USAfrica: Despite Nigeria’s rhetoric, rebased economy cannot turn around its debased circumstances. By Oseloka Obaze

 Despite Nigeria’s rhetoric, rebased economy cannot turn around its debased circumstances. 
By Oseloka H. Obaze
Special to USAfricaonline.comCLASSmagazine,  and USAfrica multimedia networks, Houston. Follow,
Clichés are clichés, whether spoken in English , French, Igbo, Hausa or in Tagalong in the Philippines, Swahili in Tanzania, Annie in Malaysia, Amharic in Ethiopia, Jean in Brazil or Arabic in Bahrain. Clichés convey meanings,  rarely distinct, but oftentimes ambiguous. Oseloka_Obaze-SSG-Anambra-State-320x480
In Nigeria, clichés rule; be they political or societal. But cliches remain what they are: a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.”
Even as Nigeria marks its centenary, for many the nation itself is cliched – and thus to some, remains a mere geographical expression despite existing for 100 years as an entity.  This  noncommittal disposition to the commonweal gives vent to a sense of drift, which renders the notion of a united Nigeria an oxymoron as evidenced by the high din and dichotomy dogging the ongoing National Confab.
Our altered national circumstances is inauditable. We are at war. Yes, Nigeria is fighting a debilitating war against itself.  Prof. Obi Nwakanma, that erudite scholar and pundit might have said  it best, when not long ago, he noted that Nigeria was fighting “a war of values”.  We are also at war against Boko Haram and all similar dissembling mindsets. But more disconcertingly, we are fighting a war of words; using clichés to subjugate our debate of critical national issues, including our collective security.
If one were an alien and  confronted with considering some reports in our national dailies and the prevailing discourse, only one meaningful conclusion could be drawn; that Nigeria may be trending towards total anarchy.
Indeed, that prognosis had been rendered some years back. Now it seems that it is Nigerians who through their apocalyptic rhetoric, are pushing to make the forecast of Nigeria’s disintegration by 2015, a self-fulfilling prophesy. Indeed, some had gone as far as suggesting that holding a national dialogue would destroy Nigeria. How tendentious? Perhaps, that is why President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan enunciated his doctrine of “article of faith” premised on love for one another.
Arrive at the present. We behold spiraling violenc, crime, greed, corruption, child trafficking, kidnapping, a diametric loss of a sense of value of life, and all these capped by our leaders and prominent people behaving discernibly badly.  Most of our leaders merely exist in name not in commitment. Hence, they lack the clear-eyed resolve to lead purposefully.
Other variants of crisis  and conflicts abound -all internal and distractive.  What is more troubling is the seeming loss of hope, resignation and the incremental use of fighting words in our body politics.  Such a stance is removed from the challenges fostered by realpolitik.
Inside and outside governance circles, it seems the nation has been reduced to a catchment of feuding factions.  Even the ruling party and the Nigerian Governors Forum are not spared the scathing.  The sacred chamber of the National Assembly was turned into an arena for pugilism. If the nation is so oblivious of its worsening state, the emergence of the G7 governors should be a pointer. It should in the least, trigger a serious national debate which justifies the National Confab.
As the nation is held hostage, it’s universities staff and students were for long sequestered at home due to failure of collective and collaborative negotiations.  As I write, Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics ( ASUP) and College of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) disputes linger.
What is perhaps most vexatious is that variants of the national lexicon signifies no urgency or induced stress, but for the fact that federal allocation to states are continually dwindling and such reductions are being explained away with unconvincing sound bites.  No matter how far we rebase our economy, we cannot turn around our debased circumstances, absent the required political will. Under the present circumstances, probes are just probes; in name only.
But we are already in full blown crisis mode.  Our children are at risk, be they in school, church or in a public park. Our challenge is discernibly incremental; but who is conting? The distraction of  prep-2015  politics only mask our challenge.  Ironically, there is an increasing tendency to use obfuscating words to douse our worsening situation, or conversely exacerbate it.
Words are powerful. Fighting words are extremely powerful and even destructive. Such words may be clichés, but they are real and are being internalized and interpreted in various quarters. What should catch our attention, is that how clichés are used routinely in a society often determines their influence, for good or bad.
It is axiomatic that a society creates crimes and people commit them. Hence, what a society frowns on, is frowned on and what a society condones, even tacitly, is condoned.People gather at Balogun market two days before Christmas in central Lagos
The absurdities of a society like ours, is the profound capacity to use clichés to define our national ethos. What we say, is who we are.  Undoubtably, Nigeria is facing immense national security challenges, be it the scourge of Boko Haram or the pervasive criminality of kidnapping. Mainstream unemployment is debilitating.  What we ought to be asking is: how do we make ourselves resilient?
