Tolani: Can we have the marking scheme?
ABOUT two years ago, the Jonathan Administration went to town to celebrate its Mid-Term Report rolling out its achievements and exhibiting its score card from dividends of the ‘Transformational Agenda.’ I was opportune to be in Abuja at the time, although not anywhere close to the Banquet Hall of the State House where the Dinner to celebrate the ‘achievements’ took place. While Madam Patience was conspicuously absent at the event, one of the high-points of the evening was the celebration of the ‘women’ who provided the life-blood for the Jonathan Administration. Oduah-Ogiemwonyi, Alison-Madueke and Okonjo-Iweala were there as the evidence of the gender feat of the Jonathan Administration. Some female Presidents were also there: Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia and Banda of Malawi. Notably, some women Cadet from the Nigerian Defence Academy were also on display. While the praise-singing was going on, choice wines and assorted cuisines were being demolished with abandon. The NTA was generous to make it a live programme so other Nigerians could join in the party and be part of the evening. As I watched, I wondered how many Nigerians were able to sleep in their homes in peace away from places where they scampered for refuge. I wondered how many people could afford a decent meal for the evening. I wondered how many people would have access to electricity in order to hook on to the network Service of NTA that evening. My list was endless!
Not long after the event, many Nigerians were up at arms with the administration to condemn the self-adulating show. Pundits wondered whether there was anything to celebrate particularly to justify the events of the week and the wasteful dinner. The President, obviously on the advice of his ‘wise men,’ had a very brilliant answer for his critics who could not find anything worthwhile to celebrate. He maintained that Nigerians have failed to set a ‘marking scheme’ for him in order to mark his performance script. Perhaps he was right. In the light of two other achievements that we have recorded as a nation since that time, we probably need to revisit our position and re-evaluate critics’ rather harsh verdict on Jonathan’s Presidency: Nigeria’s economy has now been rebased and it is the largest in Africa. Secondly, we have the highest number of private jet owners in the Africa (or is it in the world?) With such achievements, perhaps less perceptible ingrates can now give praise to the President for the wonderful achievements. However, one striking thing that came out of the entire scenario was that the President insisted that no one was able to draw up a ‘Marking Scheme’ for him. In the absence of any marking scheme, it would seem that any answer could be right in any examination especially where there is no course curriculum. I wonder how many people were pleased with such an answer. Be that as it may, the response has thrown up a systemic anomaly: for you to get what you want, it is important to state what you want in clear terms, otherwise, you might just get anything. If you fail to define your destination, any direction of travel might do.
As we prepare for the next election (I am upbeat that it will hold), I challenge our compatriots not to be carried away by the ‘Forward’ or the ‘Change’ rhetoric. We need to define our direction of travel and the destination we are aiming at. We need to ask critical soul-searching questions: What does ‘forward’ mean? Do it mean forward with corruption? Forward with mismanagement? Forward with impunity? Forward with incompetence? Forward with devaluation of our currency and lack of productivity? Does it mean forward with massive unemployment? Does it mean forward with negative empowerment of militants? Forward with insecurity? On the other hand, what does ‘change’ mean? Does it mean the replacement of one set of ambitious folks with the other? Does change mean it is the turn of another jobbers to come in and chop? It is always better to be in the offensive rather than in the defensive. The opposition is benefiting from being in the offensive at the moment; but will the honeymoon last? I have often been very weary of placing serious reliance on popular slogans such as: ‘change’ and ‘progress’ because both are constant human imperatives from generation to generation. Assuming the ‘change’ slogan prevails after May 29, are we going to be saying ‘change’ again in 2019?
To devise valid tools through which we can answer those very telling questions must take collective sense of involvement to articulate. Simple bottom-line checks might be helpful; namely, were you better off than the last four years? Is hope or anxiety pervading the land than it was four years ago? To focus on those appraisal tools might sound more plausible than parroting slogans that mean nothing to the average common Nigerians. The indices to use should be less nebulous: do you have better access to opportunity in the last four years? Can our teeming youth gain better access to life-enhancing opportunities? Do more school-leavers gain better access to dignifying jobs? Do less number of people aspire to go into politics? Is the battle to gain access to public treasury less fierce than the last four years? Do we have light and do we have our taps running with water? Do we have better access to healthcare? Do we have less people travelling to India to cure common ailments?
More importantly, do our leaders treat us as if we matter when they are taking decisions that affect our lives? These are better ways to appraise whether we, indeed, have marking schemes that are relevant to our daily lives and not achievements that look good on the paper but cannot be translated into reality by common folks. This is the time to collectively rebuild our nation. This is the time to start to entrench accountability. The bedrock of accountability is participation. Where there is participation deficit, abuse and exclusion are inevitable. Let us begin the journey with the use of our PVCs and continue to engage with our leaders as we progress in the journey. We cannot abdicate responsibility when it is critical and later come back to demand for our rights. Often, it does come too late.
• Tolani is the Chief Executive of Charity Aid and Development Foundation for Africa (CADFA).