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Edmund Obilo's New Year Message to Nigeria

I have being tweeting my opinion on the state of affairs in my beloved country, Nigeria. My tweets are meant to draw attention to the plight of Nigeria and the way out of its long years of economic and political misfortunes. In my tweets,
I said intra-ruling class crises is in the interest of budding democracies. That it becomes potent when the people cease the opportunity to lead the resolution.
I also posted that there is no Nigerian exceptionalism, that what is required is the drive to make leaders align with the aspirations of their peoples.

Underlying these positions is my notion that the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has shown over the years that it has no vision of Nigeria and that the All Progressive Congress (APC) is yet to show it has a vision of Nigeria. I identified why things are the way they are by tweeting that the persistence of the old order is the drawback of the Nigerian state. That the primary causes of Nigeria’s arrested development are the economic, political and cultural conditions within it. To ensure that Nigeria breaks away from its problems of under- development, a scientific governance model was recommended in one of my tweets. By this, Nigeria must also understand demographic transition and the consequences of rapid urbanization.

On some of the points i made on twitter, I will based my analysis. The essence is to expand the ongoing conversation on the imminent danger that awaits a Nigerian state bent on perpetuating the old order, yet dreams of a future loaded with the fruits of development.
Nigeria’s development will not occur if it fails to undergo a transition from its traditional sentiments to a modern state of co-equality and patriotism. This transition must not necessarily follow the European or American path. It can be deliberate or accidental. Whatever form it takes, the state must be seen to have a hand in the change and constructively direct and craft it in its own uniqueness.

Nigeria through constitutional processes has tried to initiate structural changes to accommodate the dynamics of an evolving state, but still finds itself emphasizing the flaws it inherited from the colonialists. The foundation of its constitutional exploit was built on the ideas of the colonialists that created it. The colonialist set out to create a new state that would vibrate in resonance with the mother state of Britain. For synchronization, the feeling was that the new British-Nigerian state must operate on the basis of political ideas similar to those of Britain.
The traditional institutions of the different regions would not fit into the model of parliamentary government without under-going reforms. Indirect rule as introduced by the colonialist was a model of government that allowed a transition from the past to a future of modern government. It worked so well in the north, while it ran into road blocks in the East. What was evident was that the colonialist launched a transition from traditional society to a modern state driven by education, civil service, modern law, infrastructural development and more. Though they ran the system in their own economic interest, yet they made the point that a society in search of development must continually reform in the interest of its people.

Nigeria’s, foundational matrix was extremely initiated and pursued. After Oct 1st 1960, when it was expected that Nigeria would rally its people and draft policies geared towards development, it began a descent into the old traditional frontiers that further divided it. These frontiers are ethnic and religious fragmentation, nepotism and corruption driven exploitation. By this, a state divided against itself was born. That the civil war occurred was a response to the negative effect of divisive actions.
The resolution of the crises of the war was supposed to have been the motivation for a new country devoid of the traditional centrifugal forces that almost decimated it. But that was not to be.

Purposeful countries come out of civil conflicts with a consensus for a better feature. The American civil was one of the catalysts that propelled it to greatness.
President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address of Nov 19, 1863 was an attempt to bring Americans together after a war of division. The speech was made during the dedication of the soldier’s National Cemetery in Gettysburg, months after the confederation army was defeated at the Battle of Gettysburg. Lincoln in
Abraham Lincoln
the speech said “under God shall we have a new freedom and that “government of the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth”. Lincoln used the speech to emphasize the American creed. He did not only emphasize it, he and other politicians ensured that justice, integrity, rule of law which are features of democracy governed the actions of Americans. It would take time to achieve it and gradually the United States of America (USA) began to re-invent itself to fit into its creed. Slave trade and racism became subjects for public discourse and amendments were made to accommodate everyone within the American system. 

I must make this point, to me the essence of law is not to stop people from harbouring the feeling of racism, criminality, for example. What the law does is to punish offenders when their prejudices infringe on the principles of the state.
This is where unlike the United States, Nigeria has become an obstacle to its own development. Nigerian laws are segmented. Some for the rich, others for the poor. Some for the ethnic group in power, others for the waiting ethnic groups out of power. What we have is the persistence of the old order that impedes meaningful development.

Gowon’s no victor, no vanquished speech would have been written in the hearts of Nigerians if the Nigerian state meant every word of it. That statement today reminds me of the usual grand standing that accompanies the speeches of Nigerian leaders. They don’t mean what they say, behind their worlds are hidden ethnic, corruption, injustice, and exploitative nuances that continue to strain the Nigerian State.

Nigeria is evolving but at a very slow pace, its many negatives have overtaken its few positives. For development to occur the centripetal forces of integration must be stronger that the centrifugal forces of fragmentation. That does not mean the
elimination of ethnicity and religion but their diffusion into a consensus for nationhood. For Nigeria’s development to happen it must shed its negative traditional, socio-political and economic behavior.
It must be a knowledge driven society.
It must be dynamic, flexible and innovative.
I subscribe to the argument that the fundamental obstacle to development is traditional culture characterized by rigid social structures.

