Will Nigeria ever succeed in politics and governance? – Through: .
Nigeria is on the precipice. This is evident even to average Nigerians who have had to bear the brunt of bad governance brought about by heightened insecurities and failure of structural insurance. Daily now, and always on increasing and frightening levels, Nigerians hear news that speaks to their innate fear of things getting out of hand right before their eyes. Over the years, my many theoretical analyzes and public commentary interventions have been attempts to exploit the development possibilities of the Nigerian state from independence to the present day. But I must admit that I continue to be baffled by the ever-increasing ways in which the Nigerian condition continues to undermine promising resolutions.
And it’s not that savvy patriots haven’t been alarmed and motivated to inject their most informed prognoses and diagnoses. A resounding analysis in public spheres calls for declaring a state of emergency in most of Nigeria’s critical sectors, from security to education and infrastructure, and from healthcare to public service institutions. But then, it seems to me that calling for a state of emergency involves a lot more about the underlying governance capacities of the Nigerian state than we should. We cannot make the declaration of a state of emergency fundamental in critical sectors if the most fundamental issue of governance itself is seriously flawed. Governance, that is to say, constitutes the most fundamental governmental structure by which a whole territory of people and dynamics is managed according to certain processes and rules. But it seems that in Nigeria, these governance rules and procedures only work exceptionally.
This is, for me, the crux of the tragedy. The disarticulation of the governance of the Nigerian state leaves its supposed greatness in suspense. And this is to the detriment of the many Nigerians who still expect Nigeria’s ability to fight its own weakening and put their aspirations for a good and quality life at the forefront. Today, the giant of Africa vacillates into the 21st century without the slightest idea of its greatness.
Odia Ofeimun’s provocative book “Taking Nigeria Seriously” provides me with a theoretical framework with which to deepen my current analysis of the relationship of Nigeria’s political elites to the future of the Nigerian state. Without mince words, the bulk of the Nigerian political class on which Nigeria’s fate rests does not take its responsibility to lead very seriously. Since the publication of Goldman Sachs’ 2015 book on the possible implosion of the Nigerian state, there have been many more of these negative prognoses. And they are justified because the experiences of so many other states that have imploded are not a third of what the Nigerian state has been through since independence.
And yet, none of these predictions seem to have a behavioral impact on a leadership known with unbridled greed. On the contrary, Nigerian political elites prefer to delude themselves into thinking that Nigeria is a work in progress, a work in progress. In most of my writing, I have also fallen for this rhetoric. Well, this project seems to be derailed, rather than firming up towards completion. Nigeria has become a project beset on all sides by insurgencies, banditry and kidnappings, as well as a stubborn leadership that sees all these anomalies and maintains a delusional rhetoric about national welfare.
Who believes in such rhetoric? Certainly not ordinary Nigerians who daily see the undersides of the political class revealed in sordid revelations on the pages of the newspapers. And this sordid recklessness of the political elite has repercussions on the behavioral attitudes of the population. Impunity is contagious. The greed of leadership provides a most powerful incentive for a similar and most indiscriminate act of subversion on the part of Nigerians. In other words, is there any justification for an average Nigerian to be patriotic in the face of leadership failure and an alarming regression in social and political anomie caused by wanton rapacity? If the political elite don’t take Nigeria seriously, why should Nigerians?
Problem solving in Nigeria has become clearly disconnected from the useful information, ideas and knowledge that history brings to solving Nigeria’s problems. Let me illustrate. KC Wheare provided the theoretical foundation for the usefulness of federalism for plural states like Nigeria. Intelligent and theoretically conscious nationalists as well as a multitude of Nigerian academics have affirmed the historic urgency of the federal option. What is more, the current situations and circumstances continue to demand that Nigeria can only make meaningful progress within the structural framework of federalism. And yet, the dysfunctional federal system has been tendentially politicized, as has almost everything to do with Nigeria’s political development.
It is truly tragic. And the tragedy is that we have a political class which is sufficiently equipped, in terms of strategic and emotional intelligence, to make Nigeria work, but which has been hijacked in a senseless and acrimonious pursuit of political power and unbridled extraction. And to complicate matters further, one can only take into account Nigeria’s higher education framework and its responsibility for producing knowledge in the failure of Nigerian state governance. Universities, for example, are meant to be buzzing laboratories for generating empowering ideas and theories at the interstices of history, pragmatism, and socio-economic outlook. Unfortunately, academics and academics publish many articles that meet promotional requirements rather than patriotism. The equation then seems complete: the anti-intellectual political elites encounter the ivory tower with a theoretical spirit (in its most dissociated sense). The political space then becomes emblematic of the research-political dissonance; a disconnection that shatters good governance and its need to articulate a dynamic of strategic policy development through political intelligence.
When, to parody Ayi Kwei Armah, will beautiful Nigerians be born? The national project is already falling apart. Things crumble and the center literally can’t stand. And to reaffirm Lee Iacocca’s fundamental question: where have all the leaders gone? This question becomes very important given that there is a setback of genuine and patriotic Nigerians – experts, academics, intellectuals, politicians, elites, etc. – who fled the growing grip of a fallacious policy. And in their critical absence, we find ourselves with political traffickers and opportunist petty theft who not only trample on our collective intelligence, but also trample on us to continue plundering the common good.
If Nigeria is to achieve good governance, the political game must change dramatically. We need to inject good policy into the governance framework. And good politics just means that the political class will start to take Nigeria and Nigerians seriously. This means that Nigeria has what it takes in terms of human and material resources, including its own political class, to make Nigeria work. But then, to realize it, the political class must first find itself, then recreate itself in the beautiful already born.
Prof. Tunji Olaopa is retired federal permanent secretary and management staff, National Institute for Political and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos. [email protected]