Nigeria Matters

Nigeria’s Hard Decision: Bend or Break?

The time is now for our politicians to be proactive about what direction our nation will be moving from now on.  My experience with my friends and other Nigerians both in the Diaspora and in our homeland Nigeria, who are third-agers and above (people over sixty years of age) is that of disgust and reasonable amount of discouragement and frustration.  That Nigeria, with the natural, agricultural and human endowments could ever get to this type of cross-roads seem to be beyond any of us.  It is incredible as it is bewildering!

It is like we are in the middle of the sea and are in a state of confusion with no known solution and cannot decide on what to do or cannot do the what is workable!  It seems like we are in a maze.   With the tremendous wealth of human resources in the most populous country in Africa, this state is inconceivable and a cause for concern to the rest of the world.  A country so blessed but with an impoverished citizenry, wallowing in abject poverty! A recent World Happiness Report says that Nigerians are less happy today, than they were in the last three years!  No wonder Bill Gates’ recent comment that Nigeria will thrive when Nigerians thrive.  The difference between the few rich and the poor masses is so pronounced that it will continue to be an impossibility for the ordinary Nigerians to thrive and prosper.   When the nation is not allowed to thrive, with the selfish and greedy few monopolizing the wealth, it is poverty galore!

I almost shed tears, as I watched the Channels Television Live (online) present Wole Soyinka lamenting the inability of Government to declare the Killer Herdsmen a Terrorist Group, bringing the Herdsmen massacre to an end and the undesirability of the new joke called the Hate Speech Bill.  I want to identify with this position that such a bill was just to protect and immunise politicians from whatever ills they want to perpetrate, as legislators, especially with the impending elections.  They must think that Nigerians will continue to be muumuus forever!  How could our   legislators imagine that they have become ‘intellectually advanced’ as to think they can go into their Chambers to make laws to indemnify themselves only instead of making laws to punish and shame looters and kleptomaniacs?

The new Hate Speech Bill currently receiving the Legislators’ precious attention is one of such attempts to violate the fundamental Rights of individuals, a mere ploy to silence Nigerians and to buy themselves some good dose of immunity.   Who is the MUUMU – the Legislators or Nigerians?  This will be revealed when and if the Bill passes or Fails to pass and dies a natural death.  God forbid that Nigerians will be the muumus and consequently the loser on this score!

One does not need to focus on the complications of the current bad state of our nation.   It seems that nothing is working.  For example, how can we be operating the 2017 Budget at a time the 2018 budget should be in operation?  When do we start to operate the 2018 budget?  The 2018 budget is still making its rounds for the usual push and pull of the Legislature and the Executive?  No wonder the economy is fumbling and wobbling!  Nigeria has become a danger, even to herself with the leadership and followership filled with the selfish ‘me and my family’ rather than a ‘Nigeria First’ mentality.

If the next set of political leaders (digital youths or the analogue old generation) want to cultivate this ‘Nigeria First’ as a new mantra, the time is now, to start sowing the seed.  If ever such a group succeeds, that will be the time Nigeria will start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  This may be a good mantra for the ‘not too young to rule’, who refuse to be condemned as ‘the future leaders or leaders of tomorrow’ by the leaders of yester-years!  The future is truly here and now, before our nation becomes doomed and irredeemable.   We need to rent the air with the ‘Nigeria First’ mantra to properly start the culture of patriotism and nationalism in Nigeria.

Most Nigerians are not serious or calculated enough about our future, as a nation in distress.  For now, many are focused on the elections, rather than on the hurdles before getting elected.  If the issues of (1) devolution of powers, (2) restructuring and (3) reduction in the jumbo Salaries and allowances of politicians are not tackled, as matters of expediency, we will not be able to make meaningful progress any time soon.  Politics must be rebranded as a SERVICE ORIENTED rather than as a FINANCIALLY REWARDING venture, deal or preoccupation.   Anybody (Politician) or political party which brushes aside these three issues, will be branded a business as usual, ‘chop n chop’ administration.  The cost of governance is killing Nigeria and will be insurmountable before too long.  Failure to address these crucial issues now, by pushing them under the carpet, means a big regret later.  Remember the unemployment rate is rising with our mass production of graduates from over two hundred higher Institutions nationwide.  These are the hard facts and we cannot run away from them.  Let’s face them head on now, so that we do not regret it later!  A stitch in time saves nine.

