RENEWING THE MILITARY

Famed for peace keeping, with its peace keeping missions around the world, the Nigerian Army usually gets less credit than it deserves, especially because politics sapped its morrow. Lately, however, the military in Nigeria has been burdened with the first serious challenge to the territorial integrity of the country since the civil war of 45 years ago and has been faced with critical reviews. Is there trouble with and in the Nigerian military, or are those asking critical questions about performance being unfair to this institution that is rooted in the West African Volunteer Force. That service was erected by the British Colonial regime to advance the interest of the imperial authorities in a region in which colonial domination would indeed come to be limited by the exposure of Nigerian soldiers like my grandfather, who fought with the British in Burma and found the myth of racial superiority that was rationale for colonizing others, untenable?
One of man’s most basic of desires is the protection of his life. In pursuit of this ultimate good modern man has built institutions civil, such as the police, and those that apply ultimate force to overcome adversaries and ensure peace within its borders; the armed forces.
The Nigerian military was erected to play that role. It started out under the shadow of perceptions created by nationalists confronting the colonial authorities. Many of those stereotypes continued long past their time of relevance and truth.
One such myth is that it was a place for the rejects. As the primitive street gist goes, captured even in parade songs: he who has a soldier does not have a child; the army is for drop outs etc. We know for a fact that some of the best trained professionals in Nigeria today came from the military and are they drawn from so many fields and professions.

It was not surprising that the tradition laid down by the British in training, building of an espiril de corps, and professionalism was very much a feature of the Nigerian Armed forces. This is probably why they stood as surety for the civil order, sometimes intervening through coup d’états. It would fail to produce a Kemal Atatuk and do for Nigeria what Turkey’s military continues to do to date in that unique Guardian State arrangement.

Active civil society, in university students demonstrating at the time of independence against the Anglo – Nigerian Defense Pact severed early the unbiblical cord to the British establishment but that did not get in the way of the young army acquitting itself creditably in peace keeping in the Congo, barely after Independence.
A coup d’état by some of its rank in 1966 would drag it into politics and a major test of its corporate essence. In the end it would become fractured but manage to pull itself together to wage a civil war that lasted from 1967 to 1970.
I was in the conflict zone and as a young person in secondary school interacted quite a bit with soldiers at war and indeed survived being a statistic of the unsavory part of that campaign as I nearly got executed by soldiers near Asaba. But in the main it was a professional military even it was hurriedly expanded to prosecute the war.
The true heroism of the Nigerian military is in how it sacrificed enormously to save West Africa from becoming Somalia. Sadly, the Nigerian Armed forces do not get enough credit for the extra ordinary effort they made to save Liberia and Sierra Leone when the world looked away.
Hindered from their optimum from time to time by the politics the Army was enmeshed in at home, which meant watching out for coup plotters even among officers in the field with ECOMOG, and shipping out troops separate from their weapons until they arrive Freetown, the Army managed to save the Liberians and Sierra Leoneans from themselves. So why is such an army struggling in the North East and ‘maneuvering’ into neighboring countries, as well as being accused of unprofessional conduct that some suggest could be War crimes?
I am not sure I know the answers but I think it is time to look beyond the Obasanjo re professionalizing of the Army by sacking those who had held political positions, and moving a few things around, to asking hard questions about why morale is the way it is and how civilian leadership of the military can elevate rather than reduce the prestige of the institution. We also have to reflect on how we as a civilian population show gratitude for the service of our men in uniform. Let me begin with the last point.
I never cease to marvel at how civic culture has prepped the average American to a display of gratitude to men in military uniform. Flight attendants are warm in saying “thank you for your service” to people in uniform. Just as passerby acknowledge them and bus divers greet them will privileges. I wrote once about an experience flying one early morning from Washington DC to Atlanta and being surprised by this US soldier walking up to me and asking if I was who he thought I was. It turned out he was Nigerian - born US officer, a medical doctor returning from a tour of duty in Iraq.

He said he felt proud to meet me and wanted me take a photo with his family who would be waiting in Atlanta. It turned out I would be more proud to be walking up to the terminal in his company as people showered him with greetings and flowers. Hardly anyone passed us without saying “thank you for your service”.

We need to get our entire population solidly behind our soldiers when they get in harms way on our account. It motivates them and drives up performance. Currently they are made to seem like outcasts prosecuting a private war in the Northeast.

This challenge of united public support for the military, similar to the American experience at some point during the war in Vietnam is partly a failure of political leadership which has not forged common purpose for the people and a clear goal that is just in engaging the problems of the North East. Here the failure of the Northern elite to articulate how they owe it to their immediate constituency to work towards the progress of all, create a more inclusive and prosperous society and help fish out elements that obstruct progress and the common cause before they pollute culture, counts. It is also about how politicians at the center not only understand inclusion, but also how well they insulate the military from the divisive politics they have made a virtue of, and how they promote the military as in integrative national institution.

Then there are the internal issues in the military that affect professionalism. Now that the stereotypes of the drop-out in uniform are ancient history, with the Army as a highly educated leadership team, there remain a number of internal issues the military must master. It has to stop wasting huge investments in human capital with its early retirements. It needs to have stronger post – military life programs that reduce anxiety about quality of life after service which has added to corruption of officers in strategic positions in the military and it needs be more merit based as its old traditions before policization. In the past even officers like the present sultan of Sokoto proved themselves and rose on merit, with little advantage as a result of station of life conferred by birth. Many see too much outside influence in appointments to senior positions of command and promotions today. The army must then also expand ethics and patriotism training as part of a leadership and teambuilding culture that should dominate personnel development. Politics has allowed some officers that should not have made it past captain to become Generals and others who are natural generals to be retired as lieutenant Colonels. The bright young captain that fill the ranks today must be motivated and inspired differently. They should not be deployed on election policing duties where their values are abused and compromised as has been recent practice and, very importantly the prestige they earn should be as valuable as that of the top politician, successful business executive or senior bureaucrat so they can stay professional in contentment, knowing they can be counted among society’s ereme de la crème.
If the Army were to develop in that manner, they would have no trouble, when properly funded and given clear goals to flush out threats to our national security like the Boko Haram menace. Getting the required change to make such happen is the duty of all.

