A CASE FOR INDIGENOUS COACHES

My brother, Ebere, is a guest writer for my blog today. He makes a case for Nigeria to stick to developing and hiring indigenous coaches from now on.

Fans like me realize that coaching is a professional discipline with a vast body of knowledge that has evolved and modernised right along with the game. It is a discipline that is now data driven and in which the role of technology has become more and more pronounced. Its practitioners now earn certifications not just as a means to an end but as a matter of course. For many these days, such certifications are integral to the qualification of a person to coach. In this context, coaching is a matter of serious academic study and a subject of intellectual endeavour to rival other well-regarded disciplines.

Most would readily acknowledge the centrality and importance of good coaching to successful outcomes. In that equation, it is a constant among many variables. Indeed, it is eminently arguable that the right coach can make world beaters out of teams made up of players lacking the individual distinction we readily applaud, admire and even idolize in star players. This value-added dynamic is at the heart and foundation of coaching. It is the quality that underlines the recent (now hopefully past) Egyptian dominance of football at the continental level. It is also, I believe, the single most important factor in our recent continental triumph after close to twenty years of relative mediocrity. Suffice it to say, it would be difficult to overstate the singular, strategic and emphatic importance of the art.
To be sincere, my thinking regarding this subject has not always been this categorical. I was (and still am) by disposition, pragmatic, sensible and well-intentioned. The germ of my opinion then was that, the best man (or woman) for the job, be he or she foreign or indigenous should be given the job, and allowed to do it. In so thinking, I was mindful of the need to develop local coaching talent and give befitting exponents of the same the opportunity to coach our various national teams. However, I did not think of it as an empirical imperative. Like most fans, I was more interested in the players than I was in the coach. I certainly did not subscribe to any philosophy, tenet or theory of coaching. Of course, my passion for our football included a keen interest in the coaches of our national teams and particularly, in their player selections and strategic and tactical bent. Countless rambling arguments have been had by this writer on such matters. However, the pattern of my thinking as regards coaching as a subject matter was situational rather than systematic, ad-hoc and therefore less fulsomely analytic.
Even so, it will not come as a surprise to many that the most successful countries in the game are those that have painstakingly, systematically and methodically developed a continuous and sustainable coaching program and continuum. The assertion is as basic as it is foundational and apt. The obvious extrapolation therefrom, that the strength, depth and systematic application of coaching expertise correlates directly with championship success is hardly arguable and should be a given.
To illustrate further, and here permit a dash of unavoidable and instructive pedantry,please consider. The FIFA World Cup, the ultimate prize of world football has been held and won 19 times between 1930, its first edition and 2010, the last one. Of those 19 times, 18 coaches have successfully guided winning teams to the summit of the game. Those men in historical order are Alberto Horatio Suppici (Uruguay, 1930), Vittorio Pozzo (Italy, 1934 & 1938), Juan Lopez Fontana (Uruguay, 1950), Josef “Sepp” Herberger (West Germany, 1954), VincenteFeola (Brazil, 1958), Aymore Moreira (Brazil, 1962), Alf Ramsey (England, 1966), Mario Zagallo (Brazil, 1970), Helmut Schon (Germany, 1974), Cesar Luis Menotti (Argentina, 1978), Enzo Bearzot (Italy, 1982), Carlos Bilardo (Argentina, 1986), Franz Beckenbauer (Germany, 1990), Carlos Alberto Parriera (Brazil, 1994), AimeJaquet (France, 1998), Luis Felipe Scolari (Brazil, 2002), Marcelo Lippi (Italy, 2006), Vincente del Bosque (Spain, 2010).
Apart from a membership in the elite pantheon of coaching, there is an altogether more striking similarity that all these men share. None of them is a foreigner to the country they coached to world cup glory. All the world cup winning coaches since the inception of the World Cup without exception are indigenous to the countries they coached. To this rule there is no exception. Not even one that proves the rule.The empirical exclusivity of the data-set is absolute and invariable. Having recourse to the foregoing, it would seem logical to assert that teams coached by non-indigenous coaches start from a significant position of disadvantage as far as winning the World Cup is concerned. The odds are certainly long at the very least. A fact this conclusive, ipso facto,ought to inform hiring decisions to a substantial and perhaps definitive degree.
Whereas, the dominant idea undergirding a philosophical preference for indigenous coaches is the building of elite coaching capacity in-country, with an aim to gradually raise collective standards by mere continuous accumulation, application and growth, the imperative asserted by the exclusivity of the data-set above cuts to the chase in a far more direct and confrontational manner. It is about winning, and indigenous coaches rule the roost.It would seem then, that the idea successfully runs the gamut of the long and short terms with a ruthless utilitarian essence.
A bit of further inquiry would reveal one of the strategic pillars that prop up the phenomenon. To wit, of the 19 times the World Cup has been contested, three countries have won it a combined total of 12 times. Brazil with 5 wins, Italy with 4 and Germany with 3 accounts for more than half of the total victories on record. It is on the strength of this historical dominance of the game that these countries are regarded and acclaimed as its super powers and best exponents. Lesser known however, is a singular and particular similarity that the accomplished triad share. None of them have ever employed a foreign coach. Never in the football history of Brazil, Italy or Germany has a foreign coach been hired.
The fact of this is understandably incredible and surprising to those of us reared in the recent past on a diet of Troussiers, Milutinovics, Vogts and Lagerbacks to name a few. And mind you, this represents approximately 306 years combined, when you add up the number of years the three countries have kept coaching records, of indigenous coaching. The successful outcomes of relative stability and continuity in hiring within as it were, going back a hundred years apiece is apparent. It would seem then that the bright idea of foreign coaches has only occurred to those countries further down the success scale and prestige pecking order. One wonders too, if this idea is that old and successful, why some nations are just catching on.
