By Jerome-Mario Utomi
Similar to Chinua Achebe who in his booklet entitled; the Trouble With Nigeria, noted that the trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership, Raymond Anoliefo, Priest and Director, Justice Development and Peace Commission,(JDPC), Lagos, a social justice arm of the Catholic church that monitors social, economic, political and public leadership-related activities in the country, seemed to have made a comparable but prophetic statement on Saturday October 22, 2018, in Maryland, Lagos, during the celebration of the United Nations International Day of Peace, when he remarked that the greatest tragedy of our time without a shadow of the doubt is the fact that ours is a nation which is regrettably laden by poor leadership.
He also stated that our country Nigeria is a awash with captivating development visions, policies and plans, but impoverished leadership and corruption-induced failure of implementation of development projects on the part of the political leaders is responsible for the under-development in the country; noting that no nation best typifies a country in dire need of peace and social cohesion among her various sociopolitical groups than Nigeria as myriads of sociopolitical contradictions have conspired directly and indirectly to give the unenviable tag of a country in constant search of social harmony, justice, equity, equality, and peace.
looking at the happenings/occurrences in the country at the very moment orchestrated by leadership challenge he complained about four years ago, coupled with elite failure to speak up the truth and tell the truth to their communities, Anoliefo worries have become not just a word made flesh but a prophesy of foreknowledge and of denunciation. As we know, while prophecy of foreknowledge foretells what is certain to come, that of denunciation tells what is to come if the present situation is not changed; both acting as information and warning respectively.
Aside from the fact that his warnings was supported with mountains of evidence about how seriously off track the present administration in the country was taking the nation with their deformed policies, ill-conceived reforms and strategies, this piece believes that for reason, there is urgent need to further subject such thought shared by the cleric on that day, at that time and in that place, to a holistic analysis as it is laced with valid solutions that if implemented, holds the keys to re-engineering sustainable peace and development in the country.
Let’s begin with concern on insecurity in the country.
He captured it this way; The greatest and immediate danger to the survival of the Nigerian state today is the unwarranted, senseless, premeditate, well organized and orchestrated killings across the country-from Benue to the Plateau, Taraba to Zamfara, Enugu to Ebonyi, Kogi to Edo, Ekiti to Ondo, where Nigerians are cut down at will, babies ripped from their mothers’ wombs, houses destroyed and burnt down, particularly when all the time the killers are never apprehended, even when they make self implicating statements about such killings.
The country’s economy he added has shown its inability to sustain any kind of meaningful growth that promotes the social welfare of the people. The result can be seen in the grinding poverty in the land (eighty percent of Nigerians are living on less than two dollars per day – according) to the African Development Bank (AFDB) 2018 Nigeria Economic Outlook. Nigeria is ranked among the poorest countries in the world. Sadly, according to a report from Brookings Institute, Nigeria has already overtaken India as the country with the largest number of extremely poor in early 2018 in the world. At the end of May 2018, Brookings institute’s trajectories suggest that Nigeria had about 87 million people in extreme poverty, compared with India’s 73 million. What is more, extreme poverty in Nigeria is growing by six people every minute.
In Education, 10.5 million children are out of school in Nigeria, the highest in the world. Our industries continue to bear the brunt of a negative economic environment. As a result, job losses and unemployment continue to skyrocket, creating a serious case of social dislocation for the vast majority of our people.
The running of our country’s economy continues to go against the provisions of our constitution which stipulates forcefully that the commanding heights of the economy must not be concentrated in the hands of few people. The continous takeover of national assets through dubious (privatization) programs by politicians and their collaborators is deplorable and clearly against the people of Nigeria. The attempt to disengage governance from public sector control of the economy has only played into the hands of private profiteers of goods and services to the detriment of the Nigerian people.
On social issues, lets listen to him; Life in Nigeria, quoting Thomas hobbs, has become nasty, brutish, and short. Nigerians have never had it so bad. Indeed, while Nigerians diminish socially and economically, the privileged political class continues to flourish in obscene splendor as they pillage and ravage the resources of our country at will. This malfeasance at all levels of governance has led to the destruction of social infrastructure relevant to a meaningful and acceptable level of social existence for our people. Adequate investment in this area, it has been shown, is clearly not the priority of those in power.
As a result, our hospitals whether state owned or federal owned have become veritable death centers where people go to die rather than to be healed. The absence of basic items such as hand gloves and masks are indicative of the level of decadence and rot in the country’s health National Budget recommended by the United Nations.
With regards to the criminal justice system, our people, especially the poor and vulnerable continue to suffer unprecedented acts of intimidation and violation of rights at the hands of security agencies across the country. Extra judicial killings, lack of scientific based investigation of crimes and corruption in the judiciary contribute to acts of injustice against the innocent. Our prisons have become places where prisoners are hardened rather than places of reformation of prisoners for reintegration back into the society
Also, Nigerian workers have faced unprecedented hardship over the years as governments across the nation continue to deprive them of legitimately earned salaries and pensions. It is quite unfortunate that as a Nation we are still debating minimum wage, and not even living wage, especially in a country where every commodity has skyrocketed save the monthly take home of workers. And we supposedly have “leaders” who claim to have the interest of the masses at heart. Tell me another lie!!!
As to solution to these challenges, the cleric succulently puts it this way; surely, leadership holds the key to unlocking the transformation question in Nigeria, but to sustain these drive leaders must carry certain genes and attributes that are representative of this order. The JDPC therefore believes that only a sincere and selfless leader and a politically and economically restructured polity brought about by national consensus can unleash the social and economic forces that can ensure the total transformation of the country and propel her to true greatness. This will help to ensure that there is provision of adequate social infrastructure such as genuine poverty alleviation programmes and policies, healthcare, education, job provision, massive industrialization, electricity provision to mention a few. It is critical to jettison this present socio-economic system that has bred corruption, inefficiency, primitive capital accumulation and socially excluded the vast majority of our people. The only way this can be done is to work to build a new social and political order that can mobilize the people around common interests, with visionary leadership to drive this venture. Only then can we truly begin to resolve some of the socio-economic contradictions afflicting the nation. This is the pathway to true, genuine and lasting peace.
For me as the author of this piece, I have nothing new to add as the man of God has said it all!!!
Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via;[email protected]/08032725374.
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