Path to a New Nigeria – THISDAY Newspapers

We have always blamed politicians and Government, previous and present, for most of what has gone wrong with Nigeria, and rightfully so too, because, mostly, they haven’t done too well; but the truth of the matter is that, Government is run by people not aliens – by Nigerians, and along the way, something bad has happened to our psyche as a people. Some even say that government is a reflection of the governed, that is, the people. A vicious circle has been created, and our traditional value system is completely eroded. A corrupt, warped and inequitable  system of governance, which in turn has created poverty, and corrupt, desperate people who couldn’t care less about values; some of who are, in turn, fed back into governance, while majority try to survive in any way they can, whether by legal means or otherwise. Chicanery has become our way of life.
Theory of Societal Evolution 
In one theory of societal evolution, a graph is used to measure moral/societal values. The theory asserts that the evolution or development of societal values is cyclical – it goes up and down; that when values are at a climax, the y-axis of the graph goes up, while it goes down when there’s a decline in values. It further asserts that, at some point, there may be a plateau (evenness) where societal values remain stagnant; and subsequently, they may start to incline or further decline. For instance, at a point in time, our y-axis crept up when repugnant customs like the killing of twins was stopped in Nigeria. Over time however, our value system has been on a constant decline, a free fall, and has failed to stagnate, let alone start to rise again. We even have a once acclaimed ‘Super Cop’, DCP Kyari, an officer of the law, facing drug and money laundering charges – an international suspect. Has law and order not broken down in society, when the Police are fingered as criminals too?
The incident of the theft of conference materials at the just concluded 2022 NBA AGC, set me thinking about how low Nigeria has sunk, and what could be the way forward for Nigeria. Lawyers are officers in the temple of justice, how then could they be involved in theft? 
And, while electoral reform is a step in the right direction – for one, so that the votes of Nigerians can start to count; if it is not accompanied by a change in our value system, and instead, we all continue with this negative mindset of decayed values, I’m sorry to say, not much will change for the better in our country. 
Section 5(1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)(the Constitution) vests the executive powers of the Federation in the President (and subsidiary executive powers are vested in other agencies and officers); Section 4(1) vests Legislative powers in the National Assembly; Section 6(1) vests the judicial powers of the Federation in the courts, while Section 14(2)(a) of the Constitution vests sovereignty on the people of Nigeria, and Section 14(2)(c) ensures the participation of the people in Government. While good leadership is key, every Nigerian has a role to play in the success of Nigeria.
A Regression into the Hobbesian State 
Aside from electoral reforms, a reset button needs to be pressed to enthrone a new and improved value system to get our country back on the right track, and to set the y-axis of our societal evolution graph on the incline; but, how we can go about this, I cannot say that I know. 
We have become insensitive and cruel, quick to humiliate others publicly, even kill in the name of religion. For example, last week, I felt nothing but horror and disgust, when I saw the video of Mrs Amarachi Okechi of Abia State, a widow who was tied up and publicly flogged by her community, because her late husband’s brother’s wife accused her of witchcraft (woman’s cruelty to another woman). Thankfully, Mrs Okechi was rescued and taken to hospital by Mrs Ikpeazu, wife of the Governor of Abia State. See the case of Ihonre v State (1987) LPELR-1462 (SC) per Oputa JSC on the attitude of courts to belief in witchcraft.
This is just another example of the negative behavioural traits of our people, a regression into mob justice, money rituals (which includes the sacrifice of human beings), and savagery; we have  become vicious, especially against those whom we perceive to be weak, like women and widows. How many times is a man flogged and disgraced publicly, because his wife died? Instead, they are already taking applications for a replacement wife for the widower, even before the corpse of his late wife goes into ’Rigor Mortis’. See Section 42 of the Constitution, and Ukeje v Ukeje (2014) LPELR-22724 (SC) per Rhodes-Vivour JSC on discrimination.
As a people, whether government officials or Nigerians generally, we have developed an unhealthy love for money and material things, and we can do almost anything to get same. For less than ‘six shekels of silver’, Nigerians are ready to do the unthinkable – we are that desperate for money. Corruption, greed and dishonesty are not just a governmental problem, but a pervasive problem amongst many Nigerians. We have also become extremely tribalistic instead of patriotic, laced with religious bigotry, and we are no longer living in peace with each other. The development of Nigeria has been truncated on the altar of greed, selfishness and corruption, amongst other evils. Our new value system, must address all this.
Inequity, Lack of Education and Poverty: A Perfect Combination for Failure
What could be reason for the terrible situation we find ourselves in?  I would say that inequity, lack of education and poverty are major contributors – they are a perfect combination for moral decline and failure. Part of this inequity, actually stems from the Constitution, which is fraught with examples of these anomalies. However, I will use just one example which is related to education and the ongoing prolonged ASUU Strike, to make my next point. 
