Criticizing The Critics

by Michael Ewetuga

Election is fast approaching. I have read about those who want to rule the country. All I’ve seen so far are personalities and all that people are supporting are personalities. I did not see anyone addressing the issues, or maybe I have not been doing enough reading, but then I try to read both the American newspapers as well as the Nigerian newspapers online everyday, most days I don’t succeed and other times there are not enough to hold my interest.

I have seen articles on here about Pat Utomi, I saw the one written by Uche Nworah as well as the one written by Yinka Ajia, I noticed another one written by someone whose name I can’t readily recall now, I believe it was Sabella Abide but not sure, accusing Utomi of jetting all over the western world when he should be on the ground in Nigeria campaigning. I must confess though that I did not read any of these articles, not because I was afraid of them lacking in substance but because personally I have kind of lost hope in the Nigerian politics or should I say democracy as we currently it.

In all probability whoever is the presidential candidate of PDP will win not because of the love Nigerians have for that party but because of the fact that you can expect the elections to be rigged like in the past and PDP having the federal might behind it will most likely carry the day unless someone comes up with a better way to rig and throw PDP out of power.

Sometime ago, a Nigerian government made a statement that the people have the kind of police force that they deserve, I’d like to say here too that we also have the kind of government we deserve.

We criticize the government all the time in Nigeria, on television, on the radio, on the pages of newspapers, and lately on the internet.We talk about how disappointing the government is, but then what were we promised, what programs did they enunciate when they were canvassing for our votes, what did they promise to do?

We criticize the Obasanjo’s government all the time, we know his pedigree, what were we expecting, what did he tell us he was going to do in government? Obasanjo seemed to have a one point agenda, he opined that the bane of our problems in Nigeria is corruption, with that I agree 100%. He said it will not be business as usual. It seems to me that he was trying to achieve that, he has a crusade on about eradicating corruption, what did we do to see that he actually did that? What were his methods of achieving his goal, did we agree with his methods, if we did not what alternative method did we proffer?

Some of us are incapable of analytical thinking; most of us are guilty of following the band wagon. Someone writes a piece we don’t examine the substance before agreeing or disagreeing with it, the second person comes he agrees with the first person and it goes down the line with no one actually addressing the issues, we play to the gallery.

What is our wish for our country, what are our goals for our country and what are we doing to achieve these goals? How relevant are we in the scheme of things, how are we contributing to the development of our country? What are we doing with our education, how creative are we? If we believe, and it is obvious from our combined articles here that we do, that our leaders are pushing us to the brink of precipice what are we doing about it? What is the legacy we want to leave for our children, how do we win our country back from the sharks? Are we just going to shout ourselves hoarse about what they are doing wrong, what benchmarks or best practices are we comparing their performances to, or do we just love clowning, or maybe we just like to show off our mastery of the English language.

When candidates are seeking for votes in Nigeria and they say they are going to improve transportation, do we ask them how? Anyone can say he will improve transportation but not everyone would have a plan as to how he would do that.

If he wants to improve transportation how is he going to do that? What is he going to do about the roads? If he says he is going to build new highways, we should ask him how he intends to fund that and what is he going to do about the existing ones.

A lot of time is wasted on the Nigerian roads; a lot of lives are lost both on the roads and now the air space. A serious leader must have some kind of programs to improve the transportation system, we should ask them what their plans are and when they start their rhetoric we should have a standard, a practical standard and not necessarily western to serve as benchmarks for whatever program they espouse.

We should be practical about the solutions. Take for instance commercial motorcycles that were reportedly banned, that to me is as a result of lack of practicality. I know how many times I made it to appointments that I would otherwise have been late for because of availability of commercial motorcycles (popularly called Okada). There have been several arguments against the operation of the commercial motorcycles but we should ask ourselves, is banning them the answer? I know a lot of graduates who as a result of unemployment in the country rode the motorcycles just to make ends meet, it is an industry that has provided jobs for countless numbers of people and is a source of investment for some others, why ban them? If the riders are reckless and we all know they are, can’t they be trained and monitored?

