By Chris O.O. Biose
“Not gold but only men can make a nation great and strong. Men who for truth and honour’s sake stand fast and suffer long, brave men who work while others sleep, who dare while others shy. They build a nation’s pillars and lift them to the sky.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
An important question that arises from Part One of this discourse (Moral Morbidity of the Nigerian elite) is how the virus of illicit behaviour that afflicts Nigerian elite and which trickles down to the masses, may be eliminated or reduced to a tolerable level so as to restore the health of social fabric. How can the debasing elite be cleansed by those who have themselves be debased?
My answer is that Nigeria needs a prime motivator at the core or source of its debasement. In this respect, the good news is that unlike Covid-19, the virus of anti-social conduct is a state of mind over which the individual could take control. The unique personality (prime motivator) must therefore be morally and intellectually fortified. He must be strong enough to neutralize the debilitating influence of the social virus that surrounds him and in which he is immersed. His approach to public issues is founded on robust ideological foundation, free from religious, ethnic and class bias which burden most men.
Just as Nigeria habours a well organised and merciless battalion of political crooks, so also it has a large army of patriotic citizens who are at present overwhelmed by anti-social forces. This large army awaits a commander-in-chief. The new political commander must awaken this sleeping army of patriotic soldiers of the right and enkindle their innate patriotic zeal.
Men of Conscience
In this respect, it is important to state that Nigeria no longer needs strong men because strong men have ruined the country and destroyed its social institutions. Equally, Nigeria does not need religionists because most of those that destroyed the country are ardent religionists who plead God for their virulent conduct. Nigeria does not need ethnic jingoists who take their tribe as the country.
. The country needs men of conscience and not of power. The prime motivator needs to be armed with empathy and ideologically driven. With such men, Nigerians can breathe again. When released from bondage of strong men, there is no height that the country cannot attain.
Instead of deepening democracy, they are fighting over zoning, euphemism for sharing posts.
The prime motivator will lead a corps of counter elite to commence the process of building a nation-state out of the conglomeration of ethnic groups that make up the country. He will serve as a kick-start to re-invent Nigeria. He will liberate citizens from the virus of moral morbidity that stunts its development, threatens its health and ultimately, its existence.
Ideological Foundation for Re-Inventing Nigeria
In the Nigerian situation where super-abundant material resources constitute stumbling blocks rather than assets, the Number One imperative consists of attitudinal and institutional changes which could only be brought about by an uplifting ideology. Within this context, progressives need to sit down to fix objectives, set targets and work out plans to achieve such objectives. Rational progressivism is an alternative ideology to counter and correct the failures of unbridled egotist fascism, camouflaging as democracy in Nigeria.
A large majority of Nigerian entrepreneurs function as mere sales managers of foreign products, boosting industrial production in foreign countries while destroying the basis of industrial production at home.
What a poor country like Nigeria needs is to check the drift towards further inequality and embrace ideologies and programmes that lay a sound basis for development.
Essence of Progressive Ideology
One of the corrupt tactics of Nigerian political elite is to adopt names and titles that do not reflect their realities. It was shown in this discourse that the titles “Federal” and “Republic” do not justifiably apply to contemporary Nigeria. People also falsely assume titles such as Excellency, Distinguished, Honorable, Progressive, and so forth. It is quite apparent from the Nigerian experience that an individual or political formation is not progressive merely because he or it adopts the title. “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7: 16)
To progress is to move forward towards an aim. In every society, there are those who defend the status quo and those who organise to bring about positive change. Progressives form a category of people who constitute themselves into a moving force to champion progressive change.
Progressivism entails secular rationalism involving a transition from act-of-God to act-of-man explanations of social phenomena, thus widening the effective field of the recognition of suffering. It is not concerned with theological concepts of gods and devils.
Toil, sickness, strife, deprivation of liberty and man’s inhumanity to man have been part of the human condition for thousands of years. The progressive mind is concerned to bring about the type of changes that eliminate those conditions that cause human suffering.
.As a result of this recognition, progressives take rational, planned action at the level of human affairs as major causative agents of the human condition. They seek to break the rigidities of existing power structures and bring more social forces into relevance, thereby engendering new and refreshing social realities.
Man is not destined to live under any particular political or economic system. Neither is man fated to any particular social order. Progressives accept the burden of building a progressive society as a matter of public policy, supplemented by private initiative.
Being primarily concerned with human welfare as its top priority in social planning, it seeks to institutionalise compassion through socially prescribed channels rather than voluntary private philanthropy. Progressivism is humanitarian. It is extremely sensitive to the plight of the vulnerable and the needy which are contrary to the priorities of feudalists, capitalists, militarists and fascists.
