Governance in Islam, is like pregnancy in the womb of a woman. Its duration is naturally defined barring any anomaly or aberration. Its delivery depends on the safety of its carrier and the circumstances of her well being. Ironically, the product of that pregnancy is claimed, not by the carrier of the pregnancy but by the impregnator.
There is no pregnancy without semen actively planted in the womb of a woman. And, the planter of that semen is the man who, in this case, is called the impregnator. For this reason, children bear the names of their fathers, rather than those of their mothers, as surnames.
By analogy, one can compare governance to a pregnant woman who could not have become pregnant without an impregnator. The similitude of an impregnator here is the populace that gave those in government the mandate to rule over them. And, just as the child produced by that womb, the child belongs to the impregnator as a matter of legitimacy so should dividend of governance be the property of the electorate. In a patriarchal culture, any child who bears his mother’s name as surname rather than that of his father is nothing but a bastard. That is always the case where dividend of governance is cornered by those who are privileged to be in government.
Security and Law
After security, law and justice, all of which reflect strong faith in Allah, nothing else is held more sacrosanct in Islam than governance. Governance can be compared to a magnificent umbrella under which the people are supposed to take cover during torrential rains or burning sun. In a democratic environment, such umbrella is owned, not by the politicians but by the citizenry. The bearer of the proverbial umbrella, in democracy, is just a servant holding it in trust for the people. Perhaps that is why the late President Musa Yar’Adua called himself a servant leader on his assumption of office in May. 2007.
Messengers of the People
In Islam, rulers are statutorily, servants of God and messengers of the people. They are employees who must always report back to their employers. Where rulers behave contrary to this norm, a fundamental deviation must have occurred which may be tantamount to rebellion against the people. That is what is happening in Nigeria on the platform of politics.
In an open letter that yours sincerely wrote to President Yar’Adua in this column, in June, 2007 and of which I reminded him in May, 2008, I cited example of two of his namesakes (Umar) in history during the time of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in Makkah. One of them, Umar Bn Khattab, eventually became the Caliph. Another Umar upon whom there was a very high hope eventually became an infidel. But a third one, not mentioned in that letter, later emerged as a Caliph some decades after the Prophet’s demise. His name was Umar Bn Abdul Aziz, a famous Caliph of the Umayyad dynasty. He became Caliph about 85 years after the demise of the Prophet.
This third Umar became a reference point in history because of the unique way in which he managed the economy of the Caliphate during his regime. In a particular year during his reign, the state generated so much income that the problem which the State faced was how to spend it.
The tradition, according to Islamic injunction, was for the state to dispense Zakah to the poor among the citizenry from the much resources garnered through the collection of Zakah. But, when its distribution was to be done, it turned out that nobody in the entire state was so poor as to be a recipient of Zakah. The huge amount which the State earmarked for Zakah that year had to be returned to the state treasury. It is taken for granted here that a state without poor people is surely a state without beggars.
A similar situation arose, a few decades ago, in Saudi Arabia where the government could not find any couple among the indigenes to receive some scores of cars donated as Zakah by car merchants. It became known that there was no single Saudi couple in the country without a car at that time. The cars had to be distributed to non-indigene couples resident in that country, including a Nigerian. It should be remembered that both Saudi Arabia and Nigeria belong to the same Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). That those cars had to be given out to non-indigenes is an indication of good governance in that country and an evidence of honesty on the part of the citizenry. If such a situation had arisen in Nigeria what could have happened is left to the imagination of readers.
Who was Umar Bn Abdul Aziz?
Caliph Umar Bn Abdul Aziz
who became so much famous in history as an ingenuous economic manager, ruled for only three years from 717 to 720 C.E. Yet, he died at the age of 37. The secret of his success was his ability to identify two major areas of economic management in governance. One was to regulate the cost of governance by harmonizing the salaries and allowances of political appointees with those of government employees. This was to ensure that those employees were not enslaved to the privileged political appointees or those elected to legislate for the state. And, there was an independent body responsible for the determination of public workers’ remunerations. Neither the legislators nor the appointed officials were allowed to fix their own salaries or allowances by themselves.
According to Caliph Umar Bn Abdul Aziz, “fixing your own salary, as an appointed or elected government officials, is nothing but theft”. He held that both the government and the resources of the state belonged to the people and nothing was to be done to the lives of the people through formulation of policies without their consent.
That can be compared to the situation in Nigeria where the legislators fix their own salaries and allowances and are now proposing to earn such salaries and allowance as pension forever after leaving office.
The Noose of Indebtedness
Going by the above narrated scenario, one can see why the cost of governance has become a noose on the neck of the populace in Nigeria. How can the country progress in such a circumstance?
Caliph Umar’s second secret of success was his official recognition of the middle class as the greatest employer of labour. He knew that if two million professionals or artisans in the state could employ three staff each, the burden of gross unemployment would be off the neck of the government because eight million people would have been effectively employed. And that would not only have ordinarily brought the rate of crime, in the state, to its lowest ebb it would have also enhanced the state economy tremendously.
What he did, in emulation of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), therefore, was to use the resources of the state to encourage self-employment through professionalism and artisanship. He knew very well that whatever was spent on such a vital venture would return to the state treasury in many folds through taxation and Zakah.
