ETHNICITY AND RELIGION: THE PROMISES AND ILLUSIONS OF DEMOCRACY IN THE STRUGGLE TO UPLIFT THE NIGERIAN MASSES FROM IMPOVERISHMENT

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Text of Lecture Delivered by Saheed Olurotimi Timehin (PhD) at the Gani Fawehinmi Annual Lecture Organized by the Ikeja Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association held on Thursday, 15th January, 2015

Introduction

That Nigeria is plagued by lethal socio-political maladies that threaten its wellbeing is a fact too glaring to be contested, and the fact that leadership is the greatest challenge to her corporate existence is too obvious to be reiterated. On attaining independence in 1960, the nation was looked upon as the “Giant of Africa” and a refreshingly promising experiment in parliamentary democracy. When on 15th January, 1966 a military coup struck only to be followed by another one in July of the same year, the whole world asked: “What is wrong with Nigeria?” It is however disheartening to note that 49 years after those coups, we have not stopped asking: “What exactly is wrong with us?”

Any attempt to answer this question must first take into consideration the ideological framework within which the Nigerian political psyche was formed. This is because what the nation experiences today has its roots in the ideals and idiosyncrasies of all the ethnic nationalities that populate it and how these ideals have received, interpreted, and adjusted to the inherited socio-political ideology of the colonial administrators.

It is a well-known fact that Nigerians rank among the most religious people in the world. It is also a fact that the identity of most Nigerians is defined by the faith tradition to which they subscribe. This is the reason why religion gets blamed for most of the atrocities its adherents commit. The responsibility for and ownership of heinous crimes almost always fall upon religion when in reality each social expression of religion depends on man’s volitional acts.

The sorry tales of pre and post-election violence, bombings, kidnappings, brutal killings, child trafficking, students’ cultism and persistent human rights’ abuses which adorn the pages of Nigerian Newspapers have smeared the nation’s image in the comity of Nations. What is very annoying is that many of the major actors in several of these sad occurrences sought justification and legitimacy for their sub-human conducts in the sacred name of religion.

However much these negative events occur, religion is, and has been an agent of peace, reconciliation and rapprochement in various lands and clime. Unstained by human greed and callousness, religion is indeed a means of binding hearts and soothing pains. It is an elixir that cures all social maladies which plague the modern man. Religion therefore is a complete ethico-spiritual system designed by the Divine to restructure, redirect, reposition and re-orientate man as he plunges into the whirlpool of uncertainties in his daily life.

As 2015 general elections drew near, people were implored again in some places of worship to vote along religious line. It is sad that Nigerians hardly learn from history. Rather than emphasizing good governance and service delivery, they subscribed to the same old cults of mediocrity that brought the nation to where it is at the moment. Ethnic and religious considerations have combined to wreak havoc on the nation yet Christian and Muslim clerics are already telling their congregations:” a bad Christian is better than the best Muslim and vice versa”. What has the nation gained from the bad Muslims and Christians who have been ruling since its independence? Has their adherence to specific religions impacted positively on governance and service delivery? Is it not becoming glaring that these politicians are neither Muslims nor Christians but adherents of a new pseudo-religion called politics which in reality is an unholy syncretic fusion of Islam and Christianity with political merchantdom?

It is thus in the light of the complexity of this problem and the cosmopolitan many-sidedness of the challenge that it poses that I most humbly thank the organizers of this program for creating such an opportunity as this to reflect together on the issues of ethnicity, religion and illiteracy and how these have impacted upon the people of this country.

ETHNICITY AND RELIGION- Blessing or Curse

Ethnicity and religion are the two major markers of identity in Nigeria. Because the socio- political consciousness of the majority is not fully developed, it is more convenient to invoke ethnic or religious affiliations as an authentication of individual identity. While ethnicity is a blessing as a tool for socio-linguistic bonding, it becomes a curse when it is employed as a tool of exclusivism and discrimination. Religion too, despite its many positive sides, becomes a negative factor if it is manipulated in favour of totalitarianism and used to promote exclusivistic tendencies.1

