] Olaoye] Wole Nigeria can rise again if...

Daily Trust - - VIEWS -

Tqual­i­fies to be num­bered among the re­source ma­te­ri­als for the on-go­ing con­fer­ence. Au­thor Us­man is a vet­eran of the Nige­ri­an­civil­war­whowas­born in Daura, raised in Maiduguri and now lives in Kano where he make­salivin­gasabusi­ness­man.

Con­vinced that the root cause of most of our na­tional prob­lems is poor lead­er­ship at all lev­els of govern­ment, Us­man urges Nige­ri­ans not to give up on their coun­try. You could call this book Us­man’s ver­sion of Chinua Achebe’s Trou­ble with Nigeria and you wouldn’t be far wrong.

With pa­tri­otic fer­vour and right­eous in­dig­na­tion, Umaru Haruna Us­man does a bit by bit as­sess­ment of the people, their at­ti­tudes, their lead­ers, the pub­lic ser­vice, the po­lice and how the in­ter­play of cor­rup­tion haswrought­sub­stan­tial­dam­age to an other­wise great na­tion. He be­lieves that to­day’s gen­eral ap­a­thy and cyn­i­cism, the laid back at­ti­tude of Nige­ri­ans in the midst of end­less provo­ca­tion by cor­rupt,clue­lessand­some­times de­praved lead­ers, is the ma­jor cause­o­fou­run­derde­vel­op­ment.

He chas­tises the regimes of Al­haji Shehu Sha­gari, Gen. Ibrahim Ba­bangida and Pres­i­dent Oluse­gun Obasanjo for caus­ing the eco­nomic ruina­tion of Nigeria. Over the years the to­tal ab­sence of vi­sion­ary lead­er­ship has led to eth­nic and re­li­gious ag­i­ta­tions which di­vert the masses’ at­ten­tion from real is­sues of eco­nomic eman­ci­pa­tion and the harm caused by cor­rup­tion. In­stead of unit­ing against their op­pres­sors, the masses of the Nige­rian people turn against each other in cen­trifu­gal ‘in­di­gene’ and ‘set­tler’ dis­pu­ta­tions.

Us­man pro­poses that laws be en­acted wherein all sec­tional and re­li­gious ac­tiv­i­ties which threaten na­tional unity would be con­sid­ered trea­son­able of­fences. He calls for a ban on all eth­nic or­gan­i­sa­tions and sug­gests that ci­ti­zen­ship should hree weeks on, and the del­e­gates at the na­tional con­fer­ence are yet to set­tle down to real work. In ful­fil­ment of my prom­ise to present an­other per­spec­tive on how to re­solve the var­i­ous crises be­dev­illing the land, I give the podium to­day to Al­haji Umaru Haruna Us­man whose work, CRI­SIS OF LEAD­ER­SHIP IN NIGERIA – the Re­al­i­ties and the Way For­ward, re­place ‘in­di­gene’ or ‘set­tler’ in our na­tional lex­i­con if we are to cob­ble the sem­blance of a na­tion to­gether af­ter the ru­inous es­capades of the mil­i­tary and their civil­ian ac­com­plices. He frowns at a sit­u­a­tion where schemes de­signed to pro­mote na­tional unity have been dis­torted. For ex­am­ple, in the Na­tional Youth Ser­vice Corps to­day there are sub-groups such as Chris­tian Cor­pers, Mus­lim Cor­pers, and even tribal blocks that tend to cre­ate a “we-ver­sus­them” men­tal­ity in young grad­u­ates who are sup­posed to have been weaned from the nar­row-mind­ed­ness of their par­ents.

One of the ma­jor struc­tural de­for­mi­ties is the bas­tardi­s­a­tion of fed­er­al­ism: a ra­bidly cor­rupt cen­tral govern­ment where states ex­ist as ap­pendages of the fed­er­al­go­v­ern­men­tandth­e­lo­cal gov­ern­ments are glo­ri­fied side­kicks of the states. The au­thor calls for true fed­er­al­ism which al­lows eq­ui­table dis­tri­bu­tion of re­sourceswith­re­alde­vel­op­ment an­chored in the grass­roots.

