Opening Address by Alhaji Falalu Bello, OFR
National Chairman Peoples Redemption Party (PRP)
at the Second Media Dialogue of the PRP held on the 10th March, 2021
Nigeria today is being buffered by a spate of terrifying developments that threaten to throw our society into unnecessary anarchy and senseless bloodletting, which shall inevitably lead to the erosion of the country’s very existence as a corporate entity.
From the decades-old insurgent violence in the North-East, the irredentist and separatist agitations of the South-West, South-South and South-Eastern flanks of the country; and the perennial farmer/herder conflicts and rural banditry in the North-West and North-Central regions, Nigeria is now graduating into a new and dangerous phase of social anomie. This budding new phase is, in particular, taking two new forms. The first is the universalization, throughout the country, of insecurity in the shape of kidnappings for ransom-usually accompanied by rape and other forms of physical and mental abuses of the victims. The second manifestation of this steady decline and descent into anomie is the increasing tendency towards ethnic cleansings, with certain ethnic nationalities being given quit and marching orders out of sections of the country where they are deemed as either not being indigenous to or autochthonous despite the clear provision of the Nigerian Constitution which allow citizens to stay in any part of the country of their choice. These developments have led to the killing in Ondo and Oyo states of poor Hausa Fulani and other tribes of Northern extraction trading and doing menial jobs in South-Western Nigeria. Also, the same ethnic identities are being killed in South-Eastern Nigeria.
The victims of Boko-Haram in the North-East, Banditry in North West and North Central and the tribal killings in South West and South East are preponderantly the talaka, the poor Nigerians that are being continuously manipulated by the rich to continuously rule and dominate them. The killers under whatever name and guise should realize that it does neither them nor their victims any good for these killings to continue as they are simply being manipulated by the elite to kill the victims. Both the killers and victims need to realise their real enemies, the elite political class that continuously mismanage their public trust and subject them to insecurity, economic woes unemployment and restlessness. We as your Party urge all to stop waging war against each other and begin to lawfully engage your real enemies in PDP and APC. The ruling class in these parties are the sabateurs and your real enemy that you need to dislodge through the political process. Both the Northern talaka in Turunku or Dansadau of North West, Toto and Bokkos of North Central as well as Sasha in Oyo, Orlu in Imo State and Baguma in Rivers State are victims of this ruling and heartless elites putting your heads together so that they continue to rule. Join the PRP, your own Political Party and wrestle power from them and this is doable and you can!!
Failure of Government
However one chooses to look at it, all these developments can only be explained satisfactorily in only one way: They are glaring manifestations of the failure of Government and continued manipulation of the poor by the rich. Successive Nigeria Administrations have over the years failed in their constitutional responsibilities to provide good governance to their country’s hapless citizens. Straddling like bloated conquerors over the country’s political, economic and bureaucratic landscape, these Administrations have tended to be interested in only one thing: Sucking out the life-blood from the national patrimony while the citizenry lie comatose. The resulting frustrations – driven by the increasing pauperization, enervating mass poverty, ubiquitous unemployment and lack of opportunities as well as decaying educational, health, social and physical infrastructure – is what our country is now harvesting in the form of insecurity, criminal banditry and a progressive and dangerous descent into violent ethno-cultural exclusiveness.
The Way Forward
Various commentators have proffered a wide assortment of solutions for the crises which Nigeria has been thrown into. Some of these include ‘Restructuring’ or ‘True Federalism’ (whatever specifically these mean); a return to a ‘Parliamentary’ form of government, and even outright separation or break-up of the country. The PRP however believes that all these touted solutions to our governance predicament and the looming anarchy and anomie that is starring us in the face merely begs the question.
In our humble view, the solution to the challenges facing the country today lie squarely in finding solutions to at least some fundamental political and economic problems. These problems have to do, first, with the manner and mode we employ in recruiting our class of people that are entrusted with the responsibility for managing our political and public institutions. In other words, how is Nigeria’s ruling class recruited? From which class of the society is it drawn? What class interest does it promote and protect? A political recruitment system which is heavily weighted in favour of the money-wielders and plutocrats, can only produce political and public managers who work in the interest of moneyed and propertied classes, both domestic and foreign. This is what the Nigerian talaka must change and change urgently if the nonsense going on in the name of governance must stop. The down trodden must organize themselves to publically take over power of the plutocracy must stop.
This lead us to the second question that need to be addressed namely the transfer of power to the citizenry, in real and not theoretical terms. In other words, how do we go about transferring sovereignty (political power) to the Nigerian citizenry in concrete terms, so that the Nigerian citizen is empowered to exercise that power on a day-to-day basis to promote and protect things that matter most to him? This is where it becomes a matter of utmost necessity that efforts are strenuously made to build and strengthen civil society organizations and institutions throughout the country. The formation of virile and viable cooperative societies, occupational and professional organizations and residential groupings are all central to this strategy of transferring political power, in concrete terms, to the citizenry. These civil society groupings have to be mainstreamed into our country’s political process if we are going to reverse the present descent into anomie in our nation. This institutionalization and mainstreaming of civil society organizations in the country’s political and public management process is consistent with the Programmes and promises made regarding Security and Community Policing by the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) in its Manifesto for the 2019 General Elections.
