Lessons from America (2)
Hate begets hate. Or worse! Before people exhibit the kind of behaviour that dehumanises fellow men and women, it is good that they pause to reflect ; how would I feel if I was on the receiving end of this raw deal? Oftentimes, we are deadened to the plight of others because we are at advantage either in skin pigmentation, or socioeconomic status or ethnic affiliation.
Nor is America standing alone in hate vending. Why happenings in America attract global attention is that it is a nation of all races and brands itself the land of liberty. The world cannot reconcile that claim with the manacles holding down people of colour and other minority groups in God’s Own Country.
There are pockets of hate and injustice all over the world. Right here in Nigeria we have our own peculiar baggage. Even as we condemn the speck of racism in Europe and America, and other such vices all over the globe, we know that our own sight is blinkered by logs of ethnic chauvinism occluding our vision. You can almost always guess the reaction of a person to any matter of national significance by simply looking at his name and what part of the country he comes from. We have deep-seated fixations. We condemn injustice only when we are holding the short end of the stick. No sooner is our tribesman or woman in the saddle than we change tune to praise the same things we had condemned before. The new song is, “This is our chance to make hay!”
What makes the US such a great nation in spite of its shortcomings is the fact that the Americans are always working at perfecting their union. No one is under any illusion that there is still a lot of work to do even after all the victories won to restore human dignity for every American.
(In spite of all obstacles, a black man became one of the best two-term presidents of the most powerful country in the world.) Even the rabid rednecks know this, although they won’t admit it in so many words. That is what gives everyone hope — that there could be a brighter tomorrow and that racism is a fleeting social fever.
But in our own case, we live in denial. Our union is perfect and doesn’t need to be tweaked, say some. When I listen to the arguments of those who say our federal structure is okay as it is, I wonder which continent they have been living in. I wonder if they have a sense of history.
We ought to ask ourselves, why was there more development, comparatively speaking, in the First Republic when there were no petrodollars than now that we are intoxicated with oil? Why was there a greater sense of nationhood then than now? Why was the word ‘marginalisation’ alien to our lexicon until the unitary system of government introduced by the military?
I am not a blind romanticist. I do not advocate that we crawl back to our mothers’ wombs to relive foetal paradise. But I do say that we acknowledge that our present system is not sustainable if we are to build the virile nation we all want. Remember, one of the cardinal ‘sins’ of General Ironsi was that he replaced the existing regional arrangement with a unitary government. If ‘unitarism’ was wrong in 1966, and if we find that the ensuing ‘federalism’ under a democratic arrangement is still not meeting our aspirations 50 years later, doesn’t it stand to reason that we take another look at the present system which has reduced states to beggars and the people to pawns in the hands of political carpetbaggers? A state government that cannot pay salaries and other bills is not a government at all; it is a socio-economic ebola or bureaucratic zika virus.
Let us learn from America and start working towards a more perfect union.
We don’t have to wait until blood starts flowing on the streets or until savagery becomes the currency of communication. We can do it now, one step at a time. And there is no better time for the necessary redesign of our governance architecture than now when we are in the midst of the biggest anti-corruption war since 1960. The design of this house called Nigeria needs fixing and there is no better person to do it than the current anti-corruption Sheriff in Aso Rock.
Scrap the Senate
The raging argument about scrapping the Nigerian ‘upper’ legislative house, the Senate, resumed with gusto with Senator Dino Melaye’s descent into cesspit in his spat with Senator Oluremi Tinubu. Such gutter-snipping lingo; such sub-human hint of unbelievably savage lechery!
What shall we call its nameless name, this senatorial disease that assails our collective sensibilities!
The Nigerian senate is peopled by exgovernors who are drawing a cocktail of pensions from past gubernatorial positions in addition to the scandalous emoluments and ‘constituency loot’ they forcibly include in the national budget; then there are acolytes of the potentates of the two major parties and other stragglers of indeterminate pedigree in the minority.
Comparatively, the House of Representatives, even with its generous dose of lowlife misfits, is miles ahead in relevance and performance.
Comparison has been drawn between the senate and a parliament of baboons, but I am not that lacking in generosity. I think the chamber should simply be described as “surplus to requirement”. Apart from blackmailing the Executive for largess and standing in the way of the current attempt to rein in economic saboteurs and celebrated thieves, this Nigerian Senate of the Year 2016 is of no use in our democratic march to selfactualisation.
Talking about tweaking our governance architecture, one of the first things we have to do is factor in areas of waste such as the senate and scrap them. I wager that if put to a referendum, the resounding verdict of Nigerians would be, Scrap The Sin-natorial Contraption!