" ITREALMS: Tim Akano: February 25th & the Quest for a Gorbachev 2.0 - ITREALMS

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Tim Akano: February 25th & the Quest for a Gorbachev 2.0 - ITREALMS

Commentary@ITREALMS ... making leadership SENSE with digital news!


Will it be eureka for Nigerians the day after, or will the hopes, expectations and aspirations of February 25th turn to frustrations, disappointment and disillusionment in the weeks ahead?
Tim Akano on 'February 25th & the Quest for a Gorbachev 2.0' - ITREALMS
First, will the election be free, fair and credible? Will the results stand or will we have another June 12 fiasco on the horizon? Who will win between Nigeria and the politicians? Will the outcome beget peace, unity in diversity and wholesale transformation? Highly unlikely.

What, then should be the agenda of the incoming president, if the country is to witness a step-change? That is the exam that this piece sets out to answer.

Suffice it to say that this election will end up as the most consequential in the history of Nigeria, whether Nigeria remains a strong, indivisible country or will go, ultimately, the way of Yugoslavia is wholly dependent on the outcome of this election, for several reasons.

One, it is the most militarized presidential election ever; the number of army Tanks placed at strategic locations makes one wonder if Nigeria is preparing to face off against a Russian invasion. Military men hotlines are being circulated on social media to report cases of election violence. What then is the duty of the police, if the government has to call out the entire Nigerian army to supervise ordinary elections? Or could there be a war in the oven that Nigerians are not aware of?

Two, the February 25th election will be the world’s first election where the economy is shut down through a carelessly implemented currency redesign policy, higher education is temporarily suspended although students lost 8 months to lecturers’ strike action most recently, and the weaponization of hunger.

Three, never in the history of Nigeria’s presidential elections have the electorates been this divided along ethnicity, nationality and religious lines, making this election a high-stakes Zero-Sum affair. Another Fulani/Muslim presidency after 8 years of President Buhari’s stomach-derangement administration, according to the Middle Belt, Afenifere, Ohaneze, and South-South leaders, is tantamount to crossing the red line of the ‘one-country’ concept, regardless of the democracy. But of a truth, has Nigeria ever sworn in a leader based on true democracy? In 1979, the then Head of state openly warned Nigerians ahead of the election that ‘’the best candidate may not win the presidency’’. To keep Nigeria “united”, the Supreme Court delivered an ambiguous judgement that aligned with the mood of Nigerians at the time, for a power shift to the Fulani North.

In 1999, the Military junta deployed military tactics and wads of cash to install the President from the region that was badly injured and cheated by IBB and Abacha. In 2007, President Obasanjo enforced the emergence of Umaru YarAdua as president in an election which the beneficiary himself declared as ‘’fundamentally flawed’’, obviously to keep Nigeria one, and in 2015, GEJ was persuaded to not appeal the INEC results–even though he could have done so based on the pervasive and undeniable underage voting in the North–all for the sake of national peace and cohesion. That is how Nigeria rolls, and for 53 years, the wobbling and fumbling country, though permanently on the brink, has managed to survive due to that unorthodox power-sharing rotation.

It is not democracy or good governance that has stopped the Nigeria house from falling. Rather, the power-sharing rotation between the North and the South serves as the superglue which allows the political elites from each region access to power.

Even though they have both mismanaged, misgoverned and looted Nigeria’s treasury evenly, the power rotation has proved to be an effective antidote to political instability! Call it Naijacracy, if you wish. The question remains: will the power-sharing formula be discarded this time around?

Another reason why this February 25th is unique is that it is the first time that ‘things truly fell apart’ between the class of 1966, who has been holding the lever of political power for 53 years and the political elites: the two power blocks are not singing from the same hymn book and this brings us to another zero-Sum game for either of the two. In the past, once the Class Captain of Class 66 anointed a candidate, the political elites would automatically fall in line like innocent schoolchildren, but not this time, not this February 25th.

Interestingly, due to age, it seems as if this will be the final battle for all of them, and a waterloo for some.
Another uniqueness of this election is that technology will play a central and decisive role like never before in the history of Nigeria’s elections. The ability of BVAS will be tested on a large scale, however, it is hoped that BVAS will not produce three different results per state like the case of Osun state because technology like math is supposed to be exact, nothing to “harmonise” after voting. While BVAS will render the traditional ballot boxes snatchers jobless on February 25th, hopefully, the BVAS end-to-end encryption will prove too strong for a “man-in-the-middle” attack, so they are unable to intercept, modify or change the results while in motion or transit. It must be noted that electronic election depends 100% on robust connectivity and since BVAS is running on GSM technology and not on satellite communication, what happens where connectivity is weak, poor or nonexistent on February 25th?

Surely INEC must be prepared for hybrid results that will be transparent and acceptable to the electors. Even then, the best of technology fails, which is why we do have a “business continuity plan” in the corporate world.
Do we have an “election continuity plan” for February 25th?

