There’s something about government (#NewLeadership Series with Chude Jideonwo)

Published:21 Feb, 2013

Chude Jideonwo
Chude Jideonwo
Chude Jideonwo

Chude-Jideonwo

My orientation about how government began to change in 2009. Before this time, I had always felt – sadly without any historical or evidentiary perspective – that Nigerians can transform Nigeria, in spite of our government.

It was easy for me to believe this. I came into awareness of my country’s place in the world in at atmosphere of hope in the late 1990s and at the turn of the millennium as we embraced democracy and the opening of many social spaces. There were very many examples to point out.

Some are now cliché, like Nollywood, an industry that has been hailed for rising up like a rose amongst thorns, and had become Nigeria’s biggest cultural export to the world. Or our music industry – also thriving simply by grit and talent. Or it’s youth who from art to advocacy, technology to the media, had charted courses that didn’t depend on government patronage or ‘support’.

Surely if Nigerians could do these, in spite of Nigeria, then surely we could end up regenerating Nigeria – through a network of us empowered economically and by knowledge working to rebuild our country, step by step.

That’s what I thought.

That’s what drove our passion and our work with The Future Awards, and its evolution into The Future Project – and our focus on identifying he most inspiring of our generation as strong, positive role models to motivate others to transcend Nigeria’s difficult environment and do great things.

The idea was – and it is still the fulcrum of our work – that this network of inspired, effective new leaders would create a flywheel effect that will change Nigeria.

A chance comment from a friend got me thinking beyond the box, however. He asked: how far will we actually be able to go in transforming our society before we have to connect those efforts with what government is doing or what it needs to do? How much could we achieve if the government fundamentally remained the same?

The more I thought of it. The more I realised – not far.

My experience over the past few years have made apparent to me what has been apparent to the world’s real change-makers in modern societies over the past few years It’s the same reality that confronts you when you read books like Lee Kuan Yu’s From Third World to First World, Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracles – we can only go so far in changing our world without connecting with or transforming government.

Focusing on inspiring a network of progress outside of government wasn’t a wrong message however; it just wasn’t the complete message. Just like many of us, I was falling into a well-worn trap of the single solution, of the single story.

Of course, when you face a system like Nigeria’s, where successive governments appear to govern by default; where it appears there are no values or visions from on top and all the other clichés about our leadership that you and I are now familiar with it is easy to give in to the temptation to want to desperately ignore that government, to belittle it, to make it seem inconsequential.

With the acute awareness that it is a huge, thankless task to change a government like ours, and the abiding fear of the daunting path ahead transform the way it thinks and functions, it is very easy to hope that we can change our country without it.

Unfortunately, that ostrich needs to bring its head out of the sand. Nigeria is not going to be changed by non-governmental organisations digging boreholes; it will not be changed by advocates pushing for probity in government. No matter how earnest and well-organised they are; their efforts will be thwarted because they are not in charge of hiring competent officials and firing corrupt aides, the maintenance of an independent judiciary through responsible appointments or the judicious allocation of public funds.

In the same way Nigeria won’t be changed by the USAID or any other international do-gooders because that is not what they are structured to do, just as a war will not be stopped by the Red Cross or Amnesty International, but by the governments and their enemies which started the war.
This is the reason, in fact, that many donors and international organisations from the British Council to the DFID, the US government to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation prefer to support organisations that interface with government, or they just partner with the governments themselves.

Where they are not doing that, they are working with organisations that are in opposition to government, or that snip at the heels of government. Either ways, there is an implicit global understanding, honed by years of ineffectual interventions and a vicious cycle of good intentions with little result that it all comes back government.

The reason is simple: none of them have the budget, the resources, the reach, the weight, the capacity to affect all levers and layers of society. Even when they do – which is almost impossible except when one country violates another’s sovereignty – none of them can muster enough required to effect the kind of change that can be facilitated by the full power of the state.

Perhaps we can find Egypt a perfect example. While its exemplary people have turned protest into an art form, arm-twisting their leaders into taking responsible decisions and sustaining the tempo of change leading from the Arab Spring, a people-driven revolution has still come back to the character and nature of the new government that they have – and what Mohammed Morsi decides to do (and not to do) in his relations with the judiciary, the military, and civil society will turn out being more important than the revolution that brought the Islamic Brotherhood into power.

Like Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, who is King of Jordan, told participants at the World Economic Forum in January, the revolutions were the easiest part of the work that they have – building a political culture, driven by their elected leaders in government is the major task that lies ahead.

The message is simple: no matter how dirty and slimy we find our government (and maybe we are justified, and maybe we are exaggerating), we are making a terrible mistake to think that we can transform our country without it.

Government is the singular most important force for change in any society – print that and paste it on your day if you really want to do something to change your country.

It doesn’t matter if, with government officials behaving like asses and the deporable behavior that passes for administration, government has become a dirty word; the dirtiness should not obscure that simple reality.

We need a government that works – one way or the other. We cannot, cannot change Nigeria without its government.

The tragedy, of course, is that the clamour for working with government or joining government is usually championed by people whose motives are largely questionable.

