It is debated in intellectual circles that the current group of leaders has also failed to start. If that is true, could we not start again? If you were given great land mass, lots of sunshine lots of disparate people groups, plenty of mineral resources to work with, what would you do? Naturally, you would start with a plan; get some Think Tanks going in strategic planning. You would have long term plans, medium term and short term plans. The Think Tanks would have to be paid to do their job; you may call them Consultants if you please. I mean real brains, not political jobbers.
This is where all the smart people come together to nurse a project to fruition. They would look at the mess the illiterate and greedy power brokers have made and make an adjustment here, a cut there; negotiate there and draft certain language to cure certain management flaws while preventing other hemorrhaging. These managers would be responsible for smoothing the nerves, massaging the bloated egos of ignorant old men and amputating cancerous limbs. These may have to recommend some prison term to put some adult delinquents where they truly belong.
In a democracy, government is run by laws: that is why the USA and most western democracies are run by lawyers. You need to involve the lawyers back to back because not only do the lawyers provide the language of legislation, as professionals, they are trained and have the innate ability to keep within the ambit of the law in political maneuvers, much as you may hate the rhetoric they add to the debate. The give and take of political lobby too, is better handled by professionals used to negotiating diverse contractual terms and political nuances. Ghana Must Go crudities belong to the stone age of party politics and must be buried in the spirit of the anti-corruption era. Political favors can still be dispensed in a legal and civilized manner of the 21st century without resorting to open bribery in government lobby.
A New Deal for Nigeria?
President Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo (OBJ) like Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) during the 1932 electoral campaign in America, emphasized the “common man“theme. OBJ had six years ago given such hope:
“Government officials became progressively indifferent to propriety of conduct and showed little commitment to promoting the general welfare of the people and the public good. Government and all its agencies became thoroughly corrupt and reckless. Members of the public had to bribe their way through in ministries and parastatals to get attention and one government agency had to bribe another government agency to obtain the release of their statutory allocation of funds.
The impact of official corruption is so rampant and has earned Nigeria a very bad image at home and abroad. Besides, it has distorted and retrogressed development.
Our infrastructures – NEPA, NITEL, Roads, Railways, Education, Housing and other Social Services were allowed to decay and collapse. Our country has thus been through one of its darkest periods.“[i]
Great words, the question is, six years and counting, have we fared better besides articulating the policy objectives? Would any Nigerian in the village say he/she has been impacted positively by this new regime?
On the other hand, FDR in 1932 stirred the spirit of America and enterprise with these words:
“This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly, nor need we shrink from honestly faci
ng the condition of our country today. This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper.
So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance…”[ii]
As an aside, FDR came to power in 1932 during the “Great Depression” in the USA after the stock market crash of 1929. Because FDR knew how to work a democracy, with the aid of his “Brain Trust” and being a lawyer himself, the first 100 days were full of legislative activity to get legal backing for his political rhetoric.[iii] Fifteen major emergency Acts were passed by congress within the first 100 days, without any scandal. Every American then saw and felt the results of his activity. The USA still enjoys the benefits of FDR’s government initiative. Government is still about results.
Special Projects, Roads and Mass Transit
The best time to exercise power is a time of emergency when the people are despondent and thus in need of action, any action. Time for an inspired leadership to seize the moment and perform. The time to act could not be better than NOW. The time of massive unemployment is also the best time to build; to put the people to work to help build certain infrastructure like roads and clean the cities of dirt. If mass transit train tracks were planned now, they could easily be laid cheaper, while putting the unemployed to work. A massive design of mass transit railway system crisscrossing Nigeria that would work would be an attractive project for multilateral agencies and foreign investors to invest in if the country is truly serious about progress.
Electricity or other sources of Energy
In spite of the colossal amount sank into electricity projects that we have read about, the report of those who have traveled Nigeria recently is that the bulbs are not staying on. If electricity is taken to the villages, the urban cities with all of its squalor would be less attractive to the better organized rural folk. Much may be yet at the planning stage, but if the power generation contracts are given to cronies and political jobbers instead of men with a track record of honesty and concrete deliverables in the sector, we shall continue to have the same story of abandoned projects when OBJ leaves office.
Courts and Judiciary
All of the courtrooms of Nigeria can and should not only be electrified whatever that may cost, but the recording must also be enhanced to electronic and computerized transcripts if the nation is serious about expeditious dispensation of justice. If there is an electronic recording of proceeding in every court, it would be easier to get transcripts, harder to manipulate justice and faster to give rulings and to also finish the appeal process in a timely manner. This can be done, if we have the men with the will to do so. This will be a great boost to the rule of law; and there would be much help from our strategic partners if we show some willingness to improve in this area to expedite the trial of all the corrupt accused parties in Nigeria.
Nigerians are critical but not cynics. They keep hope alive and can grant any government many chances. But Nigerians are not fooled anymore by flowery speeches; having experienced the fast-track reading speeches of IBB and Abacha. The intellectuals of the Diaspora are even hostile and impatient with political grandstanding. With the internet, anonymous writing has expressed much pent-up anger at thieving ‘leaders’. The government officials currently in the USA would do well to listen to all and in appropriate instances reply as servants of the people rather than the overlords the military were made out to be. The policy makers must listen. For instance, Nig
eria does not begin and end in Lagos and Abuja. What effect has the anti-poverty policies on the village farmers? How is unemployment being tackled?
We welcome the genuine leaders who have set an agenda of performance to the USA. Nnoo, Kaabo, Maraba.
[i] Inaugural speech, President Olusegun Obasanjo following his swearing-in as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on May 29, 1999. as found at http://nigeriaworld.com/feature/speech/inaugural.html
[ii] Lawson, Don FDR’s New Deal 1979 Crewell New York
[iii] Ibid p.43