2023 won't bring change to Nigeria –Bakare – New Telegraph Newspaper
‘1999 Constitution is a glorified death certificate’
Pastor Tunde Bakare of the Citadel Global Community Church recently addressed the nation on what he termed, “The Black Box of Nigeria’s Politics.” WALE ELEGBEDE brings the excerpts
Fellow citizens of Nigeria at home and in the diaspora, let me begin by wishing you all a Happy 61st Independence Anniversary once again.
More than six decades ago, as our nation’s founding fathers walked the long road to independence, they were under no illusions about the challenges of forging a nation from one of the most diverse groups of people on earth.
Even as they took great strides in negotiating the terms of our nationhood, they recognized that independence was only the beginning of the difficult, but not impossible, task of nationbuilding.
They understood that, as momentous as the attainment of independence was for Nigeria, the fight for freedom was not yet won until every Nigerian citizen could stake a claim to the Nigerian nation.
The verdict on our stewardship
Fellow Nigerians, a critical point of national reflection in this season of our 61st Independence Anniversary is the quality of our stewardship of the nation that we inherited from our founding patriots.
What does it say about our stewardship when, more than sixty years after the discovery of oil in Nigeria, at a time that the world is moving on from oil and embracing renewable energy, we are still bickering over what paltry percentage should be allocated from oil revenue to oilbearing host communities?
What is our progress scorecard when, in the era of the fourth industrial revolution, our policy debates are still around reopening cattle grazing routes and sustaining an archaic practice that has claimed numerous lives and left many homeless across the nation?
What lessons have we learnt when, over sixty years after our founding fathers almost sacrificed the prospects of nationhood on the altar of sectional politics, we are still caught up in squabbles over which part of Nigeria the next president will come from?
Indeed, we forget that in our national history, there has been no correlation between the number of years a region has produced a president or head of state and the level of development of that region or geopolitical zone
. If there were any correlation between the part of the country that produces the president and the level of development of that region, the North would be the most developed region in Nigeria today, having produced heads of state and presidents for over 40 out of 61 years since independence.
Instead, despite the historical dominance of the North in the governance of this nation, data from the World Bank indicates that, as of 2016, the North accounted for 87 per cent of the poverty in Nigeria.
Furthermore, based on a report by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), the facts indicate that the North has dominated key appointments in the six years of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Despite this preponderance of appointments from the North, data from the Nigeria Living Standards Survey shows that the North has continued to dominate the poverty headcount in Nigeria even during the Buhari administration.
If there were any correlation between where a president comes from and the level of development of his region, the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan would have resolved the restructuring, resource management and environmental degradation-related crises of the Niger Delta, as well as the developmental aspirations of the South-East.
If there were any correlation between where a president comes from and the development of his region, the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo would not have resulted in the marginalization of the South-West or the freezing of the allocations of Lagos State.
While inclusiveness is integral to achieving national integration, we have merely majored in minors in our approach to political inclusion.
The problem with Nigeria is not that some ethnic groups have not produced a president; the problem with Nigeria is that we have failed to heed the admonitions of our founding fathers, the likes of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who challenged us in his Lancaster House address to move beyond the independence of the country to freedom for the peoples and citizens of Nigeria.
Where the rain started beating us afresh as a nation
For every contractual agreement, the parties are required to sign a document validating the terms and conditions in the reckoning of the Law. In the case of Nigeria, our founding fathers, in effect, signed a contract in 1960 detailing the terms and conditions of our union or unity following a series of negotiations.
This contract was then updated in 1963 following due consultations.
While the 1999 Constitution (as amended) opens with the preamble “We the people,” we, the people of Nigeria, were neither duly consulted, nor did we accept the conditions under which we are now being governed! How, then, can anyone hypocritically insist that “our unity is non-negotiable?” Did we not negotiate it in 1960 and 1963?
Truth be told, the majority of the champions, promoters and supporters of the “our unity is nonnegotiable” slogan pay lip service to a version of unity that serves their selfish interests.
What they are insisting on, in reality, is that “our disunity is non-negotiable,” and that we must be forced to live together irrespective of the inherent disfunctionality of the terms and conditions.
The continued insistence on altering the set rules in the midst of our spirited game of national development, and the subsequent imposition of a draconian and lopsided concoction of a constitution in 1999, is the most inhibiting, corrosive spanner thrown into the wheel of our national unity and faith, peace and progress, from that time until now.
I am fully persuaded, as are many fellow compatriots within and outside the shores of Nigeria that the 1999 Constitution, whether as amended or to be further amended by the National Assembly, is nothing more than a glorified death certificate.
At this juncture, let us borrow a leaf from recent world history. Once upon a time, the Berlin walls separated Eastern Germany from Western Germany until President Ronald Reagan in his indomitable manner spoke lucidly on live television to the president of the then Soviet Union.
He said: ‘Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!’ Mr. Gorbacheveventually did, and Germany is better off for it today. In the same spirit, I say to President Muhammadu Buhari: ‘Mr President, stop passing the buck to the National Assembly.