In a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country like Nigeria with over four hundred (400) ethnic groups, belonging to thousands of religious sects, exclusivism can only spell doom for the populace. Since independence, the nation has been grappling with, and trying to manage several cases of ethno-religious conflicts. Over the years, accusations of ethnic and religious discriminations have led to incessant recurrence of ethno-religious conflicts, which have given birth to many ethnic militias like the O’ dua People Congress (OPC); the Bakassi Boys; the Egbesu Boys; the Ijaw Youth Congress (IYC); and the Igbo People Congress (IPC).  Others include the Arewa Peoples Congress (APC) the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB); and the Ohanaeze N’digbo. 2

The emergence of these ethnic militias, the absence of social justice in the country, widespread illiteracy and the commercialization of religion by the institutional representatives of God have combined to further deepen the divides between the various ethnic and religious groups thereby resulting in the use of the ethnic militias as the executors of ethno-religious agenda.

Knowing the exact number of the incidence of ethno-religious conflicts in Nigeria may be very difficult partly because the spontaneity and the preponderance of these conflicts often throw the relevant agencies off guard, and partly because we generally have a penchant for not keeping records. We therefore do not have adequate statistical data on this issue, though according to a recent study by Dr Salawu of the University of Ilorin, about forty percent (40%) of ethno-religious conflicts fall within the third and fourth republics.3 The obvious increase in these conflicts under supposed democratic institutions no doubt has a lot to say about governance in Nigeria, because democracy, by its operational dynamics, should entrench social justice which is naturally expected to expel crisis in any given society.

Generally, social justice is described as a concept that creates a system that guarantees the basic necessities of life to all individuals within a society without any kind of discrimination. The most common indices include:

  • –  Fair redistribution of resources
  • – Equal access to opportunities and rights
  • -Fair system of law and due process
  • – Ability to take up opportunities and exercise rights
  • – Protection of vulnerable and disadvantaged people.4

Recent history testifies to the fact that all the conflict-stricken regions of the world today have long histories of social injustice. There is indeed no place on earth where there is war or strife where visible signs of social injustice had not been seen before the crisis. The ugliest forms of social injustice omnipresent in Nigeria no doubt account for the various ethnic, communal and religious crises in the country. Where access to the basic necessities of life is denied, violent actors will always be recruited easily. Niger-Delta crisis and the current Boko haram saga are typical examples. Similarly, all of the countries affected by the Arab Spring have tales of social injustice preceding them.

DEMOCRACY IN NIGERIA-Myth or Reality?

The world order constructed after 1945 has almost collapsed completely. Liberal democracy and Keynesian economics have not been able to provide answers to the multi-dimensional problems assailing modern societies- inflation, unemployment, widening disparities between the rich and the poor with all the attendant tensions and conflicts caused by these. All known political theories have failed to establish equilibrium in our social universe.  The welfare state , as well as the Marxist alternative,has also not succeeded in confronting effectively the challenges occasioned by the post-industrial society’s movement from social contract to the corporate state. It is obvious that ‘things have indeed fallen apart and the centre cannot hold’ to borrow from W. B Yeats’ The Second Coming. 5

Despite the aforesaid, according to most political thinkers, liberal democracy still enjoys the goodwill of being the best political ideology. Francis Fukuyama for instance declared in an article in the Wall Street Journal on October 5, 2001, that his end of history thesis remains valid twelve years after he first presented it in 1989. His main argument in the article is that after the demise of Communism and National Socialism, there can be no serious ideological competitor to Western-style liberal democracy. Therefore, in political philosophy, liberal democracy is the end of the evolutionary process.6

Other thinkers are however more cautious in their pronouncements. They realize that the various merits of democracy do not in any way preclude its inherent imperfections.  Authorities like Schumpeter, Dahl, Sartori and Popper, despite their apparent appreciation of democratic ideals, have done their best to induce disenchantment and demystification. They all embrace the irony of Churchill when he defined democracy as the ‘worst of political systems except for all the others’7, a definition that has invoked a guarded attitude on the part of the more enlightened political analysts in marked contrast to the somewhat brash and imperious assumptions of some of our Nigerian politicians, who, having been educated within the binary limits of western information-fed academism, do not see the difference between the ‘most applauded’ system and the ‘most appropriate’ one.

There is no doubt that democracy is the most applauded system in the modern world, and so-called democracies are seen as models for all nations. It is however pertinent to note that despite the wide acclaim, it is increasingly becoming more vulnerable as a system of governance. Recent history has shown that the system, in both the well established democracies as well as the neo-democracies, favors those already in power.