There is however an often overlooked home-grown corollary that is of particular instructive value to this debate. With the victory of the 2013 generation of Golden Eaglets in the United Arab Emirates just a few months ago, Nigeria entered the record books as the nation with the most FIFA Under-17 World Cup triumphs with four wins to date. The first triumph in 1985 was achieved under the guidance of Sebastian Brodrick-Imasuen, the second in 1993 by coach Fanny Amun, the third in 2007 by coach Yemi Tella and the fourth by coach Manu Garba. Arguments about age controversies and age grade level coaching aside, Nigeria’s football history at this level in which she has outperformed every other nation speaks eloquently to the viability of Nigerian coaches on the world stage.
In Stephen Keshi, the reigning African Coach of the Year, the case for indigenous coaches has its best advocate yet. A brief iteration of Keshi’s achievements to date is pertinent. Just over a year after taking over a team that did not qualify for the previous edition of the African Cup of Nations, Keshi’s Super Eagles won the tournament soundly, beating the acknowledged favourites for the title Cote d’Ivoire, enroute. He became the first ever indigenous (Nigerian) coach to win the title, the first Nigerian to win it as both coach and player and only the second African to win as player and coach.
In the World Cup qualifying campaign which ended late last year, Nigeria under Keshi were the only African country and one of very few in the entire world to complete the qualifying series without losing a game. Before the loss to Uruguay in the Confederations Cup last year, Keshi’s team had gone on an 18-game stretch without losing a game, the longest such streak in the history of Nigerian football. Other historic feats such as qualifying Nigeria for its first ever African Nations Championship, the home-based equivalent of the African Cup of Nations, and going on to win bronze in that competition, as well as being the first and only coach to qualify neighbouring Togo for the World Cup in 2006, a tournament Nigeria incidentally failed to qualify for, exist merely to round off his achievements.
The value of Keshi’s contribution to Nigerian football can also be measured in pecuniary terms. In a hasty agreement to coach Nigeria for about five months in early 2010, Coach Lars Lagerback was contracted for the whopping sum of $1.5 million amounting to about $300,000 per month. Keshi by comparison is paid N5 million a month or about $31,000, almost exactly one tenth of what Lars Lagerback was paid. It would take Keshi another 2 years and a total of 4 years all told, to earn as much as Lagerback earned in 5 months! After digesting the mind-boggling disparity and the obscene affinity and gross overvaluation of all things foreign it unequivocally portends, Keshi’s Return on Investment is just massive, perhaps the best in the world. As a matter of accidental fiscal prudence, Keshi is a historic bargain.
However, the real value of Keshi’s appointment is in his deep and abiding patriotism and his protestant work ethic. To the latter assertion, readers should be reminded that in just over two years, Keshi has successfully completed three qualification series and competed in three tournaments. Approaching the matter of patriotism from the periphery, it is a matter of recent widely publicised vintage that Keshi was owed for seven months immediately following his historic African Cup of Nations triumph. It should not be forgotten also that he was owed for four months leading into the same tournament. Only a patriotic commitment to one’s nation can surmount being owed almost a year’s wages cumulatively over a period of two years. So, while being owed for roughly half of the time he has been in charge, Keshi has worked harder, for far less, than any foreign coach Nigeria has ever had. And he has been arguably more successful to boot.
But then, Keshi’s commitment to Nigerian football goes farther than mere remuneration. His determination to source players with international potential from the local league has given the league a rare fillip and boosted the confidence of players therein. Hitherto, the senior national side was the exclusive province of Nigerian’s playing abroad, while many deserving young men plying their trade on these shores were largely ignored. Keshi single-handedly changed that by taking as many as eight locally based players as part of his twenty-three man playing staff to the African Nations Cup in South Africa.
The exploits of players like Sunday Mba who scored Nigeria’s winning goal in the final of that tournament and Godfrey Oboabona who provided a large measure of Nigeria’s defensive mettle is an enduring testament to the skill and graft of locally based players and their ability to deliver big performances in big games if given the opportunity. Such is the enthusiasm and confidence amongst locally based players who now joyfully realize that playing in Nigeria is not a disqualification from representing Nigeria at the senior level and that such opportunities are eminently realizable. Of course, the contribution of this factor to making the local league more viable and attractive should not be taken lightly.
In spite of all this, rumbles of the likely appointment of a foreign coach in the guise of a Technical Advisor and lately in that of a “Technical Assistant” persist. It is to the great credit of the Honourable Minister of Sports who has pronounced categorically on the issue, saying that no Technical Advisor will be appointed except if Keshi requests one. More recently, in comments attributed to Paul Bassey, a Spokesman for the Technical Committee of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), Keshi demurred on the offer of a foreign Technical Assistant. Also in the news is the report that the NFF is making plans to extend Keshi’s contract to 2018, beyond the World Cup in Russia, a rare vote of confidence and an acknowledgement of his historic achievements. It might also have something to do with reports that certain African countries are sniffing around in a bid to poach Keshi at the slightest opportunity. Should the mooted contract extension pan out, the NFF would be deserving of some plaudits for strategic and forward thinking.
If his recent antecedents are anything to go by, Coach Stephen Keshi in short order is about to become Nigeria’s most successful coach at the senior level and perhaps ever, and therefore the reflexive need for foreign expertise in our football has been rendered redundant and should never arise again.