This economic ingeniousness has since become the heritage of the Western countries and they are thriving gloriously in it today in the name of privatization. Any government that eliminates the middle class as in the case of Nigeria automatically opens the gate of poverty and crime to the populace.
When the late President Musa Yar’Adua pronounced economy as his first, second and third priorities, it lifted the hope of the ordinary citizens to an undreamt pedestal. But, incidentally, death did not allow him to follow that pronouncement up with implementation.
Japan for Instance
Japan is one good case study to behold. That country is an exclusive island without mineral resources. Her natural farm land is very limited. If there is anything she has in abundance, it is water. Yet, she shares it with some other countries in accordance with the international law of water boundaries.
To manage her national economy, what Japan depended heavily upon was human brain. She knew that without human resources there could be neither sufficient economic resources nor effective economic management. Hence, Japan concentrated seriously on human training and manpower development. And, today, the result is manifest.
In Saudi Arabia, education is totally free from the primary school to the University. Everyfee, including those of tuition, hostel accommodation, books, feeding and transport is provided free by the government. In addition, all students are paid monthly stipends to solve personal problems that can divert students’ attentions from studies. And, in summer, all foreign students are issued free tickets to travel to their home countries on holidays.
What it takes to enjoy all these is to be qualified for admission and every other thing would automatically follow. But to be so qualified, as a foreigner, you must have come from a manifestly poor country and not an OPEC member nation like Nigeria. I know this much because I was a beneficiary of that largess at Kings University in Jeddah where my first degree was obtained.
Change of Policy
Shortly after Nigerians of my generation graduated from King’s University, Jeddah, in the early 1980s, the government of Saudi Arabia changed its policy on scholarship for foreign students. The doors of foreign scholarships were shut against Nigerians. No reason was given.
But I got to know the details of that new policy when I met my former Vice-Chancellor, Professor Abdullah Umar Nasif at an international conference in Morocco in 1986 where I engaged him in a private discussion. I enquired from him the reason for Saudi Arabian stoppage of scholarship for Nigerians. And, he told me frankly that his government adopted the new policy because it saw no reason in spending its own earnings from oil to finance the education of citizens from fellow OPEC member countries. “If Saudi Arabia should be financially responsible for the education of the citizens of your own country, on what will Nigeria spend her own oil money”? He queried with a tone of finality. And can such logic be faulted?
Saudi’s Industrial Cities
Today, Saudi Arabia has driven her wealth beyond oil and other mineral resources. The two gigantic industrial cities of Yambu’ and Jubail alone which she established in the 1980s are enough to see her through the future in the absence of oil. And what is more, that country does not depend on oil for survival anymore despite her position as number one oil exporter in the world.
Besides, there is no aspect of human development in vogue that eludes Saudi Arabian investment and attention, including agriculture, tourism, shipping and aviation. And most of these are publicly owned. No dubious deregulation, no ‘blind trust’ and no deceptive privatization or ambiguous monetization policy. And, the government is stable.
Managing economy is not by mere theory or magic. The defunct Soviet Union toyed with all sorts of economic theories jumping from socialism to communism only to finally arrive at an ideological waterloo after almost 74 years of catastrophic experiments.
Today, the greatest bane of Nigerian economy is not just the elimination of the middle class but also the extremely high cost of running the government. And, unless these two major anomalies are properly addressed, this country may continue to wander aimlessly, in economic wilderness.
Today, the economic reality of our country has clearly manifested itself thereby cautioning the government against further unrealizable dream.
Virtually all the companies manufacturing power generators in the world are in business because of Nigerian market. Yet the ordinary fuel with which to power those generators is not affordable for most citizens. Judging by the number of generators in this country today who says Nigeria is not qualified as the greatest contributor to the depletion of the Ozone Layer?
Waiting for the federal government to do everything for the nation despite federalism to which Nigeria lays claim is nothing but a regimental siege exposing the hypocrisy of the so-called politicians at the State level.
In modern economic management, there can be no place for the middle class in the absence of necessary infrastructures And, without the middle class, no economy can thrive to the benefit of the populace.
The current lopsided situation which puts over 97 per cent of the national wealth in the hands of about three percent of Nigerians deliberately is ungodly. And, it is not in the long run interest of those who designed it as such.
Forcing people to pay international price for the local consumption of their own product under the callous theory of subsidy is a wicked extortion by official fiat. Even if there is any subsidy at all, as often claimed by our rulers, shouldn’t Nigerians, who own the oil, be entitled to such subsidy? The posture of owner and seller of petroleum products assumed locally by our federal government is not only immoral it is also a betrayal of people’s trust. And that is the main breeder of the cancerous monster in this country today called corruption. As a matter of fact, the populace seems to have lost total confidence in the presidential style of governance.
Most of the policies formulated by the past regime can be described as dead horse which no one should try to kick. Any attempt to pursue those policies in the name of ‘continuity’ can only amount to political suicide bid. Even the frequent threats of strike by every Tom, Dick and Harry that often rents the air is more than suicidal to the economy. Yet, those in government do not seem to recognize the fact that Nigeria does not have the type of economy that is capable of sustaining presidential system of governance. To any developing country, such a system is an unsustainable luxury that can ruin the future. It is a system that engenders corruption and also encourages retardation of a potential country.
Let the system of governance be changed and the orientation of Nigerians will automatically change. That is a major task upon which our history may be based positively in future.
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