The night before the election of the current speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Aminu Tambuwal, I stumbled on a returning MHR somewhere in Abuja. Naturally, the impasse between them and the party over the speakership cropped up in our gists. There is no impasse, he said, because “by this time tomorrow, we would have elected Aminu Tambuwal several hours ago”. This is what will happen even if all the PDP governors relocated to Abuja and came to sit in the chambers to watch who was voting for who, he said. As I poured over this later alone, the question was who could be this Tambuwal over whom the legislators could achieve such an uncommon consensus in Nigeria?
It turned out that Tambuwal was not only elected, he said on Day One what no Nigerian leader at his level had said since 1986. I cannot recall his words because I do not think his acceptance speech was published but he certainly said that a manufacturing economy is Nigeria’s only way forward. I couldn’t help saying, no wonder. That statement was congruent with his CV which suggested an excellent epistemic exposure for high office.
By that advocacy for a manufacturing economy, Tambuwal not only showed a sound grasp of the international political economy of Nigeria which is always the gap in the political education of leadership in Nigeria, he also knew that his office had a role to play in re-making Nigeria. Tambuwal’s was, therefore, an absolutely refreshing path. If his thinking reflected the aggregate consciousness of the HOR, then Nigeria might not be irredeemably lost after all. This is because if the Number 4 citizen and his fellow legislators are strong advocates of any cause, such a cause was bound to succeed.
Then Tambuwal went silent totally on manufacturing. Nobody ever heard the speaker mention manufacturing again. Could ‘they’ have masticated him?
But Mister Speaker needs to come back to that advocacy. There is no alternative to galvanizing the country towards a manufacturing economy which, by its own logic, must be state intervention in the economy because neither local nor foreign investors will do it or can do it. Even if there are, what obligation does GEJ or any president for that matter owe an Adedoyin or a Dangote or Exxon to make them rich but remain a pauper? So, unacceptable level of corruption will remain a major contradiction of the current illusion that we can develop without central planning but by entrusting the bureaucratic state as we have now to supervene a capitalist revolution. It cannot because the bureaucracy as resources allocation authorities will steal the money. To expect them to be honest is to be a dreamer and no IMF/World Bank’s transparency or accountability or fiscal responsibility campaigns will cure that, no matter how many Okonjo Iwealas anyone imports to manage the economy.
So, give the state itself the job of manufacturing. It will be cheaper, it will be faster. It will be more qualitative. It will be transformative. And it has no losers. Both local and foreign interests will gain. The corruption there is minimal and manageable. It guarantees a strong state and a strong leadership for Nigeria simultaneously and immediately. The absence of the strong state in the last twenty-five years is the main reason for the current security challenges. Why has the mobilisation of ethnic and religious sentiments become very important since the dawn of SAP? It is because religion and ethnicity are now offering the hope for the majority, thereby displacing the state from popular consciousness. That is why withdrawing the state from being a major player in the economy is always an invitation to instability in a society like Nigeria’s which is basically an informal economy run on affection. An industrial economy like the United States with the corporate might of Coca Cola, MacDonald, General Electric, Exxon, etc can idealise withdrawing from the economy but not ours.
So, Mister Speaker Sir, you will be helping this society by intensifying this advocacy you started on your first day in office. You will be helping because we are clearly heading for fascism if that option is not taken. How? It is simply because only fascists can win the next elections if the current anarchy deepens. Both the ‘international community’ and the remnant of the local bourgeoisie as well as the masses will be driven to embrace anyone or any group seen to be capable of stabilizing the system through repression, otherwise fascists. All of us will be in for it. The only way this will not happen if we continue this present hopeless way is if those pushing for break-up of the country succeed earlier than those seeking to keep it. So, manufacturing should not just be another item on the ORDER PAPER now but something critical and urgent. That necessarily makes the National Assembly and its key operators the correct direction of strategic attention now. Because it is only the NASS that can create laws and if we have clear headed laws, the way forward will also be clearer.
Abba Gana: Purveying peace at a time of hate
In a deeply divided society such as Nigeria of today, no effort at peace can be considered any less than a great job. It is in this sense that I am taking note of the little known National Council for Peace and Unity, (NCPU). Its identity is still unclear. If a name like that of Engineer Muhammed Abba Gana, former FCT Minister and Presidential Adviser were not behind it, the temptation would have been to dismiss it as a typical surrogate platform used by the military in those days to contest space with genuine popular democratic organisations. But Gana is a formidable moral authority. There is no better evidence for this than a former FCT Minister who is himself a tenant.
An Engineer and a member of the technocratic crew of the progressives in the Second Republic, Gana who is also reported to be committed to making at least 3 new persons happy every other day is fit to be a messenger of peace in a country so much in need of peace. Whenever he came to see Governor Sule Lamido in Jigawa when I was there, I used to serve as a self-appointed equerry to him because I never stop to marvel at how most members of his generation could be so educated that even those of them who read Engineering or Medicine can quote Shakespeare for you. It was always a pleasant interaction.
That nobility of mind is what is making his pronouncements on the platform of the National Council for Peace and Unity compulsive. Listen to the kind of argument he posed when the council visited Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola on May 9th, 2012: Lagos is a mini Nigeria. In Lagos, you find people from every state and city of the federation – Sokoto, Calabar, Jos, Benue, Kogi, Oyo, Enugu and FCT. All the religions are here –Islam, Christianity, traditional religion but there is tolerance. If in Lagos, all Nigerians live and tolerate each other, why is that not the case in Kaduna, Jos, Yobe, etc? Therefore, let Lagos be the model.
When his team went to see Justice Minister on June 22nd, 2012, he equally raised a valid agenda: a case for social integration as the way forward, based on breaking the cycles of disadvantage and bursting exclusion of the under class through enthronement of citizenship and property rights. These are the kind of things our political parties should have been saying. This is hoping that both Gana and the NCPU will make a difference.
Dear reader, just what is your take on this perception gaining ground that Nigeria is the sick man of Africa? Let us hear what you think. As the argument goes, “If Nigeria, with all the resources that she is endowed with cannot make it, then something is genetically wrong with the Black race. Without meaning to, even Chief Obafemi Awolowo lent credence to this perception when he was supposed to have said that if you removed all Germans and brought them to Nigeria and if you transferred all Nigerians to Germany, within a short while, Nigeria would have been transformed into a Germany while Germany would have been transformed into a Nigeria. It is in this sense that Nigeria is the burden being carried by the Black race” (Reproduced from Professor Bolaji Akinyemi’s pamphlet, titled Nigeria: The Blackman’s Burden, 2007).
Where should we stand on this, from the evidence of History? Over to you!
Onoja is a columnist with Blueprint, Abuja reachable via [email protected]