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The challenge of change in Nigeria (2)

By George Ehusani
05 May 2015   |   12:33 am
NEXT, your government will do well to put an end to the abuse of public resources whereby the President, Vice-President, Governor or other senior public office holder goes around with a motorcade that stretches for kilometres – senselessly burning fuel, blocking public roads, obstructing the legitimate business of the citizens, etc.

CHANGENEXT, your government will do well to put an end to the abuse of public resources whereby the President, Vice-President, Governor or other senior public office holder goes around with a motorcade that stretches for kilometres – senselessly burning fuel, blocking public roads, obstructing the legitimate business of the citizens, etc.

The regular sight of siren-blaring cars, with gun-trotting and horse-whip wielding security operatives, chasing citizens off the road for their rulers and conquerors to pass, is not the best expression of democracy or leadership as service.

These are vestiges of primitive feudalism, and today they amount to a violation of citizens’ rights on many fronts, apart from being a monumental waste of resources.

In the desire to reduce the cost of governance, a critical area is the multiplicity of parastatals and agencies that now exist with their own bureaucracies, incurring heavy overheads and doing no better than the old ministries.

I am aware that the Steve Oronsaye Committee had done some work in this regard, but not much of the recommendations of this committee have been implemented and besides, the committee, in my opinion, never went far enough in the required reorganisation.

For example, if we had an effective Police Force where all the required departments are functional, why would we need an FRSC, a Civil Defence, an EFCC, an NDLEA or a NAPTIP to regulate traffic, take care of civil defence, prosecute financial criminals, and apprehend those who traffic in hard-drugs or persons? The existence of the numerous parastatals, agencies and directorates of the Federal Government, with all their governing boards that entail monstrous overhead costs, simply amounts to a monumental waste of the country’s scarce resources which could have been better utilised in the development and maintenance of vital sectors that are crying for attention.

Fight corruption and end the gross indiscipline in the civil service. We are all aware that in Nigeria today, corruption in its various shapes and dimensions has assumed the status of a culture and taken on the character of state-craft.

In other words, corruption has embarrassingly become the way of life and the way of doing public business in our country. Many young Nigerians do not know that there is any other way of living or doing business here except the crooked and corrupt way.

We must all work towards dismantling the ignominious spectacle of corruption in our society. However, the primary responsibility lies squarely on your government, which in the eyes of many Nigerians and outside observers, won the recent elections most pre-eminently on account of what many saw as your personal integrity and your commitment and that of your team to bringing this scourge to an end.

Thus, as soon as your team assumes office on May 29, 2015, a “state of emergency” should be declared with regard to ending corruption, with clear signals sent round all the agencies and functionaries of government, and indeed the entire polity, that corrupt practices of any kind will no longer be tolerated, as those caught henceforth will be named and shamed.

A very senior level Nigerian of proven integrity and track record of courage and transparency should be appointed the national anti-corruption czar, charged with the responsibility of superintending all the existing anti-corruption agencies.

These agencies themselves must be headed by courageous and incorruptible crusaders, and empowered with sufficient resources, technology and infrastructure to function at their optimum level.

Within the first 100 days of your assumption of office, everyone must come to recognise that with regard to corruption in Nigeria, it is not business as usual, but that change has finally come! Discipline must be brought back to the civil service, which is the engine of our government bureaucracy.

We need a major reorganisation and reorientation by which public officers or civil servants will make a new commitment to patriotism, punctuality, diligence, and accountability in the conduct of government business.

In this regard, we must look for copies of the old General Orders (G.O.), which outline in great detail the conduct of all cadres of public officers or civil servants.

Fix the refineries and ensure steady power supply. Perhaps, the most notorious sector with regard to the monumental corruption that has plagued our nation is the petroleum sector.

And a most veritable source of drain or pillage in our economy is the anomaly of refined petroleum products’ importation and the famed fuel subsidy. Priority attention must be given to the reorganisation of this sector of our economy.

Why have our refineries been nearly comatose or abandoned to a state of disuse for over 20 years? What does it take to get the existing refineries working, and how long does it take to build one or two new ones? Fixing old refineries and building new ones are not rocket science.

Therefore, Nigerians would want to see the new government do something urgently in this area so that in three or four years, we would no longer be talking of importation of fuel, or witnessing long queues at filling stations. Then there is the power sector. Nigerians know that corruption is a major part of our inability to have steady power supply in this country.

All the governments at the national level since 1999 have taken on a number of initiatives with regard to power generation, transmission and distribution, including the unbundling and eventual outright privatisation of the National Electric Power Authority, NEPA (later Power Holding Company of Nigeria).

But to this day, power supply remains epileptic or non-existent in many parts of the country, and Nigerians are groaning in darkness. The experts say that today, we require close to 20,000 mega watts of power to service our population of over 170 million people and power our industries, but our power generation now fluctuates between 3000 and 4000 mega watts.

This means that many parts of the country go without electricity for prolonged periods. Under such circumstances many large and medium size companies run on generators round the clock and therefore, cannot operate profitably, while the very small business owners or artisans who cannot afford generators are often rendered jobless Become the father of a new Nigeria. Your Excellency, we do not need another seven or ten-point agenda for your administration.

If you and your new team can focus attention on the four areas I have outlined above, your government will quickly gain the confidence, admiration and respect of all Nigerians from North to South and from East to West. I do not believe that Nigeria is such a difficult country to govern.

I do not believe that Nigerians of diverse ethnic and religious persuasions cannot live together in peace. What we have lacked all the while are disciplined, purposeful, visionary, courageous and selfless leaders, whose very lives encapsulate the values that are necessary for nation-building.

Such nation-building values are also the values that make for sustainable peace in the polity. They include a high sense of patriotism, an unwavering commitment to justice and equity, the sanctity of the rule of law and the equality of all persons under the law, equal opportunity for all segments in the federation, respect for cultural and religious diversities among all constituting units and members, the priority of the common good over individual and group interests, the protection of the weak against the possible excesses of the rich and powerful in society, and the assurance of security of all persons who live and carry out legitimate trade anywhere and everywhere in the society, as well as leadership accountability.

Sir, we read in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar that “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which when taken at the flood, leads to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea we are now afloat, and we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”

I believe that your coming this time around may be the dawn of a new day for our country. You have the rare opportunity to become the father of a new Nigeria of united, disciplined, industrious, peace-loving and prosperous citizens.

At 72 years of age and as President of Nigeria, you should have no one but the Almighty God to fear, and no ambition but to leave a lasting legacy, like the Lee Kwan Yews, the Mandelas, and the Nyereres. May the Almighty God grant you and your entire team all the graces necessary to meet up the challenge of engineering a new homeland, which we shall all be proud of. Amen. •Concluded. •Rev. Fr. George Ehusani, Executive Director, Lux Terra Leadership Foundation; wrote the letter to President–elect, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.