NIGERIA AT 51: THE ROLE OF THE YOUTHS IN MOBILIZING FOR SOCIAL ACTION AND CHANGE
Published:27 Oct, 2011
A Presentation by Japheth J Omojuwa at the public launch of Public Integrity Networks (PINS) at the FCT Abuja
Date: 27 October, 2011
Venue: Amaechi Hall, Rockview Royale, Plot 194/196 Cad Zone A8,
Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent, Wuse II, Abuja.
DEMOCRACY AND PEOPLE, CORRUPTION AND RULERS
Democracy is about the people. From its genesis to today’s revelations, the weakness as well as the strength of the democratic ideal has been the people. When Abraham Lincoln defined democracy as Government of the people, by the people and for the people, he was defining the essence of not just a political ideal but a way of life. Anytime, anywhere democracy veers off this essence of its existence and becomes a system where say 1% of the people as a result of their being in government allocate through legal, cruel, lootocratic, kleptocratic and corrupt means almost all of the wealth of the people to themselves, it ceases to be a true democracy, it is an Adulterated Democracy. In that case what do you do with an adulterated product? You do away with it if you cannot correct its anomaly. Our presence here is about how we go about correcting Nigeria’s adulterated democracy. Democracy has a price. The price of democracy is the ongoing pursuit of the common good by all of the people. Until we are directly and regularly involved in the action of governing ourselves, self-government will remain an illusion. Corruption has become the norm and the expected. It is so bad that once you get elected, rigged or appointed into any public office everyone expects you to suddenly become stupendously rich. If you are not seen to be obviously rich, you are assumed to be smart with your ways or just plain stupid. That is not only sad especially for those good people who are in the system, it is a shame because that makes it look like corruption is our way of life if it isn’t already.
LOOTOCRACY IN ACTION
While corruption is the most popular of the national epidemics well ahead of any other disease or epidemic you may know, there is an aspect of governance we are apparently oblivious of – the legal, open and strategic looting of our national resources.
NATIONAL SECURITY AND CORRUPTION
We could not hold our most important national event i.e. the Independence celebrations publicly despite the fact that for every day that passes this year the Federal Government is expected to spend N3.1 billion on security based on the national budget for 2011. How do you justify N3.1 billion/day in a nation as unsecured as ours? Our security apparatus fails at the most basic of their expectations. In saner climes a secret agent is just that, secret. Here secret agents wear black suits and dark goggles and they expect to be taken seriously when you can pick them out in any crowd. Our most advanced means of security strategy is ‘stop and search’. Private soldiers (entry point soldiers) who are supposed to help tackle enemies of the state are daily shortchanged with their salaries. While there is a withdrawal of N115,000.00 from the national treasury per soldier, they are each paid N48,000.00 without any explanation whatsoever as to what happened to the remaining N67,000.00? These soldiers know this. They know some people somewhere deprive each of their families N67,000.00 per month. I’ll leave you to do the maths where we have say 50,000 men deprived of such an amount per month. Their RCA which is a kind of daily feeding allowance is N500 and zero for those who don’t do 24 hour shifts. How then can these soldiers be motivated enough to fight a supposed enemy like Boko-haram whose men are obviously more motivated, apparently more intelligent and practically superior to our national intelligence considering the results of their activities and how they have been able to alter the mode of life in the Capital city.
POOR NATION, RICH LAWMAKERS
Take the National Assembly. I’ll need you to pay attention to these numbers. President Barak Obama of one of the world’s richest countries earns $400,000/year, The Prime Minister of Britain David Cameron earns 190,000 pounds/year, a parliamentarian in the UK earns 64,000 pounds per year while an American Senator earns $174,000. In Nigeria, one of the world’s poorest countries, a Senator earns N240million (about $1.5million)/year, a member of the House of Representatives earns about N204 million ($1.2million)/year. Note that these figures are apart from proceeds from loots and money made from those who go into the House to recite the national anthem, bow and get confirmation to become Ministers. When you compare the budgetary allocation to the House of Representatives in 2010 and 2011 against the number of bills passed you’ll discover that last year a bill cost us N10.4 billion and this year based on a 15 bill passed/year average considering the records from previous years, it will be about N15billion/bill. What significantly happened between 2010 and 2011 that helped to raise the allocation from N156 billion the previous year to N232.7 billion this year? If we reduce the pay of our lawmakers by as much as 50 per cent, we’d save about $2.5 billion for the duration of one term. That is a lot of money to be made from just over 400 people. If you cannot deprive 469 people of $2 billion dollars, how can you justify the quest to deny 150 million people $6billion? Let us even forget the fact that the subsidy has been said to be a ruse. If subsidy must go, the pay of all public officers must reduce by at least 50 per cent and their staff members reduced by as much value. For more on these numbers, please google “How Government Lootocratically keeps Nigerians Poor”
THE NATIONAL BUDGET IS A SCAM
Just last month, the coordinating minister for the economy and minister of finance Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala admitted that there are projects listed in the budget that are nowhere to be found. She said that and it looked very normal and expected. Some Governors were recently arrested on allegations of corruption but virtually all of them have since regained their freedom under the guise of N300 million and N500 billion bails. There are proven corrupt men in our Senate earning our tax payers money and even heading committees that are ironical to their ways of life.
