The Born-To-Rule Mentality


This is a season of parliamentary elections all over the world. Iraq, the Philippines and Britain have all had their elections recently.

In war-ravaged Iraq, Sheikh Alawi has been declared winner after a highly contested and grimly fought electoral battle. In Philippines Benigno Acquino III recorded a resounding victory perhaps to compensate for the assassination of his charismatic father who was shot by agents of President Ferdinand Marcos in August 1983 as he returned home from exile in the USA.

The most beautiful of the three is the democratic excellence displayed by the three musketeers of the British 2010 elections. Gordon Brown of the Labour Party, David Cameron of the Conservative Party and Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats all exemplified Britain’s status as one of the greatest democracies of the world. But in the end the Tories and Liberal Democrats managed an entente which saw Gordon Brown as the sacrificial lamb.

In all the tested democracies of the world, elections and all the surrounding paraphernalia are held sacrosanct. But in Nigeria election results are predetermined and most times results are based on selection of favoured candidates instead of the free and fair elections we all witnessed in America in 2008 and Britain in 2010.

While we describe the 2010 British elections as wonderful, the American election of 2008 was a miracle and a spectacle to behold with President Barack Obama emerging as the Miracle of the century.

Here in Nigeria leadership is the birth right of the anointed few who lord it over the minority who groan in prolonged pain and penury.

Nigerian minorities have been forced to imbibe the ‘wazobian’ philosophy which makes leadership a divine mandate in the best interest of Nigerian peace, stability and economic growth. This Hausa/Fulani, Igbo, Yoruba tripartite arrangement has been strengthened by many slogans like Federal character, Quota system, zoning, etc.

This born-to-rule philosophy is the greatest example of political disenfranchisement, political laziness and political slavery. The Nigerian 1999 Constitution guarantees every Nigerian the right to aspire, vote or be voted into any elective position for which he or she is qualified. Section 42 of the Nigeria Constitution is very explicit that no Nigerian can be disenfranchised because of state of origin, religion or sex.

The Arewa Consultative Forum on April 20th had their 10th anniversary planning committee meeting in Kaduna and declared that they were shopping for a Northern Presidential candidate for the 2011 presidential election. Brig General Mohammed Umar who spoke on ACF’s behalf described the organization as non-partisan. He also talked of the “Total Northern Approach” in solving challenging national Issues. To say the ACF is a non-partisan organization is one of the greatest fallacies man has ever heard and the “Total Northern Approach” has confirmed this.

The ACF, the Northern Union and other tribal political organisations in Nigeria should be held responsibile for Nigeria’s political and economic stagnation. This is because Northern Nigeria has produced 9 of Nigeria’s 12 leaders since independence. If we include Chief Ernest Shonekan’s era on the Southern divide and Gen Ironsi’s brief 6 months tenure. So Northern Nigeria has ruled for 38 years while Obasanjo , Shonekan and Ironsi have ruled for 12 years.

And for this 50 years Nigeria including the North has not made so much progress in spite of its born to rule philosophy. It is true some of Nigeria’s richest men like former Presidents Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalam Abubakar are from the north. The north is in fact still monolithic and still total in its approach to national issues and worse off for its 38 years of ruling Nigeria.

For instance support facilities for civil society, democracy and democratic institutions are less prominent in the North than in the South. For democracy to survive we need peace, security and an enlightened and educated electorate, a strong and viable civil service and ethnic-religious harmony and tolerance.

All the aforestated criteria are vital for the enthronement and maintenance of democracy. For instance, the Northern candidate is given the lowest cut off mark in JAMB and other national admissions. This unfortunate concession is a counter-productive acceptance of failure and the propagation of the born-to-rule philosophy. That is, the Northern candidate does not need to strive for excellence for the JAMB or other such examinations, he will be admitted anyhow.

This really is a Nigerian problem and not for Northern Nigeria.

The Northern politician believes that it is his divine right to rule Nigeria and after ruling for 38 years, the North now pitied the South and chose President Olusegun Obasanjo to rule for 8 years as the Southern representative.

The born-to-rule mentality of the North must be jettisoned if Nigeria must catch up with the rest of the civilised and changing world as political zoning has brought only chaos wherever it was practiced. Cyprus, Lebanon and the former Yugoslavia are good examples of this archaic power sharing formula.

