BY MARTINS ITUA

It must be said that there cannot be a better time than now to consider the subject of providing good governance to Nigeria and the rest of Africa. It is especially important in view of the fact that what we currently have is a system that serves the interest of a few to the detriment of the larger population. We must be thoroughly ashamed and embarrassed that a country that is blessed with such abundance of human and natural resources also has the highest number of people in the world who are living below the poverty line which is a dollar per day. It used to be Indian but Nigeria has overtaken India as the world’s headquarters of poverty.

We must all be concerned and begin to look for ways to contribute our quota in reversing this trend and ensuring that Nigeria takes her rightful place as the leader in Africa and the hope of the black race. It must be said that not until and unless Nigeria rises from the ground and begins to do things right by creating the right systems and environment where there is social justice and opportunity for all, we will never truly be free. I have often said that freedom is not simply about lowering the flag of Britain and replacing it with the Nigerian flag but it is more about our ability to provide the leadership that is required to lift people out of poverty and creating opportunity for all Nigerians irrespective of tribe, language, religion and social status. Our progress is measured by how much we are able to ensure that people can aspire to be the best and be the best despite the circumstances of their birth or where they may have come from.

Unfortunately, what we have had so far is a Nation that is full of potential but unable to realise its potential. We are called the giant of Africa largely because of our size and number and not because we have been able to get the most basic things right. Even though we seemed to have started well at Independence in 1960, we have been unable to build a society where everyone can live together in peace and harmony and aspire to fulfil their God-given potential. Our Nation has been faced with horrendous situations that have threatened our very existence and these have stemmed from the fact that we have been unable to develop a system and society that caters to the needs of everyone. Nigeria is now a place where everyone fends for himself and where the sacred social contract between the people and those in power has been blatantly violated without any consequences.

In order to begin to chart the course for the future, it is important that we know where we are as a people and how we got here in the first place. It is when we know where we are that we can design a pathway for the future. The question of where is probably easy because everyone feels the pain of the problems and backwardness of the Nation. There is abject poverty and hopelessness everywhere and many of our young have resorted to find their ways out through dangerous routes in search of greener pastures in other places that are not as endowed as Nigeria. If we are unable to understand our situation, chart the course for the future and ensure that we hold ourselves and our leaders to account, we will, just like our fathers, die without Nigeria realising its full potential. As good as it may seem to run away to other places in search of greener pastures, there will never be another home called Nigeria. So our overriding need is that we must seek to create a Nation that Nigerians and all black people in the world will be proud to call their home.

We must put our religious differences aside

Nigeria is a country of two dominant religions which is Islam and Christianity. As a matter of fact, for Nigeria to move forward, we must be willing to put our religious differences aside and work together for the development of our country. When Nigeria is good and flourishing, we all enjoy, irrespective of our religious beliefs. We must be willing to accept the fact that we are first, Nigerians before anything else. For Nigeria to develop, she must come first and this is something that many people find absolutely difficult to accept. People are often first either Christian or Muslim, Yoruba or Hausa or Ibo. We will never develop as long as we are unable to understand that we are all first and foremost Nigerians. You were a Nigerian first before you knew about Religion. We only became Christian or Muslim as we grew up but the fact that we were born in Nigeria or to Nigerians made us Nigerians at birth. When we understand and accept this principle, we will be able to appreciate the fact that what should matter most in choosing our leaders is their love for Nigeria and not their religious affiliation.

We must seek to build an egalitarian society

Egalitarianism must be taught and imbibed both as a social philosophy and political doctrine that all Nigerians are equal and should have access to the same opportunities. People should not be disadvantaged by the circumstances of their birth as they have no role in how, to whom, where, and to whom they are born. All everyone should need to aspire in Nigeria should be born to a Nigerian. The pervasiveness and preponderance of Islamic extremism and terrorism in Nigeria has its roots in social inequalities and injustice. It is wrong for Nigeria to demand from people that which it is unwilling to give. Sadly, people that I talk with today have expressed frustrations and regret that they were born in Nigeria and are Nigerians. This will not change for as long as we are unable to give everyone a sense of belonging and where opportunities are available to all irrespective of where they come from.

We must make nepotism illegal in Nigeria

Nigeria will never rise for as long as people who occupy positions of authority are there by virtue of who they know or where they come from. As it is right now, someone who comes from the so-called minority part of Nigeria may never aspire to lead to be President simply because he/she is not from the North, South, West or East. Being President should be the right of every Nigeria irrespective of your region or tribe. We must consciously delete the concept of tribalism from our lexicon. When we only elect or appoint people from our ethnic stock into positions of authority, we are short-changing Nigeria because we have simply sacrificed merit on the altar of tribe. We must seek to promote meritocracy and not nepotism and this must become a law for Nigeria to move forward.

We must be a Nation of values and philosophy

Nigeria is nearly a country where people pick and choose the laws they want to follow. It is also true that the same laws don’t apply to everyone. Our government is notorious for disobeying court orders. What moral right or authority does a government who disobey court orders have to enforce other laws? Laws are laws irrespective of who is involved. Court orders must be obeyed irrespective of who is involved and it doesn’t matter whether it is Government or an individual. If we all choose to follow or obey the laws that we like, what we have created is a banana republic and not a country. We must be governed by the Supreme Law which is the constitution and everyone must be subject to the constitution. Our Nation is neither governed by the Bible nor the Koran and other law that conflicts with the constitution must bow to the constitution. When we disobey the constitution, we are simply saying that Nigeria is a country without laws and a country without laws is really just a zoo. We don’t want to be a zoo. We are a country. We must teach Civic education in our schools and translate our constitution in all the major languages so that people can internalise the basis of our collective existence as a people.

Finally, we can be truly great and it is possible to achieve the much-talked about potential as a nation. But that will only be possible if we are willing to walk the talk by putting Nigeria first in everything. We must pull down the things that hold us down and break free from the manacles that keep us in chains. We must promote good works and reward excellence. We must encourage the strong and support the weak and elderly. We must punish offenders to serve as deterrence for wrong-doing. We all must together, join hands and make a commitment to build a nation where peace and justice shall reign and where Nigerians and all black people can be proud to call their home.