What is meant by rigid social structures?
Imagine a community saying a road project cannot run through the forest where the community shrine is located, therefore the projects stops in front of the palace. Imagine, census official not being able to count the number of women in a house because religion forbids the women from being seen by a man or a stranger. This creates the opportunity for manipulation of census figures and gives a country false data. With false data, a country cannot plan.
Rigid social structures have to do with systems where hospitals are not seen as important by the state, thus leaving shrines, churches and mosques insisting on spiritual healing in place of medical attention.
Traditional societies are dominated by religion in its different forms while modern societies are dominated by merit and tolerance of social and intellectual diversity.

States that have developed, fought old traditions that limit development. Major political and social upheavals were launched to achieve reformation. In Europe, Protestants revolted against the religious authority of the Catholic Church leading to the 30yrs war that was fought from 1618-1648. The Peace of West Phalia of 1648 that resolved the war established the modern states of Europe. The treaty brought about the principle of sovereignty that remains the foundation of contemporary international politics and checked the role of the church in government.
The 1688 Glorious Revolution in England was a battle against traditionalism. It led to the overthrow of King James II and brought in the Bill of Rights of 1689.
The overthrow of King James began modern English parliamentary democracy and the Bill of Rights took away the absolute powers of the British monarchy.

The American revolution of 1776 was a bold move to make America be for Americans and remove the veil of the traditional British society imposed on the system. With the declaration of independence, the United States followed a modern path to development, launching market reforms, introducing new technology, balanced by continuous political reorganization.
King Louis XVI
The political and economic revolution in the United States helped aggregate the feelings of the masses of France when they stormed the Bastille in 1787 in a bloody revolution. By this time, the monarchical establishment led by King Louis XVI resisted the abrogation of the feudal order that denied the poor access to land.
The privileged class attempt to continue to dominate France came to end with the revolution. King Louis and his wife Antoinette were later killed leading to the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the citizen”. By the declaration, the power of government was transferred to the people. Loyalty became focused on the nation rather than on the leader.

What about the industrial revolution in Britain and Europe. This brought about the world of machines and modern weaponry. The point is that a society aiming at development must deliberately initiate change or accidentally take advantage of it.
Nigeria does not necessarily have to follow the American or European path. Japan and China followed their own paths. After the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki towards the end of World War 2, Emperor Hirohito of Japan surrendered to the Allied forces on August 14, 1945. Then began the occupation of Japan by US forces led by General Douglas MacArthur. Before then Japan had never experienced occupation in its history. The occupation ended with the signing of the San Francisco treaty of 1951.
The important point here is that the occupation transformed and gave Japan the opportunity to embark on radical economic reforms. By the 1980s, Japan had become the 2nd most powerful economy in the world.
The country had to drop its negative old ways to become an industrial power. It launched a new political process, economic policies and technological paradigm within a short period of about 20 years.

China in its match to development followed the communist path. But it did not
Deng Xiaoping
model itself after the Soviet Union. After the communist defeated the nationalist forces in the civil war of China, Chairman Mao launched a socio-political movement known as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. The goal was to preserve the communion and eliminate capitalist forces.
It succeeded but did not bring large scale economic prosperity to China. When Deng Xiaoping became the leader of China, he initiated reforms that launch china on the path of economic greatness.

What about Nigeria?
Its reforms are skewed toward sectionalism.
Nigeria must learn from what happened to the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. The empire became the sick man of Europe for failing to reform like Britain, France and others. It was roundly defeated and it disintegrated into many countries. Turkey is what is left of it.
Yugoslavia survived under a strong leader Josef Tito, a dictator that was loved by his people, but he failed to reform Yugoslavia’s traditional past. When he died, the traditional forces within the country took on themselves and tore the country apart. Yugoslavia is no more.
Nigeria, needs psychological, cultural, political and economic reforms if it were to survive. Yes, our negative traditional social and political institutions can be difficult to change, but they can be changed.

The change is not really about Nigeria’s different groups living together, it is more about a system that functions to get the best out if its people. The way it is presently constituted keeps many Nigerians outside the political and economic space. The reason a minority has hijacked the system.
Nigeria’s democracy is challenged by its idiocies. It must ask itself what it wants as a system of governance. If it wants to evolve with it, it must do it with clean hands. Other societies witnessed traditionalism in it negative form and made sterling moves to surmount it. Corruption was not made in Nigeria. Ethnicity has always being a national question anywhere. Religion will always be there, but it usage is what differentiates advanced states from backward ones.
That is the reason I tweeted that there is no Nigerian exceptionalism, what is required is the drive to make leaders align with the aspirations of their peoples.

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