After nearly nine hours of debate, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told parliament that the “sense of the House” was behind Anna Hazare’s key demands. The anti-corruption campaigner, Anna Hazare, ended his 12 day hunger strike on Sunday 28 August 2011, after the Indian prime minister accepted his demands for a powerful new watchdog to check graft. “The parliament agreed to also bring the lower ranks of the bureaucracy under the new ombudsman, establish new watchdogs for every state government, and issue a new citizen’s charter to set standards for public services. It is understood, the government has accepted the prime minister’s office, MPs and judges will be monitored by the new watchdog, but no undertakings have been put in writing”. In a statement soon after ending his hunger strike, Mr Hazare said:
This is your victory. This is the fruit of your work in the last 13 days … This movement has made it seem possible that we can build a corruption-free India,”
In addition to the success of Mr Hazare’s campaign, there is equally the realisation and acceptance that a powerful ombudsman alone is no magic bullet for India’s brazen corruption perpetuated by its politicians, businessmen, police, judges and government employees. “India needs sweeping institutional and electoral reforms, something which politicians and bureaucrats have resisted, and show no signs of relenting on” (Soutick Biswas, India Correspondent). The success of Mr Hazare’s movement is considered a victory for people, and proof that lobbying for better and stronger laws is no longer the preserve of politicians, NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and businessmen.
LESSONS FOR NIGERIA
The success of Mr Hazare’s campaign was made possible by his devotion and loyalty to India, willingness to shoulder the burden of India, a desire to go down in history for the right reasons, and readiness to die for a worthy cause, if need be. A crucial ingredient in his success is the united and unwavering support from the Indian youths and the middle class. The mindset for change, nationalism and progress has been nurtured over time in a country that is gradually but steadily building its economy and infrastructure to rival Europe, US and China. Is this movement and solidarity possible in Nigeria?
The problem with Nigeria is summed up in a comment by a Nigerian who goes by the blog name GOMETI. She blogged:
Nigerians inability to make sacrifice and stand for the truth always, has been one of the biggest challenges we’ve been facing right from independence. When lies and corruption are celebrated, instead of honesty, hard work, merit etc, has given power to wrong leaders. What do you expect from a country of such kind? We really don’t have statesmen, after the likes of Mandela. Gandhi, Dr M.L King, who gave their sweat and blood to free their nation from all kinds of injustice. The foundation of this country was built upon dishonesty, corruption, selfishness, tribalism and all evil. We need to visit our foundation again, destroy every evil brick, rebuild with love and respect for one another, integrity of the heart, sacrificial living, love for our father land. Above all, we need to build with brick of God.
Other voices on the social media argue that:
the problems facing Nigeria are monumental and multifaceted. ..a system programmed to fail right from its foundation. You can bring in millions of Barack Obamas or Bill Clintons, they cannot perform any magic or wonders with the current Nigerian system on the ground. As constituted or composed, Nigeria cannot take off. Nigeria needs total re-engineering from the scratch. Nigeria has to be restructured on true fiscal-federalism. The Centre-Abuja, is too powerful. There has to be power-devolution at the Centre, that will cede powers to the component States that make up Nigeria. Why? Meaningful development can only take root at the grass-roots. Over concentration of socio-political cum economic power (s) in the Presidency has made the Centre too attractive to ethnic politics and public-corruption.
Nigeria ought to be talking of States Police Forces, Regional Economic Groupings or Regional Joint Ventures to generate electric-power, etc., etc., and not NEPA or PCHN. If Nigeria is not restructured for steady economic growth, Diaspora Nigerians cannot, and will not rally round any cause. Why? Such endeavor is like pouring water into a basket. Really, Nigeria needs a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) whereby, a true Nigerian Union can be re-negotiated once and for all, that’s, if Nigeria must develop or witness modernity (Blogger named Enzyme) .
As long as they keep on looting our resources meant for infrastructural development thus, leaving the people on perpetual poverty the war against crime will not stop. No amount of FBI or CIA can stop crime in Nigeria until our government starts helping her citizens to share her destiny. Stop the loot! fix our education, roads, water, housing, bridges, power generation, agriculture, hospitals, industries. Save our seas, save our land, save our oil, reward excellence, and Nigeria will be a better place for us all (Another blogger said).
The anger and frustration over Nigeria’s situation is reflected in the above statements. The suggestions advanced in the statements are not impossible to achieve. They demand effective and sensitive leadership, a progressive mindset on the part of all Nigerians, a hungry and active movement for change and a patriotically driven political will. The events taking place in the Arab world and the success of social activism in India have lessons for Nigeria. To reach these levels, a serious program of mindset transformation and nationalism is crucial in Nigeria – from Mr President to street cleaners. Some are doubtful whether the spirit of nationalism is possible in a country considered to be tribally, religiously, economically and culturally divided. Well, it’s fair to point out that India has similar issues and is striving to overcome, so Nigerian can, if the government and the people commit to enduring change. Another serious ingredient of change that many Nigerians lack is the spirit of appreciation, encouragement, and continuous self-renewal through reading/research. Consequently, leaders, who served the country honestly and sacrificially, are easily forgotten, our history is brushed aside, and it keeps repeating itself with devastating consequences for all. Nigerians are strong at complaining but weak at supporting efforts directed at shaping change. To volunteer time or donate money to a worthy cause is a headache to many. These retrogressive attributes have killed many worthy private and public initiatives. The absence or dwindled number of role models in politics, business organisations, academic institutions, social activism, communities, faiths and even families, is hurting our ability to re-engineer our society and governance. No evidence, statistically, that any part of Nigeria has produced good leaders (Sanusi Lamido, Governor of Nigerian Central Bank). These are fueling and sustaining corruption at all levels.
Another challenge to our growth as a nation is that we have a myopic understanding of what being educated means. Education, to many, is simply a means to better jobs in organisations, rather than a means to serve a great nation and its people, efficiently and effectively. Consequently, we become selfish, prioritize family comfort and security, and mindless of the fact that no rich family can find peace and security in a poor and hungry nation. This could be a fault with our education system. It may also be the product of our political systems and politicians. Perhaps, the politicians/national politics have failed to develop citizens’ confidence in the unity and stability of the country, to a level that warrants forsaking one’s family when the welfare of the state demands it. Claiborne Pell (1918) once said, “the strength of the United States is not the gold at Fort Knox or the weapons of mass destruction that we have, but the sum total of the education and the character of our people”. So you see, “it is possible to store the mind with a million facts and still be entirely uneducated” (Alec Bourne). That’s the reality in our country. For example, social media/internet technology have been employed by educated minds in Europe, Asia and Arabia to disseminate information, create business opportunities, address national issues, fight crimes, organise for change, and share knowledge. Visit well established Nigerian social media sites like Sahara Reports and Vanguard News, and witness time and talents abuse in action. Rather than entertain opposing views, focus and debate issues intellectually, and advance suggestions in the interest of our nation, some people spend their time raining insults at each other. Therefore change of mindset is urgently required in our people at all levels and the Nigerian government must invest in mindset reprogramming strategically. Openmind Foundation is at the forefront of this project. We need your support particularly in putting together articles for publication on this forum for our peoples and governments.