Recently I read a line somewhere that was synoptic in capturing our national dilemma. Revealingly, it said that “the tragedy of our national life is that both governments and society suffer from collective inertia.” How true and how revealing?
This piece is slightly abstractive. But the issues it grapples with are real. As a nation given to playing ping-pong or sectionalizing critical national questions, it is troubling that even our academic experts and pundits are not focused on the emerging lexicon that all seem to point to Nigeria’s disintegration.
Some seem to accept that possibility as a fait accompli. Others, it seems, hide under the convenience of obfuscating language and clichés.   What we all seem to overlook is that mainstream, pedestrian or noble clichés, have illuminating and well as subjugating powers.  Errant clichés, when repeated often, become dictums and guiding ethos that are generally acceptable.
So, whether we speak of greed, corruption, violence against the state, subversion or treason, we can hardly discuss those issues coherently, if the intent of every writer or speaker is to fend for their sectional interest.
When a while back President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan said the nation could not negotiate or grant amnesty to “ghosts”, he was lampooned. Even though he spoke figuratively, ghost barbs soon flooded our media.
Recently, one commentator said it was absurd to discuss treason in relation to MOSSOB, while discussing amnesty for Boko Haram.  Along with MEND both entities, to certain degrees, do not wish corporate Nigeria well.  Their respective resort to violence and indiscriminate destruction of public and private properties and lives may vary, but these are not what a united Nigeria should be grappling with as it marks it’s centenary as a political entity.
Still,  we have other challenges that should give us pause since they can’t be wished or talked away; read rising human trafficking, booming baby factories, kidnaping, oil theft, rape and defilement of minors, inter-communal clashes and violent rifts between farming communities and nomadic fulani herdsmen; the latter are increasingly foreigners.
Perhaps, Nigeria itself has become a clichés in our minds, or in concrete terms, “a mere geographical expression” as has been adduced by some.
And there is the values dimension of how our nation is being strangled by bad leadership and flawed policies.  Take for instance the issues of pardon or clemency, and what is now the vexing issue of plea bargaining.  Of the latter, we did not invent it.  What was required of us, was to understand it’s applicability fully, before copying and implementing it.  We did exactly the opposite.  Now, people say plea bargain is a ruse and an affront to the nation.
Some of those in power have gutted and bastardized the plea bargain process, in order to whittle down its effectiveness and create precedents, that may be applicable to them if they are ever found wanting after they leave office.  Hence, as it stands, the plea bargain process has become the tool of the elite rather than a public service and juridical tool meant to serve common cause.
But as a judicial and law enforcement tool, plea bargain, in countries like America retains an eminently useful place in law.  For our part, we have reduced it to a cliché with a view to subverting its very essence and relevance. As someone noted, “a petty thief is never offered plea bargain in Nigeria…  As we know, he gets a mandatory six  months sentence that someone who stole billions of Naira would get.”
“Pardons are for sinners.”  This is the ultimate sound bite and cliché. True, as it may be, you cannot equate someone who committed unintentional manslaughter and someone who committed premeditated culpable homicide.  And you cannot offer both the same level of consideration of pardon.
Clearly, how we are treating the discourse on plea bargain and pardons, reveal the subjugating powers of our clichés. We cannot say we are committed to curbing greed and corruption and go ahead to diminish licentiously the culpability of those who have already been found wanting.
What message are we sending?
Unquestionably, there are critical systemic gaps in our governance structures.
Recently I’ve read pieces in which the disagreement between the presidency, the Senate and the House over the Excess Crude Account (ECA) and benchmarks were characterized as exhibition of “lawlessness and impunity” — indeed very revealing terms for qualifying our leadership.  Take for instance this line, “… This is an administration that has it’s mantra in the rule of law, but relishes in illegality.”
Nigeria has a surfeit of political and mainstream clichés and semi-clichés. Depending on their usage and context, these clichés are all self-serving. But in general terms, they  point to our existential realities as a nation.  Deciphering Nigeria and her illuminating clichés would make for a rich, introspective and revelatory dissertation, more like.
Notable topical clichés include, “sectional marginalization”,  “resource and power sharing”,   “political empowerment”  “heating up the polity” , etc.
Clichés can be positive and illuminating. There are notable examples. When on 1 January 2009, Governor Peter Obi returned schools back to missions, he vowed to “turn education in Anambra around.  Time has borne out his clichéd vow. For three years in a row, Anambra came up tops in the WAEC and NECO examinations.  The just announced 2013 WASSCE  and NECO results again saw Anambra ranked as number one in the nation.