In these nations, there is veiled leaning toward authoritarianism. The phenomenon of marginalization of masses and concentration of professional politicians naturally precede consummation of authoritarianism, which increases as a democratic system moves towards maturity. The people in whose name democracy is formed are often sidelined in favour of professional political merchants. The decreasing voter turnout from US to New Zealand is a testimony to this fact.8

Leading political figures are therefore beginning to revisit their mythical views about democracy and its exponents. A leading politician in the US, Jerry Fresia, observes:

             ‘Far from being a government of ‘the people’, ours is a government which rests on the assumption that ‘the people’, especially when they become politically excited, interested, and alive are thought of as subversive. Any serious student of political surveillance and repression in this country knows this to be true. But we seem to prefer to protect our moral high-mindedness by permitting elites, virtually at every chance they get, to persist in the lie that it is ‘we the people’, and not ‘we the largest property owners’, who govern this country. In so doing, we risk weakening our understanding of the ways, which systematically subordinate our lives to the interests of the rich and politically powerful. And in so doing, we invite our own destruction.’9

Similarly, Ralph Epperson also declares:

        ‘It is generally conceded that even a monarchy or a dictatorship is an oligarchy, or a government run by a small, ruling minority. Such is also the case with a democracy, for this form of government is traditionally controlled at the top by a small ruling oligarchy. The people in a democracy are conditioned to believe that they are indeed the decision-making power of government, but in truth there is almost always a small circle at the top making the decision for the entirety’.10

Like other Nations of the world, Nigerians too see democracy as the best option yet their tales of woe under so called “democratic dispensations” compete with their lamentations under the military. This shows therefore that the beauty of democracy lies not in the name of the system but in how it is run. The success or otherwise of Nigerian democracy lies in how well the Nigerian people understand their peculiarity and how effectively they have appropriated western style liberal democracy which they have inherited from their founding fathers.

Unlike other nations, Nigeria was not born out of an agreement of people of the various ethnic nationalities that populate it, it was rather the product of an agreement between the Royal Niger Company and the British government. This unfortunate phenomenon was captured by the Prime Minister of the First Republic, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa thus:

“Since 1914, the British government has been trying to make Nigeria into one country, but the Nigerian people themselves are historically different in their backgrounds, in their religious beliefs and customs and do not show any signs of willingness to unite… Nigerian unity is only a British invention”.11

Similarly, Chief Obafemi Awolowo is reported to have written in 1947 that:

“Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression. There are no Nigerians in the same sense as there are English, Welsh or French. The word ‘Nigerian’ is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria and those who do not”.12

Despite their realization of the situation, the founding fathers of this nation had a clear picture of the kind of country they wanted to build though it was not sure that they all understood how they were going to do it. Nevertheless, their dream was to have a:

  • -United, strong and self-reliant nation.
  • -Great and dynamic economy
  • -Just and egalitarian society
  • -Land of bright and full opportunities for all citizens, and
  • -Free and democratic society.13

During the struggle for independence when these great men were fighting for self-rule, it probably didn’t occur to them that it was necessary to hold a national conference to decide and agree upon how the nation was to be governed and the sacrifices and adjustments the populace had to made. They therefore set out with no agreed upon national values to nurture the soul of the nation and direct her affairs or so it seems.

It is therefore no wonder  that almost fifty-five years after her independence, her performance in the spheres of social engineering, economic growth and political stability does not in any way represent her potentials, or project the true yearnings of her citizens, her vast natural endowments notwithstanding.

It is sad to note however that the story of Nigeria is one sorry episode of failure of leadership. Despite the abundant resources, there is no effective coordination of each sector of the economy at the centre. Government agencies do not operate as if there is an agreed direction towards which all policies and governmental activities must head. The result of this is the sick, decadent and mono-cultural economy which we are plagued with.

