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2020: A year of unheeded advice and dismissed warnings

It’s customary at the end of each year to wish every person whom you know and love, a happy and prosperous New Year. When the…

It’s customary at the end of each year to wish every person whom you know and love, a happy and prosperous New Year. When the “person” is a nation, the wish takes on extra dimensions. Wishing a nation a happy and prosperous New Year should be more than simply a colloquial expression. It should involve a truthful analysis of its current state of affairs, how and why the conditions arose, and what needs to be done to ensure the next year is better than the last.

The current state of affairs in Nigeria is that the Financial Times of London, along with many others, believes the nation is teetering on the brink of becoming a failed State. Out of a total of 177 countries that were surveyed, Nigeria was ranked as the 15th most failed nation in the world! A “failed state” is defined as one in which the government has lost control of both internal security and the economy. Nigeria has deteriorated into a world headquarters for extreme poverty, a global capital for out-of-school children, a war-torn nation, and a hotspot for cancer-causing environmentally destroying toxic emissions. It’s to be expected that government spokespersons will disagree with this analysis.

No one should begrudge them their right to hold opinions or rise up in defence of their employers, after all, that’s what they are paid to do! However, perhaps instead of warning people not to speak ill of government, “advisors” and “assistants” would be better off actually advising and assisting on how to govern better.

Nepotism, ill-considered policies, corruption, and insecurity are matters of fact, which cannot be wished away simply by criticising opponents and warning people not to voice their grievances. While government spokespersons are evidently conversant with their roles, they appear to be less conversant with their duties. They give the impression that there is no communication strategy for persuading, rather than coercing Nigerians to adopt the government’s point of view or vision for the nation.

The fact remains that the government’s opinion of their own performance is of little consequence. One of the truisms in life is that your personal opinion of yourself is unimportant. This is why prospective employees are asked to provide references rather than simply write down their opinion of themselves! It follows that it’s vitally important to take into consideration how the rest of the world views Nigeria.

Travel advisory warnings issued in the US and European countries caution those intending to visit Nigeria that “violent crime such as armed robbery, assault, carjacking, kidnapping and rape – is common throughout the country”. The nation is currently ranked as the ninth most dangerous country to live, and an increasing number of prominent and eminent Nigerians are voicing concerns. Founding member of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Tanko Yakasai said they have lost confidence in government’s ability to tackle insecurity.

Also the Catholic Bishop of the Sokoto Diocese, Mathew Kukah warned that the nation was heading for darkness and called upon the government to explain the mystery behind the endless bloodletting in the country. A group of eminent Nigerians including Theophilus Danjuma have reportedly petitioned the United Nations Security Council; African Union; European Union; United States government; and British houses of Parliament.

They claim there is an urgent need to convoke a Sovereign National Conference to “discuss the constitutionality” of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria and the legality of the 1914 Amalgamation. Speaking under the aegis of the Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-determination they referred to the 1999 Constitution as a “fraud” and “highjack and “confiscation of the sovereignties, powers and assets of the South and Middle Belt Peoples of the country” imposed by an illicit military government. They described it as being the cause of the nation’s problems.

While accepting their right to their opinion, there are also those who believe that the issue is not constitutional but rather one of poor governance. In that respect, the most disappointing aspect of Nigeria’s deteriorating circumstances is that it was all so predictable and indeed was foretold. The nation is in dire straight because warnings were ignored and advice rejected.

There was advice that the Service Chiefs needed replacing, and warnings the military were suffering from substandard manpower, funding, training, welfare and equipment. Both were ignored and here we are today. The government was advised to honour their agreements with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), again this was ignored; the end result being that their strike wasted an academic year. There was a plethora of advice, pleas and warnings that the government should rein in the police and stop random unwarranted stop and search operations against innocent youths all were dismissed out of hand. This led to the #EndSARS protests and subsequent disruption to police operations.

The warnings about the continuing operational inefficiency of centralising police command at the federal level and the support for state and local policing were also ignored. The ill-considered policy of assigning policemen to communities where they don’t speak the local language, don’t understand the local customs and aren’t familiar with the terrain virtually guarantees ineffectiveness and cripples police in fighting crime. The end result is that most communities rely on vigilante groups and hunters familiar with the locality for their security.

None of the advice to strictly adhere to the principles of federal character in appointments was heeded and this is directly responsible for the increasingly strident calls for either restructuring or secession. The government was also advised that the perks and allowances of public office holders and legislators are placing too much burden on the budget financed by borrowing. Nothing was done to rectify this, and each of the three arms of government has subsequently increased their budgets for 2021! The end result is that it now costs far more to preside over poverty and insecurity than it did to administer general prosperity, wealth, and security!

Perhaps, the biggest handicap to national progress is that against all advice, Nigerian politicians continue to play politics of personalities rather than philosophies and policies. They insist that if you don’t support them then you hate them and are their enemy and that if you do support them, then you must agree with everything they do. This thinking must change as neither is true. Their lack of principled behaviour is far more of a problem than any defects in the Constitution. Looking forward, the fact is that 2020 is over and nothing can be done about the serial mistakes of commission by government. However, the mistakes of omission can be rectified. What is important is what happens between 2021 and 2023.

There is an apt African adage, which says that “the stone you see coming should not blind you”. In 2021, government spokespersons must desist from denying events when they are not sure of the facts. They must concentrate on persuasion, not coercion. They must pay heed to serious warnings and sound advice. If this happens then there is no reason why as from 2021 onwards the nation should not experience improvements worthy of note. If not then, perhaps more of the dire warnings will come true. Here’s wishing Nigeria a happy and prosperous new year!

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