Section 318 of the Constitution equates a Primary School Leaving Certificate with a Secondary School Leaving Certificate, and even that of Teacher Training, when we know that they are not the same at all, and their superiority is in the order in which I have mentioned them. To occupy the top government/political/legislative positions, an individual only requires any of these extremely low educational qualifications (aside from the administration of justice sector, which usually requires a Lawyer of at least 10 years post-call to the Bar standing); is it then a surprise that Government places little or no value on education, when you can reach the pinnacle of the Nigerian Government with minimum qualifications? Is it then a surprise that the budget for education is low, and Government has failed in its Section 18 constitutional obligations to provide education for the people, when the same Constitution has rendered education unimportant and irrelevant? Why then should it be a surprise that Lecturers and Teachers are paid so poorly, when not much value is placed on what they do or the output? If Government cared, ASUU wouldn’t be on strike for over six months and counting. The fact that CBN is said to have released over $200 million for the foreign airlines, when they declared their intention to stop operations to Nigeria due to their inability to repatriate their funds to their countries, shows that foreign travel, especially to Dubai, is more important to Government than education! 
However, apart from the fact that because of the low benchmark set by the Constitution we have numerous unqualified people who are in positions of authority, not only do they not understand their roles, they do not have any ideas as to how to govern. Because of corruption, they have amassed enough wealth to keep them in office ad infinitum, and continue to make bad decisions which affect the country adversely. To make matters worse, apart from these top government officials, politicians and a privileged few, majority of Nigerians are poorly paid. And so, we have Poverty, which obviously provides a fertile ground for desperation, dishonesty, and lack of moral values. 
How Can We Change this Discouraging Narrative?
How then can we change this extremely discouraging, regressive narrative? How do we enshrine a better value system, in order to promote true development, unity and progress? By changing our mindset, and restructuring our system. But, even if we restructure Nigeria in terms of making Nigeria a true Federation, which may be the only way that a heterogeneous country like ours can work and thrive; without restructuring our mindset, the same failures we have experienced on a national level will simply be replicated on a State level, and there will still be problems. 
We must adopt a new and improved homegrown value system, like what countries like Malaysia and Singapore did in the 1990s with their own ‘Asian Values’, a political ideology which inter alia, defined elements of society and culture, to turn their countries around. 
What should be the content of our own new value system? Patriotism, unity in diversity, community, good family values, tolerance, conflict resolution, cooperation, fairness and equity, decency, honesty and intolerance for corruption, giving education its pride of place, promotion of a good work ethos, accountability by government and citizens, shunning of known rogues by society, preventing rogues from holding government positions/public office, promotion of the rule of law. If only Nigerians could be brainwashed into this better value system! I know this may sound trivial, but it must also include cleanliness. I remember quite clearly how, in 1992, the sale and purchase of chewing gum was banned in Singapore to reduce the litter chewing gum was causing, especially in public areas. Today, Singapore is one of the cleanest countries in the world. We have our own ‘pure water’ problem, with nylon packages littered all over the place, blocking all the drainage and turning the environment into dirty slums. 
Not only do we need educated leadership, we need the Youths who make up about 60% of our population, – they have fresh, brilliant ideas and should be part of governance. It makes no sense that Youths who are in the majority, play little or no part in decision making. Promoting ‘Made in Nigeria’ products and exporting them, like the Youths have done with music and Nollywood. The Youths must organise themselves better, in order to get into positions of authority and drive some of these changes.
Rwanda may be a  smaller country than Nigeria, but the issue of tribal conflict between the Hutus and the Tutsis in Rwanda, akin to what we are gradually experiencing in Nigeria, plunged Rwanda into war, and more or less destroyed the country in the 1990s; less than 20 years later, Rwanda has become the pride of Africa. Instead of just going there on vacation, we need to learn how Rwanda was able to overcome its tribal issues, and replicate it, adapting it in our own way to our situation, and include it in our new value system. The preamble of the Constitution talks about unity and consolidation, Section 14(3) & (4) provides for federal character, while Section 42 prohibits discrimination; instead of politicians deceiving Nigerians and shifting the goal post every second to suit their own selfish purposes, is it not time to truly start practising these constitutional provisions that promote equity, fairness, unity and collectivism? Unity was also one of the goals of the Asian Values. 
If society is not made more equitable, and conditions are not made to improve for the people, it will be difficult to promote a new, positive value system, as intense poverty will persist and people will continue with their negative mindsets, doing their bad things. Nigeria needs to harness our untapped resources like gas and other precious minerals deposited across the country, to increase our revenue; diversification of our economy; reduce the size of governance, and redraw the remuneration structure for all public officials. Slash the salaries and allowances of those receiving exorbitant, unjustifiable salaries, while increasing that of the poorly paid workers. The public school system, must be revamped, so that the child of the common man receives a decent education like they did up to about the 1980s. If people are able to meet their basic needs with  less difficulty, they will be more receptive to a better value system.
My dear readers, kindly, share your thoughts on what can be done to enthrone a mindset of better values for the average Nigerian. It is crucial, in order to promote the development and progress of our country, and pave the way for new and better Nigeria.
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