Tony Momoh
Prince Tony Momoh, the journalist par excellence, a bibliotherapist and cultural engineer is the 165th child of Momoh the first. He is the third of the four children his mother had for Momoh the first and his mother was the junior of the three groups into which the Momoh Household of 45 wives and 245 children were organised.

Nigeria at 50: The way forward

I count it a great honour to speak at this 4th Lagos Enterprise Award (LEAD) outing which among other things is meant to be part of the many events that have been lined up to mark Nigeria’s clocking of 50 years as an independent country.    Since March this year, I have had the privilege of speaking at different fora on this magic year of 50 in the life of nations, even individuals and associations.  They call it the jubilee year, the Golden Jubilee. It is an event that marks the past, and when you mark the past, you must have something that you anchor it on.  In my speech here today on Nigeria at 50: The Way Forward, I will peg my presentation on the past so that we can decide whether we have worked hard enough to make the achievements of the past a foundation on which the expectations of the future should depend.  As I planned to write this presentation, I looked up the word Jubilee in the dictionary and came away with an inspiration to ask that Nigerians come together to execute a Jubilee Plot as the first step for a way forward to a future that is ordained by God.  That future is that Nigeria will be a world power within the next 25 years and that power will be anchored on spiritual recognitions.  I will handle this part also when we discuss the Jubilee Plot.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.  Let me start by admitting that a celebration is or should be a happy event.  Hurrah, we are 50 on October 1 and aside of the fact that we handed over almost three dozen villages and a highly endowed area of a part of our country that has made us integrated space for almost hundred years, we have remained in one unit as that integrated space that Sir Frederick Lugard in 1914 cobbled together as Nigeria from the Protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria.  Almost 100 years later, 50 of which we have been our own masters, we still remain integrated space, and we have done very little to be an integrated people.

So when some pop the champagne in celebration of affluence on October 1 and others look for palm wine and ogogoro and burukutu to drown the sorrows of neglect, they, we should not forget that what we are marking is the fruit of our sowings of yesterday;  and what we do after October 1 will be the start of other sowings that will bear fruits for our reaping 50 years hence.  We must go back in time and join the train in a journey to now and see for ourselves what we have done for or to our country that may have added value to the lives we have lived. I will in attending to this part of the presentation revisit the series I wrote in 2006 on When We Are 50.  They were published in the Sunday Vanguard and I am currently repeating the six pieces on my website www.tonymomoh.com.  My verdict, if again I must jump the gun is that nothing has changed.

Chinua Achebe told us that the problem with Nigeria is leadership.  Leadership, both political and economic, is needed to grow a country.  We have stubbornly accepted that the failings we experience on the path to now have been our failings.  But the surprising thing is that we have survived and this survival has been  a result of our transformation of compromise into an art form. If there is any contribution to democracy, it is the culture of compromise we have given birth to in Nigeria and nurtured.  But democracy does have a culture and any deviation from it under any guise  will only serve to undermine it.

It is not enough for democracy to be just a paper thing, like the Constitution of the United States of America; or the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, both written; or like the unwritten constitution of the British.  Theirs, the British, is the best example, the closest to us, of why democracy works there. For in spite of the fact that there is no document you point to, there is history you point to, the past that is your witness, their witness.

That past is anchored in structures you see and behold and respect – schools, thorough documentation of the heritage of every family, every village, every city, the whole country; libraries museums, monuments, national parks and sites, halls of fame and light and sound shows; political parties, wars and living lessons from wars.

From birth to death, the established values of the people are infused into the blood streams of every citizen, high or low, male or female, young or old, so that no other way of life derails them. In everything they do, they do with the eyes tutored through the upbringing they had.

They grew into a society of entrenched duties and rights, where everyone performs their share of duty, and so earns the right to exercise the rights the polity grants. So their democracy is not democracy because of the Labour Party or the Conservation Party or the Queen of England or the House of Commons or the Pound Sterling.