So it is important to note that joining government blindly, especially the legislature and executive, is not going to solve our problems even if it is important. And, of course, if precedent gives us any pointers, blind ambition causes more harm than good.

Fortunately for us, there is not just one way to make our government better. What we need to do, like I have mentioned in an earlier piece, is to find our positions in relation to this organ.

We need enough competent and vision-driven people who are transforming the government by working with it and helping it; or we have others working from outside: activists, freedom fighters, opposition politicians, radical lawyers, dogged journalists, progressive clergymen.

But whatever we do, we need the government in our sights. Whatever we do, where we want it to have a lasting impact on the way our society is structured and governed, we have to find the nexus where these efforts connect to government – and modifies its behavior. Either that or we push it aside, and work to get a government that will act right.

In my next piece, I will be sharing the example of two impressive people who provide a signpost for how one can step into those troubled waters and bring calm to the storm. I will also share examples of two people working outside of government who have found effective ways of putting it on its toes.

We will need more people like them, who are self-aware enough to make a step that is selfless and purposive. That job isn’t for each and every one of us – but there are always men and woman made for a time like this. And e fit be you o.

—-
Chude Jideonwo is publisher/editor-in-chief of Y!, including Y! Magazine, Y! Books, Y! TV & YNaija.com. He is also executive director of The Future Project/The Future Awards. #NewLeadership is a twice-weekly, 12-week project to inspire action from a new generation of leaders – it ends on March 31.

Related Posts

Recent Posts

Buhari Should Invite Looters For Talks So They Can Return The Loot – Cardinal Okogie

Former President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, advised President Muhammadu Buhari, to invite suspected looters of the country’s treasury for talks. He said that since the President is working to retrieve looted funds, he advised the president that it would be easier if looters were allowed to return their loot without castigating them publicly. Okogie, said: “I agree with the National Peace Committee that the President should...

China Endorses Nigeria’s Bid For UN Security Council Permanent Seat

China has endorsed Nigeria's bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. According to the Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs to House of Representatives  Speaker Yakubu Dogara, Mr. Turaki Hassan, the Chinese gave their nod for Nigeria`s quest to occupy a permanent seat on the UN Security Council during a meeting between the Speaker and the Chinese officials at the United Nations, New York. China's endorsement of Nigeria's bid was disclosed...

Nigeria’s Unity In Diversity Taken By Granted, Fayose Criticizes Buhari

The Governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayo Fayose has criticised President Muhammadu Buhari over the several appointments made and other action taken so far by him, which he said had majorly favoured the Northerners, saying “this has tainted ethnic and tribal colouration, which is inimical to the unity of Nigeria” The Governor who warned Buhari against actions that could divide Nigeria, observed that since May 29, 2015, the actions taken by the President so far has...

Boko Haram Horsemen Attack 3 Villages, Kill Nearly 80

Suspected Boko Haram gunmen on horseback shot dead nearly 80 people in attacks on three villages in the North-East at the weekend, a vigilante and residents told AFP on Monday. The attacks were the latest bloodbath in the six-year-old insurgency by the extremist group aimed at carving out an Islamic state in the volatile region. Babakura Kolo, a vigilante fighting Boko Haram, said 68 people were killed in the attack on Baanu village in Borno...

Akpabio’s Vehicle Collided With Ours – US Embassy

The United States Embassy has confirmed that the convoy of former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, collided with a suburban jeep belonging to the mission on Monday. The Senior Information Specialist in the embassy, Sani Mohammed, said local authorities had commenced investigation into the accident. When asked about the condition of the driver and the vehicle involved in the crash, Mohammed said he did not know. He said, “A US embassy vehicle was involved in the accident. We...

EFCC Arrests University VC, Others For Selling Govt. Owned N13m SUV As Scrap

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Monday arrested top officials of the Adamawa State University for selling a N13 million government-owned Toyota Land Cruiser as scrap. The commission’s spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, confirmed the arrest in a telephone interview. Mr. Uwujaren said the vice chancellor of the university, Shall David Joshua, and the bursar, K.E. Anjili, were among those arrested. “Our operatives in Yola, Adamawa State today arrested top officials of the Adamawa...

Nigeria Exports N2.1tr Petroleum Products In Second Quarter

The Federal Government exported ?2.1 trillion worth of petroleum products during the second quarter of this year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. This represents a 73.7 per cent of the value of the country’s total exports in the quarter under review. Besides, the country imported N140.5 billion worth of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), otherwise known as petrol, during the same period. NBS in its second quarter trade statistics released at the weekend,...

PDP List Achievements As Party Celebrates 17 Years

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Nigeria’s oldest political party, yesterday, marked 17 years of its existence with a low-key event at its Wadata Plaza, Abuja National Secretariat. Briefing Journalists in Abuja, PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, who catalogued the achievements of the party in its 17 years of existence, said it lost some of its founding and leading members because they could not withstand what he termed, stiff competition within the party and some mistakes...

