Since the beginning of the 8th Senate led by its President, Bukola Saraki, it has been an interesting timeline of happenings and activities; of assurances and pledges, yet of dashed hopes and broken promises. The very first act of electing its President was fraught with accusations of back-stabbing and disloyalty. Little did one know then that such a bleak beginning was going to trail the Senate, even though now well over its first year of inauguration.
Thinking about this controversial first year and its ingloriously-dotted timeline, nothing gets one worried more than the daily, enlarging dichotomy of blame and distrust which we as the Nigerian people are nursing against the Senate, allegedly elected by our very self on the one hand. And, on the other hand, a reaction from the Senate itself of not being trusted by its own people.
From the peoples’ side of the coin, the feeling is that many of the Senators are not representing the true interest of the people. A possible inference from such a feeling is that many of us outside of that Senate would do much better than this present lot. That is the inference that interests me most, for my argument is that such a thinking is not necessarily true.
Take a census of what is happening in the daily life of ordinary Nigerians and the posit above may become clearer. The saying is that “you do not know the real nature of a person until he is tested with power”. But even without such powers that our Senators are now wielding, the average Nigerian is daily engaging in incredible stuff, some of such stuff oftentimes not considered as correlates of our present national vexing predicament.
The pool of renegade behaviours is endless: open demand for bribes in public and privates services(see the list, even of Judges, accused of kickbacks and sorts, some of them now shamefully dismissed); vehement bigotry and religious intolerance (a woman just got killed for speaking about her faith, for instance); insensitivity to the needy and vulnerable in our midst (some people recently diverted resources meant for the Internally Displaced Persons, while these poor vulnerable refugees in their own country died in tons of malnutrition); flagrant flouting of traffic rules (several accidents have robbed many of their lives this year alone due to stupid disobedience of simple traffic rules – of course that is without counting the untold hardship of traffic logjams because some just refuse to be orderly); corrupt advancement of the man-know-man Nigerian practice (the alleged high-handed recruitment by CBN/FIRS recruitments are just few examples out of many unheard ones – somebody even humorously said that in today’s Nigeria, you need to know somebody if you were to get your plate of rice quickly/at all at birthday parties)! One can go on, and we know the list is endless.
The point is well made: it is not with the Senate that the main problem lies. It lies within the general attitudinal worldview of the average Nigerian person. In other words, if we were to elect any average Nigerian person into the Senate today, you will have a replication of what is going on in the 8th Senate right now, if not worse.
The questions are, what do we then do? Are we condemned to this state of things and degrading ways of living where our Senators fail us woefully, for instance in such alleged behaviours where they even threaten their colleagues of rape (to reconstrue Dino Melaye’s alleged abusive words to Senator Oluremi Tinubu), and where ordinary Nigerians equally engage in different uncouth behaviours in the polity?
No, definitely things cannot go on this way without our disintegrating into oblivion or, at best, postponing our exit from a self-foisted slavery to mediocrity whereas other nations are researching into living in space. But no true change will come by just wishing it, or without undertaking a true “healing from the roots”, different from a populist hype of a change mantra. I suggest three important course of actions if this usual “we/they” dichotomist accusation was not to go on with no reasonable escape from its cul-de-sac.
1. Education: It is clear to all who truly ponder on it that the state of our education in Nigeria is now below poor. The unfortunate incident in Oyo State where Secondary School students became pawns of thuggery and vandalism because the State Government sought to reform education in the State is a good example. The formation of mind and character is not only divorced in our present educational system nationwide, none of the two is hardly done this days. Of course the inability of States to pay teachers and civil servants generally has only worsened the situation. With this sort of scenario, what sort of people do we expect our children are growing up to be? What sort of future leaders do we think they could possibly be? If members of the 8 Senate got some reasonably good education (considering the past of Nigeria) and we are presently so dissatisfied with their manner of behaviours, what do we expect of youths who are now getting far less education in terms of quality? It is no magic, we shall be disappointed unless we engage in a holistic and integrated overhaul of our educational system. It is elating to hear reports of what Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal is doing in Sokoto in the education sector. Same goes for Chief Willie Obiano, the Governor of Anambra State. These gentlemen understand there can be no true growth and change until attitudinal change is attained. And no credible attitudinal change can be achieved without a robust and vibrant education. The time to start was yesterday.
