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Nigeria: A nation on the cliff edge?

Being a speech by Monday Onyekachi Ubani at The Daily Report Town Hall, which was held in Lagos on 10 December 2019

Good Day distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen. I am very happy to do this for my friends Ify Onyegbule and Charles Kalu. These are friends in deed. I know  the duo when they were with TVC/ Radio Continental with our friends like Tokunbo Ojekunle who incidentally is the Master of Ceremony today, Jones Usen and others too numerous to mention here.

They were there doing what they know how to do best, bringing news to us fresh and hot. They were also involved in analyzing Nigeria’s multifaceted problems with several Nigerian seasoned analysts, some of whom are here today.

When their programme, The Daily Report came on air on Star FM 101.5, I knew right away that their old and new audiences are in for something great.

It has been great indeed so far. I think they are a year now and they have decided to celebrate it with this maiden Town Hall event involving their listening audience who react to their exciting program daily via social media and telephone.

So it is my pleasure to welcome each and everyone that has honored this open invitation to be here this Monday. It takes extra commitment and unparalleled belief in the betterment of Nigeria for people to really abandon work and business to be here today in order to discuss the problems of our country.

Is Nigeria really on a cliff edge? If you have any doubt about the answer, the events of last Friday at the court presided over by Hon Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu clearly should convince any doubting Thomas that we are dancing on the brink, we may be eclipsed if we do not retrace our steps and re organize our failing system.

What happened last Friday is unprecedented in the annals of our judiciary. The Defendant Sowore was wrestled to the ground in the courtroom in the full glare of the public, the video is still trending.

It was reported that the judge took to her heels and ran for cover on noticing the earth quaking invasion of her sacred temple of Justice. This is unheard of, Say it not in Gath, publish it not in Ashekelon, lest the sons and daughters of our traducers rejoice.

Unfortunately, this has been published to the whole world, Google, YouTube, Instagram they all keep accurate records, they do not forget even if we human beings develop short memory.

Already the international community are reacting to the absurdity playing out in our dear country. A senator of the American State in a press conference hurriedly put together with the wife of Sowore, an American has warned that there will be consequences for this travesty of justice play out with regards to Sowore’s trial. 

Also, in the last 120 days and still counting, our colleague, friend and journalist,  Comrade Jalingo Agba has been in detention at the Calabar prisons or Correctional facility for what? For publishing an article seeking an explanation into the whereabouts  of N500 million meant for the establishment of Cross River State Micro Finance Bank and one governor who was supposed to be a democrat, I am talking about one Senator Prof Benedict Ayade, the governor of the Cross River State sent  police to storm Jalingo’s house in a military style and whisked him off to Calabar by road for two days. 

Governor Ayade slammed Jalingo with charges of treason, treasonable felony, plotting to overthrow the government of Cross River State as well charges of cultism. Imagine the impunity? Where was Ayade  when Jalingo was sleeping on the streets with other patriotic comrades to chase the military out of power and entrenched constitutionalism in Nigeria? 

These are some of the issues that push Nigeria towards the edge of the cliff. This is purely a civil matter. If Governor Ayade is aggrieved by Agba’s interrogation,  he should sue the young man for legal remedy and not use the judiciary and the police to harass and intimidate Citizen Jalingo. We demand his unconditional release and indeed  that of other political prisoners languishing in prisons across the country. 

This is just by the way. This was brought in to raise the alarm of how dangerous we are approaching the cliff edge as a nation. 

Our problem no doubt is systemic, but it did not just start today. It is rooted in colonialism. As we raced to obtain the flag of independence, the signs of chronic diseases were visible and evidential, but were not treated; they were allowed to fester.

As soon as we obtained that flag of independence, the various types of sicknesses started to manifest with clear signs that if left untreated the consequences will be fatal. In our characteristic manner, we waved them aside believing that the ubiquitous tomorrow will take care of everything.

