Sunday, November 1, 2015 5:35 am
Former secretary to the Federal Government, former ambassador to Greece and Pakistan and former running mate to Chief MKO Abiola, Alhaji Babagana Kingibe has published an advisory to President Muhammadu Buhari on how to effect change in Nigeria, and the strategy and tactics that could be deployed.
Now that President Muhammadu Buhari has named his ministers and his Government is taking shape, it is an appropriate time to ponder on the course of the unprecedented wind of change and hope that has been sweeping across our nation since May 29th, 2015 .We rejoice with those who satisfied the standards of scrutiny of the President for membership of his cabinet as indeed we do with the gentlemen and women who were successful in obtaining the mandate of their people to the various elective offices they hold across the country. We hope that they are prepared to set their sails windward as they help navigate the turbulent seas of national rebirth ahead.
I am sure we are all aware that Nigerians at home and abroad have higher expectations of this Administration than any previous democratically elected regime. Unabated since 1999, poor, generally insincere, and corrupt governance has deprived Nigeria of realising her potential as a great nation. Our tragedy is that Nigeria arguably earned, but largely squandered more revenue during these last 16 years than all the previous eighty-five years combined. The challenge before this Administration which was voted into office on the platform of change is to critically and holistically examine the root causes of Nigeria’s missed opportunities and map out some coherent approaches to bring about the promised change, but mindful always of the need to manage expectations. Since his inauguration, President Buhari has already demonstrated an awareness of, and a preparedness to rise to this challenge. Any endeavour or process of change is never smooth sailing and will inevitably run into head winds. The forces of resistance usually lie low, take their time and regroup to counter attack.
Even in these short five months, the apostles of the status quo have already signalled their reluctance to come to terms with the fact that by their votes in March 2015, Nigerians expressed, in unmistakable terms, their dissatisfaction with the way and manner the affairs of the nation were miss-managed over the past two decades. By their votes, Nigerians had rejected a nation of broken hopes and increasing insecurity. They voted against dreadful divisiveness, incessant internal strife, loss of values, and collapse of infrastructure and national institutions.
Let me be perfectly clear from the outset that I am a firm believer in ‘the Nigerian project’ to which I have devoted all my working life, and I remain an incurable optimist about its future. When we consider our journey to statehood since Amalgamation, our turbulent post- independence history which included a terrible civil war, and the many political, economic, religious and other upheavals that we faced and overcame as one united nation, we can say that our story has not been all about doom and gloom. Indeed, Nigeria’s success story is much bigger than our self- inflicted short comings. There is much to be joyful and proud about Nigeria and about being a Nigerian. Indeed, there is a surfeit of literature in celebration of this fact. However, a time comes when there is a need for an impassioned self-examination and consider if and why we need change, and the solid foundations on which to reposition our nation. Going forward, it should, therefore, be understood where I am coming from if I do not dwell on our many positive national gains which we must maintain and re-enforce.
The very notion of change in the context of the current national mantra implies the idea of dissatisfaction with what is, and the need to improve upon it or discard it. Evidently, the Administration inherited a state of governance that fell far short of acceptable standards. As demonstrated in Nigeria’s rankings by the Mo Ibrahim Index for African Governance, Transparency International, the Human Development Index as well as the Ease of Doing Business Index, the country performed poorly by all indices used.
In 2014 for instance, Nigeria was ranked 37th out of 52 countries in Africa by the Mo Ibrahim Ratings. We consistently scored below the African average in virtually all the categories- safety and the rule of law, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunities and human development. Nigeria also ranked poorly in the Transparency International survey of countries for public sector corruption, placing 136th out of 175. In the Human Development Index used by the United Nations to measure progress, Nigeria was placed 153rd out of the 186 countries surveyed. In the Ease of Doing Business Index, Nigeria was rated 170th out of 186 countries. We were scored at 26.9% for Crime and Security Risk, placing Nigeria on 33rd position out of 48 states in Africa.
These ratings are not mere numbers. Poor governance also has a human dimension, especially for the ordinary Nigerians who were rendered poor, jobless and powerless by insensitivity, impunity and insincerity by their elected and other public office holders. By 2013-2014, it became crystal clear that the point had been reached when the centre could no longer hold. The failures of governance at the Federal, the State and the Local Government levels were set on course to implosion.
Nigerians have known better times. Indeed there had been much imperfection in the past, but then, there was also hope and life was tolerable. There was a modicum of limits to leadership failure and elite excesses. At a point in our not distant past, corruption was hardly practiced in official circles and generally abhorred by the citizenry. Then, gradually we eased into a situation of accepting corruption as inevitable, so long as our noses were not rubbed in it. In the last two decades, however, we willy-nilly descended into a moral cesspool, a state of anomie, where corruption and other manifestations of moral decadence were brazenly perpetrated with impunity and sadly, even celebrated. In the last few months, shocking revelations have come to light of grave misdeeds, serious and wilful looting of the public treasury and worrisome weaknesses in the capacity of national institutions. There were accounts of lack of commitment, indiscipline, deficits in ethical standards and betrayal of public purpose by many functionaries.
In the last two decades, however, we willy-nilly descended into a moral cesspool, a state of anomie, where corruption and other manifestations of moral decadence were brazenly perpetrated with impunity and sadly, even celebrated. In the last few months, shocking revelations have come to light of grave misdeeds, serious and wilful looting of the public treasury and worrisome weaknesses in the capacity of national institutions
A case in point is the Petroleum sector which had been not only about oil, but we now know it was also about “oily business”. Nobody could have imagined that our oil fields would be turned into a hissing cauldron of criminality – populated by corrupt officials in cohort with local and international accomplices. We had already got used to losing millions of Naira to what was then called illegal oil bunkering. Then suddenly, billions of dollars began to be regularly lost to outright oil theft. We read of concessions and transactions that at best could have passed for poor judgment if not for the reality that they were deliberately contrived for self-enrichment. In the past, officials that bent or broke the rules feared retribution.
Then, everyone was certain of official and social opprobrium if discovered. No more! Across the entire spectrum of government, rules and regulations were ignored with impunity. Procurements were made without real due process, contracts inflated by billions of naira or poorly executed, and payments were made for jobs not even executed. The cumulative effects of the “free money” thus generated on our already under performing economy were rising inflation and unrelenting pressure on the exchange rate of the Naira.
National assets were cannibalised and time tested institutions were desecrated through various schemes purporting to be aimed at sectoral reforms, privatization, commercialization, and public- private partnerships. Executive fiats, concessions and waivers were recklessly and mostly corruptly applied. Consequently, new predatory elites and power blocs were forged on the anvils of our national suffering. Indeed, the pursuit of influence, power and wealth became the altar on which many ordinarily decent men sacrificed their honour and many a woman lost their virtue. No system or nation can endure the loss of moral compass and unbridled indulgence of its elite becoming so self-destructing to the point of taking down the entire edifice with it.