As the most populous nation and Giant of Africa, much is expected from us.  In an era of globalization, the pace of development world over is very fast and all nations must be in synch with one another, developed and developing.   The need to detribalize our polity cannot be overemphasized.  All forms and documents carrying the discriminatory appellation – ‘State of Origin’ should be deleted, destroyed and replaced with ‘State of Residence’ as soon as possible.  Issues of colour, sex, race religion and party affiliation, must be jettisoned in the next dispensation – Incoming administration).

In our attempt to march on with grace and with our heads above our shoulders, as Nigerians, we must establish very strong institutions to curb the scourge of corruption.  Since Nigeria has been shamefully dressed with the toga of being ‘fantastically corrupt’ and the ongoing experiences of nepotism is diminishing our President’s gains on corruption, several approaches must be taken to ‘kill’ this scourge.  The TSA, is one of such reliable Institution which has been successfully established to fight and control corruption.  The TSA has recorded an astronomical increase in the revenues collected by the Federal Government in the last three years or so.   The JAMB, through its magic, in spite of the snake and similar episodes of illegal swallowing of millions of Naira has returned a colossal revenue collected (about N7Billion approx.) and returned to government last year alone. Through this dedicated institutional efforts and strategies, Nigeria may be taken off the radar of corruption very soon.   Other similar institutions can be established to quickly bring an end to various ‘authority stealing’ practices by the shameless professional looters.

Let us not forget the covert activities and practices that go on behind the scene when budgets are being negotiated among the ‘value chains’ of authority- ministries, Agencies, Parastatals, Budget Departments, Legislatures, etc.  Quite a lot of money is compromised in the process.  This huge loss to the nation can be plugged and stopped with a strong Institution to halt the awkward and ugly budgeting process.  The evil of over-centralized government, with Governors and entourages reporting in Abuja with cap in hand, on a monthly basis is very wasteful and unnecessary.  Give a man a fish and he’ll eat fish for one day.  Teach him how to fish and he’ll eat fish forever!  Why can’t the Federal Government allow States, Regions and/or Zones, whichever the case may be, to fend for themselves instead of treating them like beggars?  This bad practice allows for unimaginable chances of corruption!  Apart from this person to person possibilities of monetary exchanges, the colossal amount of money spent on Air and Land transport costs, and the road hazards and risks, it makes us look like a nation that has no regard for human lives!   Once States/Region or Zones have autonomy all these will stop.

Another means of working on curbing corruption in Nigeria is through the harmonization of our data bases.  All available databases of key Nigerian agencies can be successfully harmonized.  It is hoped that biometric data on individuals could be obtained for harmonization purpose in this digital age.  In developed countries, a Drivers’ License (DL) is a major identification item.   In Nigeria, many people have more than one DL, many have expired licenses, forged licenses, as well as all forms of mutilated and counterfeit licenses.  This fraudulent practice makes it difficult to track corruption through the National Drivers’ License (NDL).  The Federal Road Safety Commission must work harder to bring some sanity to the NDL system.  When the licensing system is solid and impeccable it can then be used to control indiscipline, fraud and corruption.  The Nigerian Banking System, has successfully instituted the Bank Verification Numbers (BVN).  Through the BVN, a lot of fraudulent and unlawful funds have been recovered and or forfeited to the Banks with the use of the harmonized customers’ biodata.  The National Identity Management Commission, is another governmental agency in charge of issuing National Identity Numbers (NIN) to Nigerians.  The Agency collects biodata from individuals and such data can help tremendously in tracking fraudulent practices.  Similarly, the Independent National Electoral Commission issues voter cards to eligible voters (PVC), This Agency also collects biodata from eligible voters nationally.    The Passport Department of the Ministry of Interior is another agency which collects biodata from Nigerian citizens who request travel Passports (NP) from the Agency.