By way of emphasis, it should be made clear that progressivism is not based on the whims and caprices of “big men” or individual rulers as to what constitutes progress. It is not based on visions and dreams such as the late Ugandan military dictator, Field Marshall Idi Amin was reputed to constantly have about his country.
It is not based on prayers and fasting by rulers and their henchmen. It is not based on claims to divine authority by theocratic leaders neither is based on alleged divine right of monarchs. It is not based on militaristism or dictation by an all-knowing military strong man.
Progressive socialist analysis makes us understand that men, including their thinking and social systems, are products of circumstances and circumstances are liable to change. Society is made, not given. With this realisation, any system that sees itself as the summit and close of history is waging a losing battle against inevitable historical change. Progressives prefer planned change to unplanned cataclysmic social revolts.
For a movement to be progressive, it must seek to redistribute economic power among the producing agents in a way that no one cheats the other. It must bring economic justice to the lower classes.
Secondly, it must bring about political power shift. This means that the poorer sections of the populace must play a wider and wider role in the state, thereby making egalitarianism a genuine reality.
It is also important to make clear that a measure is not progressive merely because it offers free money or services to poorer sections of the society. Thus, for example, sharing money to impoverished citizens does not qualify as a progressive policy because the N5,000 or N10,000 being shared does nothing to remove the victims of an oppressive society from their unacceptable condition. A measure is progressive if it aims at bringing an end to exploitative exchange relations with a view to ending exploitation by redistribution of economic and political power in a state.
Neither is one a progressive merely because he earns a low income or because he is a worker, is poor or puts on rags. To be a progressive does not require a person to be shabby or live in a slum. There is no contradiction whatsoever when individuals in a progressive society earns high income. Indeed, the objective of such a state is “life more abundant” for all, as famously formulated by Chief Obafemi Awolowo when he launched the Action Group at Owo on April 28, 1951.
Finally, a progressive movement must aim at cultural and economic independence without which political independence is a farce. An economy in which 90 per cent of the resources are under foreign control is nothing but serfdom.
It is Possible
The greater part of the Nigerian problem is leadership. It is the X-factor in the country’s development. The country bears the heavy burden of parasitic ruling elite – selfish, greedy, unpatriotic, lawless and often ignorant. In progressive societies, it is the elite that fashion out strategy and tactics for achieving welfare of the society.
The founding fathers of the Nigerian state had a dream “to build a nation where no man is oppressed”so that “with peace and plenty, Nigeria may be blessed”, as envisioned in the Independence National Anthem. It is evident that these aspirations of the founding fathers have not been realised to a reasonable degree.
To actualize this key vision, Nigeria needs a leader that is wholeheartedly dedicated to the cause of nationalism. He must be conversant with crucial problems of economic transformation of a backward country. Such a leader will pilot the country to rediscover and actualise the vision of the founding fathers of the Nigerian state. .
In the past 20 years of civilian rule in Nigeria (1999-2020, there has arisen one humble, unassuming, principled and patriotic Nigerian that fits the bill envisaged in this Chapter. A former Governor of a non-oil producing state, he paid off more than two years outstanding salaries and pensions of teachers in his state. He undertook ambitious provision of social infrastructure such as educational and health infrastructure. Before his tenure, his state was No. 26 in ranking in examinations conducted by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and National Examination Council (NECO). Within two years of his tenure, his state took first position in SSCE examinations conductedby both examination bodies.
He undertook massive investment in core economic infrastructure in his state, particularly roads, office buildings.
During his tenure, he refused to ride in jeeps orarmoured cars. His convoy consisted of a maximum of four 406 Peugeot vehicles. He never used chartered aircraft. He always flew economy class and lodged in fairly priced hotels when he is not in his state.
At the end of his tenure of office after eight years, he did not owe workers’ salaries, pensioners or contractors. Rather, he handed over savings of over N75 billion which stood in the name of his state government in various Nigerian banks which he christened “ “Future Generation Fund”. As far as I know, this outstanding leader is the only former State Governor in Nigeria who refused to collect pensions or other perquisites from his state.
Most Nigerians are said to be “prayer warriors”. In their private capacities, (not as government officials), it is time to shun religious and tribal sentiment, stand firm for what is good for the country, and as a complement, pray with Josiah Gilbert:
“God, give us men: A time like this demands
Strong mind, great hearts, true faith
and ready hands;
Men whom the lust of office
does not kill;
Men who possess opinions
and a will;
Men who have honour, men who will not lie;
Men who can stand before a demagogue
And damn his treacherous flatteries
Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog
In public duty and in private thinking.”