By Olabode George
Alan Paton in his book, ‘Cry the Beloved Country,’ says, “Christ suffered not just to save us from suffering, but to teach us how to use that experience to survive and overcome.”
The Nigerian polity is now straying towards its elastic limit. It is now over-stressed and over-stretched beyond the bounds of acceptability. Our survival as a nation is genuinely being questioned from the desert to the sea.
Violence sprouts everywhere – from the distant outpost of Ajangbadi in Lagos, to the farthest reaches of Malum-Fatori in Borno, from Kiṣi in Oke-Ogun to Odiani in the swamps of Delta – our nation gradually descends into a dangerous gangland, where the rule of the bayonet and clubs seems to be the norm. Surely, we can’t continue like this. Our survival as a people is to reverse the ruinous course and retrieve ourselves from the gaping chasm that confronts us all.
This is the time to change the path of old, to look beyond what hobbles our progress, to redefine our value system, to rejig and restructure the various anomalies that presently hinder the greater possibilities of the Nigerian Union.
The challenges before us are far beyond the confines of partisan politics. The turmoil within the Nigerian entity is about the twisted present situation. It is about who we are. It is about what we ought to be. It is about the greater tomorrow.
Unfortunately, the sway and the swing of the present political culture do not favor the triumph of merit. It does not favor the promotion of excellence. It does not encourage the accommodation of hardwork. And it discourages the blind indifference to ethnic or sectarian provenance.
Alas, our political culture is still much engrossed in the glorification of cronyism over intellect, the celebration of charlatans over patriotic commitment, the narrow worship of the gains of the moment over the truth; and the base withdrawal into nepotistic laager over the greater good.
Surely, no nation can long endure on this limiting vision. We live in a very competitive global village, where the entrepreneurial drive are often predicated on the ethical draw and the business friendly nature of the enviroment. Global conglomerates like Twitter, Kia, Hyundai, Facebook and so many others are trooping to Ghana, Rwanda and South Africa.
And our nation is losing an estimated $29 billion every year due to epileptic power supply. This is not sustainable. Electrical power is the very life-blood of all industrial revolution. It is the fuel of all economic development.
A nation without efficient power supply cannot rise into the bright dawn of the digital civilization. It is stuck forever in the bleak dark side of economic underdevelopment and teeters inevitably on economic ruination.
Indeed, something must give way to spur a Nigerian rebirth and renewal, lest we become the permanent invalid giant of Africa.
To change cause, to redefine our path, we must cultivate the essential ingredients of meritocracy as the critical building blocks of modern nations. Wherever young, vibrant, intelligent minds are given a pride of place to steer the destinies of their nations, such societies invariably are widening the opportunities for competitive growth, encouraging a healthy contest of ideas, and strengthening their developmental advantages.
Our young men and women excelling from the tundra of Russia to Saint Albert in Canada are symbols of our great possibilities, if only we do the right things; if only we encourage knowledge and be kind to talent; if only we disregard the narrow province of nepotism and embrace merit regardless of its origin.
The skewed structures of political power are equally an inherent hindrance to national development. Every stakeholder from Kaura-Namoda in Zamfara State to the farthest reaches of Isale-Eko on the edge of the Lagos lagoon now agrees that the excessive centrality of political power in our nation is destroying competition, holding everyone down to an unhealthy indolence, strips the states of individual growth and development, disallows free-willing local initiatives, strangles fairness and equity in the larger Nigerian union, inflames tension and fissiparous tendencies.
We can do better than this. We must listen to the voice of reason. We must induce debates and let a thousand flowers bloom. We cannot stifle peaceful dissent through the gulag and the stakes. The iron steel does not breed genuine patriotism. It merely drives dissent underground. This is more dangerous. This is not the road to be taken.
The scourge of brazen corruption is another hindrance to our collective union. Politics, which ought to be a noble service, is now perceived as a blatant, certified avenue to make money.
