This piece is borne out of reflections. As a thinker and writer, I sit down occasionally, to reflect about the past, present and the future; particularly of Nigeria, a nation with huge potentials. I am an incurable optimist in the fact that Nigeria will be great. How it will happen was designed by God even before we were born; but the manifestation is in the responsibility of all Nigerians – the governors and the governed alike; because our fate is in our hands. We must pay the price to get the prize; as we cannot all just fold our hands waiting for greatness to come.
For several years, we have continued to argue among ourselves about the most desirable arrangement and agreement for governing our dear nation. In my humble opinion, Nigeria is one of the most difficult societies to govern, all factors put together, including the level of awareness of the citizenry, the configuration and composition of our nation, as well as our collective ability to be deliberately mischievous and devise plots for the downfall of others. I once likened the system to a situation of driving ‘’The Autonov’’ a vehicle designed by that genius, late Prof. Ayodele Awojobi. The patented vehicle had two steering wheels installed at the front and the rear. Ingenuity made it possible for one group of drivers to steer the vehicle in the front, while another daringly driver handles the steering of the same vehicle, and both drivers move the opposite directions.
NEWTON’S LAW OF MOTION: And the foregoing, that Physicists call Newton’s Third Law of Motion occurs: ‘’Action and reaction are always opposite and equal’’ Let me confess that I was one of those who felt the industrial action by Nigerian workers might proceed as organized, given the seeming unwillingness of the negotiating parties to shift positions. It is not easy for that type of feat to be recorded. I felt for the masses, including myself, who would have been subjected to terrible inconveniences, had the total strike been permitted to hold. I, therefore, wish to congratulate and commend all parties that adopted a position of peace after those very long hours of negotiations in the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. As an apostle of peaceful conducts and harmonious coexistence, I believe in the postulation of political theorist, Edmund Burke that: ‘’Our patience will achieve more than our force’’ and as he states elsewhere. “The use of force alone is but temporary. ‘’It may subdue for a moment; but it does not remove the necessity of subduing again; and a nation is not governed, which is perpetually to be conquered.”
PEACEFUL CONDUCTS AT ALL TIMES: MY WITNESS: As governments and their employees warmed up for a collision arising from disagreements over a new wage structure, I reasoned that lock downs occur too, even frequently in the foremost democracy, the United States. But I also reasoned that it is safer for the citizenry for industrial actions to take place than here. This is because the system over there has in-built shock absorbers that we don’t have here, to contain the negative effects of a strike action that would have been accompanied by terrible sufferings that would have been unleashed on the poor masses. Passions had no doubt been inflamed; but it is heartwarming that both sides were able to prevent the approaching storms that most probably wouldn’t have impacted the affluent in the society too much. Labour leaders are usually adamant; and would go to any extent to provoke those on the other side.
MY WITNESS OF LABOUR NEGOTIATIONS: The highest position that I held in labour circles as a ”Comrade” was a Member of the National Executive Council in the Nigerian Union of Journalist headerd by Mallam (now Hon. Mohammed Sani Zorro) in 1992. I, thereafter, crossed to the government bench that I must confess was more comfortable. Ionce witnessed a situation where labour leaders looked at a military governor eye ball to eye ball, and told him: ‘’Go and meet your father in Abuja to give you money to pay us.’’ But the military governor was not at fault because Abuja increased wages of workers without due consideration of what state governments would pay. Who was a military governor to complain even when he required three months allocation from the federation accounts to pay a month’s salary, as increased by his bosses in Abuja? The command structure was a unitary system and any military governor who complained could have been sent to his village prematurely by the Office of the Chief of General Staff with ‘’automatic alacrity’’, even before his service chief was notified in an era of ‘’retired with immediate effect’’ that hurt the civil service tremendously. This again brings to focus what proponents of federalism, particularly fiscal federalism are talking about.
