What will it take to achieve Vision 2020? (2)
This is unlike in the past when a mere invitation to the police station to respond to a complaint/charge brought shame to individuals and their families. Those who are convicted nowadays for theft, armed robbery, misappropriation of public funds etc behave as if they are heroes and heroines in their communities. Known ex-convicts, forgers, fraudsters, robbers, etc carry on with arrogance and are likely to be honoured by their community, religious bodies, clubs/associations, and/or the nation!
Families are breaking up too frequently. Housewives and girl-children are succumbing to commercial sex in order to survive unlike in the past when virginity was a pre-requisite to betrothal. Our so-called modern ladies dress scantily these days in order to expose the sensitive parts of their bodies. Yet our great grandparents used to pay heavy bride price before they could have a glimpse of the sensitive parts of the body of their bride.
Furthermore, our men folk are no longer capable of playing their accustomed role in the familial units and communities and significant numbers literarily turn a blind eye to the unsavoury behaviours of their wives and children due to their precarious economic status and situation.
The educational system has been wrecked by all sorts of vices which include corruption, cultism, sexual harassment, and brigandage while the philosophy that diplomas/degrees should be awarded taking character and learning into account has been thrown into the winds. Lecturers who used to be above board now spearhead all sorts of atrocities while students who ought to be motor park touts have somehow found their way into universities with fake credentials.
Pa Victor Adenuga Oyenuga, one of Nigeria’s illustrious professors summed up the difference between yester years and today in an interview marking his 90th birthday:
Oh, my son, they are quite apart! In 1951, you could rely on people. If people got stranded and they came and knocked at your door, you would open for them without fear. You would entertain such a person and house him overnight. You can’t do that now. You never know who is an armed robber now. You never know who is merely pretending to be in trouble or danger. There is world of difference and Nigeria has changed so much for bad from what we know.
Even in academic, we used to do our work without motive. Whomever I could help, I helped and I taught my students with all sincerity. I blamed those who did not do well. Now people don’t do that without asking for money. Today, you can’t go out without a lot of prayers. Our society has changed. The devil has taken control of our society. People are looking for money and money and money at all cost and irrespective of the source or sources.
So there is a wide difference between what is obtained today and in the past. For our present day politicians, it is worse. They are in ocean of money and they are making it even to satisfy four or five generations to come. Money has changed us. I will not say from human beings to animals, but from godliness to ungodliness.6
Virtually all our social institutions including the religious institutions are infected by corruption and fraud. Prophets, pastors and imam are sprouting all over the country and commanding large followership. Yet, there is every reason to believe that Satan (viz., the roaring lion that is the target of all powerful all-day and night prayerful sessions) seems to winning going by reports of unsavoury practices in various congregations. Reports such as the following which were unthinkable in the olden days replete our soft sell magazines:
Tongue are waging in Edo State over the sex scandal that rocked the leadership of Edo Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board in the Holy land in Israel. Investigations revealed that at the centre of the sex scandal is a prominent Bishop of a very popular New Generation Pentecostal Church located in Etete Area of Benin, City the state capital. It was learnt that while in the Holy Land on a pilgrimage, the Bishop instead of visiting the places of interest at the Holy Land was busy in the hotel sampling some female pilgrims one after the other. It was also learnt that apart from having various rounds of sex with female pilgrims, the Bishop also collected the sum of over N400, 000 each from the female pilgrims7…
Our time-honoured values have undergone tremendous change over the years and in its place are those that are grafted in dishonesty, fraud, brigandage, and total disregard for decency. Ours is now a society where any behaviour pattern is regarded as normal and it is becoming extremely difficult for our children/youths to distinguish between good and evil. Good parents struggle daily to dissuade their children from absorbing the bad examples that transcend our society.
Nigerians nowadays demonstrate the neurotic need for money and power and they also seem to have total disregard for intellect and the sanctity of life as shown by widespread kidnappings, murders etc. that remain unsolved. All of these disreputable neurotic needs have supplanted the core values of our forebears which consisted candour, honesty, integrity and decency.
Vestiges of Colonialism
The cultures of the peoples of Nigeria are extremely rich. Nigerians are among the most culturally rooted and also have the richest dishes when compared to any country in the Africa sub-region. Nigeria still boasts of kings and chiefs with a illustrious long history. Our flamboyantly embroided flowing garments/gowns are recognised around the world and we are only rivalled by those of the Senegalese and Arabs. Nigerians are also fiercely nationalistic, outspoken, remarkably self-assured, as well as ready to demonstrate their Nigerianess or Africanness anywhere in the world.