Club Captain Wayne Rooney Asked Me Who Martial Was – Schneiderlin

The 19-year-old is set to complete a move to Old Trafford but his countryman has revealed that the Manchester United captain approached him about his club's latest target Morgan Schneiderlin has revealed that Wayne Rooney had to ask him who Anthony Martial was when it was confirmed that the 19-year-old was nearing a move to

Governors, APC Defend Buhari’s Appointments

Critics of President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointments yesterday got a reply; they are based on merit. The All Progressives Congress (APC) and some governors defended the appointments which have been criticised as sectional. The President’s men also denied that they were appointed based on sentiment, after three of them took the oath of office yesterday in Abuja. The Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Southeast’s leading socio-cultural group, urged the Igbo to remain calm. Governors Rochas Okorocha (Imo) and...

Akpabio Discharged From National Hospital, Suffered Injuries On The Chest

The immediate past Governor of Akwa Ibom State and Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, monday escaped death when he was involved in a ghastly car crash on his way to Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja to join an international flight. Reports say that his car ran into a convoy conveying a foreign envoy whose identity has not been determined at the time of filing this report. He was however discharged at about 6 pm yesterday after he...

N140bn Has Been Spent On 2nd Niger Bridge, Oshiomhole Insists

Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, has insisted that he will not back down on his claim that the Jonathan administration expended N140 billion on the yet to be completed 2nd  Niger Bridge in Anambra State. Similarly, the governor has stood his ground that the sum of $700 million was surreptitiously moved from the Sovereign Wealth Fund, SWF, for the same bridge, which has not risen above the...

Publish Statements Of Govt Accounts, Amaechi Challenges Wike

Former Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, has challenged his successor in office, Governor Nyesom Wike to publish the statements of government accounts with Skye Bank, FAAC, Zenith Bank and Access Bank, insisting that about N7.5 billion cash was left as balance in the state Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, as at May 29, 2015, alongside money in other accounts, totalling N8 billion. Amaechi in a statement, yesterday, by his media aide, said: “Our attention has been...

Rojo: I’ve Had Offers But I’m Staying At Man Utd

The defender is yet to feature this season, with makeshift centre-back Daley Blind preferred alongside the impressive Chris Smalling, but wants to fight for his place Manchester United defender Marcos Rojo wants to stay and fight for his place at Old Trafford, amid reports off a possible deadline day exit. Rojo is yet to feature for United this season, after failing to...

Borno governor bans adverts celebrating his birthday

The Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, who will attain the age of 49 on Wednesday, has appealed to his political appointees, political associates in the All Progressives Congress, APC, foreign and local contractors having dealings with the state, kinsmen, former colleagues in the banking sector as well as friends in different parts of the country not to place any advertisement on newspapers,...

U.S Embassy confirms ex-Governor Akpabio’s convoy collided with own vehicle

The United States Embassy in Abuja has confirmed the convoy of former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, collided with one of its cars on Monday. A Senior Information Specialist in the embassy, Sani Mohammed,  said the embassy was already cooperating with relevant security authorities in the country investigating the incident. “A U.S. Embassy vehicle was involved in the accident,” Mr. Mohammed said. “We are staying in touch with local authorities who are investigating the matter.” Asked to speak on the...

Arase promotes police sergeant for locally manufacturing a bullet proof jacket

A police sergeant in Bauchi State identified as Godwin Hosea, has been promoted to the rank of Inspector for manufacturing a bullet proof jacket. Decorating the officer at the...

Invite looters for talks —Okogie tells Buhari

Former President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, has advised President Muhammadu Buhari, to invite suspected looters of the country’s treasury for talks. He said the President’s efforts to retrieve looted funds would be made easier if looters were allowed to return their loot without castigating them publicly.

‘Consider South East In Your Appointments’ – Okorocha Appeals To Buhari

Imo state governor, Rochas Okorocha has appealed to President Buhari to consider the people of the South East in his appointments. According to Vanguard, Governor Okorocha made the appeal during a meeting with selected stakeholders in the state over the weekend "What I can only do is to continue to appeal to the president to consider the South-East in his appointments. And as far as I am concerned, the president had executed what the office empowers him to do,...

Ohanaeze appeals to Ndigbo for calm over skewed appointments

Following the outrageous outcries that have greeted the recent appointments made by President Muhammad Buhari, Secretary General,apex Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr. Joe Nwaorgu, has called on Ndigbo to remain calm in the present circumstance of unexplainable and skewed pattern of appointments which has completely excluded Ndigbo from key strategic positions in the Federal Government. Speaking with Journalists in Enugu, Monday, against the backdrop of the appointment of principal officers in the presidency and Secretary to the Government of...

P-Square brothers narrowly escape death in auto crash

Peter and Paul Okoye of the popular pop duo, Psquare, narrowly escaped death on Sunday after a ghastly auto-crash along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. The Sensational R&B duo, suffered a crash in their ox-blood coloured Range Rover Sport Jeep on their way back from a concert staged in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital. Peter Okoye who took to Instagram, narrated that an oncoming lorry bashed their car as they were returning from a show alongside their assistant manager and lead drummer, Papi...