In 2010, my book titled “NIGERIA @ 50: TIME FOR THE EVOLUTION OF A NEW NATION” was released into the market. In 2013, with some glimmer of hope arising from the strong growth of our economy, I revised the book and changed the title to “NIGERIA: NEED FOR THE EVOLUTION OF A NEW NATION”. I will never tire of recommending the book to all well meaning Nigerians, not for pecuniary reasons but because the issues I raised in the book and the recommendations I made remain germane and poignant till today. I have actually done my best to distribute this book free of charge to members of the National Assembly, the Executive and to many organs of Government over these ten years and remain willing to send it FOC to any Nigerian leader who requests it. Of course the book is available on Amazon and Jumia along with my other books including the latest – “WIRED TO LEAD…life lessons from many years of organizational leadership.”
In the book, I made a forceful case that this nation was no longer working for all Nigerians and that we needed to create or evolve a new Nigeria. I made a strong case that the Nigeria which we have now (old Nigeria) has outlived its purpose and that we needed to deliberately fashion out a New Nigeria. We have grossly moved away from the shape and color of Nigeria which our founding fathers had in mind and which allowed Nigeria and its federating units grow phenomenally in pre and immediate post independence. We have created a monster called Government which was eating up the Nigerian wealth and pandering to whims and caprices of a tiny proportion called public and civil servants and impoverishing the majority of Nigerians. I said we could no longer sustain an economy where over 70% of the National income was used to service the bureaucracy while less than 30% was for capital expenditure. I said that a Nation that was multiplying the number of poor citizens, while producing poorly educated and largely unemployable youth was no longer viable. I had drawn attention to the fall in quality of political leadership and recommended criteria for selecting political leadership in a new Nigeria. I had drawn attention to the FOUR MAIN CHALLENGES that Nigeria was facing – POVERTY, CORRUPTION, INJUSTICE & INSECURITY and that these challenges did not discriminate between ethnic groups nor respect religious differences. I then cautioned that if we did not take the deliberate actions I and many other patriotic Nigerians had recommended including those from past National Conferences to fashion out a new Nation, it would one day be forced on us and the birth pangs could be cataclysmic or at the least very disruptive and painful. The events of the last three weeks in our Nation seem in some respects, to support my prognosis made over ten years ago. Indeed I believe that the journey to the New Nigeria has started. How do I know?
First, no one would have believed that the “Lazy” Youths of Nigeria could organize and sustain a protest for over two weeks without any support from partisan political interests or partisan business interests. We were all amazed that Nigeria’s Youth could organize and run a protest which has been regarded as one of the best organized in Nigeria’s contemporary history without a leader, without bowing down to intimidation and openly refusing ‘bribery’. This can only happen in the new Nigeria of our dreams. Second, no one would have believed that Nigerian Youths could be allowed the democratic space to protest and speak their minds over many weeks without the effort of Governments – State and Federal to undermine, push or arrest them as long as they remained peaceful. Not when a retired Army General (do Generals retire?) is the head of government. Never in our post- military- democratic culture have we seen this. This must be in the new Nigeria we yearn for where there is liberty and freedom. Third, no one had ever seen State and Federal Governments show such willingness to accept all the demands of the Youth and then take immediate actions to begin implementation of some of them. The humility shown by State Governors (epitomized by Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos) has never been seen in Nigeria and can only happen in the New Nigeria that we dream of. In all the years of activism of the Nigerian Labour Unions including ASUU, no time has government been this humble and responsive. Fourth, when fifth columnists jumped into the fray and ordered a return to the old Nigeria, with the shooting of unarmed youths sitting on the floor, singing the National Anthem and waving the National flag, which provoked the otherwise peaceful protests to turn violent with hoodlums seizing the opportunity to unleash mayhem on Public and Private assets, even the Security forces showed uncommon and unusual civility, which otherwise could have led to greater bodily harm and bloodshed (Property and assets, we can rebuild and replace but human life cannot be replaced). Such humaneness is strange in the old Nigeria. Of course there will be no space for the criminal activity of looters and hoodlums in the New Nigeria because the law must take its course. Those who ordered the shooting must be found and punished severely. In the New Nigeria that we espouse, no criminal will go free and no innocent citizen will be criminalized or traumatized. And fifth, when historical revisionists and paid agents of division, tried to give ethnic coloration to the #EndSARS protests and its aftermath in order to halt this match to a new Nigeria – not tainted with tribalism, ethnic chauvinism, and religious bigotry, Nigerians from all parts of the Country (North, South; East and West; Christians & Moslems; Men & Women; Boys & Girls; Young and old) rose up to denounce these merchants of hatred and division, something that is a rarity in the old Nigeria where the truth is usually seen from political, ethnic and religious prisms.
Sixth, in all of my life and in my several interactions with Governments and its agencies from our days in Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, the Nigerian Employers Consultative Association or the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, one thing that has bothered me to no end is why it is difficult for government organs or agencies to acknowledge correspondences. We are not speaking of their accepting your suggestion or approving your request, just to say we have received your communication and will get back to you. We Invite them to an event, then you must seek who knows somebody in the agency to help you call to know if they will come or not. Just when you have concluded that your mail may not have been received and so you are not expecting anybody then you get a call that they have arrived!!! Sometimes when you push, you are asked to resend the letter or documents over and over!!!! That’s why I was amazed recently, that in my current position as the President of a Professional Society, I sent a letter to the National Assembly raising some issues and quickly received a response. The Chairman of one of the House Committees replied my mail. He did not only acknowledge the mail, he actually APOLOGIZED to a mere civilian like me for not replying earlier. Then he tried to call me and when I did not pick, he sent me his own phone number and went on in a most unusual courteous manner to request if I would like to communicate with him on email or by phone. This is the first time in my whole life of advocacy to receive this level of responsiveness and courtesy from a Nigerian Government official – Legislative, Executive or Judiciary. I shouted Wao! , this is the New Nigeria we are looking for, where the office of the citizen is superior to the office of the public servant. In the old and outgoing Nigeria, the citizen is completely disenfranchised and powerless. He writes, no one replies; he shouts and he is shouted down; he complains and he is ignored and he complains loudly, the Security apparatus arrests him as a Trouble maker.
Looking for more signs that the journey to my NEW NIGERIA is underway? The President asked the Inspector General of Police of Nigeria to ensure a free and fair gubernatorial election in Edo State. The IGP obliged and the Edo Election has been hailed as the most free and fairest election since June 12 1993. Though when we eventually arrive New Nigeria, the President will not have to give the IGP or the INEC Chairman any such instructions. The Electoral system will be such that it will deliver free and fair elections even if the President or any other state on non-State actor wanted otherwise.
Fellow Country Men, the move to a new Nigeria has started. I have pointed to the few tentative steps. It is an irreversible journey. Permit me to invite you on board the New Nigeria – A FIRST WORLD NATION WHERE ALL THE CITIZENS LIVE IN HARMONY, ARE TREATED EQUALLY AND ENABLED TO ACHIEVE PEACE & PROSPERITY ( A NATION THAT WORKS FOR ALL).
*Mazi Sam.I. Ohuabunwa* – OFR, MON, NPOM