FEATURE ARTICLE

Thursday, July 18, 2019
ejikeonuogu@gmail.com
New York, USA
OUR PRAYER AS A NATION IS NOT IF, BUT WHEN THAT DAY WILL COME

lections are designed for people to cast legitimate votes to support the emergence of a representative government of the people at local, state or Federal level.

Elections are designed to be seamless with an electoral commission overseeing the process.

Nigerians in the Diaspora have watched with awe the systematic erosion of clarity in this process and the deviation of the electoral commission from being an independent Umpire to being an extension of one political party and more specifically the party in office.

The electoral process is about a debate of ideas and character with the people given a free hand to choose from amongst a myriad of candidates, whose ideas fit public expectation and whose character carries decorum and profiles probity as a modus operandi.

Unfortunately, for decades now, the Nigerian electoral system has been turned into a charade filled by Men and women with no scruples, individuals who put the self first and the people last, Men and women who have no iota of love for their country but would rather pledge allegiance to a sectional ideology just to come to political attention.

In this pedestal of self-aggrandizement, the emphasis shifts from the service of the people to service of man’s primordial instincts. This tendency has continued to recycle and the cabal perpetuating this mischief seems to think that Nigerians are asleep at the wheel.

There has been a significant paradigm shift from a peoples-oriented government to a government in which Politicians follow the money and abandon the conscience which is in fact the voice of the people. Democracy is an ideal and not just an idea. By allowing the physical to have dominion over the spiritual, the average Nigerian politician has turned himself into a Factotum.

The Nigeria Senate is no longer the peoples’ Chamber. It is no longer the House of Noblemen who rise above partisanship to filibuster unpopular decrees or executive order capable of destroying the fabric of a society for which millions lost their lives to preserve. Nigerians mourn the current political process and rightfully so because it seems we now ride into town on the back of the old horse wearing the banner, “The end justifies the means.” It no longer matters whose Ox is gored. What is important is that we are Senators whether by hook or crook and we enjoy political immunity. The senate no longer holds the executive accountable on any matter of national interest including the wave of extrajudicial killings taking place across the country and spreading like an inferno. The Senate seems to have forfeited her power of oversight given the suggestion that her membership is morally compromised.

Amongst many Nigerians, the question that keeps popping up is whether the Senate is now retirement home to most State Governors in that there seems to be an established trend of transitioning from the Government House at State level to Senate once the second tenure is completed.

Looking back at history, it seems the emergence of the current political theater was made possible following the fall of the second Republic when the Nigeria currency was artificially devalued to create unsustainable economic hardship and so force the elites of our society into economic exile. The vacuum created by their exit was surreptitiously occupied by what we now find to be our current representation.

Does this explain why we don’t have any sequential and time-weighted developmental plans like other leading countries of the world.

Does this account for the lack of ingenuity of our university graduates in setting the pace on innovations that will propel this nation into the twenty first century. And

instead of building a national character and vision, we have sunk into religious despotism and sown seeds of discord amongst brothers and sisters who would rather coexist peacefully but for the devilish machinations of a few individuals

Is the inequality in wealth distribution in the North of man’s creation,and if so is this a slavish mentality aimed at ensuring that the elites of that society have a perpetual chokehold on a generation from which no emancipation is in sight; thus making the divide and conquer phenomenon an extension of this practice.

Certainly, Nigeria can boast of the most educated individuals in the world today. However, this has not translated into any positive development for the country.

Could this be that we have not looked inwards to believe that we can also export technology to the rest of the world. We churn out Engineers every year: Chemical, Agricultural, Electrical, mechanical, Electronic, Petroleum, yet we cannot harness their expertise in nurturing a Project Development Institute that lays the foundation for small scale industries, and so pave way for a vibrant “made in Nigeria” technology that is appreciated by the rest of the world. Are we dealing with individuals with a mindset skewed towards misappropriation of public funds with no vision for the growth of the country they serve. Have we lost faith in the prospects of our undergraduates and graduates of Engineering as the future of Nigeria’s economic growth; that if properly harnessed, could turn this country around in five years from a dependent economy to one that begins to export technology across the globe. That this process will drastically cut the unemployment crisis in the country, re-establish hope amongst our youth and diminish and eventually wipe out restiveness amongst this population. This can only be achieved by a government that is pragmatic and result-oriented and not enmeshed in petty political rivalry and religious bigotry. As a simple illustration one cannot pray for yams to emerge from the earth when one has not planted seedlings and watered the land and applied the necessary fertilizer. By the same token, one cannot pray for eggs to appear at the breakfast table when one has not invested in poultry, nor pray to have fresh milk at one’s doorstep when there is no cow to milk.

