FEATURE ARTICLE

E O EkeFriday, March 21, 2014
eoeke@aol.com


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RETURNING HOPE TO NIGERIA
...PATH FOR A BETTER FUTURE FOR ABIA STATE IN 2015 AND BEYOND (PART 2)

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“When bad men combine, the good must associate, else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle” Edmund Burke

“And remember, where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven this” Lord Acton.

One pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud in carrying elections? Lord Acton”.

o, Nigerians are not different. Nigeria has not been governed well. Nigeria has only had bad and corrupt leadership and what it needs is good and honest leaders who seek power to make the country better and not to become the richest people in the world. This is time to begin the search for the leaders who will clean the Aegean stable of Nigerian politics, leaders whose credentials are their character, vision for the country and passion for change.

The problem we are confronting today in Nigeria is not new. It has been present even before independence but it was ignored in the overwhelming need to gain independence. In 1963, Prefessor Bretton of Michigan university wrote about Nigeria, "Nigeria has come to independence 'without any real ideology, even a negative one , in its ruling circle". Even the Coker commission remarked " a number of people in Nigeria's 'ruling circles' saw their country not as a society to passionately believed in, but -in the words of Bretton, ;one which was more of a vehicle for personal advancement. History has taught us that problems like this do not just go away and that they must be addressed head on. Unless Nigerians take appropriate action to address the problems responsible for our underdevelopment, Nigeria will completely fail to become the great nation it can be.

Today the Jewish state is existing where the Palestinians once occupied, for the simple reason that the Jews were determined and committed, and had a long term plan which they stayed faithful, while the Palestinians failed to believe the reality and neglected to plan for what was coming in spite of having been warned. Nigeria is at a critical point in its history. Out of more than two hundred ethnic groups, Ijaws and Hausa- Fulani have a de facto army; a significant number of young people with arms and able to carry our military activities, which they are using to influence and reshape the Nigerian political scene. It is not unimaginable, that other ethnic groups would be under pressure to form their own armed group as a political tool, having observed the political dividends such groups have brought to the north and Niger Delta regions, unless the government finds appropriate response to this gun powered democracy. As Jared Diamond argued in his book guns, germs and steel; those who have guns always win in the struggle for power. The need to add a military power to Nigerian multi-ethnic politics may become stronger for the other ethnic groups and might signal the final stroke that would result in a Balkan style disintegration of Nigeria, if Nigerian leaders continue to dither.

This is why the rampant abuse of executive power in Nigeria, the radicalisation of extremists in the north and Niger Delta are causes for serious concern for anybody who honestly loves Nigeria and understands the implication of these developments. It would seem that each Nigerian leader simply repeats the mistakes of the one he succeeds. There is no culture of respect for the law and due process. There is no emphasis on justice as fairness. The laws seem incapable of restraining those in political positions who are determined to steal and this is a serious worry and bad omen. At the moment, President Jonathan is repeating in Rivers state and many parts of the country, what Obasanjo did in Anambra state and different parts of the country during his term; another example that black leaders appear to find it difficult to learn. In this concluding part, I will give a flavour of what Nigerians and Abians in particular should vote for in 2015 and how to achieve the needed change under the very difficult climate of fear in which the nascent Nigeria democracy is evolving.

Political Corruption

To begin to address the issue of political corruption, the government should make the EFCC a specialised arm of the police dedicated to political corruption, corporate crimes and organised crimes, by restructuring it with the view to make it independent of the control of the presidency. It should look closely at the way the FBI operates and learn whatever will enable EFCC to gain the independence it needs to carry out its constitutional duties without the interference of politicians. It should also Send a significant number of the staff on training and retire those who are found not fit for the job. EFCC and other such or similar agencies, would be better funded and made independent of political control. Without this nothing will change.

As an independent agency, the head would be appointed for a fixed time after a competitive interview. The government would need to create conducive environment and give them a free hand to fight crime by abolishing the immunity from prosecution which politicians currently enjoy. This is one reason why corruption is endemic in Nigeria. The new Nigeria will have to adopt open government with transparency in government transactions and all contracts would be competitively bided for through tenders in a transparent manner. There are other solutions which involve the setting up of effective system to regulate members of the security forces to ensure that they operate within the law. At the heart of any policy to eradicate or bring corruption under control in Nigeria should be determination to ensure that those who are involved in corruption to do benefit from it in any way. Without a concerted attempt to make sure that the government recovers all proceeds of corruption and crimes and make those involved in it pay a deterrent price, corruption will finally destroy Nigeria and render it a very dangerous country to live, visit or do business. History would suggest that most African institutions and countries fail for lack of accountability. Africans do not seem to build accountability into their systems. This is very obvious in the OAU charter and the various ways the founding fathers went to run down whatever they inherited from the colonial master and refuse to allow power to change hand peacefully. It is still the same disease. It has not been cured. African systems fail because of abuse of power, dishonesty, lack of accountabuility and respect for the rule of law and disregard of due and democratic process. These are the problems Nigerians should be addressing and not wasting billions on a national conference.

Criminal Justice system

No government can claim to be fighting corruption, when it refuses to make the needed reforms in the criminal justice system and lead by example. The role of the attorney general and minister/commissioner for justice will be separated into Attorney general, which would be a none political appointment and minister of justice which would be political appointment. The new Nigeria will also have to create a new post of independent prosecutor who can prosecute anybody indicted for gross misconduct in public office. If someone like Gani Fawehemi was appointed an independent prosecutor, Nigeria would not be what it is today. In recent years, Nigeria has had Minister of Justice and attorney general whose actions suggest that they see their duty first and foremost as protection of politicians who are corrupt and obstructing the course of justice. This is the most clear evidence of the institutionalsed nature of the Nigerian political corruption. The attorney general will return to the civil service with clearly defined independent and none political powers and roles. In addition to reform of judicial appointments, prison reforms will be implemented to bring a redemptive element to the treatment of criminals in a humane and sustainable manner.