Ours is now a bullion van democracy, where characters of blemished, dubious identities have virtually seized our collective coffers, turning a people’s treasury into a private family vault.
Lagos State, my much trampled state, which a writer recently referred to as a zombie state, is perhaps the best example of a seized and conquered territory, where an Iragbiji native dwells like an obscene Persian monarch, determining who becomes a councillor, who becomes a local government chairman, who becomes a House of Assembly member, who becomes a representative, a senator and a governor.
All these he does by compromising all the agencies and organs of the state, including the warped electoral commission itself.
If our electoral commission is more pro-active in adopting the well proven and trusted electronic voting system, which is the preferred platform in all enlightened democracies, there will be more fairness and balance in our wobbly democracy. That is not the case now, where result sheets are moved manually from one stage to the other, allowing swift manipulation of figures by agents of retrogression.
It is true that evil persists, when good men choose to keep their peace. I will not be part of that peace of the graveyard. We must speak out against all abuses of power and against all injustices. We must rail against all agents of destabilization and discord. We must speak the truth to the transient wielders of political power. There is no other way.
Here in our own corner of the world, we must resolve to draft and recruit brilliant young minds into leadership positions. The old destructive ways must change. Our vision is now about rebirth through a new leadership of cultivated young men and women, whose orientation is at variance with the ills of yesterday.
The democratic triumph in Osogbo, the fairness of the process, the beauty of the procedure, the purity of leadership, have succeeded in demonstrating our capabilities to redefine ourselves, to cultivate new spirit of revival, of renewal and rebirth.
A new beginning is dawning here upon our shores in the South-West. Let us seize the moment, let us strengthen this new course; the rejuvenation of truth over falsehood, the accommodation and the embrace of righteous idealism over greed and narrow partisanship, the celebration of brotherhood over the decadence of enmity and the politics of bitterness.
Truth, sincerity, faithfulness, loyalty to the good cause, the abiding resolve to pursue what is righteous and proper; discipline, adherence to the rules of engagement, respect for leadership and established norms should be our watchwords.
The mercenary politicians, who play all fronts, who double-deal beneath the veil of the night, foolishly believing that politics is just another money raking venture, will be winnowed out, unmasked, publicly disgraced and promptly flushed out from our midst, no matter who they are or how high they think they might have reached in our party hierarchy.
That very change begins with us here and now. We will no longer tolerate or approve deliberate mud-slinging or character assassination by the devious and dubious elements, who jump from one camp to the other in a desperate power grabbing fixity.
Leadership is a product of training, experience and learning. It is a process not an instant, immediate arrival. Leadership requires a lot of patience, cultivated wisdom and demonstrated intelligence. You do not aspire to position of leadership by mere whim and fancy. Like the Boy Scout motto says: You must be prepared. You must be honorable. You must look beyond personal advantages and be willing to make sacrifices on behalf of others. This is what the current political practice lacks.
At this juncture, I must return to my state again, in view of the self-serving, dubious, incongruous legislation that seeks to shield the looters of our state treasury from the prosecutorial mandate of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. According to records, in the year 2020, the Alphabeta company, which is owned by Bola Tinubu, raked in about N37 billion from our treasury, without lifting a finger. If this is not sheer day light robbery, I wonder what is?
Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s legislation that seeks to shield criminals from federal prosecution is dead on arrival. It is elementary assertion that once a state law conflicts with a federal legislation, the state law is voided. This is what the constitution says.
Section 4(5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) amplifies: “If any law enacted by the House of Assembly of a state is inconsistent with any law validly made by the National Assembly, the law made by the National Assembly shall prevail, and that other law shall to the extent of the inconsistency be void.”
And yet, Sanwo-Olu rushes out with this bogus, invalid legislation, seeking to shield Tinubu from the day of reckoning. It will not work.
This is politics of deceit and self-serving glorification. They cherry pick what suits them, railroading their enemies into jail and protecting their own.