WRONG MEN IN RIGHT PLACES
Corruption has not been about money alone. Here we have men responsible to make our power generation work in charge of importing generators into Nigeria. The day Nigeria generates 12 hours of electricity per day, not only will oligarchs and many politicians run out of business due to the impact such a feat would have on the importation of generators, the economies of the United States, United Kingdom and of course China will feel it. There would be a massive shift in our balance of trade against these economies if Power alone could be put to work.
MORE POVERTY, MORE PAIN, MORE DEATH – THEIR TRANSFORMATION AGENDA
It will take a maximum of one year to start and complete a refinery project. All it takes is an enabling environment for business men to do same. Instead of that, people hid behind Niger Republic and used Nigeria’s money to build a refinery in Niger that’d refine Nigeria’s crude and sell petrol to us. Nigeria spends 75 per cent of her expenditure on recurrent. It simply means that all of our nation’s wealth is being used to pay the salaries and emoluments of just over 1 million people at the detriment of the other 150 million Nigerians. This is not expected to change because the Federal Government has since said it will try to cut recurrent expenditure by 1 per cent every year for the next four years. So at best we will end up with 70 per cent recurrent by the end of this dispensation if time permits it to last for that long. In essence, the removal of petrol subsidy is so as to help have enough to further expend on the few of them in government, a reality that will further remove drugs from our hospitals and send mothers and children to death as maternal death and infant mortality will increase with the increase in the price of drugs and services that will automatically go beyond the reach of the poor and possibly even those that think they are rich today because if they do what they planned to do, petrol prices will rise geometrically and sell at at least N140/litre. Whether or not this happens depends on you the downtrodden masses of Nigeria. If you don’t want it, get ready to go on the streets to march against this wickedness and evil that is a ploy to finally send Nigerians to their graves in other to make more room for their posh cars and houses. There is a time for everything in history and I believe that Nigerians will never ever get a better time than this to stand up against the anti-people policies of this government. It is time to show that not only do you exist but that you also matter in the stakes of Nigeria. To lose your identity as a citizen of Nigeria is the same as to lose your identity as a person.
TAKE A STAND
We will not only stand up against the lootocrats, kleptocrats and obviously clueless rulers, it is time to reverse the trend of corruption. That is what social media should be used for in Nigeria not to share bigoted feelings against other sections of the country. We have a common enemy North and South, Christian, Muslim, Humanists and others. Our common enemy is not ourselves; our common enemy is our shared poverty, our shared pain and penury in the midst of plenty. Our common enemies are those hell-bent on unleashing the worst pain possible on Nigerians in the name of fuel subsidy, provision of regular darkness, abandonment of death traps in the name of roads and a daily report of lies and lies about what are they supposed to be doing but are obviously not doing. The Federal Government recently shared N1.2 trillion and like every month you only hear tales of these facts, you hardly ever see what the money does. The excess crude account has been wiped out and gone, our foreign reserves have depleted by over $3billion this year alone even as the Federal Government crowds out private investors as it owes over N35 trillion locally. Something has to give. We either sit back, relax and watch corruption and lootocracy wipe us all out through poverty or stand up and march in demand for what is ours. Freedom is never given, it is taken.
THE TIME IS NOW
The question is how we as young people will mobilise ourselves and our people for social action and change. Change begins with you. Would you be different or would you do even worse things given the chance? Let your conscience be the judge and make adjustments where necessary. Change happens whether or not you make it happen. The best change though is the one that is carefully planned for and exhibited. Why should we mobilise ourselves for social action and change? If we know what change is what then is social action?
THE THEORY OF SOCIAL ACTION
Max Weber’s works in sociology will help us a bit. I don’t want to get too academic as this is not as much about what we say but about what we do. The concept of social action was primarily developed in the non-positivist theory of Max Weber to observe how human behaviors relate to cause and effect in the social realm. The theory of social action, more than structural functionalist positions, accepts and assumes that humans vary their actions according to social contexts and how it will affect other people; when a potential reaction is not desirable, the action is modified accordingly. Action can mean either a basic action (one that has a meaning) or an advanced social action, which not only has a meaning but is directed at other actors and causes action (or, perhaps, inaction).
Rational actions: also known as value-rational ones; actions which are taken because it leads to a valued goal, but with no thought of its consequences and often without consideration of the appropriateness of the means chosen to achieve it (‘the end justifies the means’). Value rational or instrumentally rational social action is divided into two groups: rational consideration and rational orientation. Rational Orientation comes into account when secondary results are taken into account rationally. This is also considered alternative means when secondary consequences have ended. Determining this mean of action is quite hard and even incompatible. Rational orientation is being able to recognize and understand certain mediums under common conditions. According to Weber, heterogeneous actors and groups that are competing, find it hard to settle on a certain medium and understand the common social action.