I Think We Should Let this Pastor’s Scandal Go

Ever since a dark skinned OAP with some amazingly hot legs, dropped a bombshell on us through her now popular blog about her affair with a notable pastor, all new media channels have been buzzing with this salacious tale of phallic anointing and levels of sexual grace.

Blogs have been written, services held and even divine pronouncements have been made. But one thing is for certain: the Pastor has neither denied nor admitted the accusations flung in his direction.

To him, this is water off a duck’s back. No shaking.

Apart from a sobby confession of guilt and a public shaming charade, there isn’t much left to this drama. Even for those who were earlier skeptical, I think it is pretty clear what happened and has been happening between the well-spoken man of the cloth and several delectable members of his youthful congregation.

I think it is now time to move on.

We are not God… and a lot of us will not be members of his congregation. Those who still go there to worship him or worship God should be left to their own choices. One can choose to associate themselves with, and respect someone regardless of their failings. It is no crime.

We must now be content with the hilarious phrases this episode has added to our casual vocabulary.

And we should all pray that when it happens that our weaknesses get the better of us, there will be another level of grace to break our fall.

Love is.

It’s been a while since I blogged. I kinda started, then I just faded out. I’m not the bloggy type, but once in a while, the bug bites me… and I write.

Today, I feel like writing again. I don’t know why, but I just found myself here, wanting to write about love.

I hope this doesn’t get boring… because love is a very common topic and it is very hard to say something about love that is new and insightful.

I don’t think love is just a feeling of affection. Although it is, perhaps, the most common signal we equate to love, it is only one of the symptoms of love. It is not love itself. Also, affection can be triggered by other, should we say, less desirable causes – e.g. lust, greed.

One way in which we attempt to rationalize love is commitment. I think commitment is a measure of love. But commitment is not love. It cannot stand in lieu for love.

I think love explains the presence of affection and commitment, not the other way around.

So what is love?

I think love is an ideal. A virtue that is beyond our reach, but to which we are willing to commit whatever we can to its attainment. It is not a quality we can pin down. It is that indescribable reason that justifies all that we do for which our own personal gain is not the purpose. Love cannot be understood within the context of our base instincts. In order to appreciate love, one must first accept the efficacy of a higher goal. A cause, far more important than ourselves.

Therefore, I believe love is what happens when we become a cause, the effect of which is not directed at our mortal selves. And for love to make sense, the lover must be willing to accept that there is a goal higher than himself/herself.

