as civilized in demanding our rights as the West.
The Egyptian revolution has also been very purposeful both from an organizational perspective and from a demand perspective. From an organizational perspective, I was shocked that a country like Egypt would provide for a mobile triage clinic even in the midst of a revolution. I don’t know about you, but for me this is clear evidence that Nigeria has sunk well below many other African countries, even more than it seems on the surface. From a demand perspective, the Egyptian people have shown that they know what they want – the resignation of President Mubarak and for democracy to be restored in Egypt.
The Egyptian people have not resolved to make willy-nilly demands that will turn the revolution into a mob action. Groups making all kinds of unreasonable demands of the government have not emerged. This is one of the few times we should be proud to be Africans. What makes this precedence set by Egyptians more remarkable is that the apparent peace in the midst of a revolution comes from a religion that has been called a violent religion by many – Islam. This is clear evidence that those who kill in Nigeria do so not in the name of Islam, but in the name of whoever sent them.
As happy as I am about the mentioned lessons of the Egyptian revolution, yet they are not the most important lessons to be learned. To determine the rest of the lessons, context is very important. So let’s draw some contrasts between Egypt and Nigeria.
Egypt is a homogenous country: Nigeria is a mosaic, an amalgam of people that have been forced together for the convenience of imperial domination. The model revolution we are witnessing in Egypt is the kind of revolution that can only be organized and sustained in a monolithic society. In establishing Nigeria even the British realized that it would not be easy for Nigerians to come together for the purpose of a revolution. This was what sustained British imperialism in Nigeria.
Like Nigeria, Egypt is also a third world nation faced with the problems of hunger, poverty and disease, just like many other third world countries.
Is this commonalty between Egypt and Nigeria enough to trigger a revolution like Egypt’s in Nigeria?
The more I put together the pieces of the Egyptian revolution, the more I lose hope about the possibility of a Nigerian revolution. In the past, I have argued strongly that a Nigerian revolution is possible and imminent. However, I have come to believe that the most essential element that leads to revolutions is missing in the context of Nigeria. For a revolution to materialize, the people do not necessarily have to be brave. They only have to be agitated enough against a few individuals. Many have argued that the reason why there will not be a Nigerian revolution is that Nigerians are cowards. Nigerians are not cowards; Nigerian leaders are exploiting the same aspect of our country that the British exploited – the fact that Nigeria is not a homogenous society. This is the secondary reason why the Nigerian revolution is delayed.
The primary reason why the Nigerian revolution is delayed is that Nigerian leaders have added another element that makes any expectations of a Nigerian revolution unrealistic. It is not that they have instilled fear into the Nigerian people; it is that they have been rotating the looting of Nigeria among a group of people.
In “democracies” like Nigeria, revolutions are primarily caused by demagogic looting of wealth. However, when the looting of people’s common wealth is rotated among a cabal; the chance of revolution becomes slim. The people’s wrath comes more quickly against a tyrannical and one-man government, just like the one Egypt has seen under President Mubarak.
What Mubarak is to Egypt, Obasanjo would have been to Nigeria: Obasanjo would have liked to remain in power for as long as he breathes, just like Mubarak. Obasanjo would have liked to hand over Nigeria to one of his sons after a long tyrannical regime, just like Mubarak wanted to do. In effect, what I am saying is that Obasanjo would have been the only man who could have brought the Nigerian revolution closer. In hindsight, those who stopped him in his tracks did not help the cause of a Nigerian revolution. They stopped him without knowing what the effect of their action would be on the possibility of a Nigerian revolution; their reason for stopping him was to take part in the looting of Nigeria.
As long as the looting of Nigeria keeps being rotated, the Queen of England is more susceptible to be overthrown in a revolution than the cabals who rule Nigeria. In all these, the greatest lesson of the Egyptian revolution is that revolutions need not be bloody in order to change the trajectory of a nation. read more
In the global competition to win the future through technological innovations and education, what does winning the future mean for Nigeria?In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, January 22, President Obama told the world that for America to maintain a competitive edge over other industrialized nations, America must be geared toward “winning the future.” Obama said that “to win the future, America must out-innovate, out-build, out-compete, and out-educate other nations.”
While industrialized nations struggle to out-compete, out-innovate, out-educate and out – build one another, Nigeria struggles with political instability, internal security threats, and infrastructural decay. While these are all vital and important issues and require serious attention for Nigeria’s continued existence as a nation, Nigeria must also take seriously the global competition to win the future. Otherwise, Nigeria will continue on this downward economic spiral.