Could this explain why Nigeria is in darkness year in year out; so that clandestinity will continue to flourish. Today most countries of the world operate a twenty four hour job cycle so as to meet up with the demands of society. The Highways , seaports and airports are operational twenty four hours, seven days a week to situate a heavy traffic burden.

Does this explain why our roads are death traps and our Highways turned into cattle grazing fields. Yet we have agencies empowered to ensure the safety of road users. But Instead of installing reflectors and signs to improve the vision and attention of road users, money is spent on other inglorious pursuits. Potholes are left unattended until they cause horrific accidents especially at night when visibility is poor. There are no Billboards warning drivers of the traffic situation ahead of them so that they can take a detour and avoid being caught in a heavy hold up. Vehicles unworthy of our Highways are permitted to ply these Highways, serving as accident traps for other road users. Most of these are heavy vehicles with no brake lights, no rear reflectors, unserviceable motors. They breakdown at odd places and there is no warning to other road users who end up colliding with these monsters in the middle of the night. These vehicles are loaded with three times their load capacity thereby compromising their brake system and they become mobile time bombs. Yet the Federal Road Safety looks the other way.

Nigeria has what many pundits would describe as a depleted and ill-equiped Police Force and Army. Our Uniformed services have been denigrated by Politicians and others in high places. The Uniformed Services have lost their glory and respect amongst the people because they are seen as mere errand boys and have been used as such. Every Nigerian can have access to Mobile police Escort, even a High School drop out with criminal background can be seen being escorted by Police to a Beer Parlor. The Police and Army function without the necessary equipment and moral support to enable them discharge their responsibilities faithfully without fear or favor. When Police are housed like grass cutters in dilapidated barrack systems where the water supply is contaminated, the sewage system is worse than what you find in the Nigeria Prison system, where the Officers are underpaid given the gravity of responsibility assigned to them, when they are not adequately equipped to fight the criminals of our society who many a time are better equipped. When they leave home everyday not sure they will make it back in the evening.

When they go to work and even extend themselves and there is no overtime clause in their contract, no life insurance or accident/disability benefits, no hazard pay, no health insurance for these gallant men and women; no school vouchers for their children to attend the best schools in the country. Then we wonder why they collect pittance from bus drivers and other road users just to make ends meet. Many have been missing in action and have been forgotten like flies. They died in vain trying to live up to an ideal. The system has robbed them of the nobility of a profession where people ought to be treated with the same measure and the rule of law should be the watchword and mantra and where there are no sacred cows. In other words, everyone is equal under the law. The Police should be able to arrest anyone found in violation of the law for they are the reason the poor man can walk unscathed even under the crushing weight of the elephant in the room; men and women who by virtue of their socio-economic status arrogate to themselves the pedigree of demigods, the untouchables and beneath this façade commit heinous crimes and yet go scot free. There have been multiple instances where the Uniformed Services have put their lives on the line for us to live free. In many instances these gallant men and women have worked tirelessly to arrest criminals terrorizing society only for these criminals to be put back in circulation through the back door because their sponsors are men and women of privilege and public persuasion. In addition to not being adequately reimbursed, our Uniformed Services go to work everyday with inferior body armor, unserviceable armory and a morale driven to the lowest ebb. They have no retirement package to write home about, and yet we commit them to the most dangerous terrain and expect the best outcome.

