The concept of change is one that has no outright definition. Change is affiliated and arguably inseparable with factors like subjectivity, opinion and intellectual capacity. The nebulous categorization of change into positive change and negative change is still subject to what one considers positivity and negativity to be. Like many things in this world, Change is based on opinion.
However, for Nigerians, the nondescript characteristics of change are attenuating. A debate or discussion that is guaranteed to spring up consensus agreement between Nigerians is that of ‘Change in Nigeria’. Between us, we have developed a unique emotional understanding, which ensures that even without speaking to each other about the type of change needed in our country; we intuitively agree that we are all seeking the same thing. We are ultimately seeking changes that would create a peaceful, fair and just nation for all Nigerians and awaken our sense of pride and being.
The issues arise when we start thinking about how to bring about these changes or in common Nigerian terms, ‘Who would be the messiah’ to bring about these changes. This is where our aforementioned emotional covenant breaks down. This is where various opinions and sentiments come into play and we totally forget/ignore that we are all seeking the same changes. We completely overlook our individual and collective selves as those who need to change or push for change; instead, we meddle and drown ourselves in political muss.
Some get under the Umbrella of the ‘Pointed agendas’ or the more recent ‘Transformation agendas’ (PDP); Others adopt the Broom as a symbol of ‘sweeping change’ (ACN);Others symbolize and believe the Pen is the solution to ‘write off’ our past (CPC);Others believe the Corn is necessary to ‘feed the nation’ in its conquest for the revolution for real change (ANPP); Others believe the Cockerel’s crow would ‘wake us all up from our slumber’ (APGA); and so on. Regardless of what political party or leader we believe has the answers, there are certain critical success factors that we need to take into consideration.
We seem to believe, rather stalwartly, that our problems lie solely in our leaders and not so much in the system of governance. Therefore, a good, honest, change-driven intellectual should be able to row us through the rivers of corruption and reeking bad governance and take us to the Promised Land. Sadly enough, the case is not that trivial. Having a strong, change-driven leader is certainly a good step to start off with, but realistically speaking, the system of governance is so rotten and malformed that it makes the idea of one man changing Nigeria overly optimistic and to a great degree, fictitious.
Why don’t we all join hands and push for change then?
Well, at the moment we remain victims of boorish politicking. We are tugged into political warfare, armed with nothing but ethnic and religious sentimentalities, ready to pounce on each other. Even though it is painstakingly obvious that those handling the reigns of power exploit our lack of togetherness and our tendency to be ethnically/religiously biased, we still choose to do nothing about it. We do not have to look far beyond our thresholds to see how much our minds have been sullied, besmirching our supposed oneness. The seriousness of this off-putting reality is reflected in our everyday affairs.
• It is evident in the disheartening comments that follow online newspaper stories. Regardless of the content of the story or how unrelated it is to ethnicity or religion, the comments would signify otherwise.
• It is evident in our media coverage where stories (mainly tragic ones) are given a direct religious or ethnic inclination. Journalists seem to ignore ethics and their responsibilities towards non-incitement and opt to twaddle instead.
• It is evident in the mutterings of prominent religious and political leaders, which often ignore any form of political correctness and regionalize issues of national concern. For example, the insurgency problem has so often been regarded as a Northern problem (not just geographically) and it’s therefore up to the North to “put its house in order”.
These are just few instances that signify the gravity to which we have been disillusioned and how dirty politics is molding our society towards ethnic and religious bigotry. For us to even have a chance to push for better governance, we would have to reverse this ugly trend.
Another cardinal issue affecting the Nigerian polity and one that needs to be imperatively tackled is the lack of accountability. This is perhaps the greatest limiting factor to our positive development as a nation. Accountability is the only way we can ensure actions and decisions taken by public officials are subject to oversight, so as to guarantee that government initiatives meet their stated objectives and respond to the needs of the community they are meant to be benefiting. In Nigeria, transparency and accountability are jinxed and execrable words and to mention them is considered a taboo and absolute balderdash. The lack of accountability is what venality thrives on and is the primary reason we find unprecedented levels of corruption in every one of our institutions. From the top tiers of government to the lower ranks, funds are squandered and siphoned, projects abandoned, inflated contracts awarded and power abused. All these illegalities pass through either undetected or unpunished and even worse, considered customary.
