There is a tacit reassurance and a bubbling confidence that the era of military interruption of democratically elected government in Nigeria is widely unpopular with the citizens as well as now becoming an aberration and a far dream. The existence of some quasi- level of confidence and stability in all tiers of government by general populace; by exuberance of inter-play, a by-product of several gallant sacrifices by lovers of democracy is commendable.
One glaring and noticeable deficiency in Nigeria since the emergency of democracy, is that the Government at various levels, have made no modest attempt at providing and, or devising a blue print that will usher in a new look Nigeria. One thing is still all very dominant, which is, the perception of being a politician as equating “go and grab” your own share of national resources.
As long as Nigerians and Nigeria does not resolve the critical issue around resource sharing and allocation, that fiercest competition for scarce resources will remain unending and will become the biblical albatross towards nation building and unity. This has created a decadent and corruption ridden society to the level where corruption has become systemic and ingrained in the daily morals of the average citizens. It is commonly joked that if any of the Christian saints was to become a Nigerian, their sainthood would be reverted also immediately because of the pervasiveness of corruption in public services and even private entity that fuels the corruptive methodology. The basic family values bas been so pervaded that our basic societal fabric that, it has come to be accepted more of the norm than the rule.
In 1984, late General Sanni Abacha, who later is alleged to become one of the monstrous citadel of corruption in Nigerian history, announced during the now famous martial music coup broadcast.” Our hospitals has become death traps and mere consulting clinics” It does not come as a surprise that over three decades since that broadcast, No concerted efforts have been made to improve medical services in the country and even so, we still have elected officials travelling to India, Turkey or Saudi Arabia or Western world for their routine medical/physical check up. Just few days ago, the current president General Buhari and late Yaradua, both spent long working medical leave in hospital in London, yet every year, several million of Naira is allocated for Aso rock hospital. Interestingly, Senator Akpabio, of Akwa Ibom state, as a governor built what the Nigeria press described as the best hospital building in Nigeria, yet when he (Sen. Akpabio) was involved in an auto accident, he was flown abroad for treatment. I pondered to ask, whatever happened to the hospital he built? Does he and the rest of Nigeria have no confidence in our medical system/facilities? Or they just build hospitals; equip them as a bogus pipe to siphon public funds? Or they don’t have like always everywhere, lack of trained manpower with requisite skills to operate these medical equipment. I find it pitiable that the type of diseases we read everyday that kills Nigeria is such that one cannot fathom. The most common is you hear, the doctors could not diagnose the strange ailment, and many Nigerian have gullibly accepted that outcome as fait accompli. No effort has been made to improve the health care management sector. It does not end with the building of beautifying edifices, but how equipped and functional those clinics/Hospitals are or how affordable is the health care. As a country, no concrete efforts have been taken of our health care system. It is a system where there is near absence of regulatory practice and management. It is a system where there exist sprout of private health care management scheme that disenfranchise the large majority. We do not need to make a medical doctor the or Commissioner or Minister for health, to improve health care sector, that is a colossal waste of human resources, rather use the professionals to implement reforms and let administrators manage the State or Federal Departments.
Nigeria pride itself as a wealthy nation, yet the quality of life of it citizens is way below the UN poverty guidelines. There is not a dearth of solution to Nigeria’s problems, what however exist, is that; its citizens and leaders are engulfed by a virus of corruption and grab- it -all-attitude. When renowned academia’s and scholars point to the structural defects of the foundation of Nigeria, there are clearly saying that, there was not and has not been any nation building since 1960 nor any concerted efforts to create a Nigerian nation. Rather, all the era of colonization and independence did, was to create a permanent dichotomy among the disparate ethnic nationalities as a dividing mechanism.
There have been several clarion calls for the resolution of these defects, but every time the call is made, it is met with political coloration to the solution. Every sections of the country see different political solutions to the problems. Take for instance; while the Niger Delta will clamor for control of the oil resources and a shot at the power in the center, the North, East and West are primarily concerned with the geo-political equation of power and resource control. There has not been any effort to create a Nation state. A Nation state maybe defined as a collectiveness of people who are autonomous and have shared belief and are willing to defend their shared beliefs. That definition cannot be said of Nigerians about Nigerian, it is not common to hear Nigerians refers to each others as “urhobo wayo, Onye Igbo sense, ayamiri, ofe manu, unege, nde -muogo, Mba miri, Isuma , Ette, Aboki, mallam, Dogo omo-ni-igbo, Yoruba-wayo Etc ” these ethnic derogatory slangs shows the sharp divide and deep suspicion that we hold one another to.