Tear down this inhibiting concoction of a constitution; tear it down, so we can build a truly great nation!’
This is one enduring legacy your administration can still secure before your time in power draws to a close. If you do, present and unborn generations of Nigerians will remember you for it and write your name in gold when the history of this period is written.
If you don’t, history will record that you failed to rise to the occasion and squandered a great opportunity.
Fellow citizens, what we need is a geo-political structure that will provide an enabling environment for every zone in our nation to maximize its geo-economic opportunities and potentials under a strong and united Nigeria.
This can be achieved by a pragmatic approach to restructuring Nigeria, rather than by mere zoning of the presidency.
Please note that those clamouring and waiting for genuine change to happen through the upcoming 2023 presidential election, without first insisting that our imposed sham of a constitution must be torn and discarded, are merely putting the cart before the horse.
This is nothing but a prescription for retrogression. No tangible progress can ever be made by such an exercise in futility.
It would be tantamount to building a superstructure on a faulty or shaky foundation. As patriots, we have presented to the current government pragmatic pathways to such a geo-economic, geosocial and geo-political restructuring of Nigeria. However, given the lack of political will on the part of the government, the time has come for Nigerian citizens to make informed and compelling demands on the political system.
The purpose of this address is to equip the citizens with the tools to do this.
The power of the Nigerian citizen Fellow Nigerians, throughout our history, from the fight for local representation in the colonial administration, to the fight for the independence of Nigeria, every time there was progress on the path to nation-building, it was because the people realized that “the power of the people is greater than the people in power.”
As nation builders, this realization of the power of the citizen was what informed our confrontational stance against military dictatorship. It was what informed every intervention in governance that we have either pioneered or supported since the return to civil rule. It was what birthed the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) amidst the turbulence of a power hijack over eleven years ago.
It is what is about to awaken a new wave of intelligent engagement in the polity as we reclaim Nigeria for Nigerians and as we go to the nations to rally Nigerians for Nigeria. However, an active citizenry must be empowered with knowledge and understanding because you cannot engage a system whose intricacies you do not understand.
I do not doubt that Nigerians are well-versed in political matters; this much is evident from conversations in beer parlours, barbershops and salons; in markets, offices, churches, and mosques; on the streets, among the so-called “Free Readers’ Association” by newspaper stands, in countless WhatsApp groups and, of course, on social media.
However, not many Nigerians understand the intricacies of the political system and how it affects their lives and livelihoods. It is why, in this address, I seek to unveil to the Nigerian citizen the intricate world of politics, so that every Nigerian will have a basic understanding of the system that we are confronted with. Fellow Nigerians, please journey with me as we thoroughly examine “The Black Box of Nigeria’s Politics.”
The Black Box of Nigeria’s politics This segment of my address was inspired by a presentation I made to the National Association of Political Science Students (NAPSS, UNILAG Chapter) on August 6, 2021. I am extending it to the generality of the Nigerian citizenry because I am convinced that our progress as citizens is dependent on the extent to which we can decode the complexities of our political system.
The notion of the black box of politics emerges from the idea that the inner workings of the political system are opaque to the citizens. As citizens, we experience the impact of governance, whether good or bad.
We know when government officials are working for the common good and we can even opt to reward them by re-electing them. We can also assess the impact of bad governance. As a business owner, for instance, you feel the pain when your business fails due to inadequate access to infrastructure such as electricity; you also feel the drain on your savings when the dollar to naira ratio hits the roof. As a petty trader, you understand what it means to be unable to make enough sales in a day to put food on the table for your household. As a student, you know what it means to spend six to eight years studying for a four-year course in an unsuitable learning environment characterized by incessant strikes and school closures amidst poor funding for education.
As a young unemployed graduate, you understand what it means to be without a decent job or to be unable to access credit to finance a viable business idea.
As a social media enthusiast for whom Twitter is a reliable platform for engagement, you know what it means to be unable to engage on Twitter due to the protracted ban on the platform by the federal government. You also understand what it means to be brutalized by poorly paid law enforcement agents.
Sometimes, we even react by protesting against the actions of the government when situations become unbearable, as did some of our young people during the #EndSARS protests around a year ago.
These unfortunate experiences are all-too-familiar to most Nigerians. What we may not understand, however, is the behind-the-scenes political intrigues that create and sustain these situations. These intrigues and trade-offs that take place behind the scenes within the political system are what we term
“The Black Box of Nigeria’s Politics.” I refer to it as a black box because, unless you “shine your eye,” the more you look, the less you see. My job in this address is to remove the veil. To do this, permit me to introduce to you what I have termed the five concentric circles of Nigeria’s politics.
Fellow Nigerians, with strong convictions rooted in the dreams of our founding patriots, with true commitment to national reconciliation and integration, and with enduring confidence in our God-given destiny, let us now arise and build the Nigeria we envision; a New Nigeria, a Nigeria that works for every Nigerian, a Nigeria for Nigerians. I remain confident that Nigeria will be saved, Nigeria will be changed, and Nigeria will be great in my lifetime, by God’s grace
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