There will be need to adopt a very aggressive and radical approach to corruption by ensuring that the president and governor and members of the house and all political appointees lead by example. The wife of the governors and president and their relatives will not be used as agents to collect bribes from contractors and those who are seeking admission to school of nursing or looking for jobs in the state ministries or institutions as has been the case and is the case at the moment. The role of the wife of the governors and the president will be narrowly defined to make it impossible for them to continue to provide a conduit through which their corrupt husbands siphon the resources of the state and country into private pockets.

This rather very entrenched abuse of power and corruption will stop immediately if a reforming and honest government is elected. In the new Nigeria, all appointments will be advertised and filled through competitive interview, where the written component will be determinant to avoid bias. In addition, open government will be introduced and the salary of the governor will be cut by 50% and security vote by ˝, and invested in a State education Foundation and job creating initiatives for the unemployed. This fund would be used to lay the foundation of the scientific and technological take off of the state and begin the necessary social investments to reduce the epidemic of acquisitive crimes by giving a future to the young people who have taken to kidnapping and armed robbery. The new Nigeria would be passionate about science and technology and would invest in these areas. The governor will also give up immunity from criminal prosecution while in office. It is hoped that these initial measures would convince the people that the new government will be different and represent the change they have been waiting for. This would be a very appropriate way to begin to clean the Nigerian Augean political stable under the circumstance and anybody with better or more practical ideas is welcomed and good ideas will be adopted.

Civil service

Nigeria needs to restore the post of the permanent secretary and depoliticise the civil service appointments by restoring the civil service as organ of the state and not a tool in the hand of the party in power. Instead of appointing people to positions because of where they come from in the name of federal character or zoning or who they are by virtue of what looting role their parents occupied in the past; each zone would be asked to produce the best persons they have for the post allocated to their region so that they can compete in a competitive interview and progression would depend on ability and performance not on years of service. This is the best way to reflect our federal character, but not compromise merit, professionalism and competence in the civil service. Performance and competence should determine who occupies a sensitive position and there would be measures in place to stop abuse of position as is currently the case at the moment. If this method was used, some of the incompetent and moronic people who have occupied some of our very important offices would not have smelt it. Who know, may be Nigeria would not have been in the position it is in today.

Education:

The new Nigeria Government will have a paradigm shift in the way it conceptualises education and pay serious attention to education in its real sense which is enabling the Nigerians to understand that knowledge is power. Government attitude to teachers and investment in education should demonstrate its invaluable role in our future and development. The government would pay attention to the study of science and technology invests heavily in their development right from the primary school. The government would establish a research fund to encourage study of science and this fund would be well managed and disbursed fairly to institutions. This is to enable scientist source the fund they need for research. The new Nigeria government would be a science friendly government, to give the country a future. This is in order to lay the solid knowledge foundation for our development. Every country that has developed has invested in education and prioritized the study of science and technology in atmosphere of freedom. People must have the freedom to question beliefs and rely on their evidence without fear of religion. Unfortunately the hold that beliefs and tradition still hold on our thinking is one of the things that are holding us back.

The new government will resolve the long running dispute between government and academic staff union of Nigerian universities by meeting their reasonable demands and Granting university autonomy. It will harmonise the number of Nigerian universities with the view to restoring standard. Find a lasting solution to the problem of university funding by setting aside at least 10% of the government income for education. This fund would be managed independently without any political control. The student loan and grant Agency would be restructured to ensure that money would not be a barrier to education and the school fees paid directly to the universities, and system put in place to enable the student to make contribution into the education foundation fund when they starts earning income.

University admission would be made competitive and rigorous so that only those who are capable and determined to study would gain admission. Not everyone needs to get a university degree to achieve his or potential or to be happy. Nigerians would be enabled to see life in a different way so that they can focus on what they want to achieve their potential and happiness. ICT and foreign languages would form important part of primary and secondary education in Nigeria. In the primary school, every Nigerian child would study one Nigerian language and one other African language. In secondary school, every student would study one European language apart from English and either Russian, Japanese, Chinese or Arabic. In the university every student would be required to gain competence in another language.

The emphasis will be given to ICT. Computer science, including programming will taught from primary school until university and every student, irrespective of course of study would be required to take on computer courses to acquired competence in the understanding of the science and use of computer.

For Abia state in particular, where I would like to start this revolution, the plan would be to introduce free primary and secondary education and set up the Abia state student grant and loan agency, which would enable students who gain admission into reputable universities to pay their fees. Invest in schools using the parents’ government partnership model, where the parent teachers association work in partnership with the schools and government to run and develop the school.

Establish a skills acquisition, Apprentice and enterprises training centres, where young people would be offering training in different trades to empower them for independent living. In addition the government would start the 50, 50 projects which would enable the government to provide micro finance facilities to the entrepreneurs in a partnership arrangement that would promote innovations and creativity. The government would pursue people partnership programmes with religious organisations and churches and mosques, Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers Union (NURTWU), Taxi unions, Market Associations with the view to working with them to create a people centred social and economic support and empowerment system for their members. To be continued.

E O Eke is qualified in medicine. At various times he has been a General medical practitioner, Medical missionary, Medical Director and senior medical officer of health in Nigeria. He specializes in child, Adolescent and adult psychiatry and lives in England with his family. His interest is in health, religion philosophy and politics. He cares for body and mind.

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