hold your leaders responsible; which leaders? For how long?

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hold your leaders responsible

Watching couples play-fight with pillows can be very attractive and romantic. If other couples, who do not understand the pillow’s internal makeup, use sandbags for their play-fight, the outcome will be disastrous. Some people are quick to compare the imposed Nigeria’s federalism with America’s, without considering the process of formation. They say to Nigerians: hold your leaders responsible like Americans did to achieve development. Expecting Nigeria’s imposed governance to work like America’s consented governance is like expecting same effect between sandbags and pillows in a play-fight. They were not created for the same purpose.

Several foreign and local scholars, politicians and advocates consistently blame Nigerian citizens for the country’s poor situation.[1] They insist that Nigeria has remained retrogressive after 57 years because the citizens do not hold your leaders responsible.[2][3] Some maintain that politicians steal and fail to build infrastructure because Nigerians do not stone them.[4][5] This brings us to consider the question of what is meant, how, why and who should hold your leaders responsible.


What is meant by hold your leaders responsible? How is it done in Nigeria?

It is the insistence that the post-colonial government should provide ‘good governance’: security, amenities and infrastructure. In many occasions, the concept, hold your leaders responsible, is reducible to two ideas.


The first is to protest and criticize the government as loud, wide and long as possible until they respond to calls. This includes investigative journalism, government scrutiny, media access and readiness to wail loud enough till you are heard or killed. If you wail loud enough to attract international attention, government officers adjust slightly or invite you for an exclusive treat.

nothing to lose

The second idea, which comes when the first has failed, is to wait for four years to vote them out.[6][7] This involves the ability to mobilize people to withstand threats by political thugs, riggers, sun and rain. When you succeed in voting them out, they retire with the loot amassed over the waiting period of four years. As you mock them for losing election, you have no guarantee that the new person will perform the expected magic. Hence, you may have to watch the ‘new messiah’ loot for another four years before you vote him out again. And so continues the cycle.


Why are you expected to hold your leaders responsible?

After the invasion by the colonial masters, the different communities and kingdoms were forcefully merged under a federal government.[8] The colonial masters introduced a constitution under a federal design that militarily seizes all the people’s access to their mineral resources.[9][10][11] Afterwards, the federal government assumes responsibility of managing the different peoples’ needs by creating states and local governments. Through these states, local governments, districts and constituencies, the federal government shares revenues from sale of mineral resources and other channels. Each citizen is then directed to meet his state or local government to obtain his share of mineral resource proceeds.[12]


Then, the federal government and other lower governments build whatever they feel will be good for the people.[13][14] The people begin to make demands from the ‘new form of leaders’ who have taken over access to their land and mineral resources. Hence, people of different ethnic communities demand that government should provide roads, electricity, hospitals, airports, water-supply and other amenities.  Different levels of Nigerian government are now judged according to how much amenities they provided with the combined resource funds before looting. When the amenities provided after many protests spoil, the people begin another set of protest in waiting for government.


Wouldn’t they have insisted on retrieving access to their mineral resources, so that they can produce these amenities? Wouldn’t it be more economical and extensive for Nigerians to utilize their resources in producing, managing and maintaining these amenities? Wouldn’t it improve standard of living, if the people can and actually produce their infrastructure without waiting for government’s foreign infrastructure? Or should the effort to hold your leaders responsible always be to ‘buy’ more foreign goods, infrastructure and amenities?


As who do you hold your leaders accountable?

Nigeria was created without the consent of the different communities and kingdoms, who are bound in a ‘united’ Nigeria.[15] Yet, the peoples of the different tribes, kingdoms and ethnic communities are ‘rightly’ attached to their ethnic communities and tribes. They still maintain the claim of ownership of the resources within those lands, despite the federal government’s militarized confiscation.[16]


What level of stake do you have in this Nigerian government? How legitimate is your grievance? As private individuals, resident in other tribes and ethnic communities, Nigerians may only protest on the right of a volatile constitution. However, non-violently demanding access to mineral resources in your own ethnic community for production is not only legitimate, but imperative.


Protesting mainly for government’s provision of foreign amenities and infrastructure as main duty is an escape from productive responsibility. Without retrieving access to mineral resources for productivity, the post-colonial government will continue auctioning your opportunity to be productive. When they control and auction the mineral resources, they then have enough revenue for white-elephant projects and loots. Hence, the system of public confiscation of mineral resources may never work for citizens to hold your leaders responsible.


