By Maiz Banire
Nigeria is a country with a complex structure of ethnicity that may never allow integration, unity or development. The way certain vested interests in Nigeria advocate and advance their cases based on their places of ethnic origin could be mind-boggling and constitute a question mark on our education and civilization.
I have carefully studied the relationship of the various ethnic groups that make up Nigeria and I get more and more bewildered anytime I ponder on this. This is more so when those who are supposed to be the guiding light towards national development are the ones showcasing defeatist approach to nation building.
How and why mere relocation of some departments of government parastatals can be regarded as anti-a-particular-ethnic-group is quite disturbing. The most harrowing part of it is that those who mouth these inanities are the most educated elements in our society which proves convincingly that the elite are the most disuniting factor in our fragile polity.
Still on the relocation of some departments of the Central Bank of Nigeria and headquarters of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to Lagos. Ordinarily I would have terminated the conversation with the last intervention on X but for the interview granted by Senator Ndume on the subject matter. Listening to him, I became so disappointed in his utterances.
The Senator is one person that I am used to in struggles but not this type that is completely an aberration. The reasoning by him is certainly misplaced and pedestrian. Let me start by his logic and narratives that if the reason for relocation is because Lagos is the center of banking, then the Nigerian National Petroleum Company should be relocated to the Niger Delta. Well, if I adopt that logic, then so be it that it be so relocated, particularly if it will enhance the corporation’s operational efficiency. In fact, beyond the headquarters of the petroleum corporation, the operational staff are scattered all over the Niger Delta. They should have come to Abuja and be drilling there!
The Senator seems to be confusing the location of the headquarters of a corporation with the relocation of operational base. He was chair of Army Committee in the Senate for quite a while and must know how Nigerian Army relocated from time to time its operational bases. This is nothing extraordinary to comprehend nor novel. It certainly has nothing to do with politics or any agenda. Are we going to shoulder someone with responsibility and armstring him again?It is certain that the operations of the Central Bank of Nigeria need be modernized, critically re-structured and made more effective.
The tradition of concentrating a government parastatal in one location, notwithstanding the impairment of its efficiency, definitely does not accord with a wise and effective manner of running an institution. In the United States, government agencies and parastatals are located in different States to enhance efficiency more so that e-governance is fast taking over the modern process of running governmental affairs.
Secondly, Senator Ndume’s threat of political consequences is to say the least unstatesmanlike. Just as he said that Lagos is not Nigeria, Northern interest is not equal to Nigerian interest. I am glad that not only the Senate of the Federal Republic has disassociated itself but even some other credible northerners, particularly the man who should know best, His Highness, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who once administered the Bank. It is equally gladdening that the Vice President of Nigeria, Kassim Shetima, GCON and some other Northern Governors have denounced the statement of Senator Ndume.
One must let the Senator realise that all the inflammatory statements that he was known for under the previous administration and by which a lot of heat was released into the fledgling polity cannot be helpful to the nation and the people we are trying to lead. It is high time people like him reined in their irredentist ego. It is statements and postures like this that promote violent campaigns from terrorist organizations who see educated individuals like Ndume as adequately representing their parochial interests. It is unkind attitudes of this nature that have set the nation on the edge for years and we are currently tottering on the precipice. We need to understand the purpose of governance is not to deepen divisive tendencies but rather to promote unity, productivity and development of the nation.
Again, Ndume’s argument on financial implication is flawed. Does he know the cost implication and attendant risks associated with staff traveling to Lagos for banking examination, for instance? I am sure that those who took the decision must have considered the comparative figures of relocation and routing bank examination visits to Lagos, both in the immediate and future time, before reaching the decision. He is certainly not in any position to do such comparison.
Beyond the above, any federal civil servant can be moved to work in any part of the country and cannot be heard to be complaining. It is part of the undertaking of civil servants that they can, at any point in time, be posted to any part of the country. If they are not complaining, why is the Senator crying more than the bereaved except for alleged personal interest.
