Thursday, October 28, 2010

NIGERIA: Building A New Nation Of Our Dreams

-By George Ashiru[Convener, Town Hall Meetings Project (THMP)]

LeaderValuesConference, October 16 2010

THEME: The Emergence Of National Saviours(LeadersWithIntegrity)

What Is Nationhood:A “nation‟ “is a body of people occupying a given area whose common interests are strong enough to make possible the maintenance of a single sovereign civil authority, i.e. a state which may and often does predate the nation as a historical reality” (Harmati. 1983)‘

Nation-building’ is defined as “the process of reinforcing the common bonds among the people of a nation state to the end that there may be general stability and prosperity so that the nation may participate usefully in the community of nations”

The foundational materials used in building a nation are not bricks and mortars, i.e. not a strong treasury, nor a strong army nor an inexhaustible and formidable arsenal, though they may seem important. To be a nation, any community or society may require political unity or territorial integrity, one executive, one constitution, a common law, a means of viable transportation and easy communication.

A nation is built, besides other factors, by common civil values, common symbols, common sense of progress, common participation in decisions, equality before the law, mutual respect for others and tolerance, and a feeling of freedom –From a report by Lutheran World federation

“National development does not consist merely in economic progress but means increasing possibility for all of living a fully human life on the physical (material), cultural, spiritual levels. It also implies the growing ability of a nation as whole to take its rightful place in the international field, economically, politically, culturally, i.e., to function with a proper degree of autonomy and prestige “-Cardinal Gracias, 1967.

From the biblical perspective, the foundation of God's throne, the Bible says, is righteousness and justice (Ps. 89:14) and a kingdom (“nation‟) is built on righteousness or destroyed by its absence (Pro. 11:11). It is law and justice that keep a nation steady and strong (Pro. 29:4). A nation is a good and welfare state when it is built on the principles of honesty, morality, justice and fairness (Pro. 29:12, 14; 31:2-5). Righteousness, morality, justice etc provide the foundation for a just and welfare nation. Its pillars are principles of human dignity and freedom, truth and knowledge, personal responsibility and stewardship, and the rule of law.

The big question is this? Do we have a “nation”? Or are we a confederation of nations? Are these confederates looking in the same direction? Do we worship the same god and have similar beliefs? Are we culturally, morally homogeneous? Have we freely joined together in a “matrimony of common development” or in an “unholy matrimony of convenience”?

Nigeria Pre-1960:Politically
There was no unity. Hundreds of kingdoms existed side by side with no sense of unity or any serious sense of interdependence. These were ruled by the traditional institutions under the guidance of the priestly caste while the common people had no say whatsoever in administrative matters. A fragmented, splintered, competitive and fighting political scenario prevailed; loyalty was to the kings. Any idea of a devotion to the land in general was in existent.

At the social level the feudalism and caste order was in complete command of the situation. Being a discriminatory system it could not see equality of humans. Finality belonged to the social order of wealth. The low status and illiteracy of women wasted half of the total human resources. Education was the monopoly of the royalty and the wealthy; and they were all male in gender. Female infanticide was widely common. Killing of twins, human sacrifices, child marriage, enforced widowhood etc were normal in those days. Infant mortality rate was high, resulting in creating a multitude of young widows. High birth rate was the only answer to the high infant mortality rate and the curse of short life span. Another heavy pressure upon the women!

Religion was communal and the traditional gods and their priests reigned supreme. There was no choice, democratic or otherwise in worship, and everyone adhered to the final authority no matter how unjust, of the king and priests. Freedom of individual conscience and free and open dissemination of knowledge were neither entertained nor encouraged. The North was predominantly Islamic, and the governance was through the Emirates, guided strictly by the Koran and the commentaries and guides, Sunnah and Hadith. These published guides made governance straight forward and easy for the Sheiks and Emirs, and it was easy for the British to rule through these institution.

In the South West, things were a little more treacherous, with kings and communities constantly at war, expanding territory and several romancing with the colonial powers to destabilise other kingdoms to get political leverage with the whites. Slavery was a trade which the kings of the South West of Nigeria delighted in engaging in. The value placed on human life of the poor was nil, explaining human sacrifices. The religions were quite secretive and adherents and followers assumed mystical powers which kept the citizens in fear and bondage. Unlike Islam, and Christianity, the traditional religions did not have manuals for reference…the populace only got involved through general festivals, and for private divinitions.

The South East, with the embedded minority groups did not fare better with struggles, land wars and cross border raids, etc. The religious practices were also absolutes and involved much bloodshed.These foundations did not portend much for a future republic…and colonial fiat, subterfuge and structural deficiencies made that all the more certain.

Colonialism’s Positive Effect:
Colonialism arrived with a three-pronged approach.-Trade -Governance, and -Religion.

For the sake of our subject matter, which centreson private initiatives for nation building, I will put emphasis on the effect of the value system of the colonialists’ religion in helping to abrogate the embedded strongholds in Nigerian communities in the Southern parts of Nigeria, whose effect is now a major advantage to their citizenry.