First, what is that government, how was it created, who created it and why was it created? If you are unable to answer these questions correctly, no amount of wailing will hold your leaders responsible. Since Nigerians did not unanimously create this government, you may not truly hold your leaders responsible until you recreate the government. Cruel leaders are replaced only to have new leaders turn cruel.[17]


Secondly, the immunity clauses[18] in the imposed Nigerian constitution makes it almost impossible to ‘hold your leaders responsible’. They have many security men and soldiers who do not hesitate to shoot a protesting crowd.[19] Hence, you have to wait for four long years before you can vote them out, maybe, for a worse candidate.


If you don’t know what you want, you will just take anything given to you. The effort to hold your leaders responsible is not limited to the cry for foreign infrastructure and amenities. It is rather a demand for the freedom to pursue a full measure of productive happiness. How many four years will we have to wait, and how many prayers do we have to pray for a better candidate?


[1] Arthur Martins Aginam, “Why Nigeria Should Interrogate their leaders” in The Guardian reported by Mohammed Abubakar https://guardian.ng/politics/why-nigerians-should-interrogate-their-leaders/

[2] Joseph Waku, “Underdevelopment: Niger Delta Avengers should hold their leaders responsible” In Punch June 18 2016 http://punchng.com/underdevelopment-niger-delta-avengers-hold-leaders-responsible/

[3] Arewa Youth Forum, “Hold Northern Leaders Responsible for Crisis, August 23 2015. http://www.hopefornigeriaonline.com/hold-northern-leaders-responsible-for-crisis-arewa-youths/

[4] Rotimi Amaechi, “We steal because Nigerians don’t stone us” In Vanguard December 15, 2013 https://www.vanguardngr.com/2013/12/steal-nigerians-dont-stone-us-amaechi/

[5] Tony Momoh, “Stone us if we don’t perform in two years” In The Guardian 03-April-2016 https://guardian.ng/news/stone-us-if-we-fail-after-two-years-says-momoh/

[6] Nyesom Wike, “Why Nigerians will vote Apc out in 2019” in Daily Post reported by Ameh Godwin, August 29, 2017 http://dailypost.ng/2017/08/29/nigerians-will-vote-apc-2019-wike/

[7] https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/200760-buhari-replies-critics-says-i-three-years.html

[8] Cf. S. O. Oyedele, “Federalism in Nigeria” in Issues in Contemporary political economy of Nigeria (edited) by Hassan A. Saliu (Ilorin: T. A. Olayeri publishers, 1999) p57

[9] Nigerian minerals and mining act 2007 act no. 20, chapter 1, Part 1, Section 1, paragraph 2

[10] Nigerian minerals and mining act 2007 act no. 20, chapter 1, Part 1, Section 2, paragraph 1

[11] Nigerian minerals and mining act 2007 act no. 20, chapter 1, Part 1, Section 1, paragraph 3

[12] Joseph Waku, “Underdevelopment: Niger Delta Avengers should hold their leaders responsible” In Punch June 18 2016 http://punchng.com/underdevelopment-niger-delta-avengers-hold-leaders-responsible/

[13] John Odigie Oyegun“APC hails Okorocha for erecting N520m Zuma Statue” in Vanguard reported by Omeiza Ajayi October 18, 2017 https://www.vanguardngr.com/2017/10/%E2%80%8Eapc-hails-okorocha-erecting-n520m-zuma-statue/

[14] Rochas Okorocha, “We owe no apology to anyone on Zuma’s statue” in Vanguard October 18, 2017 https://www.vanguardngr.com/2017/10/owe-no-one-apology-zumas-statue-okorocha/

[15] cf. Richard Dowden, Africa altered states, ordinary miracles. (New York: Public Affairs, 2010). p.445

[16] Ankio Briggs, “North can’t own oil in Niger Delta” in The Sun 18th June, 2016,  http://sunnewsonline.com/north-cant-own-oil-in-niger-delta-ankio-briggs/

[17] Che Guevara, https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/che_guevara

[18] Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2011 as amended, Section 308, subsection 1, paragraphs i, ii, iii

[19] Charles Oputa, “Anambra shooting shows no proactive security for ordinary Nigerian” In Vanguard  August 7, 2017 https://www.vanguardngr.com/2017/08/anambra-shooting-shows-no-proactive-security-ordinary-nigerian-charly-boy/