BEING TEXT OF SPEECH BY PASTOR ‘TUNDE BAKARE AT THE STATE OF THE NATION BROADCAST ON SUNDAY, JANUARY 8, 2017.
VENUE: THE LATTER RAIN ASSEMBLY, END–TIME CHURCH,
4, AKILO ROAD, OFF OBA AKRAN AVENUE, OGBA, IKEJA, LAGOS.
THEME: LOOKING INTO THE FUTURE WITH THE EYES OF FAITH.
SCRIPTURAL TEXT: Isaiah 32:1–8; 15–20 and 33:10–16 (MSG).
Fellow citizens of our great country, we are gathered here again at the turn of the year, as has become customary, to take a timely look at our nation – to examine its social, economic and political landscapes, to test the solidity of its value pillars, to interrogate its spiritual foundations, and to envision its future. We do this, first of all, in keeping with the obligations of that high office, the Office of the Citizen, then as patriots and nation builders, and ultimately as watchmen who understand the times and know what the nations ought to do, having been commissioned by God to bring direction to Nigeria, our primary place of assignment. This address, which I have titled “Looking into the Future with the Eyes of Faith”, will begin with a brief overview of the year 2016 vis-à-vis the word we received, then I will discuss the centrality of vision to development, the inherent flaws in Nigeria’s structure, and sustainable solutions to our social, economic and political challenges.
A Review of the Year 2016
At the beginning of the year 2016, God gave us spiritual leverage to see into the year and understand the nature of the year. We had insights into the events that were to unfold in the nations. During our Watchnight Service and subsequently during a State of the Nation address on Sunday, April 3, 2016, I stood on this platform to unveil the year in the following words:
The year 2016 is a year of global upheavals characterized by extreme uncertainties, intense political suspense, accelerated global terror, and mounting economic pressure due to dwindling resources that will drive nations to the precipice and activate the rage of the poor.
For the keen observer, barely had these declarations been made when the world began to see events unfold as revealed. Permit me to highlight a few of such occurrences that defined the year 2016 as unveiled. This prophecy-guided panoramic tour of the year has become necessary in order to remind our nation and other nations of the earth that God cannot be crowded out of history.
The year 2016 turned out to be a year of miscalculations by pundits. From projected economic outputs to election results, forecasts and polls were met with shocking realities.
Intense Political Suspense
Similarly, the year 2016 saw the sudden rise of populist movements, the shaking of establishments, the defeat of incumbents, and victory for underdogs. Political outcomes in Britain, the United States, France, Italy, Gambia, Ghana, South Africa, to mention just a few, left the world in intense suspense.
Accelerated Global Terror
A June 2016 USA Today headline reads: “2016 already marred by nearly daily terror attacks”, while a December 2016 headline from the same newspaper describes 2016 as a “year of terror, war and political turbulence.” From Burkina Faso to Cameroon, and from Brussels to the United States, to name but a few, the axis of terror widened, deepened and spread its tentacles of horror.
Here in Nigeria, despite the laudable gains made against Boko Haram by the Buhari administration last year, the later part of 2016 saw a resurgence of attacks, one of which resulted in the killing of a great hero of the Nigerian army, Lt. Col. Muhammad Abu Ali, whose legendary courage had helped reclaim several Boko Haram held territories. (May I please request that we observe one minute of silence in honour of Lt. Col. Abu Ali and all gallant soldiers who paid the ultimate price for our collective security, as well as fellow citizens who lost their lives.) May the good Lord comfort and strengthen the families left behind, and may the sacrifices of the departed not be in vain, in Jesus’ mighty name. Amen.
Mounting Economic Pressures
Across the world, from Venezuela to Brazil, from Zimbabwe to South Africa, from Cameroon to Ethiopia, and from Argentina to South Korea, the rage of the marginalized and despondent poor was activated against governments perceived as unresponsive to the people. While protests manifested as occupation of streets and public places in some countries, in others such as the United States, Britain and Italy, the vote was used as an instrument of protest. While Turkey witnessed a shocking coup attempt against a long standing government, rage in Syria degenerated into one of the most disturbing devastations in recent human history.
