Tuesday 1st October 2019, a day set aside as public holiday by the Federal Government to celebrate the nations’ 59th Independence anniversary, provided me with yet another opportunity to ponder on the true meaning of independence. And search for answers to why Nigeria, a nation of people with extraordinary intellects, very high energy and vigour and other attributes profoundly important to build a modern nation, remain socioeconomically stunted after two decades of an unbroken democratic experiment and 59 years of independence.
On that day, at that time and in that place, in my effort to gain this new awareness of why democracy failed to underwrite social justice or promote social mobility in the face of abundant natural resources; and understand the basic reasons why the existing system is currently accepted, I stumbled at a Communiqué recently issued at the end of the Second Plenary Meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), at Abeokuta, Ogun State, which had as title; Moving Beyond Precarious Living In Nigeria.
Essentially, the sequencing and ingrain truth contained by this 2,243 worded communique were important, but what made it the crucial and plot of this piece is neither the sequence nor the source, but how well the content will serve the interest of the people -if its vitality is used to deepen and enrich our nation.
Indeed, aside from appreciating God for making it possible for our country to continue to exist as a sovereign nation, the interesting sidelight to the statement is that it echoed what has been on the minds of Nigerians by acknowledging that; the Nigerian State is much endowed with natural, human and spiritual resources; but, political authorities have not been completely diligent in relating to these resources neither have they been fair and equitable in distributing them; that Justice requires them to give everyone their due, from sharing of resources to caring for the human person; that where there is no fair sharing of wealth and opportunities, there is bound to be a crisis as it’s only when we have justice that we can have true peace and sustainable development.
Certainly, there is something out-of-ordinary about the Bishops’ position. The content of their message on the state of the nation stands as both prophecy of foreknowledge and prophecy of denunciation. To explain this point, while the prophecy of foreknowledge deals with what is certain to come, prophesy of denunciation tells what is to come if the present situation is not changed; both acting as information and warning respectively.
Supporting the above assertion is the CBCN use of analytical method to warn that much effort is required from both government and citizens in order to have a nation in which everyone and every part, irrespective of differences of tribe or religion or political affiliation, will have a sense of belonging.
From its virtues and attributes, the communique aside being the most dynamic and cohesive action expected of people of their class to earn a higher height of respect. It, to my understanding, remains a useful strategy to assisting our leaders to gain significant ground to tackle the job of leadership. And a conventional approach aimed at making the leader recognize that it takes a prolonged effort to administer a country well and change the backward habits of the people.
As we know, in problem-solving, it is vital at the start to formulate the questions in a way that will facilitate the discovery of solutions. Likewise, from its tone, one can situate that the Bishops’ target is to remind the government that public order, personal and national security, economic and social programmes, and prosperity is not the natural order of things but depends on the ceaseless efforts and attentions from an honest and effective government that the people elect.
As an illustration, while they (the Bishops) objectively recognized the efforts being made by the government to fight insecurity in the land, they, however, noted that many instances of killings still exist as a result of banditry, kidnapping, assassination, armed robbery, reckless use of force by security agencies and lynching. Lately, too, there is an upsurge in the cases of suicide, even among our youths. Stressing that, the clashes between herdsmen and communities, and the activities of Boko Haram insurgents have continued, in which many innocent people lose their lives.
Clearly, by analyzing these elements, in turn, one can conclude just like the Bishops did note that it makes living in Nigeria very precarious and the Federal Government, in which the power to control the major security agencies is vested, appears overwhelmed.
For us as a people to, therefore, reap the fruits of this Independence Day celebration, our leaders must know that they ‘cannot succeed on their own; that even the most outwardly confident leader needs support and advice’. As without strong relationships to provide perspective, it is very easy as a leader to lose your way.
Putting it more prosaically, if we are to truly move to the next level and make our nations’ independence worth celebrating, leaders at all levels must heed to the advice of these clergymen as well as other similar calls from notable Nigerians in recent past.
As noted, the need for proper decentralization of the security agencies for effective results has become overwhelmingly urgent. And governments at all levels need to provide the enabling environment that would make it possible for both the government and the private sector to create job opportunities for our teeming youth population. This according to the Bishops would certainly minimize the menace of insecurity in our land.
Another thorny area going by commentaries, that government at all levels must watch is that many months after the general elections, many parts of our nation are still in disarray. The country is badly divided. This is evident in appointments to positions of national importance, sharing of resources, and distribution of social amenities.
The observation that our democracy is derailing from what it should be, that the qualities of accountability, transparency, independence of the judiciary, respect for fundamental rights, observance of the rule of law, and fair and credible electoral process, to mention only these, are still lacking, should also be a reality that the government must worry about.
Like the Rotary International Club’s Four-Way Test, what should, in my opinion, be the preoccupation of the government is to introspectively find out if the communique as issued; contains the truth? Fair to all concerned and has the capacity to build goodwill and better friendship?
As an incentive, the present administration should liken the communique to temptation; which in the words of Thomas Akempis comes to; instruct¸ humble and purify. But if the tempted flees them outwardly, and do not pluck out the roots, he will profit little; nay, the temptation will soon return and the person will find himself in a worse condition.
Studying the content of the present letter and drawing, useful lessons from it should be a solution that will fit the circumstance.
Most important than others, as a way to prove to all that they are ready to provide a people purposed leadership that will announce the Nigeria of our dreams, it will be highly rewarding as the Bishops and other Nigerians with critical interest demanded, if the Federal Government and security agencies do all they can to secure the immediate release of Leah Sharibu, the remaining Chibok girls and all the other persons still in captivity.
*** Jerome-Mario Utomi writes from Lagos / firstname.lastname@example.org.