I was a victim of this dirty politics in the hands of Lagos State and Farida Waziri for committing no offense at all, until I was discharged and acquitted by the highest court in our land. Now cruelty has circled. It is their turn to sweat. They are now haunted by their own seeds of discord.
Let it be known here and now that politics is not a private business. It is public service. Politics is not about the pursuit of personal gains but about the redeeming of collective opportunities. Politics should always be seen in the larger picture of making the lives of the governed more comfortable, creating better opportunities in all spheres of human endeavors.
This much is our ringing leit motif, our guiding principle. On this, we will not yield nor surrender to cheap, indecorous blackmail. Our mission is noble. Our pursuit is selfless, firm and sure. The truth has only one face, one color, one reality. It is on this we stand as we embark on the rescue of our state from the greedy clutches of the Iragbiji usurper and ultimately push forward in the crucial journey towards our collective national salvation.
It is rather amusing when I see some mercenary pretenders prancing about the Nigerian space, hallucinating about an elusive presidential ambition. Yes, hallucinating, because they do not have their priorities right.
Even as every corner of the country is challenged by variegated insecurities ranging from banditry, urban outlaws, rogue herdsmen, destructive fissiparous forces, the murderous Boko Haram terrorists and sundry insidious elements – the basic priority of all right thinking patriots should be about restoring peace and harmony among our people, rather than the mercantile pursuit of a chimerical presidential bid. This is what is called true statesmanship. This is what is called discerning, progressive leadership.
On this very larger Nigerian platform, we are resolute and unchanging. Here, we dare not falter nor fail. Here, we must not waver nor seek refuge in uncertainty. Here, we remain determined and affirmed; assured in the justification of a good cause, strengthened by the recourse to be steadfast and sure, to be strong in will, to be hardened in battle, to wade through the barricades and the present challenges with tough and formidable mien.
Before I conclude, let me reiterate my basic positions as follows:
•That the Nigerian Federation is skewed, distorted and should be restructured for equity and fairness to prevail.
•That Politics should be seen as a public service and not as an avenue to amass wealth.
•That the Lagos state government legislation that seeks to shield criminals from being prosecuted by the EFCC is unconstitutional and retrogressive.
•That the EFCC is advised to look into the books of Alphabeta company with the view of ascertaining criminal complicity in the looting of Lagos treasury.
•That the two Toll gates at Lekki should be pulled down permanently and a monument should be erected in honor of those young men and women who were martyred in pursuit of a better Nigeria.
•That the Lagos State House of Assembly has failed in her constitutional duties of protecting the welfare and the interests of Lagosians.
•That the NURTW which is a militia wing of the APC government in Lagos state continues to be the core of destabilization and violence and should therefore be abolished.
•That the activities of Bola Tinubu and his cronies in the appropriation of the resources of Lagos state since 1999 till today should be thoroughly investigated by the EFCC.
•That the Independent National Electoral Commission should jettison its manual procedure and embrace Electronic Voting System.
•Lastly, that Nigeria can be a better place when we all eschew ethnic jingoism, sectarian bias and crass nepotistic agenda.
We cannot continue like this. Something must give. There is no other way. There is no other path. Those who have stripped our collective coffers must face the full wrath of the law as a deterrence to others.
Lettie Cowman in her book STREAMS IN THE DESERT says, “Human strength and human greatness spring not from life’s sunny side. Heroes must be more than DRIFTWOOD floating on a waveless tide.
Every highway of life descends into the valley every now and then. Everyone must go through the tunnel of tribulations before they can travel on the high road of triumph.”
This is my resolve. This is my purpose. This is the anchor of my conviction. I hold my rudder true. And in the end, like the old negro spiritual lyric tells us: “We shall overcome.”
May the good Lord bless Nigeria and May the good Lord bless you all.
•Chief George, is former Deputy National Chairman, South, of the people’s Democratic Party, PDP, and Atona Oodua of Yorubaland.