Why should the competition to win the future be taken seriously, when there are so many other, seemingly more pressing problems to address?
Nigeria should take the competition to win the future seriously because according to President Obama, “the world … and the rules have changed.” The rules changed because of an increasing global economic interdependence. The world has come to a point in which a nation’s economy is no longer determined by its natural resources, but by its ability to innovate. So it makes sense that the rules have changed even more significantly for countries like Nigeria, whose economy depends solely on natural resources like oil. The competition to win the future is not a competition for natural resources; the competition to win the future is a world of ideas. As we have seen in the case of Nigeria, you can have an abundance of natural resources and, yet, remain one of the poorest nations in the world.
What must Nigeria do to make sure that the dream of remaining in the global economic competition does not die?
Nigeria’s leaders must measure their goals against global benchmarks. President Obama’s call for America to out-innovate, out-build, out-compete and out-educate other nations is the only option for any nation wishing to remain in contention in the global competition. To keep the future’s trophy within site, Nigeria must embrace these same goals.
Unfortunately, the world has not been waiting for Nigeria and Africa to get their political acts together. The world economy has transformed into one in which technological innovations determine the winner and loser nations. Therefore, any nation that aspires to out-perform in the global economic competition must leverage its potential to out-innovate, out-build, out-compete and, most importantly, out-educate others. It is common knowledge that education has been on a downward spiral for many years now. As bad as it is, what makes the neglect of education in Nigeria disastrous is that the rest of the world has placed so much emphasis on it as the only way to out. Instead, Nigeria’s emphasis is on restoring antiquated infrastructure. I am not saying that improving Nigeria’s infrastructure is unnecessary, but because the world economy has moved beyond that stage – America, China, Europe and India, for instance, have moved well beyond the struggle for a constant electricity supply and the kind of infrastructural update we are faced with– my warning is that we should also make sure that education becomes a clear priority. To argue that Nigeria should only focus on these updates is ignoring the current stage of economic competition.
Nigeria has become a consumption economy that has been abandoned by the rest of the world. The current trend in which local employers in Nigeria prefer people who studied abroad to people who studied in their own country is an indication of how global competition is affecting Nigeria. And yet our leaders are not alarmed. The fact that Nigerian leaders have not made education their utmost priority is an indication that they have no intention of placing Nigeria in sight of the global competition.
In a world where countries struggle to gain competitive advantage over others, it is backwards for us to keep defining winning the future in terms of political stability, a consistent power supply, good roads, and internal security. While these are undoubtedly important aspects in making Nigeria a better country, Nigerian leaders should keep in mind that the rest of the world have moved beyond this stage. It is not the rest of the world’s fault that Nigeria has been stuck at this stage of development.
President Obama understands that winning the future requires a credible effort to out-educate other countries, and so should President Jonathan Goodluck read more
“…take away the sword states can be saved without it”: Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1839)
Lytton’s quote clearly demonstrates that the debate on how to save nations has been an ongoing one throughout the history of nation building. Evidently, the debate on how to save Nigeria has attracted some bigwigs. It is no longer an issue discussed in closed doors. On one side of the debate there are those who argue that only a bloody and violent revolution can save Nigeria. On the other side are those who argue that good leadership will save Nigeria from the need for a violent revolution. Whichever side one takes should not be an indication of patriotism or villainy.
A few weeks ago, I asked the question, what happened to the Nigerian revolution? Some people jumped to the conclusion that I was advocating violent revolution. Yet, not long after that, General TY Danjuma the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Council and the Secretary Prof. Ben Nwabueze had an open debate about the model of revolution that would save Nigeria.
Professor Nwabueze argued that only a violent revolution will save Nigeria from imminent collapse. General Danjuma, on the other hand, argued that a good leader will save Nigeria from the need for violent revolution.
Dr. Sam Amadi, a close friend of mine, also chimed in on an article he wrote in Vanguard titled “Between Bloody and One Man Revolutions”. After a good analysis of the situation in Nigeria, Dr. Amadi was caught between supporting a bloody revolution and a peaceful revolution. However, he agreed that Nigeria does need a revolution. The only part in Dr. Amadi’s argument that I take cautiously is the belief that because a violent revolution saved France from imminent collapse, therefore, it will also save Nigeria from the same fate. When one juxtaposes the social and political dynamics of both countries, one finds that applying the same solution may provide a different result.
Unfortunately, when the word ‘revolution’ is mentioned, most people automatically conclude that all revolutions start with the emergence of a bloody or benevolent leader who will change the trajectory of a dreadful future.
