Lessons from U.S. and Kenya
We always say that experience is the best teacher but experience is actually the only teacher because even the teacher teaches out of his own learning and experience. However, a smart fellow learns from the experiences of others because if s/he waits to leverage only from his own experience, he would not have gone far before he goes to the land of no return. Thanks to the www et al, we all know what has been happening around the world real time in the past few days and as smart as we are, we should leverage from these experiences. I wish to start from the U.S.
In the past two weeks, it has been all about Hurricane Harvey, which has done one of the greatest natural violence to the oil capital of the world, Houston, Texas. It is unprecedented and only reminds me of the ruinous case of Techloban, a few years ago. We have all seen nature’s fury at its worst and have seen people literally moving from affluence to miserable wretchedness, from having almost everything to having almost nothing and living on public charity and benevolence. That, of course, is a lesson for all of us, reminding us that nobody knows tomorrow and that no condition is permanent.
But my concern is about government and governance. President Trump, despite all his baggage, unprecedented poor rating and governance by tweets, has visited the place twice, thanked those involved in the rescue efforts and presented a now-now budget of $7 billion+. The affected Americans were evacuated by the government which also set up a hands-on rescue team supported by volunteers. The governor has estimated the cost of repairs at $189 billion and I am sure that the rescue strategy has been prepared, including action plan, timelines and assignment of responsibilities. Other details are readily available, including the number of distress calls which peaked at 15,000 in a day, and the number of citizens in need disaster relief, which is about 500,000
By an unfortunate twist of fate, natures furry also paid an unscheduled visit to Makurdi, a state that has almost been laid desolate by unknown herdsmen. The victims evacuated themselves and camped in cramped locations where they sleep on the bare floor; a typical refugee scenario. The president has been busy recuperation and sallah-ing in Daura and the highest Federal Government official to have visited was NEMA director general and that was probably because his organisation was directed to act. NEMA will not do much until it has been directed! Nobody is sure of anything and at first, Benue State government agencies were busy trading blames as to whose negligence had caused the havoc.
And you can be sure that nobody has a full grasp of what has happened or what will happen and there is no rebuilding plan, after all Benue State, like most others is just struggling to pay salaries. The victims are also the one telling the government what to do about the catastrophe and I did not see much of volunteers. And just the other day, victims who came to register at the make-shift camps were turned away because registration has closed! Now, like the ubiquitous herdsmen, the floods have overtaken 21 out of the 23 local councils in Benue State.
You see, when people say that all is calm, that’s when destruction comes upon them like labour pin on a pregnant woman and there is no escape (1st Thess:5, 3). That was what happened both in Houston and Makurdi; disaster struck as usual, without any forewarning. But there are governments and there are governments and we have seen how both federal democracies handled the two similar tragedies. Yet, when Americans are patriotic, we are also asked to be patriotic; forgetting that patriotism is a two-faced coin; the peoples’ side and the government side. It is the extent to which the government trusts and supports the people and the extent to which the people trust and support the government.
And when Americans are willing to die for their country, they expect us to also die for Nigeria but while you see what the government does for the Americans without searching, you cannot see what government does for Nigerians, even when you use a microscope. Of course the connected and aligned individuals and groups in Nigeria will always have an unfair share of everything. We are where we are at the development ranking because we are woefully deficient in intangible assets; the policies, actions, values and attitudes that cement a society, make it efficient and facilitate the attainment of prosperity. That is what played out in the above scenario.
But comparing Nigeria with U.S. is not fair because as NPP operatives sang during the NPP/NPN era, there is no need jostling for the top position when you know very well that your position is at the bottom. So, let us compare apple with apple and this lands us in Kenya where the Supreme Court took the unprecedented step of annulling a presidential election won by a powerful incumbent. The judgment was passed within 14 days (it will surely take 14 years in Nigeria); the judges examined the process (and not just the technicalities like the date of filling the case and the colour of the biro with which the petition was signed); Kenya Electoral Commission has set in motion the process of identifying, replacing and prosecuting their staff who caused the national embarrassment (unlike here where even those caught in the act are left in a see-nothing-say-nothing scenario), and the President declared that while he was not happy with the judgment, he was bound by it (though he eventually started behaving like Trump, calling the judges names and threatening fire and brimstone).
Yes, in 2015, GEJ accepted defeat but that was because he was/is GEJ; no institution played any role in the process. Our courts are even afraid to tamper with local government chairmanship elections not to talk of the all powerful governors and in most cases as my friend, Chief Tony Ejieji said, electoral tribunals are turned into ATMs by those who are supposed to ensure justice and fair play.
So, as Zeburudaya would ask: Are you see what I am saw? At the global level, we cannot compare with others. At the local level, we still cannot compare with others even though we are the giant. It is obvious that we still have very FAR to go but I still believe that we shall get there someday, if those in power will know why they are there and the citizens step out of their cocoon of lethargic indifference and hold the leaders or dealers accountable.
Meanwhile, there are three matters arising. Number 1: ASUU is on strike; NARD is on strike; all the unions in the tertiary education are going on strike from 11/9/17. What is responsible for this gale of strikes? It is simply lack of trust in government, which just makes the kind of promises some men make to women so as to have access into their holy of holies.
Governance by deceit bereft of integrity and that characterised governments approach to the whole war against recession. We are now waiting for the end of recession to impact on the stomach of the ordinary Nigerians. Note that this same NBS that announced the end of recession had also announced just the other day that food inflation, at 20.28 per cent is the highest since 2009.So, we may be out of the woods but we are still very far from town!
Finally, my generator is complaining of being underutilised. The truth is that for the past four weeks, my generator has not been on duty for up to four hours. I think that something is wrong but whatever it is, let it keep on being wrong! It appears that the DISCOS have started dancing disco! But I don’t want to celebrate too early.
I have concluded this article before news came that the Vice President visited Makurdi over the flooding which started two 10 days ago.
Muo is of the Department of Business Administration, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State.