Tuesday, May 31, 2011

NIGERIA: Brick By Brick –Bringing Hope To A Weary Nation (1)

NIGERIA: Brick By Brick – Bringing Hope To A Weary Nation (1)
- By George H. Ashiru, Convener, Town Hall Meetings Project (THMP)

“Leading America at this critical moment in history requires more than policies and ideas. To meet our challenges, we must summon our common faith in American values –the sense of who we are as a people, the common beliefs that bind us together, the spirit of patriotism and service that bridges divisions of partisanship and ideology”…Barrack Obama.

Que: Who are we as a people? What common beliefs bind us together?
How can we reset these values to create a spirit of patriotism that
transcends partisanship, ethnic and religious differences. That is the
challenge, Nigeria faces at this critical moment in our history.

“Change comes, not from the top down, but from the bottom up, and fewer are closer to the people than our Churches, Synagogues, Temples, and Mosques. Washington needs to draw on their expertise and commitment –not as a replacement for government action, but as a compliment to it” –Obama

Que: Where is the Nigerian transformational leader (s), who will reach out to the competitive faith based organisationsand the diverse traditional institutions, to forge a unified spirit of nationalism, rather than the divisive values systems which characterise our commonwealth, and have created generations of unconnected citizenry, only bound together by common boundaries rather than common destiny?

Que: How do we enforce upon our governments the need for greater transparency, holding our political leaders and the civil service accountable to the electorate, post elections? How do we inspire Nigerians to engage the leadership in a way that brings forth the best in the government, for the benefit of all Nigerians?

Que: How can we expect honesty and patriotism in leadership if the average citizen, from the ranks of which the political class was once a part of, is averse to hard work, patriotism and personal integrity?

Que: In all this, when will we realise that government can do better, but cannot solve all our problems –and parents to have less children, educate them better, discipline them appropriately, and establish their values systems, while teaching them to be patriotic?

Que: When will we teach our children never to allow television images to determine their dress and behavioural codes? That sons should treat women with respect, and daughters should not turn themselves to objects of voyeurism. That evidence of manhood is not being able to father a child, but to raise one. That evidence of feminity is not bearing children, but ensuring they grow to be responsible citizens?

Que: What are the cardinal values that define our society? Faith in God, Love of Neighbour, Respect for elders, Care for the Community, Loyalty to Country, Integrity and uprightness, Perseverance and Fortitude, Pride in our Cultures, and Love for our Children, Hard work and honesty, Service to Motherland. Where did these disappear to this past few decades?

Que: When will we determine, through a free and fair ballot, that the very best of us serve us at the very peak of their competencies? When will we chose leaders based on capability rather than network or net worth? When will cabinet positions be staffed by specialists rather than political loyalists and “quota” systems?

Que: How will we be able to hold these leaders accountable for mismanaging our commonwealth, when we have no access to information on how they actually manage them? When will the citizenry demand access to governance and information and their elected representatives?

Que: How will we ensure adequate checks and balances in the national and state leadership, when the political leadership is manned by one party systems, and esprit-de-corp is the order of the day? When will the political class, under due pressure, see the need to save our resources, invest wisely, stop spending lavishly on themselves, and are driven by purpose and planning in governance?

Que: When will our traditional institutions, rather than sit in quiet endorsement of bad leadership, rise to the duty of rebuilding cultural values in their estate, and ensuring the political class that emanates from their domain represents the best of their values? When will our religious leaders promote unity, and patriotism to country as much as they promote self and denominationalism?

“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”
-John F. Kennedy

Que: When will the average Nigerian go beyond the need to seek self gratification, and desire to serve, diligently, without expectation of reward, the country by which they have benefited one way or another? How many of us are actively involved in volunteering activities, outside our religious (with expectation of miracles) cul de sacs? Schools, to be re-modelled, children to be mentored, old people to care for, disaster assistance, combating poverty, building skills in the under-skilled, security in our communities? Of the millions that actively volunteer in religious organisations, how many are deployed to serve their immediate communities?

Que: What specific education model are we pursuing? What are our education goals for the Nigerian state, and what measure of feedback do we give to the tax-payers that we are meeting them? What is the root cause of the fall in the standard of education? Language problems? Teaching in-competencies? Lack of concentration by pupils? What study has the Government done to determining the precise academic or sociological cause of the decay in the impartation of knowledge and the acquisition of skills by the taught?

Que: Why can’t we have universal healthcare? Why is the ratio of hospitals to patients still well below the WHO recommended average? Where one or so lawmaker’s annual take away can fund an entire health centre in a small community, where is the lawmaker willing to sacrifice a huge chunk of his/her allowances for the healthcare of his constituency? Why is every tax paying citizen, with a valid tax card not entitled to free medical care in government health providers? Why are private corporations, including small businesses not providing health insurance for the staff, at least for medical emergencies, whilst employed?

