Patrick OdionikhereSaturday, July 24, 2010



oodluck Jonathan may not be the messiah awaited but a product of unfortunate circumstance for an unfortunate mission. He embodies a burden of history for himself, his people (south-south) and nation. Not many people have come that far in the history of Nigeria, except Goodluck Jonathan and Olusegun Obasanjo although, the latter was a disappointment. As a result so much is expected from President Jonathan and our people wants him to be a double of nobody. However, irrespective of his own perception of Nigeria's power politics, he must tackle the underneath areas, urgently:

A new direction for the war on corruption with the revocation of all previously granted bails and the replacement of the current EFCC head with Ribadu. He knows what is required for body to be effective and has the wisdom of a patriot who seeks salvation in the renaissance of a new Nigeria. Equally, there is the need to axe the Chairperson of ICPC because he lacks the patriotism for the job. So far, Nigerians are yet to know from him the position of all assets declared by previous officeholders after office? We need to know the purpose of the privileges he has been enjoying. That things are going wrong in Nigeria is because wrong people are at the right place and abusing public trust. The virtue of self fulfilment is the fulfilment of the aspiration of others. It is why implementing the decisions not like by few is imperative for your own greatness.

There is an urgency to review the use of injunctions in criminal trials, especially by accused persons who runs to court to stall prosecution. Generally, injunction serves significant purpose, especially to prevent the loss of useful evidence. Hence, it is granted ex parte. All the same though, it is burden by some critical issues such as: delay of court process, its oppressive nature and its impact on notion of presumption of innocence. On this ground, judges restrict its use in most jurisdictions outside Nigeria. Even then, it is only granted for securing evidence and assets and not for hindering criminal investigation, which is the case in Nigeria. Whereby, injunctions are granted indiscriminately to accused persons to stop criminal investigation. Normally, it is in public interest to prevent irreparable harm to any individual for which no financial compensation is adequate. However, granting frivolous injunctions by judges such that accused persons cannot even be investigated or brought to court to dispute their guilt, not only defies logic but undermines judicial neutrality in the administration of justice. Judges must understand that biased decisions limit their own authority and independence. Therefore, judges should only uphold values that protect this core principle. As enforcer of public interest, their decisions must not only reflect their own perception of the law but also of public views to whom they are accountable.

Consequently, indiscriminate granting of injunctions by judges is abusive and obstructive to justice; even if they are granted without ulterior motive. It is imperative to end the mess in the judiciary if we seek a fair and progressive society. So, all the judges who have breached the rules of injunction must be investigated and removed as incompetent.

Set up new special tribunals for speedy trial of corruption offences. You will undo yourself if the likes of Babangida and Obasanjo are left the hook and allowed to be running amok with stolen national wealth before 2011 election. A good leader is the one who will take his people to task. There are many people who will fight on your side to stop them from using militias to harass our people. We are not in a fool's paradise in believing that the war on corruption can only be won by making crime impossible to commit. In other words, all you need to do is to remove the evildoer from the place of wrong only, while allowing him or her to enjoy the proceeds of crime afterwards. Just like long jail term, so also should assets seizure of proceeds of crime, become important in the corruption war. Crime has become lucrative in Nigeria because culprits are able to buy justice and keep the proceeds of their wrongful act. Good people need reward why bad people need punishment. It is only on this principle that Nigeria can develop. Any crime - small or big should have a deterrent tag and no culprit should be advantaged by his or her own wrong. That is, put in a status higher after a criminal act. Anything that undermines moral standard should not be rewarded. It should be a perpetual policy of any good government. Accordingly, it is time to rethink about national honours in our quest for a decent society and the image we crave for our people. There is no understanding to have any street named after Babangida and Abacha and their likes in Nigeria. It is an imprint of national tragedy. You may be a beneficiary of a wrong but now, you have the obligation of cleaning the mess for the interest of the next generation and your place in history.

