Let’s Rebuild This House!

Oma Djebah
Oma Djebah


Nigeria is going through a rather rough patch of time.  At the heart of the country’s current political crisis and crunch is the long-standing, endless friction, discord between the leadership of the  National Assembly  and the Executive which came to a head Tuesday as 15 Senators and 36 House of Representatives dump the ruling All Progressives Congress(APC) for the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) and African Democratic Congress(ADC). Interestingly, this is already unsettling, unraveling and indeed unfastening the various knots that held the APC together.

But inherently, it’s a war of attrition and ambition. It’s a combat and contest between loyalists of President Muhammadu Buhari and politicians in a fume, who have massed, clustered and flocked under the quartet of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, General T.Y.Danjuma, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Senate President Bukola Saraki, asserting they are guided by a vision to reset the national agenda, change the country’s current poor narrative. So far, fears of big trouble looms big for Nigeria! The imminent peril of this: With the Senate adjourned till end of September, the country preparations for next February elections effectively comes to a standstill, an impasse as the  N254 billion budget required for the polls lies in limbo in the chambers of the National Assembly!  

“Nigeria will need N254 billion (N254,445,322,600) to prosecute the 2019 general election, ‘ Buhari had said in a letter to the Senate,  seeking approval of the above sums. Before signing the 2019 budget in June, Buhari  had accused  the National Assembly of doctoring, mutating and  in fact, altering the entire Budget by inserting well over N578 billion self-serving projects. Paradoxically, National Assembly stabbed itself on the back. No nation would tolerate a tragic scenario where its national budget is held hostage for about nine months by a gang of erring legislators, men whose motive, in the circumstance,  is ignoble, heinous and most dishonorable.

Sadly, each time Nigeria  faces  severe political catastrophe, as we currently grapple with,  the fear that the country will fracture is never far away. The notion that Nigeria will  break-up has become the default position of a segment of the public, some politicians and political analysts of various persuasions. Also, as many have discovered, the Nigeria Police very poor, distorted handling of Saraki’s case, have begun to have multiple impact, grave implications across Nigeria. And with far-reaching consequences if not well-managed!

Yet, Nigeria has shown remarkable resilience in the face of adversity in the past. I believe srongly we shall overcome! In many respects, the challenges that Nigeria faces are hardly unique: they are the product of the country’s stage of development and of its cultural, ethnic and religious diversity. But again, Nigeria cannot be the most diverse country in the world. This raises the question: why have other more diverse nations thrived, while Nigeria is frequently close to the precipice?

The answer lies in our inability to build and sustain strong, effective and functional institutional structure to tackle the many challenges of nationhood. The experiences of the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States of America (USA) clearly illustrate this contention. Germany with a population of almost 82 million people with diverse ethnic, religious, and political groups has remained united, strong and vibrant since her pre and post-second world war unifications brought about by Chancellors Otto Von Bismarck and Helmut Kohl, respectively. Like in Nigeria, the Germans have passed through difficult times during the Second World War and its aftermath. But today, Germany is not only the fifth largest economy in the world, it is the leading country  in the European Union of 27 member states-with or without Brexit- and one of the world’s most technologically, militarily and economically advanced and politically stable countries. It has emerged stronger and more stable.

Thus, the real task besetting this generation and indeed the present generation of Nigerian leaders, is how to build a new Nigeria. It is how to foster the birth of a new Nigeria. When the average Swede, Canadian or American speaks about their country’s dream, he or she does so with so much conviction, passion and pride. Three years down the road, there are clearly no manifest indications yet that the Buhari administration has got what it takes to navigate the nation out of this self-inflicted crisis! As late Chinua Achebe, author of Things Fall Apartonce tragically lamented ‘’Nigeria has lost the 20th Century and it is on the verge of losing the 21st century on account of   poor leadership…’’

President Buhari should therefore move Nigeria closer to these models cited above in terms of road map and development. In spite of Olusegun Obasanjo’s imperfections, his barracks- style approach to governance, he  was still able to hold Nigeria together, forge cohesion, unity within his the ruling PDP. It’s   time for Buhari and his team to reset Nigeria! I believe that the administration may well have a vision but lacks the capacity to mobilize Nigerians to collectively work towards that vision. Examples of Ministers working at cross-purposes are quite evident. There is obvious lack of co-operation, cohesion and collective goal.

Going forward,  should quickly to create a new vision for the country, a new leadership commitment to achieve such vision and a new way for Nigerians to think about themselves as one people.  In short, he should chart a new course for a new Nigeria. But it is like an attempt to beautify a massive building whose foundation is faulty. This brings me to another key calamity, chaos that Nigeria faces. As I have written previously, the real crisis, especially since the end of our civil war,-is that the country’s dependence on oil has created a political economy of distribution –which is distribution of oil revenue — rather than of production. The extent of Nigeria’s dependence on oil is reflected in these most frightening data:  oil and gas accounts for an estimated 95 per cent of Nigeria’s export revenue, 80 per cent of the government revenue and about 33 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP)!

Yet the perils of this heavy dependence on oil and gas have not been fully grasped by our political elite.  These perils manifest themselves in various ways. Major sectors of the economy that should generate employment have been neglected. Acquiring political power is seen as a quick route to gain access directly or indirectly to the revenue from oil. Many states show less commitment to generating their internal revenue — in a reversal of the ethics of inter-regional competition before oil became a significant factor in our national fiscal arrangement. Closely related to this point, is the tension and agitation over an appropriate revenue allocation formula that can simultaneously address the needs of oil producing and non-oil states.

Yet, the on-going terrific feud between Saraki and Buhari has the potential of unraveling the very fabric of our nation. Rather than re-setting our national agenda, we are rather busy inflicting damages on our national fabric. In Norway, the Norwegians have institutionalized their on-going reforms in key sectors with the establishment of a ministry dealing with reforms directly supervised by the Prime Minister. This is with the clear understanding that reforms cannot proceed in a vacuum if there is no clear institution to drive and co-ordinate them. And proceed to encourage the States to follow suit by implementing similar reforms at the sub-national level.

Nigeria’s challenges are many. But I strongly believe that the Buhari administration owe Nigerians the responsibility of correcting these structural and design deficits (created by successive governments) which have combined to cripple national development in the last three decades.


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