Bringing it Home
In Nigeria, the rage of the poor became encapsulated in a cynical adaptation of a six-letter word that once represented the hope of the masses in the new government. To underscore this point, let me present scenarios you might be familiar with; scenarios that depict the real experiences of the Nigerian people.
A Nigerian woman, who we might refer to as Mama Bukky, living in Oko-Oba, one of the suburbs of Lagos, goes to the local market to purchase tomatoes. The previous week, five small-sized tomatoes had cost her N100. This time, however, she is told that the same number of tomatoes, roughly the same size, now costs N200. Mama Bukky exclaims:
“Ahn ahn, ki lo de? What is it? You dis market people wan kill us for this country?”
The trader, Mama Blessing, then replies:
“Sey you no sabi wetin dey happen?”
“Wetin dey happen?” asks Mama Bukky.
To this Mama Blessing responds:
“Na change o.”
Before then, Baba Bukky, Mama Bukky’s husband, had gone to the electrical appliances store to purchase a new extension box to replace a damaged one. He had purchased the now damaged one at N500 two months ago. His frequent alternation from Ikeja Disco to his 1 KVA “I-better-pass-my-neighbour” generator had sentenced the extension box to premature death by voltage surge. The appliances dealer, Kelechi, tells him that the same extension box now goes for a thousand naira. Baba Bukky is alarmed.
“How come?”, he asks.
“You no know?”, asks Kelechi.
“Tell me!”, Baba Bukky demands in surprise.
“Na change o. Na d change wey government promise us be that. You no see as dollar dey travel go space? Abi na naira wey no reach buy pure water we wan take do market with China?”, Kelechi responds sarcastically.
Baba Bukky continues inquisitively:
“But government don make arrangement with China, make Nigerian traders fit exchange naira for China money.”
Kelechi responds, this time with fury:
“Biko, leave matter for Matthias! No mind wetin government dey do; dem dey confused.”
From variations of ‘chanji’ to ‘shenji’, to the conflation of ‘change’ and ‘recession’, few, if any, have been immune to exclamations of discontent in the year 2016. At a public event sometime last year, I pointed out to the nation that this exclamation now reverberates across the landscape –“from the importer who can’t access foreign exchange, to the manufacturer whose loan capital has been devalued by over a hundred percent; from the parent whose naira estimation of the cost of education for his ward has been overwhelmed by the cost of a dollar, to the employee whose remuneration has become the victim of a downward spiraling purchasing power”; from the retrenched worker to the perennially unemployed; from the overburdened start-up entrepreneur to the weary investor. It is unfortunate that what was once the rallying cry for progressive development has now become associated with retrogression and suffering.
Nevertheless, the way forward is not so complex for those interested in genuine change. To begin with, the confusing and discriminatory multiple dollar to naira exchange rates – favourable to some and not so favourable to others, and without doubt confusing for potential investors – must be discarded while a more reliable and predictable exchange rate, mutually beneficial to our people and economy and attractive to foreign investors, should be put in place.
Similarly, prohibitive and punitive interest rates must be lowered in order to liberate the creative ingenuity of our people as well as encourage those who can access mortgages at affordable rates to become homeowners, especially if our Pension Scheme is up-to-date and robust.The multiplier effect of the removal of these bottlenecks in our economy will cushion the effect of the current recession on our people. These are just two low hanging fruit solutions that demonstrate a commitment to turning the tide of decline. Hopefully, as our foreign reserves increase steadily but surely as reported by the Central Bank of Nigeria on Thursday, January 5, 2017, these issues will be on the front burner of the apex bank.
Propelled by love for our nation, motivated by deep concern for the sufferings of our people, and driven by a desire to see this government succeed, we come with additional propositions aimed at redeeming the Nigerian polity and economy in 2017, such that, years from now, generations yet unborn will point to this year as the turning point for the Nigerian nation. Upon this premise, our quest for solutions must begin with an honest appraisal of where we are in readiness for where we desire to be.