Their democracy is democracy because of the way, over time, the British people, in whatever capacity, representative or represented, have practised and practicalised and popularized how to ensure the welfare and security of their citizens. This concern is the concern of everyone, wherever they may be. The welfare and security is not just economic. It is more than that. It is also social, political, educational, cultural, environmental. But the anchor is cultural, yes, cultural.

Culture is that part of what you imbibed or what was infused into you in the environment in which you live or were brought up in. Yes, culture is taught, learned; and people who are not organized enough to reflect how they live their lives in a way definable and identifiable by others will have problems with harmoniously manifesting life in the environment in which they find themselves.

Although culture is taught, learned and shared, those who look beyond here in tracking life in the universe will tell you confidently that what you learn, what you are taught should move in the direction of downloading for that environment in which you find yourself, the manifestation that creation intends for where you are.

Democracy has its culture because it is a way of life chosen by a people to regulate their affairs in the environment in which they live.  If you depart from that culture, it is no democracy. In our country we have given the democracy dog a bad name and we have hanged it.

Our democracy is now no more than a word we impose on our choice of the way our people are governed. That way is not hidden because the past is the witness. You cannot run away from it.  The journey has recorded a lot of accidents with casualties too numerous to remember. But one thing we have learnt on our way to now is compromise, to the detriment of growing a democratic culture.

We have promoted the culture of settlement, of compromising principles on the altar of convenience, to an art form. We know what the rules say. We go into the field to conduct elections. We know that our manipulations will distort the results. We continue with the manipulations – at the time of registration of voters; when voting takes place, at counting and collations centres and when the results are announced.

The only exceptions I can recall in the evolution of our culture of compromise are the refusal of Chief Obafemi Awolowo to join a national government after the pre-independence federal elections of 1959 and Gen Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to be part of a government of national unity.

The 1964 federal election which the NCNC and the Action group boycotted because their fears about its fairness and credibility were ignored, saw settlement stepping in with the NPC and NCNC coming together to form a government after a mini-federal election in the East where the boycott was total.  The 1979 elections were the first since 1965, but the exchange of letters about possible working agreements between Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe were not any different as add-tos in the evolution of the culture of settlement in our political life.

The most embarrassing compromise was the ditching of Moshood Abiola after the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election when his closet associates accepted ministerial appointments from Abacha’s government that had thrown out Chief Ernest Shonekan’s interim tenure, which itself had been a child of compromise.

Compromise did not end even when the PDP won the elections in 1999. President Olusegun Obasanjo took in the leaders of APP and AD more to emasculate the parties than to add value to the evolution of a democratic culture.  Today, after we have witnessed the most embarrassing elections in the history of this country, compromise organizers are back at work. With election tribunals being part of the electoral process, would it not have been preferable that the elections are officially declared over only after the tribunals have pronounced on them?

Our culture of compromise is not restricted to elections and politics. We are even letting those who robbed the treasuries off the hook only if they agree to return what they tell us they have stolen. Have we not reduced the EFCC to a conciliator between the government and those who were accused of massive looting of the treasuries?

I saw  Nuhu Ribadu  waving confidently in front of the Senate of the National Assembly a list he said was of  serving governors that he would prosecute for official corruption after the 2007 elections when they would have lost their immunity from arrest and prosecution.  How many of them are awaiting trial today?  How many?

Democracy works in other places because, over the years, the people of those places have learnt, been taught, and have imbibed the democratic culture. That culture recognizes the people as boss, as owners of sovereignty which can never be delegated.

In our country, we have a written constitution which shows clearly that what is written is no more and no less than delegated powers, from the people to those who exercise legislative, executive and judicial powers. The choice of road taken is democracy as it is meant to be, and the people, apart from granting mandate to those who represent them, are to be active participants in governance. But government’s brief is that the people’s security and welfare be ensured.

Now, in spite of the volume of funds that has flowed into our national kitty since 1999, the people have never, in their history, aside of the unfortunate life in the war zones (1967-70) been this poor, and insecure.

And while the workers are on strike because of grievances that government should resolve and in the process earn some legitimacy, the people in leadership positions are asking for increases in their allowances which already lap up almost half of the budget.