I am glad ultimately that the Senator has come out clean by admitting that his daughter is in the Bank. The worst of his contention is the northernisation of the issue, a contradiction of his statement and posture that he is a nationalist. Is it only northerners that are affected? Are easterners and even other unwilling westerners not affected? Certainly, all tribes are affected. It is also the case that the Central Bank office, an imposing skyscraper of a structure at Tinubu Square, Custom Street, Marina, Lagos has been practically abandoned as most of the offices are unutilized with consistent cost of management.
If the relocation of some of the CBN departments will make it to be more effective and its service delivery more productive, so be it. What we should be concerned with is the impact of a government decision on the masses that they are elected or appointed to serve. The Senator has come out once again to say that his daughter works in the CBN and that he merely spoke the truth. He still affirmed that there would be political consequences which is a threat that definitely will not sit down well with many other sectors and peoples of the nation. His bias that he felt that the decision to relocate the affected departments to Lagos is based on what he perceived as against the interest of the north is not hidden at all. With such a figure like Ndume engaging in poor ethnic campaign of narrow interests shows that our polity is still dominated by less developed consciousness that sees everything from the viewpoint of nepotism.
Advanced biological behaviour dictates that we see and address issues from the point of humanity and not sectionalization. As at today, with what the nation has passed through and is still passing through in terms of insecurity and economic retrogression and recession, one would expect educated members of the Nigerian society to concentrate more on how to solve the challenges bedeviling the nation and not be deepening divisive factors. With this kind of mentality dominating our polity, it is certain we are still below the required quotient and datum line of public-spiritedness. It is not every issue that we have to ethnicise, particularly at that level of a Senator.
To a layman on the street, his concern is basically his economic survival and how a better future can be guaranteed for his family. He does not know where the CBN is located and neither does he want to know. His challenges which he is calling the government to address is economic resuscitation the purpose of which he voted and is still ready to vote. We cannot leave this major ailment and be attending to inconsequential symptoms that do not add up to the required solution to our problem. Where the uninformed members of the public whose patience and understanding are below appreciation of economic gymnastics now seize on inflammatory statements of the elite, they storm the streets unleashing carnage which are only destructive of our national and individual lives.
Interestingly and reassuringly, the north is bigger than Ndume and his ilk and that is why those who are better informed and rational have come out to reject such posturing of Senator Ndume. I strongly advise the Senator and others of his ilk to avoid ethnicisation of issues and making volatile statements. A Senator is an elder statesman and must always act accordingly and remain so. To the current Central Bank Governor, I commend you for not joining issues on such trivial issues while remaining firm and courageous. This is the hallmark of leadership.
I have always known you not to be a scavenger in the corridors of power and so, I am not surprised that you are doing the right thing. While I try to assist you in maintaining your focus, do not forget those acts and steps that will make Nigeria great once again; those decisions and steps that will assist the children of the common man to be able to feed adequately. There is so much to do in the Central Bank as the institution in charge of our monetary issues. It is important that you look into how to balance our budget deficits and pay less attention to distractions.
Kindly firm up the naira without engaging in frivolities that preoccupied the previous occupant of your office. It is part of your portfolio to ensure monetary and price stability, issue legal tender currency in Nigeria, maintain external reserves to safeguard the international value of the legal tender currency, promote a sound financial system in Nigeria, and act as banker and provide economic and financial advice to the Federal Government. The above requires the need to ensure that naira is strengthened and that you properly advise the government on how to achieve economic recovery.
With the rot in the system, it is important that the CBN is subjected to critical examination of its operations and functionaries under your leadership which I am aware you have embarked upon. Regular self-examination is a strong weapon in the hands of a reformer. You have to look inwards to prevent saboteurs of the system within and outside the Bank. It is imperative to regulate the Bank to avoid financial recklessness that characterized the tenure of the previous Governor. For those who believe that the relocation of the particular offices affected had a political inclination and are clearly agitated, it is good to assure them that the future of Nigeria is bigger than sectional interests. We must all work together and see the nation from a position of strength when it works in unity.
Muiz Banire is a legal practitioner and former Commissioner in Lagos State.