If a candidate says he is going to bring accountability to governance we should look at his background because you can’t give what you don’t have, you cannot stop people from stealing if you are a thief yourself. What is the profession of the candidate, if he is rich how did he make his money? We need to impress on the National Assembly the need to pass the law on right of information so that we can monitor our leaders. We need to know how much money was given to the state governments and the local governments respectively, we need to find out how much they generated on their own in a particular month. When we know all these then we can monitor them. It is time we hold the National Assembly accountable, it is time we sponsor bills that they can look at and pass and if they won’t pass them they need to give us reasons why they won’t and what is their alternatives for what the bills proposed. We need to scrutinize their bills and how they affect us. We need to hold them to their responsibilities.

What are we doing about money stolen from our country, are we just going to shake our heads and hiss or are we going to push them to get the money back and if we succeed in getting them to get the money back are we going to let them steal it again or are we going to monitor how the money is utilized? If we are going to monitor how the money is utilized how are we going to do that, what methods are we going to use to make sure the money goes into projects that will benefit us as a people?

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Anonymous December 28, 2006 - 10:16 pm

Well written. But all the ideas and points you raised are well known. They are not new and this is not a comment to down play your well articulated piece. The problem with Nigeria and Nigerians is not a lack of excellent ideas but a lack of will. There are policy gurus in Nigeria and there are development experts among Nigerians. Implementation is our problem and that includes you and me. By the way you are right about the agreeing thing (I agree with the first speaker and everybody stands up in turn to agree with the last speaker. The first person to voice a diffent view becomes the enemy). Anyway that will not stop me from agreeing with you on your points but I will go a step further to give a practical, at least in my view, suggestion. One practical way of transforming our society I believe is to get men and women of purpose into the national assembly, state assemblies and local government council. Believe it or not that is the back bone of any functioning system. These assemblies are supposed to give oversight to the running of the system. What we have in Nigeria is that everyone wants to be president or governor and they leave the assemblies to rif rafs who do not even understand their function. But without a strong body to make law and hold the executive accountable all that you talk about cannot materialise. A strong national assembly will keep the presidency on it toes. It will monitor more closely program implementation, spendings etc. We need men of purpose and integrity in all arms of government. The assemblies are supposed to be representative of the people but as we have it today at the national, state and local levels these group of people are representative of the godfathers of the day. People of substance should express interest in going into these bodies and to help them realise their ambition the constitution should be changed to allow for independent candidates to run in elections into these bodies. Pat Utomi would be a good president anyday or at least far better than those we have had, but under the current dispensation he cannot be elected because no political party will give him the platform unless he is willing to sell his soul to them and the same goes for many men and women of integrity. It is only when people of purpose participate at the most basic level that we can have discussion about policies and what each candidate has to offer. You cannot ask hard questions under the current dispensation(except may be on the internet) because the politics is not issue based and by the way many media outlet are under direct or indirect control of the masqurade politicians. I will give an example here to illustrate a point. Compare Obasanjo talking to the press with Tony Blair, George Bush or even Tambo Mbeki talking to the press. Compare the questions asked? Then compare the boldness and confidence of the reporter asking the question. The difference is that the reporter asking Obasanjo question will be afraid for his job and life because he could be sacked and arrested at the presidents pleasure. So he is very careful not to ask questions that might offend the president. But if the national assembly is made of men of principle who will stand up for the basic right and freedom of all citizens even if the president were to threaten a reporter the assembly will challenge him on that and possibly sanction him. A reporter or anyone knowing that will be bold enough to ask the president or any elected official questions of accountability.

BA December 27, 2006 - 12:13 pm

You right about accountability of government. People look at individual as person, but can't justify how they will help the system and tackle the issues affecting us. People sell their vote for penny and turn around to cry for unreasonable chaos. I think we need to educate our people how the system work

Anonymous December 27, 2006 - 8:09 am

Thank you for asking the questions we all know needs to be asked but gloss over in our armchair political debates.


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