Three years of excuses, 19 years of anomie
We are here again to read from the Book of Lamentation. Yes, Lamentation over three years of the Buhari administration and then 19 uninterrupted years of democracy in the federal republic the Nigerian army political wing gave us in 1999.
And even the morning after the May 29, 2018, we will continue to retell so many tales always told by idiots, full of sound and fury signifying nothing. So, on Tuesday May 29, 2018, we will blame members of the 1966 Class who then invaded the democracy chambers, stole the mace, the people’s authority and the weapon of competitive spirit called federalism and replaced with the “Federal Republic of The Nigerian Army”. Besides, on Nigeria’s Democracy Day May 29, there will be a public holiday to enable us celebrate what I have called here “ordinariness, mediocrity and small dreams” that drive our politics. Just as some of the ruling party’s hypocrites and orators will on that day tell us to join in celebrating the lanky Sheriff in Town whose body language alone has produced so many rice farmers and 5,000 megawatts of electricity in just three years!
Lest we forget, we will be told to thank God for giving us a man of incredible integrity who has technically defeated Boko Haram and artfully conquered corruption. What is more, even the main opposition leading lights will engage in a great deal of intellectual masturbation and appeal for forgiveness without restitution and repentance. They will tell us that we told you in 2015 that the man who arbitrarily cancelled the Lagos Metro line project and education subsidy in 1994 would compound the problems they had created for 16 years then. They (the born again locusts) will add that we should join forces with them and the third force to defeat the remarkably parochial leader who has serially violated the constitution and put only his kinsmen in power. Some hatchet men even in the media will tell us how terrible the Obasanjos, the Danjumas, the Babangidas, the Abdusalamis and their allies are fighting only for their oil licences revoked by the only man who can fight corrupt Generals and oil thieves in town.
Verily, verily we will hear on Tuesday that so much money has been recovered even without details. We will be told next tomorrow that never in the history of mankind has so much money been recovered from looters. But we will not be told that this thing called corruption grows so luxuriantly too like yam tendrils in the rainy season.
In the same vein, many of Nigeria’s unbridled principalities and powers who call themselves executive governors will blow their trumpets too that they will pay salaries regularly from now. And we will clap for them. Just as many too will still blame debt burdens as the reasons they have been unable to pay salaries and pensions regularly. One of them who got injured when he was trying to spray money on his hailers the other day, has already fired the first alibi that he inherited so much burden of debt and so could not pay salaries and pensions. This is election time; he may wish to be called ‘a man of the people’.
Part of our weaknesses in the news media these days is failure and lack of capacity to cover the federation: we cover and cover up mostly the federal government. Most of the governors as was hinted at (here) last week have been over-decorated as “governors of the year” in various capacities. That is how we have been celebrating mediocrity and even failure of governance and leadership in the mainstream media. Instead of telling truth to powers that we elected to govern and account to us, we curiously blame their perverted cabals and incompetent aides. That strange escapism is part of “the challenge of independent journalism” we discussed here the other day. It will be a big surprise if we do not find a great deal of alibi in the special editions of Democracy Day on Tuesday. At the public presentation of a book titled, “Watchdog Or Captured Media: A study of the role of the media in Nigeria’s emergent democracy 1999-2016” last Thursday at the University of Lagos, Mass Communication Department, an analyst hinted at ethical challenges induced by consistent failure of some proprietors to pay salaries of media workers as and when due. It may be possible to discern “special reports” and wonderful analyses done for some politically exposed people by unpaid workers on Tuesday May 29, 2018. This challenge too shall pass?
So, as most of the efforts at performance evaluation may be directed at Abuja on Tuesday, it is relevant to beam some light too on the 36 state governors and government of the nation’s capital, Abuja – the 37th state. Only very few of them including Ekiti, Anambra, Osun, Ondo, Edo are products of staggered elections. And so, since 2015, how many state governments have recorded outstanding achievements that the nation can use as reference points? There are some challenges the nation has been facing, especially in the area of critical infrastructure anywhere we go. The health sector is a big source of reproach: we don’t have good hospitals anywhere. Our leaders at all levels look up to the hills abroad ‘whence cometh their medical help’.
