One of the greatest unfortunate developments confronting humanity is the fight against poverty, that requires huge funds. Unfortunately, international assistance to the African region is largely linked to disasters. Too many people all over the world are hungry. And this is dangerous to the attainment of the United Nation’s objectives of promoting peace and international understanding. In the words of Chief Emeka Anyaoku, a former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, in a papertitled:”Peace and Pluralistic World” delivered in London on March 18, 1989,Anyaoku noted that: “There are, in absolute terms, more hungry people in the world today than ever before; and the numbers are increasing”. The gap between the rich North and the poor South is widening on current estimates, and there are little prospects of this trend being reversed”. Evidently, there is a greater need, more than ever before, for African nations to address the question of poverty and economic development that stare the citizenry in the face. As already pointed out, Food Security is of utmost concern in order to prevent the populace from starving.
It has been stated that Africa, nay, Nigeria have no reasons to be poor. The problems that create pervasive poverty are multidimensional. A key factor is that the enormous resources of Africa have not been fully tapped or utilized to the advantage of the continent. It is believed that the continent has untapped resources that outstrip those of any other region in the world. President of the African Development Bank, Dr. AkinwumiAdesina has asserted that “the agricultural sector in Africa has four times the power to create jobs and reduce poverty than any other sector. “That is why we make the claim that we can diminish the migrant crisis in Europe by supporting agricultural transformation in Africa.” In remarks at the 2017 G7 Summit in Taormina, Italy, last year, Adesina expanded on this vision when he said that “the future of Africa’s youth does not lie in migration to Europe” nor should it be at the bottom of the Mediterranean. “For instance, the Democratic Republic of Congo alone, with the largest land mass in Africa is ten times the size of Britain, five times the size of France and three times the size of Nigeria. In terms of agricultural, energy and mineral resources, Congo has more than the combined GDP of Western Europe and the United States.’’
On its part, Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa has immense potentials that can successfully drive the economies of all West African nations put together. The concern should be how to feed ourselves and also export farm produce in huge quantities. With vast arable land and other factors in abundance, agriculture should be a flourishing business in the country. Next is another major problem of the culture of poor governance. For instance, electoral contests have torn societies apart. Ethnic and tribal prejudices have been promoted by elites who should ordinarily encourage national unity. Indeed, certain unpalatable incidents on the political scene over the years have necessitated cause for concern. The evolution of a viable political culture is practicable only in situations where good governance is recorded. Therefore, good governance is intrinsically connected to viable political culture. Access to power should ideally be through legitimate means. But people seem to look at immediate gains than sowing into a virile political culture that promotes good governance and enables only the best candidates to emerge.
ADDRESSING THE PROBLEM OF SMALL WEAPONS AT A CRITICAL PERIOD
The truth remains that we are treading on very slippery tracks as Nigeria negotiates the bend of another political transition. Nobody could contest the fact that the atmosphere is increasingly getting charged on account of succession plans, and the feverish urge to attain different political positions. Electoral contests have in the past been accompanied by violence and senseless carnage. We have begun witnessing political rallies in all parts of the country. These have witnessed collisions between political giants in some cases. And we are entering the era of political transition at a period when nobody could correctly ascertain the figure of small weapons that have entered Nigeria. Illegal arms have proliferated out of Libya into Nigeria and African nations. It is patently clear that increase in the illegal influx of illegal arms has resulted into an upsurge in criminal activities such as robbery, gunfights, clashes among criminal groups such as the commando-like invasion, killings, maiming of people and destruction of lives and property. How are we sure that most of these small weapons are not being used by fifth columnists and other people with ulterior intentions? Proactive response, in a very stern way is most desirable. In 2012, the then Chief of the Nigerian Army Standards and Evaluation, Shehu Abdulkadir, a major general, raised the alarm that 70 per cent of the 10 million illegal weapons in circulation in West Africa, were in Nigeria. Undoubtedly, the picture has worsened since then.
PROBLEM OF YOUTH DEVELOPMENT
Youths constitute the most virile and productive human capital any nation possesses. Youth development is universal and germane to the development of the country. It is in youths that the process of societal renewal is embedded. It is important for the nation to address the problems confronting youths, particularly unemployment, creation of an enabling environment for youth development, and the eradication of some social vices in which youths are involved. There must be programmes and good policies, designed and implemented to guide youth development. More importantly, Civil Society Organizations may wish to pay particular attention to this agile and productive class that holds the key to a great future. Without any violent ‘’A Luta Continuae’’ they could assist in shaping a course for the future of Nigeria. The uprisingsin the Islamic Maghreb nations of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, and the war in Somalia have principally promoted arms smuggling by al-Qaeda affiliates in Africa, and even Nigeria. These are occurrences that have posed great security threats to several African nations. Why must nations being confronted by poverty decide to go to war instead of spending enormous resources pumped into armaments into the prosecution of wars and conflicts? Again, this is the result of poor political culture that has thrown many nations into avoidable crises. It appears very senseless for innocent people to allow themselves to be pushed into fighting senseless causes.
