Nigeria’s political trajectory: A tale of hope or ineptitude? (2)

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Dr Chima Amadi

The tales of incredible levels of corruption—the invasion of the homes of Supreme Court justices and the removal of a Chief Justice of the Federation—the ineptitude of the security agencies—primarily the police—the inefficiency of the civil service and the destruction of critical economic infrastructure are unending. Each example is more mind-boggling than the last. Each tale defies belief.

We are witnessing, in real-time, the capture of the Nigerian state by the nation’s political elite for the purpose that the elite may destroy its soul to enable it to suck out its resources. We are witnessing the judiciary cower before the nation’s elite and the executive pocket the judiciary. Long gone are the days of institutional independence when arms of government jealously guarded and performed their constitutional roles. Long gone is that glimmer of hope that this country would not only survive but that it would thrive. That hope has long since been replaced by a pervasive air of doom, despondency, and despair.

Our current reality is that as the Nigerian state is currently primed, in its current trajectory, on this path, there is only one inevitable conclusion—the death of Nigeria that we know and love. The indefatigable Nigerian spirit will not allow me to believe there is no way to stop it. Whether our leaders will implement policies to stop the inexorable slide to a Hobbesian state is entirely different. And that is precisely where the source of our problems and, indeed, the fountain of its solutions lie. For too long, the Nigerian state has lacked the elite consensus as to what constitutes development and what may be termed progress. Our elite have no consensus on what is good or bad behaviour; they have no consensus of what is too much or too far, what should/can/must not be done. For them, anything goes as long as it protects an interest, preserves a self-serving system and keeps a steady flow of funds.

Our elite see the nation in a way that no nation can survive – as a carcass from which can be endlessly fed fat. Unless that point of view changes, our country will not survive. It is not a curse. It is not a doomsday prophecy. It is an escapable conclusion derived from centuries of socio-economic principles and from the study of successful and failed nations around the world. Nigeria is currently in its most extended period of uninterrupted civil rule, which has lasted for 25 years. Nevertheless, it falls short of meeting the criteria to be considered a true democracy. Scoring less than half in Freedom House’s assessment, Nigeria is only partly free, and exhibits feature more in tune with a competitive authoritarian state. The net effect is that the ordinary citizens seem to have gradually lost hope in the system that replaced the military regime, while the rulers and supposed representatives of the people—who live in opulence that does not conform to the current economic realities in the country—seem less bothered.

The policy reforms introduced by the present administration, including the removal of fuel subsidies and exchange rate policies, have further plunged the Nigerian economy into an unprecedented economic crisis. The current state of the Nigerian economy is characterised by a galloping inflation rate that has skyrocketed from about 20 per cent in May 2023, when this administration took over, to about 30 per cent and still rising. As a result, food and other essential household items, such as healthcare, transportation, and education, suddenly became luxury items beyond the reach of most Nigerians. The suffering in the country has so much escalated that the over 130 million multi-dimensionally poor Nigerians can no longer breathe because of its suffocating impact on the majority of Nigerians. In addition, the Naira has depreciated by over 100% since the implementation of the floating policy, adding to the pressure of economic woes in the country.

The current economic policies, drawn from the Renewed Hope Agenda, are dashing Nigerians’ hopes, creating pain, and causing despair. The Budget of Renewed Hope described as a budget that will go further than ever in cementing macroeconomic stability, seems daunting. The private sector is shrinking by the day as small businesses fold up and multinational companies leave Nigeria in droves. The perceived absence of judicial autonomy and its related problems has led to a loss of the sense of fear of retribution, as justice seems to be now a commodity available to the highest bidder. Are we not embarrassed as a nation when justices of the Supreme Court, who themselves face a crisis of confidence, berate lower court judges for their apparent lack of circumspection and due diligence in delivering judgements in the last election petitions tribunal?

If we are to survive as a nation, our elite need to learn that it is in their enlightened self-interest to forge a common consensus that develops the country, grows the economy, secures the people, protects rights and enforces obligations. That consensus will then lay the foundation for the rapid and sustained growth of our nation, in the manner in which the consensus of the founding fathers of the United States of America laid the foundation for it to become the number one superpower in the world today or the way similar consensus repositioned the United Arab Emirates and Singapore.
As a nation, we must define right and wrong. Simply put, we must then reward and incentivise right, and discourage and punish wrong no matter whose ox is gored. But no nation can survive unless and until it establishes a code of morals and values that it lives by. And this is a task that we must undertake.

The Nigerian people as a whole bear the responsibility to live by such a code of morals and values. After all, our leaders are a product of our society, and we live, work, and trade with each other. We must devise a system that identifies worthy leaders and rewards them with followership while shunning the rotten eggs among us.

To remedy the ills, Nigeria must focus on building solid democratic institutions, including the judiciary, electoral commission, and legislature. Ensuring their independence, transparency, and accountability can help to uphold the rule of law and prevent abuses of power. Similarly, implementing electoral reforms to enhance the integrity of the electoral process is crucial. While I concede that there have been improvements and progress in our electoral system over the years, a lot still needs to be done in the area of prosecuting and punishing electoral offenders. The inability to accomplish this is the reason why some still dare to engage in electoral fraud.

Given that corruption has been a pervasive issue in Nigerian politics, implementing robust anti-corruption measures, including prosecuting corrupt officials and establishing transparent procurement processes, can help restore public trust in government institutions. Holding political leaders accountable for their actions and ensuring transparency in government processes are essential for good governance. Strengthening oversight mechanisms and promoting a culture of accountability can help prevent abuses of power and ensure that elected officials serve the people’s interests.

Nigeria is a diverse country with significant ethnic and religious divisions. Promoting dialogue, tolerance, and understanding among different ethnic and religious groups can help to reduce tensions and foster national unity. Nigeria may also consider constitutional reforms to address structural issues that contribute to political instability, such as the distribution of power between the federal and state governments, the role of traditional institutions, and the protection of human rights.

*Dr Amadi, Chairman, Steering Committee of Centre for Transparency Advocacy, is
Doctoral Fellow at the University of Warwick in England