God help Nigeria: A misguided prayer – Dr.Muiz Banire

Events unfolding in the last couple of weeks in the United Kingdom have been quite interesting with a lot of lessons to be learnt by developing countries. The lesson derivable from the events is not limited to the leadership of the developing countries but also the ordinary citizens. The United Kingdom is not only a country that I am proud of but that which I am greatly indebted to in several respects. The story of my education today would be incomplete without reference to the postgraduate tutoring I enjoyed from the University of Nottingham on scholarship. Additionally, the UK provided and is still providing my children with the desired education, comparable to any other elsewhere in the world. This educational benefit is a tip of the iceberg of the benefits accruable to my family courtesy of the UK.

 

I therefore salute the vision of the founding fathers and the forthrightness and steadfastness of the modern leaders. I must also not take for granted the vigilance of the citizens at all times who would always speak out against any either in governance or from a public official. They are the pillars upon which the continuous success of the nation rests. They live by the admonition of John Stuart Mills that all it takes for a nation to decay is for the good people there to keep quiet. This duty has been satisfactorily discharged by the United Kingdom’s citizens as they are never passive in their affairs. This is lesson number one that Nigerians need to learn as all the changes and movements we shall be discussing are not without the intervention of the citizens. In Nigeria, not until of recent with the #EndSARS protest, Nigerians have been docile in matters that not only concern but affect them. All the changes in leadership witnessed in recent times in the UK are not unconnected with the ‘protest’ of the citizens who will never stand by and allow their interests compromised.  I recall the issue of Brexit that led to the resignation of the then Prime Minister David Cameron, the people had insisted, as against the Prime Minister’s position, that the country must leave the European union.

To resolve the impasse, a referendum was conducted in which the Prime Minister’s position was defeated. With that development, he lost the moral authority to continue leading the country, hence his resignation. There came Theresa May who negotiated a Brexit deal unsatisfactory to the people of the  United kingdom. Again, the people, through their representatives, kicked and that activated her resignation. Boris Johnson subsequently emerged as the Prime Minister. With his acceptability and popularity, he probably thought he could toy with the aspirations and thoughts of the people. It did not take too long before he lost the acceptability,  arising from his hypocritical stance on some issues and the double standard associated with some of his policies. When it became a pattern of the administration, the people, again, through their representatives, rebelled and he eventually had no option than to resign. This led to the emergence of Liz Truss. She did not last for any reasonable length as a result of the unpopular economic policies by her administration in the wake of the midterm budget. This had catastrophic effects on the economy and the masses, thereby consuming not only the Chancellor of the Exchequer but also the Prime Minister herself. This, again, is a reinforcement of the people’s power.

Sovereignty in the UK remains with the people. With this development, Liz Truss’s contender for the leadership position of the party and head of the government then, Rishi Sunak, is now tipped as the successor to the office of the Prime Minister. It would be recalled that there was a fierce battle then for the position with Truss and Sunak as the main contenders. The speculation then was that Sunak could not have emerged PM due to his racial origins, though considered a better candidate. Whether this factor influenced the outcome then or otherwise is beyond my knowledge. The latest development, however, challenges that postulation. Beyond the above lesson expected to be learnt, the emergence process is also worthy of note. In all the transitions alluded to above, it was free of acrimony and, if there was any, not externalized to the world. It simply seems seamless. Within their political fraternity, members were able to evaluate and choose the ultimate winner in a less or no rancorous manner.

In all of the resignations, the central reason has been the inability to meet the yearnings of the people. How many of such have we seen in Nigeria? Virtually none. Even in cases of proven corruption, Nigerian leaders never consider resignation as an option but would rather stay put, not only to cover their tracks but steal more. An excellent example is that of the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria whose basic responsibility is to defend the country’s currency. Beyond failing to meet the aspirations of the people, he failed in this assignment and still stayed put in the office. Recall that the reason for the resignation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was largely due to the fall of the British currency, the pound sterling, in the wake of the midterm budget and its associated policy. For how long and how many times has our currency, the naira, been plummeting without rescue, and still the governor of the Central Bank remains adamant in staying in the office?

The appointer too is so docile that he does not see any reason why the failed bank chief ought to be shown the way out. In other climes, where the currency depreciates in the manner of the naira, not only would the CBN governor have resigned, in fact, the head of the government would have, by now, been excused. To add insult to the people’s injury, the fellow took a shot at the presidency, probably with the aim of covering his tracks or collapsing the country’s economy totally. Thanks to  vigilant Nigerians, who unconventionally and loudly expressed their disapproval, compelling him to beat a retreat.