GENERATIONAL BETRAYAL IN PERSPECTIVE

Last Tuesday I went to visit the 9/11 Memorial, exactly 13 years to my last visit to the World Trade Centre in New York. That visit was 48 hours before the first aircraft was flown into the first tower to be hit in that terrifying terror event. And I went back in the company of a Nigerian who was at work when the first attack was executed but defied orders to calm down and ran so fast providence prevented his name from being the 3rd Nigerian to be listed among the fatalities of 9/11. The chilling effect of the visit, the first to that former place of work in the 13 years since the incident, by my host affected our reflecting memories of a horrific Nigerian civil war I experienced and on terror, once alien to Nigeria, but now common place, ceding parts of Nigerian territory to insurgents.
What struck me the most from returning to ground zero was not so much how America immortalized those fallen heroes but how the difference between great countries and the rest is how they draw strength from experiences, good and bad. I thought of fading memories of a horrific civil war I experienced and how the situation in the Northeast of Nigeria today is because an anti intellectual elite prevented itself and generations unborn from learning not to repeat such errors.
My recollections of 9/11 not only come alive because of how close I was to the experience and several other acts of terror but also because of a continuing inquisitiveness about human progress and how responses to events of history sustain the pursuit of progress and the common good.
When I visited in 2001 I did not know Victor Madubuko who worked for the New York Port Authority owners of the Building and was in there when the attack began. I visited with an American investment Banker friend who dropped me off at JFK to catch a flight to Europe heading home. I connected into Lagos the morning of 9/11 only to land in Lagos to the excitement of news that while we were airborne the attack on the United States had unfolded. Local media sought my reaction right on landing and I told them literally went from the twin towers to the airport.
Chatting with Victor who endured much post event trauma, as we walked through the exhibits, films and documentation in somber context we could not but notice the healing it brought him and how same cannot be said for the Biafra experience. I could feel same from visiting Pearl Harbor in Honolulu and such Presidential Libraries as the Truman Library in Independence Missouri which led Abike Dabiri and I to pledge to work towards a Smithsonian type Institution.
Americans draw lessons, strength and shared purpose from the capturing of this. I could feel it as US President Barak Obama prepared to unfold his strategy on ISIS on the eve of 9/11.

What is it about America that made 9/11 the great unifier and Chibok girls abduction the great polarizer in Nigeria? To my mind it is three things: leadership failure, weak civil society and anti- thinking political culture which makes it difficult for the elite to define the mission of their generation.
When the Washington Post publishes editorial commentary condemning the parody of #bringbackour girls by those who are campaigning for Goodluck Jonathan to be brought back in 2015 they capture the heart of these three points.
You have to be intellectually lazy beyond redemption not to see that the advert mocks the kidnap of the girls not found after four months and reinforces the view that Abuja never gave a damn about the girls. In truth few of the political opponents preying on the matter do either. An intellectually lazy and anti intellectual political class has managed to laugh off values that glue society together such that when foreigners dismiss governing in Nigeria and the Nigerian state as essentially a criminal enterprise for advancing self interest they may not be as uncharitable as they often are viewed by most of us. Until the dignity of the human person is central to how and why society acts that society will continue to be diminished.
Walking through the 9/11 Memorial it is easy to see how that is central to the American way and clearly why this has been perhaps the greatest nation in history. Compare to our civil war that took a few million lives. No serious memorial exists so the next generation is sentenced to repeat the error that led to it while the millions of American kids who come to these heritage sites are inspired to say never again.
Then come the role and place of civil society. The fight to forbid a commercial real estate on top of the foundation of the twin towers in one of the most expensive points of real estate on the planet is because strong civil society agitated that it was the burial place of many Americans and should be treated as hallowed ground. But where is civil s0ciety in Nigeria? Can the same civil society which cannot impose the simple life on public life and watch public officers abuse the commonwealth even as poverty ravages the land make politicians work with private enterprise and civil society to erect memorials of the type that help America heal and renew strength.
The absence of such reminders seems so obvious when one looks at the situation in the North East about which most are still in denial. Thankfully Washington stopped humoring Abuja lately when a visiting senior official asked that we come clean on the truth of the situation.
But the state of anomie in the North East gave notice. When radicalization was met with force under the military and the Obasanjo second coming some ended up in camps in Algeria. We failed to do the needful with ferrying back and detoxification even when state security agencies advised a certain course of action.
I added in unsolicited advice to security apparatchik the warnings from Robert Kaplan’s Coming Anarchy and West Africa’s gloomy future. Policy response was tepid because people in power in Nigeria seldom think long term nor are they accountable, as agents, to their principals, the people. Very importantly people in power are not put under enough pressure to do right by a well informed citizenry through civil society. Finally comes the big elephant in the room, leadership.
Leader set the tone of culture and a vision of tomorrow and culture shapes human progress. True leadership bind people and the shared values propel a single minded focus on overcoming obstacles to progress. For some reason Nigeria’s political elite seem to thrive in being divisive in pursuit of narrow personal power and material goals. This seems to be getting worse by the day as I cannot remember a time in history in which people in authority have had more divisive tendencies than today. The progressive loss of the North East is just one manifestation of a loss of attention by an elite focused on personal power and wealth rather than building strong institutions that make for nation building.
Why is Nigeria so challenged with finding in authority positions people who can give up self so the nation may make progress and draw from experiences like the civil war and the injustices that led to it to prevent Niger Delta Militancy and North East insurgency.

