By Professor Chiweyite Ejike
I am immensely honoured to have been asked by Prof. Ben Nwabueze, SAN to participate in this project aimed at producing a book under the title: “CHALLENGES TO GOOD AND DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE IN NIGERIA- ESSAYS IN HONOUR OF PROFESSOR BEN NWABUEZE”. The book release is planned as part of the events celebrating Prof. Nwabueze’s 85th birthday. I am particularly delighted to be this way challenged to perform a duty on behalf of the Igbo Leaders of Thought (ILT).
I hasten to proclaim my rather limited knowledge on the matter of interest, considering my primary training as a natural Scientist. I felt obliged however to venture a contribution, mainly because of the immense confidence placed on my modest capacity by no less a person than our icon and subject of celebration, Prof. Nwabueze.
This presentation cannot be expected to achieve the rigour and completeness of one by an expert on our country’s political, economic and social affairs, and does not pretend to be an expert discourse with rigorous research findings. It is at best the candid personal insights of a senior Nigerian citizen whom fate has temporally positioned as to undertake his life’s journey around the country during what can be described as uniquely memorable and challenging periods of the nation’s modern history. It is held out as an honest contribution to what is now one of the most important subjects of the national narrative and discourse, namely: the imperative nature and prospects of change in the current Nigerian society.
Change- What Change?
Social change has a lot in common with change as applied to natural science. In both domains, events play out in innumerable sets of time-space continuum. Variations and variability are discernible attributes of natural and social events and represent instabilities in qualities and quantities that characterize and qualify situations. In everyday usage, the definition of “change” might not satisfy the need for full explanation of the exact meaning of the concept of change. In living and non-living nature, change is a constant phenomenon. According to Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, among many options, “change” is defined as “to undergo transformation, transition or substitution” from a pre-existing to a new condition or situation. Conversely, stasis- a non-changing or equilibrium state of affairs is less common in both natural and artificial systems, probably on account of its similarity to motion upstream, which demands a large consumption of energy.
In investigating the nature, type, significance or impact of change, particularly social change, we could visualize the phenomenon from binary notions as “correct or incorrect, positive or negative, good or bad and desirable or undesirable”, depending on the individual or collective societal perspectives. Whichever way we examine the matter, change would seem to be perpetually necessary: “No condition is permanent” is a popular inscription on numerous mammy-wagons constantly plying the badly maintained roads in our own part of the country. Indeed, Ndigbo have a saying: “Otee aka oji di mma, odi njo; ma otee aka oji di njo, odikwa mma”, underlining their experience that good and bad times alternate in an unstoppable pattern of time and space intervals. It would appear that most human civilizations have come to accept, from their different collective experiences that changing patterns of events or cycles in the natural world constitute an intrinsic quality of creation.
We are able to draw useful lessons from nature in our efforts to satisfactorily define the concept of change. In the natural world, we constantly encounter small versus huge changes, such as those related to gene mutations, in which minor alterations can be very beneficial, while large ones are almost always fatal. We also encounter transient as against long-lasting changes; simple as against fundamental changes, such as routine reactions of complex life-sustaining metabolic processes set against the transformational high-impact changes that occur in metamorphosing insects for example.
One important distinction between social change and change in nature is the pre-requisite in the former for a critical level of unity of purpose among the members of a given social group for the desired change to impact on the fundamental nature of such society. This derives from the basic nature of humans as social animals, and the critical role of attitude in human behaviour. Other factors include ethics, morals, pre-existing cultures, traditions and a defining code of acceptable norms of behaviour. Added to this is the influence of the ethnic configurations and religious belief systems of the society in question on their time-based expectations for total societal growth and development.
Why Change in Nigeria is Imperative
Before we focus on the imperative necessity for change in Nigeria, I should like to define the essential socio-cultural characteristics of the present day Nigerian society. Here again, I emphasize that this is essentially a subjective evaluation of the state of affairs from a personal perspective and empirical observations.
Useful information was garnered from personal experience, print and electronic media, focus group discussions, and interactions with leaders of civil society organizations and academic colleagues who are specialists in the fields of national history and socio-political economy over the past five decades. Substantial data also came from secondary sources derived from published and unpublished reports. For a discussion of this type to provide acceptable explanatory value, it is useful to situate the presentation in the context of the Nigeria’s political setting. For this purpose, it will suffice to describe Nigeria as a large territory with over 389 ethnic nationalities (Nwabueze 2014). It is important to point out that each of these nationalities exists in distinct geographical locations.
The three major ones are: Hausa-Fulani, Igbo, and Yoruba. Nigeria has a federal structure of government, with 36 federating States, organized into 6 geopolitical zones, ostensibly to ensure balanced development. In order to offer the reader reasonable familiarity and understanding of the complexities of the country, it is also useful to present brief accounts of the socio-cultural and economic attributes of each of these 6 geopolitical zones. A similar approach was adopted by Ejike 2002 in preparing a report on Prospects on Human Rights Education (HRE) for the United Nations Foundation.
A review of the problems facing the nation would be incomplete without a good knowledge of the cultural, religious, ethnic/subethnic, socio-political, economic and educational circumstances of its various parts, which have substantially impacted the national story for the past 5 decades or so. Although the essential facts of these conditions have become fairly common knowledge, the information has been accumulated over the years by various social scientists, educationists and political science experts too numerous to mention. Their efforts and findings are hereby gratefully acknowledged.
Because the present account is partly intended as a “Handover Note” to the coming generations who might have little knowledge of, or lost track of these impacting conditions, I personally consider it vital to make appropriate references to these situations, even at the risk of sounding pedestal. (To be continued).
*Prof. Ejike, former Vice-Chancellor of the Anambra State University of Science and Technology (ASUTECH), Enugu, is Deputy Chairman of ILT and wrote in from Enugu.
**CORRIGENDUM: Last Monday, we inadvertently published part of an article titled: “Nigeria: A Country Divided Under President Buhari – A Unifier Needed” in which was erroneously credited to Prof. Chiweyite Ejike. The referenced material is draft of an article forwarded to Prof. Ejike by the Chairman of ILT, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, SAN, which was inadvertently forwarded to us for publication. The wrong attribution is highly respectfully withdrawn. There was no intention to demean any of the two academic giants.