The Current State of the Nation
On December 14, 2016, while acknowledging that every home and nearly every business in Nigeria is affected one way or the other by the present economic situation, President Muhammadu Buhari, presented the annual budget to a Joint Session of the National Assembly. The budget was based on a Medium Term Economic Recovery and Growth Plan. I have heard concerned citizens attribute Nigeria’s current challenges to a lack of direction by the present administration. I beg to disagree with this opinion no matter how widely held. Right from his inaugural address, President Buhari outlined a three-point policy thrust that included combating insecurity, tackling corruption and dealing with unemployment through diversification. It might be worthwhile to take a quick look at some of the indicators of commitment to this agenda.
First, on insecurity, Nigerian Security Tracker, a portal of the United States Council on Foreign Relations, which maps violence in Nigeria, reported a decline in deaths per month from violence perpetuated by a combination of state and non-state actors, including Boko Haram, from 767 deaths in May 2015 when this government came into power, to 250 deaths in December 2016, nineteen months into the administration. As at April 2016, despite the acceleration of global terror, Boko Haram’s impact had been reduced from 22 attacks per month in 2015 to 9 per month in 2016. The group’s capacity had also diminished significantly from the control of 13 local governments just before the 2015 elections to a resort to suicide attacks by the turn of 2016. Under this administration, 21 of the abducted Chibok girls were also released to their parents in October 2016, and, last Friday, Rakiya Abubakar, the latest rescued Chibok schoolgirl, was reunited with her parents in Abuja. To crown it all, at the tail end of 2016, Sambisa Forest was liberated and the Boko Haram flag was captured by our gallant soldiers. We pray for the safe return of all still in captivity, the continued protection of our soldiers, and the safety and rehabilitation of all internally displaced persons.
The government’s diversification efforts have also propelled increased attention to agriculture with the sector growing by 4.54% in the third quarter of the year despite the 2.24% year on year reduction in growth rate. The third quarter also saw growth in non-oil sectors including fishing and crop production. These are signs of a diversifying economy. Therefore, the assumption that the Buhari administration lacks direction is questionable. The Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, which aspires to a 7% growth rate and redirects budgeting and planning towards a made-in-Nigeria focus, is further indicative of the policy direction of the current administration.
On corruption, we have seen some progress in the anti-corruption war, with the relevant agencies recently extending the fight to elements within the judiciary suspected to have been major impediments to the successful prosecution of the war. Be that as it may, it is my considered opinion that we are still fighting corruption – our nation’s perennial archenemy – with kid gloves. During the 2012 subsidy protest at Ojota Park, the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) adopted the slogan “Kill Corruption, not Nigerians.” It is very disheartening that allegations of corruption remain rife in our country, even against key office holders in the present government.
Permit me to spend a few minutes discussing the menace of corruption in Nigeria. In my search for solutions to our ingrained corruption, I recently came across the Singapore Model of fighting and conquering corruption in a book by Jonathan Tepperman titled The Fix: How Nations Survive and Thrive in a World in Decline.