Those Nigerians whose parents fought for the failed dreams of one Nigeria by settling and making a living in areas outside of their ethnic principalities are those paying the price of today’s more sharply divided Nigeria. I may represent membership in that group, where once raised and breed in the old Bendel state, which rightly, I can call home, where I have all my childhood and adolescent life, but today, any attempt by the likes of me to seek benefit in that state, will be met with “ go to your “State of Origin”. The irony is that in my state of origin, am considered outsider, having made no childhood or adolescent network there, this poses my dilemma! As well as millions like me disenfranchise by “State of origin ”syndrome.
Some years ago, when the proposal of the national identity card was first mooted, I wrote stoutly in defense of it, i received various rejoinder attacks to my support, particularly from a section of the country. In my reflection, I realized that the pocket of opposition was based on ethnic parochial interest centered on power and resource control. I reasoned that with an acceptable means of identification, it would lead to proper and accurate census and population. We all remember how the electoral figures for NPN party 1979 presidential election results from Rivers state and Sokoto came higher than in 1993 option –A4 election involving late Abiola and Bashir Tofa in the same States, over 10 year, supposedly the population in those states fell by over 50%, a feat that defies projection!!!
I think for good governance, it does not take just one leader; it takes a collectiveness of sincere leadership. It requires grass root awareness and the acceptance that the fabric of our system is failed and that there is the need to fix it.
The first area to address is the replacement and maintenance of infrastructure by the various tiers of government.
Secondly, the resource control and allocation, defines power sharing and control at the center, we have witnessed the transition to militocracy of all our civilian leadership. Elected leadership at every sphere of government, at executive level have all shown disregard for the rule of law, instead tended to lean toward resolving policy decisions through force, or fiat or a.k.a “Abacha’s alacrity” Immediate effect. It is appalling to see elected civilian governors, make pronouncement like military dictatorship, yet the populace including the legislative and sometimes the judiciary endorses such act by being mute or giving open tacit acknowledgement.
I have expressed this elsewhere that the biggest problem with the operation of a true federalism in Nigeria alongside, revenue sharing and resource control is the issue of police. We do not need a centralized police force for a federalist state. The ultimate control of the police is a tool for intimidation and political suppression. Every state should be chartered to operate their own police force to protect state properties and state highways, and the next stage would be for every local government areas to operate their own county police force to protect towns within the county/local government areas.
The argument that the police would become a tool for state governor’s control is mooted by the fact that Ngige as a sitting governor was kidnapped in the government house partly because the police force and control in the state was outside his control. We saw that use of impunity during GEJ Tenure in River State and there are cries of reciprocity now in the same State under President Buhari led Federal government.
It is trait knowledge that the university campus is a microcosm of the larger society, there is a need to reform our educational system, our higher institutions are so ridden with stories of corruption, abuse and God knows what else. In a society where the affluent parents bribe or engage in whatever corruption to see that their children secure the best possible admission and grades, will no doubt produce a ripple effect? The children assume that corruption is a way of life. The circle will continue and this is the sorry state of our decaying under funded educational system.
Another area of concern is the issue of big government, virtually every executive arm in Nigeria today is guilty of that, and the current administration has more ministers, advisers than the United States and some other European countries added together. Even some State Governors made such duplication of appointments that one begins to wonder, who is footing the monthly bill? Obviously not the taxpayers as there are non-existent.
We have to, as a nation be conscious to understand that politics and political appointment is not a pathway to getting a grab for the national cake. Even our legislators do think their job is not answerable to their constituents, but how much they are able to draw from the national cake.
Our judicial arm is not divorced from all this ills as the startling revelations of judges bribery scandals is all too well known to need further elaboration. They are part of the society and have been corrupted too by the symbiotic relationship. It is not uncommon to hear Nigerians say, for a judge to get rich, he or she need to be in an electoral tribunal.
There is the problem of transparency in our individual and collective dealing. The fear or suspicion of one another makes it harder to build a nation. A common example is of this distrust is noticeable for example, when a Nigerian commuter boards a commercial taxi or bus, and sees a fellow Nigerian from the northern region seating there, they rather stand all through. The same thing also happens in reverse depending on the location. The average Nigerian from the South is scared to walk freely in mainly Muslim populated areas in the North without fear of unprovoked mayhem.
If there is an issue in some part of Nigeria, particularly in the Northern states, the anger is taken out on all who are perceived to be of eastern Nigerian origin.
As Nigerians, the issue of state of origin rears its head as a tool to discriminate against even a tax-paying citizen. In Lagos areas, the use of the “oro” masquerade is a tool to remind those residents that the issue of Lagos being a no mans land is fluke, that it belongs to them, an example is land sale where the role of the “Baale or omonile” aptly explains my point. This has resulted in Nigerians seeking more safety shelter in predominantly their ethnic base. During the last election, an ingenious way of disenfranchising Nigerians was asking them to register in their States of origin regardless of whether they resided the or not!!! Who are we fooling? How can we develop as a nation if we do ingrain divisiveness as a Federal and State government policy?