This conclusion is what the General, the Professor and Dr. Amadi have in common. They are advocating for the emergence of a leader who will change the course of events in Nigeria by blood or sanguine.
In my opinion, there is another kind of revolution that, according to me, seems more grounded and more likely to produce the fruits of civilization.
I am talking about a revolution that begins with each of us as individuals; and instead of merely being one man’s bloody or benevolent wish to change the trajectory that Nigeria is currently on, this ideal becomes a collective wish.
Although this is the most powerful type of revolution, people seldom acknowledge it as such because it places some kind of responsibility for change on their shoulders. It goes beyond the appearance of a few who will either form a benevolent dictatorship or a ruthless one that will beat us all into shape. Without a collective movement to change the course of events in Nigeria, I doubt how far any other form of revolution will go. I base this conclusion on the history of revolutions in Africa.
Historically, revolutions in Africa have never been real agents of change. This is because at every point, African revolutions have always been used by one man or a few people to push an agenda. In most instances, counter revolutions are needed to check the unrestrained behavior of these so called revolutionaries.
African countries have not been spared from the kind of revolutions that saved France and Europe. I mean the kind of revolutions that changed France as Dr. Amadi argued. Africa has seen its fair share of revolutions. Many of these revolutions were seen, at some point, as encouraging prospects in midst of adversities. Yet, the revolutions that were once seen as welcome developments quickly morphed into some kind of oppression that sets Africa’s civilization years back.
As much as Nigerians clamor for a revolution, be it bloody or bloodless, there is no guarantee that it will take a different path from the other revolutions we have seen in Africa. As evidenced by the recent events of senseless killings, a bloody revolution in Nigeria may lead to the kind of genocide and ethnic cleansing that is going on in other parts of Africa like Sudan, Congo and Rwanda. Innocent people, who have no hand in debating the kind of revolution that will save Nigeria, will eventually end up being the ones to pay the price.
As opposed to “one man” or “bloody” revolution, I favor a revolution that begins with Nigerians as individuals. The basis for many of the problems Nigeria faces as a nation lies personally in the hands of individuals.
For instance, every Nigerian will be quick to tell you why Nigeria needs a revolution – Nigeria is one of the most corrupt nations in the world. Yet, the tragedy deepens when you realize that this same Nigerian who just told you why Nigeria needs a revolution has his hands stretched out to collect a bribe. In other words, the essence of a revolution in Nigeria is to stop this person from collecting bribes and from circumventing the law.
We all agree that Nigeria needs a revolution. But the face of a Nigerian revolution is the face of every Nigerian. Even if, as Dr. Amadi argued, a Gorbachev comes and implodes the system that nurtured him, it is only a matter of time before such a revolution goes the path of other African revolutions. A sustainable change does not require a Gorbachev or the storming of Bastille. A sustainable change requires that Nigerians as individuals place some importance in the concept of collective survival. In arguing that that the state can be saved without the sword Bulwer-Lytton speaks to the power of citizen responsibility and collective action. Nigeria can be saved without the sword if Nigerians understand that they are the face of a Nigerian revolution.
President Goodluck Jonathan has fulfilled the promise he made on May 15th, 2010 at University of Port Harcourt convocation ceremony. He has created a facebook page which he has vowed to manage himself. The President argues that the facebook page will give him the opportunity to interact with Nigerian youths and take in their suggestions on how to make Nigeria a better nation. I wish Nigerian leaders kept to more important promises like the vision 2010; and getting rid of corruption in Nigeria instead of a promise to open a facebook page?
Not that there is anything wrong with the President having a facebook page; however, there are certain elements of a facebook page for the President as means to communicate with Nigerian youths that strikes me as an action that is lacking in good judgment.
But first, what happened to the official site of the Nigerian government?
The government official site will be fully functional on July 25, 2010. Is it right to assume then that this will be the first time a functional website has been opened for the government?
If this assumption is correct, a more serious approach to interacting with Nigerian youths would have been to make sure this official government site is up and running and a serious campaign mounted to encourage Nigerian youths to visit their government’s website. Not just to interact with the President alone but to be aware of other government involvement. Given the current state of internet security, my assumption is that the President does not expect to receive any serious suggestions on facebook on how to move Nigeria forward.
In the week that the President opened his facebook page, there were over 6, 000 comments posted on his page. Since the President has promised to manage his facebook page himself, my initial reaction was to think about the time he has to read and react to these comments.
Is the President’s promise to manage his own facebook page an indication of how little he has to do as President of Nigeria?
