Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bridging The Chasm Between The Government and The Governed

Many brilliant essays have been written on the matter of Goodluck Jonathan’s abilities as President and the removal of the fuel subsidy; so many that all this while I have deemed it unnecessary to contribute ‘another’ one to the fray. However, for a number of reasons – one of which is posterity – I have decided to craft this.
The Nigerian State is presently plagued by a number of evils – all of which seek immediate attention. From terrorist attacks by Boko Haram to ethnic cleansings in parts of the North; from a long brewing secessionist movement to the fear of reprisal killings in the South, and from a nationwide distrust of government to the ongoing #OccupyNigeria protests and general strike – the very existence of the Nigerian State has not been more threatened in my lifetime.
A variety of opinions exist that seek to provide explanations for these happenings. One could fill many books with academic descriptions of the widespread differences in tongue and thought between Nigeria’s various ethnic groups – and show how they fuel ‘native vs. settler’ ethnic battles – never mind that we are ALL settlers on this planet. Over the past few weeks, compelling economic arguments have been presented by the ‘government side’ – telling a single, unemotional story of the oil subsidy and how it will eventually land us in debt – never mind that the majority of the populace is already grossly indebted.
I think it odd that in this age and time, we still find innovative ways to pass the buck rather than find proactive solutions to these evils. In the past few days, I have watched sadly as the Nigerian President – one of the most powerful in the world by constitutional definition – has helplessly attributed corruption in the ‘subsidy regime’ to a cabal. Even more sadly, he only recently ‘confirmed’ the infiltration of the executive arm of his government by members of the Boko Haram sect – an arm of government that he put together by himself!
While I do not seek to belittle the enormous challenges that confront the Nigerian President and indeed our leaders at various levels in the discharge of their duties – I find that all of ‘these’ may still be ascribed to a lack of political will, a failure of leadership across levels.
There exists a great disconnect between the governed and the government, a result of the failure of the ‘social contract’ that ordinarily exists between a government and her citizenry. The Nigerian government, largely relying on monies sourced from fuel exports to run itself – has little need for individual taxes and the likes – hence its running as an entity separate from the people. The citizenry, apathetic in her outlook until recent, has largely proceeded to ‘govern’ herself – tarring her own roads, providing her own electricity, water supply, and even security – making a life despite the government.
Such issues as the ill-timed removal of the fuel subsidy without attendant moves to cut government waste and police brutality on unarmed protesters are as a result of this ‘disconnect’.
Rather than impose any more hardship on an already impoverished populace, the Nigerian government must be made to lead by example – to start by pruning down the cost of governance itself. Our leaders must learn to live as ‘public servants’, and not as exalted demigods earning obscene allowances. Family heads and tribal leaders must help their people to see beyond the superficial differences that exist between various ethnic groups. Visionary leaders, men who by their very presence inspire hope for the future must arise and build an enabling economic environment and strong democratic institutions.
It remains to be seen whether the Nigerian citizenry will remain resolute in her drive to reclaim the polity from the many cabals who dot her political landscape.
We can do this!

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