Thursday, 23 May 2013
Like America, Unlike Nigeria By Ayobami Oyalowo
“I just spoke with Governor Romney and I congratulated him and Paul Ryan on a hard-fought campaign.We may have battled fiercely, but it’s only because we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its future. From George to Lenore to their son Mitt, the Romney family has chosen to give back to America through public service and that is the legacy that we honor and applaud tonight.”-Barack Obama-November 7, 2012
Most young Nigerians stayed awake, everybody wanted to be a part of the unraveling of history. This was a showpiece event. This is history coming alive before our very eyes. For the past few months, the entire world had, with a keen interest, followed the American Presidential elections. There had been series of campaigns and debates. The major contenders have done everything humanly possible and within acceptable limits to sell their candidature to the American public and by extension, the world at large.
One thing that was obvious to everyone, critics inclusive, is that the electioneering campaign was focused mainly on issues. Each candidate listed known problems and gave clear manifestoes as to how best he hoped to tackle the problems. And the election proper was devoid of rancor, violence and gangsterism. This was another feather to the American cap. They are truly the leaders of the free world.
Coming back to Nigeria, you are confronted with something that appears or looks like a democracy. Campaigns are a jamboree, with plethora of lies and empty promises, most of which had been forgotten ever before they were even pronounced. Major candidates shun debates, mainly because they have no substance or intellect to articulate their muddled up thoughts. Elections are marred by serious malpractices such as ballot stuffing, stealing of ballot boxes, street urchins threatening voters and generally making a nuisance of themselves, security men harassing the opposition, outright inflation of votes after counting and a myriad of other inglorious but serious infractions. Elections in Nigeria are usually so raucous that the integrity of the process is perpetually in doubt and that is partly responsible for candidates not conceding victory to, or congratulating, their opponents.
Another reason for the lack of sportsmanship is the fact that all contenders generally rig but the best rigger wins, therefore the losers are loathe to extend hands of fellowship to the winners. In fact the immediate past President, Musa Yar’adua confessed that the election that brought him to office was fraught with so much malpractice.
But how did we get here?
Nigerians are hardworking and ebullient people. But one very huge and noticeable problem is selfishness. A Nigerian will, rather than demand for his legitimate rights, look for an alternative. For a typical or average Nigerian, the deal is, as long as I am okay and my family and loved ones are fine, screw the world. Although what most people in Nigeria fail to realize is that those screwed fellows, always mostly end up as the bane of the “very okay” fellows.
Let me illustrate. Few years back, an international polling agency ranked Nigerians as the happiest people in the world and you want to ask yourself, why? With debilitating illiteracy and poverty at an all-time high, poor infrastructure, such as roads, communication, power, etc. why are Nigerians such a happy people? It is simple, ask a Nigerian how are you, even if he hasn’t eaten in two days, the reply you get is,”I am wonderful”.
We have been so conditioned to accept our fate without question. It is only in Nigeria that you see people carry multiple mobile phones. Since the telephone services are crappy, Nigerians have simply “adjusted” by getting multiple sim cards and phones, so they can constantly be in touch. Most homes in the urban areas have about two power generating sets, and your building isn’t complete without the luxury of a mechanized borehole, to provide potable water. Nigerians are indeed a happy people.
Last year, Zamfara had the lowest JAMB registration, making it one of the most poorly educated states. Yet the state has this year budgeted a paltry N5.7billion for education, while the religious affairs budget, which covers the Hisbah Commission, Hajj, and Religious Preaching Commission, are to receive about N1.7 billion for recurrent expenditure. A monstrous N2 billion is dedicated for Sallah activities for 2012. These are not only misplaced spending priorities, but the implication is very clear. These children that are either not educated or poorly educated are going to form the bulk of tomorrow miscreants and available recruits for Boko Haram and other undesirable elements. You may ask how those concern me. I will tell you.
While you are comfortable, or pretending to be comfortable, you are never at ease. Those dregs of the society and never-do-wells are going to make life uncomfortable for your children that have been educated abroad with stolen wealth.
Another major problem is that while most of us pretend to be fine, the reality on ground is very grim. Let us look at it this way. The civil service is the major engine upon which the government is run, but who makes up the bulk of that sector, rejects and frustrated beings. The best and most qualified have all gone into the private sector, the banks, telecoms, oil and gas sectors have taken all the first class candidates, leaving the “also rans” as those to be absorbed into the core of the civil service. Not only is the civil service made up of mainly failures, rejects and the frustrated, they are also poorly trained or not even trained at all. Their remuneration is abject at best, leaving them at the mercy of the elements. No wonder the Nigerian civil service is not only one of the most corrupt in the world, it is also the laziest, most cumbersome and inefficient service in the world. Don’t forget that the civil service also consists of parastatals such as INEC, NCC, NBC etc. While the police and other paramilitary agencies are not left out of the bulk of the civil service.
Nigerians must arise from their docility. The days of ‘me and my household’ are past. We must get our hands dirty and be ready to make necessary sacrifices. Our best cannot continually be governed by our worst. It must start from me and from you. We must begin to demand for change in all facets of live. The civil service must no longer be peopled by those who have nothing to offer. Our bright youths must be encouraged to work in the civil service as it was the practice in time past. Also, our politics must no longer be left in the hands of criminals and petty thieves. Expired and over recycled AGIP(any government in power) men should be sent to where they truly belong, old people’s retirement homes. Younger, fresher and brighter elements should not only rant on twitter, but they must put their money where their mouth is, by throwing their various hats into the ring. Politics should never again be left in the hands of men without integrity, devoid of character. Politics is serious business, Mitt Romney is a successful businessman, not a government contractor or an economic scavenger.
Transparency, probity and accountability must be the watchword in every facet of our various individual and public lives. Budgets must be scrutinized for performance. A budget is a document that can either make or mar a person, an organization, a state or an entire country. Not only is our budgeting process less than transparent, it is actually a compilation of sad and pathetic jokes. You can immediately diagnose the health of any corporation from their budget. Nigeria is a sick note, where over 60% of the budget is stolen and not one person has ever been docked let alone jailed.
We must also begin to seek the collectives and less of the personal gratification. It should no longer be “cool” to put on your generator while your neighbours battle with heat and darkness. We should begin to probe sudden and immediate wealth. Voting process must be cleaned up and the next generation of leaders groomed in a deliberate mentoring program. The past and outgoing generations have failed. The irresponsibility we currently see in today’s youth is a direct result of the training and mentoring received. Before we call for a physical revolution, there must be a mental and attitudinal revolution. A rebirth is a necessity if we must get to the desirable. America is celebrated and respected worldwide today, Nigeria is the beacon and hope that the entire Africa looks up to for succor.
We either live up to the tag “giant of Africa” or we continue to wallow in the mire of idiocy.
The choice truly is ours.
I can be engaged on twitter @Ayourb