Concerning Nigeria and other African Nations and their response to the socio-economic challenges facing them as sovereign Nations, Professor Richard Joseph, the former Program Officer of Ford Foundation in West Africa writes:

Today, Nigeria is regarded internationally as having made minimal progress in responding to this challenge. Entrenched political corruption has become one element of a broader phenomenon that can be called ‘catastrophic governance’. I define catastrophic governance as endemic practices that steadily undermine a country’s capacity to increase the supply of public goods. It is catastrophic governance that mainly responsible for Africa’s failure to realize its immense development potential, aided and abetted by external opportunists. There are numerous studies that detail this sad record, for example, the 2001 award-winning book Africa Economies and politics of permanent Crisis by Nicolas van de walle. Van de Walle contends that the failure to accelerate economic growth in Africa despite two decades of ‘unprecedented aid flows’ is largely attributed to governance and institutional deficiencies.

Today, as discussed above, international donor are devoting consideration attention to improving aid effectiveness. Frankly, Africa’s most crippling deficiency is not the absence of adequate resources but the failure to generate the necessary institutional capacity in both public and private sectors to make effective use of available resources, whatever their provenance. There is little doubt that international donors will increase the flow of development aid to Africa, tighten the standard by which it is administered, and take steps to improve the delivery and coordination of their assistance. What remains to be demonstrated is that the institutional capacity to make productive use of these aid flows, as well as Africa’s own resources, will improve in the continent. Unless the chain of catastrophic governance is broken, Africa’s productivity will slip further behind that of the rest of the world. Nigeria illustrates vividly this predicament. In a November 27, 2002 article in the wall street journal, former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Princeton Lyman observes that Nigeria’s failure to achieve ‘ effective government, sound economic policies or long periods of even formal democracy… threaten to ignite the worst form of religious violence, indeed they threaten the continued unity of the country’. Nigeria reels from one of the worst economic declines in world’, he states and ‘corruption has robbed the country blind’. There is no single solution to the dilemma of building African institutional capacity. It will take a concerted and collaborated effort among many actors and organizations, in Africa and internationally, to effect a lasting transformation of African governance’.14

Obviously disenchanted by the National Development Plans of the seventies and the unrealizable Millennium goals, the Nigerian government, in November 1996, set up a committee of 248 members including 25 foreign based Nigerians to develop Vision 2010. The committee structured its assignment under 53 sub-committees covering 13 critical success factors, 17 economic issues, 17 special issues and 6 general issues. After several deliberations, debates and research, the committee concluded that by 2010. Nigeria would have transformed into a country which is:

‘A united, industrious, caring and God-fearing democratic society committed to making the basic needs of life affordable for everyone, and creating Africa’s leading economy’.

The committee reported its findings under the following areas on which it proposed that the country should focus to attain this vision:

  • Value System
  • Political culture
  • Economy
  • Education
  • Health
  • Industry
  • Petroleum and Solid Minerals
  • Agriculture
  • Rural and urban development
  • Unemployment
  • Infrastructure
  • Poverty alleviation
  • Small and Medium scale Enterprises
  • Public and Private Sector partnership
  • Stable environmental policy
  • Law and Order
  • Anti-corruption drive
  • Good governance
  • External Image
  • Capital Mobilizations.

As laudable as this plan was, poor management as well immoral corporate practices combined to kill the vision. Characteristically, the government on realizing the futility of attaining Vision 2010, first toyed with Vision 2015, but later settled for Vision 2020, the mission statement of which states that:

‘By 2020, Nigeria will be one of the 20 largest economies in the world able to consolidate its leadership role in Africa and establish itself as a significant player in the global economic and political arena’.

This is 2015 and Nigeria is nowhere near the Promised Land. One would not be surprised if, as we approach 2020, our government goes ahead to adjust it to Vision 2050!

Our value system also seems to have sunk in the quicksand of these socio-economic maladies and neither the government nor the populace appears to know the way out. Several patriotic citizens have spoken out against this downhill rush on the ladder of morality but their good counsel has always fallen on deaf ears. The average political office holder seems to have taken it as his primary vocation to exploit the resources of this nation for selfish purposes. He flies the kite of ethno-religious differences to keep the poor masses busy. He ensures that their literacy level is low that they may never understand their rights. He deliberately makes sure they are not too comfortable so that there can be easy recruits any time he needs people to disrupt the social order. He respects no law. He sees the law as a weapon to give legitimacy to his bestiality.