Paradoxically, our country is still trapped in the vestiges of colonialism. Public policy and institutions have not been purged of colonial vestiges which continue to undermine the quality of life of our peoples. Two examples will be cited to support this assertion one of which is the idea of Government Reservation Areas (GRAs) which was a colonial creation. The other is on the various conditions of service in our public service that were passed down by the colonial authority.
The colonial authority established GRAs for their officials because they were determined to keep them away from the maddening communities. The GRAs were well removed from the general community and well serviced with basic amenities. Their road networks were paved while ample land area or space was provided between buildings. The colonials did not bother about the other parts of the community where Nigerians lived.
But successive Nigerian leaders have never bothered to jettison the concept of GRAs. The authorities continue to create GRAs as if the other neighbourhoods in our towns do not deserve to be developed. They are still creating/designating and/or have created/designated certain areas as GRAs in our cities long after the departure of the British. The result is that every other neighbourhood in our towns with the exception of GRAs is in shambles because it is unattended to by government. It is therefore not surprising that there are more pockets of slums than decent neighbourhoods in our towns. The key question is: Is it not about time for responsible authorities to regard all neighbourhoods in every town as GRAs? This question deserves response from those at the helm of affairs.
The second example is the reluctance of public sector institutions and officials to embrace the monetization policy. The author is not an admirer of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo but is inclined to support his regime’s monetization policy which is one of the boldest attempts to decolonise our thinking as well as do away with a colonial vestige.
The principal goal of the monetization policy is to do away with the colonial conditions of service and also stem their bastardisation by public officials. Official vehicles, cutleries, linens, blinds, etc were provided to the British colonial officials who lived in government quarters in the GRAs in order to facilitate their work and save them from the trouble of procuring these benefits/items from their salaries at every station where they worked. It will be recalled that these officials were transferred from one country or sub-region to another during their career and it would have been a heavy burden if they were required to procure these facilities, using their personal salaries.
Nigerian public servants bastardised these conditions by renting their personal property to themselves as official quarters; using official vehicles for unofficial business; carting away government cutleries etc. upon retirement/deployment/dismissal as was the case with many Military and civilian Governors, commissioners who literarily looted Government quarters after they were dismissed or deployed; using unbelievable amount of public fund to furnish official quarters etc. Thus, the goal of monetization is to make public officials accountable; stem corruption; and promote self-reliance.
Unfortunately, key public officials at the federal and most especially at the state levels are resisting the policy. Many states have not adopted the monetization policy while key federal government officials are attempting to upturn the policy. The current scandal over the procurement of official vehicles for all the Members of the House of Representative is aimed at up-turning the policy. The members approved the procurement of bullet proof vehicles for official assignments despite the fact that there is no more room for official vehicles. The tax payers are being forced to bear the brunt of fuelling the vehicles and paying their drivers even though the Mobilisations and Revenue Board has monetised all official trips.
Unethical Practices as Impediment to Development
Ethics is about the study of the science of morality. To be ethical is to be concerned with justice and what is morally right. Ethics has always loomed large in various time-honoured professions like law, priesthood, medicine, and the military. Globalization has invigorated interest in ethics and it now transcends all manners of human endeavours.
Nigerians welcome one of the hallmarks of President Umar Yar Adu’a’s administration which is the rule of law. A return to the rule of law is necessary in a society that was militarized for nearly forty years. The rule of law is an important ingredient of democracy, justice, and development. Consequently, it is a welcome relief to enthrone the rule of law.
But there is more to the mere proclamation of the rule of law. Ethics are also key ingredients in the rule of law. Those who are the helm of affairs must not only be beyond reproach; they must be seen to be above board at all times and in all places. Ethics in governance is therefore vital for development.
By and large, unethical practices among those who hold positions of trust in the republic undermine our development. The public officials do not declare their assets openly and those of them who use public funds to congratulate self or fellow officials for all sorts of events are unethical. Official vehicles are used for personal programmes. Key members of the Nigerian Bar Associations issue statements on matters before the court of law. Some of their members are known to pay media practitioners to publicise their cases or selves.
The current President of the Nigerian Bar Association was quoted as saying that it is wrong for Mr. Nuhu Ribadu challenge his demotion by the Police Service Commission in court. Moreover, some other highly placed members of the Bar also publicly declared their willingness to defend the Inspector General of Police on the suit that has been filed by Nuhu Ribadu against the former.