No Nigerian child or citizen must be educationally disadvantaged. The Federal Government must provide facilities for the compulsory education of every Nigerian child. The ingenious Prof. Jibrin Aminu’s normadic child education scheme must be revived and extended to the riverine states of the Niger Delta where education ratio is as low as Northern Nigeria.

I will give an example of how Singapore solved a lopsided educational disadvantage against the Malays of that country and turned it into an asset of inestimable value. There are three main ethnic groups in Singapore. The majority Chinese community with about 75% of total population, the Malays and the Tamil speaking Indian community. The Malays who are mainly Muslims were more educationally backward and this worried Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew who is a Chinese Singaporean. But the Prime Minister knew that if Singapore had to move from its backwardness and enjoy all the techno-facilities available to them from the West, every part of Singapore had to be completely educated. In 1980 Lee Kuan Yew called the Malay leaders and openly told them of his displeasure about the poor performance of Malay students in mathematics and the sciences. After the initial shock the leaders co-operated with government by even contributing 50 cents initially and later $2.50 from each Malay’s monthly CPF(Central Provident Fund) contributions as wages increased.

In 1982 the Malay leaders with assurance of government support formed MEDAKI (A Council for the education of Muslim Children). Many leading Muslim clerics were involved and contributions came from Malay donors and Muslim organisations. Government also matched these contributions dollar for dollar as it was a joint partnership project.

The enthusiasm was so infectious and by 1991 a group of young Muslim graduates formed the Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP). Results: In 1987 only 7% Malay students made it to polytechnics and universities. Twelve years later in 1999 this figure had quadrupled to 28%. In 1996 a Malay girl made summa cum laude in English at Bekerly University – California. Another Malay student made a first class Honours in Physics in Cambridge –England and went ahead to bag his PhD. in 1999.

In 1991, the Malay Muslim miracle story forced the Indian Community to establish Singapore Indian Dev. Association (SINDA) and in 1992 the majority Chinese formed the Chinese Dev. Association Council (CDAC) to help their weaker students.

One of Singapore’s greatest assets today is its corps of highly mobile graduate technocrats who flood the civil service, banks multinational corporations, government parastatals, manufacturing and petrochemical industries, bringing Singapore’s literacy level to about 88%.

Nigeria can follow this illustrious path and revive the nomadic child education scheme which can be replicated in the long creeks of the Niger Delta and in some other educationally disadvantaged parts of Nigeria.

For how long shall we cling to this retrogressive and obsolete born-to-rule mentality? For instance the slogan of Niger State is, “Born-To-Rule” imperiously emblazoned all over Niger State with so much pomp, pride and sarcasm.

Of course small Niger State has produced two military heads of state and plans to produce the next President in 2011 to justify its bogus and imperious “Born-To-Rule” philosophy. The Federal Government must start now to lay the fabric for an all encompassing educational policy that will not spare the child born in the high mountains of Gembu in Adamawa State and he Nembe seaside of Bayelsa  State,

It is the greatest travesty of justice for you to tell the Niger Delta  indigene that he cannot contest for the Presidency of his fatherland when he has sacrificed so much in sickness and disease and in all forms of deprivations to make cities like Abuja, Lagos, Minna, Kaduna, Jos, etc. the glorious gold-paved cities they are today.

Its is even contemptuous of the social contract that binds us as a nation to exclude any contractual party of this social bond from vying for any elective position in our fatherland.

Away with the Born-to-rule mentality, away with political zoning and exclusion, away with federal character, away with quota system and all unconstitutional injections into our political bloodstream. The Born-to-Rule philosophy is a dignified euphemism for mediocrity and cerebral emptiness. It is an elitist and oligarchic system of government whereby the priviledged but educationally disadvantaged few lord it over a highly talented and educated majority.

Nigeria has been independent for the past 50 years and in the comity of nations we are still non-starters. This bogus born-to-rule philosophy which is a historical travesty has taken us 50 years back into Rosseau’s survival of the fittest state.

Nigeria, however, has a golden opportunity to catch up and latch unto President Goodluck Jonathan’s recent positive publicity blitz in the United States of America. America and indeed the world have offered a hand of fellowship to Nigeria. The political bon camaraderie of both President Barack Obama of America and the United Nation’s Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon towards President Goodluck Jonathan has been very complimentary. The President’s April 20th visit to America was a rare opportunity for the Nigerian President who instantly became the world’s most beautiful bride and Nigerians relished that moment as one of our finest moments in recent history.

God bless Nigeria.

• Nanaghan writes from Lagos.

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