Although objects of our love could be human, the ultimate goal of love is less so. Although, as humans, our first instinct is to love and preserve ourselves, we are aware that our lives are an insignificant dot in the vast stretch of eternity. We nurse a desire to make it more meaningful. We are afraid that we could just be another random, forgettable, accident of nature. It is within the context of this realization, that we conclude that love for ourselves alone may not be sufficient. Therefore, we struggle to prove our alignment with an order which is more durable, less random. This is what makes love possible.

When love happens, the lover has already committed to pay his/her entire life in exchange for the satisfaction that the life will be attributed with a purpose aligned to an ideal that will outlive the lover. The committed life will be paid either at once, or in piecemeal through acts that uphold, preserve and defend the chosen ideal.

Love is that mind construct that rationalizes our attempts to reach beyond the limits of our mortality and touch eternity. Also, whatever aligns with this love becomes an object of it.

From this perspective, when we choose partners, inasmuch as we could say we love each other, the truth is, we have chosen to love together. We have chosen to reach out together to an ideal that we are both committed to that we hope will be worth the rest of our lives. It is this alignment that makes us the object of each other’s love. However, our love is only an offshoot of the love for a greater ideal which we share.

In reaching towards this ideal, we always fail. No one ever attains it. But that doesn’t prevent us from trying anyway. It is the journey that counts.

So, here is how I summarize my thoughts.

To accept a cause beyond yourself is faith. To work towards an ideal requires hope. The reason that explains all the effort is love.

So these three abide: Faith, Hope and Love. But love justifies everything.

 

Quo Vadis, Nigeria?