A comprehensive harmonization and use of biodata can checkmate offenders as they will no longer have any place to hide.  It will bring some sanity to the corruption and fraudulent practices in our dear nation.  The above agencies will need to synergize to give the nation an impeccable and harmonized data base to ease the detection of fraud in high and low places.   I have no doubt that over 80% of the population, including children and youths would be ‘trapped’ by one or more of the five different databases of government and agencies listed.  It also makes it easy for the laws of the land to be able to take its course as it makes it difficult for offenders to escape.

The recent report from the Police shows that an Institution – Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) was able to detect over 30,000 Officers as ghost workers! Can we imagine how much money will be saved through the use of the IPPIS (Institution) in other governmental agencies and parastatals?  This strategy and many more like it, will put Nigeria back as a front liner in the anti-corruption war.

Apart from the campaign for integrity, accountability and transparency in governance.  Establishing strong, relevant and reliable institutions around public offices (holders), a national comprehensive data base will make it difficult for public office holders to be ‘temptable’ or be tempted.  It will put everyone on the same page of the law and constantly remind us all that “you can run BUT you cannot hide”.  We are all witnesses to the Whistle-Blower policy and its success so far.  The journey to rid Nigeria of corruption is not a dash!  It is a marathon, rather than a short burst of a race.   New Anti-Corruption Institutions must be solid and well thought out.  Remember that corruption world-wide, fights back so ruthlessly and violently.  Looters and Rogues have a lot of money to fight back.  This explains why Nigeria has never succeeded appreciably in the war against corruption.  Even when and where justice is being delayed, the scare of being Named and Shamed may serve as deterrents to those who may have the tendency to steal and defraud – the kleptomaniacs!

All hands must be on deck in the fight against corruption.  It may be necessary to consider crafting a new institution around the judiciary to speed up Justice.  The possibility of delaying justice will always be a veritable avenue for denying justice.  Our experience so far, confirms the crawling and stalling of justice dispensation in Nigeria, as it is the case with those alleged to be corrupt.  The culprits are able to afford the most expensive and reputable Lawyers to wriggle out of corruption on technical or other grounds.  Many are able to disguise and/or escape from the country to evade impending punishments because of inadequate and unreliable database.

The harmonization of databases will be a project worth pursuit by the next administration.   When people know that the chance of escape is narrow or non-existent, they will have no other option but to remain law abiding citizens. This may be an acid test for the bubbling Digital Youths, the Analogue Senior Rulers or any other group, willing to take over governance in Nigeria.  This will be a worthy pursuit and it will mark a new dawn for Nigeria.  To rid our great country of corruption by killing corruption, we should leave no stone unturned.  All opportunities for corruption must be killed and buried forever and ever!

In conclusion, I will like to restate that the next twelve to fifteen months will serve as defining moments for Nigeria.  There are too many hurdles to cross and unfortunately many of them have been a part of us for a long time.  Our problems have become endemic and will not be easy to wrestle our nation from them.  For me, the issues of indiscipline, corruption, greed, selfishness, and nepotism, rank very high on the ‘To Do List’ of any winning political party, apart from other personal and party manifestos of politicians.

It is clear that if Politicians (incoming government) plans to approach the governance of Nigeria with ‘kid gloves’ this time around, our nation will be seen as unbending and unwilling to learn.  Our nation will definitely not survive the awful consequences of such acquiescence.  Time is running out on our Politicians of all shades and colours.  They will need to retie their girdles and brace up for a different Nigeria, where corruption must become a myth from now onwards.  Nigerians are no longer ‘muumus’.  Governments must live up to their civic duties of providing security, safety, protection, justice and the basic welfare needs of citizens.  This is a necessity for the people of Nigeria to cultivate a genuine sense of patriotism and nationalism.  Nigeria will certainly BEND, to accommodate a few desirable adjustments of restructuring, rather than BREAK and see ourselves in the shame and disgrace of disintegration. We must get our citizens to imbibe the culture of “Integrity and Nigeria First” from now on.  God help us and bless our dear nation.

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