Wednesday, 26 February 2014
The Nigerian Spring: How It Should Happen By Amene Ter'Hemen
At first, I was against the idea of a Nigerian Spring. Then I believed our leaders would be able to see clearly the unpleasant effect of a such an action by the citizens on them and therefore work NOW for the good of the nation to avoid even a thought of a spring showing up in people's minds, but how wrong I was! I believed the thing that should not be believed; that our leaders are capable of a positive change in attitude and style of leadership. From the look of things, this government and the ones after it may never willingly work for a better life for the citizenry. It is for this reason that I believe a Nigerian Spring (or whatever name it may be called) is our only chance to rise from this sorry state of affairs to an enviable and esteemed place of pride among the nations of the world.
Much has been said regarding the Nigerian Spring, Nigerian Uprising or some other names given to it. Many agree it is desirable and even long over due; some think it can never happen, at least not in this generation; others are ready for it and are asking; 'How should we do it?'
To the first group, we are there; at the tipping point, where the molecules are already sufficiently heated, any additional energy and they will break out from the surface into vapour; to those who say it can't happen, keep on hallucinating; and to those who ask how, let's brainstorm.
I wish to state at this point that a Spring need not necessarily be about a change of leadership. We can have a Spring that keeps the leadership but which COMPELS the said leadership to initiate genuine reforms, and to respect the wishes of the electorate, the masses, the citizenry, or be expelled. If we see the president or governor or chairman is deliberately sabotaging efforts aimed at genuine reforms, we can match on the national assembly (for the president) or state assembly or local government legislature as the case may be and lock them in until the offending executive is impeached. However, for a start let us not be keen on regime change but for major and genuine reforms that would allow for a new face of governance in our country.
In my estimation as a Nigerian who has lived almost all of his life so far within Nigeria, I know the sufferings we face; but I also have seen and heard stories of what a nation that cares for and values its people does for them. I will share my thoughts, my desires, needs and aspirations with you; if they fit into what we want as a nation, then my prescription will do us some good; if not throw away the prescription but please, remember to keep me.
Need Number One:
We need a nation with zero tolerance for corruption. There is no nation devoid of corrupt elements; but a nation that pays lip service to the fight against corruption and which shields high profile corrupt individuals not only breeds and pampers corruption but also promotes it. Such a nation will NEVER progress no matter the amount of resources she is blessed with.
Much of what happens as regards corruption in Nigeria is executed by the Civil Service; Who costs contracts? Civil Servants! Who inspects and certifies them as fit for commissioning even when they are not? Civil servants! Who pays contractors for job not done? Civil Sevants! Who helps the politicians cover their tracks? Civil Servants! Corruption in Nigeria and else where is like the mumps; you cannot treat it, you only give medications to ameliorate the symptoms and let the body fight the disease until a state of normalcy is achieved; where even though the organism may still be there, the body does not feel its presence. The politician that initiates the corrupt practices is the causative organism, the Civil Sevants executing the corrupt practices the sickness, while we the Nigerian citizens form the body, the ones feeling the symptoms. It is the body that fights mumps and overcomes, not the drugs administered. To overcome corruption, we the citizens who feel the impact most, must wake from slumber. We must first strive to deal with the execution of corruption (in the civil service) and then the initiation will become useless; as good planning without execution yields no results.
But how is that to be done? This should be the first demand of the Spring: Every civil servant above the rank of Deputy Director must be summarily suspended from office in the first instance. Each and everyone of them must be thoroughly investigated on all levels: asset declaration (failure to declare all assets), living above known and legitimate income, etc. These found to have ran foul to the law must be given the right penalty. Those found clean (if any) would be re-instated and rewarded to let others know honesty too has its rewards.
Unless the civil service is cleaned up, the fight against corruption will at best continue to be a fight against the wind!
From here our attention must focus on the executives, the legislature and the judiciary. Here, every executive that has issue(s) of un-investigated corruption hanging against them, the ones that cannot be touched, the above the law ones, etc must without delay step aside to pave way for speedy and proper investigation and if found wanting punished; all judges that have ever presided over corruption cases that resulted in laughable sentences must vacate their offices immediately, be investigated and prosecuted if need be. The legislature has its own share and members with shady deals around them must also vacate their seats, be investigated and sentenced accordingly.
Need Number Two:
We want a society that rewards hardwork, patriotism and is result oriented and driven; and not the one that rewards only opportunity and connections. There is too much disparity in the earnings of career civil servants (the hardworking patriot) and appointed or elected public servants (the opportunists and the connected). Why should a politician earn more than a career civil servant? The career civil servant has only the civil service as his means of livelihood, it is his profession! Politicians on the other hand come in to serve for a while a then go back (or should go back) to wherever they came from. Among these two who should earn more? The ones who serve as a profession, of course, should earn more. The usual argument that the high pay is meant to keep them away from corrupt tendencies is no longer tenable as it has become clear that the amounts misappropriated is proportionate to the earning power; the higher the earnings the higher the amount misappropriated and vice versa, with some exceptions though.
The salaries and allowances of all public servants (civil and political) must be harmonised with those of the civil service. We don't want to know what is obtainable in US, Germany, France, Italy, Iraq or Niger; this is Nigeria and we must have our own standards based on our own perculiar environment. This will dissuade many who go into politics to make money, and in addition lead to a drastic reduction in the cost of governance.
These to me are two critical demands that if addressed, our Spring would have yielded results that will put us again on a sound path to glory.
All said, one critical question is; how will these demands be communicated? It is obvious from previous actions of this government and those before it that a letter signed by even 150 million Nigerians will not move them to act. To have these demand passed to the leadership of the nation and have them immediately set to work, we must pour out into the streets, and make the government houses, legislative houses, Aso Rock and other similar places our habitation until these demands are met. Call it occupy movement, call it any other name, but the focus is to have them hear us. If this wouldn't do, all secretariates, ministries, departments and agencies will be locked and occupied. With this, civil service, the engine room of government and of corruption would be grounded and would remain so until we are heard.
With this successfully accomplished, the next face of the Spring will be in 2015 - the election time:
1. All politically exposed individuals (either elected, selected or appointed) from 1960 to the time of election in 2015 must be summarily banned from direct or indirect participation in politics (they are all similarly corrupt, the difference is in the degree of involvement). Let other people take over and lead and move the nation forward.
2. All INEC commissioners must be changed, and the electoral laws amended especially as regards the order of elections. Elections should start from down (the local government) up to the presidency and not the other way round. The top to bottom order allows planting of stooges.
This is my humble submission. It appears simple, but in the face of complex solution-defying challenges, simple solutions are most times the best and usually the most effective (apologies to Bishop Walter of the movie Fringe).
Thank you for staying with me to the end.
Mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
My blog: amenest.wordpress.com