Posted by News Express | 5 June 2021 | 340 times
Lehman Brothers was one of the biggest banks in the world. It had its fingers in many financial pies all over the world. It was a respected player with a rich tradition behind it. All of this was until it filed for bankruptcy a little over a decade ago. The news of its bankruptcy jolted the financial world; it jolted the corporate world; it jolted nations. They say when an elephant dies, all sorts of knives come out. It was humbling seeing the once proud bank being sliced open as smaller banks scrambled for juicy parts of the fallen giant. The news shocked America into declaring that some enterprises were simply too big to be allowed to fail. But the truth is that nothing is too big to fail; not an enterprise, not a country. Until its bankruptcy, Lehman Brothers was, like Israel before Noah’s Flood, still going about its day to day duties. It was still hiring the best talents; it was still attracting the best interns from prestigious universities. Its executives were still negotiating and sealing deals. Yet the stress lines had been there for a while until a couple of unsavoury developments came together at the wrong time. You could say the bank was blinded by greed. You could say its top executives took series of wrong decisions. You could say it was complacent because of its size. But none of these was peculiar to Lehman Brothers. I would simply say that Lehman Brothers fell as much for its policies as its politics. A different CEO, a different US Secretary of Treasury, a different Government in 2008 and Lehman Brothers might still be a big player in the financial market today.
The story of Lehman Brothers, a big and hitherto well run institution with a rich history and enviable pedigree, should remind us that any institution that takes its eye off the ball can fail. The story of the Soviet Union, once a Super Power and major, indispensable player in international affairs, should remind us that any nation that ignores the yearnings of its constituent parts, can fail. Those who say Nigeria is too big to fail or that the Western World would not allow Nigeria to collapse because of the consequences should always remind themselves that bigger nations have disintegrated and heavens did not fall. The world would adjust to the failure of Nigeria even as scavengers come out with their carving knives. Those who opine that Nigeria is destined to be should remember what the Good Book said about faith and works. Even one’s destiny has to be worked at for it to be realised. Those who think the marriage of Nigeria is non-negotiable should remember that what ‘God joins together’ in churches is often put asunder by men. Failure, whether of a nation, an institution or a home, is usually about bad policies and bad politics. It is also about the inability of the dominant players to manage the dynamics of the two. Every successful nation, institution or home is a work in progress with emphasis on ‘work and progress’. In other words, a balance of good policies, politics and players makes for success.
Years of bad policies and bad politics are finally catching up with Nigeria with the clamour for break-up getting louder than the clamour for restructuring which had been on the table for years but which had been contemptuously ignored by bad players. The six zones largely represent the six dominant nationalities of the country. It was a bad policy not to have allowed them a measure of control over the cultural, religious, financial and security affairs of their zones. It was a bad policy to have put more emphasis on geographical size over population for the allocation of resources. It was a bad policy and a disincentive to productivity not to have recognised – and rewarded – the geese that are laying the golden eggs. It was a bad policy to have veered away from the secular nature of the country knowing how inflammable religion can be. Now to bad politics. We know the South provides the financial backbone for the country in three critical areas: oil, ports and taxes. Now look at the nationalities of the people manning those areas. Would the North have accepted this if it was the other way round? A couple of weeks ago, the President called for a security meeting to address the growing insecurity in the East. Not a single Igbo was there as a top security person to give perspective and insight to the security situation in their region. Talk about trying to shave somebody’s head in his absence. That was bad politics at its insensitive best. It was bad politics to have tried to defend herdsmen turned criminals. Banditry would have been better handled if it had not been politicised.
Despite admixture of bad policies and politics, the situation would still have been better managed if we had good, sensitive players. Players who are able to situate themselves in the positions of others. But the rhetoric coming from some players have not helped matters. It is obvious that what the separatist agitators want is more respect, more autonomy in handling matters that are peculiar to them and more inclusiveness in critical national matters. Yet the response to their plaintive cry for equity is couched in arrogance and obduracy. Reasonable players would have called for a meeting of minds. They would have urged a ‘give and take’ disposition among stakeholders. For example, it is indeed ironic that while Nigeria does not want the Igbos to go, it ignores their aspirations. The most important of which is to be acknowledged and accorded their place as an important player in the economic and political affairs of the country. Just look at critical or juicy government appointments in the current administration and the nationality of those occupying the positions. Look at the way Igbos’ wish for the Presidency is being dismissed.
Nigeria can still come back from the brink but it has to work at it. Thinking disintegration – make no mistake, it will be a disintegration, not a secession – cannot happen without making efforts to avert it is to me foolhardy. And to avert it, we have to restructure the system. We have to change policies that make Nigeria a cake to be shared and not baked. We have to change the politics that supports winner takes all. Or one which makes some people think they are born to rule. We have to change those players who think more of self and ethnic nationality than country. Nigeria is too naturally blessed to be gasping for air. We have to change the narrative. Current policies, politics and players have to make way.
•This column originally appeared in today’s edition of Saturday Vanguard. The writer, Muyiwa Adetiba, is a veteran journalist and publisher. He can be reached via email@example.com
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