Nigeria at the Crossroads: What We Must Do (1)

by Patrick Akinbola PhD,

I want to start by wishing everyone reading this write up a happy new year.  I will begin by stating my conclusion and the main point in the beginning before elaborating.  We as Nigerians need to mobilize ourselves to build and stabilize the required institutional and organizational structures and systems for our country, to assure that the guarantees of freedom, liberty, equity and the pursuit of happiness, are guaranteed for the least among us.  Never again must we delegate such powers unmonitored, to the elites in our society at the expense of the general population.  This is the only way to assure that the bad old days that we experienced under the military and the string of blood sucking politicians, traders and fake leaders including religious ones, become history for good.  I will use the rest of this write-up to breakdown some of my reasoning and thoughts behind this basic suggestion and make a few general recommendations.

Why institutional structures and systems as a solution?  The truth of the matter is that leadership and societal organization and collective governance and mobilization in this age, brings with them additional complexities, challenges and dynamism, that cannot be addressed by a super leader no matter how powerful, intelligent, detribalized or dedicated they may be.  Examples of this limitation abound all over the world.  The multinational corporations and their allies, who continue to squeeze life out of the mom and pop businesses around the world, will ultimately reach your gates, if you pretend that these are just abstract ideas which have little or no impact on you as a human being.  The professionals and elites among us, who should know better, are the ones who have demonstrated the greatest nonchalance to this global phenomenon and its implications for us as a nation.

Therefore, there is need for progressives among the Nigerian intelligentsia, elites and professionals abroad, to mobilize themselves at a global level, to play their role, working with their counter-parts resident in the nation.   There are both new challenges as well as opportunities, which makes this engagement a double edged sword.  For instance, when we hear that Wal-Mart (or the tobacco companies) is coming to Nigeria and the only perspective most of our leaders have about it is the creation of jobs, conveniently left out are the unethical and sometime vicious business practices that such organizations are already internationally known for.  This they prefer not to bring to the awareness of ordinary Nigerians.  We now need to more effectively establish new paradigms for development, which harness the widespread distribution of our people around the world, towards harnessing it for the common good.  I will further breakdown some of the reasons why diminishing the impact of powerful people in our society and increasing the power of our institutions (at all levels) is the most effective way in my view, to guarantee, maximize and stabilize the dividends of our democracy.

Whatever reservations we may have about the current APC-led government; we need to see the ascension of its leader, General M. Buhari as a divine intervention which provides us with a window of opportunity which has to be effectively harnessed.  Only an active sensitization and engagement of the polity, regarding all the processes of leadership and governance will assure the success of this government, towards creating the type of society the majority desires.  According to Marsha Peeler a while ago in reference to leadership……“Leadership in the 90’s and beyond must be a team effort. We cannot afford to sit around and wait for one leader to emerge. We must form teams of leaders from within the communities. Our society has become so complex that we need a diverse team to include all angles and perspectives necessary for re-building”.

With the massive outward migration of our skilled expertise across the board, among other causative factors came a depletion of our institutional capacity, as well as an erosion of many of the values which were inculcated into our society pre and post-independence.  These values included those we inherited from our colonial masters, and those that are traceable to our ancient traditions.  The rescue of the nation will not come from either a powerful individual or a handful of “endowed” individuals, no matter their smarts, wealth, spiritual power or anything else.  Rather, such salvaging efforts will only occur with the massive awareness raising and mobilization of the extensive spread of Nigerians across the globe, who bring with them significant expertise and resources.  If well organized around a common vision, these can play a vanguard role of catalyst, enabling the country to finally embark of a path of sustained and rapid development.

If Nigeria is to emerge as the true giant and leader of the continent, Nigerians abroad have a crucial and an irreplaceable role to play towards making that vision a reality.  The current low price of oil and future projections further underscore the importance of our effective engagement of our knowledge workers among other assets we have across the globe.  The improvement of infrastructure and security in our country will significantly impact the brain drain challenge.  It’s however also notable that these sectors themselves are major areas that don’t have magic wand solutions.  The cultivation of a fast track approach to addressing them will require effectively engaging the dormant energy of the Diaspora which is massive and available for harnessing.

I would like to divulge some of my own motivations for engaging this global and challenging issue at this point in time.  For quite a while now I have been looking at my life as a progressive, and have come to the realization that much of the lofty expectations that we had for Nigeria as young undergraduates during the seventies will not materialize during our lifetime.  As I get older and find my energies waning, I am coming to the realization that I need to take on a more proactive approach, to my progressivism in order to truly make the impression and get the desired results.

It is my considered view that future generations will look very harshly on my generation, if we fail to take the bull be the horn, in pushing for and identifying with the solutions that we see as crucial for the emancipation of our people.  My exposure and experience schooling and working both internationally and locally, have enabled me to experience Nigerian professionals both home and abroad.  This insight has been most useful in enabling me to affirm the need to us to build a more deliberate and sustained synergy among our peoples, towards creating a new paradigm for our sustainability and survival in the present age.

I experience with sadness many of our youths with degrees in science and technology among other specialties, who are seeking to go to South Korea, Japan or some other eastern country, to teach English due to lack of job opportunities for them in western countries or Nigeria.  This I consider a collective shame on us Nigerian professional who consider ourselves truly “arrived” but who are not even able to address the basic needs of our society.  I consider myself truly blessed with all the options I have available to me, and see my involvement as a member of this freedom vanguard, as the least I can do to give back to my country of birth.  My desire through this write-up is to appeal to the good senses of many of my colleagues who find themselves in a similar situations, as well as those at home who believe that working together we can make a difference.