It is to be noted that clearly, something is wrong when everybody thinks the same way given the principles of objectivity, subjectivity, selective perception and retention; that combine to shape human image and thoughts. Now that we have gone past the stage of apportioning blames, it becomes necessary to adopt measures that would totally prevent any build up of the averted gathering storm. How do we prevent the situation from degenerating into avoidable crises? And for industrial harmony to be witnessed perpertually, there must be unanimity of purpose, in line with Nelson Mandela’s statement that: ‘’A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.’’ Like the Boy Scouts’ Motto: BE PREPARED; the solution involves long range visioning and planning.
DISPASSIONATE & PATRIOTIC ACTIONS: It is very important that actions are taken in good faith, national interest, and for the sake of posterity. Not all actions are to be seen as coming from adversaries or enemies of opposing sides on the political plane. In Nigeria, the foregoing is pronounced as a result of civilization, exposure of the citizenry, whose consciousness has been greatly provoked by a high level of political sophistry, as well as citizens’ increasing awareness of their rights and obligations. Much as this factor has contributed to emancipation, it is regrettably being exploited by the political class and elites to heat up the political space. Various actions on the political plane give cause for concern.I say so because differences in thoughts and opinions occur in every organized political setting all over the world and there must be regulations that must be respected by all and sundry. I refuse to accept the notion that our elites are unaware of the dangers inherent in some of their actions. Part of the beauty of democracy is the divergence of opinions. Politicians and opinion moulders must, therefore, act responsibly and subscribe to the style of advancing superior arguments in order to reduce incidents of friction to the barest minimum. My postulations here are products of my experiences in my long walk in the corridor of power; from which I believe others would be able to gain one of two things from my story. It is not about blowing any trumpet at all. In fact, some of these stories are contained in the five books on Good Governance that God has given me the wisdom to write and publish so far.
WE CAN DO WITH LESSER TENSION: This writer has always believed that we can do with lesser tension and strife. We can do with minimal grandstanding on the political space. There are many who profit from the tribulations that have plagued our nation. I Have always maintained that the ordinary Nigerian would not bother about who governs him or her, the ruler’s tribe, colour or creed, provided the culture of good governance is entrenched to empower the civil populace to be able to afford, and have access to basic necessities. It is true that there is no society without its own measure of tribalism and regionalism; even in the developed world. In our country, arguments about state or place of origin, religion, ethnicity, tribalism, nepotism and related ills, have combined to constitute formidable barriers to development. Diversity is one of our strengths. In the words of Aberjhani: “Diversity is an aspect of human existence that cannot be eradicated by terrorism or war or self-consuming hatred. ‘’It can only be conquered by recognizing and claiming the wealth of values it represents for all.” We must shun sentiments and other mundane considerations which have always drawn the society back and embrace responsible and credible options capable of assisting the political and socio-economic development of the country. In the words of Mahatma Ghandi: ‘’Non-violence is not a garment to be put on and off at will. ‘’Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our being.’’ And we must always bear in mind that every problem has a non-violent answer.
MISTRUST:We must listen to those regarded as professional critics and cynics. That is their inalienable right guaranteed by the extant Constitution of the Federal Republic. The most talented and experienced individual outside the system may not fully understand the workings of Government until when afforded the opportunity of having a practical hands-on-experience as a key participant in the process of governance. Mistrust, is one element that has strongly worked against smooth administration of our bureaucracy generally. That is why you may have two or three camps of people working for the same boss, competing for attention. Their actions that breed working at cross purposes affect morale and the type of inputs the big boss receives. Nigeria is expected to be a land where all men are born equal and have access to the same opportunities without any form of discrimination. The good thing is that all these problems are surmountable.