When it was established, the EFCC was looked on to as a “clean up House” to help rebrand the image of Nigeria and bring to book those who commit all manners of economic crime either directly or by proxy. However, it is a generally held sentiment that the EFCC is merely the “Gestapo” of the government in Office. It does not matter how much wealth you steal from the Government once you are able to switch camp and join the incumbent party, your sins are forgiven. The nature of cases investigated by EFCC depends on how much is at stake and so it does not matter whether a Nigerian is defrauding people in China or Europe while claiming to be acting on behalf of a Nigerian Government Parastatal. It does not matter whether the image of Nigeria is being tarnished in foreign countries, these cases do not meet the threshold set by EFCC because the financial inducement is microscopic. Moreover, till date Nigerians have not been apprised of how much money EFCC has recovered from those accused of financial impropriety. The channels of recovery and return to government coffers of the so-called stolen funds have not followed a traceable path of transparency. Many Nigerians believe the process is akin to robbing Peter to pay Paul.

On a different note, the Healthcare system in Nigeria is in shambles. It is a shame that the President of Nigeria has to be flown to London for treatment when competent Doctors abound in this country. What we lack is a system that works for the people. What we lack is a Hands-on Administrator who is given cart blanche to overhaul what many would call a dead system. The Healthcare delivery apparatus has decayed to a level where its resuscitation is a national emergency and requires a task force approach. The current healthcare apparatus is not only lacking in inventory, it is lacking in infrastructure, accessibility and sustainable personnel. It is not about rhetoric and appointment of Ministers of Health who attend Federal Executive Council meetings with platitudes. It is about men and women being deployed to the trenches where our women, elderly, children and infants are dying by the hour.

The Federal Budget for health should cut into the budget of other redundant parastatals like EFCC, which recover money from looters, but there is no accountability. The Budget of the Health Ministry should be approaching at least 20% of the country’s GDP if we are serious about making the country whole again. Countries like Saudi Arabia invested heavily on the utilization of expatriate services to boost their healthcare delivery system until they were able to train sufficient local manpower to sustain these services. Nigeria is blessed with first class doctors and nurses who are scattered around the globe providing excellent care in the countries they serve. Their services can be re-channeled to the home environment, but the price must be right. They must be reimbursed at a rate commensurate with what foreign countries pay for their services. Yes, we have the money to get the job done. What we lack is the wisdom to appropriate the funds where they are needed. In any case, the Health delivery apparatus of any nation defines the character of that nation. It is also an image-maker for that country. It determines the investment potentials of that nation, given that foreign investors in their analyses of pros and cons of economic factors of production view this as a highly weighted index.

Today we bask in the glory of stealing a peoples’ mandate forgetting that what goes around comes around. But history has a way of repeating itself. However, many who follow Greek Philosophy will agree that prevention is better than cure. We do not have to wait until we are consumed in a conundrum of bloodbath to awaken the odium of the gods. Nigeria as it stands today is on the precipice of disaster. And only Nigerians can save Nigeria. Like in the book of Caesar by William Shakespeare, “Cassius from bondage will deliver Cassius.”

The 2019 Presidential election was between the APC (the Incumbent party) and the PDP. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) served as the Umpire for this election. The INEC is supposed to be non-partisan, transparent and neutral.

However, the actions of INEC have become suspect especially in light of the events of yesterday following the challenge by PDP that the election results called in favor of President Buhari were doctored and do not portray the will of the people. INEC refusal to comply with court order to grant PDP access to all the electoral materials casts doubt on the neutrality of this Umpire. Furthermore, INEC has been shifting her position on the manner the said election was conducted and the nature of the tools deployed to collate the votes.

If indeed, INEC were truly independent and neutral, when the matter of collusion with the APC government was raised by the opposition, INEC leadership would have recused itself from the case and asked the court to appoint an independent body to look into the modus operandi of INEC vis a vis the said election. This commission would submit her findings to the court and will lay to rest the question of whether a server was deployed in the first place and what role such server played in helping skew the results in favor of the incumbent party. Secondly, the reluctance of the President of the Tribunal to recuse herself from the case given her glaring ties to APC speaks volumes on the fastidious nature of this administration to bend the arm of justice whenever the opportunity presents itself.