I believe that working together; we can move mountains on behalf of our people.  With developments such as the involvement of progressives such as Prof. Itse Sagay and Atty. Femi Falana among others, with major institutions of government, it’s obvious that a significant opening for the progressive re-creation of our society is on which all who wish the country well, need to be aware of, and endeavor to cultivate into a mobilization opportunity.

I will be the first to admit that establishing, cultivating and consolidating the types of institutions and systems that we speak about is easier said than done.  I hope that we can approach it like the proverbial eating of an elephant, one step at a time.  First of all, these cannot be done merely through the passing of laws and edicts, or threats of draconian treatment.  More importantly, they require a collective understanding and agreement among our peoples, which enables us to build, cultivate and nurture relationships that can survive and be strengthened over time.  The devil as they say is in the details, but these are details that we ignore at our collective peril.

An example of how the type of institutional framework that I refer to can elevate the quality of governance and subsequently the quality of life in our society, can be seen in relation to geographic balance in government appointments.  The truth of the matter is that our society still views such appointments principally as a means to having disproportionate and even illegal access to government resources at the expense of the rest of society.  A better structured society with the necessary institutional oversight, will reduce the potential for abuse created through some of such appointments.  This would assure less corruption and leakage and a fairer distribution of the national cake across the board.  We need to work towards elevating the public discuss in our country above such primordial sentiments.

The truth is that the oppressive class in our society, the elites, will not give up their advantaged position at the expense of the rest of us without a vicious fight.  Corruption as we can all see is already fighting back.  This is a basic human instinct, and Nigerian elites will not act any differently.  Based on the mindless looting and other unfair and sometimes downright evil practices they have engaged in over the decades, they have the resources, structures and organizations, including membership of cults and secret societies, to wreak havoc on any individuals or groups, that try to change the status quo for the common good.  The rest of us do not have these advantages or assets.  Indeed, within the progressives, the organizational infrastructure, competencies and capacities to effectively mobilize its critical mass to build this institutions are sourly lacking and underdeveloped.  Most of the progressive leadership is vulnerable to big money and have the tendency to sellout at the drop of a hat.

Following the political and social tsunami that ejected the PDP from power, it is obvious that we are in the midst of a major transition the outcomes of which in my view, no one can confidently predict at this time.  It’s a political tsunami when a government run by the largest party in Africa which was positioning to rule for 60 years (according to them), is suddenly shown the way out, utilizing people’s power.  The reverberations from this development are still being felt within the polity and across the continent.  It is a social tsunami when institutions and societal icons that we all used to look up to, such as ethnic and religious groups are suddenly found to have long sold out, and to be working in the interest of our oppressors and feeding their own pockets.

Many examples of these including; Obas, Emirs, Obis, religious leaders, and other societal icons easily come to mind.  These recent revelations and developments have demystified the aura of invincibility which used to surround some of these individuals and institutions.  It has probably more than anything else affirmed to us as Nigerians, that we need to shine our eyes, to better screen those that are leading us, to assure that the commonwealth is in good hands.

Rather that turning ourselves into spectators in affairs that we should be an integral part of, what we need to do is to come to a realization that a unique opportunity has now presented itself to us to effectively mobilize and coalesce around some shared core values, towards the final liberation of our teaming masses.  In addition, Nigerian professionals and other elites abroad and at home can and should be organized and mobilized towards providing the leadership required to place the country in the saddle to lead the rest of the black race.  No other country is better positioned to do this that us. The reality of black oppression is all over the globe (Black Lives Matter) and we must not pretend that this does not concern us or that we don’t have responsibilities in this regard.  I will build on this idea in the subsequent follow up to this write-up.

I realize that I have spoken about several difference issues in this write up.  My purpose is to sensitize us as Nigerians around some common themes, as well as to encourage feedback and discussion in social media etc..  This is with a view of facilitating results and proactivity not just having a talk shop.  I plan to follow-up on this write-up building on some of the issues that I have highlighted here.  Apart from identifying some of the modalities required for us to cultivate the required “critical mass” in systems, structures and institutions, I will also speak to the global environment and its implications for our development efforts; highlighting the need to think globally while acting locally.  The need for solidarity and synergy with other blacks and minorities in the Diaspora is another crucial issue close to my heart, which I will be speaking to in next write-up.  I see this as crucial, to our providing the leadership expected of us by the entire black world.  To many blacks in the diaspora, Nigeria has been a huge disappointment considering the hopes and aspirations we all for it at independence.  It was believed that Nigeria was destined to lead the freedom efforts of the entire black race.

Suffice it to say that I don’t see myself as an expert on these matters.  However, compared to the majority of Nigerians, I consider myself privileged and blessed.  I also see the cultivation of interdependent relationships and strategic alliances as crucial to the new paradigms that we need.  I encourage you to share this with other Nigerians, as a way of encouraging many that have given up on our dear nation, to begin to dream aloud on the possibilities we can create working together.  All will be well with Nigeria this year.


Patrick Akinbola PhD.

[email protected]

Twitter: @pkinbola

January 2, 2016