Who is Afraid of Restructuring and True Federalism? (2)
By Fr. Mark-Donald Ude, C.S.Sp
I also believe that true federalism, with a robust degree of autonomy for the federating units, will furnish the much-needed sense of belonging lacking in the present structure. If we are honest to ourselves, we would agree that there is little or nothing that encourages a sense of belonging to the larger entity called Nigeria. Because no one really cares about Nigeria, people mindlessly plunder her resources at the slightest opportunity. Nigeria is like an orphan, exploited and abused by all. Political positions become an opportunity to grab as much as one can from the national treasury. National assignments are undertaken half-heartedly because patriotism is lacking. One cannot call Nigeria a nation in the strict sense of the term.
An entirely different scenario would play out when people are placed in smaller units that enjoy a reasonable level of autonomy. People get their sense of belonging and pride in these smaller units. Africans, not just Nigerians, seem to be clannish by nature. Love, commitment, allegiance and patriotism belong more to smaller units than to larger ones. The restructuring that is being advocated will therefore tap into this primordial allegiance to the part for the larger good of the whole. In other words, true federalism will harness clannish sentiments into a positive energy, developing the part and benefiting the whole invariably. I would like to see a Nigeria where the North would boast of giving scholarships to 10,000 of its youths, while the East retorts that it has more car-manufacturing companies than any other parts of the country. It would be amazing to see such a beautiful scenario. In the end, no one loses; indeed everyone gains – Nigeria gains!
In Canada, the culture of inter-Province competition works in such an admirable fashion. At this time when the fortunes of the oil-rich Province of Alberta are dwindling, Saskatchewan is massively revolutionizing its agriculture and strategizing to make the province more economically attractive. Canada as a whole benefits from the fact that its provinces strive to outdo each other in development and creativity.
I make bold to say that the culture of creativity and diligence is pretty much lacking in Nigeria as presently constituted. We Nigerians like to think we work hard a lot. But my experience of the Whiteman or, better put, my knowledge of how things are done in the Western world, makes me think otherwise. In the Western world, people work round the clock to develop their countries. In Canada, as in a number of other places, one has to work for every cent one makes. It is common to see people who do two or more jobs in order to make ends meet. No idling around! A general sense of responsibility is discernible. My candid observation of the Nigerian work situation is that it is one thing to have a job while actually doing the job is a different thing altogether. A Nigerian who lands a new job does not ordinarily expect that he or she is required to work. Civil servants come to work, move a few files around, eat “mama-put” during break and virtually accomplish nothing at the end of the day. Teachers sit under the mango tree to eat peanuts. University professors stay several years without publishing a single research paper. The list continues. This is not the work attitude that made the US, Germany, Japan and other successful countries great! When you visit these countries, you will marvel at how work is taken seriously. In Japan, for instance, being found incompetent at work has been a frequent cause of suicide. While I do not recommend suicide, this at least demonstrates the attitude people have towards work in that country.
When looked critically, the fault is not on the Nigerian worker. Once again, I blame it on the structure that encourages indolence. There are hardly any incentives for work, in the first place. The nation as presently constituted does not inspire work and creativity. Worse still, the richest in the country are those who do almost nothing – politicians, “men of God,” armed robbers and kidnappers. Those who frequently rise to power and wealth are the least intellectually endowed, who use violence, bullying and intimidation for political gains. There is no inspiration for work in a country where one of the surest and fastest routes to wealth and fame is to open a church and hoodwink as much gullible people as possible. Our National Assembly is peopled with touts and semi-illiterate folks. Some of the ‘best’ among them are third-class graduates who are hardly employable and have failed in earlier endeavors. It does not take a crystal ball to discern that if the present structure which rewards mediocrity and indolence is not replaced, we shall not make any headway as a people.
Since the problem is that of structure, if follows that any meaningful solution must also touch upon structure. We must institute a structure that promotes merit and competence, a structure in which the size of one’s pocket is somewhat determined by the amount of work one puts in.
Among the greatest gains of restructuring to true federalism is that it will minimize corruption by making politics less attractive. The rat-race to grab a big chunk of the ‘national cake’ at Abuja would be brought to quite a halt when there is hardly any ‘cake’ to share at Abuja.
Let us not pretend: The Northern elite, who are the biggest beneficiaries of the present skewed structure, are the greatest opponents of true federalism. With a bloated presence at the National Assembly and the preponderance of Northerners in juicy positions, the North holds the country by the jugular. They are comfortable with the status quo and are not ready to let go.
But this political advantage enjoyed by the Northern elite is purchased at a very high cost of impoverishing the rest of the Northern populace and rendering them illiterate. If political advantage and quota system could guarantee progress, the North would have been the most developed part of the country. But the contrary seems to be the case – the North is perhaps the least developed. Quota system is the greatest undoing of the North. I strongly believe a child from the North is no less endowed if he is meant to believe in himself and compete on an equal pedestal with his counterparts from other parts of the country.
I believe too that, as a region, the North is about the most richly-endowed in terms of natural resources. Northerners are sitting on gold, tin, precious metals and innumerable solid minerals. With their agriculture (crops and livestock), the North is a potential power-house of the country and indeed Africa if only they see beyond the oil in the South. I find it rather baffling that such a richly endowed region should be the greatest opponents of true federalism.
With restructuring, Nigeria will hopefully produce its first set of genuine billionaires, those who do not make their monies from the proceeds of corruption, nor are they connected, even remotely, from the oil and gas industry.
The importance of restructuring and true federalism cannot be overemphasized, and the advantages are quite inexhaustible. I have only managed to mention just a few. From the few that have been mentioned, I end by returning to the original question: who are those afraid of restructuring and true federalism? Whoever they are, and whatever part of Nigeria they come from – North or South – they are the true enemies of Nigeria. And, as enemies of the nation, history will judge them harshly!
Fr Mark-Donald Ude, C.S.Sp [email@example.com]
Department of Philosophy
University of Alberta