And instead of us to sit down and begin to think of a return to the drawing board, we are looking at our reserve and have never felt guilt drawing from it to meet recurrent commitments, commitments that ruthlessly  deny the people access to welfare and security.

I shudder at what will happen when the oil wells in the Niger Delta dry up. A point which Gen. Muhammadu Buhari raised when a group of people discussed with him  the need to restructure this country still gives me goose pimples.  He asked, “Have we thought of Nigeria without oil for four years?”  I doubt that we are ready to do so.

But we must begin sooner than later to think about Nigeria without oil. We must get back to the drawing board, an area we will round off this presentation with.   How serious have we been with the economy? What is there to grow this country to be among the top 20 countries in the world by the year 2020?

Let me tell you a story.  Some years ago, I saw a cartoon in a newspaper.  There were three cave men in rags, each carrying a club with thorns.   The year was 1960.  In 1980 two of them had grown their environments enough to know how to wear suits.  One had started to manufacture limos, the other ships.  The third was still in his cave dress and was holding a rat in one hand.  By the year 2000, the other two were airborne and were holding computers.  The man in cave dress who had a rat to show in the year 1980 was still there in the cave dress, more tattered and the club worn.  But he had lost the rat.  The first two were Asian countries, and the third with the club and tattered dress was Nigeria!  I have never been so graphically introduced to where we are and have been since independence.  With development plans that were not properly executed and a good deal of the time abandoned, we have continued to exhibit a remarkable lack of vision in growing this country by boldly tackling the problems through proper exploitation of the resources we are so abundantly endowed with.

In the series I wrote in 2006 on where we wanted to be by the year 2010, I addressed a most detailed outlet we had for growing this country, an outlet we abandoned because the man who would have led the way did not like the face of the head of state who initiated the scheme.  I will therefore anchor our disastrous economic misadventure on our failure to execute the Vision 2010 because it was the most comprehensive, ordered, orderly and domesticated way for us to take off?  Even Abacha did not start seriously the process of letting the vision take off by launching it. If we had taken the correct cue, we would be somewhere in the medium term plans, not even those that were meant to be tackled immediately after the establishment of the structures that were designed to sustain the dream and constitute its driving engine.

I believe we always have taken the driving engine of this country for granted, and still do.  Everything is anchored on government, an unproductive contraption that finds itself presiding over the sharing of milk without plans for feeding the cows that produce the milk.  We refuse to let government do what it knows best – creating the environment for all stakeholders in the polity to pull and push for what is there to legitimately pull and push for.  We cannot focus this octopus that is Nigeria, the big, sturdy elephant with all the parts of that huge animal – the soft tail, the rocky legs, the smooth tusk et al.

Government is incapable of seeing it all.  No one can see it all.  Even where we think we are trained hunters, we fail to recognize that there is a difference between killing an animal and sharing its meat.  The meat is the dead animal, but we are dealing with people, with the living parts of a living entity.  Nigeria is alive, kicking, and must grow.  We have been trapping it, tapping its resources, raping it, killing it, living on it; never for it.

Because we have been stubbornly refusing to live for it, preferring to live on it, we find it unavailing to do first things first so that we can have a country that would be alive to be grown; alive for us to depend on, for us to be proud of, for us to be happy to bequeath to our children, their children and their children’s children.  We distribute parts of the animal we refuse to feed, and forget that when we have feasted on the meat, we shall all stay without an organized and coordinated means of livelihood, and so die of hunger borne of lack of vision.

It is the vision that would have taken us to a defined destination by the year 2010.  We were four years away from that 2010 when I cried loudly about our inaction on October 1, 2006.  (See Democracy Watch: A Monitor’s Diary, Vol. 2, pages 205-208). Today, what have we? Chaos.

Everything we need to know, to do, was there in the Vision 2010 document.  And the structures we needed to do them?  They are all there too, with time slots for creating and implementing them.

Today, in another week, we will be 50 and I am hungry, and I hope you are too, to listen to what President Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan will tell us, his countrymen and women. I would like to hear how what he says can be weighted against what we have achieved with the vision we would have been prosecuting since 1998.