From being dubbed “Sin-galore” after Independence in 1959, to being ranked the seventh least corrupt state in the world by a 2014 Transparency International report, Singapore’s upward trajectory provides a compelling contemporary case study (Tepperman 106-107). Hear Tepperman:
…Singapore’s bureaucrats, especially its police, were hopeless; a 1949 Colonial Office report referred to them as “an ill-clad, badly equipped and poorly disciplined rabble.” Things were so bad the year Singapore first became self-governing that, if you were unlucky enough to get hit by a car on its chaotic streets, you would have to pay off the ambulance crew before they would take you to a hospital. (Tepperman 107)
Yet, in spite of the pervasive corruption, Lee Kuan Yew took personal responsibility for stemming the tide of decay, focusing his campaign squarely on corruption which then, as in Nigeria now, was “part of their culture.” (Tepperman 108) As Nigerians know too well, winning an election is one thing; governance is another kettle of fish – but we cannot, in good conscience, continue to make excuses. Thirty-five year old Lee Kuan Yew not only won but was, in the same vein as this administration, immediately confronted with multi-faceted threats to Singapore’s stability, including severe under-development, widespread poverty and ethnic divisions. In fact, Singapore had yet another key disadvantage: very limited natural resources, unlike Nigeria (Tepperman 109-110). Listen again to Tepperman:
Rather than lament these circumstances…Lee realized that they offered him…a tremendous opportunity. His breakthrough insight, which would lay the foundation for his country’s many eventual accomplishments, was that Singapore’s poverty of resources could be turned into an asset – by giving its leaders the freedom to think and act radically. The one thing newly independent Singapore could offer, he reasoned, was good governance. Singapore needed to industrialize to survive, and that meant attracting lots of foreign investments. If Lee could enshrine the rule of law and what he called “First World standards of reliability and predictability” in a corner of the world utterly lacking in them, it might just give the city-state a comparative advantage – and a fighting chance. (Tepperman 110)
I have been privileged to visit Singapore a number of times, so I am not just relying on hearsay or Tepperman’s testimony – I have been a witness. How did Lee Kuan Yew’s visionary leadership transform Singapore from a by-word to a gold standard? The lessons are myriad, and there are many stories one could refer to in highlighting Singapore’s success, but I will focus on three key insights:
Lee Kuan Yew used what he inherited as a springboard to accomplish his aims: He used the existing Corrupt Services Investigation Bureau (CPIB) to launch a campaign “against bribery and graft, constructing one of the most effective and comprehensive anticorruption systems the world has ever seen”. (Tepperman 110). This he did by empowering the CPIB “to investigate, search, and arrest suspects all on its own, without having to rely on the country’s untrustworthy police.”; (Tepperman 110)
Where what he inherited was inadequate, he took responsibility for creating his own raw materials to override constraints, as all visionary leaders do. He introduced the Prevention of Corruption Act (POCA), roundly condemning the “giving of virtually anything of value…in exchange for any sort of benefit from the government.” In addition, “the law even criminalized bribe paying within the private sector cases where no government officials were involved.”; (Tepperman 111)
Lee Kuan Yew demonstrated grit, single-mindedness, boldness and consistency in overcoming significant challenges, no matter whose ox was gored. Hear Tepperman:
To show how the bureau would work and to send message that, as Lee put it, “the disinfecting has to start from the top,” the new government went after some high-profile targets, including a few of the prime minister’s close friends. (Tepperman 111)
Furthermore, Lee Kuan Yew was “completely incorruptible, and chose people who were incorruptible, when they strayed, he came down hard and that became an internalized norm.” (Tepperman 112)
I have shared Singapore’s story to illustrate that Nigeria does not have a peculiar problem that has not been solved before and also to state that we cannot continue to treat cancer with Panadol. If we are fighting corruption, let us remove the kid gloves; if we are diversifying the economy, let us make tough choices; and if we are confronting insecurity, let us also address the systemic issues that make it possible in the first place. Hopefully, this Singapore Model can stimulate robust thinking, bold visions, dialogue and concrete action that will stop our national decline and save our Republic from becoming dystopian – a state in which the worst possible conditions exist in government, society and Law.
With the background of Singapore’s success set, we must now critically examine our national goals under this administration in the context of the prophetic imperatives of national vision casting. To do this, let us visit the biblical locus classicus of vision casting, Habakkuk 2:1–3 (NKJV):
1I will stand my watch
And set myself on the rampart,
And watch to see what He will say to me,
And what I will answer when I am corrected.
2 Then the Lord answered me and said:
“Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.
3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry.
4 “Behold the proud,
His soul is not upright in him;
But the just shall live by his faith.
Characteristics of a National Vision
The foregoing experience of the prophet took place in the context of a nation that was plagued by violence, rebellion, plunder, corruption, disunity and disintegration manifest in strife and contention, the demise of the rule of law, the overwhelming preponderance of wicked lieutenants around an otherwise righteous order, and the perversion of justice through judicial rascality. This we see in Habakkuk 1:1-4.