Equally, there is a political expediency to split the office of the attorney general and minister of justice. Normally, it is a perfect arrangement to have one man for both offices since politicians are direct custodian of public interest. High crimes have negative political consequences in systems where political accountability is owed to electorate. So, whoever occupies the office as a politician upholds a high moral standard to tie his/her interest to that of the public in the running of public office. In Nigeria though, politicians are yet to have political accountability. It is why they show animosity in the running of public affairs and no good ethical behaviour. After all, why should they care about personal integrity if the people themselves hardly know what it means? It is the reason that the culture of abuse of public office is persisting. And because politicians only have the culture of self interest in Nigeria, it is difficult for them to forsake any of their fellow politician and hold forth for each-another. From the forgoing, I think to appoint a civil servant as attorney general could rekindle its effectiveness and give the office a new light. Even though, it is no guarantee for purity, at least, civil servants are more likely to play by the rules. We will be better off having a civil servant as attorney general until we reach the level when the public becomes the decision maker and their views respected. Even then, civil servants have better capacity for making sound judgement and hold their career dear. It is not the case with politicians. Interestingly, it is only politicians who need no qualification and work experience for public service, except where the bar is limited by statute. Otherwise, they have limitless alternatives and have survival instinct of remaking themselves like snakes to reverse any misfortune suffered. With this in mind, we should cut down the number of offices occupied by politicians while creating more independent institutions for civil servants.

Remove the tuition fees disparity between federal and state tertiary institutions in Nigeria, now. Section 18 of the constitution of Nigeria states that: (1) Government shall direct its policy towards ensuring that there are equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels. (2) Government shall promote science and technology (3) Government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy; and to this end Government shall as and when practicable provide (a) free, compulsory and universal primary education; (b) free secondary education; (c) free university education; and Although, the wordings of the provisions may seem as aspiration, it does require government to end any unequal treatment in Nigeria. It is absurd that any Nigerian should be facing discrimination in Nigeria on ground of ethnicity for the sake of higher education, which is not for self fulfilment alone but also for national development. The disparity is obvious if one goes to a region outside ones ethnicity other than a federal university to pay more for such education. Irrespective of which state owes the institution, the need to see ourselves as Nigerians should be paramount against the background of ethnicity that has been used to lame Nigeria. We ought to be more interested in the mobility of our workforce after all, whether a state establishes a tertiary institution for others in a narrow sense, the same state could end up reaping the good product of non-indigene migrant (fellow citizen) who remains after graduation. The fact that every employed person pays national income tax makes all of us a beneficiary in the national wealth. The idea of burden absorption by states which build higher institutions for others, as opposed to the ones which may be termed social parasites within the link may not per say have any advantage for not taking part in a social burden. Nonetheless, any disadvantage suffered by a Nigerian because of his or her ethnicity, is national tragedy and outrage. For example, it is not right that an Edo student studying in Ogun state university should be paying #250,000 per year whereas an Ogun student of the same university pays #100, 000. So also, is equally the case of a Kano student studying in Nasarawa state university paying for instance #100,000 against an indigene that pays just #20,000. The barrier of tuition fee disparity in our nation's higher institution is adverse to our national interest and unity of our people. We must understand that Nigeria is no longer under British rule where policies were implemented against our unity for its economic interest. Nigeria cannot begin on the path of progress when our so-called leaders are still holding on to the master-and-slave mentality. The political class must surrender its colonial mentality in ruling its people. Otherwise, we are heading for the day of anarchy, where nobody wins! Even so, the ruling elite have more to loose. The tyranny of the elite class has persisted because of the inaction of the struggling poor.

Education is bedrock for development. This is an area where the government can achieve much within a short time in terms of infrastructures. I know it is complex area since there is a divide between federal and state schools. It is time to end the era of federal secondary schools to a regime of unitary school system in which all stakeholders agree on quality of education for Nigerians independent of class, or creed or ethnicity. The idea of federal government running secondary schools is a rogue system of colonial setting of appeasement and loyalty of those who held forth for them. Obasanjo's moot on privatization of federal unity schools should be revisited. It is a smart idea. For now, the status given to them as unity schools is contradictory and only replicates schools for the children of colonial stooges. If we must create schools to differentiate, such policy must be driven by idea of academic excellence as main goal as opposed to a dysfunctional system of selfishness.

We cannot hold on to colonial institutions that have become national burden. Our youths need quality education with critical content for the mind. It is the only way to right all the wrongs in Nigeria. I do not see how Nigerians can compete with other nations in any level of development when our schools are still having medieval outlook and no emphasis on developing the mind. Creating schools to make everyone a winner must be pursued through a regime of austerity measures for politicians to finance education and for social projects.