A country without laws is in anarchy. Nigeria is in anarchy as Fulani Herdsmen without any permit or license walk about with AK-47 rifles and sack villages, maim and kill innocent citizens and the Federal Government appears to look the other way. Till date no single Herdsman has been brought to book. Yet innocent citizens with lawful permit to carry hunting rifles are required to turn in their weapons and live in fear of being the next victims of these marauders masquerading under the name of Herdsmen.

When Nigerian citizens are persuaded to acquire the likes of AK47 in self-defense, I would like to see how the courts will adjudicate on such cases given that there is no precedence that carrying such a weapon is unlawful in the current dispensation. Otherwise a bunch of Fulani Herdsmen will be behind bars now serving time for murder. Not so, rather they are busy finalizing their game plan to launch a massive onslaught against various parts of Nigeria in a suicide venture to Islamize Nigeria.

On the issue of Islamizing Nigeria, and viewed through the Occam’s razor, the proponents of this idea are not students of history, rather ideologues pursuing a self-serving agenda of divide and conquer. However, it must be noted that there are people in history that cannot be subjugated through religious or other forms of political insurgency. Many of these people are not warlike by nature. They are peace-loving people who like to go about their daily lives believing in the power of self-industry and goodwill and even under excruciating circumstances, continue to seek peace hoping to find the light at the end of the tunnel. In a previous article , I referenced the notion that wars are an aberration and in all history wars have never created a solution, but rather more problems. Wars set off a never ending vicious cycle of unstoppable human vendetta. We must as a people rise above the fray and extinguish this propensity to dominate the weak amongst us. Many schools of thought have said that Nigeria as a contraption of colonial manipulation was a mistake bound to collapse. A century has elapsed since then and the forces holding us together have never been stronger. When shaken, it has always been threatened using religion as an excuse. We are not the only country in the world with people of different faith living together and proudly identifying themselves as citizens of one nation. In 1979 the National Party of Nigeria adopted the slogan, “One Nation, One Destiny.” I believe this reflects who we are as a people. One day our coat of arms may be amended to carry this banner. In December 1982, President Shehu Shagari spent the Christmas holidays in the home of his friend, the late Chief M.N. Ugochukwu of Umunze. The former , a Fulani man, the latter, an Igbo and a Christian. They had one thing in common, and that was love. They did not permit religion to define their humanity. The people of China are diverse in terms of the number of religious groups that have found accommodation in the mainland. In the United Arab Emirates there are as many Churches as there are Mosques. The doctrine of live and let live has found expression here.

Ibn Battuta was a reknowned Islamic Scholar born in Tangier, Morroco. His travels around the world spanned a distance of 73,000 miles. He met men and societies that made lasting impression on him. He lived amongst them , endured their friendship while he remained spiritually within the boundaries of Islam.

Those who clamor war may be part of the few demagogues who now see weapons of war as a profitable venture paid for and nurtured with the blood of the innocent. There is power behind the muzzle of a rifle as much as there is inner strength in timely dialogue that holds that hand from pulling the trigger.

Our inner eyes must be opened today that we may see the light of God, and that his hands may direct our deliberations and actions. We must remember the mistake of Alexander the Great who after a battle was approached by an ancient Sage who handed him a sack of water. In his hesitation, one of his Officers drew his sword and sliced the sack. As the water dripped the Sage said, “Sir, you have been tested and found wanting. You shall die unhappy that no lands exist for you to conquer. You shall be a wanderer, time and again until you find one who will take you back to the Sugmad.” As the Officer poised to strike the Sage, the latter vanished into thin air.

As one preacher said recently in a dedicated sermon, the discovery of fire is one of the greatest innovations of mankind. He went on to say that love when properly harnessed could bring about a day when fighting nations will dismantle their nuclear arsenals and other weapons of mass destruction; and even when we do cross the river Rubicorn, it will no longer be to make war with Rome , but to trade and exchange brotherly ideas. Even the Herdsmen will drop the AK47 and see all this pursuit as vanity. Our prayer as a nation is not if, but when that day will come.

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