A Contract To Save, Transform Nigeria (1)


At independence in 1960, Nigeria was celebrated for its potential: the magnitude and vitality of its peoples, the enormity of its landmass and the sheer abundance of its natural resources. Fifty years on, the talk about Nigeria is still about its potential, simply because it has failed to realise its promise. In that interval, many countries that were her peers in underdevelopment have made accelerated transitions to development within a generation, replicating in decades progressive attainments that took centuries in the West. This speedy leapfrog was accomplished by leadership that successfully built state and governance structures that were conducive to economic and human development. The success of the Asian Tigers elevates humanity, and it is a ringing indictment of those that have mismanaged Nigeria because their excuses have been repudiated.

Nigeria’s has been a tale of arrested development and regression, punctuated by episode of progress. On every major index of human and economic development, Nigeria is a failure, a tragedy for most of its people who have had their life chances hobbled by a system that has benefited a tiny few. Its citizens daily confront a state that is violent but ineffectual; grasping but unaccountable and thus far incapable of guaranteeing security of life and property or fostering conditions that enable the fruitful pursuit of happiness.

Almost 11  percent of babies born in Nigeria die before their first birthdays. Of those who survive, many cannot expect to live beyond 48 years, most of which they will spend with little or no access to electric power, safe water or good healthcare.  People below 25 years constitute the majority of Nigeria’s population, but most of these youths have been educated in poorly equipped and ill-staffed schools, leaving them without the skills to function effectively in the 21st Century.  Mass failures in examinations, poor facilities and the deficit of accountability at all levels of learning ensure that the average youth, raised in a deformed society, is also socialized to view the distortions that have scarred his or her mind as the norm. Nigeria’s legion of demoralised youths have to contend with high unemployment as the economy is losing jobs daily. Industrial output is in decline, as is capacity utilization.

Evidence of some economic growth is visible. But the quadrupling of GDP to $173 billion in 2007 from $46 billion in 2000 has not been accompanied by a similar expansion in jobs.

Nigeria is just not working:
The tragedy of Nigeria is a pervasive pathology. Its leadership selection process excludes its best while celebrating mediocrity. The incremental influence of that pathology has created a failing state that is unable to do much more than uphold the conclave of looters that hold the country hostage.  In many ways, every election process turns out to be much worse than the preceding cycle.

Upon taking power after stolen polls, the new leadership often proceeds to enthrone a ruling ethos that is defined by a searing contempt for the people. That is why, despite the billions of dollars that the Nigerian state has earned over five decades, Nigeria remains at the bottom of the human development league. It is a fact that Nigerians must reject because a better life is possible.

Fifty years into Nigeria’s attainment of nationhood, it still has the status of what domestic and international observers call a failed state, failing state, or failed asset. Nigeria’s failure to belong to the comity of successful and functional states that obtained the status of independent nationhood within the same decade is not attributable to the lack of material and human resources. On the contrary, the country’s economic, social, and political failure has resulted from  the non-adherence to the practice of true federalism and the consequent mismanagement of the nation’s resources by most of its political managers since independence.  Such managers have ranged from military dictators to civilian presidents and governors imposed on the electorate through rigged elections.

Nigeria today is ranked as one of the twenty poorest nations of the world, despite the fact that it is the world’s seventh largest producer of petroleum and gas. It has one of the highest rates of male and female illiteracy in the world even though it was among the first set of countries in the world to introduce free education over half a century ago. The country’s maternal and infant mortality is one of the highest in Africa. It is common knowledge that Nigeria has more hours of power outage on daily basis than any other country in the modern world. According to international financial observers like the World Bank, Nigeria had more money removed illegally from its treasury than any other country in Africa between 1970 and 2008.  As of today, $89 billion of Nigeria’s funds has been stolen by the country’s political managers and carted out of the country for safe keeping. For the past twenty years, Nigeria has acquired and sustained the reputation of being one of the most corrupt countries on earth.

