Posted by News Express | 3 February 2020 | 1,029 times
Many of us may have followed the impeachment proceedings of the President of the United States, Donald John Trump, in the United States (US) House of Representatives. We may also have been following his trial in the US Senate. It is a difficult time but also very educational. About the very foundation of a great country. It is about the quality of the mind of the founders of the US, as reflected in the US Constitution, that is so inspiring.
Indeed, democracy as the founding fathers of the US conceived it was a rebellious, disruptive and radical idea. Not sure of the future, Benjamin Franklin summarised the general feelings of the founders of the US at the close of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, when asked, “… what have we got — a Republic or a Monarchy?” He responded, “A Republic if you can keep it.”
Two hundred and forty-three (243) years after the ratification of the Declaration of Independence by the US Second Continental Congress on the 4th of July 1776, the great democratic experiment of the Republic continues. I will share my thoughts in my next article on the impeachment and trial of the President of the United States, Donald John Trump, the inclusion of Nigeria on the list of countries affected by US visa restrictions, global transitions (such as the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union, among other movements) and what all of these may mean for Nigeria at a time of real challenge. Before then, this article focuses on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the series, “it takes a minister”
As I shared in my book, “National Ambition Reconstructing Nigeria”, Nations achieve great things when the collective and shared interests are at stake and leaders rise to share a vision. This means that Nigeria can achieve much greater accomplishments, given our human and material endowments with the right leadership at all levels. Leadership is about inspiring all Nigerians through the shared experiences of our history, our current situation, and the world in continuous and discontinuous motion. When countries are ambitious for the greater good and purpose, diverse people build bridges and consensus to enable human talents and spirit to invest in a shared future.
Like the French, our attitude in Nigeria should be “impossible n’est pas Français”, meaning, “there is no such thing as can’t”. This should be a powerful statement on willpower and determination to succeed, to break new grounds and to overcome barriers. We should inculcate in every Nigerian from birth through school and translate into innovation, creativity to drive productivity. It is this illimitable spirit, characterised by a strong mentality that would make us believe in ourselves to be the very best. We stifle curiosity, inquiry and prevent the emergence of new ideas if we are self-defeating and self-limiting (as different from a reality check) with the words:
“This is Nigeria and not America”;
“It cannot work here”;
“Nigeria is not at that level yet”;
“Here is not the United Kingdom”;
“Where has it been done before?”;
“Where has it been used before?”; and
“What experience do you have?”
We need to inspire and motivate Nigerians with words such as:
“Can you demonstrate how it [will] work[s]?”;
“Yes, it is possible”;
“When do we begin?”; and
When our domestic policy is inspiring, the Minister(s) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs in collaboration with all other ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) would market Nigeria’s rich history, cultures, natural wealth, population and its innovation and creativity to the world. It would become relatively easier for the Minister(s) of Foreign Affairs to project Nigeria’s worldview on the back of a coherent social and economic strategy. To project Nigeria’s worldview to the world, based on national values, deepening democratic institutions and exemplary leadership at home and on the continent of Africa. This would be our moral authority and audacity. In an increasingly complex and interconnected world in which big economic and military powers easily undermine global agreements and conventions in the name of national security, Nigeria should be more responsive to current and emerging scenarios.
Our domestic policies cannot be reactive. We should not be playing distant catch-up far behind the curve. We should be far-sighted. As I shared in my book, “National Ambition Reconstructing Nigeria”, our domestic policies should not be based on short-term considerations that deliberately favour family, friends, and ethnics, divide and distract us from the bigger picture. Our domestic policies are only as good as the benefits that all Nigerians derive. Benefits that resonate with citizen’s constitutional rights. Benefits that improve the living conditions of all Nigeria. That gives every Nigerian a chance to achieve their full potential.
We cannot achieve national strength and security if corruption is the system. Yes, fighting corruption involves prosecuting corrupt people and recovering stolen funds. But we need to address the root causes that support the culture of corruption in Nigeria. This involves addressing the ‘all’ of ‘why’ corruption is systemic in Nigeria. We must address unequal power relations in Nigeria and build systems that inspire confidence. Systems that give every Nigerian a chance [from birth] to succeed and the opportunity to earn a decent income to support a nationally acceptable living standard.
Corruption stands in the way. It is both the cause and effect of everything wrong with Nigeria. According to a former UN Secretary-General, “… corruption undermines democratic institutions, slows economic development and contributes to governmental instability … corruption attacks the foundation of democratic institutions by distorting electoral processes, perverting the rule of law and creating bureaucratic quagmires whose only reason for existing is the soliciting of bribes … corruption undermines human development and democracy. It reduces access to public services by diverting public resources for private gain”.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) amplifies the impact of corruption in the words, “corruption also strikes at the heart of democracy by corroding rule of law, democratic institutions and public trust in leaders. For the poor, women and minorities, corruption means even less access to jobs, justice or any fair and equal opportunity”
If we would be trusted, respected and taken seriously around the world and conduct foreign policy interacting with trade and investments with our national interest in mind, let us build political, economic and social systems that are transparent and free of corruption. Let us be far-sighted to build a country that would last.
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