The siren is wailing again about the state of the nation, this time along with a clarion call on Nigerians to come to terms with the reality that Nigeria is actually in a state of emergency and that this condition has been worsened by statecraft that is itself confronting “a dramatic absence of willpower”.
In what must be the most exacting and authoritative insight into the current phase of crisis in Nigeria, the Nigeria Working Group on Peacebuilding and Governance made up of a group of Nigerian civic and thought leaders rose from a meeting with civil society actors in Abuja to make a solemn declaration titled “Dear Nigerians, the Time for Citizens’ Action is Now”
But the group is ruling out break-up of Nigeria as an option. Instead, the names behind the communiqué are happy with what they call obvious improvements in elite consensus and inclusiveness in dealing with legitimate demands to restructure the nation. They are urging every well-meaning Nigerian to contribute to discussions, debates and the search for real and constructive solutions to limitations in the operations of the constitution and the structures that give meaning to citizenship.
The phrase ‘obvious improvements in elite consensus’ makes a clear reference to what is seen as a major shift in civil society’s understanding of the leading driver of the current crisis. Instead of focusing on President Buhari who is supposed to signify statecraft, a lot of attention has gone to distractions such as the cabal or the broader Hausa-Fulani identity even as President Buhari is understood to have been and remains the most powerful actor in the government since 2015. Others have been popularizing the idea of a president too sick and exhausted to be in firm grip of governance. In other words, the president has been so lucky that he has substantially been excused from the blame for the crisis that has been deepening under him since 2016.
Only recently has it begun to gain ground and acceptance that what the nation is confronting is President Buhari’s hook-up with the past, especially him endlessly idealizing 1983 – 1985 and hence his extreme lack of capacity to appreciate the enormity of changes that have taken place since then when it comes to running Nigeria of today.
Hence the portion of the communiqué which stressed the deafness of the administration to the widespread demands for dialogue and consensus building arising from heightened division as confidence in the State reaches what is considered its lowest. Instead of anything by way of critical response to demands for urgent and holistic review of the basic structures and governance processes of the country, the communiqué says the presidency resorts to a strategy of responding with demeaning statements. “This tendency to abuse those who legitimately ask those with responsibility to listen to popular voices is alienating more Nigerians from the administration and playing into the hands of those who feed off desperation”, asserts the group.
It must be to overcome the president’s perceived insular, static sense of reality that the communiqué is insisting that “The nation needs to adopt a sense of urgency in the manner it deals with rapidly accumulating liabilities”. This it hangs on the perils of Nigerians waiting for the convenience or pleasure of leaders in deciding what is important, adding that the citizens “must avoid the tendency to ignore our problems until they become a lot worse in terms of the capacities of leaders to deal with them”.
Identifying the danger of the president carrying on without a care, the communiqué says the insecurity crisis across the country “continues to gallop towards the abyss due to the lack of political will and the inability of the country’s security architecture to manage the multiple challenges”. It lists kidnapping for ransom as an acute concern across Nigeria in addition to resurgence of Boko Haram in the northeast, leaving thousands of people as internally displaced sufferers of banditry across rural communities in the northwest. Criminality in rural areas, it also stated, is further complicating the situation by undermining food security as many farmers have been unable to go to their farms for months for fear of losing their lives.
Also mentioned is how, in spite of growing evidence, corruption has grown wings and is flying everywhere under the regime. In the same manner that no one has been punished for perpetrating aggravated violence, so also is punishment for corruption gone on AWOL under the government, said the communique.
While calling on younger Nigerians in particular to get involved in the search for a future without current levels of bitterness and dislocations, the communiqué specifically offers the following on “how we can collectively create synergy in seeking pathways to the rebuilding of Nigeria”
The signatories signed off with “Dear Nigerians, when Government is tone deaf and the country is in serious crisis, the only way forward is citizens’ action”, recalling the age-old signature tune of ‘NO MORE AGONISING, LET’S ORGANISE’
The discourse changing communiqué is reproduced verbatim below:
Dear Nigerians, the Time for Citizens’ Action is Now
Abuja, 8th October 2020
Following a convening of civil society actors, the Nigeria Working Group on Peacebuilding and Governance – a group of Nigerian civic and thought leaders, hereby offers its key observations and recommendations on how we can collectively create synergy in seeking pathways to the rebuilding of Nigeria.
