Break-up: In defence of Muammar Ghaddaffi

Monday, April 5, 2010

By Idumange John, 04.04.2010

When the strong man of Libya, Colonel Muammar Ghaddaffi pontificated that Nigeria should be divided into two Countries, as a precondition for peace and stability, he came under a nugget of criticisms, the most vitriolic came from the Senate President Mr. David Mark. I thought that since David Mark has a military background, he would have some sympathy with the Maximum leader of Tripoli. I was wrong. The Senate President is not a “baptized democrat” with the holy water drawn from the fountains of Ottah Farm. It was not surprising that the Senate President was only pretending to be patriotic but he could not distinguish between patriotism and sycophancy. Having studied the political history of Nigeria at least for the past 15 years, there is every reason to believe that the single unifying factor in Nigeria is the crude oil. The various ethnic nationalities have not fully being integrated.

The Nigeria attained independence and inherited a fragile parliamentary system. With the three majors gyrating for control of the centre, the first experiment was asphyxiated by greed, intolerance and ethnicity. Consequently, on January 15, 1966, the 'giant of Africa' was brought to her knees by years of brutal military rule, which left behind a legacy of executive dominance, further exacerbated by a vast, corrupt patronage network. Ever since, Nigeria has remained a captive State that is dominated by powerful ethnic social forces constantly in conflict over material reward of State power.

Since independence in 1960, the various odd ethnic nationalities precariously lumped together by the Lugardian Fiat have not coalesced to become socially and functionally integrated organic community. This situation has placed national integration at high risk. There is no universally accepted and understood rationale for the existence and functioning of a State called Nigeria… a Nigerian ideology will be counterproductive because of the overwhelming forces arraigned against it from the side of tribalism, regional diversities and cultural chasms…. Neither the masses nor the elite can be expected under these conditions to develop the kind of perspectives, durable, constant… that can bring forth sacrifices, intense devotion and loyalty, discipline, dedication and faith.

The Presidential System we have adopted since 1979 has not fared better either. About 50 years after independence, the story line has not changed dramatically. Nigeria has remained a victim of high-level corruption, bad governance and cyclical illegitimacy. Most of the challenges facing the legitimacy of our nation bother on the economy and the allocation of scarce resources.

The constitution has added to the already existing confusion in the areas of revenue allocation among the three tiers of government; revenue allocation criteria as bases for equitable fiscal federalism; State and Local Government creation to further grassroots development. Other problems are boundary adjustments related to claims of oil wells and other mineral resources; federal character in key government appointments and distribution of federal projects; the need to entrench a just, egalitarian and equitable society and good governance. The situation shall not abate because of systemic corruption that is endemic in the body polity.

If Nigeria had operated the Regional System, by now there would have been Four Regions, with the South-South constituting the Southern Region. It may be true that Ghaddaffi does not understand the ethnic configuration of Nigeria, for if he did, he would have suggested the existence of four Regions, which by now the system would have evolved into four separate Countries.

It is failure to adhere to the Ghaddaffi theory that plunged Nigeria into a 30 month nightmare, which ought to serve as an enduring lesson. But sadly, 38 years after the fratricidal civil war, the status quo ante bellum remains, and this is evidenced by the exacerbation of ethnic tension and fundamentalist ideas in parts of the country. Of course, where ethnic tension is rife, social injustice and inequity are the necessary corollary.

It is only in this context that we can explain the Niger Delta Question. The Federal Government has created a situation of inequality in the development arithmetic of the geo-political zones making-up the country, such that access to and participation in the oil and gas business is dominated by people who contribute virtually nothing to the economy. The unacceptable status quo has been legitimized by the implementation of obnoxious laws such as the Land Use Act and the Petroleum Act among others.

As a nation we have dallied with all types of government. We have also tried to erect a truly united, democratic and self-reliant nation anchored on justice, equity and fairness. But because of lack of sincerity, these laudable efforts evaporated in a puff of elusive smoke.

Nigeria runs around a vicious circle of poverty and bad governance because the leaders, at every turn of events acknowledge that the people are divided. The organic nature of man is simple to understand. A child is born then passes through the normal process of growth: creeping, walking and then running. The child becomes an adult and progresses to old age; so from cradle to the grave, there is a gradual and progressive improvement in growth and sophistication. The organic concept also applies to nations but Nigeria seems to be an exception.

Since democracy resurfaced, Nigeria has never operated a balanced budget. Whereas the Finance Ministry declares excess crude oil money, the oil producing communities in the Niger Delta have nothing unique to show for their contributions to the economic wellbeing of the Country. There have been grave inconsistencies in terms of balancing the budget. Now, the Nigerian economy is bleeding and nothing is being done in practical terms to stop the hemorrhaging. In Libya, although Ghaddaffi is a military ruler, the oil resources have been optimally utilized to pursue the welfare of the citizens. This explains why Nigerian youths emigrate to Libya in search of greener pastures.

Nigeria is the only oil producing country that has made the list of failed States. The nation's economy is fragile State with a soft comparable along side Burundi, Cambodia, Comoros, Congo Democratic Republic, Guinea-Bissau Kosovo and Laos PDR. The fragile States as defined by the World Bank are countries characterized by weak institutions, poor governance, high mortality rate low life expectancy, with maternal mortality rates 20 percent higher than other developing countries. While it may not be patriotic to add to these negative indices, Nigeria's case is compounded by the fact that the nation does not fit into any of the economic systems such as monopoly capitalism of the West or the command economies of the East. Rather, the nation is running a war economy where the term empowerment titrated to rationalize some failed national programmes.

We spend public monies to organize series of workshops and conferences yet we pay only lip-service to sustainable development. It is very clear that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are not attainable yet our economic “sorcerers and prophets” engage in the intellectual deception of brandishing figures to bamboozle the masses. No amount of vitriolic criticism will discourage the economic fifth columnists because such reforms serve their interest. Over the years, the nation has been striving at good governance in principle but not in reality, we seem to have taken a giant leap backwards. Political office holders do not sufficiently adhere to the basic tenets of constitutionalism and the rule of law. Our electoral system is far from transparent. The electoral system must be de-iwunized if we are poised to conduct free and fair elections. Under Prof. Maurice Iwu, the ballot box is desecrated with impunity and the judiciary is sometimes dragged into rough politics such that some are beginning to question the integrity, independence and apolitical stance of the Judiciary.

The party system in Nigeria is still evolving, yet it is at its embryonic stage. Nigeria is gradually degenerating into a one-party State. The dominance of one-party presents no competitive ideology and programmes for the people. Democracy can only thrive when we nurture the culture of tolerating opposition parties founded on the basis of sound, progressive ideology. In Nigeria opposition parties only appear during elections and disappear soon after. Even civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations get dehydrated as soon as their sponsors get embroiled in politics.

No nation has succeeded in fighting poverty without improving the material well being of the people. Poverty makes the masses vulnerable to electoral corruption. That is why all our experiments at ethical re-orientation from the Ethical Re-Orientation of the Shagari era; the War Against Indiscipline (WAI) of the Buhari - Idiagbon regime to the anti-graft Commissions of the present political system, have not yielded dividends. The Nigerian political landscape is tainted with near absence of ethical values and common etiquettes and this affects the behaviour of public officers. It has also affected the psyche of the youths who now believe in the get-rich-quick syndrome.

•John wrote from Yenagoa, Bayesla


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