Perhaps, to the consternation of many, I have watched from the sidelines over the past few weeks as the people of Nigeria engaged the government in a conflict over the price of fuel. Personally, the realization that government has failed is nothing new, so is my conviction that the road to recovery from such institutional failure would lead through deeper and more fundamental examination of the issues.
It was great to see that within the first 48 hours after the protests began, the popular rhetoric, steered by some progressives, began heading in the direction of public corruption, waste and the failure of our public institutions. However, the escalation of the dispute had relied heavily on another institution, which in itself, was not immune to the failings evident in our system. Also, the issue that provided the initial spark for the conflict, fuel subsidy, had betrayed its own vulnerability by past precedents – a mid-way price adjustment was sufficient to douse whatever tension it created.
It would seem that, by relying solely on history, one could have easily predicted that we would arrive where we are now.
But if the script was written by history, then, there are a few things it left out. It could not have envisaged that the young, upwardly mobile elite would exhibit the kind of leadership that they did during the weeks after the removal of subsidies. It was also blind-sided by the willingness of an army of social media intellectuals to bite an issue and pursue it to a logical conclusion. Although the warnings had been there since a small group of young Nigerians supported #LightUpNigeria in 2009, marched with #EnoughIsEnough in 2010 and powered #NigeriaDecides over the line during the General elections in April 2011 – each time growing in number and commitment – history could not have envisaged anything of this scale.
Post the protests, a flurry of hearings and arrests have followed. This turn of events is however not dissimilar to experiences in the recent past that have led to tenuous and cosmetic conclusions.
It is therefore important to note that passion alone will not get us over the hump of the failures of our nation. If our generation is to overcome the challenges that floored the generation of our fathers, we must be ready to strategically confront the issues that forced that generation into compromise. For it is that original set of compromises that have precipitated the symptoms that we fight today.
Interestingly, the recent events have engendered hope. This is because the kinds of changes needed to right the Nigerian ship cannot be unilaterally pursued by the Federal Government. As counter-intuitive as it may sound, the people, based on whatever trigger they deem fit, must make those demands first! The popular will then proceeds to drive the political will – ensuring that the invasive changes necessary are justified on the premise of a popular demand, rather than a personal or sectional agenda. It is encouraging to see this beginning to happen.
However, unlike many, who have been all oohs and ahs about the revelations of insensitivity and corruption at every level of government, I can’t feign surprise. The institution of government in Nigeria has been subject to decades of rot. Built on a delicate compromise to balance power, government at all levels in Nigeria has always survived on a heavy dose of patronage and an even heavier dose of atrocities. Even the attempt to claw back subsidies – and the attendant strife – have not been unique to any Federal administration since the Government of Shehu Shagari in 1982.
Neither has been the level of insecurity.
Since the first Nigerian coup on the 15th of January, 1966, millions of Nigerian lives have been lost, sacrificed on the altars of political convenience, ethnic cleansing and the control of resources. It is noteworthy that these deaths have either happened with the active or passive participation of the Nigerian state.
The security apparatus is weak, not only at the top, but all the way through. Taking the Nigerian Police Force for example – starved of funds and subject to mediocrity, the job of the police has been left to the dregs of society. Those who have picked up the job have also proceeded to act like they have been treated – like the dregs – beholden to the elite and despising the people.
Time and again, each sectional or religious agitation that emerges pushes the republic closer to disintegration, and just before we get there, the cracks are papered over with the mortar of compromise – leaving Nigeria to survive for another day.
And that is what we have been doing – surviving.
However, this generation was not born to just survive. It needs to start living. However, in order to do so, the first thing we have to do is to familiarize ourselves with some hard truths:
The problem with government isn’t just the present administration.
By all means, someone has to be held accountable and the current President’s response to issues have been underwhelming at best. But to dwell on that is to scratch the surface and nothing more. If our memory wasn’t that short, we would remember that in January 2002, the then president, visiting a site where more than a thousand Nigerians had lost their lives turned to the press and said “Shut up! I shouldn’t even have come here”. If we are not distracted by the different personalities of our leaders, we would come to the conclusion that although the personalities have changed, the output from government has been the same regardless of who was at the helm. Rather than point fingers at each other and argue about how one leader from another tribe did the same thing and “why wasn’t there any outrage then?”, we should, therefore, come to the more progressive conclusion that the problem is deeper than the personalities. Government, as an institution in Nigeria, has a certain consistent character and part of that character is not to care about what happens to the people.
But it is the people that chose to make their Government so.
Part of the compromise that we had made years ago, to preserve our imposed unity, was to saddle government with the responsibility of reflecting the federal character of the nation. On the surface, this appears to represent fairness and equity – every part of the country should be equitably represented in government. How noble? Well, not quite. This objective has created two problems that has hamstrung government from ever transforming into a service provider to the people.
1. “Chop, I chop” – Every tribe was afraid of being dominated, so the intent of the federal character stipulation was to manage this. Smarting from colonial rule, the last thing anybody wanted was for another tribe to replace the British as lords and masters of the rest of us. So we agreed to share this “dominance” rather than diminish it. The result: the definition of Government as “dominance over the people” was preserved. The new Nigerian elite could replace the old colonial masters as long as every tribe was represented and power, with its attendant perks, was shared. We institutionalized “chop, I chop” or “rotational corruption”.
2. Mediocrity – According to Victor H. Vroom, humans are motivated to select a specific behavior due to what they expect the result of that selected behavior will be. According to him, an average, rational person asks themselves three questions before they are motivated to act in a certain way: (a) If I try harder, will I do better? (b) If I do better, will it mean more reward? (c) Do I like the reward? Only if the answer to all these three questions is “yes” will the person be motivated to engage in that activity. It is easy to imagine why people who find themselves in an environment where tribal balance is the first priority will not be motivated to try harder (unless an artificial incentive, typically in a brown envelope, is introduced into the equation).
Our desire for tribal balance in the corridors of power is at odds with our desire for a responsive and people-centric government. We cannot have our cake and eat it.
We have lived a lie
The first words of our 1999 constitution reads: “We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria…”. Those words, ostensibly lifted from the preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America, have not been backed by the Nigerian spirit. The various micro-nations that constitute the Federal Republic of Nigeria have never engaged each other in a conversation about what it means to come together to form a federation. There has been no agreement about what it would mean to transform from being just Igbo, Ijaw, Hausa or Yoruba to being Nigerian. Questions have not been answered about what each micro-nation brings to the table and what conditions will guarantee social justice, and equality for everyone without any micro-nation feeling exploited or cheated.
The Federation has just been foisted on everyone, and for the fear of having nothing else as an alternative, everyone played along.
Furthermore, the initial social contract that ensured post-independence balance has expired for the following reasons:
1. It approximated the diversity of the Nigerian nation. Nigeria isn’t just North and South as the British saw it. It is more complex. There are other diverse interests that are far from represented by the pre-independence approximations.
2. It was limited to the sharing of power at the center. The assumption that if power is equitably shared, the effects will trickle down equitably to the people was false. It has never worked and it never will. First, the limited opportunities for representation at the center can never reflect the true diversity of interests evident in the nation. Secondly, and most importantly, the assumption relied heavily on the personal inclination of each representative to be accountable to the interest that they should represent. We have learnt that there is no interest greater than self-interest.
3. It never worked. Fifty two years later, power has never been equitably shared, neither have been any social benefits.
We need to get over the oil addiction
Since the first commercial export of oil from Oloibiri in 1958, economic activity in other sectors of the economy has dwindled as everyone responded to the allure of oil money. Over time, this has resulted in huge economic distortions that have plunged Nigeria’s per-capita income to 25% of what is was in the mid-1970s. Oil and gas now account for about 95% of all export earnings and 85% of Federal Government revenue. Every other sector has either remained stagnant or have declined over 50% from the levels that they were 25 years ago and today, over 80% of government spending gets recycled into foreign exchange – to pay for what has become another expensive Nigerian addiction – imports.
The implication is that, practically, only about 9 states (some say effectively 6) subsidize the Federation in its current configuration. Everyone else has become dependent on this bizarre form of welfare. This is dangerous for the following reasons:
1. At 37.5 billion barrels of reserves left and an estimated exploitation rate of 2.5 million barrels per day, Nigeria has only 41 years of oil production left. We might as well be the last generation to have lived in a period that had Nigeria as an oil producing state. The next generation will be reading about the oil rigs the same way we read about the groundnut pyramids – in textbooks. There will be no productive, sustainable, replacements that we have invested in to continue to yield collective revenue when we no longer have the oil.
2. Given the other social contract issues I have highlighted above, the micro-nations whose land the oil resources come from have a right to agitation or even secession. The sense of entitlement that the rest of Nigeria feels over the oil from the region might just be completely misplaced. Afterall, the transfer of petroleum resources in the delta region to the Federal Government was effected by decree – Decree No. 51 of 1969 – an imposition that the Niger-Delta tribes have contested till today, at the cost of thousands of their own lives. Given recent events, their cause might acquire new sympathies.