And what would we have done?   The first simple task has had to do with leadership and our President ought to be telling us what progress we have made in this direction.  The truth is that without a credible leadership we can never get anywhere with anything.  A credible leadership is not proof of the presence of a good or active president.  It is the visible and palpable presence of the Rock that stabilizes the polity.  The Rock is not a person.  It is an institution.

In our arrangement, it is the Executive, the Legislature, the Judiciary and the People who empowered all others.  They must all have something in common to look at, to look for, to hold in their arms as a growing baby that must be nourished to grow.

All four constitute a leadership structure that must be celebrating from year to year what it is that has been done in respect of that programme all the stakeholders know is there to be executed.

The President is therefore not giving information on what he wants to do or how he has done it.  No.  Everyone should know what he was assigned to do and that it ought to have been done.  He should be telling us where on the road taken we are at, what roadblocks, if any, we have encountered, what arrangements have been put in place to tackle the problems.

All these are there in the Vision 2010 programme, because it is a flower that unfolds as you do your bit from month to month, from year to year, from one period of review to another period of assessment.  An organized people would have had an organized forum to infuse this vision.  The National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) would have been the meeting place of all our leaders for at least a two-month national brief on the Vision before they assume office.

So, as the President speaks to us on October 1, can he be boldly telling us that our leaders have done what other leaders worldwide are expected to do — demonstrate exemplary conduct both before and while in office so as to set the moral tone for the rest of the society.  And like the Vision 2010 Document itself recognizes, “No nation can make progress with the cancer of corruption corroding its moral, social, cultural and economic fabric. Corruption must, therefore, be eliminated if the society is to make any meaningful progress.”

No one can deny that this Administration has done what is humanly possible to stem the ills that corruption and other social ailments breed.  But today,  the perception is that nothing has changed and that leadership by example still eludes us.   We must come back to the basic truth that where actions of government and other institutions are properly streamlined, the opportunity to take advantage of your post and position will be reduced if not eliminated.

It can therefore never be too late to rebuild trust and confidence in the leadership at all levels in our country.  But where we insist that governance must be a business and not a service, and fight over who next should preside over the sharing of the meat of an elephant we are killing, then we have not started to make amends as we start the march towards the next 50 years.

WHAT IS THE WAY FORWARD?

The way out of this problem is restructuring the political arrangement to make it more manageable and less demanding on our resources.  You may have your own approach to this re-arrangement of our political structures or, indeed, what you believe can replace them.  I have called for serious discussion of the cost of governance, but no one seems to be interested, to be listening.  I have expressed concern that we do not seem to be preparing what we can showcase to the world in marking 100 years of our opting for this integrated space called Nigeria which more serious people would have  by now transformed into a heaven on earth because of their superior management skills.  It is frightening to note that Nigeria is about the only country standing among all the federations cobbled together about this time a hundred years ago.  If the Americans are telling us that we are heading for the status of a failed state, the facts are there on the ground.  If we are bold enough to attend to the structures, we may arrest the drift leading us to disaster. Let us attend to what it is we need to address the challenges posed by the issues we have been raising.

WHAT WE NEED

We should retain a three-tier arrangement – The Central Government, the Regional Government and the State Government.  The present local government structure should be an affair of the Regional Government, and should be funded by it.

1)        The Central Government will continue to be headed by an elected President so that we may all continue to have a sense of ownership of the head of the Nigerian state.

2)         The law-making body should be the present Senate of 109 members.  There should be a nominated Upper House of Elders, one from each state of the Federation and Abuja.  The number will thus be 37.  This would be like the arrangement in the First Republic.

3)         The powers of the Centre should be reduced and only those powers that would mould the federating units should be retained exclusively by the Centre, like defence, external affairs, citizenship and currency.  Let us be advised by the experience of the United States of America over the years.

4)         There should be Six Regional Governments on the lines that have emerged as Zones – North-West, North-East, North-Central, South-West, South-East and South-South.  These, and not the 36 States, should be the federating units.

5)         The law-making bodies in the Regions should be those elected from the present House of Representatives constituencies.