That being said, Nigerians must bear in mind that February 25th is not an end and not even a means to an end, it is just another election ritual. Whoever emerges from the ritual cannot move the needle on Nigeria’s problems for several reasons. Modernisation and transformation will remain elusive as long as Nigeria’s superstructure remains unbundled. If what Nigeria wants is the retention of the status quo, i.e., no war, no employment, low productivity, no modernisation, mass emigration of youths, cake-sharing mentality as against cake-baking mentality, then February 25th is it! For instance, in the last 8 years of President Buhari, everything thing that used to go wrong with Nigeria has gone wrong or is still going wrong under him, despite his more than 68 electoral promises in 2014. Worse still, “new wrongs” have entered the group chat i.e., things that didn’t use to go wrong are now going wrong (old wrongs + new wrongs = staggering stagnation).

To put it unambiguously, under PMB, Nigerians use naira to purchase naira at 30% + premium depending on your point of purchase: commercial banks, Pos, CBN, party venues, etc. This is a new low by any reckoning, even by Nigeria standards. Nigeria has been pouring new wine into an old wineskin for 53 years, and the result is the same: abortion of dreams.

On more than 3 occasions the whole world had taken a bet on Nigeria, only for Nigeria to fumble the ball so deeply. In the 70s, Nigeria was grouped among the Emerging Medium Powers (EMP) alongside South Korea and the Asian Tigers. Nigeria dropped the ball. In the 2000s, Nigeria was grouped among the MINT countries (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey- i.e. countries with potential for rapid growth), yet Nigeria’s bread refused to bake, and MINT became MIT. Recently, Nigeria is again in a new group tagged: PINE- which consists of the Philippines, Indonesia, Nigeria and Ethiopia because of their huge youth population and potential–they are poised to be the next frontier of development.

But what the world failed to realise is that the population they see as an advantage is not productive in Nigeria, with 133million extremely poor people living under $ 1 per day, and 15 million out-of-school- children (though, if evil forces have their way, most of them will vote on the 25th, as their only usefulness by those who farm them is for election.

Is it not strange enough that terrorists always go on one month sabbatical, the month of election? Once elections are over, Nigeria begins to witness their activities again.

The incoming president, besides the above is going to face the N11Trillion budget deficit in 2023, and about N50 trillion national debt worsened by lack of elites consensus.
Who ever is sworn in will have to bear the burden of debt servicing which is projected to consume 100% of the revenue from 2023!

But if Nigerians sincerely want a step-change and larges cale transformation like the ones they travel to experience in UAE, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Canada, UK, and America among others, then the winner of February 25th election should use the next four years as transition years.
Whoever wins will find It difficult, like all his past 15 predecessors to build an elite consensus around the COMMON GOOD of Nigerians because Nigeria is not a nation-state but a commonwealth of nationalities. Most of the nationalities that make up Nigeria had existed for over 1000 years before the British forced them into the fruitless, riotous, and rancorous marriage we now refer to as Nigeria.

All countries that have witnessed transformation are either homogeneous, i.e structured along distinctive nationality, ethnicity, religion or language e.g the whole of Europe, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Japan, South Korea, and China.

The ‘heterogeneous A’ countries that are successful are hugely decentralised e.g. Canada, America, Switzerland, UK, etc

The ‘heterogeneous B’ with one ethnic group or religion or nationality holding 70% veto power, e.g. Malaysia are also doing well.

However, Nigeria is a ‘heterogeneous C’, with unworkable central High Command in Abuja. Unlike anything seen before: no religion, nationality or ethnicity can boast of holding 70% veto power, which is the hidden truth why building elites consensus for transformation and peace has remained elusive for 53 years.

Heterogeneity and centralization are incompatible and no heterogeneous country in the last 1000 years has been able to enthrone peace and progress without decentralisation. None.

Even the Roman Empire, a commonwealth of nations, was highly decentralised. All heterogeneous countries in modern history that were centrally managed either collapsed at around their 70th birthday, e.g. USSR, Yugoslavia or they remain jejune beset with a welter of crises that make transformation impossible.

*This is the crux of the matter. Structure, not leadership, is Nigeria’s Achilles heel!*

*The Usman Question*

Recently, one Usman Mohammed asked me a difficult question as a Guest Speaker at the COPAD People’s Parliament conversation on Agenda for the next President. Usman asked: “why is it that in the last 50 years, the Nigeria-State has NOT been able to solve JUST ONE PROBLEM, but rather, the situation keeps deteriorating since 1970?” I ransacked my brain thinking I could get a nationalistic, intelligent answer to prove Usman wrong, to prove that his statement was an exaggeration of Nigeria’s sorry situation. Alas! Usman was right. In education, infrastructure, technology, food, health, housing, national cohesion, security and branding, Nigeria has consistently and unabashedly scored F9 in all the 9 subjects she sat for in the Modernisation examination. Nigerian past presidents have all failed to solve just one problem holistically, despite our abundance of resources and regardless of sweet promises made by the presidential applicants during their campaign activities.