We address you as Nigeria Citizens to state that the conditions in the country are dire and statecraft to address mounting problems is both lacking and confronting a dramatic absence of willpower to deal with the multiple challenges of insecurity, a shrinking economy, and unemployment amongst others.
The civil society actors noted that in the absence of a binding narrative, there are series of conspiracy theories that have emerged, with immense capacity to divide the country along the sharp lines of ethnicity and religion, which is further sustained by the absence of strategic communication between the Nigerian state and its citizens. This situation is further heightening the level of desperation among the citizens that are increasingly been detached from the everyday governance of the Nigerian State.
The increasing insecurity across the country continues to gallop towards the abyss due to the lack of political will and the inability of the country’s security architecture to manage the multiple challenges. Kidnapping for ransom is an acute concern across Nigeria. The northeast is witnessing a resurgence in Boko Haram activity, and thousands of people are internally displaced by banditry across rural communities in the northwest. Criminality in rural areas further complicates the situation by undermining food security as many farmers have been unable to go to their farms for months, for fear of losing their lives.
The Nigerian State is on auto pilot and is currently not being governed. The result is that corruption has gone completely out of control. There is a concerted effort to dismantle anti-corruption agencies and render them ineffective. While evidence of corruption is growing, prosecution has slowed down considerably.
Confidence towards the Nigerian State is very low heightening the divides in the Federation and creating widespread demands for dialogue and consensus building on restructuring which the Government has been tone deaf to.
Indeed, the presidency has adopted the strategy of responding to demands for urgent and holistic review of the basic structures and governance processes of our nation with demeaning statements. This tendency to abuse those who legitimately ask those with responsibility to listen to popular voices is alienating more Nigerians from the administration and playing into the hands of those who feed off desperation.
The Nation needs to adopt a sense of urgency in the way it deals with rapidly accumulating liabilities.
Nigerians cannot wait for the convenience or pleasure of leaders in deciding what is important. We must avoid the tendency to ignore our problems until they become a lot worse in terms of the capacities of leaders to deal with them.
We welcome the obvious improvements in elite consensus and inclusiveness in dealing with legitimate demands to restructure the nation. We urge every well-meaning Nigerian to contribute to the discussions, debates and the search for real and constructive solutions to limitations in the operations of our constitution, and the structures that give meaning to our citizenship.
We call on younger Nigerians in particular, to get involved in the search for a future without current levels of bitterness and dislocations.
- People-Centred Dialogue Process:
Nigerians in their communities, associations, civil society groupings, women’s groups and youth groups should accelerate on-going discussions to deepen the emerging consensus of how to build a national platform to address Nigeria’s political structure and process. This coalition building process is aimed at the convening of a Peoples’ National Conference.
- Charter of Demands on Security:
Criminality and violent confrontations between farming and herding communities have claimed thousands of lives and deepened ethnic, religious, and regional polarization and yet, few perpetrators have been prosecuted. Demands by the National Assembly and the generality of Nigerians to the appointment of new and more competent service chiefs have fallen on deaf ears. Nigerians therefore need to use their citizens’ power to draft and impose a Charter of Demands on Government.
- Civic Organizing for Action:
Civil society, the media, professional associations, socio-cultural groups, women, youth, students, and people living with disability – we must act in one accord as key catalysts for civic action, representing key voices that need to be amplified in mobilizing citizens as a basis for compelling governments at all levels to act in the overall interest of the citizens.
Dear Nigerians, when Government is tone deaf and the country is in serious crisis, the only way forward is citizens’ action.
NO MORE AGONISING, LETS ORGANISE
- Cardinal John Onaiyekan
- Hakeem Baba Ahmed
- General Martin Luther Agwai (Rtd.)
- Professor Attahiru Jega
- Professor Jibrin Ibrahim
- Nguyan Shaku Feese
- Usman Bugaje
- Adagbo Onoja
- Ambassador Fatima Balla
- Ambassador Zango Abdu
- Auwal Musa Rafsanjani
- Chris Kwaja
- Hussaini Abdu
- Kemi Okenyodo
- Jim Gala
- Aisha Muhammed Oyebode
- Tsema Yvonne