To conclude on the lessons from the American experience and how the promise of Nigeria can be reclaimed from what we could learn from the American journey, let us return to the 9/11 memorial. Emblazoned on the huge wall strip at the Memorial are the words of Virgil: No day shall erase you from the memory of time.
Those words essentially assure that those who are martyred for America’s sake will live forever. They are assured of immortality. But those who died standing up against injustice in the pogroms of 1966 and in Biafra have been forgotten and their graves deicrated. They seem to have died in vain. The 9/11 memorial inspires differently as it points to immortality

When soldiers know that this is what will be their lot rather than big boys at HQ sharing interest payments on unpaid allowances it is easier on morale and may help manuovres by troops from landing them in a neighboring country.
The promise of Nigeria has to a large extent been sabotaged by all of us who do not see the values of our shared humanity and when matters are beyond self serving interests for power. It is time for truth from all parties on the torbulence in the North East. Abuja must stop pretending it cares and really care for the sake of the misery brought on the millions who live there.
On the other hand the elite of the North East can not wish the problem to Abuja. It is their own local economy that is being incinerated as most of the south rocket into part of the fastest growing economies in the world.
Collectively we need to come to an understanding that all parts of Nigeria complement each other, endowing the country with a duty to pull off a flying Geese phenomenon of rising regional economies that should redeem a race that slipped up badly in the 20th Century. Even negroid people of triumphant America and elsewhere require genuine Nigeria Rising to fully feel their dignity.
Pat Utomi, Political Economist, and Professor of Entrepreneurship, is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership

The Paradox of Passion - Pat Utomi

Passion matters. Many great powers equipped beyond the capacity of weaker adversaries have failed to defeat those less advantaged ones. The case of the Americans in Vietnam shaped American policies for a generation. In commercial enterprise small-under resourced but passionate teams have outperformed hitherto dominant partners, the example of Canon versus Rank Xerox have stirred us in the face. Yet in matters of faith we are often reminded of the wisdom of faith and reason in embrace. Faith, which is passion of sorts, is so important but without reason we run the risk of being charlatans. Why is Africa shipping out of relevance again and Nigeria increasingly seen as strategically irrelevant? Is it lack of capacity or lack of passion?

The early 1990s were considered the years of afro pessimism. My friend Ebere Onwudiwe in his days as Professor in the United States produced a volume that has been a marker for the concept of Afro pessimism, the negative perception of Africa’s reality and prospects that negatively affected trade, investments and national prestige. Africa was experiencing some reversal on the phenomenon of Afro pessimism and growth began to pick up. New excitement came about Africa’s prospects in the wake of the 2008 global financial crises as Africa was seen as new frontiers from which new growth could come to the global economy. But that optimism, seems a little on the wane as the global economy recovered from the effects of rapid transmission of contagion from subprime mortgage risk bundles.

So the big question is do we lack the passion required to climb out of the rot? Some will tell you the problem in Africa is there is too much passion, too little rigor in how to do things right. So like the matter of faith and reason too much passion without the reason portion creates the paradox of much passion resulting in negative outcomes.

A good historical example may be the case of Mao Tse Tung’s Great Leap Forward. It was so much passion, too little reason and the ultimate development disaster. The passion in Africa leads us to the triumph of politics such that political considerations often lead us to sub optimizing. The waste of the recent National Conference in Nigeria being a good example. Two retired Generals who were participants at the conference told me in private past mortem conversations that the conference was a sore disappointment.

So where do we go if we are going to tap into the demographic dividend possibilities of now and make this Africa’s century?

Some call for a revolution. One of such people is the grand old man from the nationalist struggle days, the early days’ minister and later Ambassador to the United Nations Alhaji Maitama Sule. Each time we meet, he never fails to say ‘Pat, your destiny is to be Gandhi or Mao. Do not betray your destiny. This country needs a revolution and you should lead.

I have never been quite sure how he came up with me as a revolutionary leader, nor which he sees more appropriate for me, the non violent Gandhi legacy, which is closer to what I am disposed toward or the violent approach of Mao. But the thought flatters me and I am grateful for it. The real question is do the passions of revolution often produce the desired outcome.

In my last reflection I referred to the American Revolution and Niall Ferguson’s reference to the US constitution of 1787 as, the most remarkable effort at institution building and wondered the factors that helped it evolve.

In many ways it is still about the burden of a generation. In the Franz Fanon sense of every generation having to discover its mission and fulfill or betray it, we need to construct a sense of Nigeria going back to the promise of the 1950s and the founding fathers and then locate this generation in a vision of the realization of that new Nigeria. It ought to be a passionate enterprise but it should be fed by knowledge and commitment to the common good. In that lies a vision of man which recognizes our shared humanity which should be something that saves us from politicians who try to divide us on lines of ethnicity, religion and class.

If this generation can catch that vision it would give Nigeria the moral stature to pull Africa together and pull the continent race out of its poor location in that world.

This is why I feel buoyed by the news of a few people getting ready to contest gubernatorial seats in states like Abia which has been extremely unlucky with its elected governors. When people who have had success in their careers turn to elective office with the goal of serving or saving the people, the arena is elevated, whether they win or not. This kind of citizen duty will make for healthy doses of passion and reason.