The consequence of high-level political and bureaucratic corruption can be seen on the faces of most Nigerians who live in abject poverty. Over 70% of Nigeria’s 150 million people live below poverty line, with close to 80% of Nigerians earning less than 300 naira a day. The country’s health service once considered one of the best in Africa in the early 1960s, has now collapsed to the point that its leaders travel to  Europe and even neighboring African countries for medical treatment. Even leaders that are sick and have to be brought back to Nigeria are kept in special ambulances, as there are no hospitals in the country to take care of their special medical needs. Nigeria’s educational system, once considered one of the most enviable on the continent up to the 1970s, has declined to the point that up to 75% of students that sat for secondary school exit examinations failed in the last three years.

In a country with over 70% of its population under the age of 35 years, the rate of unemployment is over 60%, thus leaving the country’s youths in the category of wasted generation. Nigeria is one of few countries in the region that fail to provide employment for those it proudly refers to a s leaders of tomorrow. In addition, Nigeria’s women  remain one of the most marginalised and neglected female populations in the  modern world. In politics, governance, and even corporate governance, women’s presence and contribution remains negligible. For example, women account for less than 40 of over 400 members of the National Assembly. In addition, because of the failure of political managers to provide electricity and potable water, manufacturers that came from other countries in the 1960s and those that grew from within Nigeria have migrated their factories to neighboring African countries in increasing numbers in the last few years.

Those who live in Nigeria are likely to find the points being raised in this preamble boring because they are too is obvious. What is direly needed now is how to get Nigeria out of the hole of underdevelopment, corruption, and mismanagement. Now is the time for truly patriotic Nigerians to join the movement to save Nigeria from its current state of failure by joining forces with the Save Nigeria Group, SNG. Now is the time to liberate Nigeria from the grips of its predators.  SNG believes that Nigeria’s failure is avoidable; that Nigeria can be saved. But to stop the politics of self-imposed failure, a new crop of leaders with a patriotic outlook and a transformation vision from those of its predatory leaders must move to the centre of the country’s political space to re-engineer it away from chronic failure and chart a new course in the direction of success. The SNG is blazing the trail of change and transformation in Nigeria. The following manifesto, designed to bring liberty, security, and prosperity to all Nigerians, is being made available to all Nigerians, who are urged to demand that its provisions represent the minimum acceptable standards from political parties and their governments.

The overall goal of this political charter is EMPOWERMENT: of citizens (regardless of age, gender and economic status), communities, states, and the nation, as well as the transformation of Nigeria into a nation with an ethos of strong centre, strong states, strong local governments, and strong citizens to create wealth and make contributions to modern global civilization. SNG believes strongly that the purpose of government is to use the common wealth of the nation to improve the standard of living of the citizens. It is an abiding commitment of SNG to make the Fundamental Objectives and directive principles of State Policy in the 1999 Constitution justifiable. In addition, the following objectives in bullet form are designed to accelerate the process of returning Nigeria to the tradition of government in the service of the citizens.

2. Political Agenda
Political Structure and Governance
For about fifty years, Nigeria has had one form of politics of exclusion or the other: military dictatorship, civilians came to power through fraudulent electoral systems, polarization of the country into North/South, Muslim/Christian, Settler/Indigene dichotomies, to name a few. What Nigeria did not have through the colonial period and until now is genuine electoral democracy capable of spawning the politics of inclusion. Fifty years after independence, Nigeria still does not have a political structure that can promote unity and national development while also promoting the nation’s cultural diversity.

A lot of energy has been spent in the last fifteen years on how to obtain a political structure that can fuel growth and development at the centre and in the states.  To this end, several ethnic nationality organizations and individual Nigerians have called for restructuring through a sovereign national conference or through constitutional amendments. One of such groups is the Niger Delta community that consistently asks for true federalism, self-determination, and resource control.  The activities of Niger Delta militants in the last few years have been a source of political, economic, and social tension. The current amnesty scheme is the latest response to the threat to Nigeria’s economy and unity from the Niger Delta.  It is time to do more than pardoning militants by addressing the root cause of militancy.

•Culled from ‘Charter for Liberty, Security And Prosperity: The Irreducible Minimum Nigerians Must Insist On’, a publication of Save Nigeria Group, SNG.

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