What is worse, education quality has become a huge embarrassment as schools churn out only certificate holders without employable skills. Education is supposed to address the challenges in this disruptive digital age. Graduates in this age are made to solve problems of the age. But ours cannot at the moment. So, education, healthcare and road transportation infrastructure are topmost in the hierarchy of our needs. The other day, a senior colleague told one of our state commissioners in a chance meet in Lagos that the fact that an Apapa Local Government Council, the rich Lagos State Government and the almighty Federal Government have not been able to close ranks to find solution to the peculiar mess at the Apapa Ports is a failure of all the governments. Is that message not well transmitted?
Meanwhile, where are the significant constituency projects Nigeria’s legislators at federal and state levels can be proud of since 1999? Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and Shagamu-Ore Expressway Hall of Shame for instance, should be erected as an albatross on the necks of all legislators from South West, South East and South South who have failed to represent us.
But then, why is it that there is no state in our 36-state structure that can invest in one teaching hospital in any of the state universities as a reference point since 1999? Why is it that even the Western Nigeria, the Yoruba nation cannot showcase education quality and even quantity again as their identification card? Yes, there is no doubt that the federal government has continually failed the nation in terms of critical thinking about education quality in the country. The emergency on education the presidency promised by the end of April, 2018, has become a mirage, after all. But how long will we continue to tolerate photographs of our leaders who attend graduation of their wards abroad? The other day, the president of the senate, and a number of governors showcased the reproach their country has become when they got such sumptuous photographs published so prominently.
I have dwelt so much on education on this third anniversary note because I am persuaded that unless our leaders swallow their pride and vanity and invest in education quality, we will continue to celebrate excuses and continue to read from Walter Rodney’s lamentation book, “How the West underdeveloped Africa” every year.
My appeal to our leaders: It is not glorious to be planning for how to win elections all the time without any actionable blueprint on what to do with the mandate. It is not acceptable for any leaders in Nigeria to be celebrating excuses when the people talk about their mental laziness, ordinariness and small dreams. Our leaders at all levels should seek knowledge about dynamic capabilities, efficiency and the discipline of getting things done – instead of fighting critics. And that should begin with the quality of presidential and gubernatorial bureaucracies. This is one area where our leaders don’t listen to those who want them to succeed. They dismiss such suggestions on human resource management as strategy for applying for jobs.
And so, one critical challenge of the Buhari presidency that he has refused to address is his (presidential) bureaucracy. The president has never considered it expedient even as this column has been consistent in noting that he has never had a Secretary to the Government of the Federation that can help him cope with the demands of that office. Having good men is not the same thing as having competent men. The president needs to address the institutional weaknesses in the presidential bureaucracy. For instance, the office of the Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) has been vacant for more than one year after Deaconess Joan Ayo left the office when her tenure expired. That office, created by the constitution is too important to be left vacant for a year.
What is more, to continue to stick to an SGF who has not had remarkable public service experience is not helpful to the presidency. There are too many critical elements in the SGF’s office that a neophyte cannot fix no matter how emotionally intelligent he is.
Besides, the President and the governors too should address the challenge of not allowing the law to rule. They should renew their minds about the expediency of the rule of law. You cannot claim excuses to breach the law of the land: the law is above even leaders all over the world. See what serious countries including South Africa, Mauritius, South Korea and Brazil have been doing to their serving and former leaders who have though done well but have breached their laws.
That is why the president too should deal with the legitimacy challenge of the anti-graft agencies. By November this year, Ibrahim Magu, for instance, would have been acting for three years. This is not ideal. People are complaining too about Buhari, his men and the rule of law.
But as the drums are being rolled out for their third anniversary, the speeches should not be drafted to address only re-election issues.
The words to be used too should minister grace to the people who are hungry and angry not necessarily because they are lazy. It should be noted, in the circumstances, that leaders shall not live by winning elections alone. They can win election and lose their country too. The challenge of fixing Nigeria’s broken walls at this time requires some strategic planning beyond winning elections. Nigeria is so divided along ethnic and religious lines at this time. People also feel they are unsafe at the moment. What is more, they feel power and positions sharing has become complicated. And then huge infrastructure deficit needs to be addressed within the context of planning to return to office.
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