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Monthly Archives: November 2009

Nigeria and neo-feudalism

In it’s classic sense,feudalism refers to the hierarchical relationships between lords and vassals,and between the vassals and the peasants, that held sway in much of medieval European societies.Under this arrangement,the lords who ‘owned’  the lands(fiefs),granted possession of the lands to the nobles(vassals) in return for which the nobles pledged to provide military service to the lords,and the peasants provided the nobles with physical labour in return for  protection.This set of reciprocal agreements between lords and nobles was used to maintain  ‘order’ during this period.

Neo-feudalism is used  to describe a society or policies that are reminiscent of feudalism.A neo-feudal society would also boast  a very wide gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots”.For me,every society remains feudal,until it has fully enthroned the rule of law(equality before the law for all)  and attained real, not formal,democracy.It is only when the dispossessed can be succoured by the justice delivery system,and the people can vote out miscreants in power,that a society is on the path to ending feudalism.

In Nigeria today,although elections are held,the results are predetermined and the people’s votes do not count.What really count here are  the reciprocal agreements between those in power and the electoral officials  appointed by them(in return for their appointment,these electoral officials are required to influence ‘elections’ in favour of their masters).The people’s  participation is necessary only to validate the process.Given that the people’s votes do not count,those ‘elected’ are not likely going to feel any need to be accountable to the people, as they have no need to fear a backlash from the electorate.In such a formal  democracy,’elections’ do not serve to rotate power but to entrench it and promote  unbridled corruption in government thereby  increasing further the gap between the rich and powerful on the one hand, and the masses on the other.

The rule of law cannot take place in a vacuum.I believe it can only take root through the mediation of certain public institutions.A constitution is a mere document,unless it’s provisions are religiously enforced.To achieve this happy  state of affairs, the judiciary and police forces have to be more than mere levers of power ,the control of which is feuded over by the rich and powerful.By definition,public institutions are mechanisms designed to perform  specific functions in the interest of the public.When such an institution is suborned to protect the interests of the powerful to the detriment of the masses,it becomes a mere lever of power.In this regard,it is used to maintain and widen the gap between the powerful and the rich.Such a lever is the Nigerian police.

Measured by the above yardsticks,it should be no surprise that Nigeria is labelled as neo-feudal.

Resource control in Nigeria

Resource control,hereby defined as the control and management of resources by state or local governments from whose jurisdictions the resources are extracted,is key to the emergence of a modern federal Nigeria.The states or local governments would manage the resources from their territories under federal guidelines(especially,environmental ones) , and then remit taxes to the federal centre.For me, a truly federal Nigeria would have a centre which is almost fully dependent on taxation for it’s running.With it’s income much reduced,it would be  far less attractive to political entreprenuers,thus reducing competition for it’s control and the attendant problems.

Make no mistake about it,Nigeria as presently run is a trustfund state:Like most countries in Africa,the central government commandeers  the process of extracting it’s natural resources,and then having this pot of money,dispenses patronage as it pleases(apart from allocations to the states or local governments,think of the numerous white elephant projects,primarily designed to siphon public funds).Having unlimited income as a result of it’s total control of the extraction process,the federal government has no great need to look towards taxation as a source of income.My theory here is that no government can be accountable unless the people demand it,and the people will not demand accountability and probity unless their taxes  almost solely pay for the running of the government.In other words,no representation without taxation.

Resource control will also help curb corruption at every level of government.At the centre,with greatly reduced income,profligacy is bound to fall.At the state and local levels,once people come to realise that the shots are been called from their local capitals, which are accessible,rather than Abuja which is not,they are bound to impose themselves, eventually.

Resource control will also accelerate the process of development,by forcing the states and local governments,with allocations from the centre greatly reduced or non-existent,to develop the resources within their jurisdiction in other to survive.Every state has something.They just have not been given the motivation to explore their riches.The need to survive,in the face of limited or zero allocation,would prove ample incentive.

The argument that these communities cannot manage their resources, because of the performance of certain elected officials, is spurious.Extremely so.First,the period of time in question is too short.Second,the shots are still be called from Abuja,so the people do not feel moving against the guys in Port-harcourt or Yenagoa would change anything.Finally,can anyone say,with a straight face,that the guys in Abuja,over the years,have been better stewards of public funds than the guys in Port-harcourt or Yenagoa?I think not.

Age cheating in Nigerian sports

Just right now,barrister Adokie Amiesiemeka,a former Nigerian international footballer,is not very popular with the average Nigerian football fan over his protest,that the  captain  of Nigeria’s team at the ongoing FiFa under-17 football world cup being hosted by Nigeria is over-aged.Amiesiemeka has been roundly abused and labeled unpatriotic,not only on the streets but by some representatives of the sports-governing authorities.

Make no mistake about it,Amiesiemeka is the real patriot here.The others are self-deceived.I believe that Amesiemeka recognisess that Nigerian sports will never reach the heights,until the problem of age-falsification is fully dealt with:age-cheats are usually senior athletes who step down to under-age levels,crowding out the real juniors and denying them the opportunity and exposure that come  with participating in these junior tournaments.Usually,these age-cheats have only a limited ability to benefit themselves from these tournaments,given their lower  teach-ability.As everyone knows,you cannot teach an old dog new tricks.

So the question is this:could Amiesiemeka not have been more “patriotic” by not making this protest in the full glare of the world during  this tournament?I think  his timing is brilliant. It would take something signal to concentrate minds in this country.Perhaps a Fifa ban is what is really needed here.A ban would force us to take a long look at  sports adminstration and conception in this country.

From where i am standing,the two reasons driving dysfunction in Nigerian sports are poverty and lack of institutional integrity.First,for the average talented young man from a lower-class background,sports represents his best chance out of poverty.His task is made even tougher when he  realizes the domestic sports scene is slavish:full professionalism is grossly inadequately rewarded and the progression to this level of professionalism from secondary school is unmediated by any network of sporting academies and organized sponsorship.He simply has to go abroad.This knowledge heightens the appeal of these junior tournament as shop-windows, at which to market yourself to the entire world.And of course ,you do whatever it takes to get in these tournaments.

Second,given the poor documentation history of our institutions,think schools,hospitals and courts,it is virtually impossible to trace any one’s record back a decade.Even where records exist,due to the breakdown of institutional integrity,the schools,hospitals and courts can be suborned to give you whatever personal details  you desire.For a fee of course.

A conception of sports as an industry on its own,not necessarily dependent on continued government patronage,one that is capable of providing jobs for people in this country is sorely needed.And i mean good well-paying jobs.We need to shed the notion,that only white collar work should be well rewarded.Creating a viable sports industry will create so many more jobs than the oil/gas and banking industries combined.Think not only of the athletes themselves,but of  all the other positions ancilliary to them:coaches,administrators,commentators,sports journalists,advertisers,equipment manufacturers and vendors.Such a viable industry would reduce the incentive for cheating as  people would go through the academies straight to their local clubside  where they can start a rewarding  career domestically.