By Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu
Many will tell you Nigeria is undergoing a highly sensitive period of revitalization. That our country, home to the largest economy on the continent, is making bold strides to position itself as a conduit for African integration and a leader in its geopolitics.
However, as we approach what can only be described as hotly contested elections in February of 2015, one thing remains abundantly clear – oligarchy is oligarchy. Feudalism may forever be feudalism. Nigeria’s polity remains in cyclical quagmire and its casualties are the very citizens being told that change is on the way.
This week, I announced that I was pulling out of the Senatorial race in my district, that of Abia State’s Northern region. I did so, not because I did not believe that we could fundamentally enhance my home State’s infrastructure, supply electricity to Abians and work with our partners in the public sector so as to ensure the next generation of Nigerians are not disillusioned by false promises and self-serving bureaucracy. No. I left for the same reasons that so many of those before me have – out of disgust for the cronyism that denies innovation, entrepreneurship or even competition to flourish in the private and indeed political arena. For Abia, much like Nigeria, is suffering from a crisis of such cronyism, one entirely revisable yet utterly out of our grasp.
We’ve heard this tale before. Our military, though adamantly entrusted to protect our citizenry, has sometimes been used (historically noted) as a weapon for the aims of the political elite. We look no further than in the words and actions of the resurgent spirit of Fela Kuti to view a depiction of governance run amok, free will and speech stifled and glad-handing ensuring a select few reap the benefits of natural resource abundance, while the remaining in the periphery suffer.
In Abia, as but an example, we’ve seen journalists arrested arbitrarily, ripped from their families, beaten and thrown in to detainment cells for prolonged periods of time for speaking out against injustice. We have seen propaganda and hate-speech overtake that of opportunity on the campaign trail; mudslinging as opposed to the offering of practical solutions for taking our province and country forward.
My successor as Governor, a gentleman by the name of Theodore (T.A) Orji and his actions are not solely guilty of this. And admittedly, to lopsidedly slant the Senatorial playing field in favor of his cohorts is not unprecedented in our jewel of the ECOWAS. However, it remains morbidly disappointing when undertaken while we collectively wish to enter a period of societal maturity and brotherhood amidst the regionalism and tribalism that certain cabals have leveraged to divide us.
And, despite the integration of foreign partners from China, India and around the world, touted and promoted as effecting lasting change for the future, Nigeria’s naira hit a record low this week.
The fall comes amidst political concerns and moreover, that a slide in global oil prices could undermine our central bank’s ambitions to keep afloat our currency. This is also in part due to Nigeria’s unfortunate importing of approximately 85% percent of what it consumes, meaning that the dollar demand is indelibly tied to the structure of the country.
There is work to be done to right the wrongs of the hierarchical system of dependency. And yet nonetheless, transformative Nigeria is still on the upswing.
I have the utmost faith in President Goodluck Jonathan to carry forward our mission and better integrate us tomorrow on the world stage. Today, however, I pause and reflect on how far we have yet to go in order to actualize that dream.
Editor’s Note: Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu is a former two-term Governor of Nigeria’s Abia State and previously, a 2014 Senatorial candidate for its Abia North district. He is presently shortlisted on Africa’s Wealthiest individuals by Forbes Magazine and remains Chairman of SLOK Group Nigeria, a multinational organization he founded. The views expressed are his own.