Apart from overt corrupt practices, fiscal indiscipline by the nation’s leadership is another major ill. The cost of running the Nigerian public service is one of the highest in the world if not the highest! In the Federal Government’s Expenditure Review Committee’s report, it is stated that more than 80% of the Nigerian financial resources go into recurrent expenditure, and that without oil, only a mere 15% of the nation’s expenditure would be covered. The report also points out that while US with an economy of $13trillion has less than 20 ministers, Nigeria whose economy is $0.3 trillion has 30 ministers and 14 federal agencies with executive director!

The document submitted by the Theophilus Danjuma-Led Presidential Advisory Committee on the “Detailed Breakdown of Allocation to States, Federal and Local Governments from June 1999 to May 2007” which was released by the Federal Ministry of Finance on June 25, 2007, also showed that N5.2 trillion {out of N16.44 trillion disbursed from the Federation Account within the eight years of Obasanjo’s administration} was spent on 17,474 functionaries and lawmakers. Of this number, 941 {comprising 472 government agents and 469 lawmaker}. On a yearly basis, N200 billion was spent on the salaries and allowances of these 941 public officials. That was during the Obasanjo administration when sense of shame was still somewhat relevant. How we have fared after that we are all living witnesses. Surely in such a reckless structure, the boat of any nation would sink.

From a recent revelation by Folorunso Alatoye, the CEO of Ascension Consulting Services that has audited government agencies in Nigeria at various levels, we have every reason to be angry with Nigerian leaders

He writes that:

  • Over 70% of Nigerians lives in abject poverty translating to 119million people out of 170 million estimates live with less than US1.00 (N155) per day! Less than 1% of the Nigerian population control over 80% of the National resources. 
  • Over 80% of Nigerians lack quality education. I believe the 20% are the people in Diaspora because no University in Nigeria is within the first 500 best Universities in the world. The Universities, polytechnics and all institutions whether private or public are grossly underfunded to the abysmal level of only 8% of the national budget instead of the UN recommendation of about 26%. A nation that lacks knowledge lacks everything. The developed countries invest heavily on education to get all other things right. 
  • Only about 2.5% live in befitting accommodation meaning that 97.5 or 165million out of the 170 million live in make shift houses or slum. Governments demolish people’s houses with impunity without the provision of alternatives. 
  • Over 75% have no access to good food or water. 

The report also contains an overview of the nation’s wealth and resources. It says: 

  • 40billion barrels of crude oil reserves to last for about 35 years. 2.5million barrels daily production or US225m or NGN34billion daily or over NGN 10 trillion per annum. .
  • 300 trillion standard cubic feet (sfc) of proven gas reserves in custody lasting for over 110 years in estimate.
  • Africa in all has 500 trillion standard cubic ft. against Europe & North America’s Reserve of 450 trillion standard cubic ft.
  • 65 trillion standard cubic feet of recoverable undiscovered reserves
  • 3rd largest exporter of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) in the world
  • 12th largest major gas reserve country in world
  • Abundant agricultural land, manufacturing potentials, water resources and air spaces.
  • Abundant natural and human resources to say the least.15 

In the face of social injustice despite such wealth and resources, why would people not be angry? Why shouldn’t everyone strive to hijack resources? Why shouldn’t there be area boys forcing resources from innocent people? Why shouldn’t there be Niger Delta Militants terrorizing the coastal areas? Why shouldn’t the Jos Birom Indigenes & Hausa/Fulani Settlers fight over who becomes the executive overseer of resources? Why shouldn’t there be Boko Haram creating nightmare for the nation’s security forces? Why shouldn’t there be regional and corporate pressure groups calling for sovereign national conference and constitutional review or redraft?

There is a Yoruba adage that says “Aroni o wale, Onikoyi o simiogun” meaning that “If Aroni (that is the source of wealth) is not found, Onikoyi will not down war tools”. A wise man recently put it that: “If people in Ajegunle are awake as a result of hunger, the people in Ikoyi will not sleep.”

