Monday, 13 June 2016

NIGERIA: WHERE IS POLITICAL TOLERANCE? ~ DR. JIMOH IBRAHIM, CFR

Chief Barrister Dr. Jimoh Ibrahim, CFR
Events unfolding on the political and economic landscape of Nigeria call for a rethink of the issue of leadership. Political legitimacy appears not to be in contention. APC won the last election and has since formed the government. The outstanding issue is how federal is our Federation?


There is empirical evidence from the federating units to demonstrate an unfair distribution of income from the federation account. The interesting thing is that none of the federating units is happy with what they are getting, or indeed what they have ever received, from the federation account since Independence. Everyone is complaining!


Regional leaders are suggesting restructuring that will allow for efficiency of the power structure. To some, it is about rearrangement of the socio-political system in such a way that will allow the states to have their autonomous police.

The oil producing states are asking questions about their future in the distribution of income. They are demanding more projects and infrastructure. Interestingly, they are demanding these things from the federal government, not from their own state governments that are receiving cash from the federation account. What a paradox!

None of these questions are new. The only novelty is the actions, legitimate or otherwise, that are now being used to drive the demand for answer. A national conference where everyone comes together to brainstorm and find solutions to these issues is key to preventing crises. But the present situation is almost getting beyond what a conference can handle! Regrettably, a new government is at the centre of this praxis of politics.

If these are the silent political issues playing out at this time when we can wrongly assume that all is well with the political system, what do we do? Is the federation on a dangerous political lane? If yes, in whose interest?

It’s difficult for me to share the view that Nigeria should restructure. In holding this view, I am influenced by the circumstances of our coming together and our present lack of proper reflection on emotional intelligence. Why are we killing political tolerence? Are we no longer brothers and sisters? Do we realise that the things that unite us outnumber those that separate us? Where is political tolerance in all of these?

The main victim of our federation is the Nigerian military, our brothers who took on the uniform for ‘One Nigeria.’ They fought the war for us to have the peace! We lost women, children and many of our citizens for the peace of Nigeria.

The political class of yesterday held firm to the democratic kit of political tolerance to secure one nation. God forbid otherwise! We stand to gain nothing from war, for the victim of war is usually the innocent who is not actually the target. The issues being raised are very important, but war cannot resolve them. After war (God forbid!), we will still need to have meetings to fashion out the way forward. Why don’t we increase the level of our political tolerance to avert war?

We need transformational change, not just mere unqualified change. Only transformational change can usher in the Nigeria of our dreams; a new improved Nigeria. Apologies to Martin Luther King, ‘I have a dream…’

If the APC change is well conceptualised in transformational praxis, mobilisation is imperative. In achieving this, eight things are urgently required. According to John Kotter (1995), they are: establishing a sense of urgency, forming a powerful guiding coalition, creating a vision, communicating the vision, empowering others, planning for and creating short term wins, consolidating improvement, producing more change and institutionalising new approaches.

Our assessment of the performance of the current government will be based on the capacity to deliver at least seven of these eight things. Until this is done, no one should expect improved living conditions for Nigerians. The question is how far the government can go in achieving these things. Only APC can answer that question for now.

Our current challenges cannot be the reason for our failure. Lao Tzu offers one very useful advice: “Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength, mastering yourself is true power.” As we move on, one can only hope leadership is no longer the challenge. Those who are going to prevent conflict must be ready to manage the conflict of our existence.

Withers, B (2007), Goodwin, C & Griffih (2007) have identified some of the things to do: Create a safe and comfortable environment, Establish ground rules, Encourage story-telling, Uncover underlying interests, Frame the issues for common ground, among others. In my last presentation at the IMF training, I summarised our dear country as “an emerging nation with the largest economy in Africa (about one trillion dollars) and a GDP debt ratio of about 11%. The country is 90% dependent on oil export. According to the United States Agency for International Development, 138.6 million out of a total population of 186.4 million (2016) live on less than $2 a day. That translates into 94% of the population living on less that $2 per day.”

My opinion has always been that leadership is a journey and not a destination. The idea is continuous improvement in our praxis of emotional intelligence, of our self-awareness, self-regulations, motivation, empathy and social skills, all enveloped in tolerance. (NationalMirror)