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The End of the Beginning?

Legendary British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill carried his nation on his shoulders at the lowest point in their history during the Battle of Britain. He achieved this feat by the sheer power of his oratory, stirring the hearts and minds of his people to patriotism when the all-conquering German Third Reich Armies swept across Europe, and his country was next in line for enslavement. After the German air force had been decimated and Britain was no longer under threat from invasion, Churchill was asked if their victory signaled the end of the war.

Knowing full well that more lives would be lost in the planned invasion of Germany, yet realizing he had to give people hope for a better tomorrow he replied “it is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning!”

As the 2015 elections approach, predictions that our nation won’t survive the outcome are being called to mind. Pessimists speculate that the end of our latest democratic experiment may be in sight. Even the optimists realize that all is not well. Christmas 2014 was not the best of times for many civil servants. The economy is unravelling as a result of the sustained mismanagement of our resources and this “festive season” government workers all over the nation were not paid, despite being owed several months’ salary.

Sadly there is worse to come in 2015. Even this administration’s “star” ministers with their much touted success in agriculture and road building failed to pay their workers’. While this was going on at the federal level, indolent, attention seeking State Governors donated their state’s resources to the re-election campaign despite also not having paid salaries. Other top government officials simply flew out of the country to enjoy their holiday in places where there is security, constant light, running water and good roads. Throughout the end of year activities political leaders attended places of religious worship with much pomp and fanfare even while mindless materialism, executive arrogance and political intrigue ruled their thoughts and actions.

Consistently failing to practise the temperance and consideration for others expected of devout people, they continue to profit from collective misery. 2014 surpassed all previous years in the display of spiritual poverty which prevents our leaders from even noticing much less sympathizing with the sufferings of the common man. Ensuring fairness in a society such as ours plagued by cultural diversities and economic inequalities appears to be a seemingly intractable problem.

The principle of federal character was introduced in an attempt to frame a socio-political structure that prevents problems of interethnic rivalry and the dominance of government by one or more ethnic groups to the exclusion of others. It was the product of the post-civil war era when minorities who had sacrificed much for national unity and “One Nigeria” began to question whether they really had a stake in Nigeria, or indeed whether they needed a country of their own before they could prosper.

Federal character was adopted to counteract the ethnic nationality question because lack of adequate representation by the federating states was thought to be the greatest threat to national integration and economic development. It was a deliberate plan to ensure the proper distribution of amenities and government projects in the country, and an attempt to build a nation in which every individual has equal chance to participate without bias of ethnic affiliations.

Critics of “federal character” principle mistakenly believe that it means vacancies are filled based upon the tribe of the candidate rather than on merit. They cynically describe “catchment areas” as places where most applicants who merit neither admission nor employment they enjoy come from. But in truth claims that federal character undermines merit can be discountenanced because the minimum requirements for admission and appointments mean that merit cannot be completely sacrificed. Enforcing the principle is an attempt to ensure widespread development despite the disparities in income, social and economic opportunities traceable partly to natural endowment, and partly to historical legacies of colonial administration.

Regrettably its enforcement in political appointments, revenue sharing, education, employment, location of industries and other development programs has not brought about the expected levels of national integration, stability and widespread development.

 

*Published in the Daily Times newspaper dated Wednesday, January 7, 2015

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