Thursday, July 20, 2017

USA Africa Dialogue Series - Fw: prof's column

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone.
From: Ayo Olukotun <>
Sent: Tuesday, 18 July 2017 11:26
Reply To:
Subject: prof's column

"Neither an ailing and absent president nor an acting president can lead Nigeria out of the present situation.Nigerian leaders must wake up lest the ship of state sink". Emeritus Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, July 10, 2017.
If the arena of an underperforming and clearly inefficient state is Nigeria's governance underbelly,its magnificent ,if sometimes docile civil society, is its most precious asset. Indeed, a future historian will ponder how a civil society with an eminent cast of characters and internationally acclaimed actors, end up ever so often with dysfunctional governments, populated by mediocrities, crooks and more than a fair share of legislators who have reduced governance to jestful, low grade entertainment. 
Given this backdrop, it is exciting to have the likes of Archbishop Anthony Okogie, quoted in the opening portion of this write up, speak out from time to time. Counterposing to our unending dance of the forests, a vision of an orderly, democratic society, in which inspirational leaders chart the path to greatness, Okogie now in his 80's, is no stranger to social and political alerts, addressed to our leaders, on burning national issues. Last year, he addressed an open letter to president Muhammadu Buhari, warning that widespread hunger and famine constituted clear and present dangers to the nation under his watch. 
The priest's latest intervention touched on several critical issues that have thrown the nation into a precarious balance, and a state of decided unease. The first, which he merely flashed, but did not discuss in detail concerns the political vacuum created by the president's protracted infirmity, and repeated medical vacations, in the context of the politics surrounding an Acting Presidency. It should be recalled that Buhari has now spent over 70days away from his job, at a London hospital, in what is becoming a medical odyssey, giving rise to several speculations about the exact state of his health.The opposition People's Democratic Party, notably Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose, and former Minister for Aviation, chief Femi Fani Kayode insists, without offering proof, that Buhari is severely incapacitated and possibly terminally ill. His handlers, on the other hand, maintain that he is recovering fast and might resume in a fortnight. No one seems to know for sure; what is clear however is that Buhari's doctors have not given him a clean bill of health, that will enable him to return to his job.Okogie argues that the untidy situation and lame duck character of an Acting Presidency, complicated by the national question, suggest that in a season of growing disquiet, the country lacks the cohesiveness of clear and decisive leadership. 
There is nothing to dispute about the unsatisfactory nature of the current impasse, except to reminisce that it was an avoidable circumstance . Okogie eloquently raises other issues of pressing concern, such as the growing insecurity in the land, the melodramatic nature of the anti corruption struggle with its fascination with trial by media, rather than due diligence, growing socio-economic disparity between the super affluent rich and the miserably poor, as well as the feebleness of law enforcement institutions. To be sure, and as this columnist repeatedly argued, the famine of good and visionary leaders is not a Nigerian exception, but a global malaise. Look, for example, at the United States, which under a Donald Trump presidency, features a divided nation, a leader with an uncertain, sometimes laughable grip on foreign policy, a rapidly eroding public approval rating, in the context of an economy where the upper 10% are splendidly and obscenely wealthy, in comparison with the rest of the population. By some estimates, Trump is projected as the most unpopular president in American history, despite a diminishing but sizable number of true believers in his style of anti politics. 
Do you want to cross the Atlantic and look at post Brexit Britain? An election called by the Prime Minister, Theresa May, to increase her parliamentary base, and strengthen her hand in impending negotiations around Brexit,turned into a nightmare and a reversal of her party's fortunes. Uncertainty rules the roost as the combination of repeated terror attacks, diminishing economic growth and a neo-Thacherite roll back of the welfare state, take centre stage. Would you want to visit Latin American countries, such as Brazil, Venezuela, and Mexico?There, popular agitations and protests over corruption, cronyism and the incompetence of state officials are notable features. The promises of developmental Utopias, very much in the air, a decade ago, had gone unfulfilled; while the gains of neo-liberal reforms had been eroded by state incompetence, bureaucratic corruption and the downturn in commodity prices in the world market.Neither socialism, wearing a democratic badge, nor neo-liberalism, have availed for these countries, some of which are far slipping into ungovernability. 
I make this point, not to excuse the slovenliness and laxity at home, but to throw in a global perspective on our leadership failures, as observed by Okogie. Engrossing is what the priest had to say about growing insecurity across the nation, rapidly flickering pass the danger mark.Listen to him,"We have the police and the military;we have assorted security agencies with exotic names. Yet, Nigerians are robbed and murdered in their homes, abducted on the streets, at the mercy of gangsters, ritualists and cultists, in their neighbourhood, while the police are helpless to the point of non-existence". This brings up the paradox of a state, in this case, a semi democracy that is authoritarian without being authoritative, as Ali Mazrui once observed, featuring a security infrastructure that is bloated and visible, but fails in the capacity to deliver on it's core mandate, namely the protection of lives and citizens. 
How did this come about? A recent report indicating that the police had not paid its staff for a couple of months, forcing its rank and file to beg, is instructive. There is too much focus on appearances and externalities, rather than the substance and efficiency of good governance.For a nation in the throes of a demographic revolution, resulting in an upsurge of the youth population, it is scandalous that we lack a credible youth policy, and that we both underpay and sometimes starve security institutions, which are expected to maintain a vigil over the fall out of an exploding youth segment. 
To slow down descent to anarchy, we must go back to the drawing board, in order to firm up national security, and to socialise the youths by tackling unemployment, and providing amenities, including decent education, that will absorb the ingrained restlessness of our youths. 
I do not agree with the priest regarding his take that because poor leadership marginalises all Nigerians, the hue and cry about marginalisation of some ethnic groups are uncalled for.There is a relationship between leadership mediocrity and the national question; it is this relationship and inability to confront the national question, that have made it easy for daring crooks and nonentities to become notable politicians.Once we resolve the national question by renegotiating the terms of association of the nation state, it will be easier to resolve the leadership crisis.
Overall, Okogie has raised interesting issues in a direct and forthright manner. It is worth our while to ponder his thoughts.

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