Less than three years after independence the sicknesses have developed immunity against any mild treatment like using panadol to treat terrible headache. Chronic diseases like ethnicity, religious differences, corruption, segregation, suspicion and their likes were therefore fully developed with no visible cure in sight.

Within extra three years the center could not hold, things completely fell apart. Nigeria was plunged into a full-blown war that cost so much in material and human resources from which the country is yet to recover. Over three million lives were wasted in a senseless war that took us million years backwards.

The military that took over, damaged everything in sight. Like a bull in a China shop, they damaged our psyche, our philosophy, our brotherhood, our lives and our country.

Nigeria will and may never be the same again if something is not done through ABSOLUTE REVOLUTION BY THE PEOPLE. 

It is not as if there was no corruption, ethnicity and evidence of religious intolerance in the early days of independence, but the incursion of the military into the political scene wreaked a total havoc on the system.

Corruption, ethnicity and mutual suspicion became hydra headed. The root has become entrenched and will not require kid gloves to handle. It is apparent and very necessary for a REVOLUTION to take place in Nigeria to uproot all the sicknesses Nigeria is presently enmeshed in.

For the sake of the listening public, my own Revolution is a total overhaul of the entire system in Nigeria. Nigeria is a federal system only in name. We run a very defective, dangerous unitary system in a heterogeneous nation.

Is it not the reason why the country remains poorly governed, underdeveloped and crisis ridden?  We are obviously running a rent economy where resources of the states like oil, VAT are taken away to the centre where these same states from where these resources are taken go cap in hand to collect what is known as monthly allocations for their States and Local governments.

This system engenders laziness, lack of innovation and strategy for the various federating units to generate enough resources to effectively run their government. Apart from two or three states out of the 36 States, the rest are not viable, highly leveraged to bank and international creditors. Most of them are owing arrears of salaries and pensions up to 2 to 3 years running. The state of the economy of the federating units are so bad and alarming that some persons are mooting the idea that mergers and acquisitions should be allowed with regards to the various States. I do not know what you will think concerning this suggestion.

As serious as this appears, the leaders we have hired to manage the affairs of our nation seem not to be bothered a bit. To them it is business as usual as long as the oil monies flow uninterrupted and regularly. The question is for how long?

The true story is that these developed countries are in their laboratories researching daily to see how they can avoid the use of oil to power their vehicles which they manufacture. In fact the latest story  is that they are making steady progress with cars that will use electricity and water for movement in the very near future. Is it therefore still wise for us to keep all our trust on our oil reserves and fail to diversify our economic structure, especially in the direction of other mineral resources that are still in high demand in the international market?

Why is there empty land all over the country, North and South and Nigerians cannot feed themselves and we are import dependent even on things that we can produce here abundantly? Somebody   is asking who has cursed us?

Ladies and gentlemen, we are clearly on the brink and what we need now is not cataloging the problems of Nigeria. Everyone knows our problems but prescription of the solution should be our priority in every discourse wherever we are gathered. 

A few days ago, speaking at a function in Warri, a former Defence Chief, General Alexander Ogomudia Retired warned that the nation is heading precariously towards the precipice should the operators of the Nigerian State undermine any longer the inevitability of RESTRUCTURING.

The former Defence Chief unequivocally argued that justice, equity, and fairness can only be served when this estate is restructured, and that to continue to run Nigeria as presently composed and constituted is to court violence, anarchy and crisis. The truth of the matter is that a very defective structure as Nigeria is presently constituted cannot take us into buoyancy and prosperity.

Just a year ago, I addressed a world press conference in which I advocated vigorously for a restructured country to move the nation forward. Let me quote verbatim what I said in that press conference where I addressed the precarious state of the nation.

“Nigeria has not been able to make progress because of the unitary system introduced by the military.

The starting point would be to revisit the 2014 National Conference report.

