OPINION: State of the Nation: Original Sins

By S.O.K. Shillings

Past leaders

There is a global economic crisis, the immediate cause of which the Russia-Ukraine war can be fingered. There is a ‘swing’ crisis in Nigeria which is a consequence of systemic failure that has been there all along.

The cries of anguish is becoming musical. It is hunger with no signs of abatement. Like the Israelites of the Mosaic epoch, there will be respite and everything will look normal until it swings again perhaps finally when we will have to settle it by war or a cry for intervention in the form of a putsch.

It is not about PDP or APC or President Jonathan or Tinubu. It is an inherently deficient system through which nothing good can come to Nazareth. February 25, 2023, those who saw life from the prism of sport went out for the umpteenth time to perform a perennially otiose ritual of choosing between evil and devil. We did not look inwards before naming the handicapped child. I saw all these coming when I wrote the serial ‘May the Bubbles Burst’. I went further with another serial entitled: ‘A Formula for Democracy’. I have continued with yet another: ‘A Formula for an Economy’. Whoever has the prowess of IT can pull out those to read. I don’t keep records. I will attempt a summary in this piece.

Let us interrogate the f.a.q: how did we get here? In doing so, we are dissecting what is often termed the ‘original sins’. The original sins of this country are: an awkward democracy and military constitution, disproportionate expenditure and lack of productivity.

Democracy and Constitution

Democracy is the best system of government only if you get the formula. After the debates of the late 70s, the eggheads concluded on a wrong formula of the universal adult suffrage in which every adult votes the ultimate ruler (which does not exist anywhere except Africa). Electioneering is so expensive and debasing as the would-be leader has to meet everybody and in the course succumb to inordinate wishes. It only produces weak leaders and that is why our leaders, including the one whose main qualification was the tough handling of corruption became so weak for 8 years. It is on a wrong formula and nothing will be achieved with it.

Corruption is seen as the greatest problem of Nigeria. With a strong leader, there will be no corruption. There will be only open cabal of ideas and implementation. There will be no sacred cows. Respect and fear (in the minds of the wicked and greedy) will rule. So many evil issues including the manipulation of dollars and sectoral indiscipline the kind that infests the banking industry will not be known. A strong leader will not permit parliament to buy such expensive vehicles and, as a government institution, ignore Innoson for Toyota.

The constitution is a donation from the military with dottings of security. It is not a people-oriented agreement as it should be. What is the interest of the military in making some statutes, particularly the Land Use Act assume constitutional status so cumbersome to amend? The inflexibility of the constitution sustained by a weak and selfish parliament that has only allowed alterations makes it an original sin.

Inordinate Expenditure

The proliferation of governments by the creation of states and local governments is a curse. The great achievements of the 60s and 70s were possible with much lesser institutional expenditure. Today there are 6 governments where Awolowo ruled and they steal money like midnight armed robbers. There are too many executive bodies and parastatals. What is the need for a bicameral legislature both based on geopolitical representation? It reflects in the deficit budget so much that government borrows to pay salaries while legislators and executives are maintained at very high costs.

A manageable government will leave money for infrastructural development and proper intervention. There will be more businesses and quality employment better than more thieves milking the polity. A smaller parliament will find law-making easier

Infrastructural deficit is inevitable in the face of high recurrent expenditure. We are spending so much to manage so little. The USA from where we copied democracy has 52 states on a geography that is over 9 times the size of Nigeria with an economy that is over a hundred times of ours. Invariably, we have 7 governors on a land area governed by a US governor with one particular state bigger than Nigeria. What do you expect?


There is nothing wrong with a large family. What is wrong is lean resources. Our rulers are too busy with paraphernalia of office than the reality of creating resources aside the God-given oil. Where are the farms? Where are the companies of yore? Where are the big businesses of aviation, automobile, manufacturing, IT, communication, mining, energy … that will give life to the smaller businesses and services? Where are the public investments? What are the schools training for? Where are infrastructure: electricity, roads, hospitals, schools, stadiums …? We were on track and then we derailed.

How can we grow with the retinue of dependent population including almajeris, area boys, beggars, handicaps, jobless youths, prisoners, full housewives …; distractions including drug abuse, unguided religious worships, labour strikes, unnecessary holidays, unethical job abuses …; and, manipulations like hoarding, policies like parliatives (when not attached to work) and incessant insurgencies and criminal threats to peace …

Exchange rate and value of currency is determined by productivity and not the whims and wishes of rulers. China sometimes devalue the yen to shore up demand for its products. It does not matter because the productivity is high.

So, exchange rate is not the problem. The original sin is the dearth of productivity. Subsidies will be unnecessary when there is capacity in purchasing power. China subsidizes the prices of the goods of its companies to be able to compete in the international market.

By the time Dangote Petroleum starts production, there will be some respite. But just pyrrhic. No amount of palliative or adjustment will solve the problem. In fact, many of the policies only seek to aggravate the problem like Lagos State cutting the productivity of its workers as palliative.

As it were, we are in a mess. There is no solution unless and until we include the atonement of the original sins.

S. O. K. Shillings Esq., writes from Ikorodu

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