6)         Each Regional Government should be headed by a Governor.  He may be elected by the Region or appointed by the party that forms the majority in the Regional House.

7)         Many of the powers moved from the Centre will anchor in the Regional and State Governments.

8)         There will be 36 State Houses of Assembly as at present.  The reason they will be retained is that no state would like to lose its autonomy.  It is a fact we have to live with.

9)         The position of executive governor is unnecessary and untenable and should be cancelled.  We should restore the parliamentary system at the state level.  The present office of Governor should be re-designated Premier as we had in the First Republic.  He will contest election to the House like any other member of the House, and can be appointed by his party if it wins the majority of seats in the House.

10)        All members of the State Executive Council would come from the House of Assembly.  If what the Governor does now can be better done in the House, the expense of electing him to straddle the state treasury and do what he likes with it, as has happened to many state governments since May 29, 1999, can be saved and channelled to development of the state. The question of a governor appointing about a thousand special assistants on government payroll would not arise!

11)       There are at present 774 local government councils with elected council chairmen and councillors who are “working” fulltime.  This level of government is the greatest fraud that has been visited on our democratic outing since May, 1999, and has been responsible for the lack of growth in the local government area.

12)        We should have elected councillors who will elect one of themselves as chairman.  Each councillor should earn a sitting allowance of N2,000, with such sittings not being more than seven in a quarter.  It means that no councillor would be taking home more than N42,000 per annum.  The chairman should earn N3,000 per sitting.

13)       The day-to-day running of the council should be the responsibility of the Secretary who would be appointed by the Local Government Service Commission, and would have the status of a permanent secretary in the public service.

14)       The local level of government should be the affair of the Regional Government.  It means that all the 774 local government councils would be inherited by the Region into which they fall.  The Region can increase the number or reduce it as it deems fit.

15)       For the avoidance of doubt, all lawmakers must be part time and be paid a sitting allowance.

HOW TO EFFECT THE CHANGES

The changes can be effected constitutionally if we have the political will to do so.  The most credible forum is the Council of State provided for under section 153 (1) (b) of the Constitution.  Its composition and powers can be found in Part 1 to the Third Schedule of the Constitution.  It is constituted by the following persons.

1)      The President, Chairman;

2)      The Vice-President, Deputy Chairman;

3)      All former Presidents of the Federation and all former Heads of the Government of the Federation;

4)      All former Chief Justices of Nigeria;

5)      The President of the Senate;

6)      The Speaker of the House of Representatives;

7)      All the Governors of the States of the Federation; and

8)      The Attorney-General of the Federation;

The Council has power to discuss any matter referred to it by the President. The President should table before the Council of State the problem of sustaining the present structure which the military imposed.  He should tell the Council the cost of running the various tiers of the governments of the Federation and show that we cannot grow or develop at the rate we are going.  A restructuring that would slim down the system of government and lead to more accountability should be presented for discussion.

If the Council agrees that we should make sacrifices for growth, the proposals would be worked on by the Attorney-General and his colleagues in the Federation, and a draft bill repaired for the National Assembly to pass into law.  It would then be sent to the State Assemblies for endorsement through a resolution of the Houses there.  Section 9 of the Constitution settles the procedure for doing this. And if we really want a sustainable democratic order, these changes can be effected within 48 hours.  How?  The Bill will be sent to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House.  They had been part of the decision, being members of the Council of State.  The first, second and third readings would take place on the same day.  The governors who also had been at the meeting will then channel the bill to their Houses of Assembly which will endorse it.  And the whole face of the country would have changed.  In just 48 hours!

GAINS FROM THE CHANGES

If the political arm of government is restructured, we would have

a)         A Federal Government with more time to plan for a powerful country.

b)        A Central Government that would be more efficient and less corrupt.

c)         A Regional Government that would be a buffer between the State and the Centre, and that would be more competent to settle problems of the Region and plan the development and growth of the Region.

d)         A State Government that would be more efficient in the management of resources, and more accountable and less corrupt.

e)        A local government arrangement that would be more efficient because experienced people who have retired from service can be called upon to help out with local policy-making to be executed by civil servants.

f)         A polity that will see professionalism emerge without the distraction of politics which has become a lucrative business because of the opportunity of invading the national, state and local government treasuries, which the present arrangements encourage.

g)        More than half of the money spent on sustaining the present arrangement would be available for development.