“Whether anyone likes it or not or wants to hear it, the truth of the matter is that Nigeria has a fundamental foundational issue which we need to deal with. Unfortunately we have failed, refused and or neglected to deal with it to our great detriment.

“Previous and past governments have paid lip service to it even when they found out the truth that the country cannot make much progress with the present structure in place.

“The present structure is bogus, over bureaucratic, over-centralised, oppressive, devoid of justice and equity.

“The structure encourages laziness and lack of competitive spirit that was prevalent in our polity in the early 60s due to the apparent adherence to the tenets of operational federalism.

“Today what we operate is a highly distorted economy, the centre taking everything that belongs to the federating units and gathering the states in Abuja for handouts monthly.

“The proper system would have been the various federating units paying certain percentage of what they have gathered in the federating units for the maintenance of a leaner, more efficient and adequately compensated public service,” 

I went further in the discussion on the issue of leadership which is also key in the equation. I lamented that nothing seems to have been done to develop future leaders.

“We have a lot of young people who have the zeal, wisdom, brains to lead instead of recycling the old people whose ideas have become archaic. If we get the issue of leadership right but refused to restructure, we are getting nowhere.”

I urged the electorate to demand that any aspiring politician should swear to a written affidavit on oath to restructure Nigeria upon winning and assumption of office in 2019.

“We have no time. For the next election, Nigerians need to demand any aspiring politician to swear to ‘a written affidavit on oath to restructure Nigerian upon winning and assumption of office at Aso Villa. That should be the minimum requirement.

“ Let us stop beating about the bush,  Nigeria is not working and may not work unless we address our defective and unhealthy structure that is clearly deficient.

“There is no viable alternative to a comprehensive restructuring of this polity if Nigeria would be united, peaceful and prosperous.

“Irrespective of whatever anyone at any level thinks, if Nigeria is to actualise its manifest destiny as the leading black nation, there is no viable alternative to its comprehensive restructuring,” I concluded.

Alas we went into the last election without even discussing it let alone demanding it as a prerequisite for voting in the new leaders who have just been sworn in. Again just like “change” of 2015 which we were not sure of its structure and philosophy that was behind it, ‘Next level” slogan rented the air and we were railroaded into participating in another electoral contest the benefits of which we are still ignorant of.

The absurdities of a non-restructured country are still prevalent and with us. I am sure some of you heard the elected president when he said that having won for the second term and not seeking any third term tenure, he can afford to be RECKLESS.

I heard him and those who have ears heard him even though his damage controllers are trying to explain away the content of that clear message to Nigerians. Despite their explanations has event of last Friday in which up till now no reaction has come from the presidency not lent incontrovertible weight to the assertion that he will be very reckless this time around.

What is more reckless as invading a court premises and wrestling a defendant who has come to court to answer to his alleged charges to the ground in the full glare of the entire world? What is more reckless than that? For the fact that the presidency has kept silence over this sacrilege supplies evidence of complicity. I do not need any soothsayer to say otherwise. 

I need to conclude this paper because we have so many seasoned speakers who need to take a bite of the cherry on this. My restructuring prescription shall be three-fold

There is a lot to be done. The structure presently is wrong! I don’t understand what people mean by saying there is nothing wrong with the present structure. If we are running a federal system of government, let us run a federal system of government where power is generated by the people from below and it goes up from there.

Whatever power that will be given to the federal government will be as a result of the consensus of the federating units, not the other way round. 
In a proper federal system, it is the federating units that determine what goes to the federal. That is what is meant by proper restructuring.

One way therefore is by GIVING OURSELVES A NEW CONSTITUTION MADE BY THE PEOPLE WHERE THESE PRINCIPLES JUST ENUNCIATED ABOVE SHALL BE EXPRESSLY STATED.

This new constitution shall be a product of a constituent assembly of all the representatives of Nigerians from various walks of life. The major provision of the constitution will be the recommendation that there will be economic inflow from the federating units to the federal superstructure not the federal collecting everything and giving stipend to the federating units. 

