For The Sake Of Our Children’s Children – By Anthony Akinwale, Guest Writer
Dialogue is of the essence of democracy. There is no democracy where leaders talk down on the people, no democracy where there is a landlord-tenant relationship between the leader and the led, no democracy where there is no credible election, where the will of the people is subverted by a manipulated electoral process. There is no democracy where leaders are not answerable to the people.
If one were to be asked whether or not there is democracy in Nigeria, the answer would depend on whether or not Nigeria fits into the description of a land where leaders talk down to the people, where leaders behave like landlords who disdainfully treat the people as tenants on their own land, where the electoral process is remotely manipulated by an oligarchy, where leaders arrogantly refuse to be held accountable.
To be irresponsible is to be i-response-able, that is, to be either unwilling or incapable of being accountable. Where leaders do not assume office through a credible electoral process, they do not see the obligation to be accountable. They do not see that they owe the people any debt to be paid by being responsible. Such leaders would arrogantly dismiss the concerns of the people.
Nigeria is in distress. Diagnosis of her distress shows an abject lack of democratic traits in her leaders and in her people. Chinua Achebe, in his The Trouble With Nigeria, famously declared that the problem with Nigeria is leadership. With profound respect for the great writer, I beg to differ.
Bad leadership does not offer a sufficient explanation for the distress Nigeria is undergoing. The people are also a huge chunk of the problem. In our gullibility, the people allow themselves to be hoodwinked by civilians and military politicians. We are a people who cheerlead our oppressors, especially when they are of our ethnic, religious or regional communities. We enable our oppressors.
Our leaders are patently arrogant. That is why the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal can assault a security man in a shopping mall. He has neither been tried nor retired. He has not resigned. Our leaders speak and act as if our land and we the people belonged to them. That is why, when there are calls for a new constitutional arrangement, they do not listen. Intellectually incapable of refuting any dissenting opinion, they simply dismiss the concerns of the people. When there are calls for a new constitutional arrangement, they refuse to listen. Rather than refute the proposition, they deploy their propaganda of malice, fallacy and sophistry.
Now the chickens have come to roost. Having stifled a culture of dialogue, insecurity, poverty, corruption have become our flat mates, while our imperial kabiyesis are bereft of ideas.
For decades, Nigerians have been groaning. But our leaders have taken no notice. They have remained deaf to the audible groans of the people, blind to their suffering, insensitive to their discomfort. Nigerians are on the receiving end of the most oppressive generation of political leaders in our history. Federal, state and local government officials, in the executive, legislative and judiciary carry on as if the people did not matter.
This generation of leaders lacks legitimacy because it came in my seriously flawed elections. That lack of legitimacy has led to a total collapse of the state – which is what a coup d’etat literally means.
The state has collapsed. That is why there is insecurity. The state has collapsed where institutions of state are poorly designed and poorly established by a dangerously flawed military decree called a constitution. The state has collapsed where her institutions are unable to function the way they ought.
When a building collapses, there will most probably be casualties. Nigeria is a house in which 200 million people reside. The first casualty of the collapse of institutions of state is security of life and property.
The insecurity we currently witness is a sign, a visible sign that governance has collapsed. This is what a coup d’etat is. A coup d’etat is not just when soldiers roll out their tanks and take over the reins of state. We have been unfortunate to have experienced that so many times in the past. But now, true love of our land beckons on us to find solutions to our current problems that we may live in justice, peace and true development in a Nigeria where no one is oppressed.
The solution is not dissemination of falsehood and exhibition of insolence by government spokespersons. If, when and where there is insecurity, no one is safe. Our lives and our belongings are in danger. They need not be. We cannot expect prosperity in insecurity.
For the sake of all of us, let our leaders listen. It will not diminish them. It will magnify all of us. Leadership is not diminished when a leader listens. It is instead ennobled and enabled.
The solution is not in secession, in separatist agitations. Nonetheless, if there are people who insist that they want to opt out of Nigeria, they should be heard by way of a referendum. It is incorrect to say Nigeria’s unity is non-negotiable. The only unity that is non-negotiable is the unity in the divine Trinity, the unity in God, because this unity is perfect love.
A gathering of peoples held together against their will, at gun point, is no unity but a gathering of the oppressed. No one should be forced to remain within any union. That would violate the right to freedom of association which is also freedom not to associate.
In the absence of a fair social contract, Nigeria may either disintegrate or become unsafe for habitation. Yet, there is a danger with ongoing separatist agitations that many are not willing to consider, and that is, in the absence of a fair and credible social contract within the ethnic and regional communities calling for separation, the land around the Niger will become a collection of South Sudans, bloody boundary disputes, and multiple flashpoints.
For the sake of all of us, and for the sake of our children and children’s children, we must think of communities on the boundaries of our various regions and ethnic communities – the “minorities” within our various enclaves. We must think about all of a social contract that compels leaders to be representative of and accountable to the people whether in Nigeria or in the resulting nations.
Rev. Fr. (Prof.) Anthony Akinwale is the Vice-Chancellor, Dominican University, Ibadan, NIGERIA. Web: tonyakinwale.com
IMAGE CREDIT: africanbookaddict.com