Twelve things to stop before Nigeria turns 60 by 2020
On October 1, 2020. Nigeria will celebrate 60 years of independence from imperial British rule. However, so many vices that do not befit a nation that has been politically independent for so long needs to stop, else, we risk marking our 100th anniversary with them in the near future.
Stop the Rot in Education
They are more than 200 public-owned tertiary institutions. Stop creating more for political reasons and focus on improving the carrying capacity and standards of the ones you have through sound human resource practices, provision of infrastructure and facilities. Implement a cohesive educational policy from primary to tertiary levels. Teachers should earn as much as other specialized professionals. It is the education system that feeds the labour system and in 2019 alone, our universities churned out more than 2,000 questionable first-class graduates and thousands of others, most of whom are unemployable and won’t fit into any place in the current labour dilemma partly because of the faulty conveyor belt producing them.
Provide Some Predictability around Health Care
Your greatest productivity killer is health. Create some predictability around it. Medicaid, Medicare and the NHIS in the US and UK respectively are not perfect but there is some predictability. You cannot be the giant of Africa and parade the calamitous NHIS we run for a country with such a monstrous population. More than 70% of Nigerians still spend out-of-pocket for health services. According to the Abuja Declaration, we are supposed to be spending at least 15% of our annual budget on health, how many percent are we spending now?
Trains Are Not for the Elites Only
The elites have abandoned the Abuja-Kaduna expressway and so have the security forces. Hoodlums maraud freely, a consequence of train services connecting the two cities that were supposed to benefit regular Nigerians. Train tickets are hoarded by railway workers to favour VIPs leaving other commuters stranded daily. Apart from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s custom-built train, where else on Earth are trains the exclusive preserve of the elites?
There Is Actually Such a Thing as a Waste Bin, Please Use Them!
This one is for everyone. Please, have the decency to package your waste properly at home, inside the car, and when in public keep it in your bags, purses or even pockets till you get to a waste bin to dispose of properly. How do you feel when you dispose of waste improperly? How is that even compatible with being a human being? You don’t need any crash course by the authorities to know it is animalistic to dispose of waste improperly, no matter the size. Even your chewing gum.
Public Service shouldn’t be Mafia Style Structured and Operated
For the authorities, if you keep allowing the employment circus and racketeering going on in the civil service to continue, you may not have a country to govern in the near future. The civil service is the umbilical cord of the nation, but it has become the biggest organized crime syndicate where politically exposed persons, senior and junior government officials inflate and loot everything imaginable and still exploit the youth for money, sex and all manner of gratifications for employment. Even Industrial Attachment trainees, Interns, and NYSC members are so shamelessly exploited in there.
Sort Out the Military Camouflage Dilemma
It is a sensible argument that Nigeria has serious security problems and civilians wearing military styled camouflage might aggravate it. However, respect for human rights still needs to be paramount. They are three levels of solving this problem. First, orientation for dismissed Soldiers and Ex-military School students popularly called ‘ex-boys’, about the illegality of wearing military styled clothing when not in service or their institutions anymore. Secondly, more orientation for the general public from the Military, Police, Media, Schools, Churches, Mosques and Traditional Rulers. Thirdly, members of the Armed Forces must be taught to respect the rule of law and the fundamental human rights of citizens by allowing the Civil Police to deal with defaulters and to stop disgracing the Armed Forces and fuelling a Civil-Military discord with those public show of shame and brutalization of defaulting citizens. Turning themselves into Civil Law Enforcement, Judge and Jury all in one.
Young People vs. Police (Especially SARS)
Society is changing rapidly, but at times, it seems the Police, especially her SARS unit, has decided to maintain the status quo. 20 years ago, there was no job titled ‘Content Management and Digital Marketing’ (at least in Nigeria), which I now specialize in and means I am always with my laptop more often than not. However, if I were to run into certain Police patrols on my way back from work with my laptop, chances are, I may be labeled anything they choose to. It shouldn’t be so, we the youth are reinventing ourselves to thrive in our harsh labour realities. Imagine how far our entertainment industry has come because of us. But to achieve all these, we also need our appearances and gadgets to match what we do. Most of us with tattoos and plaited hair are not criminals. Some of us were trained as Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers, and Microbiologists, etc. but those job roles don’t have opportunities currently because our economy is expanding and becoming service-based, so we are reinventing ourselves as Barbers, Musicians, DJs, Dancers, Influencers and all that. So don’t expect us to look like Pastors and Imams. Please change your criminal profiling style.
Disband Unnecessary Task-Forces
One of the greatest enemies of ease of doing business in Nigeria is the hundreds of task-forces the federal, state and local governments create for different purposes and with varying degrees of legitimacy. These task forces can be found in every sector especially, transport, environment, housing, agriculture, trade and petroleum. A task force is supposed to have a defined period of operation and after accomplishing its duties should be disbanded. However, all levels of government have been complicit in allowing some of them to overstay their mandated duration. Hence, they go rogue and inflict all sorts of harassment and damage on Nigerians and their businesses respectively.
Let There Be Light
No need for much grammar on this one, just do the math. If you have more than 200 million inhabitants and you produce, to be generous lets round it up to ‘4000MW’ of electricity. Then, you know whatever plans you are making is like building castles in the air. Nothing works in darkness, be it businesses, industries, innovations, and inventions. This is a stonewall fact.
Open Defecation is Terrible, Yes! But Create Functioning Public Toilets First!
This is the most horrible of the lot. And every social class is guilty. If this disgraceful behavior is to stop, they must not be military-styled enforcement as being muted though. We can legislate against it, start awareness, but much of it has to be concentrated in basic education. The system in primary and secondary schools because you cannot change society too much through enforcement, much of it has to come from the educational system. Most importantly, spend at least two years building ‘usable and functioning’ public toilets before any clampdown start.
Apply “Common Sense” In the Political Landscape
How we ended up with 91 political parties and counting, is rather bemusing. Some of the most educated Nigerians only know about five or six of them while the average Nigerian tends to know just two or three of them. Add the fact that, there is no ideological foundation and differences between these parties and you have a rather arcane system that carries only the politicians along without the people. We need to have serious conversations around the Electoral Act and reforms are due if you ask me.
Be Bold, Take the Initiative, and Do Not Act Cowardly
As a citizen, expect the best from the government, but always prepare for the worst. Dare to believe you can succeed despite them. However, be courageous enough to advocate for reforms and protest against injustice were and when necessary. Do not abandon politics for the politicians, that is ill-advised, and the total divorce between the people and the politicians is one of the sources of our problems today.
These of course are not all our defects, but if we can rectify this twelve, then, we can have the hope of dealing with others subsequently. Becoming 60 really calls for constructive self-examination for a nation.
By Emediong Francis Boniface