E O EkeWednesday, May 15, 2013
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t is a fact that Nigeria do not lack in understanding of the causes of the Nigerian problems and those who are responsible. What has been lacking is a clear road map to addressing the problems and putting Nigeria back to the path of recovery, progress and development. In a rational democracy this work falls to the opposition, whenever the government loses its way. The opposition uses their period outside government to study the problems from a distance, evaluate the solutions of the government, identify their short comings and proffer better alternative solutions which they would present to the people at election. To achieve this, they appoint some of their members who they have earmarked for ministerial appointments to study these problems and present solutions which they debate in their yearly conferences with the view to fine tuning the solutions. Unfortunately, this has not been the case in Nigeria and there appears to be no sign that a single Nigerian politician has undertaken such a study of a single problem Nigeria is grabbling with or is prepared to undertake this very important responsibility. This is part of the Nigerian conundrum which those in positions of responsibilities appear to lack the knowledge, experience and qualities necessary to discharge. This is why some of us in addition to our day jobs have taken it upon ourselves to contribute these ideas without charge in the hope that those in leadership positions will listen and bring about the change Nigeria needs before it is too late.

The question remains how do we really begin to solving the Nigeria problem, especially since many people have compared it to the legendary Augean stable. Unfortunately, the problem with this perspective is that the Nigeria problem is a real problem which would not yield to magical solution. No one in Nigeria has the power to redirect a river to clean a very dirty political system sustained by a traditional culture that condones, intolerance, corruption, discrimination and injustice. It would be difficult to get a group of army officers who would over throw the government round up all the corrupt politicians present and past, and shoot all of them in a firing squad; strengthen the current weak institutions and then organise a free and fair election where honest people who will respect the rule of law will be elected. For the Nigeria stable, the only way is to get people who are ready to get their hands dirty and begin with buckets, brooms and water, and taking the stable one part at a time. This is what we must do if the Nigerian problem will ever be solved. Good men must find a way to become part of the current corrupt political system with the view to changing it from within. This is our only way; otherwise we will have a revolution with its attendant disadvantages.

I suppose Nigerians should begin by recognising that the debt which the government owes to the poor, the less privileged and disabled members of the society cannot be postponed any longer and must now be paid in full. This involves investing in the education of the masses with the view to enlightening all about religion and the variables which bring about a safe and better society. The government has to recognise the necessity to invest in the enlightenment of the people about the falsehood of religious miracles, irrationality of faith without reason and worshiping the incomprehensible while venerating the absurd. Nigerians must be educated to believe only what is reasonable and dispel the many superstitions surrounding religion.

The government should also take the issue of justice for all those who are suffering because of the insecurity and terrorist activities of Boko Haram very seriously with the view to compensating them adequately. The families of victims of Boko Haram murderous activities, and inhabitants of villages burnt down by Fulani herdsmen must be compensated for Nigeria to begin to heal the wound of this period of madness. Without justice.

There is no doubt in my mind that at some point Nigerians will have to confront the various ways religion is misused by a few to impoverish the people, enrich themselves and enslave the people to absurd dogmas that tie them to the ignorance of the past in the name of faith. We cannot develop, if we do not re-examine our religions with the view to taking only what is equitable, just, loving and of good report in them. Our future lies in rejecting the bigotry, intolerance and ignorance of our religions. This is a task the government can no longer ignore and kneeling before charlatans and false prophets who make merchandise of Godís words, and feed the people with lie is not the way. This is important because, throughout history, religion with its intolerance has retarded development and it is only the light of enlightenment that can dispel the darkness of religious beliefs that has no place for reason and knowledge. A good government should help Nigerians take what is good in religion and reject all that is evil, if Nigeria will join the community of developed nations. The continued relevance of Islam and Christianity in the polity of Nigeria in the way they do at the moment is a big problem. The separation of politics and religion in Nigeria must become a necessity.

Besides religion, Nigerian government has to wake up to the state of education in Nigeria. The education system which has been decimated by greed, corruption avarice, and share idiocy is crying out for genuine reform and necessary investment. Nigeria can do what the Americans did early in their history by making education universally available so that those who want to study will not be deterred by lack of resources or means. By investing in education and making it accessible to all the government would be laying a very solid foundation for strong virile, democratic and dynamic society, capable of surviving whatever the future throws up. The strategy would include selecting some higher institutions in the country and generously funding them to enable them attract the best brains in Nigeria so that they can concentrate in what they know how best to do which is the pursuit of knowledge by studying, researching, improving understanding and pushing the frontiers of understanding and knowledge. If all Nigerian youth are involved in compulsory education for the first 18 years of their lives, paid for by the state, the number of youth who will graduate into the criminal underworld would be drastically reduced and they will develop a sense gratitude to the country which will enable the spirit of patriotism to flourish.