If anyone wants to see an example of a country that has solved infrastructural problems within ten years, visit UAE; if you need to see how a country solves diversity challenges visit Switzerland; if you want to see a country that has solved education problem visit Singapore (the best in Mathematics, globally); if you want to see how a country has solved food crisis visit Thailand, Qatar and Israel; for healthcare see South Korea; for security visit the Scandinavian counties; if you want to see how a country solves youth unemployment visit China.
Countries with highly destructive national disasters like the Philippines are making huge progress. In the Philippines, they have an average of 20 killer typhoons every year including earthquakes. To keep track, they name the typhoons alphabetically. The names of the first typhoons each year start with ‘’A’’ (Alpha typhoon), and the second, ‘’B’’, while ‘’Typhoon Charity’’ comes up third in the year. Sometimes they get to typhoons ‘’U’’ and Y’’ in a year which means 25. If they are unlucky, an earthquake and typhoon come together.
What must we then do if the new PINE will not become PIE - N (Nigeria)?

*AGENDA FOR THE NEXT PRESIDENT: MY 7Rs, i.e. Gorbachev 2.0*

Three years after the death of Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev–following the brief tenures of Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chemenko in 1985–the Politburo elected Gorbachev as Secretary General and de facto leader. Gorbachev, seeing USSR’s stunted development vis-a-vis the West, instituted fundamental reforms tagged: *Perestroika and Glasnost* which dismantled government monopoly over means of production. In 1985, USSR was like Nigeria: Big for nothing. But Gorbachev's reforms brought out the potential of the countries that made up the old USSR.

At the stage Nigeria is today, she needs her own Gorbachev who will be bold enough to implement audacious and fundamental reforms without balkanization of the country.

The existing superstructure which has turned Nigeria into the world’s poverty capital should be recalibrated.

Nigeria needs this reform urgently to save it from disintegrating, which is not what any sensible person should wish for. A viable ‘one-Nigeria’ is a sine-qua-non for Africa’s transformation and the total emancipation of the Black man. A stitch in time saves nine.

The following 7 Rs, if properly and faithfully implemented by whoever is declared the winner of the February 25th election, will go a long way in resolving the Nigeria 60-year old Question. It will turn Nigeria's stunted growth into a global power House that all Nigerians will be proud of, and in due time, 70% of those Nigerians in foreign countries will gladly return.

R1: *Reconciliation*. Our diversity is supposed to be our strength but reverse is the case. Therefore a truth and reconciliation committee should be set up to unravel why the bitterness has become trans generational among the ethnic groups that make up Nigeria and come up with solutions.

R2: *Re-calibration* of the superstructure into 8 manageable regions where each region controls her destiny and pays a 30% tax to the centre for military, Currency, immigration and external relations management

R3: *Re-work* the constitution along the 1963 constitution with adjustments to align with the current realities. The winner of the February 25th election will be sworn in on May 29th (hopefully) based on the 1999 constitution. Alas! No man born of a woman can use the 1999 constitution to transform Nigeria.

R4: *Re-education* The education curricular is substantially outdated and unfit for a 21st-century country trying to leapfrog. It has to be junked and replaced with a new one that prioritizes skills above certificates. For instance, I put it to ABU, Zaria that they should stop producing Political Scientists and convert that faculty to AGRICTECH with a view to harvesting the huge agricultural potential in the North. Similarly, OAU, UNN should do the same.

Nigeria universities have failed in producing competent, honest political scientists and Public Administrators. The ones they graduated have turned Nigeria to world's poverty capital. It seems as if Treasury looting is in the curriculum or something is fundamentally wrong. Why should all the products behave the same way?

Close all the departments of Political science and Public Administrators and replace them with *AGRICTECH* Faculty.

R5 *Re-Birth*. Nigerians need a TRUE spiritual rebirth. Religion is not spirituality. The Nigerian moral fabric is badly torn. Religion should develop the people who will develop the country. Since Nigeria is under developed, it automatically follows that the religious leaders are under developing their followers. Nigerians need spiritual rebirth, the type the South Koreans went through before transformation came A new mindset, new spirit and new way of life must happen before any transformation can take place. The religious centres need to de-empathise money and financial power. We are all witnesses to where such emphases have led us in the last 50 years. Most of the Prisons in Thailand and other Asian countries are populated by Nigerians looking for easy money.

R6: *Re- Construct* – the infrastructure is anachronistic. It needs a proper, exhaustive overhaul.

R7 *Re-Industrialise*.: Every local government needs at least 3 factories that will process raw materials found in their environment for both backward and forward integration. Every graduate comes to Lagos today to become successful. That is not sustainable. It has to change. Lagos is fast becoming a 21st slum!

February 25th will be eureka if the 7Rs are implemented by the winner within the next four years, however, if the winner goes ahead to form his own cabal that unites on the premise of COMMON GOOD…OF THEIR POCKETS, and will exploit the multiple foreign exchange rates to become instant billionaires, or illegally sell Nigeria’s assets to themselves, then the outcome of the February 25th will be *NYSC: Now your Suffering Commences.*

*Contributed by Tim Akano, timakano1@gmail.com | www.timakano.com

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