General: I closed my first letter last week with the following words: “I know you have what it takes to change and save Nigeria. I wish you luck in your election – and I wish Nigeria luck”.
I mean those words sincerely. Your record in our country’s service shows that you honestly hate public corruption, and that you can sincerely wage war on, and suppress, public corruption. I have also read your manifesto and I am persuaded that you sincerely mean all you have outlined in it. Though I have ceased belonging to any political party for a long time, I believe it will be good for our brutally vandalized and tottering country if we voters choose you as president at this critical time.
Our mutual sincerity encourages me to utter the following pleas and words of advice. Certainly you are aware that many Nigerians are concerned and even fearful about the persistent claims by some of the Hausa-Fulani political leadership that their Hausa-Fulani nation must dominate Nigeria as a sort of colonial overlord. You know as much as anybody that that thorny fact has been one of the factors in the making of our country’s disunity, conflicts, and instability. Usually, people do not accuse you personally of sharing in that mentality; but since you are Hausa-Fulani, and since some of your people perpetually noise that claim and make efforts to achieve it, it is a large though mostly unspoken factor in the coming presidential election. It would be a pity if this should cause serious problems for such a good candidate as you at this time.
Therefore, I urge you: use your best capabilities to put an end to this terrible tradition – in the interest of our country. Realistically, no single one of our nationalities can dominate all the rest of us. It is impossible. How can one nationality, even if it is larger than all the rest of us put together, dominate all the rest of us in any full or lasting sense? And we do not have any numerically dominant nation like that. Our three largest nationalities (Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo) are very close in population size, and each of them is a minority in Nigeria. How can the Hausa-Fulani succeed in subduing and dominating the large and capable Yoruba or Igbo – not to talk of all the nationalities of Nigeria? Talking about domination and trying to achieve it has only bred hostility, crookedness, and instability in our country. It is time we remove that obstacle from the path to our country’s stability, progress and prosperity – and you can lead us to do it. Please sincerely strive to do so. Let it be one of your immortal gifts to our country. Nigeria is a country in which we all can prosper – and together build a world power.
That leads me to another but related subject. The reason most of the Hausa-Fulani elite are forever angling for a bigger, more powerful, and more resource-controlling Federal Government, is that they believe that, by having that kind of FG and ensuring their own control of it, they will be able to subdue and dominate all of Nigeria. But it is a nebulous and disruptive venture. Yes, they have contributed much in pulling power and resources into the hands of the FG, but has their homeland or anybody else gained anything from that? The most important result of massing power in the FG is that the FG has become a podgy, ponderous, incompetent and repulsively corrupt monstrosity, a constant manipulator of elections and other vital processes across our land, a destroyer of development and progress in our country, and a disgrace to our country in the wide world. You acknowledge almost as much as this in your manifesto. As matters have developed under Jonathan (and even under Obasanjo before him), whoever controls the FG tends to use it as a personal estate, to be used for his own aggrandizement and the disproportionate benefit of his own nationality (or his favoured nationality). Recently, the elder statesman, Alhaji Maitama Sule, lamented that the people of the Arewa North are suffering serious discrimination today in Nigeria, and leaders of the Arewa Youth went out protesting about the same thing – and Yoruba people are crying out about the same too. Is it not absurd that we have created a system that makes it possible for such major segments of Nigeria as Arewa North and the Yoruba Southwest to be marginalized and discriminated against by anybody controlling the FG? How can our self-respecting nationalities love to continue to belong to a country that is disrespectful and mismanaged like that?
The FG’s obstruction to development is hurting all parts of our country. For instance, our Northern Region saw a great deal of development and progress under the Regional leadership of the late Sir Ahmadu Belo. Since all the power and resources for development have been gradually pulled together at the federal center, has the North not steadily declined in economic progress? Is the same not true of the East and the West? Obviously, the answer is to take away much of the ponderous powers of the FG, reenergize the different parts of our country, and thus bring development close to our people again. Empower the elite of our various parts to handle the development of their people, and our country will pick up again. Moreover, leave each part to elect the local men and women who will handle their affairs, and stop the destructive assumption that those who control the FG have the prerogative to choose rulers for all parts of Nigeria. Flush corruption out of our elections. These are things you are capable of leading us to accomplish. If you sincerely promote them, most of us will ardently support you.
Then, because I am sure and happy that you will fight and kill corruption, I wish to offer some counsel concerning your fighting corruption. Our country’s experiences show that prosecuting and punishing those who have been corrupt is a problematic approach, potentially capable of generating division and even conflict. This is because, in a country in which ALL public servants (politicians, civil servants, judges, and all) have descended into the culture of corruption, punishing some people tends to degenerate into a process of selective justice. Groups that feel that their own leaders are being punished selectively cannot be blamed if they feel bitter. For instance, even though I hate public corruption as a destructive evil and fought it passionately throughout my time of service to Nigeria, it displeases me to remember that, among today’s generally corrupt Nigerian leadership, prominent kinsmen of mine (like Bode George who was sent to prison, and Bola Tinubu against whom the FG started a vindictive case some time ago) were selected for punishment. If punishment is one of the weapons you decide to employ against corruption, please make sure that the process is transparent and even-handed. In trying to kill the worms in the baby’s tommy, let’s take care not to harm or kill the baby himself.
In addition to whatever weapons you are thinking of using, let me suggest one that I have seen some countries use to good effect. Let us make a federal law demanding that all former and current Nigerian public officials who have money in any form or shape in foreign countries should bring it back to Nigeria within a specified time and invest it in Nigeria. They can do it without any questions asked, and the consequent investment will be theirs. The big gain for our country will be that the money becomes active in building our economy (generating businesses and economic activities and providing employment) instead of building the economies of the countries where it was formerly hidden. Those who do not comply within the specified time will be subject to criminal prosecution and punishment. (Tracing and following money stolen and hidden abroad by public officials of any country is now quite easy. Sophisticated international agencies do it, actively supported by the governments of many powerful countries). Some young friends of mine tell me that one practice among our corrupt leaders these days is to bury large tomes of their stolen public money in the ground! I don’t know how you will force such people to exhume and declare such money, but you must come up with a way.
Finally, my brother, remember what I said in my first letter about restructuring our federation properly. Fortunately, your manifesto says much the same. Also, remember what I said about investing heavily in our people – to create skilled and reliable workers, entrepreneurs, small modern businesses and inventors, attraction of foreign investors and businesses, high quality exports, and modern farmers. Your candidacy is generating much hope among our people. Again, I wish you luck; and I wish Nigeria luck.