What must we now do?
1. It is imperative that we begin the push that would lead to a new social contract for the Nigerian people.
2. This new social contract must fundamentally align the economic, political and social expectations (as well as responsibilities) of the constituent micro-nations. For instance, the reasons why the south-east and south-south were not particularly interested in the fuel subsidy protests are based on valid political expectations that need not be ignored if a true Nigerian solution is the objective.
3. The social contract must also define new roles for the government, citizen and private sectors within the new context of national cohesion, economic development and good governance
4. These new roles might mean that we would not need a big federal government. It might mean that we resolve to strengthen the roles and the checks for local and regional government. It might also mean that we realize that we do not need, neither can we afford to fund 36 states, an FCT (that produces little) and 774 local governments.
5. It might also mean that we take a pragmatic and more long term view of our residual oil resources with the view to fully recover its value and re-invest in long-term sustainable enterprise with the Niger-Delta as a priority.
6. We might realize that a fiscal federalism system will be socially just, even if it hurts some parts of the whole. We might propose transitional strategies to alleviate the pain before the possible non-viable constituents achieve self-sustenance.
7. We must be ready to tell the masses these truths. The new breed of intellectuals must accept the responsibility to shape the public opinion away from survivalist opportunism to collective and responsible development.
8. We must also evolve a non-confrontational strategy to ferry Nigeria safely through the demands of the global oil grab. I suspect the key might be in fundamentally changing the way we see our own oil.
9. It would be an immense ideological challenge and it is neither going to be easy nor quick.
Finally, it is possible to be carried away by the fundamental perspectives herein expressed. Therefore, it is imperative to state that, we still need to, in the short term, drastically improve what we are doing to fight corruption, increase citizen engagement with government and propose a more pragmatic budget for 2012. There is no reason why all of this can’t happen concurrently with a complete overhaul of our socio-political space.
Given all of the above, it should go without saying that there is now, more than ever, a need for a resource that is scarcely found in Nigeria – Leadership.
It was Onyeka Owenu that sang the song “Run, Jonathan, Run”, imploring the man who grew up as a boy without shoes to run for President. It appears popular will is now singing a fitting sequel: “Lead, Jonathan Lead”, imploring the son of the canoe carver to grab a paddle and row the Nigerian canoe out of the treacherous creeks it has now found itself.
History will be unkind if he fails.

Time Travel in the Bible?

Ok, so here’s me indulging my outrageous brainwaves again…

I’ve always imagined a very logical explanation for the existence of a man who was, without contest, one of the greatest socio-political geniuses that was ever chronicled: Jesus Christ.

It is no doubt that the impression made by the stories of his short and eventful life completely deflected the, otherwise gradual, tangent of human civilization and probably led things in a rather different and enlightened path.

There’s definitely contest over whether he existed or not… or even if he did, whether he performed the miracles so often associated with his life and death. But for the purposes of this piece, I am going to imagine that he actually did live… but maybe not as was famously chronicled.

Imagine if somewhere, sometime in the distant future, time travel was actually discovered and perfected. That someone, or a small elite group of “enlightened ones” controlled this technology and an immense amount of knowledge as well. Imagine also that, in this distant future, medical technology had advanced to a point where certain healing techniques that had become common place in that future society would seem like miracles to us.