Que: What precisely do the Local Governments do?Their presence as the 3rdtier of government is so negligible they are like glorified community centres and contract sharing institutions. The environment, primary education and local health and road maintenance is part of their duties, but they spend all their time collecting all manner of illegal levies from traders and landlords, giving nothing in return. Where is the purposeful local government head, who pops into people’s homes as a community leaders, listening and proffering solutions to issues and problems in their wards and ensuring visible development in his/her area?

Que: Why are our security institutions not a bastions of safety, but rather, a group citizens avoid like a plague? The dressing, demeanour and attitude, carriage and proclivity of the average security official cause even more feelings of insecurity among the populace, making crime resolution impossible, and cooperation between the forces and the citizens for overall welfare of the nation nil.

Que: Where is the well defined and promoted policy for poverty alleviation, entrepreneurship development and small business assistance in our 3 tiers of government? The true wealth of a nation is the sum total of the wealth of each citizen in the nation. Until we have millions of financially empowered citizens, creating jobs, paying taxes, supporting the GDP in ways that make oil exports a small part rather than the mainstay of our national wealth. When will there be an aggressive programme to meet the minimum standards for the MDGs set by the UNIDO?

Que: When will we reform the civil service thoroughly? We need a leaner, technologically driven, responsive and energetic civil service, able to deliver services that meet with the pace of developmental requirements in this internet age. We need an empowered, well remunerated, and success motivated civil service, where competence is rewarded adequately, and independence from undue pressure by the political class is enshrined in federal and state laws. Corruption is impossible without the active connivance of the civil service…reward the competent civil servant at par with industry, and see corruption take a nose dive.

Que: What is the Nigerian foreign policy framework? The US’ main foreign policy is built around protecting democracy, to protect its strategic interests. The Chinese mainstay is protecting its system of governance and its thriving economy. The Russians are majorly interested in ensuring relevance in the shifting alignments of international power. Back in the 1970s, Nigeria was famous for promoting freedom for the Southern African countries, helping with their independence. Nowadays we have no real voice in anything, hemmed down by internal strife, lack of integrity in political leadership, corruption and unpatriotism.

Que: What form of economic model are we running? Are we proactively developing all the subsectors of our economy, or is the government happy to fund its programmes based entirely on oil exports? Are there more profit centredgovernment services, or are they all cost operations? Do we have the right number of government agencies and ministries, or we can save costs by merging or scrapping some. Are there government operations that can be privatisedcompletely, while ensuring the job security of the staff? Can more programmes be outsourced, or is the government able to save on costs by in-house operations?

Que: Can the armed forces respond to the new global threats of terrorism? Is there internal security, with all the sectional and religious agitations that seem to have gone out of control. Is government proactively working for the resolutions of these issues, or has it lost control of the initiative?

What Is Your Role In Shaping A Virile Nation?
-Go back to the listed value systems, and abiding by them and teaching others to do similarly, and laying a better foundation for a patriotic and inspired citizenry.
-Be part of progressive causes that are involved in citizen empowerments, entrepreneurship and skill impartation, for economic development.
-Engage the civil service, and political leadership in a non-aggressive but firm manner, in order to ascertain use or misuse of resources, and providing ideas, solutions, on moving governance forward.
-Volunteering our competencies in areas not covered by government programmes and funding, and working to ensure the immediate community we live or work is incrementally better over the years
-Encouraging young people to read/study more, especially historical, anthropological, literature in order to improve their language skills and creativity.
-Ensuring the reduction of the misuse of influence by religious leaders to encourage violence and lack of patriotism, countering with balanced arguments as well as demonstration of empathy for people with differing ideals.
-Using the electoral system to ensure the emergence of virile leadership.
-Helping to develop and formulate policy for governance and organising town hall meetings to get the participation of the citizens in enforcing such policies.
-Actively engaging the local security agencies, joining community development associations and police relations committees and contributing to enforcing peace in our environment.
-Join the Red Cross, NEMA, FRSC, etc and other governmental/non-governmental agencies, in order to be available to provide your competence for emergency relief, healthcare, traffic operations, etc.
-Volunteer to provide support and mentorship for children in need, orphans, widows, the physically challenged, the academically challenged, etc.
-Take up a mentorship role for 2-10 younger persons, where you can help with guidance, encouragement, help with school work or impartation of viable skills, etc.
-Stop complaining about everything, and start looking for ways to help fix things.
-Buy quality Nigerian made products to encourage local manufacturers.
-Accept invites to political party meetings (not just during election periods), to be able to influence the intra-party attitude to governance
-Accept to serve in political office, if in good faith, you are passionate to, competent and well prepared to deliver.
-Bring shortfalls in governance to the attention of the concerned, using the internet, social networking sites, websites or any other published means of getting the attention of the leaders.
-(to be continued)

Lets build a virile nation - Brick By Brick

George H Ashiru