Weep Not For My Country, Rebuild Nigeria - by Olu Oma-Williams

Contrary to established wisdom of competitive dynamics of Adam Smith’s belief in the creation of wealth, in our country, wealth generation has become inconsequential. Rather, it is wealth grabbing!

You want to be rich, become a politician (no matter the political party), divert the sovereign resources into your pocket. For the rest of the polity (in a country where all must be millionaires to enjoy good lives) alternative responses evolve in strategic retreats doing all forms of oblique, evil maneuvers to grab their own wealth.

I am told political dividend is as good as gold and it’s backed by the wealthiest and most powerful in the society. Don’t panic; the sky is not going to fall – just join and petronaira is at your disposal without any accountability whatsoever?

It seems the entire nation has transparently abandoned national development/growth (without GDP re-basing) for personal financial growth.

As I write and observe the world Economic Forum in Abuja, I have my faith reinforced: faith in ongoing transformation, in great leaps forward and in our ability individually and collectively, to improve the hand that nature has dealt.

Joseph Ford comments: “God plays dice with the Universe. But they are loaded dice. And the main objective is to find out by what rules they are loaded and how we can use them for our own ends.” For Naija, the question is what use is democratic governance without sustainable, systemic institutions and balanced structures or even a genuine will to practice democracy? Today, our national foundation after 100 years remains squeaky; many are afraid of the country, there is wanton corruption, mistrust and lack of confidence amongst citizens.

What I think the average Nigerian wants in life is what he/she wants – not what someone else thinks is best for him/her.

Therefore, as the political class navigates the electoral space and price bidding wars for individual reasons, they need to understand what citizens want most.

Political maneuvers should allow Nigerians an enabling environment with a right to express themselves – that is democracy. In this guise, the real issue is not whether there is rotational office holding or a handover in governance by one political party to another not-so-different. But whether our elitist political sleepers can adopt a more humane posture to become positive deviants effecting necessary changes; reallocates our commonwealth from unproductive to productive uses, the secrete of entrepreneurship down the ages.

The metamorphosis just must begin with grooming honourable statesmanship attitude to build enduring systemic institutions, develop capacity to uphold such institutions and build the trust of the electorate.

Whatever the uncertainties today, two things become clear. One, with a bit of imagination, it is possible to transcend the seemingly instractable trade-off such as “us versus them”, freedom versus control, accountability versus transparency and the jigar of corruption that have continued for long to bedevil our nation.

Secondly, we don’t have to be starry-eyed romantic to dream of a nation where self-interest remain the rights of a vaunted few but the responsibility of all.

In an enabling environment, empowerment means moving yourself by your bootstrap; and is about competence and reputation, not political affinity. Right now, politicians and their cronies clamour and flaunt empowerment suggesting that authority trickles down – that power gets bestowed from political hierarchy as and when the almighty politician deems fit.

The citizens become boxed into cages and no longer believe they can excel at what they are good at. Become a political entrepreneur, transmute into a billionaire once in a political slot and you can empower the oppressed with excesses from your political largesse. Hear one such politician: “I pity Nigerians because they don’t know who are committed to their wellbeing (Vanguard Jan 22, 2014, pp35)!! The Naija political overland even refuses noon-party members choices to want their desires (all other Nigerians must accept to remain micro-entrepreneurs at his behest); change for them is to be dictated and driven from the political hierarchy. There can be no room for any spontaneous innovation nor for ideas for change to emanate from outside the political boxes.

The spirit of winner takes all dominate the space. This stimulates existing dilemma of working for self, not for the polity/the nation. To run the party, members become like physical assets-machine that must be deployed for reliability, precision or in servitude for political dole outs.

This politics is socially responsible for all its acts and as Mr. President, GEJ, noted recently: “Local politicians are fussy and petty and with insatiable appetite for power, prestige and money. They can maim and kill if necessary to satisfy their objectives.”

This “progressive” political class pretends to exude freedom without corresponding responsibility which tantamounts to anarchy.

They forget that responsibility is the twin of freedom. Accountability at all levels needs to be woven into our political DNA.

Getting the political class to be accountable is essential to building a web of reciprocal systemic institutions with adequate capacity. It is wrong to believe that the buck stops at the apex of political hierarchical pyramid. The truth is that in a democracy the buck should stop where it started – The Electorate.


Let us stop kidding ourselves. Yes my sympathy-cum-commendation goes to President GEJ; but the question remains: in the face of our wanton corruption and abhorrence of systemic institution building, is there a viable option or alternative model of partisan politics that can nip terrorism, kidnapping, militancy and other forms of malfeasance in the bud?

He and the late President Umaru Yar’Adua initiated a rehabilitation scheme to replace the evils of militancy, create new careers through new skills development.

This has helped to identify hidden talents in people and open a sea of alternative possibilities. Replicated (as with the Almajiri case) it can stem hungry, restless citizens from kidnapping, suicide bombing and prepare future generation for problem solving.

What the heck? you may say.

In an age of “IT” explosions we toy with research, we lag in intelligence gathering in governance.

In peace/war time, nations (especially the 25 above Nigeria after Re-basing) have moved away from fire-brigade governance style, knowledge/intelligence management refocuses our Transition Agenda with higher dedication to stir off immiserisation of trade and proactively exploit the rebased GDP for real economic growth. It will add increased flexibility in governance to respond rapidly to change in all transactions including military interventions.

The recent satanic Chibok abduction is a clear manifestation of inability of the political class to demonstrate that rare collegiality to dismantle the barriers of partisan politics, drain much of the poison out of the nation, spur military/other intervention.

Our zero-sum politics encourages or accentuates unbridled rivalry at the risk of Nigerian lives.

Without any claim to individual genius, Nigerian leaders will do well to distill the collective wisdom of the nation’s founding fathers and other democratic patriots world-wide to enhance better life for citizens. In transforming to modern society, nobody knows it all; some people know more than others; and much of what they know is in line with our desire to rebirth for growth of Nigeria.

I crave all our weeping Governors, confab delegates, mothers and first ladies to cry no more, let us rebuild Nigeria for Nigerians to live better, feel better secured and get better fun out of life. Let’s say “No” to corruption, lust, power, status and greed. Let us build capacity in line with President’s thought that teaching an incapacitated fisherman not to fish again is humanly possible.

Dr. Olu Oma-Williams wrote from Lagos.