The President, Christ Apostolic Church Worldwide, Pastor Abraham Akinosun, shares his thought with RITA OKONOBOH on the Nigerian journey so far, what the country must do to ensure development and what the future holds. Excerpts:
The Nigerian journey so far
We have a lot to be thankful to God Almighty for as a nation. First, we must thank God that the Nigerian nation remains one indissoluble entity. Many people have criticised the British colonialists for bringing us together as a nation. However, I believe it is part of the design of God for us. Since 1914 when the amalgamation took place, the nation has remained one. This is an achievement on its own. Think of how many nations have disintegrated despite the fact that they had better prospects of unity than we did. Remember former Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and many others.
Another cause for us to celebrate our oneness is that the conditions which led to the disintegration of many of these countries were not as bad as some of the conditions we are currently faced with in this country. Yet, God keeps us together. I know that the purpose of our being together will still manifest some day. We must not assess our development on the basis of the present economic decline we are facing.
Even economically, we are not worse off. There may not be enough to spend and many families may have gone austere in their spending, while prices of goods are sky-rocketing every day. In spite of all these, we are still better off than some African nations to which used goods in Nigeria are being sent to for survival. There is evidence that apart from those who are salary earners, much of the Nigerian population still survive without depending on salaries. The informal sector of the economy is still vibrant in spite of the economic downturn, although the situation would have been better if workers got their salaries as at when due.
Socially, we are not faring badly too, although we need to quickly embark on value education. We seem to be losing our African innocence when it comes to waiting for our turn. A lot of our youths are too hasty and impatient especially when it comes to making money. People no longer wait for God’s time and this is the reason behind many heinous crimes in the society. Corruption is not seen as something abhorrent to development. A lot of people now believe that if you can’t beat them, you join them and this is bad for the polity.
Also, the nation has suffered from integrity deficiency on the part of the political leadership. We are not blessed with selfless leaders who would stand out for that which is right and that which would advance the nation into the community of great nations. That is our greatest undoing. Although, the present government of President Muhammadu Buhari is doing its best to restore the nation and re-position her for greatness, at every turn and bend, he encounters lots of blockades. However, overall, Nigeria has not fared badly as a nation, in spite of the present economic downturn.
Is Nigeria where it should be 56 years after independence?
When you are talking of development, Nigeria ought to have developed better than this. Look at Malaysia, Singapore; these countries used to be in the Third World league. They are today in the First World league in terms of development. The unfortunate thing about our country is the perennial issue of leadership. We missed our steps because we are unfortunate to have leaders who don’t know the purpose of the power they wield; leaders who think of their immediate families and their cronies in the corridor of power; leaders who don’t know that leaders live in deeds and not in the extent of their wealth. Those who led us in the First Republic were the development-hungry leaders. But ever since the military truncated our democratic march through the series of coups d’état that this country had witnessed, we began to derail in terms of quality leadership. Another albatross we had was the tribal politics that made Nigerians see issues first from their tribal point of view, rather than what was good for the nation. This again boils down to leadership. If the political leaders that emerged after the military left power were selfless, they would have put the good of the nation above base tribal sentiments. But the politicians themselves were the ones who exploited ethnic advantage to get to power. Once in power, they began to enrich themselves and members of their political clique at the expense of the greatness of the country.
So, we got it wrong from the point of view of leadership and tribal politics which encouraged corruption. Where people should view corruption as evil, they make it into ethnic persecution. When one politician was being protected here by his people and attempts were made to insulate him from prosecution, shortly after he ran outside the country, he was apprehended and jailed for corruption. That is the extent to which ethnic politics has blinded us to see clearly what is wrong from what is right.
Until we develop our value system to the level where what constitutes wrong-doing in the eyes of the Yoruba man is the same as that which constitutes wrong-doing in the eyes of Igbo man, the Hausa or the Ijaw man, we shall continue to take one step forward and two backwards.
I read the story of the Singaporean leader, Lee Kuan Yew, who took his country from zero development to becoming an advanced nation, I discovered that the method he used was first to develop his people by eradicating dirty habits. Secondly, he made them do things right so much that foreigners who visited the country developed confidence in the people. Not long after that, foreign investments began to flow in and the nation that once struggled with unemployment became the manufacturing base of major multinational corporations. Most of the electronics we use in the country today were imported from Singapore. Unless we are able to get our value system right, it will be difficult to get ourselves out of the present quagmire.
Advice to government on getting things right
Government must lead in moral rectitude. That is why the current fight against corruption is in the right direction. However, it must be pointed out that the fight should be total and should be instituted. The only way it could be instituted is to ensure that the coming generation develop aversion to every form of moral evil or moral wrong. That is, school children must be taught to condemn evil, whether it is perpetrated by their own relation or by people of other tongues. After this, the government should ensure justice in the distribution of the nation’s wealth. A situation in which projects are located in the communities of those in government should be discouraged. Another point is that our government should make services in the government accessible to only those with the spirit of selflessness, that is, those who are out to give their very best. At present, service in government is accessible only to the rich or the influential in the society because it is an open sesame to wealth. However, remove all the perks in government and allow people who have genuine intentions to serve the people into government and things would begin to take proper shape. Just make governance less attractive to political jobbers and the atmosphere would become more sanitised.
The first step to doing this is to make our legislature a part-time engagement. The salary and perks our legislators collect are too exorbitant for a nation in distress as ours. Secondly, the executive arm of government should be slimmed down. Some government agencies and departments can be merged and placed under Director-Generals. The cabinet should also be reduced to maximum of 19. Why must every state have ministers in a nation battling with recession? Then, government should ban certain products that are imported into the country. Many of them, save for materials needed by local manufacturing companies and agro-allied industries, are not needed. Every luxury goods should be heavily taxed to discourage their importation. Then, government should encourage exportation of locally manufactured goods. However, government needs political will to do all these.
Message for Nigeria at 56
I urge Nigerians to cooperate with the government in the fight against corruption. It is either we stop corruption or corruption will stop us. No nation can grow with the level of corruption going on in this country. The Bible says ‘Righteousness exalts a nation, sin is a reproach to any people,’ as it is stated in Proverbs 14:34. Then, all of us who are citizens of this country need to begin to think of moral rebirth. All of us are guilty of some wrong-doing in our tolerance for evil. We tend to see government services as an avenue to share in the national cake. With this type of mindset, our country cannot progress. So, I urge all Nigerians to ensure that the change we wish to see in Nigeria begins with every one of us.
The present economic downturn is a temporary issue; there is the light at the end of the tunnel in the very foreseeable future. As long as we change our orientation, Nigeria will witness a swift turn-around.
My vision for Nigeria
Nigeria will be great again. We shall soon put the present predicament behind us. But we must return to God. The affairs of this country are not beyond the capacity of God. So, leaders and the followers must return to God. Once we return to God, we shall see that He is the God that can effect turn-around in the affairs of nations.