Examination malpractices and need for paper qualification. It was reported that only less than three percent of those who sat for WAEC or NECO had passes at credit level in five or more subjects in its last conducted examination. It is unacceptable situation, especially now that nearly all teachers in our schools are graduates. I think we need to correct the missing link. In the world of global competition, our schools must be measured in light of the best schools elsewhere.

For this, we need to review the goal for examination and the quest for certificate without malpractices. Too much emphasis on paper qualification than skills has become a problem. Because, it is assumed that ones progress lie in the outcome of an examination only. As such, the desperation for good result has made it imperative for people to cheat in examinations.

So the battle has burdened every thing in the system that universities and tertiary institutions even though not in position to admit all those who meet its requirement still conduct its own post selection examination (post UME) Yes, examination is good to ensure some level of discipline and reward. We need to balance it with the need for practical knowledge. Too much examination at some point can be counterproductive. It becomes more apparent if outcome is 100 percent weighted in straight go. Examination malpractices will remain and high as long as it is 100 percent weighted. We should move away from 100 percent test in WAEC or NECO to that of 50-50. That is 50 percent homework or coursework in the form of projects in all papers for examination, which are set and marked by the examining body. For instance, in homework subjects, candidates should have them say in the last school year at least four months to final written examination in all the subjects of maximum of six as mandatory in WAEC or NECO certificate examination. In other words, students will be required to choose not less than six subjects as minimum or maximum in any given examination and the current grading of A, B2 or C and etc unaltered. Invariably, it would mean to pass WAEC or NECO, one must pass all six entered subjects in one sitting or a minimum of four with a chance of retaking the failed two subjects. Any thing short of this should lead to repeating all of the subjects in a fresh circle. It will also change the current admission criteria for higher education. Our senior secondary school leavers are unduly favoured against their counterpart elsewhere. I see no reason that the criteria for advancing to next level in higher institutions' examination are not followed in the same way in the formative education - junior and senior secondary level. The changes could lead to high rate of successes in examination; improve the creative abilities of students in view of the shift from 100 percent test in written examination and could lower malpractices.

On examination malpractices, its end can only happen if fines and ban from future examination conducted for the purposes of university admission or employment in Nigeria is put in place for those who engage in any act of examination malpractices. So also, jail fine for minimum of two years should be imposed on parents who help their children to cheat; whether or not the children are minors. Equally, any agent of examination malpractices should be given a higher penalty so that they have no interest in whatever form to engage in it.

Overhaul the current 9 3 4 education system. It is only on paper. There is no reason why a Nigerian should be spending longer time in the university than their counterpart elsewhere; in-addition to strikes that makes learning lugubrious and expensive for parents. At the moment, studying for professional courses is outside the system. Yet, it is difficult to understand the rationale for the disparity between taking an engineering course for five years and a sociology course for four years in a Nigerian university. Irrespective of the differences in course content between social sciences and engineering, the time gap between the two, serves no significant purpose except an artificial arrangement to make studying engineering or similar courses prestigious and unnecessary time and financial wasting for the students, parents and taxpayers. Normally, all full-time degree courses in UK are a three-year programme with the exception of medicine and sandwich courses. There is nothing wrong in designing our system according to our needs and peculiarities. Unfortunately, spending longer time for a basic degree was conceived in bad faith. In contrast, if studying longer determines quality and standards, obviously, a Nigerian awarded degree should be higher than a UK awarded degree. Interestingly, many other factors than time determines standard hence a Nigerian degree is still burden by inferiority no matter the perception we hold for our degrees. We live in self deception to our own detriment. Even then, a basic standard degree should not take more than three years. That the government cannot create jobs should not be reason for stretching the length of time for a university degree. Again, any future policy on tertiary education should be informed by the desire to make its product competitive for global market and removing all barriers for the poor, which lengthy learning period without access to scholarships means outright knockout. Lengthy period of study is expensive, exploitative and prevents early job entry and not in anyone's interest. It is time to have a rethink about the length of time for a standard degree in Nigeria. We must remove barrier for our youths to have competitive edge over their counterpart elsewhere. Therefore, it is imperative to reduce all standard degree courses to a three-year programme - change 9 3 4 to 9 3 3. We should create leverage for our product to be competitive in global market even if we cannot create job for them at home. This should be the goal of any educational reform in Nigeria.