2. Transparency and monitorable structures: Education is good, but it is not all. In fact, education is only the foundation to what the human person, particularly the one elected and given the mandate of leadership, must ultimately take up as a tool for ordering of public of life. We have seen several laudable initiatives of government become frustrated and messed up. That precisely spells out the fact that the buck does not stop with education but with policies tailored at helping educated citizens comply with government plans and initiatives. One basic problem in our country is the gross lack of oversight and monitoring, enabled by a terrible lack of transparency in many government activities. Non-transparency is a big dragon that we must kill if policies were to work in Nigeria. Education will then become enhanced with laid-out, monitored structures.
It is true that one major area where such transparency must be installed and upheld is in governance itself. For a long time public offices have become havens of ill-gotten wealth, while the publics themselves get rotten. The state of our several infrastructures speak for themselves. If the present government or any government worth its name was to successfully engineer a rebirth of Nigeria, transparency must become the hallmark of State. It is unfortunate that now that we have suffered its lack for many years, what some Senators are asking for currently is immunity rather than a clamour for more transparency in government dealings.
Yet, the discovery of massive paddings in the 2016 budget (compared to its undisturbed presence in our several budgets in the past) and the revelations that the Treasury Single Account (TSA) has brought are clear examples of how we could even do better in governance if transparence are not only spoken about but enforced by credible structures and monitor-able technology.
Be that as it may, transparency and proper structures are equally needed outside of government. In fact if they were needed in government, it is for the greater purpose of instilling same among the governed. When a transparent, monitored way of doing things becomes our hallmark, there will be less or at least controllable ills in the different areas of our national life.
The internet of things which the Vice President recently spoke about for instance is a theme that should receive a greater focus by the government. It is unbelievable that in 2016 we still cannot deploy a full monitoring of ministries and parastatals via internet-based technologies, much less make use of a true internet of things in our private individual lives.
To cite another vista to the discussion on the necessity of transparency in the country as a tool for massive development, think about the budgets of institutions like the Senate, the States, the ministries and parastatals. How many of these are available to the public? How many of them are subjected to public scrutiny and monitor? If transparency is not enforced in these ambiences, we may continue to witness years of earmarking funds for innovations and projects without corresponding actions or execution of such projects.
If developed countries with robust tools for transparency and monitoring still struggle with economic saboteurs and outright pilferers, how much more do countries like ours need to buckle up and ensure transparent and efficient monitoring at all levels of our lives?
3.Citizens-owned change: This point naturally arises from the last one. The most popular narrative about President Buhari and his government right now is the anti-corruption drive. But more than one event has shown that this drive needs more than one individual to succeed. Not only because the President can only do the much a single individual can do, but also because right in his very government, in his very before as our friend Zebrudaya alias 4.30 would put it, we have heard of individuals who want to carry on as before. Indeed corruption does fight back.
It is thus important that the will for change that Mr. President is bringing on board be hinged on structures and on the people’s participation, not only on his macho self, however macho he is. The immense citizens’ watch that is ongoing on the media is very crucial to the change being canvassed for by Mr. Buhari. It is wise that such a vibrant world of people who have keyed into his vision of wanting a corruption-free and, by consequence, people driven-Nigeria be brought on board made to own the change being sought. Citizens’ watch is a narrative that needs massive encouragement and strengthening at this time in our nation’s history if government policies and structures were to succeed.
When the trio of education, transparency and massive citizens’ participation team up with a purposeful government, the result cannot but be monumental development and growth.
But to leave out any of the trio would be to continue our usual blame-dichotomy narrative of “we” against “they”, whereas in essence neither of the divide is so clean to cast the first stone. Let us earnestly begin to build a future that is founded on solid education; a future that is subject to rigorous monitoring and transparency, a future whose success is owned by the people and thus earnestly sought-for by the people.