Unfortunately the new mercantilism we are faced with throws up a private sector of indigenous and near-aken business people who instead of creating the civil society push for better governance to advance the cause of enterprise bank roll power for the transactional purpose of better access to economic rent, thus perpetuating weak institutions, arbitrariness and impunity. Rescuing Nigeria from the paradox of passion is not likely to come from these interested stakeholders in the way people like Douglas North have argued in their writings on institutions and economic development. It is understandable that revolutions are the answer for some people.

Whatever works, the bottom line is that Africa lost so much ground to the West during the course of the twentieth century that we cannot afford to leave governing to those not given to both passion, reason and rigor.

Pat Utomi, Political Economist, and Professor of Entrepreneurship, is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.

AND A CONFAB HELD - Pat Utomi

Those who convened it are celebrating that it did not collapse. Some think it achieved a few things of constitution making value. But very few think it was of any seminal value. Was the confab a waste, and if so why did it not live up the billing?

As with many things Nigerian, the truth is far more complex than is canvassed on the major sides of the cleavages generated on the subject. But discussing Nigeria, its troubles and failure to claim its promise, has become too frustrating for people whose primary goal is truth, because many who seek to advance a specific perspective, either to capture power, or wealth or to ingratiate themselves to power. are in full array, stalking those who do not praise sing their point of view, After years of striving to encourage an understanding of a culture of a market place of ideas that pay little attention to persons but to issues and options of choices on the issues I sometimes feel like not bothering. Still the nature of the stakes for a conclave such as the National conference, make a review of such a conference an imperative of being.

Let me begin with a caveat about the idea of a national conference. There are those who have opposed a national conference, seeing such as an invitation to break up Nigeria, while others have insisted that a national conference is imperative if Nigeria is not to fall apart in 2014. This is partly why some celebrate the conference having avoided a deadlock. I have always argued that talk is good, whether it be cheap or not. Sure action is better than talk but few actions come without talk. Action is the trail and tail of talk.

I actually promoted a ‘private national conference’ during the Abacha era. Serving as chairman of the planning committee of a conference hatched in collaboration with the then Secretary – General of the Catholic Bishops Conference, The Reverend Mathew Hassan Kukah, and Rev. Father George Ehusani and others we convened leaders of thought from across the breath of the country at St Leo’s Catholic Church in Ikeja and raised the big question – Quo Vadis Nigeria.

When in January 2012 the Nigerian summit group convened a summit to discuss prospects of a National conference, I was not only the convener of the summit but also the moderator of the summit discussion. I was therefore not opposed to a national conference yet I declared publicly that the conference, was likely to be a farce shortly after it was convened.

I actually started to convene on alternative conference networking with some key stakeholders like youth groups, the Bar Associations and professional groupings but had to slow down on that plan not to be misunderstood. I still believe such an addendum conference is necessary.

My trouble with the conference is in both the framing of the key questions, the constituting of the participants and the consequences of the incentive frame for the key issues of values and institution building.

Niall Ferguson in his robust excursion, in the book; Civilization. The West and Rest, the framing of the 1787 constitution of the United States of America is perhaps the most impressive project of institution building in history. I share in the positive hype of that effort and feel that its gain for the prosperity and stability the US enjoys today cannot be understated. What is lost in referring to that document is that beyond structure, it deals with fundamental values of the American essence. Our conference fails in not emphasizing enough the issues of values over structures and consideration of fiscal issues of monetary transfers to levels of government.

In many ways the emphasis of the conference in sharing and fiscal administration, the essence of the Richard Josephian Bureaucratic Prebendalism is a function of the kind of people who went to the conference. They were predominantly beneficiaries of a rent-seeking elite paradigm whose sense of self has been shaped by an entitlement mentality to economic rent.

This stock of membership of the conference, deliberately or inadvertently, focused on yesterday and the wounds of previous association rather than on the benefits from future engagement. The result is that we missed the point that the biggest challenge to progress for Nigeria is a collapse of culture and a consequent perception of Nigeria’s national character as a people of low integrity and low trust, quickly inclined to corruption and low rigor in public choice.

Being one active on the international conference circuit, I have heard it so frequently stated in subtlety and with glover off, that Nigeria is a country self-deceit which has lost its strategic relevance in Africa which you could not enter 30 years ago without seeking to know how it would react but which today does not really matter.

These views flow from both a sense for how little Nigeria realizes that oil that gave her a voice a generation ago, is of rapidly declining value and that it had failed to palley what it had in the past into a cache of soft power.

I had hoped that a conference which would include more of those who would run that future should have focused on the values that can win the future. Unfortunately the average age at the conference was closer to 70 than the 35 I had hoped for. The issue was not so much the chronological age of the confab membership but, to paraphrase a retort from one American presidential election, the age of the ideas of the people there, and the antecedents of their values.

More painful, for me is that the conference reinforces an increasing setting view that the Nigerian people are increasingly hostage to a political class so consumed in self-interest and self-love that the future of their own grandchildren, and of Nigeria matters little.

I listened to arguments that suggested the expense of nearly 17 billion Naira to offer comfort to a few invited to the conference at a time when such money, wisely applied, can show millions of people, a way past misery that dominates the Nigerian way, was about how to buy more time for those in power to do with the common wealth as it pleased them. That perspective is gaining more legitimacy by the day. Whether I agree with that or not it is part of the reality to consider and our history makes it difficult with certitude.