We might be able to contain this situation before the elections through an amnesty programme for people to lay down their arms. But this would involve a lot of dialogue, sensitization and the involvement of our royal fathers and their key ‘’children’’ in the different politicalparties. It is also important for the appropriate agencies, particularly Civil Society organizations to step up their campaigns on democracy, what to do, and what not to at this period when poverty seems to be pushing people to sell their conscience. The masses, who currently lack of awareness, and are afflicted by poverty and low level of education, must be encouraged and schooled to know their rights and how to demand for these. Regrettably, poverty has made it possible for the elites to weaken the morale of the civil populace who should ideally call their representatives in government to order.
THE POLITICAL CLASS
The toga of do or die politics is yet to be shed. In the past, the nation recorded incidents of ‘’It is only I, or no other person’’ that in some cases witnessedmilitary intervention. This belief is further reinforced by the assertion of the Hon.JusticeMumammadu Lawal Uwais, a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, who has pointed out that “mindsets are part of elements that determine the success of election practices; and the mindsets of Nigerians are not only generally negative but also irrational.” Conducts of political actors have always called for concern since the First Republic. Political office seekers could do better in the area of how they react to losses. We all witnessed the sordid event that occurred at the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission during the compilation of the presidential election results and how a dangerous situation was handled by the then INEC Chairman, Prof. AttahiruJega. The umpires could only be found wanting by courts of competent jurisdictions, and not by the perpetration of violence and resort to encouraging civil disobedience. Electoral contests are knocking again. What needs to be done forthwith in preparation for future electoral contests is for the government and the political class to embark on massive education of voters in a manner that will make the electorate aware of the importance of using their votes to elect their preferences. It is necessary for the government and the political class to jointly promote those measures that would enhance fool-proof elections and the installation of credible governments and structures.
CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS
Civil Society is the “sociological counterpart of democracy”. (Gordon, White; 1996, p178) These organizations have been able to promote accountability and have acted as counterbalance against governments to check perceived lapses. That the polity in Nigeria has been greatly influenced and sensitized by the network of civil society organizations over the years is a positive sign vital to the advancement of democracy which demands that people must exercise governing power directly or indirectly through representative government. Their efforts at combating the Military at different periods are legendary. But there is still more to be done to assist the nation in evolving from the ruins of the past. Apart from mobilizing the citizenry, they must campaign for strengthening the weak social cohesion that government is striving to develop. There are also generally weak visions that have proven to be barriers to the attainment of set goals and objectives. In advanced societies, policies are woven to include long range planning and visioning that guarantee periodic measurement of achievements as a means of putting implementation on track. There can be no alternative to good governance. Former Secretaries-General of the United Nations: Kofi Annan and BoutrusBoutrus-Ghali, both Africans; have produced landmark Reports on this important subject. They both agreed independently, that without peace, there can be no development; and without sustainable development, there can be no durable peace. Additionally, they have contended that without respect for human rights, democracy, and credible elections that reflect the will of the people, there will be neither peace nor development.
Professor Ibrahim AgboolaGambari, Nigeria’s one-time Foreign Minister and later, Permanent Representative to the United Nations, who also served the global body as an Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs, in a treatise, advocated for heavy investment in education and human capital development, including science and technology, because these would improve competitiveness in an increasing inter- dependent world. Gambari, while calling for an attitudinal change on the part of Africa’s leaders stated that: ‘’Perpetrators of vices such as poor governance, corruption, impunity, and lack of transparency would not easily give up the privileges accruing to their practices. ‘’What needs to be done, therefore, is for innocent people of poor governance culture to demand for peaceful changes and the termination of politics of exclusion that lead to acute crises and conflicts’’Accordingly, it is very important for the citizenry to ensure that they participate in electoral contests at all levels in order to choose their preferences.
Some of the issues they must entertain include: Who is the best candidate in my reckoning? Why must I vote for Candidate A or B? Who is going to represent my interests best? Why must I sell my voter card that is my weapon? And why must I function as a thug and engage in violence when the beneficiary of my thuggery is relaxing or refreshing himself or herself in a cozy environment? The root causes of where we have found ourselves today are our wrong political values andnorms that make the political class the masters instead of servants, who must be accountable to the electorate. Why,for instance must people, at the three tiers of government be appreciated by people whotake full page newspaper advertisements to express gratitude to a public functionary who visits their areas to commission projects? Is it an obligation or a task that they are paid to perform? This is a reflection of ignorance that the society cherishes on account of vanity. And this is provokedby cultures and traditions. But culture and traditions must be open to modernization and the dictates of the times. Beyond the foregoing, the fight against poverty and unemployment must therefore be seen as a central plank of developmental planning. This might pose a threat to fool proof democratic transitions, as hungry and unenlightened people might continue to be aloof and indifferent to who rules or governs, but prefer monetary inducements and sponsorship of malpractices, in order to gain political power. It is another time to act wisely.