He ar­gues that the de­cline in the pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, the lack of so­cial in­fra­struc­ture such as­e­lec­tric­ity and good health­care in­sti­tu­tions, is a di­rect re­sult of the malaise of poor lead­er­ship. The gen­eral in­dis­ci­pline among the pop­u­lace - from a care­free at­ti­tude to gross acts of im­punity such as vi­o­la­tion of traf­fic rules, lack­of­con­sid­er­a­tio­nan­drespect for oth­ers and for con­sti­tuted author­ity can also be traced to a fail­ure of lead­er­ship. The masses see their po­lit­i­cal lead­ers be­hav­ing­likelord­sof­con­quered ter­ri­tory, so they take a cue and law­less­ness be­comes the norm. He calls for to­tal re­forms in in­sti­tu­tions of the state such as the po­lice, con­tend­ing that there ought­to­beasep­a­ra­tionbe­tween federal and state po­lice.

Al­though Nige­ri­ans of south­ern ex­trac­tion may not agree with the au­thor’s de­scrip­tion of the per­ceived Hausa/Fu­lani dom­i­na­tion of Nige­rian pol­i­tics as a “myth”, he nonethe­less sound­shon­estabouthis­po­si­tion, even if his at­tri­bu­tion of eth­nic and tribal mo­tives to the ac­tions of cer­tain lead­ers from the south may sound stereo­typ­i­cal. But he is un­equiv­o­cal in de­scrib­ing Ba­bangida’s eight-year ten­ure as a dis­as­ter just as he dubs Obasanjo’s re­turn to the pres­i­dency in 1999 “the great Nige­rian mis­take”.

Look­ing back at Obasanjo’s sec­ond com­ing the au­thor says, “Nige­ri­ans should have lis­tened to the late Chief Gani Fawe­hinmi who ad­vised that if Nige­ri­ans in­sisted on in­stalling Gen. Obasanjo as pres­i­dent, the man should first un­dergo men­tal (psy­chi­atric) ex­am­i­na­tion­be­cause­of­pos­si­ble men­tal dis­ori­en­ta­tion while in prison”.

Away from re­crim­i­na­tions and con­spir­acy the­o­ries both of which are found aplenty in the au­thor’s at­tempt to in­ter­ro­gate Nigeria’s past from his own stand­point, the clar­ity of some of his per­cep­tions, as ev­i­denced by some avoid­able mis­takes in the book (such as sug­gest­ing that “the value of the naira fell from 1.00 to $1 to 115 to $1 un­der the Ba­bangida regime) is sus­pect. Ba­bangida may have been the worst thing to hit us since the Bubonic plague, but facts and fig­ures must be treated as sa­cred. I hope such er­rors of fact, gram­mar and ty­pos that dot the var­i­ous chap­ters would have been re­moved in the next edi­tion of this other­wise im­por­tant book.

The au­thor is not a fan of Amer­ica and its Western al­lies and he dwells on that theme at length. He pro­pounds sev­eral con­spir­a­cythe­o­ries­base­datbest on cir­cum­stan­tial ev­i­dence to show that the road to the West is not the di­rec­tion Nigeria should be fac­ing. I how­ever con­sider his cas­ti­ga­tion of IMF and World Bank poli­cies to­wards de­vel­op­ing coun­tries as jus­ti­fied con­sid­er­ingNige­ria’sex­pe­ri­ence un­der Gen­eral Ba­bangida, but then the real is­sue is the qual­ity of people who mount the lead­er­ship sad­dle in Nigeria. China has manned its cor­ner ad­mirably; so have many other na­tions; let’s man ours!

Nige­ri­ans must now sit down and talk, says the au­thor. The on­go­ing na­tional con­fer­ence may not have met his pre­scrip­tion in terms of mem­ber­ship, but it can at least prof­fer an­swers to some of the weighty is­sues he raises: What kind of po­lit­i­cal sys­tem do Nige­ri­ans want? The in­di­gene ver­sus set­tler is­sue; why haven’t we found a pur­pose­ful leader af­ter Gen. Mur­tala Mo­hammed? Our in­abil­ity to con­duct a proper cen­sus; Eq­ui­table dis­tri­bu­tion of na­tional wealth; true fed­er­al­ism; state cre­ation; free ed­u­ca­tion; so­cial se­cu­rity; job cre­ation; mu­tual re­spect and un­der­stand­ing among the con­stituent parts of Nigeria; gen­eral ap­a­thy among the pop­u­lace; etc.

This book was de­scribed by Alex Akinyele as “a must read for all lead­ers – po­lit­i­cal, re­li­gious and cul­tural”. I con­cur, with the hope that the on­go­ing na­tional con­fer­ence will an­swer Us­man’s ques­tions.

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