Where it is today, it would seem, the Nigerian people who have been in powerless in the face of political class that seized space in the error of 1998, as Abdulsalam Abubakar beat a hasty retreat, leaving a system without proper checks and allowing politicians pillage the state and amass fortunes that they have used to block entry into the space for citizens interested in progress.

One of the major national challenges of now which is a critical part of culture and the essence of national character but which the conference failed to engage is the colour of justice in Nigeria. Today when I see a person being tried or sent to jail in Nigeria I presume him or her to be an innocent who stepped on powerful toes and the prosecutors as the truly guilty, until further information orients me differently. Yet this is so fundamental a subject for the sense of society.

Speaking before the Nigerian Bar Association on several occasions I have lamented the embourgeoisement of the legal profession in which the commoditization of justice make lawyers think of the process as a game of money making in which “justice” goes to the highest bidder.  So lawyers collaborate with politicians to rob voters of their choice at elections and open society to extra constitutional search for solutions with a coming anarchy as its “gift”. Far from lawyers in Pakistan protesting for justice on the streets, Nigeria Lawyers are acquiescing to injustice in their air conditional SUV’s. It leaves Nigerian civil society with one option of appealing to the international community that it must help if the Nigerian people are to reconstruct national character with values that make us contributors rather than potential burdens on the global community.

One way that has been proposed is to make impunity and economic crimes by leaders anywhere and everywhere crimes against all of humanity. If people realize they are likely to go from Aso Rock or Cabinet positions in Abuja and gubernatorial chairs to trials at the Haque and a lifetime in jail, there may begin to emerge a new discipline in service that will better address the national character issues that the national conference failed to address.

Then there is the other fact that with conferences of this nature the process is far more important than the outcome. This is why the alternative plan I have offered would have two level conference. One would be at geopolitical zone level involving a spread of generations with people under 40 constituting 70 percent of participants. And we do not have to pay them any generous allowances. Delegations made up of 5% of participants from the geopolitical zones at a new mix of 60:40 in favor of those under 40 will meet at the Centre to focus more on the future and on values at the heart of national character than on how revenues are shared. If the emphasis is on how to create wealth, increase a merit order, care for the weak and build national pride we can hope for a nation we of the promise of the independence fathers.

Pat Utomi, Political Economist and Professor of entrepreneurship is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.

IS CIVIL SOCIETY TO BLAME - Pat Utomi

The failure, so far, to achieve the promise of Nigeria, the fractured and fragmented nature of Nigerian society and polity; and the leadership lacuna in Africa as a result of Nigeria’s declining strategy value, has been blamed on many things. Not often cited, yet determinedly central to all of this is civil society. How and why did Nigerian civil society, once so vibrant, go into snooze control while others swung to cruise control?

How did civil society which crystalized in colonial times as social networking resulted in horizontal linkages for the purpose of keeping power accountable and raising the voice of the voiceless. Labour unions got in on the act of protesting colonial dominations, as did women’s groups best known of which were the Aba women’s riots, and the work of Margaret Ekpo and Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti among others; and the community development associations, too. More recently than those roots in the colonial era, civil society was key to the military deciding that the cost of holding on to power was far too much, resulting in the hasty retreat in 1998.

So how come that civil society is watching politicians fixated on power polarize society so much. Why is that some society unable to be a strong enough embankment on the assault of poverty on the dignity of most Nigerians; and why has the work of that civil society not put doubts in people’s minds about ethnicity as a paramount basis of choice when other values could better shape the so called David Eastonian ‘’authoritative allocation of values’’ in Nigeria.

So much surely, has been taken away from what Nigeria could be, knowing that values shape human progress, if civil society has been enough pressure point to make the arena of choice one in which the right values determine both those who make decisions and the right values being at the core of the decisions. It is therefore not acceptable anymore that civil society continue to play Pontius Pilate in accusing politicians and the Private sector of all kinds for how Nigeria fails to claim its promise.

Let us take a few of the examples where strong civil society could have helped contain the conducts that are debilitive of progress. One prime area is the insurgency in the North East. But before that let us turn to an ever present issue of the nature of the market place of ideas, so central to effective working of democracy.

One of the areas civil society could have been of historic value is in checking abuse of the public square.

There is so much untruth being poured out through both traditional media and social media at citizens not equipped to appropriately interrogate material in the public space and find meaning.

Whether it be on TV or social media surrogates and avatars for entrepreneurs of power across parties and levels of government are posting accomplishments that range from outright lies to myths being reified into concrete form. They are also promoting ideas that divide rather than unite people and even more frightening they are promoting a new mercantilism in which rent champions masquerading as entrepreneurs are forging coalitions with politicians to exploit the people and create a new servitude citizenship.

Much of these have ominous consequences for the future yet no source of wisdom is interpreting these times to the less well equipped in a country without contending Think Tanks. This should be the domain of civil society, But that space is sparsely populated today.

When 21 years ago a group of us responded to national crises and founded The Concerned Professionals, we gave new voice to the enlightened and helped part of society less well equipped an alternative prism through which the world of that time could be seen different from the fabricated reality offered by those who sought to manipulate people so they could have power to use as it pleased them, away from the common good.

Nigeria has never more needed such civil society as it does today. But where are the professionals or the Bar Association for that matter. I have said as often as Lawyers invite me that one of the biggest threats to the rule of law in Nigeria is the embourgeoisement of Lawyers. Justice seems to be a distant second place to money in the motivation of today’s lawyer in Nigeria.

Then there is the big problem of poverty, crime and insurgency activities associated with the desperate poor and this looming anarchy. Could civil society not have pressured policymakers earlier to watch the pattern of income creation and distribution?

