Following a convening of civil society actors, the Nigeria Working Group on Peacebuilding and Governance – a group of Nigerian civic and thought leaders, met this week to reflect on the best line of action in collectively creating synergy in seeking pathways to the rebuilding of Nigeria. The group issued a statement yesterday signed by among others – John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, General Martin Luther Agwai (Rtd), Professors Attahiru Jega and Jibrin Ibrahim, Dr. Nguyan Shaku Feese, Amb Fatima Balla and Dr. Usman Bugaje.
Their message is addressed to Nigerian citizens to rise up and act to save their country. At this time, Nigerians have concluded that the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration does not listen to people of goodwill who offer sincere criticism and constructive advice. They have boxed themselves into a corner where all criticisms are catalogued as enemy action to be automatically discountenanced. For this reason, the decision was to address Nigerian citizens directly and get them to act. The conditions in the country are dire and statecraft to address mounting problems is both lacking and confronting a dramatic absence of willpower to deal with the multiple challenges of insecurity, a shrinking economy, and unemployment amongst others.
The civil society actors noted with concern that in the absence of a binding narrative about working for and securing Nigeria, there are series of conspiracy theories that have emerged, with immense capacity to divide the country along the sharp lines of ethnicity and religion, which is further sustained by the absence of strategic communication between the Nigerian state and its citizens. This situation is further heightening the level of desperation among the citizens that are increasingly been detached from the everyday non-governance of the Nigerian State.
The increasing insecurity across the country continues to gallop towards the abyss due to the lack of political will and the inability of the country’s security architecture to manage the multiple challenges. Kidnapping for ransom is an acute concern across Nigeria. The northeast is witnessing a resurgence in Boko Haram activity, and thousands of people are internally displaced by banditry across rural communities in the northwest. Criminality in rural areas further complicates the situation by undermining food security as many farmers have been unable to go to their farms for months, for fear of losing their lives.
The Nigerian State is on auto pilot and is currently not being governed. The result is that corruption has gone completely out of control. There is a concerted effort to dismantle anti-corruption agencies and render them ineffective. While evidence of corruption is growing, prosecution has slowed down considerably. Confidence towards the Nigerian State is very low heightening the divides in the Federation and creating widespread demands for dialogue and consensus building on restructuring which the Government has been tone deaf to.
It is distressing that the presidency has adopted the strategy of responding to demands for urgent and holistic review of the basic structures and governance processes of our nation with demeaning statements. This tendency to abuse those who legitimately ask those with responsibility to listen to popular voices is alienating more Nigerians from the administration and playing into the hands of those who feed off desperation.
At this point, the Nation needs to adopt a sense of urgency in the way it deals with rapidly accumulating liabilities. Nigerians cannot wait for the convenience or pleasure of leaders in deciding what is important. We must avoid the tendency to ignore our problems until they become a lot worse in terms of the capacities of leaders to deal with them.
In this regard, there is a discernible national consensus that the issue of restructuring Nigeria must be placed on the table and if the Government is not ready to do that then Nigerians should. We need to develop an inclusive and participatory approach to engage on a national conversation to address the legitimate demands to restructure the nation. The conversation should start now and well-meaning Nigerians should feel empowered to contribute to the discussions and debates on the search for real and constructive solutions to limitations in the operations of our Constitution, and the structures that give meaning to our citizenship.
The current bitterness of Nigerians against the Government is not unconnected to the nonchalance with which their concerns are dismissed. We call on younger Nigerians in particular, to get involved in the search for a future without current levels of bitterness and dislocations.
The main recommendation from the meeting is that citizens should initiate a people-centred national dialogue process. Nigerians, in their communities, associations, civil society groupings, women’s groups and youth groups should accelerate on-going discussions to deepen the emerging consensus of how to build a national platform to address Nigeria’s political structure and process. This coalition building process is aimed at the convening of a Peoples’ National Conference.
Secondly, a Charter of Demands on security provisioning should be developed. Criminality and violent confrontations between farming and herding communities have claimed thousands of lives and deepened ethnic, religious, and regional polarization and yet, few perpetrators have been prosecuted. Demands by the National Assembly and the generality of Nigerians to the appointment of new and more competent service chiefs have fallen on deaf ears. Nigerians therefore need to use their citizens’ power to draft and impose a Charter of Demands on Government.
In the coming months, Nigerians should focus on organising citizens’ action for national re-generation. Civil society, the media, professional associations, socio-cultural groups, women, youth, students, and people living with disability – we must act in one accord as key catalysts for civic action, representing key voices that need to be amplified in mobilizing citizens as a basis for compelling governments at all levels to act in the overall interest of the citizens.
Dear Nigerians, when Government is tone deaf and the country is in serious crisis, the only way forward is citizens’ action.
NO MORE AGONISING, LETS ORGANISE