The current World Bank indicator peaks Nigeria’s population at 151 million people. If this number stands, and more than 85% live under global poverty level, I think the President has more important jobs than managing his own facebook page.
A facebook page for the President as a means to solicit for ideas on how to make Nigeria a better place confirms the superficial approach which Nigerian leaders give to the many pressing and nagging issues that Nigerians face.
An example of such superficial approach was the rebranding project. A project that was supposed to change the image of Nigerians abroad, even, when Nigerians at home live under some of the worst economic conditions in the world. My argument then was that Nigerians living in Nigeria should enjoy the same level of infrastructures and a leadership that is accountable to its citizens. It is only in doing that Nigerians will gain the respect of the world where ever they go.
Now, the President has a facebook page as a means to understand how to make Nigeria a better place, I make similar argument. To make Nigeria a better place does not need a facebook suggestion box. We know what the problems are. Let us start with the basics – good schools that can compete globally, security so that Nigerians will be able to pursue their dreams, good road network to enable commercial activities, steady and cheap power supply to encourage industries.
I am sure that the President knows these issues better than I do. That brings me to another point that strikes as a reason behind his facebook page.
Is it possible that the President has joined this recent trend when Nigerian politicians are pandering to the Diaspora as opposed dealing with the issues at home?
In my opinion, this is one more thing that the President’s facebook initiative has in common with the rebranding project. The target audience is Nigerians in the Diasporas. In recent times, it has become fashionable for politicians to pander to the Diaspora because of fears that they may be the ones to effect the desired changes that we need in Nigeria.
The danger is that the real problems that exist with Nigerians at home are completely ignored while bogus projects that have nothing to do with the fundamental issues we face as a nation are pursued. For instance, the President in replying to someone on facebook said “I spent time reading your comments and yesterday a youth named Toyin Dawodu indicated that he had an idea for a project that could deliver 4,000 MWs of electricity”.
What will be rationale in pursuing a facebook claim on knowing how to start electricity supply projects that would create thousands of jobs? What happened to the government agency in-charge of power supply in Nigeria?
The role of government is not to sponsor such projects; rather, the role of government is to create a secure and trustworthy business environment for individuals with such ingenuity to thrive on their own. Can you imagine how many of such projects that will rare up in Nigeria if government decides to get in the business of sponsoring projects?
President Goodluck Jonathan knows Nigeria well. He knows what the issues facing Nigerians and Nigerian youths are. The hand writing I see on the wall of the President’s facebook page suggests to me that he is running for re-election, he has started a virtual campaign and his target audience is Nigerians in the Diasporas.
I question whether the necessary psychological conditions exist for us to address Nigeria’s problems or to implement the necessary solutions to them. This skepticism stems from the relative ease with which those in power restore the status quo after Nigerians have appeared to have awakened to the need for change.
For instance, when the late President Yar’Adua flew to a Saudi Arabian hospital in the middle of the night for emergency treatment of his heart condition and Nigeria was left without a functioning government for months, Nigerians were visibly and vocally angry. The Nigerian media published many articles that suggested that Nigeria was at the verge of a revolution. Such headlines as “The Nigerian Revolution Has Begun”, “What the Nigerian Revolution is Not About” adorned Nigerian newspapers.
Although this was just a few months back it feels as if it were ages ago. Those of us who believed then that Nigeria had turned the corner onto a revolutionary highway are now wondering what happened to the revolution that we were cheering on so recently. It seems as if the Nigerian revolution was dead on arrival. The relative ease with which those who control the status quo kill the desire for change makes me contemplate the possibility that Nigerians are experiencing a case of collective Stockholm syndrome.
The phrase Stockholm syndrome comes from events connected with a 1973 Swedish bank robbery. Thieves Jan-Erik Olsson and Clark Olofsson held four Stockholm bank employees at gunpoint in a vault for six days. When the police rescued them their reaction shocked the world; they kissed and hugged their captors, even declaring their loyalty to them as the police took them away.
Since that incident many more examples of victims of maltreatment showing unusual loyalty to their captors have occurred. For instance, in 1974, a gang calling itself the Symbionese Liberation Army abducted heiress Patty Hearst. She famously became their accomplice, took an assumed name, and helped them to rob a bank.
Generally speaking, then, Stockholm syndrome refers to the paradoxical psychological situation in which kidnapped people or prisoners begin to see things from the perspective of their captors, causing them to switch sides. Some have also applied this phenomenon to political trends. For instance, many psychologists and election experts have concluded that Americans re-elected President Bush as a result of Stockholm syndrome.
