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THE CONSENSUS NIGERIANS WANT

By NBF News
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For them, the school bell does not toll. The teacher's cane is not relevant. When most children get up from their beds and rush to prepare for school, taking care to dress neatly and take along their schoolbooks, this is of no concern or interest to another class of children. Nigerian children too, nonetheless, but street urchins, hawkers and those who have somehow found themselves off the straight and narrow path of getting a good education that often leads to responsible lifestyles.

These are young Nigerian children on the streets for a plethora of reasons; children living under bridges, at the beach, and other unlikely places, fending for themselves. Mostly products of broken homes, these are children that do not have their future laid out for them by any parent. When other children gather and animatedly talk about their future ambitions to become doctors, lawyers, governors etc, these ones can hardly talk.

The greatest challenge for many of them is that of daily living, daily feeding and how to ensure that they have shoes on their feet and clothes on their back. Roll the tape to another part of the country, and hear stories and see vivid cases of children accused, and tortured over witchcraft claims.

Go to garbage dumps, there are yet more children there. Scavengers. Children who live off discarded broken plastics, glass bottles and other waste products they pick off the heaps.

There are many dangers from marching on garbage dumps. But, the talk of danger of getting injured by broken bottles and used medical waste, like syringes, is big grammar to these children.

Yet, picture at the other end of the Nigerian divide, the moneyed class. The political office holders on an endless roller coaster owambe party. With emoluments in the millions.

Members of the House of Representatives and senators earning N112 million and N180 million annually, in the name of quarterly allowances, collecting huge salaries and constituency allowances and singing the Yoruba satirical song 'Bamu bamu layo, awa o mo b'ebi p'omo eni kan kan' (we are full to the brim, we don't know if the child of anybody is hungry).

Instead of conscientious leaders with fellow feeling who see their calling as an avenue to improve the lot of all Nigerians, especially children, what the nation has are characters masquerading as representatives of the people while unconscionably feeding fat on the commonwealth.

As much as N154 billion of the 2010 budget is earmarked for lawmakers. In spite of this, they are more committed to laws that will benefit them than the general populace.

Important bills such as the Freedom of Information Bill have been lying fallow in the House of Representatives for years now; our lawmakers are not ready to consider it. Instead, they are busy considering laws for their own benefit. Not too long ago, they came up with the idea of inserting a 'Right of Refusal clause' in the 2010 Electoral Act that will give them prior right to retain their seats, so that their positions will be vacant only of they are not interested in retaining it.It fell flat.

Right now, they are engaged in a bid to pass a law that will make them automatic members of their parties National Executive Committees (NEC) to enjoy sweeping powers, especially regarding candidates for political offices in their parties, so that they can perpetuate themselves in office.

They want to do this through insertion of Section 87 in the bill to amend the Electoral Act 2010. The bill already passed second reading in the House of Representatives last Tuesday, giving credence to claims that the legislators are only interested in making laws that favour their personal interests.

Already the opposition political parties are rising up to challenge the legislators. The ACN, in particular, is angry that legislators take home about N45 million each every three months in a country where a large number of their compatriots live on less than one dollar a day, and the national minimum wage that workers are striking over comes to only four dollars a day. In addition, the National Assembly and other political office holders are said to gulp 30 per cent of the national budget.

At the level of presidential aspirants, so little is being heard about what will be done to address the plight of Nigerians. What is paramount to many politicians is the issue of zoning, especially the right of certain parts of the country to produce the next presidential candidate for their parties.

What is engaging the attention of contestants from the North now is the need for a consensus candidate to be chosen from the former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, former National Security Adviser, Aliyu Gusau, Kwara State Governor, Bukola Saraki; former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar and former military head of state, Muhammadu Buhari.

As Nigerians mark this Eid El Kabir, however, the greatest consensus the people want now is one on how to turn the fortunes of ordinary Nigerians around. We need a consensus of the leadership class on how to breathe new life into lives of the ordinary people of the country. A consensus on how to rid the streets and beaches of street children, on how to keep child hawkers off the streets.

Nigerian leaders need to reach a consensus on how to provide a better future for the children. For, how can the children who represent the future of the nation compete when they lack a good home environment, good nutrition, and sound education? Nigerians, through the coming polls, must ensure that a new leadership is installed both at the executive and legislative levels that can bring to life a consensus on all the important things we ought to do as a country. The energy sector has to be fixed. Infrastructure has to be addressed. Education must be revived, and health services improved.

The greatest consensus, in 2011, should be on how to elect unselfish, visionary and hardworking leaders who will bring to reality our dreams for a country that we can all be proud of.

Mail Box
The Lagos doctors' strike
Let me take my bearing from the professional integrity mentioned by the LASUTH ARD chairman, Dr. Oseni. Professional integrity refers to the sum total of the ethical principles and values which govern the conduct of all members of that professional body to which they must of necessity subscribe, (acting within the provisions of the laws of the land) in order to enhance the appeal base and esteem of their profession; with an encapsulated code of discipline to punish acts of professional shenanigan and having provision for interface with other professionals in sector.

By this definition, to be strictly mindful of professionalism will certainly reflect the best tradition of the practice in which people are supposed to have been trained.

By the above definition, the Lagos State is correct to have expressed the reservation of the governor to set aside establishment and civil service procedures in response to the yearnings of doctors for salary increase without any consideration for others in the allied professions, as reported. All the agitations for salary increase have not put an end to such demands. With the exception of political office holders, we are all victims of a grossly arbitrary and unfair dysfunctional reward system which problem is compounded by the depreciating value and purchasing power of the naira against the background of inflationary trends.

All these call for a paradigm shift from a cosmetic approach to a more comprehensive review system in a sovereign conference of ethnic nationalities.

Kola Moshood, 08059957125