The Un-Changing Nigeria

Opinion

Unfortunately, the political will to curb the excesses of government continues to be a reluctant venture, enhanced by the nasty shenanigans of the National Assembly of which dishonorably deserves a topic on its own.

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In mathematics, a rate of change is a rate that describes how one quantity changes in relation to another quantity. Rates of change can be positive or negative. A positive rate of change means that the quantity you are measuring is increasing over time, and a negative rate of change means that it is decreasing over time. When a quantity does not change over time, it is called a zero rate of change.

Change!

This was the All Progressives Congress (APC) campaign slogan for 2015, heralding the election of President Muhammadu Buhari. It rode on the heels of the excruciating failures of the People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) 16 year domination of Nigerian politics.

Some argue Nigeria has regressed over the past 3+ years under President Buhari’s leadership. Others argue Nigeria has taken positive steps to avail the rot in the system. This continuous back and forth ensures a debate between die-hard supporters of either party, who provide justifications as well as sadistic entertainment in defense of the inadequacies of their leaders.

I, on the other hand will argue that Nigeria does not change (over time). Nigeria exists on an incredible zero rate of change – a perfect chaotic equilibrium- due to certain consistencies that have been unapologetically dangerous to the welfare and sensibilities of the people but remains faithful to the Nigerian government. Consistencies, that even if a threadbare of progress is made, will always revert us to square one.

For these consistencies that bedevils the Nigerian political arena, one would think they would require humane and normal rationalizations to curtail them, like creating detailed plans, solutions and policies with delivery timelines, and ensuring these detailed plans, solutions and policies are enforced.

But the aspiration for the humane and normal always poses an insurmountable task to what qualifies as Nigerian leadership.

Outside of glaring outstanding norms like our security, electricity challenges, lack of basic infrastructure in every sector, unemployment, ‘genetic’ corruption, etc, there are certain reoccurring themes that if leadership can take a strong holistic approach, it will simultaneously translate into the kind of change befitting a nation in desperate need of redemption.

But what we consistently get, is either an intentional disregard of or mere skirmishes around these issues.

1) Nigeria’s Unity

If at this stage, you argue that Nigeria’s unity is settled and not negotiable; and if you do not understand that anything built on the current constitution is bound to fail, then you are obviously in a state of delusive false hope. I strongly put it to you that you have no business running this country.

In the 2014 National conference organized by then President Goodluck Jonathan, the discussion on national unity was specified as a ‘no go area’, citing it’s discovery that majority of Nigerians wanted the country to remain as one indivisible entity.

Whereas, any truthful Nigerian knows that Nigeria’s problem is built on this faux concept of unity.

Thus, if indeed we are a serious nation, the Restructuring/Reform (or whatever jargon you call it) argument must take priority and precedence. And if Nigerians cannot come to concrete, genuine conclusions on the direction of the country; if Nigeria cannot accord justice and equality to all minority and majority groups, we must be open to going our separate ways and dissolving this involuntary sadomasochist relationship.

2) Democracy and Human rights

African leadership in general has always been plagued with infantile, emotionally questionable characters, who lack the wherewithal to understand a basic concept of democracy- that you work for the citizen. It also fails to understand the concept of human rights – a right that is believed to belong justifiably to every person.

For some reason best known to the Nigerian leadership, it reacts strongly against citizens’ right to protest or peaceful assembly. Even the most simple, basic assembly is met with unnecessary force and agitation.

In 2017, the popular Afro-Pop artiste, 2Face Idibia, called for the support of his fans and colleagues via his social media platforms to join his march against the crippling economic state of the nation. This will later on will be canceled with Tuface (under pressure from the Nigerian police) citing security challenges.

I, on the other hand, was quite taken aback by APC’s push-backs on the act of protesting itself. Certainly, these ‘change’ agitators should know, citizens’ protest is part of the democratic process and the government is supposed to provide the security measures to allow the process run smoothly.

If this is the reaction to a minor protest, it is not unthinkable when the military uses monumental force as seen in the Biafran struggle or the handling of the El-zakzaky situation. This force however goes on leave when faced with real threats of terror.

3) The gross, wasteful funding and spending in government

Nigeria has one of the highest paid lawmakers in the world. Quartz Africa reported that each lawmaker will cost taxpayers $540,000 to maintain in 2017. Earlier this year, Punch Nigeria reported that the Federal Government approved N280.1m cash payments to former Presidents and Heads of State in 2017 to buy cars.