Not having built up consistent and sustainable civil society has brought great harm to our democracy, making it less responsive to the needs of the people and accountable.

As German Chancellor Angela Merkel said recently of Russia one of its greatest to make democracy work for it is the building up of civil society.

There is ample evidence that the Worlds thriving industrial democacies tend to have more vibrant civil society. Our experience of recent provides lots of examples of how poop civil society frustrates pursuit of the promise of Nigeria.

The examples are legion but it seem the pertinent question is how do we give new impetus to civil society and social enterprise. I founded the Centre for Values in Leadership partly for this reason and I am searching still for ways to celebrate men and women who seek to change the world through social enterprise.

I find that age, education and exposure matter in the pursuit of social causes. It is not accidental the adage says if at 18 you are not a Marxist, something is wrong with your heart but if at 40 you are still a Marxist, something is wrong with your head. Youth is the age of idealism. This is why the decline of the student movement and the domination of campus politics by Prado driving students bankrolled by politicians highlight our decline. In my time as an executive of the students union at the University of Nigeria it was unheard of that political actors influenced us.

Pat Utomi, Political Economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship is Founder of CVL.

EDUCATION BUILT TO LAST

Many years ago I was in Germany for the wedding of a German colleague. Impressed by the church building which looked like it was rooted in antiquity I exclaimed; ‘remarkable old edifice’.

A German standing beside me informed me politely but just matter-of-factly: this church is not so old. It is only about 800 years old.

Seeing that my own Parish church in Lagos built about 1959 was being knocked down to be rebuilt, I began to approach him strangely. He then quickly added there were churches more than a thousand years old not too far away.

Those who built Loyola College in Ibadan some sixty years ago thought they were building an institution and turning boys into men prepared; in know ledge, wisdom and character to last forever. Yes men can last forever, what I have referred to in the past as the two, immortalities:- material and spiritual. In the material sphere, to touch lives and make a difference such that the person is remembered long after his body has become pure dust. Spiritual immortality comes for people of faith who get to see God face to face. But as Loyola College marks 60 years does today look better than yesterday, which is what must happen to everything designed to last.

St Ignatius of Loyola and Partners founded the Jesuits order, which has been described by one Jesuit as the 400 year old company that changed the world through being masters of education. Chris Lowney’s book show cases leadership lessons from the Jesuit tradition. Perhaps these lessons led the society of African Missions to set up Loyola College in Ibadan as tribute to St Ignatius of Loyola.

The SMA priests managed to set high standards. Back in the 1960s Loyola College was nicely referred to as Junior Varsity and back in those days when the Ashby Commission suggested it was easier to get into the Harvard than the University of Ibadan, almost entire classes from Loyola got into the College of medicine at the University of Ibadan.

Then suddenly populism came. I used to enjoy high banter with the late Chief Bola Ige in which I accused his Government of degrading my alma mater. When a group of us old boys including then Director General of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Apostle Hayford Alile, then Vitafoam MD Chief Sam Bolarinde visited for a home coming back in the 1980’s Apostle Alile’s son was puzzled that his father could have schooled in such an environment.

Yet it was an environment in which many of us had a time of our lives. In those days of the civil war, we the boys from the Midwest enjoyed the freedom our war front home state lacked. From the big boys like Tonnie Iredia and Emmanuel Idehen and the deep war front people like Chris Ogbechie, Edmund Egbumokhai, Charles Ugorji, Joe Keshi yes this same Ambassador Keshi and serious troublemakers like myself it was a family. Even the Etomis who kept getting my messages later in life because many cannot tell between E and U added to the fun of Junior Varsity days.

Will the old boys return, like Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Loyola. It has to begin with Government letting go. Returning the management of the school to its original owners will aid the process of getting the old boys to live the pledge in their anthem

Loyola Loyola the Best in Everyway

Loyola Loyola will always win the day

We are students from a college that is in Ibadan town

And we have promised not to

Let that College down.

It stands for truth and Knowledge

And it stands for wisdom

Too………

A promise not to let the College down and a promise to match in truth must be a promise to arise, go forward and rebuild the walls of Loyola College so that another generation can enjoy the disciplined, quality education we got back then.

It used to be tradition that families who sent children to schools with great tradition ensured generations stayed faithful. In our time we had the Etomis, Runsewes, Ogunlesis, Adetibas across generations. But how many of us have had our children return. My own children turned to the new Loyola built in Abuja by the Jesuits. But our grandchildren can return if the government collaborates with the Catholic Church and the old boys for a Loyola restoration project.

I hope my dear friend, the Governor of Oyo State would do the needful to put us old boys on the spot to make that happen. I assure him the legacy effect will be bigger because a predecessor, Lam Adesina, a Loyola old boy, failed on that score. I had expected he would do what an old boy of my other Secondary School CKC Onitsha, did, Peter Obi set CKC on a sure path of restoration with the policies of his tenure.

At a time when education is the simple biggest competitive advantage of nations, it should be the top priority of political leaders to find the magic the Jesuits have worked these last 400 years. It seems to me that a good place to start is making the tribute the SMAs offered to that Jesuit founder, St Ignatius of Loyola Whose feast day we celebrated with relish on the 31st of July every year in those wonderful days when Ibadan was the largest city in West Africa and those of us who came from that coastal capital of Lagos proud to return to Lagos on holidays from a true centre of culture, Ibadan. PU

Very often many lament the Nigerian condition but are at loss about what they can do to change things beyond lamentations and blaming others. Pursuing the redemption of our school system is one sure area all can do their bit. Starting from our old school is a sure bet.