The third question that needs addressing is how to end poverty in the Land, and reduce exploitation of the poor. Agriculture is still the mainstay of the economy and its biggest employer of labour. Making agriculture profitable seems to be the only means of pulling the greatest number of the population out of poverty on a sustainable basis. Successive Governments in addressing this, have toyed with fertilizer subsidy as a solution to this problem. Unfortunately, this has not worked and will never work as the inputs subsidy hardly gets to the peasant farmer (the talaka) it is meant for. It is time we look at the alternative to this. We strongly counsel that the continuous wastage of resources favouring only the middle men should be stopped and replaced with output support as you find in most modern economies. This can be done by the following measures:
Reversal of 36 years of Neoliberal economic policies (at least in the agricultural sector) as they have failed to work, and in their place, we bring back Commodity Companies that will guarantee at least 10%-20% profit on their produce supported by Laws modelled on such initiatives as the Farm Bills of the United States, Basic Agricultural Laws of Japan and Indirect Subsidies of the European Union that will go to the Nigeria farmers;
Improvement of Agricultural yield by the States and Local Governments annually putting at least 5% of their budgets for extension services; transfer of research results from the shelves in our Universities and Research Institutes to the form, as well as the increased use of irrigation in the dry season;
Revival of Cooperative Societies to organize input acquisition and distribution, administrating of subsidies and sale of produce;
Development of ranches in most of the Northern States with adequate landmass as a means of making animal husbandry more profitable and making the herdsmen settle within the ranches, thereby eliminating the farmers/herdsmen conflict;
Making credit available to farmers by Cooperative Financing Agencies and Bank of Agriculture; and certification of peasant farmer holdings as a means of enriching them and enabling them use their assets to access credit.
Making agriculture an economically viable endeavor would not only pull the overwhelming majority of the peasantry out of poverty, but has the added advantage of reducing conflict and enabling the people to have a voice in how they are governed, as could be seen in the ongoing strike in India where the farmers are presently fighting against neoliberal economic policies that have wrecked agricultural enterprises elsewhere in the world.
Whilst working on the institutions and policies to make agriculture an economically viable activity which is a medium term issue of no more than three (3) years, the Governments at all levels are well advised to immediately:
Start a Massive Public Works Programme directed at the renewal and rehabilitation of the country’s collapsed physical and social infrastructure at all levels of Governments as a means of generating employments for the teeming youth population that are ready recruits for all the insecurity happenings in Nigeria. Building and rebuilding and rehabilitation of primary schools and primary health centres by Local Governments whose funds are currently seized by almost all state Governments) for example, will generate employments at Local Government Levels and so could massive Public Works by State and Federal Governments using local contractors, engineers and architects;
Rejig and seriously address the security architecture of the nation to overcome the insecurity that has gripped the country as unless the insecurity is resolved, the crisis the nation is facing will hardly be solved. We have heard Mr. President tell his Service Chiefs that they must solve the insecurity problems of the nation before the rains. This order should be reduced to the Service Chiefs and the Inspector General of Police in writing as clear and written orders against which they will be judged within given periods of time failing which they should be replaced by those that are willing and able to achieve results. Local Policing that has long been accepted by all segments of the population should be brought into being. Until the nation is secured, the citizens right to defend themselves should be supported by liberal licensing of gun possession. The Bandits, the Armed Robbers and the Kidnappers are today carrying AK 47 assault rifles. The citizenry should be licensed to bear guns to protect themselves if they cannot be protected by the State.
The Fight against corruption as one of the mantras of the Buhari Administration should really begin by addressing corruption at structured level of the society. Nigeria today pays highest for its infrastructure contracts despite the due process started during Obasanjo administration. Why do we pay higher than Ghana for example for roads and railway lines? Another example that is current is the report that the Federal Government is to spend N10.6 billion to transport Covid-19 vaccines to States. How can the Government explain this and as they have not, we are asking the question as to what has the Federal Government so far spent on Covid-19 that has killed no more than 5% of those that died of malaria in Nigeria. As a beginning of fighting corruption, the Government should here come clean on what has been spent on Covid-19 fight. Debating these and ensuring that there is value for money in all public sector contracts will help the Nigerian nation save trillions of Naira desperately needed for growth and such a war fought with honesty and commitments will sincerely begin to address corruption in Nigeria.
Above initiatives supported by making agriculture an economically viable activity will begin to take Nigerian youth out of the poverty and unemployment and if we fail to do so, what will happen is better imagined as Boko Haram, Banditry, Armed Robbery, Kidnapping and the killings started will continue. All the recruits for all aforesaid ills have come because of poverty, unemployment and underemployment and they must be addressed before peace will return to Nigeria.