Again, just as university education is important, vocational education should be integrated into the current 9 3 system. We are having a system where nobody cares about the dropouts from the first compulsory 9 years of basic education or those who fail to make it to the tertiary level. I think the gap ought to be filled with vocational education - technical and commercial. To get it right, I would argue for rigorous selection process for advancement to senior secondary school. While those who fail to make it to senior level or fail WAEC or NECO forced to the vocational path where they either choose technical or commercial line of trade. It is important that we incorporate it into a mandatory apprenticeship system with employers of labour. The apprenticeship scheme should be financed by government in order to promote the cooperation of employers and its success for our industrial takeoff. We cannot expect industrialisation without linking our schools and how to acquire the right skills. It is not those who hold paper qualification that are going to create jobs but those with vocational training. It is why we should shift our thinking to making vocational education as relevant as other forms of education. The drive to end crime in Nigeria will take new course if we remove our youths from the streets by giving them occupational mind through training on skills. Nigeria has the resources to prosper everybody only if politicians realise that they are the problem. We should have no understanding for Nigeria's ranking at the same level with Afghanistan and in the realm of failed state.

Just like any skill, the use of more than one language is always an advantage in this day of globalization. Regrettably, Nigeria seems not to get it. I have no understanding why the study of French language is not made compulsory in our school curriculum bearing in mind that it is the second spoken language in Africa. Even so, the quest for economic and political integration of Africa by the African Union makes it implicit for the incorporation of the study of one foreign language in the first 12 years of formal education, at least. I am aware it cannot happen overnight because of the resources needed. We can do it ad hoc by use of foreign aid and students' exchange programmes until we have enough foreign language teachers. Language skills will ensure the mobility of labour and also will serve our national interest.

The INEC and need for credible elections in Nigeria. It is this disconnect between the interests of the ruling elite and its ruled masses that continues to burden democracy in Nigeria. Disappointingly, the ruled masses has not realised that no true liberation come from the top but from bottom. It has been exploited by ruling elite to arrange the political affairs in Nigeria that any pubic office is run like a personal estate. In Nigeria, there is a misconception about office and office-holder. Normally, office is permanent, its strength neutral and consistent. Whilst, the holder is impermanent and powers defined by office. Unfortunately, the perception of office has been moulded up and the notion of public office personalised. It is a reason that the authority of the individual is stronger than its office and acts arbitrary. As such, we always clamour for strong individual than for strong office because we want things done not according to rules, rather for the interest to be protected.

No doubt that Nigerians are in high spirit over the appointment of Professor Jega as new INEC chairman. Looking at his academic laurel, no reasonable man has cause to worry about trust and his depth of wisdom. All the same, he has the burden of his predecessors. Yes, our best must occupy a public office for the interest of the majority. Services come with unfettered privileges. I expect Professor Jega to learn from the lesson of the fall of his predecessors. As such work for the consolidation of democracy and credible elections. Otherwise, if he fails, he carries the burden of all as a victim of few. I would urge him to carryout an audit control of the entire INEC and embark on getting an up-to-date voter's register. Without which no credible election is possible. I want also a situation whereby the place of residence should be the only criteria for voting in any election. Nigeria has the resources to implement a compulsory birth, death and residency register. Any election conducted without a credible register is flawed. A register containing only loyalist voters is equally as dangerous as snatching of election ballot boxes, or vote for money or gifts.

Newspapers have been reporting about money scams in both national parliament and across all states government. I am particularly troubled because of the height of corruption rocking the house of representative where the speaker, Mr Bankole has been using all uncivilised methods to suppress critics and using authority of office to intimidate the proponent of an investigation. It is mind blowing to hear the billions of Naira that are involved, apart from the Peugeot car deal scandal. It is also reported that members of national houses of assembly - representative and senate gets between 250 - 45 million naira per three months as bonuses. Hearing this, thus demonstrates that politics in Nigeria is about self interest only. It is not about public service but business.

The concept of total separation of power in a constitutional democracy is illusionary and unrealistic. Rather, it is a strong fusion of power through the dynamics of party politics with some element of distinctive role. That the executive is powerful is self evident, which is due to its hierarchy in the power spectrum. For this, it is implicit that the President shows leadership of action at any critical moment.

