Published: October 15, 2019
Herbert Macaulay and the early great personages of the nationalist struggle must be turning in their places of rest if it is possible for them to read independence anniversary comments of just about any well-meaning persons. Whether it be Cardinal Anthony Okogie, Prof. George Obiozor, Chief Ayo Adebanjo or Buba Galadima, not to mention the man on the street. In a time of despair and despondency about the Nigerian condition, no politician of note made a “lifting up” aspirational speech buoyed by charisma. Where effort was made, it was pure hubris, an assault on hope.
Yes, times are tough. And it’s not just for the tough to get going. The clear thinkers who are trusted should be able to point to a tomorrow of greater possibilities to get the broad spectrum of society to aspire. Knowing that if you can dream it, you can make it happen should be propulsion for the many endowed whose spirits are bowed and left prostrate by most conversations in public places like pubs being about it raining gloom and down.
People in public life are supposed to be merchants of Hope. Sadly, for too long they have, in Nigeria, tried to sell what is not in their warehouses and Nigerians have come to learn to be careful of the naked man offering his shirt.
But what astonishes me the most, however, in reflecting on the Nigerian condition, is that in the face of failings that bring strife, deprivation, and national humiliation repeatedly, there remains a weird unshockable disposition by people whose neck should hurt from being bowed in shame. They either do not care or even walk with a big “swag”. This is a peculiar swagger season.
The more knowledgeable who avoid politics and sneer at it or look down at the arena of public life and those who hold it captured and captive, become complicit in why Nigeria is non-performing but somehow they play the ostrich and with their head, in the sand, make-belief they have no guilt in the matter. But they quietly isolate areas they seek to extract personal gain from the dysfunctional system and toast the same politicians they privately speak of with contempt, so they can extract economic rent to enable their lifestyle of setting up their boreholes in places of public water, a pool of SUVs (Jeep as we call them in Naijaspeak) to ease the discomfort of untarred roads, and a private army of security men to protect themselves from the insecurity that rules the land.
As for those they look down on, the politicians, edging towards fascism in their desire to dominate others completely, the niceties of thinking what the people feel or decency to do right seems a waste of time. How also do you explain justifying spending more billions on cars for senators in the face of a technically bankrupt economy? Power is for plunder. Surely, the French 18th Century writer, Frederic Bastiat, foresaw the Nigerian politician of this day. It was he in the famous money-graph, The law, who said power can be corrupted for plunder and that “when plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in society, over the course of time, they create for themselves a legal system that authorises it, and a moral code that glorifies it”.
So with plunder and hubris as the key phenomena of politics in Nigeria, the challenge for tomorrow is quite clear.More in Home
This comfort with hubris and plunder makes Nigeria quite interesting for a movie script. But the future of the Black race, the peace of our children and the well-being of many who work with purpose and expect a better life are all risked just because our politics is about plunder and hubris.
If we are not bold enough to confront a few truths, then, the disease afflicting us as a people may have become cancer not amenable to treatment.
What Nigeria needs now is a movement of men and women looking for an alternative way to organise society in advance of the Common Good. There are many good people around, even among the politicians and the complicit middle. A dialogue aimed above self ought to begin.
That dialogue may choose to focus on our perennial problems. These should include how to get serious about diversifying the base of the economy. To do that, we have to activate the entrepreneurial subnational government which is motivated by taxes such as can come with policy reviews making excise duty accruable to state governments and property taxes domiciled with local governments.
Incentives to make the economy more rewarding to production than rent are critical. In opinions expressed recently, I was focused significantly on a switch to incentives for promotion. Too much energy goes to revenues and sharing revenues and too little to boosting production. Even the incentives for production tend to be lost to crony invasion of implementation.
Then, there is the question of values. How do we change today’s orientation that cash trumps character? Only leadership example would help us in this critical area.
Then how can we reduce the cost of government, purge it of professional politicians and get it to be more accountable to the people?
Is it to be hopeful with such high levels of insecurity, unemployment, brain drain as young people of promise look for any way out?
The future we seek may have to be found in nations within a nation with each emergency axis like the South-South, South-East regions, or the North-West/Abuja axis or the DAWN Commission of the South-West developing selected value chains as the seed of their prosperity.
This has to be beyond hubris to make sense.
Utomi, political economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship, is founder of Centre for Values and Leadership