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#Electoral Act-22: As Buhari chases history

By Martins Oloja
27 February 2022   |   3:59 am
When the storm threatens, a man is afraid for his house. But when the house is destroyed, there is something to do. About a storm he can do nothing, but he can rebuild a house.”


When the storm threatens, a man is afraid for his house. But when the house is destroyed, there is something to do. About a storm he can do nothing, but he can rebuild a house.”

This is a weekend of celebration of a small but significant achievement for all of us in Africa’s most populous nation. Our leader finally did the expected as he signed the controversial but very important electoral act amendment bill on Friday, February 25, 2022. There have been seminal articles and commentaries on the significance of some of the provisions of the amendment bill that some principalities and powers and indeed the — business-as-usual scoundrels would not like the president to sign. It is good to note that our president is beginning to understand the times even at the eleventh hour – to know some of the things he should have been doing – to chase history. It is also gratifying to note at the weekend that our president is beginning to understand how not to end up as a failure as he promised the nation the other day. I have written five times on the subject of chasing and making history. I have even asked several times if our lanky leader actually understood the times like the children of Issachar who understood the times and knew what Israel ought to do.

One should quickly encourage our president that the historic signing of the Electoral Act he had been misled to reject six times should not be seen as just a flash in the pan. He should begin to see the civil society including the media as allies and patriots who would just like him to succeed as a leader — for the common good. All the rallies and virulent commentaries in the media are mere clarion calls for him to do what Nigerians elected him to do right. Our leader should know that he has only a year and three months to leave office in peace. And so we will continue to mount pressure on him to pursue faithfully his primary responsibility to us: welfare and security (of the people). The organic law of the land provides that, that is the primary responsibility of the government he heads as chief executive of the nation. And so if he fails to improve on the state of security and welfare of the people as we have today, history will still be harsh in its judgment of the Buhari era. Our former Head of State and current President should listen too to what some experts have been saying about how to secure the nation and provide welfare for people who are not in public office. He should note that all the budgets they have always celebrated have always been for the few people in public service and office and to pay curious debts incurred mostly for consumption.

Lest we forget, to chase and make history is not for the faint-hearted as our leaders should also note. And so for our leader to consolidate on this electoral reform he has begun through this amendment Act, there is need for him to look beyond the APC primary that has become another house of cards being built by those who would like Nigeria to remain the way it is as a laughing stock. We have seen that rebasing our currency alone hasn’t made Nigeria to be indeed a bigger and more significant economy than Madiba’s South Africa. Despite our strange rebasing of the economy, we are still not a member of G-20; South Africa is. Despite our vaunting as Africa’s largest economy, we are not a member of the elite BRICS – a prestigious club of global emerging markets comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Yes, a Nigerian-American is the Director-General of World Trade Organisation (WTO), Nigeria isn’t a significant member of the organisation (WTO).

And so, here is the thing, the new electoral law should be seen by all those who are concerned about the state of our nation as an opportunity to work for a Nehemiah, a builder from the architecture in our ruins. We need to elect in 2023 a pan-Nigerian leader who would take us from the current shame to fame as the only hope of the black people in the world.

As I was saying, we need to encourage our leader to continue to work with the good people including his party people who helped to make this electoral law possible to work on restructuring of the federation. We can’t make progress though this retrogressive unitary system. The nation should not be tied to only the apron strings in Abuja where scarce resources are shared every month to 36 federating states and 776 local councils before they can pay salaries and do any capital projects. This country, a member of Forum of Federations, cannot continue to rely only on one federal police force for internal security. Even the governors have declared that the current structure of police can’t help the federation’s security architecture. The current police structure is just a white elephant. The president should not listen to the nocturnal advisers who have been telling him that the governors will misuse the state police if granted the powers to control them. Is the president too misusing the institution as a federal force? How are the United Kingdom and the United States and other members of the Forum of Federations we have been relying on for training and master classes on community policing managing theirs that have had some clinical efficiency and effectiveness? How has the U.K been managing its 43 police forces within the same context? In other words, the President of Nigeria should rise from the euphoria of the current electoral act and call Malam Ahmad Nasir el-Rufai and his team members that produced the 2018 document on restructuring for the ruling party, the APC. There are so many remarkable elements in the document, which our leader can use to chase history too. Let us not get it twisted, development won’t come to us rapidly just because we conduct general elections peacefully as we have been doing since 1999. We need to realise that we have stayed too long on this side of the mountain that the world has become. We need to cross over to where innovations through research can drive development. We need to allow our beautiful but complex diversity trigger development through a federalism genre that would allow federating units to grow according to the proportion of their endowments, hard work and indeed their choices.

Besides, what flows from the last point is the fact that our leader should no longer rely on the Education and Labour and Productivity Ministries to resolve the higher education crisis that has been lingering since 2009 over failed promises to higher education teachers. Lend us your ears Mr. President: there is a section of the Oronsaye Panel’s Report 2011/13 on how the cost of non-academic activities and academic staff have over the years been higher than academic activities and academic staff’. The document reveals the gap in graphic forms. The President should ask for the document to deconstruct the fundamental reasons the researchers the nation should depend on for development are always on strike. There should be no question about the place of quality in education in our quest for development. If Nigeria’s university teachers are always on strike, the consequences are grave. That also means that research for development is on hold too. There can’t be miracles for development. There can’t be innovation for changing our old ways of doing things if we can’t take care of our teachers. The way the nation has been treating our teachers at all levels is unconscionable. No nation can develop without quality in education. There has been this inevitable nexus and even correlation between education quality of a country and development of that country. This has been part of what the World Economic Forum (WEF) has been preaching to nations’ leaders who care to listen: that there is a link between quality in education in any country and global competitiveness. What this means in effect is that if the quality of education in your country is questionable, your citizens can’t be part of the world standard: they can’t compete even at home. They can run abroad, but they can’t prosper. They can’t be employable.

That is why we need to encourage our leaders at all levels that even as they keep money for the next elections, they should remember that they have a country and its future. They should remember that they are at the moment in a country where education quality doesn’t matter. And so they should also know that South Africa is the organic Number One country in Africa because they have the best eight universities in all global ratings in Africa. Our leaders and their consultants who always quote Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, should always remember that in the Lee Kuan Yew’s biography they always refer to, quality in education of even their leaders is not negotiable. They should read Lee Kuan Yew’s biography contextually. They will discover that education quality is the weapon/resource the iconic figure used for their sustainable development. The only weapon they have so far depended on in Singapore (of fewer than six million people) isn’t oil and gas rich deposit. It is their intellectual capital.

It is the same with South Korea (of fewer than 53 million people) where they have Ministries of Education and Knowledge Development separately. That is where they have had global brands including Samsung that is competing with giants such as Apple in America, their America.

Yes in America where the tech giants that are making big money for the country are also tied to institutions of higher learning that can help them through innovation in productions.

The take-way from this to our President is that from this week, he should ignore his men who have been casting aspersions on ASUU and their demands. He should reach out to leaders of thought in the country even in National Assembly and other relevant agencies that can help to break the jinx in higher education in Nigeria. Nigeria can’t be bigger and more developed than the quality of research that emanates from teachers and indeed researchers in Nigeria. Nigeria may have been tipped and tapped for vaccines production. Undoubtedly, that can’t be produced by technocrats in the Federal Ministries of Health, Education, Science and Technology. You need happy teachers and researchers to accomplish that feat for Africa. So, our President should chase history too by paying attention to the crisis in higher education today. I hope our leaders at all levels can reflect on what Daniel Prelipcean says about this long ago that ‘…the collapse of education is the collapse of the nation…’.