I always held the opinion that only man of the people will serve the people. It had been made evident by the affairs of Bankole and his so-called integrity group who only insinuated themselves to consolidate power for no real change. Their hue was only to impress infants of the dynamics of Nigeria power politics. Etteh's fall ought to end an old era with Bankole as a symbol of generational change in attitude and character. So far, he is still in the past and the yardstick of a failed generation. He may not like to hear this. Even then, he is a typical father-son-image. Bankole is a product of a recycled system of fraud - son of political bigwig and trained by deeds of corruption and illegitimate sources. To expect otherwise from him was only wishful. He made no mistake to remain in UK after his education. With no professional experience, at best he could have reached in UK was may be a security guard at six pounds an hour. So wasting time in UK was no option since there are many options in Nigeria. Politics is more attractive to the children of the political elite because they face no competition or require any qualification except, the influence of their parents or godfather, which equally determines their starting point. It is why politics in Nigeria is not about values and integrity. This reflects why Babangida said "Nigerian youths are incapable of leading Nigeria - the Nigerian youth is useless and cannot lead" I think it is self indictment, which is not self serving. Rather, he challenged our conscience for not punishing him for his wrongs against our people. I have no problem with children of politicians who choose politics if they have trait of good character and wants to payback society with service. Unfortunately, Bankole and cohorts is misfit. Thus, the silence of President Jonathan over the scandalous money deals in the national assembly of shame is a betrayal of conscience against the ordinary man. You should understand that you rule for the interest of the majority! If you let down your own virtue, you diminish your own authority.

A leader who refuses to pass the same way with his followers is no leader. Other nations are currently trimming economic wastages, but right in Nigeria, politicians are making jamboree of waste. It is time to engage social issues in our communities. Creating a new Nigeria in which everyone is a stakeholder is in the interest of the ruling elite. They should remember the lesson of French revolution.

Furthermore, monarchs have no place in a modern Nigeria because it is a republic. We have not only freed our people of the Queen of England for the enjoyment of equality as freed people but also from internal domination based on birthright. The idea about creating a constitutional role for monarchs in Nigeria is dangerous and ill informed. It should be abandoned. It is for the interest of a few people - the sultan and his selfish stooges. You have sworn to uphold the rights of all Nigerians. You can only negotiate power with Nigerians for Nigerians, north and south!

Ghana is on the right track because their people have one direction in spite of its multi-ethnicity. Yet in Nigeria, we are still talking about ethnic interest, instigated by north's political elite. All the same, in politics, any individual or group agitation is right. Irrespective of how we see the north's ruling elite agitation, they should pursue it within the context of the interest of the majority. The irresponsibility of its past leaders is ground for mistrust until they are ready for a true Nigeria project not defined by selfishness. What is north interest about? The economy should be 90 percent driven by government for northern ruling elite and their families. We all know why they scrabble for juicy ministries such as agriculture, FCT, power and etc. Agriculture has the highest national budget. Yet, we still rely on foreign nations to feed our people. What about the current speculation that NNPC is bankrupt. We know the people that caused the mess. Only southerners will not complain even though the resources come from its region. The politicians from the north are provoking the rest of us with the debate of PDP zoning and its turn to produce the next president. North has held power for over 35 years and we know what they used it for. It is why Nigeria is broke and the sorry state of affairs. Now, they have seen how the designing of a selfish constitution has become a burden and laming Nigeria economically. We have not forgotten that it was one of their politicians who said telephone is not for the poor. Luckily, the impression had been reversed by Obasanjo's privatisation of the telecommunication sector. Obasanjo may have been corrupt yet he made us richer. It is lesson for Jonathan to pursue liberalisation of our economy to make it 90 percent private driven. In doing this, we could end corruption and the return of politics of service.

The bridge between poor man and rich man's goods led to economic growth in Europe. For us to grow our economy and provide jobs, basic necessities and luxury goods should become accessible to everybody in Nigeria. It was on this premise that poverty ended in Europe, which in turn led to its industrial growth and wealth. Nigeria can remake itself for its people's prosperity if the politicians respect the dictate of true democracy! President Jonathan, I wish you the best.

Patrick Odionikhere is Legal Adviser, Federal Asylum Office, Austria