‘Creativity is ‘thinking up new things’, innovation is ‘doing new things’. In any society, there is no shortage of creativity or creative people; what is in short supply are innovators. These scarce people are the ones who have the know-how, energy, daring and staying, power to implement ideas.” – Professor Thomas Riskey Odhiambo
Like the Vietnamese attack on Cambodia on December 25, 1978, and subsequent occupation of the same till 1991, threatened Asean solidarity, so was the corporate existence of Nigeria, in the last few weeks, confronted by challenges that had their origin in the Federal Government’s proposed but now suspended establishment of Rural Grazing Areas, RUGA, across the states of the federation.
What is however different in the two similar but separate examples are that while the Asean crisis was creatively managed by innovative leadership, Nigerians were like sheep left in the image of their actions to fight for the reversal of the proposed programme.
Notably, in such a superficial exchange, we often lose sight of the real and lasting meaning rapped in the occurrence while allowing lessons to go with the political wind.
Aside from teaching us that as a people, there is little hope for us until we become tough-minded enough to break loose from the shackles of prejudice, half-truth, and downright ignorance, the RUGA challenge has further amplified the belief that our leaders have yet to internalise the consequences of our past failures or recognise that it requires a prolonged effort and productive collaboration to administer a country well.
Again, not only did it bring new awareness to the government that time has come for us as a nation to stop enforcing national unity but start promoting national unity. The RUGA debacle underlines the obviousness that some of the provisions of the nation’s constitution are not achieving its goals and objectives, and calls for examination to identify the non-performing aspect of the constitution in order to engineer a redesign or overhaul as Nigeria’s federalism remains so only in name–making restructuring not just imperative but also eminently desirable.
From what Nigerians are saying, a planned restructuring will be collaborative, systematic, but we need to redesign Nigeria, and keep it whole. A default restructuring will happen, certainly not by choice, but definitely, like an uncontrolled experiment with attendant risks and indefinite outcomes. The challenge confronting Nigeria now is that the long overdue restructuring will happen when the cost of not restructuring far outweighs the cost of restructuring.
Without a doubt, it is certain that Nigeria is in the dire strait that threatens our corporate existence, which Mr President must find the courage to take some dramatic steps that will douse the impasse.
Another basic lesson is that, like every other socio-economic issue which comes with intrinsic opportunities and challenges, the RUGA controversy on a personal note enlightened me that there existed some vital but silent concerns in the country.
For instance, before this, I, just like the vast majority of Nigerians, wasn’t aware that during the colonial days, a cattle route running from the North to the South was well-gazetted in this country. Though the use of such a document, many argue, has been invalidated by another but more recent document, the Land Use Act, that transfers all the land in the state to the governor of a state as a trustee for the real owners of the land.
Whatever the true positions may be, it was also within this space and time established that rearing of cattle is a private business just like every other. Aside, the undeserving silence maintained by Mr President all through the period that the discord raged is another grave problem that we must collectively condemn if we are to live in harmony. In fact, with that style of leadership, to think that he will in future creatively think up, or innovatively do something new to resolve similar challenges may be a sheer waste of time.
Though the programme has been suspended, why Mr. President’s approach remains a puzzle is that as far back as 1998, the head of state (as he then was), General Abubakar Abdulsalami, was quoted in the media as saying: “I believe that whether I like or not, the leadership of this country should be taken over by a different, honest, dedicated and credible person in the country. It is also inevitable and paramount for a credible but, trustworthy person to come in and contribute their own quota in leading the country to greater economic and political heights’.
Two decades after such expression of hope, instead of the honest, dedicated and credible person that Abubakar hoped to be around to creatively destroy the backward attitudes of our nation, here we are with a President who abandoned us to our fate in a period of national animosity.
And even as we focus on the enormous task of nation-building, those of us who believe in the unity of Nigeria may not agree with the campaign of any group or ethnic nationality to dismember Nigeria, but the truth must be told to the effect that the whole gamut of restiveness, whether in the South-East, South-South, North or South-West, and the resurgent demand for the dissolution of Nigeria stem from mindless exclusion, injustice, economic deprivation and leaders’ mindless expression of personal interest, cronyism and nepotism.
As an illustration, while President Buhari continuously mouths his determination to preserve the union, his inability to ensure that the 2014 confab report which could have taken care of this occurrence is implemented is doing the country more harm than good and quickening the disintegration of the country that is right now in its most fragile state since the end of the civil war.
To, therefore, straddle the middle ground and calm the polity, the Federal Government must learn to be the coach and not captain on thorny issues such as the rural grazing areas. It must also drop the attitude of enforcing national unity and creatively look for ways to start promoting national unity.
Finally, if we are able to manage the issue of restructuring the nation and other social menaces effectively and navigate out of the danger of disintegration, it will once again, announce the arrival of a brand new great nation where peace and love shall reign supreme. But, then, no nation enjoys durable peace without justice and stability without fairness and equity!
Jerome-Mario wrote in from Lagos, he can be reached by email HERE
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.