It was against this backdrop that God dispensed to the prophet the characteristics of a national vision. In light of this, a national vision must possess the following qualities:
It is given by God to those who are burdened with the destiny of their nation whether or not they are in government;
To access the vision, such nation builders must heed the call to ascend above the perversity of their environment and rise to higher grounds of fortified value systems and greater heights of alertness;
A national vision is crafted against the backdrop of an accurate definition and assessment of the problems and challenges plaguing the nation;
However, it is bold and audacious to the extent that only the faith-inspired can conceive it;
Due to the leveraged positioning of the recipient of vision, a true national vision is not only accurate, it is broad and panoramic, encompassing the varied dimensions of the landscape and capable of capturing in one full view the foundations, confrontations, agitations, transitions, expectations and aspirations of the diverse people groups in the nation;
A national vision is documented, hence the admonition, “write the vision”;
The essence of a national vision is kept plain and simple for all citizens to understand and imbibe;
In the same vein, a national vision has a clear communication strategy that ensures that everyone “reads” it, which means everyone knows about it, and no one, not even the least enlightened, is left in the dark as to what the direction of the nation or its government is;
A national vision must galvanize and inspire corresponding action among the citizenry, including individuals, families, communities, corporate organizations in both the private and public sectors, and the subnational entities, particularly the federating units and local governance structures, hence the admonition “…that he may run who reads it.”
A national vision is time delineated; it must be long term, such that it is aspired to or waited for, yet it must be delineated into milestones which are worked at or run towards.
Against this backdrop, the following verdict may be passed on us as a nation:
This government has a direction in terms of goals and objectives that are mid to short term; these are encapsulated in Medium Term Expenditure Frameworks and annual appropriation bills or budgets. However, as a nation, we still lack a true national vision;
Despite our previous attempts at national planning – from the era of Fixed Term Planning to the era of Rolling Plans, all through to the various governmental agendas including Vision 2020 – the signs of the absence of a true national vision are so glaring that one would conclude that the prophet Habakkuk was talking about Nigeria in the first four verses of Habbakuk 1;
The biggest indicator of the absence of a national vision or rallying point is the preponderance of sectional agitations – from the clamour for self-determination by the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) and the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) in the South West, to the push for secession by the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) in the South East, from the terror unleashed by Boko Haram in the North East, to the ugly developments involving the Shiites in the North West, from the violent attacks by herdsmen in parts of the North West, especially the wanton destruction of lives and properties in Southern Kaduna, and in the North Central from where it has spread down to the South, to the militant quest for resource control by the Niger Delta Avengers in the South South, there is no restraint to the degree of balkanization that awaits a nation that lacks a unifying national vision;
Currently, we have a government that is led by a man who desires the best for Nigeria and is doing what he deems best, given the quality of his lieutenants, that is, the people surrounding him, and the reliability and accuracy of the information at his disposal;
For a relatively long time, perhaps understandably due to the quagmire it met on ground, but also due to insufficient coordination of strategies, the government failed to effectively communicate its direction as encapsulated in the “Change” agenda. As I once said at an event last year, the word “Change” or one of its colloquial variants might as well have been adopted as a memorable acronym and rallying point for a true national vision. Instead, due to the communication gaps, the word is now associated with unpleasant experiences by Nigerians;
Again, due to the communication gaps and poor mobilization, there has been insufficient corresponding action by non-state stakeholders, in particular, the private sector –the engine room of economic growth;
After a slow start characterized by series of policy somersaults, the current government has created laudable medium term plans for socioeconomic growth and recovery. However, it is yet to demonstrate the audacity and courage required to address the foundations of the Nigerian problem, a critical factor that will determine the success or failure of the government and its plans at the end of the day. That factor is the restructuring of our nation.