This is certainly without the violation of the law, particularly the Central Bank Act, upon which the office rests. I believe this is a big lesson for developing countries like Nigeria. The explanation for our divergent dispositions might best be justified against the objective of the political actors. While, in Nigeria, the essence of seeking political office is essentially for selfish reasons and personal aggrandizement, in the United Kingdom, it is driven by the passion to serve.  Therefore, the suicidal struggle for public office, unlike in Nigeria, hardly obtains in the UK. To attain this height in Nigeria, two basic things need to happen. The first is to eliminate attractions for public office by discarding all the associated luxury.  Public office is regarded as a short-cut to wealth and prosperity in Nigeria. The second is to ensure that those who aspire and emerge are not only people with alternative contact addresses but must also be people of integrity and sparkling and exciting pedigree.

This explains why Nigerian politicians are always desperate and ready to go any length to occupy public office. How I wish the cut-throat competition among them was for public good, but, of course, never so. Another defining issue is the people’s appreciation of their desires. Britons at all times know what they want and will only tolerate a leader who can deliver on those terms. This is the reality in the United Kingdom. Even the economy automatically responds to such dictates. For instance, as soon as the incoming Prime Minister, Sunak, was announced, just on the strength of his pedigree, the market reacted positively instantly. What a nation! This is where Nigerians too need to learn and identify issues confronting them with a view to positioning a leader that can address them.

Today, Nigeria suffers from insecurity, economic eclipse, corruption, ignorance and infrastructural deficit. Solving these afflictions demand the emergence of a competent leader. The next general election is around the corner. Are Nigerians interrogating this? Are we going to be carried away with rhetoric again? Are we x-raying the potential leaders? This must be of utmost concern to us.

I recall an instance during the tenure of Theresa May when, barely two years into the tenure, a general election was called for. I was startled as to how that would happen when the elected officials had barely spent half the prescribed tenure. Alas, it happened and nobody cried foul, as the public interest was uppermost in their minds. This is another lesson to be learnt from the British people.

This takes me back to the issue of the system of governance Nigerian adopts. The country’s economy cannot certainly bear the financial burden. In the current budget, the recurrent expenditure consumes about 70 per cent, and, barring any legislative intervention, it will leave the country with about 30 per cent capital expenditure.

The cost of governance accounts for substantial portion of the recurrent expenses. Not until we start trimming this, I am not too sure the country is ready for recovery  much less growth.

The country is weighed down by cost of governance. Have we bothered to sum up the cost of general and by-elections? The cost of election petitions in all ramifications? The cost of inauguration of all elected and appointed officials?  By the time this is aggregated, then we will appreciate the damage to the country’s treasury. Now, more than ever before, we must address the cost of governance by totally overhauling the system of governance in the country.

Why the need for permanent office holders when we can gain sufficient traction with part time ones? Can’t our legislators and members of the executive be part time since the technocrats are there to implement policies? The job of the executive members is basically policy formulation. The bureaucrats implement. Why must we retain a bicameral legislature? I believe a unicameral legislature can do the job required. Except and until this is addressed, I am not too sure Nigeria is ready for development.

I must equally not forget the process of the emergence of the King of England after the demise of the Queen. Not only did we not hear of succession battle, there was no acrimony. The entire process sailed through smoothly and the coronation done without any litigation. The converse is always the situation in Nigeria as due process will never be followed.

Of interest to me also is the lesson learnt in the process whereby the wife of the King is regarded as consul rather the queen.  In Nigeria, we know not how to define this boundary. As characteristic of us as a people, we regale in half education and imitate poorly. Wife of a king in Nigeria is automatically a Queen.  It is in the light of the foregoing aberration that I pray to God to help the country. This prayer is however out of frustration as I know that God has endowed Nigeria, with not only the required resources to develop, but with the thinking faculty capable of taking us to the promised land.

Why we must therefore further burden God with tis request beats my imagination, more so when I suspect that God is busy with the serious nations that are glorifying the works of God with their positive actions and impacts. We must, therefore, refrain from saddling God with assignments that He has given us the tools and the might to execute. We must stop attempting to outsource our responsibility to God. God help those who help themselves is not only a proverbial saying but divine statements in all the holy books.  We must, rather than mocking the political changes in the United Kingdom, praise their consciousness and pick the relevant lessons.

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