The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the federation argued a while ago that all indictments of allegedly corrupt public officials by ICPC and EFCC must be routed through his office as the Chief Law Officer of the Federation. While this appears to be in order, the same Minister (according to reports that have not been denied) was believed to be handling the briefs of two or more former public office holders who are now arraigned before the court of law on corruption and embezzlement of public funds before his appointment. The same Minister has not declared his professional interest and that of his law firm in these cases. Also, the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice to serve on the Pilgrimage Board for 2008 Hajj smacks of an attempt to compromise the integrity of the judge and Court.
Vice-Chancellors use the funds of their university to organize birthday parties or wedding ceremonies for their children. Lectures sexually harass students or extort money from them for good grades without severe sanctions.
The use of public money to celebrate the birthday of the wife of public officials which is widespread is not only criminal but unethical. Erection of bill boards or pasting of tags on public works or facilities to eulogise key officials under whose tenure they are conceived or commissioned is unethical. The use of public funds to fund the pet projects of First Ladies is morally wrong.
All the foregoing unethical practices will incur severe sanctions including dismissal in contexts/countries that are anchored on ethics and rule of law. This is not yet the case in Nigeria. Development cannot be facilitated if ethics are routinely breached.
Leadership as a Factor
All commentators bemoan the dearth of good leaders who are capable of steering our pathways to development unlike in other countries that were also at the same level of development decades. Singapore, Malaysia, and India to name a few which were poor third world countries like Nigeria have successfully achieved greater height than our country due to good leadership. The lack of good leadership obviously accounts for all the pitfalls that are outlined above.
The development of a country depends on good leadership which has been lacking. The leadership in Nigeria following the founding fathers of Nigeria is more committed to personal aggrandizement and enrichment than the overall well-being of the population. It explains why our leaders are literarily carting away all our resources and lodging them in overseas countries.
Essence of Democracy
One cannot but stress the importance of democracy in development. Close to forty years of military intervention in civil rule contributed to the sorry state of our country. The military era amply showed that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. All the institutions collapsed and corruption and brigandage were enthroned in public life. While the return to civil democratic rule has provided a window of opportunity to retool the country, it seems that this will very much depend on true democracy. True democracy depends on free and fair elections and commitment to ethics as well as the rule of law as previously argued.
But all is not well in the Republic of Nigeria due to the failure to organise free and fair elections. Elections are manipulated by god fathers and mothers and those who ought to rule are denied the opportunity to do so. Post-elections are marked by litigations over election malpractices. The result is that the so-called elected persons and their adversaries spend more time contesting the outcomes of elections than the duly elected embarking the onerous responsibility of re-organizing and re-tooling the society. Lack of concentration on affairs of the state and governance during prolonged litigations in courts simply leads to lack of development. Consequently, the earlier the country gets its act together on elections, the better for the citizenry. Oyo state is a good case study in the past nine years. The gladiators have spent all their time ambushing one another rather than focusing on the affairs of the state. The struggle is on who should govern and not about devoting energy to the provision of the wherewithal for the citizenry.
Good Infrastructures as Pre-requisite
The deterioration of infrastructures in the past three decades (i.e., lack of good roads, water supply, and most especially electric power supply) cannot also be overlook in any discussion on the pitfalls of development. Good roads are likely to reduce the incidence of accidents and they will also facilitate the movement of people and goods within the country. Second, abundant supply of portable water to all communities will reduce water borne diseases. Finally, adequate supply of electricity will enhance productivity.
The provision of these basic infrastructures will improve the chances of Nigeria becoming the haven for tourists which is one of the proclaimed goals of the Government of Nigeria. One is therefore taken back that the Government is making unnecessary noise and spending so much on advertisements inviting tourists and investors when all our infrastructures are in extremely poor shape. It is a self-serving and ridiculous logic because rational tourists or investors will dare not venture into Nigeria that lacks the basic infrastructures like good roads, water supply and adequate power supply.
Finally, security of life and property is vital to development. Need the author say more about this aspect of our country which is well-known to all of you? Life is cheap in Nigeria. Banks and home are raided by hoodlums. Kidnappings, murders and armed robbery are committed with impunity. The risk of doing business in Nigeria by foreigners is very high and no rational persons will invest his/her money in a country that is not safe.
This paper has reviewed the major pitfalls in the path to Nigeria’s development. They are about our concept of development, development from a systemic as opposed to a chaotic framework, reactive versus proactive planning, indiscipline, and delusion of grandeur, corruption vestiges of colonialism, unethical practices, and leadership. They also include the essence of democracy, good infrastructures, and security.
To sum up, one can aptly describe the situation in Nigeria by once more quoting the famous extract from the common book of prayers of the Anglican Mission, namely, Nigeria is notorious for leaving undone what should done and doing what should not be done and there shall be no physical, social and mental well-being for her peoples.