Accusations made maliciously fly all over; including ‘’why must I grant audience to a suspected member of another political party, when in fact a political office belongs to no political party, but to a government that must cater for the interests of all, at a period when the whole world is breeding inclusiveness. How many accusations will those types of functionaries entertain and use to confuse a system; even if they act ignorantly? It is certain that even where one is adjudged to have taken a wrong step, it is still okay if the action was not deliberately and foolishly taken. And personal aides are there to always shield their bosses based on the principle of collective responsibility. Personal staff of the big bosses in the Villa must have been stretched to their limits as a result of periodic skirmishes.
But it is always better for bosses to listen to professional views of their media aides on their personal staff, who are very much on the ground and may be free from destructive political biases. If an aide no longer agrees with steps taken by the big boss; then get out of the system. Again, public perception could be misleading on the ‘enormous’ powers purportedly held or accumulated by a holder of public offices, particularly personal staff of chief executives. There could be deceits. Doyin Okupe once narrated how a Federal Minister attempted to deceive President Obasanjo that an industrial action didn’t succeed. Okupe had to interject to inform Obasanjo that the strike was indeed successful. The loyalty of personal staff might indeed be higher.
EVERY PROBLEM HAS A NON-VIOLENT ANSWER – DISPASSIONATE CONSIDERATIONS: I remember very clearly that my dad and my humble self had different political leanings between 1979 and 1983. He was an NPN sympathizer; while I was an almost rabid UPN well-wisher. Yet, he had free access to the Old Oyo State government house and offices of prominent UPN officials like Senator Mojisoluwa Akinfenwa, in those days of politics without ‘’too much’’ bitterness. They all respected him. It is a sign of political maturity for dad and children, or even husband and wife to belong to different political parties without the issue generating bad blood. Dad, in spite of those differences taught us to consider issues dispassionately. We argued and disagreed with great respect, and there were no problems. In spite of our political differences, he ensured that we viewed the NTA Network news together as a ritual, and while viewing, usually in company with my good friend, Dotun Oyelade, dad, who spoke Latin fluently, taught us a few things; including origin of some words, during those telecasts.
NOTHING WRONG WITH HUSBAND & WIFE BELONGING TO DIFFERENT POLITICAL PARTIES: We discussed freely with our dad according to our political leanings. In the course of interacting, we disagreed occasionally, but he never got annoyed but always made sure to educate us, expressed his opinion wherever he felt we were wrong, and encouraged us to learn about everything and read everything literature that came our away. We leant a lot, as there is great joy and reward in learning. Dad woke up early to ‘’travel round the world’’ about 5.00am listening to BBC News and Voice of America, and having travelled around the world in that manner, went to the morning assemblies as a school principal up till 1977; to lecture his students for at least 15 minutes on current affairs, (sometimes it could be more like when the Americans went on the moon) before the real school work began. Like several other students, Governor Rauf Aregbesola, in a casual conversation with me about two years ago told me that he developed interest in politics, arising from those daily lessons on current affairs at the morning assemblies by Baba S.T. Adelegan, who was Deputy Speaker, Western Region House of Assembly (1960-1965). That type of situation influenced people to be cosmopolitan in outlook.
Therefore, let the elite class teach the electorate not to base their judgments on the states of origin or religious persuasions of those who are to be elected to steer this ships of State. It is always better to elect the best materials into political offices. As in the developed world, Nigerians must start deemphasizing the election of political figures on account of wealth, ethnicity, religion, and other factors which could slow down the pace of the entrenchment of an enduring democratic culture. Dr. Yemi Farounbi, a strong PDP chieftain in year 2000 served under Chief Bisi Akande, an ardent Action for Democracy governor for four years. I honestly don’t know how they balanced the relationship.
LET US DEAL HONESTLYWITH LEADERS & FOLLOWERS: The leadership,in gravitating towards fulfilling the objective of entrenching an enduring democratic culture. The responsibility for sustaining democracy in the country is that of the people. And having successfully emerged from a long period of military rule for about 20 years, the nation must be assisted to evolve the best possible means of installing representative governments that embodies the collective hopes and aspirations of the citizenry.
May the good Lord continue to bless Nigeria.