Imagine if, from time to time, these “enlightened ones” could teleport back in time, and say, appear to a virgin named “Mary”… or to a bunch of Sheperds at night. Imagine if these “enlightened ones” teleported an embryo into Mary’s womb… and then monitored the progress of the fetus.

Imagine that when this kid had grown and was an adult and had wondered into the wilderness to be “tempted by the devil” that these “enlightened ones” came to “minister to him” briefing him of his mission and certain times when they will be making interventions…

But here is the clue that sent me on this wild imaginative adventure:

Moses had a “God experience” on Mount Sinai around the 12th Century BC

Elijah had a “God experience” on the same Mount (Horeb is the other name of Mount Sinai) around the 9th Century BC

Transfiguration of Jesus happens on an unnamed mountain with these two men around 30 AD. Jesus never explained the presence of these men in that miracle to his disciples.

Could it be that time travel had brought these three men several centuries apart to meet and harmonize their strategies across time in the same place?

Crafting a Silver Bullet

I wrote a while ago about the need for a new social contract for Nigeria. Since then, a lot has been said in the media and other fora about the need to convene a sovereign national convention to determine the future and constitution of the Federal Republic.

A few questions and objections have also been raised, in two areas thus:

  1. How feasible is it? – How would it be convened, moderated, and legitimized?
  2. Wouldn’t it break up Nigeria? – If the different parts of the country are given the opportunity to discuss their commitment to a united nation, wouldn’t they just opt to walk away from the federation?
  3. There is no silver bullet to Nigeria’s problems, why is this necessary?

Given that the subject of a social contract is inalienably connected to the subject of an autochthonous constitution, I am going address some of these issues in this piece.

First of all, for the purpose of context, a social contract is an intangible device intended to justify the appropriate relationship between individuals and their governments. Social contract arguments assert that individuals unite into political societies by a process of mutual consent, agreeing to abide by common rules and accept corresponding duties to protect themselves and one another from violence and other kinds of harm.

Therefore, a social contract captures the intangible values for which we are willing to come together as a collective and the conditions strong enough to justify our consent to relinquish our natural liberties or allegiances to a new collective order.

Think about it: What will make Nigeria a worthwhile project for you? Is it social attributes like peace, equality, security? Or are some economic thresholds important too? Which values, if not prioritized, will you consider to be deal breakers? What are you willing to contribute to make that Nigeria a reality? What do you expect others to contribute too? What kind of institutions would you trust to lead us in this collective project? How would these institutions  be empowered to lead? What commitments must these institutions make to you that serves as their mandate? What instruments do you believe will be sufficient to constrain these institutions, just in case they stray from their commitments?

A lot of this may have been done before, but we probably need to think about this again, or renew our commitment to the spirit of the work that has been done before.

This kind of thinking leads to a social contract. This is why a social contract precedes a constitution. It speaks to the very conditions under which the preamble to a people’s constitution – “We the people…” – can be said to be true.

Given the above thoughts, I believe the process of relaying the foundations of our federation should be in the following order:

  1. Different interest groups begin to consult among themselves to establish the conditions for a social contract. For instance, the youth – particularly those active on social media – can establish a website to collate opinions on what should be the national set of values. This can lead to a statement of values and conditions.
  2. A joint statement by the National Assembly appointing a “Committee of Experts” to gather views and submissions from the public.
  3. The Committee will be mandated to engage in extensive consultations with the general public including multiple public hearings involving written and oral submissions.
    1. This is where different interest groups, like the youth in the example above, can come and make presentations or submissions.
    2. Submissions on values and conditions for a federation from different interest groups will speak to a social contract. The text of the new constitution must then be seen to conform to the values promoted by the majority of the people both in letter and in spirit.
  4. The process can be supported by an act or whatever 1999 constitutional amendments enabling the National Assembly to engage in this unique process to solicit constitutional opinions from the people.
  5. The mandate of the committee should include the consideration of the 1963 constitution as being the last known covenant entered into by the collective under no conditions of duress.
  6. Following televised consultations with the public, the Committee will submit a draft text to the National Assembly for adoption.
  7. Following adoption by the National Assembly, the text should now be subjected to a referendum to establish its sovereignty.
  8. Like the 1963 constitution, the text of the new constitution can contain a transitional section that governs the smooth transition of structures, positions and entities from the 1999 constitution to the new dispensation.
  9. The by-passing of the state houses of assembly is necessary because the existence of 36 different states with constitutional votes is not recognized by the last covenant that was effected under conditions of free will, hence these entities cannot confer sovereignty on the new text.