If every Nigerian who got a decent education can commit a certain number of hours and a certain percentage of income to their old schools to get the infrastructure, environment and equipment of study right and even spending time as group tutors and even as additional teaching hands, the school redemption process will be on the way.

In one of my social projects I get a multinational that has top engineers with strong physics and mathematics backgrounds to volunteer just two hours of those people to help out in the school close by. Given current teacher quality you can imagine the difference. Old boys can do same and do it with more passion. For Loyolans that would be one way to be the best in every way.

Pat Utomi, Political Economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.

ON THE INSIDE OF CORRUPTION

I have written enough columns and Op. Ed pieces on corruption in Nigeria these past 25years to make a book of decent read. But seldom have these explorations of the phenomenon dealt with cultural, psycho – social and spiritual counters to corruption. I was therefore quite excited to read a set of mantras by His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shanker, founder of the Art of Living movement.

The scourge of corruption has left damage so evident, and pain so palpable, that many have come to the view that containing corruption is considered key to peace and development. To some it has found its place into the DNA of public life in Nigeria, making the country not so appealing to many investors and the rump left behind challenged with sustaining structured progress as against a recursive mode of two steps forward, three steps backward. This in spite of endowments and talent aplenty.

It is instructive that while most of the rationalizations, explanations and focus of blame, for ravaging corruption, is external; such as poverty, weak institutions that make consequence low, and competitive consequence of conspicuous  consumption of my Mercedes is bigger than yours genre, a good deal of what makes for corruption comes from within. So much of the lasting interventions or corrections have to do with the inside. The most frequently cited inside – out property that is a bulwark against the evil of corruption is contentment. So what makes two people of similar circumstances act so differently in the face of temptation for corrupt gain? A sense of contentment makes one uphold his or her dignity while the lack of contentment in the other drives what is then manifested as greed; just a little more, as Carnegie was said to have said, when asked how much is enough.

It is in the realm of these issues that Guruji, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar shares some words of knowledge and wisdom. He makes the cogent point that ‘a lack of connectedness breeds corruption in the society’. He gives this as reason why corruption is lower in the villages than in the cities. Indeed this point is a fitting reinforcement of one of the more seminal pieces to come out of Nigerian political science, Peter Ekeh’s “Two Publics” which explains why a Nigerian who would not dare steal a dime from his village union purse, has no qualm carrying away as much of the federal treasury that comes his way. He lives in two contending civic cultures. One, to use the Sri Sri’s language, is more connected. In Guruji’s own words “Half a century ago, a person would feel very secure when he had a lot of friends. Friends were his constant social support system, so he was not easily corruptible. He did not depend on just a few bills to get by. He said to himself, “There are people around me who are going to help me out” Today due to lack of connectedness you fear whether your own children are going to care for you or not. Because of this sense of isolation everywhere, the only feeling of security you find is in telling yourself ‘ok, amass more wealth’ and you keep it all in your personal account. Money has become the sole source of security”

The tragedy is that as policy failure and other upheavals shake people’s security in the corruptly gained money it triggered greater corruption to consolidate. Civil servants who lost lots of money in the stock market simply stole more to recamp. Then the security goes to social perception of how much you have and more obnoxious conspicuous consumption, like Private Jets, become the craze and the huge costs of maintaining those result in even greater corruption until a point where the Army of the unemployed, impoverished further because these competing rich are not creating jobs as their money is from corruption, and is hidden from investments spark off social anomie. The anarchy predicted, then comes, with all as victims. The corrupt can flee, but few are welcoming of them and their end may just be as welcomed as the case of Mabutu Sese Seko or Nikolai Ceausescu. (more…)

THE KIDNAP OF PUBLIC CONVERSATION

It is so hard to be a Nigerian today. In few arena is this more true than in the realm of citizen duty called public conversation. In many ways the public square has been abducted and is hostage.

As Chibok abduction of young school girls began to generate civil society reaction, I was excited that revival was underway for a part of modernity that was so inadequate in the public arena. But my top priority was the safety of the young women and the anguish of their parents and other relatives and dear ones. In some ways I saw it also as an opportunity for leadership to pull together our fractured society around a common cause.

I held my breadth as I hoped a leadership lesson I teach young people at the Centre for Values in Leadership would gain play. At times like we were approaching, I had often thought them, true leaders rally people across the many divides that can plague organizations, business or political life. People like Abraham Lincoln overcame by doing that, and is celebrated in discussions of the idea of a cabinet of rivals.

Each time reporters called me for attribution on aspects of the crisis of finding the girls I tried to maintain a line that we should first of all be statesmen and focus on getting the girls home, focusing on our shared humanity. Appropriately, as is their duty to find the angle that titillates, they ask if the Government’s handling of the matter has not been inept. I had to remind myself of one view of the news report, from my undergraduate days, that sees it as the ‘scintillating titillation’ of some of the days events. It was not abnormal that they were fishing for attribution to show the government was competent. I as opposition person it should have been music to my ears. So the effort to draw me into mauling the government where it was most vulnerable was normal. But I suggest we should first, think our humanity, our country and get our girls out before apportioning blame on conduct.

But the spirit of public conversation was far too partisan, so so emotive, and sometimes so unable to focus on the key objective, get the girls home. From across the divide of those for who it was one more piece of evidence of how hopeless things were, to those who will invent anything to show that everything is in the imagination of the enemies of the regime, the lines they pursued polarized without throwing light on anything. (more…)

WHEN A STATE LEFT THE UNION

The National Assembly raved and ranted but failed to reflect, when the erroneous report that a foreign government scenario planning report suggested Nigeria would break up by 2015,made the rounds a little over 10 years ago.