RELIGION TO THE RESCUE

Though not many will agree with me if I say true religion has the solution to the myriad of problems facing Nigeria. By religion, I do not mean a particular faith tradition, I mean religion as it is and as it ought to be. I mean the universal value system common to all faith traditions. If we are truly religious, as we most often pretend to be, our actions would be guided by God-consciousness. We would know that the promises we make, the responsibilities we bear and our numerous undertakings all have a trans-human reference. Absolute Justice is the soul of any true system of governance. All religions, including African Traditional Religion, uphold social justice in its broadest sense which includes justice, fairness, and righteousness. In Ogbe’Sa, an Ifa oraculum incantation, we have:                                                                                       

THE LIAR DIES AND DIES IN A FOREST OF FIRE.

THE WICKED DIES AND DIES ON A SUN-SCORCHED SAVANNAH.

BUT THE RIGHTEOUS DIES AND DIES PEACEFULLY,

LEANING BACK AGAINST A WATER JAR DECORATED WITH JEWELS.

ORUNMILA, PRIEST OF THE WORLD, INTERPRETED THE TEACHINGS OF IFA

FOR THE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD,

WHEN THEY WERE CREATING A WORLD-

A WORLD WHERE THERE WAS NO PEACE,

A WORLD WHERE THERE WAS NO HARMONY.

THEY WERE ADVISED TO SACRIFICE.

BUT ONLY THE RIGHTEOUS REMAINED TO PRACTICE SACRIFICE.

SO, SPEAK THE TRUTH; DO JUSTICE,

BE KIND AND DO NOT DO EVIL.

TRUTH TRAVELS ON A NARROW PATH

BUT THE WICKED WANDER ON A WIDE ROAD.

SPEAK THE TRUTH; DO JUSTICE;

DO JUSTICE, SPEAK THE TRUTH;

FOR ONE WHO IS RIGHTEOUS IS SUPPORTED BY THE DIVINE.

In the Bible, we have in the book of Jeremiah, chapter 22 v 13-16:

“Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbor’s service without wages, and giveth him not for his work; That saith, I will build me a wide house and chambers, and cutteth it out windows; and it is ceiled with cedar, and painted with vermilion. Shalt thou reign, because thou desert thyself in cedar? Did not thy father eat and drink, and do judgment and justice, and then it was well with him? He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him: was not this to know me? Saith the LORD”.

Similarly, we have in the book of Micah, chapter 3 v 9-12:

“Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert equity. They build up Zion with blood and, Jerusalem with iniquity.  The heads thereof judge for reward and the priest thereof teach for hire and the prophet thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say is not the lord among us? None evil can come upon us. Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high place of the forest.”

In a similar vein, the Holy Qur’an insists on broad principles of justice as a natural precursor for societal well being. For example:

.. help one another in righteousness and piety, but  do not help one another  in  sin  and wickedness.. . . (Q 5 v 3)

“0 believers! Stand out firmly for justice,  as witnesses for the sake of Allah, even if this may go against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin.. . . (Q 4 v 136)

 0 believers! Stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses for the sake of justice, and let not the enmity of a people cause you to turn away from justice. Do justice, for that is closer to piety.. . . (Q 5 v 9)

“We have surely sent our messengers with clear signs, and sent with them the Book, and the Balance so that mankind may stand by justice.. . . “(Q 57 v 26)

And In Q 89 v 17-23, Allah declares:

“Nay! But you treat not the orphans with kindness and generosity; and you urge not one another to feed the poor; and you devour the inheritance of the nation with greed; and you love material wealth excessively. Nay! When the earth is ground to powder; and your Lord comes with the Angels in rows to give judgment.  Hell will be brought near; on that day, man will remember the truth, but how will that remembrance benefit him?”  

The above verses of the Qur’an make it clear that the four fundamental principles of world order are righteousness, piety, justice, and fairness. Adherents of religions should proclaim the beauty of religion with their conduct and should give guidance to rulers whoever they may be. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) is reported to have declared:

“The greatest Jihad is to speak the truth in the presence of a tyrannical ruler”

In the Nigeria of today, material wealth is valued above character and national success.  Money is worshipped as the greatest thing in life regardless of how it is acquired. Embezzlement of public funds and other forms of corruption reign supreme. Nigerians would be wise to emulate Mohandas Ghandi who advised his Indian compatriots on the need to reorientate the society  against ‘wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, science without humanity, politics without principle, commerce without morality, and worship without sacrifice.