THE POLITICAL WILL

What I have said hereinabove is not new.  I have addressed the issues and have provided the challenges, even what to do to meet the challenges.  But how ready are we?  We have an arrangement in which sharing is the motto.  As I have said, we refuse to help bake a cake that everyone wants a share of.  We are spending more than we are earning in the sense that we are eating up what should be invested for the welfare and security of our offspring.  Within a few days, we will be 50 years old as a politically independent country.  But what the Americans told us about being a failed state still knocks on our door, should still ring in our ears; and we will be ill=advised to ignore the warning.

CONCLUSION

It is because we lack the political will to address the issues that would change the face of Nigeria that I herein propose the Jubilee Plot. What is the Jubilee Plot? A Golden Jubilee is a celebration held to mark a 50th anniversary. In 1887, the United Kingdom and the British Empire celebrated Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, says Wikipedia. Victoria marked June 20, 1887—the 50th anniversary of her accession—with a banquet, to which fifty European kings and princes were invited. Although she could not have been aware of it, there was a plan by Irish Republicans to blow up Westminister Abbey while the Queen attended a service of thanksgiving. This assassination attempt, when it was discovered, became known as The Jubilee Plot. At the time, Victoria was an extremely popular monarch: The next day, she participated in a procession that, in the words of Mark Twain, “stretched to the limit of sight in both directions”.

Note that Queen Victoria was a very popular ruler but that among her subjects were deprived citizens in the Irish Republic.  Nigerians are a deliberately deprived people because those who should ensure their welfare and security have failed to do so.  The climate is being created for them to ensure that their voices are heard.  President Jonathan has promised to ensure that every citizen who is entitled to vote is given an opportunity to do so in the 2011 Elections; that their votes are counted and that their votes count.   To reassure us, he appointed a no-nonsense revolutionary Attahiru Jega to man the goal posts.  The ball is in the court of Nigerians, therefore, to execute a Nigerian Golden Jubilee Plot which will succeed only when the people, in forcefully restoring sovereignty to themselves, massively register to vote, vote massively for the leaders they want, wait patiently to ensure that their votes are counted, and accompany the ballot boxes to where votes are collated, and ensure that the outcome is what is announced for the world to know.  Then the robbers in our midst would have been shown the way out of our lives.  The Plot must succeed so that once again and for all time, the sun of justice, fair play, equity and progress, shall rise in our land. We can happily say, Oh God we thank this for this resurrection and we beseech Thee to let Thy Bounty flow from Thee to us who have suffered over the years.

I thank you for your attention.

Being Speech given to mark the 4th Lagos Enterprise Award (LEAD) 2010 in Lagos on Friday September 23, 2010

By

Prince Tony Momoh:

  • Former Minister of Information & Culture
  • Former Chairman, Board of Nigeria Airways
  • Former General Manager, Times Publications Division of  the DTN
  • Former General Manager, Planning & Development, Times Group
  • Former Editor of Daily Times
  • Former Manager, Times Newspaper Training Centre
  • Former President,  Nigerian Guild of Editors
  • Former Secretary, Nigerian Guild of Editors
  • Chairman, Accreditation Board of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, 1979-1989
  • Chairman, National Registration Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, 2001 to date.
  • Member,  Board of the Nigerian Press Council
  • Member, Board of Independent Newspapers Limited
  • Chairman, Award Panel of the Nigerian Media Merit Award
  • Member, Board of Trustees of the Nigerian Media merit Award
  • Fellow — Commonwealth Journalists Association; Nigerian Guild of Editors; Auchi Polytechnic and Nigerian Institute of Journalism
  • Honorary Fellow — Nigerian Institute of Public Relations; Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria.
  • Author of many papers on media practice and media laws
  • Legal Practitioner and Media Consultant
  • Yerima of Auchi Kingdom

 

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