Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Nwabueze On A Nigerian Revolution
Just how acute and unbearable the deficits in our national circumstances have become was driven home recently when Ben Nwabueze, erudite scholar and professor of constitutional law, called for a bloody revolution in Nigeria. It was on Wednesday July 7 on the occasion of the public presentation of his book, Colonialism in Africa: Ancient and Modern, published in two volumes. But he was instantly opposed by his colleague on the Presidential Advisory Council (PAC), Lt.-General Theophilus Danjuma, who disagreed with him on the way out of Nigeria’s political and economic quagmire. Alarmed at the unspeakable rate of corruption in the Nigerian system, Nwabueze, an elder statesman and pioneer Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, and also a leading member of The Patriots, a group of eminent Nigerians crusading for enduring change in the country, insisted that only a bloody revolution could halt the decadence in governance.
He expressed shock at what he called “the looting spree” at the National Assembly, “where lawmakers vote billions of naira to themselves while those who voted them into the House live in abject poverty”. According to him, “people who were voted to serve the country go there to loot – you need to know what we (members of PAC) now know.” Announcing that the deterioration in the state of affairs is such that the country has been listed among 11 failed states in Africa and 17 failed states in the world, Prof. Nwabueze argued that only a violent revolution like that of France in 1789 could salvage Nigeria. “I don’t believe in small changes,” he said. “We have had ad hoc arrangements; Nigeria needs a revolutionary change and it has to be bloody. Those who survive it will pick up the pieces. I cannot see Nigeria survive any other way.” Radical words from an old man!
For his part, Danjuma, who chaired the occasion, countered that a transformational leadership, not a revolution, was the best solution.
A retired Army general, who recently declared publicly that he had made over one billion U.S. dollars from an oil well allocated to him which he didn’t know how to spend, Danjuma said: ‘A revolution devours its scions; it knows no friends or enemies; it is an exceedingly dangerous means of transformation. I am an optimist; I believe that one right man in a position of authority can transform the entire country. We have not been lucky to have such a man, but we shall muddle through.”
This is really no joking matter. For somebody of Nwabueze’s calibre, and in the evening of his years, to make such a statement in public, we believe the nation may be truly in injury time. The Nigerian system is already bursting at the seams. Nwabueze’s point, it seems, is that the political class is recolonising Nigeria, and we can no longer muddle through. Radical or alarming as his views may appear, we think he deserves commendation for his courage and candour.
Extreme frustration with Nigeria’s chronic systemic crises, and the seeming hopelessness of the situation, must be compelling true patriots such as Nwabueze to openly express their grave anxieties. It is a danger sign.
Government has done practically little, from 1999 to date, to address critical issues like infrastructural failure, degeneration of public insecurity and endemic corruption and impunity in the political class – thus creating a strangulating environment for citizens and corporate bodies to engage in productive work in a fiercely competitive global order. That Nigeria, with proven gas reserves of 192 trillion standard cubic feet and other generous endowments in crude oil, coal, water, wind, solar and other natural resources, including foreign reserves in excess of S50 billion, cannot generate enough electricity to drive economic growth is an intolerable disgrace. And it exposes the ruling class—at the federal, state and local council levels –as unproductive and a liability to the country. Just like electricity, water supply too, is lacking in all parts of the country, with less than five per cent of our population enjoying access to safe drinking water. Top government functionaries have been very unhelpful when they indulge in unremitting sloganeering or willingly play down the gravity of the crises confronting the nation.
Nwabueze reportedly spoke of what he “now knows” as a PAC member that the people don’t know. He may care to share this knowledge with the longsuffering citizens. We believe, however, that Nigerians already know more than enough. Just how much longer the Nigerian governing elite will persist in willful misgovernance and perversion of democratic norms remains uncertain. But one thing is sure: disenchantment has peaked among the people of this country and the clouds are thickening. Since 1999, Nigerians have unequivocally expressed their resentment at the several anti-people policies and, especially, the criminal manipulation of the electoral process, which undermines the capacity of citizens to effectively influence political developments and the quality of governance through the ballot box. To say, therefore, as some argue, that Nigeria, despite its flaws, is better than some war-torn countries only begs the issue.
If political unrest, turmoil, violence, conflicts and dislocations are the criteria that qualify citizens of a given country to seek asylum elsewhere, as Nigerians now do in large numbers all over the world, then there is already an ongoing revolution in the land. It is shameful that more than eleven years into a civil democratic dispensation, things are so bad that many Nigerians are desperate to abandon their fatherland even in preference for some less endowed countries. What is apparent is that Nigerians have lost faith in the capacity of their government to create an enabling environment for worthwhile engagement in productive activities and self-advancement. Due largely to leadership failure, it is understandable that Nigerians now crave change, either in the personnel constituting government or in the direction of policies, state priorities and resource management. The frustrations and bitterness occasioned by the mismanagement of over N37 trillion of the nation’s wealth generated between 1999 and 2007, leaving about 80 per cent of the population in abject poverty, cannot be cheering to Nigerians.