The corporate existence of Nigeria is a contemporary issue, often contentious, which tasks the minds of concerned citizens. The issue and perhaps football matches are matters over which Nigerians are passionate albeit, on football there is a momentary unity of purpose in the expectation of victory of the Nigerian team, for which the ethnic identities of members are never an issue and, on corporate existence there is uneasiness amongst the citizens in the internecine battle on who controls the levers of governance and dividends thereof.
However, there is no doubt that many Nigerians, at home and in the diaspora, are desirous to see their country make progress, achieve peaceful co-existence, integration and nationhood, the latter being a state of shared values and norms characterised by strong bonds of identity. In the circumstance, the citizens are continually engaged in diagnostic exercises on the Nigerian state with the singular object of finding solutions to the manifold challenges of the country. But because the problems are multifaceted, the diagnostic exercise is akin to the proverbial elephant and the blind men each of whom has an impression of a part of the animal, unrepresentative of the whole.
Therefore, a holistic diagnosis of the Nigerian state is critical to charting a new order and direction for progress – an order which would have addressed the National Question. The National Question encapsulates the conflicts – social, cultural, political and economic – in the body politic which must be resolved for a national consensus on fundamentals of co-existence of the Nigerian peoples as a prelude to a constitution. According to the late Professor Ade-Ajayi (1992), the: “National Question —— is the perennial debate as to how to order the relations between the different ethnic, linguistic and cultural groupings so that they have the same rights and privileges, access to power and equitable share of national resources; debate as to whether our constitution facilitates or inhibits our march to nationhood ————-”. (Emphasis, mine).
Over the years, Nigeria has not been lacking in development plans – the first (1962-68), second (1969–76), third (1975–80) and fourth (1981 -85); rolling plans (1990 –1999); vision statements – vision 2000, 2010 and 20:2020. All these plans and visions were aimed broadly to achieve, amongst others, the establishment and growth of industries, broaden the economy, secure full employment for the people and make the fullest use of available resources. There was the Structural Adjustment Programme in 1986 which also sought to “re-structure and diversify the productive base of the economy in order to reduce dependence on the oil sector and imports.” The National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), was a blue print of Obasanjo’s administration designed to: ‘‘Reforming Nigeria’s government and institutions through fiscal reform, civil service reform and debt re-structuring, ————-’’.
The administration initiated the monetisation policy and the due process to curtail recurrent expenditure and regulate public financial transactions respectively. It must be conceded that the Obasanjo’s administration recorded remarkable successes which include debt forgiveness, banking sector consolidation, anti-corruption fight and progressive increase of external reserve. The monetisation policy was not sustained by succeeding governments as is now evident in purchases of exotic official cars by all arms of government at all levels – federal, state and local governments.
The anti-corruption fight of the present government has not yielded impressive results and particularly disturbing is the allegation that the anti-corruption institution, the EFCC is corrupt – a vicious circle. Vision 20:2020 initiated by the Musa Yar’ Adua’s administration in 2009 had a cardinal objective for Nigeria to be one of the 20 largest economies in the world by the year 2020. But in a keynote address in 2009, at the third Annual Forum of Laureates of the Nigerian National Order of Merit titled, ‘Seek Ye First —-’ in allusion to Kwame Nkrumah’s dictum: “Seek Ye First the Political Kingdom, and all other things shall be added”, Professor Wole Soyinka, situating the political kingdom in the context of a farm land that must be cultivated for harvest averred, inter alia, as concerning vision 20:2020: ‘‘Even the most dedicated ——farmer – armed with the latest in high –yield, blight and parasite resistant seedling – cannot guarantee the next harvest without a thorough preparation of the receptive ground.’’ Further he said, ‘——- any governance conduct ———-that contributes to the retraction of the horizon of the political kingdom as social primacy in itself, turns vision 2020 into yet another still birth———-’.
This verdict, a posteriori, underscores the failure of all the Development Plans and Vision statements of Nigeria over the years and the consequent regression and motion without movement in the body politic. Indeed, it accounts for the plethora of unfinished businesses which confront and overwhelm successive governments in addition to contemporary problems. Now, in the twilight of 2020, it is evident that the aspirations of Nigerians for a better society have not been met and that Vision 20:2020 failed to deliver on its mission statements. In 2019, Switzerland that Nigeria should have displaced was number 20 on global ranking of countries by GDP (Nominal GDP, USD703.083 billion, population, 8.6 million, GDP/capita, USD83,716) and Nigeria, number 27 ( GDP USD448.12bn, population , 200.1m, GDP/capita, USD 2,222) (IMF, 2019). The relative position from the projected statistics for 2020 is not different for the two countries. Now back to the ‘political kingdom’ which we must seek first.
There have been agitations by many Nigerians who have rightly identified the Nigerian Constitution, 1979 and now 1999, as an albatross, an encumbrance to our collective desire to build a virile nation where truth, justice and peace shall reign. Many legal minds have also done a critique of the 1999 Constitution and have identified the need to devolve powers away from the Exclusive Legislative list in favour of States. And that there is the need to examine the concurrent list as couched because it confers pre-eminence on the federal government once it legislates on any of the items. But a coterie of Nigerians across the country in their vested interest and insensitivity are vehemently opposed to a fundamental change in the Constitution in this regard. Thus, Nigerians are enslaved and held hostage by a Constitution over which they had no input.
To be continued tomorrow.
Prof. Eromosele, former Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.