by Mojubaolu Okome
Happy New Year. I have been engrossed, and have become embroiled in Nigerian politics in a new way. I am now tweeting and blogging about it, although I’m yet to perfect my skills at both media. I’m also soon to be found on facebook. While many became interested out of getting the alarming news on bombings of among other targets, several locations in Kano, and previously, some Churches in Madala and other places on Christmas day, UN House in Abuja before that, etc.; and yet others saw parallels with the Occupy Movement in the demonstrations that began with the new year, I have studied Nigeria forever, and have been communicating furiously with our new Minister for Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, a Harvard alum and doyenne of World Bank neo-liberalism. She invited me to be a linkedin contact, I accepted, and the rest is now history. My long-winded blogs give you some of the blow-by-blow details. I wasn’t properly deferential, and the Honorable Minister has suspended communication with me, maybe because there’s bigger fish to fry. But since I care about Nigeria, I decided enough is enough. I decided to organize rather than agonize about Nigeria’s predicament. Below is a petition that resulted from my current and ongoing efforts. Please send to all Nigerians that you know, encourage them to sign and share with friends, enemies, aquaintances and family.
This House Must Not Fall!
By Committee of Concerned Nigerians
The recent mass uprising against the so-called “removal” of subsidy on petroleum products by the Federal Government headed by President Goodluck Jonathan has again brought to fore critical questions about the crisis of governance in Nigeria and the way Nigeria is constituted or structured. We the undersigned are convinced that, in spite of the ending of the protests and the industrial action through the compromise between the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC)-Trade Union Congress (TUC), on the one hand, and the Federal Government, on the other, fundamental questions raised by the civil uprising remain unresolved. They must not be conveniently swept under the carpet.
We are persuaded that what was displayed on the streets and by the interventions of Nigerians at home and abroad in the week of the protests, was not merely a response to the insensitive and ill-advised increase in the price of petroleum products – particularly petrol, whose price per litre was increased from N65 to N140. This national uprising was an expression of the deep frustration of the Nigerian people.
We believe that at the core of this “withdrawal of subsidy” regime, is the persistence of a contentious relationship between national and international forces organised around the failed logic of neo-liberalism, that have pulverised our national economy, destroyed every surviving national institution of growth and development, reversed the gains of our local industries, crushed the strength, vitality and steady growth of our educational institutions, and smashed every process and institution of social services and social provisioning that had hitherto ensured the survival of Nigerians.
The historical and structural conditions that led Nigeria to the circumstances described above and the failure of the ascendant neo-liberal policies, whose purveyors have remained consistently ignorant of the reality and the specificities of the Nigerian environment, while displaying condensed disdain for local knowledge and the political economy of the fiscal crisis, are evident in the condescension and appalling obliviousness recently displayed by the external and local “experts” who have attempted to define the “real issues” in the course of the current debate.
In the current circumstances, the truth that we all know is that Nigeria is broke. The 2012 budget – even if it were to be operated on the basis of the N140 per litre of petrol – would still be a deficit budget. However, the country is not broke by accident; it is broke by design. Through a systematic and sustained process of unprecedented corruption, inefficiency and lack of vision, the nation’s coffers have been systematically looted directly and indirectly by those in charge of public administration.
Whether through a regime of self-provisioning — from the federal through the state to the local government levels – by means of which public officers, particularly in the executive and legislative arms of government, have converted public resources into their private entitlements, or through a pattern of graft and unconscionable looting which is gradually returning a nation that was supposed to have settled its external debts only a few years back into the comity of debtor nations, Nigeria’s stupendous oil resources have become even insufficient to match the ravenous appetites of our rulers. This is why, as witnessed since the General Ibrahim Babangida era, and as poignantly demonstrated many times during the President Olusegun Obasanjo era, those in power have had to regularly remove a perpetual “subsidy” from petroleum prices. Creeping but consistent inability of economically marginalized Nigerians to make ends meet constituted a part of the backdrop of the ferment witnessed in the streets recently.
Therefore, we are compelled to insist that if those in power and their allied forces assume that they have won the battle by the negotiated agreement which fixed the price of petrol at N97, they have missed both the symbolic significance and the practical import of the heroic actions recently displayed by Nigerians. The industrial action and mass protests have been terminated for now, but the fundamental social, economic and political questions that they raised remain salient and continue to constitute a threat to, not only the survival of democratic rule in Nigeria, but also to the corporate existence of the nation.
As the unending rash of terrorist attacks by Boko Haram shows, there is an underlying structural predicament which this government can only ignore at its peril. The fact that Boko Haram continues to ridicule the nation’s security apparatuses, and has rendered President Jonathan inarticulate about its sources and strength, constitutes an indication of the urgent need to rethink the bases of the social contract between the state and citizens in Nigeria.
