Building a Nigeria that works (1)
LEADING a country like Nigeria is widely known to be a herculean task, not only because of inherited perennial challenges but also because of the diverse nature of our nationhood. The Nigeria extraction is a confluence of religious, ethnic, ideological and socio-cultural differences.
Before I highlight some things that need to be done to make our nation work, it is important to first establish that a nation’s existence is a product of the will of a people; therefore, the task of building a nation is in the hands of the people, it is a deliberate collective effort that takes a period of time since a nation is not a product of happenstance.
A nation is first established along a given political territory bound by certain rules and norms which are generally acceptable. The second is the existence of critical institutions such as a police force, universities, an economy, a civil service and so on. By inference, the fulcrum of building a nation is in its institutions.
The first task at hand for the incoming administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari is to strengthen the institutions in our country.
Massive elaborate reforms must be made and this includes the area of education which is lagging behind at the moment, most Nigerian students prefer to study abroad either for undergraduate or postgraduate study. It is quite worrisome that neighbouring Ghana is now a haven for so many Nigerian students. It was also declared recently that Nigeria tops the population of international students in the United States.
One may assume it is an indication of a wider middle class and a more prosperous citizenry who can afford a foreign education; but in reality, it is a clear reflection of a decaying educational system.
Teachers must be trained periodically. I recommend a licensing process for teachers just like every other profession like law, medicine and accounting. This will add some prestige to the teaching profession.
Other sectors that need to be strengthened is the judiciary, there must be zero interference with the judiciary in the discharge of their duties. Specialised courts must be expanded and the law schools must be very thorough. Security is also vital, the police and paramilitary forces should be retrained in line with the world’s best practices.
The issue of a policeman shooting an innocent civilian and the indiscriminate mounting of roadblocks by unidentifiable men in uniform is appalling. There should be a new rule of engagement between civilians and the police, a policeman must be able to show his identity and perfect his way of interrogation. Community policing is another aspect that should be looked into for better security.
It is also important for the military to be better equipped and consistently reinforced by regularly recruiting new combatants into the forces.
A ratio system is highly recommended, a policeman to every 10 citizens will effectively provide the basic security presence needed within an area, this will also allow the government to effectively allot security personnel according to the population of each state.
Looking at the current ratio, it is alarming, and Nigeria needs to massively recruit more men into the force. Better remuneration and incentives should be provided for military men to reduce or eradicate bribery and corruption of the men in the forces.
Secondly, corruption has cut really deep into the Nigerian system. First of all, there should be a fresh reappraisal of officials at various levels and the penalty for corrupt practices broadened; effective laws binding on all private and public organisation should be put in place to allow for optimum accountability.
Technology is a great tool to reduce corrupt practices; when special systems are built, it will be difficult for individuals to engage in corrupt practices.
The reason why a person will think twice before committing a crime in an advanced country is because he knows that the system in place will block him and if he happens to be successful, the system in place will catch him. Therefore, Nigeria must launch a fresh anti-corruption master plan and improve technology.
Thirdly, the task of nation building is also an engineering process. Proper infrastructure gets the economy running; they are essential constituents that determine the quality of life of a people. New roads should be constructed, an alternative means of transportation developed, clean accessible water should be provided and constant electricity made available.
A basic developmental framework is highly-recommended, this is where the basic requirements that gets a city or town functioning are highlighted and efforts are to be made to build new cities and upgrade existing ones, it is also important to have the welfare and happiness of the people in the background— and this includes recreation. A framework may consist of advanced waterworks, power plants, roads, a conference centre, museum, and stadium, and so on.
Some town have these while others do not. The idea is to improve the quality of life of every citizen irrespective of location.
There should be a basic common developmental framework for every city and town in the country. A man should be able to visit a museum in Potiskum and be sure to find one in Warri in the course of his anthropological research. Culture is preserved and education is improved, an example of the benefit of a basic developmental framework.
To build Nigeria, it is important to be an effective global player. Nigeria earned her mantra as the “Giant of Africa” not only because of her population and oil wealth.
Because of her role in international politics, Nigeria assisted South Africa during their days of apartheid, assisted Namibia to gain independence and played important roles in preserving West African democracies. For Nigeria to remain an important nation we must continue to tow this path. It is unfortunate that Nigeria’s global reputation is really bad at the moment.
We need to build from the scratch in this aspect; this backlog is heavily telling on Nigerian citizens abroad—the respect Nigerians used to enjoy and take for granted in the past is almost absent. Nigeria should not wait for a crisis in another nation before becoming a global participant. It begins with strengthening our embassies and high commissions abroad. Some are currently redundant; the presence of Nigeria must be felt in every nation.
To be continued.
Michael-Biyi is a public affairs analyst and the Convener of One Nigeria Extraction, Lagos State. 07037227555 firstname.lastname@example.org