Recently, Anambra State declared “zero tolerance for crime and criminality”. That too is a cliché; except for the fact that Gov. Willie Obiano is making good on his promise to rid Anambra State of criminals, miscreants and deviants. Inspector General of Police, M.D. Abubakar lauded the Obiano’s war on crime, because as he noted, security of lives and property is a constitutional dictate. So we may well apply another cliché; “if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime”. This ought to apply to scofflaws other than those involved in violent crimes — tax evaders, 419ners, etc included.
At the national level, we have plugged into the wealth and GDP cliché. “Nigeria is a rich nation” or “Nigeria has the largest Economy in Africa.” How so amidst debilitating poverty and it’s deleterious consequences?
Mr. President has done the right thing in calling for a National Conference and commencing the process.  There are many challenges relating to modalities, substance and the envisaged outcome.  The end may not even justify the means. These challenges notwithstanding, such a dialogue, which essentially should underpin our democracy, is long overdue.
For now, we must admit that the unwitting use of clichés is undermining our honest and constructive national political discourse.  The bootom line is that rethinking Nigeria must not be in negative terms or even premised on the discontinuance of the nation. Thinking this way subjugates rationality. Nothing adverse could come from Nigerians talking to each other frankly.
All said, it would be perhaps only proper to end this piece with a cliché, which hopefully will illuminate rather than subjugate.  We need to look closely at how we discuss critical national interest issues in Nigeria.  Otherwise we may regret it.  “Better safe than sorry”. Yes, that too, is a cliché.
*Oseloka H. Obaze is the Secretary to the Government of Anambra State of Nigeria.




MANDELA & ACHEBE: Footprints of GreatnessForthcoming 2014 BOOK: In this engaging, uniquely insightful and first person reportage book, MANDELA & ACHEBE: Footprints of Greatness, about two global icons and towering persons of African descent whose exemplary lives Mandela_Achebe_book-by-Chido_2013_cover-Lrsand friendship hold lessons for humanity and Africans, USAfrica Founder Chido Nwangwu takes a measure of their works and consequence to write that Mandela and Achebe have left “footprints of greatness.” He chronicles, movingly, his 1998 reporting from the Robben Island jail room in South Africa where Mandela was held for decades through his 20 years of being close to Achebe. He moderated the 2012 Achebe Colloquium at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.“I’ll forever remember having walked inside and peeped through that historic Mandela jail cell (where he was held for most of his 27 years in unjust imprisonment) at the dreaded Robben Island, on March 27, 1998, alongside then Editor-in-chief of TIME magazine and later news chief executive of the CNN, Walter Isaacson (and others) when President Bill Clinton made his first official trip to South Africa and came to Robben Island. Come to this island of scourge and you will understand, in part, the simple greatness and towering grace of Nelson Mandela”, notes  Chido Nwangwu, award-winning writer, multimedia specialist and founder of, the first African-owned U.S-based newspaper published on the internet, in his first book; he writes movingly from his 1998 reporting from South Africa on Mandela.   Long Live, CHINUA ACHEBE! The Eagle on the iroko.                     FULL text of this tribute-commentary at click link ACHEBE Lives As an Immortal Writer In Our Hearts and Minds. By Chido Nwangwu.                USAfrica, May 22, 2013: ThisDay  Sunday May 26, 2013. ——–   Eight lessons of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. By Chido Nwangwu, Publisher of USAfrica multimedia networks, Houston. —— Margaret Thatcher, Mandela and Africa.  By Chido Nwangwu, Founder & Publisher of USAfrica, and the first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet Click for newscast video of London-based SkyNEWS, the global, 24-hour British international tv network’s interview with USAfrica’s Publisher Chido Nwangwu on April 11, 2013 regarding this latest commentary ) There’s a compelling political trinity to Nelson Mandela: the man, the messiah and the mystique. ——- —— Obama’s Africa agenda, our business and democracy. By Chido Nwangwu, Founder & Publisher of USAfrica and first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet —— Margaret Thatcher, Mandela and Africa.  By Chido Nwangwu, Founder & Publisher of USAfrica, and the first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet Click for newscast video of London-based SkyNEWS, the global, 24-hour British international tv network’s interview with USAfrica’s Publisher Chido Nwangwu on April 11, 2013 regarding this latest commentary ) Dancing with “ghosts” of BOKO HARAM, President Jonathan, Sultan Abubakar and Nigeria’s national security. By Dr. Chido Nwangwu —— Why Obama’s late to symbolic, historic meeting with Mandela.  By Chido Nwangwu. POPE FRANCIS, champion for the poor and evangelistic dedication’ by Chido Nwangwu




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