However, even though they are provoked by, and react to, different aspects of the national crises, both the terrorism of the Boko Haram group and the gallant efforts by the masses and the civil society against the increase in the pump price of oil, are manifestations of a perilous incoherence in the structural composition of Nigeria and the manner in which the country has been, and is being, administered. The different forms of questions raised on the corporate existence of the country in the context of the two, should compel every patriotic formation in Nigeria to join the task of responding to these challenges and constructing the conditions and institutions through which these fundamental questions can be addressed so as to save Nigeria from an imminent collapse. The question therefore is: Which Way Nigeria?
Against this backdrop, we the undersigned, as joint stakeholders in the Nigerian project, convinced about our moral responsibility to join the debate to save Nigeria, persuaded that the nation is headed for the precipice unless it takes a different course, and influenced by our implicit trust in the manifest destiny of our country, Nigeria, to be a great and indivisible nation, do make the following declarations:
1. That, through a combination of past actions and inactions and the glaring incompetence, corruption and lack of vision of the current government, Nigeria faces dire crises which threaten her continued existence as a corporate entity;
2. That, in spite of the promises that have been made by the present economic managers, the Nigerian masses and the withered middle class will continue to experience a life of unrelenting misery unless a new path that encourages a fundamental and holistic restructuring of our national life, including the economic and political structures, is started immediately;
3. That the political (structural) questions raised by the totality of the challenges faced under this government call for concerted actions beyond mere postulations of development economics which are not interrogated through nationalistic analyses of our local circumstances and historical conditions;
4. That, despite the multiplicity of the challenges and the formidability of the obstacles, Nigeria possesses the human and natural resources (particularly the former, both at home and in the Diaspora) to confront and surmount our national crises without taking instructions from Washington D.C. or London and other Western capitals;
5. That the passion, energies and frustrations let loose on the streets in the recent past can be harnessed and deployed in the service of reconstructing and reconstituting the country in a way that Nigeria can become a place of pride again for all Nigerians;
6. That the government of President Goodluck Jonathan has by its simplistic and haughty responses to the true wishes of our people for effective and efficient governance, for a government that is truly concerned about alleviating the harrowing and devastating poverty that is evident all over the country, for a united country whose diversity is a strength rather than a weakness, for egalitarian rule, and for a country that can be restructured in a way that it starts to function well and function for all, has lost a golden opportunity to align itself with the people whose mandate it claims to hold.
In light of the foregoing and based on our conviction that “What is to be Done” about Nigeria is an on-going, inclusive and expansive project, we call on the people of Nigeria and all patriotic forces to:
1. Continue networking and join hands to immediately begin a process that must lead to the convocation of a national conference. This conference must end in a comprehensive restructuring of the federation such that it would prevent Nigeria from experiencing what was experienced in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria between 1967 and 1970, or is being experienced in Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
2. To utilize this historic moment when the Nigerian people have clearly spoken, calling for development and democracy, as a time to fully commit ourselves to justice, progress, and stability in our country.
3. Continue to encourage Nigerian citizens to actively participate in the political process through peaceful and non-violent means. We believe that only through a consistently active and constructive engagement in the Nigerian democratic process – both electoral and non-electoral – can we begin to harness the enormous human potential of Nigerian citizens at home and abroad. We call on the Nigerian authorities to ensure that Nigerians are secure to exercise their democratic rights in a peaceful and non-violent manner without intimidation and violence from the state.
4. For the avoidance of doubt, whether those in power recognise this or not, Nigeria faces enormous national crises which threaten to consume not only the government, but also the nation. Violently extracting, collecting or gathering resources to sustain the largely inefficient, unproductive and thoroughly incompetent federal and state governments that we have now, constitutes cosmetic and unsustainable paths to national survival.
We hope that this intervention will encourage other Nigerians to continue to think carefully and act meticulously to address the grave challenges that confront our country. We intend to continue this debate and engage in high-level deliberations with Nigerians, home and abroad, on the future of the country and the convocation, at the earliest possible time, of a national conference to discuss our collective future as a people.
Please visit the online petition site at: iPetitions: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/this-house-must-not-fall-statement-by-committee/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=system&utm_campaign=Send%2Bto%http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/this-house-must-not-fall-statement-by-committee/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=system&utm_campaign=Send%2Bto%2BFriend
Professor Mojubaolu Olufunke Okome, Brooklyn College, CUNY, New York, US
Professor Femi Vaughan, Geoffrey Canada Professor of Africana Studies & History, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, USA
Dr. Pius Adesanmi, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada.
Dr. Wale Adebanwi, University of California-Davis, USA.