Monday, April 19, 2021 12:02 am
By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
Nigeria is on autopilot. The state is drifting. We can see this with half an eye. We can feel this even if we are numb to bad news. We do not get a feeling that anyone is in charge of things, of governance, of policy formulation and implementation. There is something sinister going on, whether by design or default, we are not sure. The psychology of the leader’s presence is not felt by the people. If things were working smoothly, there would be no cries of the nation being adrift like the boat in JP Clark’s play The Raft. But the nation is currently like an old cloth that keeps tearing in different sections. We patch up one spot. Another one tears up. While we are pretending to fix the torn part, another one erupts. This is not good. It is dangerous. The effect of this is a cloud of uncertainty across the land. Acts of impunity have become a recurring decimal. Warlords appear to gain strength by the day. Provocative statements dominate the airwaves. Who will save Nigeria by taking the cockpit? When can we, shall we get a pilot that will govern Nigeria as a 21st century democrat?
In technical terms, autopilot refers to ‘a device for automatically steering ships, aircraft, and spacecraft also’. The automatic control provided by such a device is called automatic pilot. It is the hallmark of efficiency. If I may explain further, autopilot is a ‘device used to guide an aircraft without direct assistance from the pilot. Early autopilots were only able to maintain a constant heading and altitude, but modern autopilots are capable of controlling every part of the flight envelope from just after take-off to landing’. At cruise level, a pilot does his computation and concludes with the aid of gadgets that for the next one hour the climate would be favourable to placing the craft on autopilot. He then activates the device. Some cars also have a device that makes it possible for the driver to automate the speed level.
It is a different kettle of fish, however, when we say a person is on autopilot. The dictionary assures us that ‘if you are on automatic pilot or autopilot, you are acting without thinking about what you are doing, usually because you have done it many times before! This means that it is not a positive thing to say that Nigeria is on autopilot. Or is it? An auto-piloted system works when institutions are strong. In the last ten years, we have by design and default, weakened the institutions which drive growth.
Recently, the president raveled out of the country for a routine health check. Before he departed the shores of the country, he had a meeting with security chiefs and gave orders that banditry must come to an end. Shortly after, it was announced that the president was resting in the United Kingdom. In the same week, there were reports of a jail break in Owerri. Hoodlums stormed the prison and set some prisoners free. In Benue State, soldiers bearing cash, arms and ammunitions were ambushed. The scoundrels went away with their prized possessions which of course we know will further heighten the level of insecurity. During the period, former Head of State General Abdulsalami Abubakar cried out that there are six million arms in the hands of private citizens. How did these get into Nigeria? Who has taken steps to deal with the situation? Who is in charge of Nigeria?
The truth is that Nigeria is too big a geographical space to be placed in the hands of one person. An administration that is too big leads to unhealthy bureaucracy and inefficiency. It is against this background that patriots are calling for a restructuring of the country into bits for effective governance. The cry of Edo State governor that the federal government printed billions of naira last month to make up for the shortfall in shareable revenue to the states is alarming. Apart from the absence of visible, firm, and purposeful leadership, there is fiscal mismanagement. This is not good news. Those who are interested in grabbing power, should be interested, should have the competence to manage a modern economy.
Power in the modern state is not to be sought for and grabbed for the sake of having power. In other words, power is not, should not be an end to itself. It is to be deployed to creating a very strong economy, a healthy and egalitarian society. For the clan or ethnic group that has grabbed power to survive, the state itself must survive. Anarchy is not to be sought after. In a state of anarchy, the Fulani hegemony will be vacuous. The elite would have no peace. Already, it is reported that most of them cannot stay the night in their hometowns and villages. Is that the kind of country we wish to create?
Somebody must run the affairs of this country. And run it with knowledge of Nigeria’s strategic value to the Black race. In a country where the institutions are not strong,things cannot be on autopilot mode. The President travelled to the UK on health check up two weeks ago. Power was not handed over the Vice President. Presidential handlers assert that the president can govern the country from the hospital. This is a lie. This is unacceptable in the modern world. At his current age, there is a limit to the stress of office the president can stand. The president acknowledged the limitations of age during the campaigns in 2015. Once he is away from the country, power ought to devolve to his deputy or to a group of persons with strict instructions on areas of operations. Indeed, if the presidency had been run like an open book, there would be no fear whatsoever about the Vice President outshining his principal. The lives of millions of Nigerians are tied to the quality of decisions which the president takes. As a man who came campaigning on the platform of integrity, he needs to give Nigerians a better deal. The autopilot metaphor for Nigeria is an anomaly.
Professor Eghagha can be reached on 08023220393 and firstname.lastname@example.org