Today many are saying we have worked ourselves straight to the result. Some now say Jonathan could be Nigeria’s last president as they expectArmageddon in 2015. One thing is evident though, one state has almost taken leave of Nigeria. But who is to blame? The bad but true answer is all of us. The trouble of Nigeria is a failure of citizenship.

To start with, no one said Nigeria would break up in 15years that is by 2015. A routine 5 yearly survey of trends around the world for United States strategic planning was ostensibly the source of these speculations. The report hinted 14 years ago that Nigeria’s declining influence and degrading institutions, which if unchecked, would within 15 years, place Nigeria in failed state status

There are many who look at the so called failed state index and can conclude that the prediction already came through. But, in some ways, the idea of a failed state as a definitive destination and a point of collapse, as science would for example define boiling point under standard temperature and pressure, is neither here nor there. In ways the failed state idea is an emotive point used to make those not in conformity with some parameters of modernity feel a sense of shame. That notwithstanding, the truth is, no one said Nigeria would break up in 2015

As one of the global thought leaders assembled in Stockholm by the peace research institute in Stockholm, SIPRI, a few years later to consider the successor report, I know that it is not about predicting break up, but it is an indicator of great faltering. Nigeria had faltered. Its influence had waned.

So how come we are all responsible for where we are. I recall now a number of quotes I have used to rouse people to become citizens, get involved. The most frequent goes back to World War ll and the Reverend Martin Niemoller .First they came for the Jews and I said well, those Jews are trouble makers. Then they came for the Communists and I said, thank God I am not a Communist, then they came for the Catholics and I thanked my stars I was a Protestant. When they came for me there was no one left to speak up.

I have also often turned to Dante’sInferno, reminding that the hottest part of hell is for those who in moral crisis take refuge in neutrality. Again we draw from Martin Luther King Jnr who reminds us that in the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.

I think Nigeria lies prostrate because of the silence of its citizens not the guns of Boko Haram, or the voice of the foreign media. And part of it is in what the state invests in trying to ensure the silence of citizens. So how can we better educate power to understand how it’s greater interest is better served by an open, critical society.

I listen in on the cacophony of now and I hear the deafening silence of the elders, those you will call elder statesmen, elsewhere. I hear the hum of the murmur of business leaders and I see the Abacha era all over again. I hear the voices of those sponsored by state actors to muffle the voices of citizens like the *BringBackOurGirls torchbearers; and those muscling all who dare ask how come the Leviathan fails in its primary duty of securing lives, property and the pursuit of happiness. The louder voices powered by state Treasury says ‘do not hold your elected representatives accountable for security’; you should instead hold accountable, it legitimizes a group of anarchist, threatening our civilization. What remarkable wisdom. It reminds me, at the level of economic analysis of how many development scholars first reacted to early writings of people like the MIT Economist Rudiger Dormbusch when they canvassed the idea of the open economy. Today those concepts are welcome. They are the reforms we all tout now. (more…)

THE DEATH OF LIFE

It seems so worthless here, life that is. There is hardly any day, these days, when the headlines do not trumpet the boldness of death unnatural. Violent death from the work of people who you have never had a quarrel with seems to define daily life now in Nigeria. How did it come to be so and what can the committed do to pull back from this brink.

Whatever may be the general thinking about why this orgy of violence is upon us the reality is that death is dancing on our graves and we are not trying hard enough to locate why our individual lives and collective being is so broken and traumatized.

It is important here to note that death is about more than the loss of life. There are very many walking deads laid waste by the culture of death which stokes us. Take the living in Jos after the bomb blast kills so many innocents.

Those who survive deal with the trauma of uncertainty, constantly looking over their shoulders waiting for where and when next. People too scared to go to market are quietly starving to death even as those who cannot transact the daily trading that is source of income, are too broke to have real life. And so we all die slowly. To fight back against, this death taking us hostage, we strongly need to die.

Die? How can dying save us from death? In Liberia the slang for give me a dash, is die small for me. True indeed it is that when you give up something you die a little, in a manner of speaking. A Nigerian priest travelling in Liberia during the civil war once gave a touching homily about policemen at a check point who said to him bossman, Oga, in Nigeria speak, die small for us.

To save us we must be willing to make sacrifice for truth. So what is the truth about why Nigerian life is worth so little that the daily news reports of so many being killed by Boko Haram bombs is now taken as one of those routines that people hardly blink when only a few people are killed.

If we are to get to the bottom of why all of this is norm we ought to talk about the fundamental problematic of the Nigerian Condition. This is the collapse of culture in which the general value system and dominant social ethos hold other things more valuable than human life. In Nigeria money and power at all costs, seem to have become prime desire. To get either, or both, people have been willing to suffer humiliation, betray trust and become numb to their shared humanity as they pursue the goal of money or power.

Politics is a classic vehicle for loss of a sense of life as the ultimate value. I first reflected deeply on this when about 20 years ago. I attended a meeting of Ohaneze Ndigbo in Enugu. As was the tradition, a selection of top of the class retired for caucusing and lunch atthe home of the then Governor of Enugu State, who at that time had just become a former Governor. At Dr. Okwesiteze Nwodo’s I was seated between some notables like a former Vice-President of Nigeria, Alex Ekwueme, Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu when in the cause of lunch one noted money man and politician quietly leaned across to me and said “you see all these people puffing up as big men, just wait for the military to blow the whistle for the resumption of politics and you will see them groveling at my home. When that time comes I will bring out a casket with a corpse and get them to swear allegiance to me and jump over the casket so they can get money for their campaign” (more…)