The introduction of the Freedom of Information bill passed in May 2011 made Nigeria only the second country to pass such a bill in West Africa. Nigerian Civil Rights groups battled tirelessly for over a decade to see the bill come to fruition and give Nigerians the chance to unearth facts and fight corruption. Not surprisingly, Nigeria remains the most corrupt country in the region.
A system with very little transparency is an incentive to shady and fraudulent practices and is a destined route to failure and further melancholy. Due to pitiable levels of accountability, we witness the ‘disappearance’ of billions of naira right under our noses (as seen in Printing and Minting last year); we witness mind-blowing swindling and immeasurable looting (such as the police pension and fuel subsidy scams); we witness the degeneration of public institutions and infrastructure (such as the dreadful police colleges, educational institutions and state and federal roads). The list is interminable.
What is the way forward?
To rely on the government alone, to bring change, is to genuinely say that we want to continue witnessing this political Tiki-Taka and blame game (such that is going on between Ezekwesili and the FG) and to surrender our future. Our folded-arm approach has so far yielded no results. As concerned Nigerians, aspiring for change, little steps such as finding out how much is allocated to your LGAs, States etc. and enquiring through the Bureau of Public Procurement what the funds are being used for etc. could make a significant impact towards the push for transparent governance.
Via the Nigerian Budget office, you could also look at the Nation’s budgetary allocations and proposals. It is worth noting that details on the budgetary proposals are very vague. An example is one from the Ministry of Youth Development 2013 Budget. For its NYSC scheme, 180 million and 203 million naira were proposed for ‘printing security documents’ and ‘printing non security documents’ respectively. What are security and non-security documents? Alas, the elusiveness. Regardless, these budget proposals could still be scrutinized.
Many ministries propose hundreds of millions for ‘on-going projects’ in different areas of the country. A citizen’s report on the progress of these so-called projects in your states could shed light on the effectiveness of their implementation.
These are few simple steps that could empower us and provide us with resources to hold public officials and institutions accountable.
The final part of this article discusses the foundation stone and root cause of most, if not all of our problems. The average Nigerian is stereotyped to want to ‘get rich doing the least work possible’ or in more conservative terms ‘to make it, the Nigerian way’. Coupled with widespread bad governance and meager transparency, public offices are seen as opportunities to enrich oneself and getting oneself to such position is nothing short of a do or die affair. In Nigeria, the Bank Account proclaims the man. You are as good as your money is.
The youths are left with no examples to emulate apart from those of ‘Big Manism’ and pompous wealth flaunting. They are left with a voracious desire to make it to the top, not on the basis of merit or altruistic public service but on that of ‘connection’ and malpractice. They are left with vivid memories of how amassed wealth has been and still is used as a potential safeguard against prosecution, regardless of one’s blatant criminality. They are left with the challenge of rescuing a society that, if left unchanged, is guaranteed to plunge into anomie and unthinkable lawlessness.
In the words of Barack Obama “Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” We are the only ones that can change our nation. Individually and collectively, we have to make an effort.
In the words of Thomas Jefferson “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” Religious sentiments have hindered our prosperity for too long and distressed our peace. Lets drop them.
In the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” Lets sort out our priorities and be altruistic in our daily activities.
In the words of Voltaire “Don’t think money does everything or you are going to end up doing everything for money.” I will let you opine on this. Whatever the case, keep it legal and fair.
Finally, in the words of Dr. Ahmed Musa, ‘Nigeria is the proverbial cat with 1000 lives’. We have undoubtedly exhausted 999 of those lives and are clinching unto the last. Regardless of who leads Nigeria, our collective success as a nation solely relies on our ability to push for accountability. Everyone must be held liable for his or her actions and governance should be transparent and fair.
God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Al-Amin Abba Dabo
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters