Memo to Buhari: A Lasting Reform For Nigeria

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By Lawrence U. Ekeh
The euphoria of electing General Muhammadu Buhari as President has now died down, but the expectation of Nigerians from him is still high. While in India on 29th of last month, President Buhari stated that he was fully aware of the expectations of Nigerians who elected him on the platform of change, integrity, probity and accountability. He further added that he was doing his utmost best to meet those expectations. I am glad he knows this. Actually, we expect President Buhari to make reforms but reforms are impossible without challenging established cultures.
His cardinal goals have been to stop corruption, insecurity and unemployment. We have so far seen his actions on corruption and in this memo, I am proffering a lasting solution on corruption. President Buhari’s success in Nigeria will blow a wind of change in other African countries. If he fails, I might as well accept the Afrikaans religious justification for racism against the black South African which goes like this – that the black people were the heirs of Ham, whom God has condemned to be the servants of servants because of a curse. (May I task my readers to search for Ham’s incidence in their bible). It made the Afrikaans to hold themselves aloof over the black people. It probably has made other nations in the universe to look down on the black race.
To prove the Afrikaans wrong that God has not cursed the black people; a black reformer has to come to change it all. Nelson Mandela came for the freedom of his people and succeeded. Today most African leaders are corrupt. The reformer has to come from the most populous African country. With Buhari’s past record and Presidential campaign promises, one expects him to be the reformer the black race has been waiting for. However, those who do have some doubts in his capability may say because Buhari is no longer in military uniform and that his ability to carry out reforms may be curtailed. To some extent, this is correct because he must operate within democratic principles.
On the other hand, it is not correct because other leaders in democratic systems have been able to reform their countries. A typical example is the one-time Prime Minister of Singapore called Lee Kuan Yew. Lee was a founder of modern Singapore whose austere rule turned the Island State into an “Asian Tiger”. A founder because he was at the heart of ferment against continuous British rule and in 1954 he pioneered formation of (PAP) People’s Action Party. By 1958 the British had cleared the way towards full self-government for them under a new constitution. In 1959 the PAP won the general election and Lee became the Prime Minister. From the beginning, he looked like no-nonsense leader. This is the way Buhari used to look 30 years ago. A BBC journalist Anthony Lawrence even described Lee as lacking in joviality. Lee ordered his ministers to be at their desks in shirt sleeves by 8am every working day and the civil servants were ordered to be more civil. Campaigns were launched against corruption and immorality and newspapers were warned not to be subversive. On personal behaviours, Singaporeans were subjected to fines for spitting, swearing, not flushing public toilets or allowing standing water in their gardens to attract mosquitoes. Drug traffickers and armed robbers were regularly hanged. With a modest personal lifestyle, people of Singapore emulated him especially as one of his ministers was made to resign after allegations of alcoholism and womanising.[pro_ad_display_adzone id=”70560″]

With such moral reforms and ruthless repression of union militancy, foreign investors were encouraged to come in. They built hi-tech factories, a number of foreign banks joined and new hotels were also built. The factories created job opportunities for the people leading to full employment year after year, hence the economy grew at a phenomenal rate. If Lee could achieve all these for Singapore under democratic system, there is no reason why President Buhari should not bring a profound social change to the country he loves.
When Buhari first came to power as a Military General, his aim was the same – to fight corruption. Corruption was even less 30 years ago. But he made a great impact in the governance of the country within the short time he was in power with his trusted subordinate, the late Maj. Gen. Tunde Idiagbon. Then people started conducting themselves well in Nigeria and bribery became a thing of the past. They even made attempt to spirit away one Nigerian (Umaru Dikko) in London, who was alleged to have taken our wealth abroad. But all the cultural changes they achieved then were short-lived when another military coup took over. As soon as he was overthrown, Buhari became a visionary leader without followers. So also will he become if he should achieve certain level of reforms during this his new people’s mandate without thinking of what happens after he had left the office. In other words those changes may also evaporate if a solid foundation is not built upon the changes.
I actually view the absence of good governance in Nigeria as a direct result of knowledge vacuum in the national educational curriculum over the years. You may agree with me that the educational system (both at secondary and university levels) has not placed emphasis or instilled moral values and particularly PATRIOTISM in the Nigerian society and her leaders.The little moral lesson children are given in secondary schools is rubbish and the content of sociology some students study at university level seem not to be enough to make impact on Nigeria society. I have strong belief that if we start inculcating patriotic sentiments into the youths at both secondary and university levels, the lack of good governance in our society will be minimised. It will not only guarantee good governance, national pride, unique identity with/among everyone but also revitalise the Nigerian Independence spirit and national solidarity which in turn will give Nigeria a better place in the world and consequently bring out the best in the leaders hence a lasting reform. Why not, America is more diverse and has more states than Nigeria yet they are united and proud of their country. How did they achieve it? Although credits may go to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln who set the pace and taught America what true patriotism really meant, the need to treat everyone or every group fairly is uppermost in every subsequent government. When such was in place, every group became happy to sing the song of patriotism – “love of country”.
To stir the spirit of true patriotism in the heart of our children, the future leaders have to be given the right foundation and educational system has a role to play here. This is, as I said on page 36 of my book entitled ‘Industrialization and National Prosperity (lessons for developing countries)’, “…. it is the task of education to give each human being a national form, and so direct his passion, thought, and tastes towards becoming a patriot to his nation”. In short, education curriculum is the only channel that directs people on what to read. No one is born with an instinct of national patriotism, rather national patriotism comes from outside to the individuals; from the type of books the people read and teaching they receive.
The teaching should start with teaching people the meaning of Nigerian flag. Most of our Nigerians are ignorant of the meaning of flag. For example, when I was in Abuja in 2012, I saw some vendors around the Abuja Central selling different national flags. To my greatest shock the Nigeria flag was not among the flags being sold. I was not happy and went to them. When I explained to them that selling other nations flags in our country was abomination, these guys were shocked too to hear such statement from me. After explaining the meaning of flag to them they understood its deeper significance and the next time I went there, they had all returned the flags to the promoters of other nations in Nigeria soil.
The new curriculum should be divided into two as follows:
1. Moral Education. This should cover different aspects of a person’s development, such as being patriotic, cultivating a moral character, corruption implications, aspiring, conducting oneself well in society and so on. It should be thought in both primary and secondary schools. The Singapore Premier I mentioned above declared the need for moral education and it was practiced in his country. China had rigorously been practicing it for over five hundred years. Many years ago as a student in London, I happened to work in aChinese company that employed more than 100 staff, of which 90% of uswere Chinese. The place was a little harmonious society with very patriotic people. There, I understood that in China, moral codes were identified with juridical law while politics was synonymous with the art of applying there moral codes to social life. In Nigeria, moral education can address solutions to many of current vices including for example, the implications of giving and receiving bribes from political parties in order to vote for someone a voter would ordinarily helped to vote out. This happened almost everywhere in Nigeria during the recent election. Should Buhari allow such practice to continue? My answer is no. Moral education will serve as a means to teach electoral malpractices consequences, protect the state, develop our country and safeguard the social order. The idea that morality aims at making humanbetter is universal because wherever it is practiced, it transforms human nature.

2. National Education. This will teach purely patriotism. Patriotism is a sentiment of affection for one’s country. It creates awareness of moral duties to the country. The teaching of patriotism is in line with the traditional idea of a nation state which is associated with the rise of the system of states often called the “Westphalia System”. This name came into existence as a result of the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. It recognises each other sovereignty on their territory with no role for external agents in their domestic structures.Therefore if national education is introduced as a compulsory course in Nigeria universities, it becomes a devotion to Nigeria as a practical way of lifeand Nigeria mindset shall never, never be slaved again. It should start by defining the word nation and how to create a nation by a process of ideological indoctrination. This was how the early European philosophers used it to inculcate the spirit of patriotism as described in my above book.They believe that as soon as a child is born, on first opening his eyes will see nothing but his country. Apart from national anthem, which all nations have, there are prayers and songs in schools, churches and mosques that can uplift the spirit of patriotism and national unity. A typical patriotic church song lyrics in our UK church is as follows:
“Lord, we long for you to move in power
There is a hunger deep within our hearts
To see healing in our nation
Send your spirit to revive us
Heal our nation
Heal our nation
Heal our nation
Pour out your spirit on this land …….” by Kingsway 1986.
You could see a number of times the word “nation” has been mentioned in this small lyric. It shows the value placed for his own country.

In mosque, a similar prayer is that of DUA which is for the nation, family and muslems worldwide. This time emphases may be given to prayer for Nigeria in schools, churches and mosques. The love of our nation will transcend any obstacle in the way to unity of Nigeria like that of United States, United Kingdom, etc rather than tribalism. It is my hope that the tribal institutions that promote tribalism may somedaybe abolished in Nigeria.

If Nigerian leaders had been given such strong orientation on national education, the looting of our wealth which is the consequence of many of our social problem, wouldnot have taken place. A typical example of looting was carried by the Nigeria BUSINESSDAY newspaper of March 4 2013 with an editorial analysis captioned “Stealing the nation blind” (2) and the author writes “Within 10 years over N3,000,000.000.000 were stolen and transferred abroad by Nigerian leaders”. The BUSINESSDAY newspaper is correct because in Europe we hear that our leaders from Nigeria pay cash for properties worth more than N500 million. How did they get the money? My concern, as always is that if such huge amount of money had been loaned to business people in Nigeria instead of siphoning the money abroad, millions of jobs could have been created for our unemployed youths. Obviously leaders who had been thought how to be patriotic to Nigeria will not “steal the nation blind” and take our money abroad. Also in my opinion, the nation has to learn from high-performing nations like Japan to radically transform Nigerians and Nigeria educated leaders’ perception of life. For instance, Japan school curriculum emphasised patriotism, morality, public mindedness and respect for the nation’s traditional culture. As I said on page 38 of my book quoted earlier, “when a Japanese executive goes to work, he toils not just for himself, his family and his company, but also, and perhaps more importantly, for the greater glory of the Japanese nation”. Good examples of patriotism practiced in different countries can be found in my above-mentioned book on pages 36-39, 54-55, 161-162 and in the 9 case studies. In short, apart form impacting general knowledge, the entire content of Industrialization and National Prosperity is based on my patriotic sentiments.
When both the intellectuals and the political elites embrace both Moral and National Education, the result will be a sustained reform that will be embodied in Nigeria after President Buhari had left the office.

*Ekeh is a UK based trainer, development consultant and author of Industrialization and National Prosperity (lessons for the developing countries). He can be contacted via Sundiate Post, Abuja, Nigeria or email [email protected] or [email protected]

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