The colonial missionaries in pre-independent Nigeria, under the protection of the British forces and government sponsorship laboured for a philosophical, moral and cultural regeneration of the worldview prevalent in the Nigerian landmass and it is this commitment on the part of these missionaries, that helped the building up of religious freedoms, abrogation of terrible native traditions and creating a new value system constitutionally committed to the principles of secularism, individual freedom of conscience, equality of all humans and genders, and constitutional parliamentary democracy. How it was introduced, and whether it was wholly accepted by the peoples of the South of Nigeria, and how it is being practiced…that’s another story.

Education was the most effective method of bringing the desired change. Churches and schools existed side by sided. In the length and breadth of Nigeria, missionaries took the initiative and founded schools and other educational institutions and through the newly educated generations brought about radical changes in the value system and worldviews affecting modern Nigeria at the embryonic stage.

Post Independence, More of the same:The Experience of the last 50 years.
1. Lack of a sound development agenda or plans to be implemented by national leaders.
2. Lack of a visionary leadership in national government.
3. Lack of exposures/experience on the part of national leaders
4. The refusal or unwillingness of incoming leadership to accept and implement development agenda/plans of the out-going ones
5. High class corruption, power, greed, selfishness on the part of national leaders 6. The refusal and or failure of the national leadership to make local leadership part of decision-making with regards to crafting a development agenda
7. Injustice and bad governance
1.A return to feudalism
2.A return to caste, class and discriminatory orders.
3.A perpetuation of hypocrisy, hybrid of values.
4.An ‘Animal Farm” ideology.
5.Extreme individualism
6.Inordinate unquenched thirst for control over others
7.“Decorative Democracy”, not fundamental to our cultural norms.

Fast Tracking To The Future –Your Roles As “National Saviours”
1. If we are to serve as role models in the society, the LeaderWithIntegrity should consider an active plan for general mediation, reconciliation and unification within the various communities in Nigeria, for the house divided against itself can never stand
2. The LeaderWithIntegrity should strongly engage the state to the extend that they will begin encouraging and counseling their membership to take up assignment in high government offices and begin to apply good governance within every sector of the national society in line with transformational values.
3. The LeaderWithIntegrityneed to seriously promote positive national identity policy by encouraging Nigerians to appreciate their values and culture.
4. The LeaderWithIntegrityshould constructively engage and encourage government to harness the limited financial resources for vital areas such as a health care delivery system, quality education, agriculture etc.
5. TheLeaderWithIntegrityshould seek to support the enforcement of the rule of law. Despotism or dictatorship rest on the will and power of mortals, who always are a minority but a serious threat to the majority, and it is the moral right of the leader to challenge this anomally
6. The LeaderWithIntegrityshould initiate a dialog at the national and local levels aimed at involving national policy that will clearly spell out the hope and aspiration of the Liberian people for national unity, peace and progress.
7. The LeaderWithIntegrityshould intentionally find and mentor emerging leaders, building their capacity and get them involved in community and national development projects within their respective localities and beyond .
8. The LeaderWithIntegrityshould preach messages of peace on national tolerance in respect of political differences, religion, tribal back ground, etc.
9. The LeaderWithIntegrityshould be very pro-active in peace-building and reconciliation programs in every community across the country
10. The LeaderWithIntegrityshould now redefine his /hereducational, health, agriculture, etc capacity building role and begin to work towards achieving the MDGs within their spheres of influence.
11. The resources available in any community—material, mineral and personnel—have to be harnessed and put into maximum use with efficiency so that community may progress in the economic front. That is one of the challenges for the LeaderWithIntegrity
12. The development of a nation is intrinsically related to the intellectual development of its members. Knowledge and intellectual development cannot be monopolized by a few and the rest denied its privileges. The duty of the Leader is to find ways to improve the knowledge base of the citizenry, through discourse such as the one we are partaking now.
13. The leader must ensure the principle of human worth and freedom. There must be an atmosphere of freedom for individual members to develop themselves as individual persons using all their talents and gifts and the resources available. Pre-eminence cannot be given to any social or political order or set up and make individuals serve the system. If that happens then the individuals are enslaved to an oppressive system in operation.
14. In a democratic period, the leader has an imperative to drive voter education, to drive voter registration and the sanctity of votes.
15. Clear vision, ability to think, discuss, debate and articulate convincingly and persuasively, right decision-making process, the power to execute them—these the political process provides. When leaders stay away from this crucial area of life, besides betraying our lack of wholesome commitment to the totality of life, we deny ourselves the privilege to decisively participate in the mission of nation-building. This is willful abdication of responsibility, and that is criminal

Finally…Quoting from C. V. Mathew“We need a fresh vision for our nation in the 21st century—a nation that is made of individuals, families, communities and a mosaic of races, language groups, religious traditions and cultures; a vision born out of the Biblical worldview, a vision that honors Jesus Christ the Lord of the nations and history, a vision that seeks the well being of our fellow citizens in a healthy environment and the fulfillment of our national aspirations in healthy fellowship with one another (i.e. communal harmony); a vision that promotes a genuinely national consciousness, and social and national integration. It must be a vision that realizes truth, righteousness, justice, freedom, equality, mercy and love.”