According to Dr. Ian Schroeder of the University of Chicago, “Stockholm syndrome generally occurs with the kidnapped person or prisoner begins to identify and feel the pain of their captor. It causes them to switch sides, as it were, and begin identifying and enlisting in opinions and activities that they would otherwise ignore or fight against.” He went on to explain that after the first four years of the Bush administration many American voters actually started to espouse such Bush-administration values and tenets as loss of personal freedom and civil rights, dishonesty, and duplicity. They effectively started identifying with their kidnapper and helped to put him back in office.
In the absence of any other logical explanation I am tempted to use Stockholm syndrome to explain what happened to the Nigerian revolution. It seems to me that after many years of abuse and captivity, Nigerians have started to espouse the tenets and opinions of their captors, who are the corrupt and dishonest politicians. Nigerians allow them to retain office instead of having an all-out revolution to bring about personal freedom, civil rights, and accountability.
In any society where the people desire change, the first step is always for them to realize the need for it and to stop taking their captors’ side. I have always argued that Nigerian politicians are so brazenly dishonest and corrupt because so many years of abuse have made Nigerians as a people lose their sense of right and wrong. As much as Nigerians decry corruption and unaccountability, the country’s politics will remain unchanged as long as the people remain debilitated and lack the will to force it to change. As Dr. Schroeder explained in regard to the Bush phenomenon, politicians in even highly developed societies take advantage of people who have Stockholm syndrome.
Interestingly, Nigerians tend to look to the politicians to lead a revolution that they have worked so hard to stifle for many years. Leading revolutions, however, has historically never been the role of politicians in any society. Sometimes people may consider honest and upright politicians to be revolutionaries, but revolutionaries have historically been unbiased and uncompromised fighters for justice, people whose interest in fighting for ordinary people is uncompromised by political aspirations.
Martin Luther King, for example, was a revolutionary. His interest in changing the United States went beyond politics. He was never interested in any elected position because he knew that the goals and aspirations he had for his people would have been compromised. It would have been easier for the white people against whom he struggled to stifle the revolution if he’d had any selfish political interests.
I have always argued that the person who will revolutionize Nigeria will not be a politician. He will be someone like Martin Luther King who will take the pain and risk of counseling Nigerians out of Stockholm syndrome without having any interest in personal political power. What happened to the Nigerian revolution is that we have yet to see such a person. read more
A few days ago Dr. Dele Cole wrote an article in the Guardian newspaper in which he asked if Soludo should run for governor. According to Dr. Cole, Soludo’s candidature raises important questions about propriety in public service. I agree with him. Under normal circumstances, Soludo should not have been running for any elective office months after leaving office as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. It is only in Nigeria that people seek power without any sense of right or wrong. read more
A few months ago I attended in-house workplace training session in Boston. The topic of the training session was Anti Money Laundering (AML). It is part of the company’s effort to comply with Federal requirements for Investment Bankers. As all the participants settled down and the trainer came in, the title that beamed on the screen visibly unsettled me. The title was, “The Nigerian scam.” Being the only Nigerian in the room, I did not squander the opportunity, and protested that the title of the training be changed to something more respectful. I made further efforts to ensure that my employer permanently changed the title of the training going forward.
Those who support a rotational presidency rely on the old argument that because Nigeria is a mosaic a rotational presidency offers the only possibility for peaceful existence. Indeed, Mr. Anthony Akinola uses this argument in his article, “Rotational presidency can stabilize Nigeria,” published in The Guardian on December 31, 2009. To take the position that only a rotational presidency can bring peace to Nigeria, suggests that Mr. Akinola does not understand the implications of basing his argument on the linguistic, geographical and cultural composition of Nigeria. Mr. Akinola wrote in his article that “the arrangement by the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to rotate the presidency between the South and North is an acknowledgement of the existence of a most disturbing national problem, and an effort to provide a practical solution to it”. However, to suggest that Nigerians care more for clan, tribe, or ethnic group than good leadership implies that Nigerians are not sophisticated enough to engage in democracy. And if Nigerians are not sophisticated enough to practice democracy in its truest form, I would suggest that they are not sophisticated enough to practice any form of government that is based on free elections
In the past few years, democracy has become a familiar word with Nigerians; yet, it is obvious that our understanding of the concept is narrow. Otherwise, the kind of totalitarian regimes we have been witnessing would not have passed as democratic. These regimes work tirelessly to suppress the people’s intellect and will, but ironically, history has proved that the power of democratic values and ideas stir up the most profound expressions of these traits. As we get ready for the coming elections, it is important to re-evaluate the conditions for sustainable democracy in Nigeria.