“I don’t think restructuring is an automatic solution because human beings will always be who they are. However, I think there is an advantage to it”
In your view, why has it been difficult for Nigerians to elect leaders that have integrity, because if you look across the country, people who have stolen from the system and have little or no integrity select leaders for the rest of the people?
I think there are a lot of problems linked to the system here; people with bad intentions are more proactive than people with good intentions. The good people are quiet in Nigeria and it’s a very dangerous thing; they need to be confident, organised, vocal and active. It’s also a cultural thing because, for over 55 years, we have allowed a precarious political situation, which is that for a long time, every time people are angry, it leads to a military coup. With that, it is not the people that face things themselves. At the same time, people delegate politicians and political parties totally without civil societies standing up, and when it gets worse, we go to churches and mosques to pray.
The mindset of active citizenship is a bit alien to us and we need to cultivate it. We are where we are now because the elite, the middle class, vacated their role to provide moral leadership. A society where the middle class is not active is bound to face this kind of shock we are facing today. People are not planning to crawl or walk, they want to fly overnight. It’s the middle class that tends to make sure people are doing things correctly, so when the middle class is not active, you get this kind of situation.
How can Nigerians begin to hold the government accountable and treat leaders as employees of the people and not their gods?
We need to go back to the schools, churches, mosques and the media to remind people. We need to rediscover what governance and elective leadership are about. For example, we need to eliminate certain things from our language; we need to stop saying the President or the governor is the father of the nation or their states. The President is not our father; he’s simply the president and a governor is simply a governor and not our father. It’s the misconception of our culture. These leaders are there to serve for a maximum of eight years if they are lucky because it could be less. We also need to learn to ascribe things to the state rather than the person of the governor. We need to stop saying, for example, Okowa donates books. No. It’s the state’s money and so the state did it. These practices are wrong. We need to move from being followers to citizens and that is the starting point.
There have been clamours for restructuring, which could entail regional government, but there are also fears of abuse by gladiators in each of the regions?
I do not think anything can be worse than where we are now. I don’t think restructuring is an automatic solution because human beings will always be who they are. However, I think there is an advantage to it. Even before it does anything at all; it gives Nigeria a chance for reset and Nigerians could say let us get it right. However, I believe in decentralisation and the farther away government is from the people, the more the government is likely to lose touch with the people. To me, what would be the most important government is the local government.
Professor Anthony Kila is a professor of Strategy and Development and Centre Director at Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies
Culled from The Punch Interview
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