Dr Martin Luther King jnr stood up alongside others to insist on civil
rights for blacks in the United States, many people, even fellow
clergymen, criticised him for being 'impatient'. They felt that King and
others like him should 'wait', and allow 'time and events' to sort out
the issue of civil rights for blacks. They were sufficiently certain
that 'with time', the natural course of history would solve the problem.
But in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, Dr king pointed out to his
critics that 'time' by its nature is neutral. He observed that both the
evil man and the good man were capable of using 'time' to achieve
whatever aims they set out to, and that if the good man failed to use it
while the evil man did so, society would only be filled with evil, and
the good man, for all his goodness, would never see his desires
materialise because he stayed passive while the evil man worked. Dr King
in his submissions, actually echoed a stream of thought that had been
voiced in an earlier era by British statesman Edmund Burke, who lived
during the 18th century and served for several years in the House of
Commons. Burke, in calling for action with regard to the burning issues
of his day said: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is
for good men to do nothing"
Today, the American society is all the
better for the work that Dr King and others did. Even fifty years ago,
no one could have imagined that a black man would one day sit in the
Oval Office as President of the United States, but owing to the long and
hard battle fought by Dr King and his colleagues, and the great
sacrifices they made many years ago, it is a reality today.
too long, we have remained passive while our society burned. We have
watched, while our values were turned upside down. The looting
politician, the terrorist, the armed robber etc, have all been working
while we took the role of spectators. But I believe that the time has
come when as a people, we must take our destiny in our own hands. The
urgency for this has never been greater at any time than now. We must
stand up while we still can, and say no to the evils holding our nation
hostage today. We must decide what kind of society we want and insist on
having the freedom to build it.
Several years ago, I went to interview
Prof Omo Omoruyi, former Head of the Centre for Democratic Studies. I
asked him a question on the "Economic Reforms" of then President
Obasanjo, and he dismissed the former President with the wave of a hand.
I can never forget what Prof Omoruyi said to me on why he didn't
believe in Obasanjo's policies. He said: "We have to agree first on how
we're going to live together before deciding how much money we want to
make." In other words, political restructuring, before economic reforms,
not the other way round.
With the benefit of hind sight, we know that
Obasanjo's economic reforms, which centred on privatization and
deregulation, failed woefully. In one of the first courses I took in
UI's Department of Political Science, my lecturer then, Dr Onyeoziri
(now Prof), taught us that "the essence of politics is the formulation
and execution of public policy". Governance is not magic. It is not a
mystery. It functions on an imput/output principle, just like it is in a
manufacturing plant. In other words, if you put in substance, you get
substance, and if you put in garbage, you get garbage. The success or
failure of a given society can be determined by the following equation:
Strong political foundation + right policies + integrity of leadership
and followership = successful attainment of social goals and
aspirations. It cannot be otherwise.
The problem with Nigeria today is
that on all three counts of strong foundation, right policies and
integrity, we are hopelessly deficient. So how can we record success? No
one can make an omelette without first breaking eggs, nor can anyone
begin the construction of a skyscraper from the penthouse!