Instrumental action: also known as value relation, goal-instrumental ones; actions which are planned and taken after evaluating the goal in relation to other goals, and after thorough consideration of various means (and consequences) to achieve it. If you google the word social action you will find more but the bottom line here is that we must device a purposeful strategic approach that’d help to bring about the change we need in Nigeria. The terms of this change must be specific and as long as this change is about the Nigerian masses the end will always justify the means.
WHY THE CLAMOUR FOR CHANGE IN NIGERIA?
Nigeria is at cross roads. That sounds like a cliché but that reality has never been as daunting as it is today. It also comes to the fore in the face of global trends especially in the Arab world where citizens are enforcing the change they crave and in some 100 countries of the world where the #Occupy protest that started in the United States has taken the world by storm. The names of these protests sound alike in the singular word that defines their action which is to occupy. To stay at a chosen location, demand action and change and stay put until something gets done. It is ironic to discover that many countries of the world where these protests are happening actually compare to Nigeria in terms of heaven versus hell. Libyans live a far better life than most Nigerians, Egypt has a better health and education system than Nigeria, Tunisia ranks better than Nigeria on all the major positive economic rankings. How then can Nigerians despite an obvious need to come out and march against bad governance and the deprivation of the common man stay at home waiting for God again? If the fuel subsidy gets removed and Nigerians still stay in their homes without coming out in protest, one day the poor will indeed have nothing to eat and they will die like they have been dying anyway (there will be no rich people to eat either because they will all become poor). People die of hunger every day in Nigeria. I work with a charity that provides food to the downtrodden so I know this. Nigeria’s time has come.
LEADERS “SCATTER”, COUNTRIES HARDLY DO!
A lay man in trying to sound philosophical said “Libya is like a pot of water that fall and everything scatter.” This is not very correct but as an intellectual you’d understand what he was trying to say here. Gadhafi should replace Libya in that statement and then you also make it sound more intellectual and you’d get a good statement of inference. Countries do not disappear as often as leaders. Gadhafi is gone, Libya remains, Ben Ali is gone, Tunisia remains, Hosni Mubarak is gone and Egypt remains as it has been for thousands of years. When we are gone Nigeria will remain but we can make tomorrow better by the choices we make today. When leaders think their actions can only “scatter” the country and not them or even their lives, they take decisions that you’d place in the realms of cluelessness and sheer madness. Whatever defies logic is mad. It could be positive or negative. The madness of a clueless leader is the madness you don’t want to experience or see happen to a loved one.
OUR SPECIFIC DEMANDS
When we decide to march against this madness, our quest will not be to remove them from office – at least not yet, our quest would be to demand for at least 5 of the following specifics
• Maintain the status quo with the subsidy question. No talk of subsidy removal until we get to refine petroleum in Nigeria and power supply is stabilised so we don’t have to spend 40 percent of our income on fueling generators or powering production.
• A 50 per cent reduction in the pay of Federal Lawmakers with immediate effect.
• A 50 per cent reduction in the number of SAs, Pas, SSAs, and all those acronyms of corruption and lootocracy.
• A serious job provision plan that is believable and all encompassing.
• A Reversal of all recent actions of the government that defied court rulings and orders
Other issues that will attract our attention;
• Total Absence of Security
• Poverty and Unemployment
• Depleted Excess Crude Account and Foreign Reserves
• Non-functioning schools and hospitals
• The bastardisation of the Judiciary
WHERE ARE THE REAL MEN?
It is time to do away with our rationalizations and weak excuses. It is time to reach out to the young Nigerians that do not have access to the sources of information you have access to like tweeter, facebook and blogs. Nothing will change except people know, how will they know if you don’t tell them?
Nigeria’s democracy as it is is not a people based democracy. If it is not a people based democracy then it is a contradiction because democracy means people. We need a restart of the experiment because this democracy as it is has failed the people of Nigeria and the time to have that restart is now! If your fear of change will not allow you take part in the current demand for it, you are better off with your mouth shut than giving excuses and rationalizations on why we should keep talking, proffering solutions and all those things we have been doing for donkey years without results. Real Men can stand while those who are fearful of the need to take that stand can watch and clap!
HEED MAKU’S WORDS
I will finish with the words of one Labaran Maku “It (Subsidy removal) is a crime against the Nigerian masses and a war against the poor.” That was in 1988 and Mr. Labaran Maku is still right today, the act of subsidy removal under the prevailing circumstances is a war against the Nigerian masses.
PS: Labaran Maku I understand is now the Minister of Information.
If you are on twitter you can follow @omojuwa to continue with more of what I just shared with you and how we will build the needed critical mass for change in Nigeria. If you are not on twitter you should register a twitter account today.
Tomorrow morning (8am precisely) , I’ll be talking about the need for us to #OccupyNigeria and why on NN24
God Bless you and may God give you the understanding that at 51, the set time for Nigeria’s Jubilee is now and it is in your hands.