With universal education the government will need to follow it up with aggressive job creation by diversification of the economy, concerted effort to fight corruption and enthronement of meritocracy. This involves the expansion of sectors like health, law, security, agriculture, energy and sports to accommodate more people and diverse professionals. This is how jobs are created. In addition, the government would encourage entrepreneurial spirit and eliminate the bottle necks which corruption has created. The government will make it easier to register compnaies and ensure that those who have good ideas are supported and encouraged. This would involve the pursuit of equality to bring about an equitable society where the effort of people is rewarded and those who put in the effort reap the reward. Without changing the system and creating the environment for people to use their knowledge, education and resourcefulness to earn an honest living, the Nigeria problem will only get worse with time. The era of guaranteeing people job in Ministries or government corporations simply because their fathers or mothers work there, must come to an end to move Nigeria forward. Today, many scholarships go to children of those who are already well off, simply because they know someone who works in government establishment. This is part of the corruption that must end to give Nigeria a future. Men know that the world is not fair but they only demand to be given a fair chance in an unfair world and this is what any good government must aspire to, in order to create a stable society. Men do not fight because they lose; they often fight because they believe that they lost unfairly. Therefore, by not making the society fair, the government lays the foundation for intractable conflicts and insecurity like the ones we have in Nigeria today.

In addition, the government must cut political spending and cost of government by

  1. Reducing the number of aeroplanes in the presidential fleet

  2. Cutting the remuneration of the president, governors, senators, members of the house of representatives, members of the state houses of Assembly, ministers, commissioners and special advisers by 50%

  3. Reducing the number of ministers, commissioners and special advisers to no more than 15 each at all levels of government, and investing a fraction of the saving in education and health to ensure that Nigeria educates her best brain to world standard and keep them healthy irrespective of circumstance of birth.

The next step would be to invest in the health of the people. At the moment France spends 11% of its GDP on health, US 18% but the percentage of Nigerian GDP spent on the government alone is 80% leaving the rest of the country with 20%. In other words, Nigerian politicians and civil servants consume 80% of all the money Nigeria has to spend every year and this is the single most important variable that must change to give Nigeria a future. France, the US and many western counties spend less than 35% of their GDP on government. This is where the real problem of Nigeria lies and unfortunately, even our World Bank made minister of Finance has kept quiet and continues to practice economic alchemy. Nothing will work in Nigeria until the cost of government is reduced to release resources for development. Even the removal of oil subsidies and doubling of the price of petroleum products will make no difference until the cost of government in Nigeria is brought to less than 40% of her GDP which is why I am advocating for a 50% cut in the remunerations of politicians to start with. The president of Cyprus has cut his salary by 25% in view of the economic problems of his country and this is true leadership. This is the easiest thing an honest and sincere president would do if he or she really loves Nigeria. Unless Nigeria restructures her political economy, and brings it in line with what is acceptable, the slide to disaster will continue and many disfranchised citizens who feel that they have no stake in the country will continue to see rebellion and crime as legitimate way to express their frustration.

Take power for another instance, a government with intelligent and sensitive leadership would have seen that the key to power supply in Nigeria is water, solar and gas and would have invested heavily in these areas. Such a government would have ensured that the gases we flare are diverted to power gas stations to generate electricity and peopleís homes for domestic use. This alone will provide employment to millions of Nigeria in this industry. It is so easy to make Nigeria the fasted growing economy in the world. It is not rocket science and one does not even need to have studied economics or worked in World Bank to achieve it.

Everywhere one looks in Nigeria, one sees that the problems of Nigeria are surmountable and that we need to eliminate the environment which enables greed and corruption to flourish and welcome the light of knowledge and enlightenment which will drive away the darkness of greed, prejudice, corruption and ignorance brings. A people who know what they must do and fail to do it for any reason are ignorant. Will Nigerians dare to elect those who have no money but know the way out of this present quagmire, or will they continue to allow those who have stolen to continue to lead them into inevitable disaster. 2015 will decide. 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.