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Democracy, Federalism and Leadership Debate

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By Jerome-Mario Utomi

As argued by Hernando De Soto, author of the book, entitled The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else, capitalism is in crisis outside the West not because international globalization is failing but because developing and former communist nations have been unable to ‘globalize’ capital within their own countries-as most people in those nations view capitalism as a private club, a discriminatory system that benefits only the West and the elites who live inside the bell jars of poor countries.

Similarly, in my views, Nigeria today experiences crisis of leadership not because the democratic government/ federal system we practice are on their own bad systems or cannot provide the needed solution to the nation’s array of political and economic needs, but because too many politicians and public officials have exercised power and responsibility not as a trust for the public good, but as an opportunity for private gain.

Making the problem worse is their endless quest to get hold of more at all cost without consideration to the general well-being of the entire Nigerians.

Admittedly, it is a very natural and common thing to acquire more and when men succeed in this, they are always praised rather than condemned.

But it becomes a challenge and a reality to worry about when public office holders, instead of taking steps that will better the life chances of the people, get preoccupied with personal aggrandizements in forms that diminishes the masses socially and economically while the privileged political class continues to flourish in obscene splendour as they pillage and ravage the resources of the nation.

Aside from being striking human tragedy deepened by the awareness that it was avoidable, this, of course, is a kind of leadership crisis that is bound to happen when ‘lust for power prevails over granting people the love and care they deserve, and when the interest and destiny of one individual becomes more important than those of the whole nation.

This is also what happens when the interests of some groups and cliques are served instead of those of all the people.  In order words, this state of affairs happens when you put the people at the service of the government, in sharp contrast with the norm.

Without losing sight of the present myriads of sociopolitical contradictions that have conspired directly and indirectly to give Nigeria and Nigerians the unenviable tag of a country in constant search of social harmony, justice, equity and equality, this malfeasance at all levels of governance has not only led to the destruction of social infrastructures relevant for a meaningful and acceptable level of social existence for our people.

Rather, it visits the nation with a broad range of socio-economic issues which covers -poverty, health, sanitation, education, climate change, water, energy, environment and other challenges. Life in Nigeria quoting Thomas Hobbs has become nasty, brutish and short as the country turns a hotbed for all manners of violence.

As to factors fuelling the development, various commentators have attributed the type of leaders we have to the people’s decision given the fact that democracy makes everyone equal on Election Day.

The significance of the election, they argued, is that it serves as a means of implementing the principle of popular sovereignty. And popular sovereignty means that the people have the final say. Definitely, an effective argument that makes political sense, but, cannot hold water as it faces some embarrassing facts.

Fundamentally, even if every vote carries exactly equal weight, considerable room for inequality remains in the electoral system.

To a large extent, political parties in Nigeria, for example, are being privately financed. And it may well be that those who contributed money to a party or candidate expect to get something in return. Thus, those who have the resources to help finance elections are likely to have more influence than those who merely vote.

Beyond Election Day itself, tremendous inequalities, political influence begins to emerge, such as advocacy groups and lobby activities. Such disparities may lie outside the scope of political equalities as bare ingredients of the definition of democracy, but they should be of concern to observers.

The truth is that majorly, the root of our national malady goes beyond the incompetence of successive administrations to include rejection of notions/proven theories supplied by well-meaning Nigerians that can improve both the economy and society, as well as put the economy and unemployment in check.

Non-adherence to public opinion has no doubt thrown the economy into reserve and passed the burden on to the backs of Nigerians.

For example, the government’s shift of attention from job creation has undermined the feelings of Nigerians and shifted the distribution of income strongly in favour of those in government.

The average Nigerian is worse off now, economically and materially, than he/she was in 2015-or even 1999. We are presently living through the worst social and economic crisis since independence; poor leadership; poor strategy for development; lack of capable and effective state and bureaucracy; lack of focus on sectors that will improve the condition of living of citizens such as education, health, agriculture and the building of infrastructure; corruption; undeveloped, irresponsible and parasitic private sector; weak civil society; emasculated labour and student movement and poor execution of policies and programmes’.

Follow the logic.

In the past six years, the Nigerian workforce grew but the number of manufacturing jobs has actually declined as a result of the relocation of these industries to neighbouring African countries. A development occasioned by the inability of the FG to guarantee security and electricity. Jobs created by the federal government under the N-Power programme are part-time and not secured.

Two third of those doing part-time jobs want full-time jobs and cannot find them. Unemployment is far and away from the top concern of Nigerians, ranking ahead of insecurity, lack of electricity and national unity.

While millions of workers have given up hope of finding employment, unemployment going by the National Bureau Statistics (NBS), 2019, was at 23.1 per cent, with an under-employment rate of 16.6 per cent; and currently at about an all-time high of 33.5 per cent.

The issue in my view is the refusal of political office holders to be fair and honest in their dealings with Nigerians.

To give one example, in 2005, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo administration and 2010, under Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the federal government made two feeble attempts, coming up with the electric power sector reform, EPSR, ACT 2005 and the roadmap for power sector reform of 2010, which was targeted at sanitizing the power sector, ensure efficient and adequate power supply to the country. The project ended in the frames – gulping reportedly $16 billion dollars for NIPP without contributing the targeted megawatt to the nations power needs.

The current administration is again in a similar partnership with the German government and Siemens. And in my observation, the only change that has taken place since this new development is but thoughtless increments of bills/tariffs paid by Nigerians. No nation can survive under this form of arrangement.

Correspondingly, security-wise, Nigeria is right now in its most fragile state since the end of the civil war. And by not taking steps to arrest the insecurity situation in the country, heeding the call to restructure the nation or implement the 2014 Confab report, the present government is doing this country more harm than good and quickening its disintegration. This should certainly raise a legitimate concern for all.

Let us pray for Nigeria!!!

Jerome-Mario Utomi 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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