Would it break up Nigeria?

Frankly, I do not know this for sure, but I sincerely hope not. However, I believe that given the current situation in the country, it is important that the question of National Unity and the conditions for a federation should be put to the people’s court. There is no point saying “One Nigeria” if majority of Nigerians don’t want a federation. U cannot force a group of people to be united if they really don’t want to be. However, if what I believe bears out, an overwhelming vote in favor of conditional unity could be a very good boost to peace in the country.

There are many questions that remain and indeed even if this process is successful, there will still be more questions to answer. In that sense, there is no silver bullet. There are no solutions to national issues that you can apply, then sit back and watch all your dreams come true. That would be highly delusional. But a silver-bullet in terms of what could we do to get each other to come around on the same side of the table and start building this nation together in the same direction rather than in different ethnic or personal directions can exist. And this might just be our best shot at it.

Let me know what you think!

A Purpose for Government

Note: You should probably read my earlier blog posts as a background for understanding this one. Also, part 1 and part 2 of my recent article for YNaija!

pur·pose  (pûrps) n.The object toward which one strives or for which something exists; an aim or a goal

It is clear that government is an absolute necessity, and that the People must cede some of their natural rights in order to give it its essential powers” – Publius (John Jay) – Federalist Papers #2

I am writing this because I am convinced that the flawed process of the birthing of our Nigerian Federation robbed the people of a collective understanding and defining what Government really means and what it’s purpose should be. The end result is that, to the average citizen, the institution of government is mystified. Therefore, I am going to take the liberty to justify the need for a government from first principles – and in so doing, hopefully pass on the understanding of how a true need and purpose for government evolves from the expectations, sacrosanct values and the will of free citizens.

Let’s imagine that in this world with no government, I’m typing this article for you on my laptop right now. And let’s imagine that there’s a very large man–we’ll call him Blaze–who doesn’t especially like my writing, so he walks in, throws the laptop on the floor, stomps it into little pieces, and leaves. And before leaving, Blaze tells me that if I write anything else he doesn’t like, he’ll do to me what he did to my laptop.

Well, in doing that he just established something very much like his own government. It is now, as a matter of practice, against Blaze’s law for me to write things that Blaze doesn’t like. The penalty is severe, enforcement fairly certain (at least within this jurisdiction). And who’s going to stop him? Certainly not me; I’m smaller and less violent than he is.

But Blaze isn’t really the biggest problem in this no-government world anyway. The real problem is a really greedy, heavily armed guy–we’ll call him Kpoxalot–who has learned that if he steals money and then hires enough muscle with his ill-gotten gains, he can demand goods and services from every business in town, take anything he wants, and make almost anybody do whatever he says. And since there’s no authority higher than Kpoxalot that can make him stop what he’s doing, this jerk just literally created his own government–what political theorists refer to as a despotism, a government ruled by a despot (which is essentially just another word for a tyrant). In this kind of government, the power flows from the top to the bottom. Your rights are what the person at the top graciously extends to you.

If we don’t want Kpoxalot in charge, we have to all get together and agree to do something to prevent him from continuing to run our lives. And that agreement itself is a government.

In other words: The reason we come together to form citizen governments is to protect us from other, worse power structures that would otherwise form in our midst and deprive us of our rights (or sacrosanct values).

In order to do this properly, we must first define these rights and agree that we all need them protected. Then, we must design an institution, government, ensuring that this institution is capable of protecting (or guaranteeing the protection of) these rights. Then, we must mandate this institution to guard and promote these fundamental rights (and values) we have agreed on.

Hence, the most fundamental criteria for government is purpose.

It is this purpose, which if sufficiently aligned to what the people value, that will inform the willingness of the citizens to not only continue to empower their government by ceding to it some of their natural rights, but to continually watch and monitor this government to ensure it always represents what they value.

A government created, defined and constrained in this manner derives its power from the people and will be people oriented by origin and nature. In other words, the power would flow from the bottom to the top – not the other way around.

So here’s my assignment to you:

  1. What was the purpose for forming and amalgamating Nigeria in 1914?
  2. How was that purpose aligned with what the citizens value?
  3. What was the social contract (constitution) that emerged out of the efforts of Nigeria’s self-government leading to 1960?
  4. How different is that social contract from what we have in effect today? What are the reasons why?
  5. What is your best guess of the most sacrosanct values of the citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? Justify why you think these values are considered sacrosanct.

This is no JAMB or WAEC… no need for long essay. Just say what you know and what you think in the comment box below.