The Fundamental Flaw in our Federal System
The hues and cries for restructuring in our nation appear not to have been well received by this present government. The inquisitive may ask: “Why must we restructure?” We must restructure to correct the flaws in our federal system. A federated state is defined as “a territorial and constitutional community forming part of a federal union.” In a true federal system, previously sovereign states agree to confer their individual sovereignties on a central government. In other words, the states create the federal government, as was the case with the original thirteen American colonies. This was also the case when the Nigerian federal system was originally conceived by our founding fathers. Prior to the coming of the colonialists, sovereignty was domiciled in empires, kingdoms, city-states and republican villages. It was, however, taken over by the colonialists at which point it resided in the British Crown. At Independence, as negotiations for the framework of a new sovereign entity took place, sovereignty had taken another geopolitical form – regional. It was these regional units that had agreed to federate at the London Conference which led to the Lyttletton Constitution of 1954. Our founding fathers agreed that Nigeria would be “a truly federal state with limited and specific powers allocated to the federal government and residual powers inherent in the regional governments.” This agreement was the social contract upon which the Nigerian state was formed, but this social contract was broken on May 24, 1966 through the Unification Decree by Gen. J.T.U. Aguiyi-Ironsi’s administration. That was the day Nigeria died.
Five decades later, in spite of the reversal of the Unification Decree by Gen. Yakubu Gowon’s administration resulting in the division of Nigeria into twelve states, this deviation from the landmarks set by the fathers is a crucial reason for our disjointed nationhood and the perennial socioeconomic decay. It is why efforts at economic diversification by government after government, including the present government, have failed to yield the expected results. It is what has led to the infrastructural decay. It is why we run bloated governments that hitherto spend over 70% of annual budgets on recurrent expenditure.
The Imperatives of Restructuring
To understand why we must restructure, let us take a quick look, for example, at the administration of education in Nigeria. At Independence, the entire Northern Region, which comprised the current nineteen northern states, had one Ministry of Education headed by one Minister. The entire Western Region, which comprised the current six states in the South West and roughly two states in the South South, had one Ministry of Education headed by one Minister. The entire Eastern Region which comprised roughly five states in the current South East and four states in the current South South had one Ministry of Education with one Minister. Therefore, there were only three Ministries of Education headed by three Ministers in the entire country and they were responsible for the rapid educational advancement that took place in that era as the regions competed through such policies as free education to achieve socioeconomic development. Today, we have thirty-six Ministries and thirty-six Commissioners for Education which, together with the Federal Ministry of Education, consume a huge chunk of the limited education budget through recurrent expenditure. This is a very huge drainpipe in our economy. It ranks pari-passu with the cancer of corruption in hampering our growth and development as a nation. Imagine how much we could save with six efficient and effective ministries in education and other relevant socioeconomic sectors in six geopolitical zones.
Restructuring Made Easy
For those who still question the need for restructuring, I have for you a simple analogy that may cause you to have a rethink. For sixteen years, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was the governing party in Nigeria. For about twelve years, as individual parties, the so-called opposition parties tried unsuccessfully to wrest power from the PDP. In 2003, the Action Congress (AC), dominant in the South West, the All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP), dominant in parts of the North, and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), dominant in the South East, presented individual candidates for federal elections, particularly the presidential elections, and were overwhelmed by the PDP. The same scenario played out in 2007 despite the change in name by the Action Congress to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). In 2011, three parties, ACN, ANPP and a new party, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), once again individually took on the PDP and were beaten as before by the power of incumbency. However, in 2015, following the merger of these major opposition parties to form the All Progressives Congress (APC), the PDP was finally defeated and today, we have an APC-led government in power.
Fellow Nigerians, this is a prime example of leveraging on relative strengths. As with those small preceding political parties, our 36 states, most of which generate insignificant internal revenue, are not viable enough to overcome our economic challenges and facilitate accelerated economic growth. These thirty-six states, overwhelmingly sustained by allocations from Abuja, cannot guarantee functional infrastructure such as world class roads, railways, airports, housing and urban development. These thirty-six states, largely unable to pay workers’ salaries, cannot guarantee standard educational and healthcare systems, or facilitate rural development. These thirty-six states should, in fact, become districts headed by Mayors within the framework of six geopolitical zones, because they will be stronger and more productive within a zonal structure.
As zonal structures, they can pool resources to build transportation infrastructure; as zonal structures, they will empower local governments to bring effective governance directly to the people. As zonal structures, they will efficiently coordinate socioeconomic policies for the benefit of every Nigerian – every Nigerian like Mama Blessing, whose petty-trading business will be expanded and transformed by vibrant regional agricultural and transportation policies; every Nigerian like Mazi Kelechi, whose electronics business can have a globally competitive made-in-Nigeria supply from regionally backed industrial clusters; every Nigerian now just selling suya who can build a whole range of businesses around hides and skins sourced from regionally coordinated ranching systems; every Nigerian like Baba Bukky, who will no longer rely on generating sets for power supply due to regional coordination of multimodal resources for efficient power generation, transmission and distribution.