Obviously, politics in Nigeria is a lucrative business. A very attractive venture for professional gluttons, thieves and gangster lords.

Now what ‘change’ would mean to me, is to make politics very unattractive to unsavory characters, by curbing the excesses of government, drastically removing the crazy concept of allowances, and aggrandized retirement packages and ensuring that the incentive to serve Nigeria would never be money. Politics would never be a means to wealth. And if the goal is to make wealth, you had better go invent something.

Unfortunately, the political will to curb the excesses of government continues to be a reluctant venture, enhanced by the nasty shenanigans of the National Assembly of which dishonorably deserves a topic on its own.

4) Extreme Poverty

Extreme poverty was originally defined by the United Nations as “a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information.

Nigerian leadership has consistently failed in the administration of these public sectors.

In a country that boasts of well-fed, robust lawmakers, we top the list of the population with the largest extreme poverty. To every sane person, the gross greed and gluttony of government is clearly not sustainable in our current clime.

My hypothesis to why we are perpetual failures, is the lack of strong strategic leadership in the administration. This lack is enforced by the ‘party loyalty’ system. The party loyalty system requires that persons who are members of the ruling party are awarded sensitive positions in government no matter how useless they are.

In 2017, when the Presidency released a full list of all the appointments after approximately 2 years of being in power, I randomly googled two names on the list- Pauline Tallen and Patricia Etteh.

Pauline Tallen who has a sociology degree and became the Minister of State for science and technology under the Obasanjo government, was now being appointed the new chairman of National Agency for the Control of HIV/AIDS (NACA).

Patricia Etteh, on the other hand, who was docked for corruption, was now the new chairman of the National Hospital, Abuja. She trained as a hairdresser and beauty therapist, but she also earned a law degree from University of Abuja.

Now, a strong strategic leader in public administration may originate from any level of an organization.

In Nigeria’s case, however, I would strongly advocate that our selection processes originate from specific levels in the organization. Appointees must not only show strong administrative leadership BUT have academic qualifications and experience attuned to these positions.

The application of this rule can be seen in the works of Dora Akinyuli, a pharmacist who was appointed Director General of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) by the Obasanjo government. Under her leadership, counterfeit drug sales in Nigeria dropped by an estimated 80 percent.

Likewise, Akinwumi Adesina, an agricultural economist and Minister of Agriculture ( 2010-2015), appointed by the Jonathan government, who later was named as Forbes African Man of the Year for his reform of Nigerian agriculture.

Nigeria is in a critical mode and we must make determined efforts to deal with our outstanding issues, especially in health, education, unemployment, security, electricity, research and innovation. We must endeavor to raise the bar in our selection processes in all levels of government.

5) Abandoned Projects/Ideas

Another reoccurring theme in what constitutes as Nigerian leadership is the concept of abandoned projects, and lack of political will to ensure the implementation of considerable beneficial ideas from preceding government.

In March 2018, the Chartered Institute of Project Managers of Nigeria (CIPMN) raised an alarm on the rising rate of abandoned and failed projects across the country. Prior to that, Muhammadu Buhari signed the CIPMN Bill into law in January 2018. For once, I can see a determination to address this particular issue of abandoned projects. We must deliberately ensure this precedence is not lost when the next government comes in.

Nevertheless, after the 2014 National Conference, we were informed that the relevant aspects of the conference agreements will be delivered to the Council of State and the National Assembly for incorporation into the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

What is the update on this? Does the present government have any intention of implementing the decisions made in the 2014 National Conference? If it doesn’t, it owes the Nigerian people not only a critical response, but detailed provision of alternative solutions to the problems.

In addition, Nigeria must address its terrible ‘Maintenance Culture‘, otherwise the determination to solve the issue of abandoned projects will end up as a fruitless exercise.

It is NECESSARY to note that, each successive and preceding Nigerian government can allude to achievements that can be qualified as congratulatory. This in turn is used to justify vast inhumane and mentally decapitating policies or absence of policy making. The fact is that no government has been able to tackle these issues holistically as a matter of deliberate urgency, but instead thrive on maintaining the same dearth of visionary, innovative and practical ideas to reform the country. Nigeria can only identify with the word change, when these re-occuring themes are addressed as a whole. Not as a part, but as a whole.

And it is for this reason, Nigeria does not change. And it did not change under the All Progressives Congress (APC).

References are included in the links.

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