 Concerning issues like power, the question people who are truly agitated should ask is why must electricity be generated and distributed from the federal level?  The constitution should give the States power to tackle the power needs ranging from generation, transmission and distribution. Individuals, communities and co-operative societies should be allowed also to solve the energy needs of their constituents.

However, a proper regulatory agency peopled with men and women with track records to ensure monitoring, quality control, compliance and effective pricing mechanism should be put in place to avoid confusion. All roads within the States whether Federal or State roads should be managed and controlled by the State authority.  These and many more that are being controlled by the Federal should be taken away and handed over to the States and the rest to the local government areas.

What we are saying is that if we have experienced a proper federal system in the early years of our independence with  1960 and 1963 constitutions and we saw the level of progress we made, then one wonders why have we chosen the unitary system of government that have kept us standing still in one place?

Under the proper federal system of the 1960s we were better than Singapore and Malaysia, today these two countries that we helped in our early years of prosperity are far ahead of us that we may never catch up with them if care is not taken. These countries in Asia and Middle East overtook us when we retrogressed by running a system that is skewed against us, that works against our national growth and development.

Which serious nation embraces a system that does not encourage competition and growth? Please ponder this question and be prepared to give me an answer before we come to an end with this program.

The second way to Restructure is through Administrative Changes. Why must Nigeria have only one functional seaport in a country of over 200 million persons? Meanwhile we have so many States that have all the potentials for seaports. Do I mention them?  We have one in Calabar, Port Harcourt, Warri , Epe, Badagry and even Onitsha and Lokoja.  

Citing industries, institutions and agencies should be based strictly on merits and on the recommendations of meeting basic criteria. What qualified University of Transport in Katsina State? Nearness to what if I may ask? To the presidency, perhaps? A good qualification and reason? Ponder and wonder on this, but please don’t turn to a wanderer! 

There are so many other issues which can be handled administratively at both Federal and State level to properly restructure Nigeria for efficiency. Team of notable experts can compile the list and bring them up to the Government at the centre and state levels for immediate action and implementation.

The third way to restructure Nigeria are through those issues that the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly can bring into existence through a new Acts, Laws or through Amendments of the existing Laws.

Presently Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gunpowder. We are battling with issues of pervasive poverty, corruption, security challenges of various sizes, ethnicity and religious differences, suspicion, nepotism, lack of patriotism and utter disrespect and undermining of the rule of law, judiciary and on the issue of weak institutions. How do we begin to address these hydra headed issues other than tackling headlong the systemic architecture that gave birth and sustain them? Everything revolves around the economic substructure as nations are not built on superstructure but from the substructure. 

The summary in this presentation ladies and gentlemen is that having gotten the kind of system that will fit into our heterogenous nature, we must address the leadership question through an electoral system that guarantees free, fair and credible elections. However free, fair and credible election is possible in Nigeria ONLY WHEN WE ADDRESS SQUARELY THE ISSUE OF PERKS OF OFFICE, THE UNRESTRICTED ACCESS TO PUBLIC TREASURY BY POLITICAL AND BUREAUCRATIC OFFICE HOLDERS WITH LITTLE OR NO HINDERANCE FROM INSTITUTIONS THAT SHOULD ORDINARILY SHOULD CHECKMATE THEM. If we fail, neglect, and or refuse to tow this sane line to address these issues, I am sorry to say we may FALL INTO THE VALLEY VERY SOON IN ORDER TO FULFILL THE AMERICA’s CIA PREDICTION THAT NIGERIA MAY CEASE TO EXIST ON  THE FACE OF THE EARTH. As we used to say in this part of the world, GOD FORBID.

I beg to stop here for the meantime and allow others contribute to these issues. Very grateful to the organizers for inviting me to share this humble thought on how we may have to move our dear nation forward. Once again, thank you very much.

Monday Onyekachi Ubani(MOU) Esq

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