Christian Social Movement of Nigeria (CSMN) is raising these issues, titled LESSONS FROM COVID-19, in the public domain to sensitize as well as mobilize Nigerians to change a debilitating mindset and build a great country.
Such recommendations should be in bullet points. No essays, please.
Structure Speaks To Structure Power Listens To Power
A short video clip produced by a Nigerian living abroad analyzed what is about to happen in the country. The man was comparing what occurred in Zimbabwe with what is in the offing for Nigeria. Displaying two currencies, an American Dollar and a Zimbabwean Dollar, he explained that in the 1980s, both were at par, with the Zimbabwean Dollar worth $1.47 cents. By 2007, Zimbabweans, according to the narrative, needed 37 million of their currency to purchase one Dollar. They were using wheel barrow to carry Zimbabwean currency. (At a point, a 100 trillion Zimbabwean Dollar was worth 40 cents of USD.)
The gentleman went further to point out that a few months ago, Nigerian Naira was N360 to $1, but today, it is N470. After analyzing the situation, he postulated that the worst is yet to come if remedial measures are not put in place immediately. Already, the price of crude oil, the backbone of the Nigerian economy, has collapsed.
From experience, a large segment of Nigerians, well above average, would chorus “God forbid”! As a matter of fact, the reader might have instinctively muttered under his/her breath while reading this report, “God forbid”. This is the character of Nigerians.
Without sounding pessimistic or lacking in faith in God, we do not think God would forbid. Generally, most Nigerians act like a student who neglects to prepare for examination and when he is warned, “you are going to fail this examination because you are not preparing for it” the student retorted, “God forbid”. Would God forbid the failure of such student? The answer is “no”.
If we continue to neglect what we ought to do, at the right time that we ought to do it, we cannot chorus “God forbid” either as solution or as a way of mitigating the consequences of our negligence. As a people, we have an attitude of indifference and casual approach to serious issues that threaten our collective survival. With the advent of Social Media, most Nigerians only talk without taking any remedial action.
In Part 1 of this paper, CSMN advocated that we must begin to hold our leaders accountable. It was purely mismanagement of the economy and the resources of the country that brought us to this dismal level. To date, the attitude behind the collapse of our economy and social services has not changed. Impunity and lawlessness still reign supreme in Government and in other spheres of our society. This lawlessness prevails because people are not held accountable for their misdeeds. This country rewards impunity.
The most appalling aspect of our culture is that if you seek to hold anyone accountable, people begin to read negative motives to your intention. In the body polity, you might be accused of playing politics or exhibiting ethnic intolerance.
In religious circles, you would be accused of not having “love”, “humility”, and “forgiveness” for calling leaders to be accountable. Instead of using our religion to transform our culture, we used our culture to pollute our religion.
Consequently, there is no impetus for the lawless people in our midst to change or any restraint on others from joining them. Our culture promotes and rewards impunity.
We must develop a culture of accountability. We have no option. If we do not break this national lethargy and become confrontational and combative against corruption, incompetency and mediocrity in our country, we are going to suffer immensely. Whatever we are experiencing now would be child’s play when compared with what is still ahead. God will only forbid it when we rise and do what is expedient.
Structure Speaks To Structure Power Speaks To Power
Those in the legal profession have a saying, “you cannot place something upon nothing”. If you want to achieve anything, you must establish a basis or structure for it. If there is going to be accountability in Nigeria, structures must be established to demand it. Those who are perpetuating lawlessness and impunity in Government and in our society built structures and perverted existing ones to perform their craft. Consequently, citizens must consciously build counter structures to dismantle lawlessness, corruption, incompetency, impunity, and mediocrity in our society.
This is where the educated professionals in the country come in. We need the Lawyers, Academics, Journalists, Consultants, Strategists, Social Engineers, and all other educated professionals in Nigeria to organize and start developing proposals for structures that will ensure that no unintelligent and incompetent person will ever hold elective position again in Nigeria.
In April 2020, the Governor of a State announced he has “banned for life” two journalists, one from SUN newspaper and another Vanguard journalist, from State Functions. They were “banned for life” from entering the Government House or any Government installation in the State over reports that they did, which were factual, but displeasing to the State Government. The Governor went on State TV and said, “If you think you have the pen, we have the koboko.” Immediately, the Guild of Editors and Nigerian Union of Journalists rose to counter the actions of the Governor and he had to reverse his decision and pleaded for cooperation. There was no street protest, no bullet was fired, no building was set on fire, but a draconian action was reversed. How? The journalists have structures to handle Official excesses against them.
Nigerian citizens must consciously create structures that will ensure that if one kobo of public funds illegally enters anyone’s pocket, alarm will sound immediately and gallows will clang upon the culprit. Citizens must introduce structures that if anyone rigs election or seeks to impose a candidate, he will be hanged by his thumb. Citizens must ensure that the Civil Servant does not live above his monthly salary the way it was before late Gen. Murtala Muhammed conducted his infamous purge of 1975. That was when the sun of Nigeria started to set. That ill-advised purge institutionalized corruption and mediocrity in Nigeria.
