By Victor Gai
A popular saying goes, “The beginning of madness is to continue to do the same thing and expect a different result.”
This aptly describes our journey and struggle as a nation and the corporate perception of our problems and challenges.
We have become accustomed to blaming leadership, corruption, ethnicity, religious sentiments, greed, colonialism and Neo colonialism as some of the factors that have hampered our progress as a nation.
These factors are mere symptoms of the problems that underlie our existence as a nation.
Unfortunately, medically speaking, if you continue to treat symptoms of a disease without a proper diagnosis to identify the causative factor, then you may be in for a “ roller coaster” or wrong treatment.
This indeed describes the false perception by politicians and the electorate that it is only government that can fix the common societal problems.
Regrettably, successive administrations have succeeded in merely experimenting.
Since the problem seemed intractable and had assumed leadership unprepared, and with the resultant frustration, these politicians exert their energies in raping the people of their commonwealth. ‘You can’t give what you don’t have!’.
Without mincing words, I must say here that the very reason Nigeria is where it is today is due to the System which is faulty and the very solution lies in fixing the system itself.
We are used to using the term ‘System’ without appreciating what it really stands for. As laymen, when we see a phenomenon from a faulty premise, we are likely to arrive at a faulty conclusion. A System is more than what we view it to be.
Sociologically, a System can be described as a whole with parts that are interrelated and working in harmony to keep the whole going.
Sociologists have studied the society like the biologists have studied the human body. Just like the human body is a system with functional parts like liver, kidney, lungs, heart and brain, so also the society is made up of parts which are interrelated and keeps the whole system going.
When a single part in the human body is dysfunctional, say the kidney, the whole body(system), is affected. Using this analogy, it goes to say that when a part of the society is faulty, the whole system is affected.
Amazingly, just as the body grows and dies, so also the society grows and dies and just as the human body is affected by pathological factors, so also the society is affected by pathological factors.
Those parts that make up the society are known as institutions. Institutions are fairly stable components of the society. They include education, politics, economy, education, religion and culture among others.
Let me stress that the problem of our country is that some of these parts or all are faulty which have robbed off on the system as a whole known as corporate Nigeria.
How did this start? Let us go down to the nitty-gritty of the elements of institutions and what makes them functional.
In every society, we have what we call values, norms, customs, cultures, mores, folkways and so on.
These are elements of social control and organization in a social system or society. They ensure stability and are the basis for a functional political, economic and religious organization in every social setting. They are standards of behavior in any culture and ensure that society is stable.
Sociologists say norms were the standards used by primitive societies to regulate the society. But as society advances and transforms from simple to complex, then evolves more sophisticated standards of behavior and regulation of the society which were coded into what we today know as laws.
Laws are prerequisites for institutional survival and institutions are building blocks of the society. Without proper laws, there won’t be strong institutions, and without strong institutions, there won’t be a functional system or society.
In the early days of his administration, Barack Obama, the US President said, the problem of Africa is not leadership, but the lack of strong institutions. This assertion was also made by Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary-general.
This pre-suggest that without the right platform and environment as encapsulated in strong institutions, all efforts by leaders no matter how intelligent and smart a leader is, would end in futility.
Does that not describe our struggles as a nation since independence to fix our challenges using leadership?
We have had persons of outstanding qualities and qualifications as Presidents in the past, but because the system was faulty and still is, there was little or nothing they could do, and there is no guarantee that any leader in the foreseeable future can change things so long as the system remains the way it is.
That is why, President Buhari’s strategy of leadership could be promising. It is the right path. ‘Change begins with me.’
Critical political institutions like political parties, the National Assembly, the electoral commission and economic institutions like the Central Bank, commercial banks, the Oil corporation and stock market, operate under laws that are obsolete, oppressive and inappropriate.
This suggests why we are still struggling.
For instance, the law that created a bicameral legislature in Nigeria which provides for the Senate and House of Representatives, was copied from The US, and despite the economic realities in the nation and the little impact it has on public interest, we still practice it.
Such kind of laws which serve the interest of the privileged class and oppress the lowly, still characterize our legal system and make up our institutions.
Despite all the amendments, the oppressive elements of these laws still exist because the same class it benefits, are at the helm of affairs of lawmaking. Our laws are really dysfunctional!
Another example was the last Kogi governorship elections where Prince Abubakar Audu died before the elections were concluded. A vacuum which was not known in the law was clearly identified.
But against the wishes of the majority, a small group, made up of the political party, decided for the majority and the courts justified it.
The faulty laws were merely taken advantage of by an oppressive cabal at its own whims and caprices. What an unfortunate event!
Strangely enough and ironically too, it is not the fault of leaders- presidents, governors, ministers, legislators, etc., that they were corrupt in Nigeria.
The logic is that the system, which was faulty and pathological, was exploited by these political actors to their advantage and if a surgical operation is not done on the system, I am afraid; we will continue to remain in our ailing state.
The current economic meltdown is not accidental. When the human immune system is low, any opportunistic infection could ground it.
By implication, the necessary shock absorbers were not available in Nigeria, and when the shocks came from beyond, the economy couldn’t stand it, and so it quickly went on a decline.The truth is that, no economic solution can bring the economy back at this moment.
We can only manage ‘damage control.’
More so that economics have so many schools of thoughts, and members of our current economic team have variegated views on the best method to solve a common problem.
The best bet now before it gets out of hand is to go back to the basics. Fix the system, starting from the laws, to the institutions and up to the system using a wholistic strategy involving all Nigerians.
It must be a bottom-top approach with the supervision of a transparent leadership at the executive, legislative and judicial level.
The debate on restructuring, fiscal federalism, diversification, unity, inclusion and others, all depend on constitutional and law reforms.