In Nigeria therefore, it is obvious that we need a new social and economic ideology to meet the challenges facing our Nation. This ideology does not have to be entirely new in its contents. It may be a modification of the Western concept of democracy plus piety, in line with our worldview, vision of society, value-framework and moral ethos. What I am saying is that the most appropriate governance model- governance with piety and moral conscience must replace the most applauded, but the least properly applied system popularly known as democracy because our quest for social and economic justice has not completed and our failure to achieve it has proved to be the most tragic theme of the contemporary Nigerian history.  We are not alone in this. The quest for good governance is a global phenomenon. Authorities such as Wilfried Beckerman in his Crisis in Economy  or Economics, Amitai Etzioni in his ‘The Moral Dimension: Towards a New Economics, Cristovam Buarque in his, ‘ The End Of Economics: Ethics and the Disorder of progress, have all argued in favour of  morality driven socio-economic and political systems in the post-industrial societies. The link between moral values and socio-economic behavior both at individual and governmental levels has been torn asunder during the ascendance of secular capitalistic systems. Political analysts, economists and social theorists are all trying today to re-discover the missing ethical link. May I conclude with a very perceptive submission by a  leading economist, James Robertson in his monumental work, ‘Future Wealth: A New Economics for the 21st Century. He writes:

Unlike both the capitalist and socialist versions of conventional economics, the 21st century economy must be based on recognition that people are moral beings whose freedom as such should not be narrowly bound by impersonal parameters laid down by market and state. The 21st century economy must accept, as an aspect of self-reliance, that people need space in which to exercise moral responsibility and choice in their economic lives. Measures designed to allow this free space to people as individuals, and also to groupings of people in local economies and national economies{ especially in the Third World}, must be part of the new economic order… The new economics must thus transcend the materialist assumptions of a conventional economics: that economic life is reducible to production and consumption; that wealth is a kind of product that has to be created before it can be consumed; and that wealth production and wealth consumption are successive stages in a linear process which converts resources into waste. It must re-interpret the manipulative concern of conventional economics with the production and distribution of wealth and the allocation of resources into a developmental concern with how to enable people to meet their needs, develop themselves, and enhance the resources and qualities of the natural world. It must recognize that because human beings are moral beings the basic questions about economics are moral questions. 16

Thank you

NOTES

  1. Timehin S. O, “THIS HOUSE MUST NOT FALL: An Excursion into Nigeria’s Leadership Problems and Possible Solutions”, (Departmental Lecture Monograph Series, Purchasing and Supply Department, The Polytechnic, Ibadan, Adeseun Ogundoyin Campus, Eruwa, Oyo State,2013 p 2
  2. Salawu B., “Ethno-Religious Conflicts in Nigeria: Causal Analysis and Proposals for New Management Strategies“,( European Journal Of Social Sciences, vol. 13, No. 3, 2010) p. 345
  3. Ibid
  4. Leanne Ho et al, What is Social Justice? (National Pro Bono Resource Centre, Occasional Papers Series, Australia, October, 2011) p. 4
  1. Michael Shanks, ‘What’s wrong with the modern world?{London: The Bodley Head, 1978} p.1
  1. Francis Fukuyama, ‘ History Is Still Going Our Way,’ Wall Street Journal, October 05, 2001
  1. Lord Hailsham, ‘The Dilemma OF Democracy, {London: Collies, 1978} p3.
  1. Abid Ullah Jan, ‘The End Of Democracy, {Canada: Pragmatic Publishing, 2003} p10 
  1. Fresia Jerry, ‘ Toward an American Revolution,{ Boston: South Ene Press, 1988} p. 5
  1. Epperson A, Ralph, ‘The Unseen Hand, { London: The Publius Press}
  2. Meredith Martin, ‘ The State of Africa, (Simon and Schuster, UK Ltd, 2011) p. 8
  3. Ibid
  4. Timehin, loc cit, p 4
  5. Richard Joseph, ‘State, Governance and Insecurity in Africa, (Democracy and Development-Journal Of West African affairs, Obadare E. (eds) Vol. 3, No. 2) p 13-14
  6. He made this submission at the Interfaith Event themed,’ Religion and Good Governance’, held at the UNILAG Main Auditorium on N0vember 15, 2012.
  7.   James Robertson, ‘Future Wealth: A New Economics For The 21st Century,{London:Cassell Publications, 1990} p.20

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