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Sanctity of Votes In An Electoral Process

The Sanctity of Votes In An Electoral Process - The Citizen’s Perspective –

Presented By:
George Ashiru [Convener, Town Hall Meetings Project (THMP)]

On the occasion of the Roundtable On Santity Of Votes In An Electoral Process

Organised By: United States International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP) Lagos State Alumni Association.

Held 26th October 2010 at the Afe Babalola Auditorium, University of Lagos

Your Excellency, The Executive Governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
The Chairperson of this occasion, Senator Joy Emordi
The Representative of the U.S. Ambassador, Mr Mathew Trumbull.
The President and members of the IVLP Alumni
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.

• In year 2000, heads of 189 governments, including Nigeria, agreed to meet 8 goals that will halve extreme poverty by year 2015 – The MDGs.
• All 8 of the MDGs were agreed to be achievable if governments live up to their responsibilities.
• Because of the direct benefit to citizens, they were expected to hold their governments accountable for achieving these MDGs.
• The only methodology for citizen action for responsible governance is democracy, where the citizens can reward or reject political leadership for achieving these and other developmental goals.
• The instrument for achieving this citizen action is through the ballot box. The electoral process provides the direct means of the citizens of a country to, in the majority, determine the leadership, direction and methodology and ideology of governance for the common good.
• The sanctity of this process and the value of each individual vote determines the progress a country makes towards achieving her developmental objectives.
• Time and time again, we have seen a political system in operation in Nigeria, where a select few have acted like they have debenture holdings of our collective votes, and can allot the votes and the resulting value as they will.
• We the citizens have come together to say No, NEVER AGAIN!!!

A Corporate Analogy:
• Nigeria can be likened to a large corporation, FRN-PLC, founded 1914, established 1960.
• An American Intelligence Factbook estimated our collective value at $159Billion. Furthermore, the expendable GDP per capita was given from $300plus to a useful GDP/capita of $2400 (2009) per citizen, young or old.
• This translates to each of us having an average net worth of $2400, which in equity terms, is 2400 shares per head (assuming $1 per share).
• During our annual AGM (elections), I exchange my shares for votes. My shares are equal to all others, but by proxy, some of us wield slightly more shares, on behalf of our non-voting shareholders (children). In any case, it is a fair and equitable distribution of shares.
• My equity exchanges for a vote during the AGMs. I expect dividends for my equity, I vote for Directors and CEOs that will guarantee me return on my shares. My shares are not a subvention or donation to anybody, they are my holdings in the corporate entity called FRN-PLC.
• I attend the AGM personally, and I see my co-shareholders diligently exercising their duty of casting their shares in votes as their conscience leads them.
• But, Alas, at each AGM, till now, an unscrupulous few brokers, directors, and line managers, collude to turn our experiment into the “Animal Farm” (Apologies, George Orwell), where some persons allocate our shares and trade in our shares, without our consent, acting as though their own 2400 equity are debentures with exponential values. Where, instead of their shares to have a $1 to a share, they magnify their shareholding to $million to a share . Equating themselves to a majority, and making nonsense of the equal equity we have been bequeathed.
• So, at our various shareholder association meetings (town hall meetings), we have new resolutions we want activated for the upcoming AGM in 2011.

• Our shares/votes must have equal values
• That our citizens must be educated not to trade their shareholdings for a bowl of porridge or undervalue these shares by trading it at N500 for a vote.
• That the citizens, being equal partakers of the commonwealth of Nigeria shall no longer deliver their votes through political proxies, but each man/woman will personally cast their votes and ensure the sanctity of the tabulations.
• That we recommend that previous beneficiaries and perpetrators of such unsanctified votes shall not be allowed to stand for further elections, whether through the judicial process or through citizens’ action.
• We also demand judicial compensation for the erstwhile mis-alloted votes.
• We all agree that the corporate entity called Nigeria is a viable entity with awesome potentials, and we will ensure the delivery of a just electoral process and good governance to the upcoming generations, through aggressive citizen education, and issues driven enlightenment campaigns.
• That citizens’ apathy is the result of the loss of sanctity of their votes. Additionally, citizens’ apathy is increased by the following;
-Ignorance about electoral processes. –Ignorance of issues in governance –Cultural mindsets that presume elders, the wealthy, etc are better leaders. –Election violence and political thuggery. –I religious misapplications on the role of the citizen in ensuring the sanctity of votes, and good governance.
• During an election cycle, the scenario the citizen expects is;
-Parties, after internal democratic primaries, present candidates.
-Candidates present their case.
-Voters make their choices.
-INEC tabulates, endorses, and announces these choices as it is.
• We also admonish INEC to consider the following actions; -Educate the citizenry through Town Hall meetings, etc and, -Work with NGOs to create awareness on voter registration, responsibilities, etc -Empower voters to defend their votes through an accountable voting system.