Citizens’ Action Is Required
Let us face the truth.
Those in Government will neither approve nor support any attempt to build structures that will demand accountability from them. They are neck deep in the morass of corruption and they cannot pull themselves out. The current situation demands “citizens’ action” to save ourselves and the generations following us. We should see it as mortal struggle for our collective survival. As the NCEF pointed out in its recent paper, “there is no freedom on platter of gold”. We must use all peaceful means to take Nigeria back. Those governing us are not leaders; they are vicious predators.
It was shocking to listen to an interview conducted for Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina, the man who allegedly stole billions from Pension Fund. In the interview, the man claimed he did not steal rather he recovered N2.9 trillion and 222 houses for Government. He insisted that this was acknowledged up to the National Assembly. More shocking was his claim that what he recovered was stolen again by some Government Officials while he was framed for stealing billions. He even made statements indicting EFCC Officials. Mr. Maina went further that he had identified another N3 trillion that Government should recover and he was forced to abandon the exercise. This is scandalous. To date, no institution has independently investigated his claims! Nigeria has no such structure.
Meanwhile, with the collapse of oil price in the international market, we are facing the prospect of very hard times because our economy is based on import substitution. We must always have foreign exchange to spend. We hope no indulgent politically correct person would come up with the usual “let’s not cause unnecessary panic”, “it’s not as bad as that”, “you see, these things can be explained”.
These are the usual statements that have been used to put Nigerians into neutral gear and hindered them from taking prompt action against impunity and corruption in the country. Even the blind can see that all is not well with Nigeria. Before it gets worse than it currently is, let us begin to apply the brakes. The downward spiral of Nigeria must halt. The freefall must stop. From henceforth, leadership, at all levels, must be accountable.
Nigerian educated professionals must organize to propose structures that will independently monitor existing Government structures and ensure that the Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary remain accountable and responsible. The Security Forces must be accountable for any security infraction or oppression, while EFCC and ICPC must be free of official shackles and interference. We need legal professionals to write a new Constitution for Nigeria in preparation for “citizens’ demand”. All these proposals must be in place because they would form the basis for “citizens’ take-back” of Nigeria.
COVID-19 has exposed the rot in our system and the cruelty of our leaders, both political and religious. While some State Governments are trying to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, a particular State is denying the impact of the pandemic while its cemeteries are filled with fresh corpses. Is denial an effective strategy to combat COVID-19? Government has asked people to stay at home yet there is no provision for our people most of whom live on daily pay. The religious houses have amassed trillions as offerings from worshipers over the years. Now that the people are in distress, they are not releasing money to help the vulnerable people in their congregations. The impression created is that the money collected in the name of God was not sent to God. If the money was sent to God, God would have released it for His people in distress. One can only hope that before the saga of COVID-19 is over, the religious houses would have corrected this impression.
In the midst of all these, no one is demanding accountability. Unfortunately, no one would demand accountability because there is no independent structure in place to do so. “You cannot place something upon nothing.” All the Government structures have been infiltrated and compromised. Over the years, we have developed a permissive and indulgent culture that tolerates anything. If we are going to survive, this has to change. Apart from the terrors of COVID-19, there is the danger of the collapse of the economy and the threat of foreign takeover due to loans that Government has taken while there is nothing substantial on ground to show what was done with it.
We cannot continue like this. This time, “God forbid” will not help us. We must consciously build structures to hold office holders accountable.
CSMN would wish to suggest as follows:
a. In its recent release, National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) called on the leaders of the four Negro geo-political Zones to commence initiative geared towards re-inventing Nigeria. This call should be taken seriously.
b. Those in the Legal Profession should organize to produce new Constitution for Nigeria based on the 1963 Republican Constitution. This was the only Constitution negotiated by the founding fathers of Nigeria. The Legal Practitioners could work under NBA or any of the sub-groups of NBA could act as arrowhead.
c. Academics under the aegis of ASUU should research and propose independent structures that will form basis for “citizens’ action” to demand accountability from leaders at all levels. ASUU will benefit more by developing templates to socially re-engineer the Nigerian State than contending with Government over unfulfilled promises to Universities. A responsible and responsive Government will grant all ASUU’s demands. Therefore, ASUU should focus energy on developing structures that will hold Government accountable.
d. The Consultants and Strategists should put heads together to develop strategies for implementing the new Constitution from Lawyers, and the social engineering structures from the Academics.
e. Social activists should commence mobilization and sensitization of the masses in readiness for “citizens’ take-back” of Nigeria.
All these interventions should be in place even before the COVID-19 is over. We can accomplish all these in less than four weeks, if we are truly desirous of turning Nigeria positively round. One thing is certain: expecting anything good from the current political class is like squeezing a rock to produce water. The current political class in Nigeria can never yield anything good.
CSMN is in total agreement with the National Christian Elders Forum: there must be a re-inventing of Nigeria.
Accountability is the new mindset. Structures to demand and sustain accountability should be the prime assignment of the citizens.
God bless Nigeria.
Christian Social Movement of Nigeria
27th April, 2020