By Yinka Odumakin
ELDER statesman, one- time Information Minister, former Chairman of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC and a leading member of the All Progressives Congress, APC and one of the greatest Nigerian journalism ever produced, Prince Tony Momoh, has just come out with a reprint of his patriotic memorandum to the 2005 National Conference tilted: “To Save Nigeria: Let’s talk”.
For the fact that Prince Momoh deeply loved this country, he does not have to talk in this season. He could have adopted the posture of some former patriots who are today in the mode of keeping quiet in eating season.
All patriots who have pushed for directing Nigeria on the predictable pattern of progress and harmonious existence should appreciate Prince Momoh for his intervention at this critical stage of Nigeria. He has done a great thing in diluting the narrative of those taking advantage of Nigeria that it is the enemies of this government who are talking of restructuring.
Talking of restructuring
Prince Momoh may not be a member of the cabal, but if President Buhari wants to count those who are around him for the love of country and not for what they can take out of it as personal benefits and corrupt undue advantage on the fingers of a wrist, Prince Tony Momoh should be one of them.
He was a founding member of the PDP. He joined APP in 2003 when General Buhari joined politics, not as a political prostitute but because his community donated him to the Daura man for the volume of projects he took to Auchi as PTF Chairman, though many of them could not be completed because Abacha dozed off eternally.
Nigeria today is in a peculiar crisis and is on the edge of the precipice further accentuated by exclusivity. The in-your-face impunity of the present order may have opened up the crisis as nationhood is in a festering dimension. The truth is that there has never been a proper country in the strictest sense of the word save for a few years we tried to attempt federalism.
A 1948 documentary titled “Challenge in Nigeria,1948” by the British Information Services Monthly Review celebrated Nigeria as a country that was on its way to independence based on a “federal constitution”. But it quickly identified the afflictions of the country as “disunity, poverty, die-hard tradition and ignorance”. The documentary recognised Nigeria as the biggest protectorate of the British commonwealth, larger than France and Italy combined and a larger population than those of Canada, New Zealand and Australia put together.
It identified the Hausa “rooted, in die-hard tradition” and as “ruthless slave drivers” in the preceding years who were “raiding and devastating their neighbours in the South” and “very suspicious of Western ideas”. It said the “cattle herders live like their forefathers”, and that there were Hausas then who had access to all modern faculties but that did bribe “the mass of the people”. Nothing has changed.
The review spoke of Igbo as “people who learn and contribute to community building”, while it referenced the Yoruba as a people with long “history of civil wars”. Even as of 1948, Lagos was seen as a place where people from different parts of the country “run to seek a better life but with not get enough opportunities”.
The documentary listed diseases, erosion and poverty and population overgrowth as general problems, with a stern warning that the “problems of Nigeria cannot be solved unless there can be serious economic development to match the growth of its population.”
For the myriads of problems confronting the country, the documentary said “the resources to solve the problems from within the country which it had in abundance” even when our leaders still believe the solution is doing almajiri around the world looking for money to borrow.
As they say, the devil is always in the detail: the documentary threw one dangerous line in the narrative which sums up all British evil in Nigeria as it looked towards our independence and said: “it would not be right to hand over the country to an educated minority” in a classic celebration of the clash of our civilisations.
That British path has kept the country in a bind as the promotion of backwardness has made it difficult for us to build a consensus for nation-building till today and Nigeria may not achieve its potentials until it disappears, except we are ready to remake the polity with trustful give-and-take devoid of any conquest mentality.
It was Lord Lugard who said the constituent units of Nigeria relate as enemy-tribes. That has defined inter-ethnic relations in the last few years more stridently, especially in our next level season. And it is not nearly given what has happened to countries of our types of conditions in recent history.
There is some illusion of “we have grabbed everything” in the air, which is a sheer illusion of the grandest order. Those who have studied societies know such pale into insignificance if you allow a perfect storm. Nigeria must change direction urgently and change from the “elite that does not listen”, according to Tony Momoh, to one that hearkens to other voices to avert a tragedy that is brewing.
The sum total of his intervention is very simple to understand and they are encapsulated in:
1 Federal Government. 1 Federal Government
2 State Government. 2 Regional Government
3 Local Government. 3 State Government
He makes valid points about the size of government in Nigeria as one of the reasons the country cannot make progress under the present arrangement. “When you spend more than 20 per cent of your earnings on administering a polity, you must sit down and think. Where less than 17,500 public officers pocket more than 75 per cent of a country’s earning, then it’s is time to talk.”
He listed the gains from the “change” we are proposing to include:
“(a) A Federal Government with more time to plan for a powerful country;
(b) A Central Government that will be more efficient and less corrupt;
(c) A Regional Government that will be a buffer between the state and the centre and that would be handier to settle problems of the region and plan the development and growth of the Region.
(d) A Local Government that will be more efficient because experienced people who have retired from service can be called upon to help out with local policy-making.
(e) 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.
(f) More than half of the money spent on sustaining the present arrangement would be available for development.
Thank you Prince Momoh for speaking out!
Save our nation