The Search for a Well-Structured State
On the question of how restructuring will be done, let me state that we have had engagements with this government, as well as with the preceding administration under President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, in which strategies and documents were put forward towards restructuring. One of these proposals called for a Presidential Commission for National Reconciliation, Reintegration and Restructuring guided by, among other frameworks, the 2014 National Conference. I do not have the time to delve into the specifics of that Commission in this address, but I must state that I am inclined to a zonally structured governance system due to the reasons I earlier alluded to. However, in the spirit of trustful give and take, let all the proposals be brought to the table. Inasmuch as it is in the interest of our nation, whatever governmental structure results from the process, a people deserve the right to determine the structural and functional parameters of governance in their nation. Let the Nigerian people decide. From the United Kingdom’s European Union membership referendum, to the constitutional plebiscite in Italy, we have seen examples of how this is done. The notion that the Nigerian nation is non-negotiable will remain contested through agitations, until we summon enough courage to put it to the test, and prove, through the outcome, that we are indeed prepared to become a truly united nation.
During the presentation of the 2017 budget, President Muhammadu Buhari rightly observed that the current economic situation also provides a climate of great opportunity. Truly, in the words of Allan K. Chalmers, “crises refine life. In them we discover who we are”, and, as declared by Jawharlal Nehru: “Crises and deadlocks have one advantage: they force us to think.” AND THINK WE MUST!
As individual citizens, we must be accurately positioned to harness these opportunities. Prayer has its place but God will not come down to solve problems He has already equipped us to solve. He is looking for patriots who will become responsible for their families, for their communities, for their organizations, for their nation, for the continent and for the world. He calls everyone, irrespective of religious, ethnic, gender or other distinctions, and such people of destiny must receive God’s visions for their environment, articulate and communicate those visions plainly and galvanize others to run along with them, knowing that the Giver of vision is the God of All Sufficiency who will make provision for the vision.
For us at The Latter Rain Assembly, we have accepted responsibility for our nation and that is why we do what we do. As watchmen over our nation, we are propelled by our God-given vision of the New Nigeria, a nation on a journey to oneness and greatness; a journey the nation of Israel embarked upon. Israel began as twelve tribes and then transited to two kingdoms, the Kingdom of the North and the Kingdom of the South. Eventually, the two kingdoms became one nation with David as king over them. In like manner, we seek Nigeria’s transition from 36 states to 6 geopolitical zones that will become harbingers of a united nation led by patriotic and selfless leaders.
The current government, under President Muhammadu Buhari, has the opportunity to provide such leadership by being at the forefront of the quest for change. Guided by the indicators of good governance in a well-structured state, and propelled by a true unifying national vision, Mr. President and his team must summon the courage to make hard choices, especially the choice to restructure and the choice to embrace the necessary self-sacrifice that precedes economic recovery.
May 29 this year will mark two full years of this administration in government. We have no more time to waste. Mr. President must galvanize his team to get the job done; square pegs in round holes must be removed or put in appropriate places; the wicked who surround the righteous must be led away from the presence of the king. Those who cannot stand the heat must get out of the kitchen. It is time to demonstrate leadership, wise judgment and astute public policy that guarantees stable and prosperous nationhood upon a foundation of peace; it is time to build a well-ordered nation with strong institutions dispensing justice; it is time to arise with patriotic zeal to build a great nation such that, years from now, generations yet unborn will look back at their history, not with disdain, but with gratitude to God that our generation preceded theirs. May 2017 be the year we look into the future with the eyes of faith and take steps to accomplish all that we know is possible.
Thank you for listening; God bless you, and God bless Nigeria.
Pastor ‘Tunde Bakare
Serving Overseer, The Latter Rain Assembly
Convener, Save Nigeria Group (SNG)