Agenda for Presidential Debate in Nigeria

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Politics can be defined as the process through which leaders are chosen for the achievement of individual or group interests. The interests are determined by the general and peculiar conditions in which the individual or group finds itself. Thus, the  nature of politics of nations are mostly varied and determined by the peculiar problems or conditions of every nation. This is why the processes and issues for politics must differ from one nation to the other. Therefore, national politics must as a matter of sufficient necessity reflect or be based on those unique conditions of society. On the other hand, general conditions can be found to cut-across most nations and therefore leadership approach to resolving them may be similar. But note that in most cases, once peculiar problems are resolved, general problems become a pack of cards. As per Nigeria, some of her general problems include the need for the basics of life, population growth, unemployment, lack of functional development infrastructure, insecurity, inflation and lack of less greedy leadership. Some of Nigeria's unique problems include the issues of the lack of true federalism, the determination of the appropriate system of wealth creation and distribution, indiscipline, lack of respect for common good and resource underdevelopment.  

With true federalism, the different peoples of Nigeria will begin to enjoy self determination and development rights. It will remove forced unity, suspicion of one people of the other, disaffection among different ethnic groups, wither-away the divisive concepts of majority and minority ethnic groups, dethrone lip-service federal/national character that cannot work, reverse the top-bottom systems of economic, social and political activities that had concentrated too much powers and wealth in a central government for sharing by those who find themselves in governance. It is the absence of true federalism that is responsible in the main, for the high level of violence and insecurity today in Nigeria. True federalism will restore true unity to the peoples of Nigeria. True federalism will facilitate the determination of the appropriate economic system to adopt in Nigeria, and this, on its own will resolve or at least reduce the general problems of the lack of basic means to functional, productive and better life as well as unemployment. True federalism will give room for the respect for social justice generally known as common good. To the presidential candidate, how can true federal be achieved in Nigeria?  

  Nigeria needs to determine the appropriate mode of production for the country. Should Nigeria be a socialist or capitalist or communist state? If we consider some of the tenets of true federalism as hinted above, we shall have the country restructured into ethnic states. Remember that most of the items for wealth creation (endowed resources) are domiciled in the ethnic areas of Nigeria. They are not in the capital cities of Nigeria. Also, the existence of these resources has led to the different occupations among the different peoples of Nigeria. It is therefore logical to allow the people economic and development rights to move up themselves and contribute 5% of their budget to the federal government to maintain federal services. So the envisaged Nigerian economic system must be bottom-up and ethnic based. It will use the peoples talents garnished with acquired skills to transform their resources into products and services they need. As a people with less sophistication in technology, the peoples of Nigeria can commence her development from a resource based approach and create the technology gradually. In all, there is need for an evolutionary approach involving a gradual bottom-up development process that is driven by skilled talents applied on the resources of the people. Indeed it will be a combination of the communal system of production, capitalism and socialism. The socialism recommended here is not State Socialism as opined by Karl Heinrich Marx. It is the one that recognizes the public or social content of the process of wealth creation and distribution. Capitalism here is to ensure that people are hardworking, creative and innovative. Communal aspect here is to recognize and not to destroy some useful traditional economic activities that need to be gradually improved. These will help to check unemployment, retain labour at the local areas and improve basic lives. A defined and appropriate economic system will get Nigeria focused instead of the indecision on whether she is a capitalist or socialist state as if either is an absolute solution on its own. So, what economic system does the presidential candidates favour and why?  

  With a disciplined leader, discipline will be enthroned in Nigeria. The country urgently needs discipline to deal with corruption, resource wastages, budget deficit, inflation and lack of less greedy leadership. It is unwholesome to continue to borrow funds at the same time squander excess crude oil account.   Discipline will give us less greedy good leadership, the lack of which remains the main cog in the wheel of Nigeria's progress. In fact as at today, discipline is what Nigeria needs most to sanitize the country and bring it on the path of development-complaint behaviours. Discipline will be able to insist on Nigerians to do things right and the issue of bad implementation of projects and inability to maintain infrastructure will be things of the past. It will assist the country to set its priorities and values right. It will enthrone a performance-reward approach to productivity, instead of the current position-reward approach to productivity. So as a presidential candidate, how do you intend to deal with indiscipline and corruption in Nigeria?  

  Lack of respect for the common good is a serious and peculiar problem to Nigeria. Most Nigerians hardly appreciate the need to have things used in common; hence they prefer to have things for their own usage only. This is individual justice. It has been stretched too far and needs to be curtailed. No wonder each member of the National Assembly is richer than his or her constituency. Right from the Bible to all the old nations and leaders that ruled the world, it has been established that extreme selfishness is potentially and manifestly destructive. That is why every good philosophy upholds the common good. Even capitalism recognizes it, and provides for insurance, pension, gratuity, social benefit, aged peoples home, social homes, corporate social responsibility (CSR) etc. In Nigeria, public properties are easily destroyed by anybody without qualms. It has led to a situation where Nigerians do not value human life. So, as a presidential candidate in the coming elections, how do you intend to make Nigerians work for, respect and protect the common good?  

  Among Nigeria politicians, development equals building of roads and railways, schools, water pipes, hospitals, importation of tractors to be given to illiterate farmers, building of housing estates, importation of transformers to provide electricity, building of markets etc. They have been building these things since 1914 when Nigeria was born; yet the United Nations is yet to classify Nigeria as a developed country. Why? It is simply because Nigeria does not have the capacity to consistently improve her resources to meet her needs. It is not about the quantum of infrastructure you have; but your ability to use your talents and skills to transform your environment and ensure consistent improvements. Tell me any important project Nigeria wants to embark on that she will not import expertise? All the factories, refineries, major roads and bridges etc in Nigeria were built by foreigners. Can Nigeria discover the minerals beneath her soil, mine them, refine them and earn revenue? What can we do well on our own without the input of foreign expertise? This is the crux of the matter in Nigeria's development. If Nigeria lacks appropriate capacity, the right thing to do is to gradually begin to build the capacities that are appropriate to our level of development and gradually improve them. We need not be in a hurry to catch up with anybody because the efforts were not started at the same time and they require different things and approaches to succeed. What Malaysia needs to do to become developed may not necessarily be what Nigeria needs to do to become developed. Otherwise, the USA should have simply copied Britain to become developed. So, to the presidential candidates, what concrete development vision do they have for a country of over 140 million heads?  

  Let us remind ourselves once more that infrastructure is not development; rather it is a facilitator of development. In the 21 st century, Nigeria must stop deceiving herself by saying that all she needs to become a developed nation is to build infrastructure. No! Nigeria must ask: infrastructure for what? For instance, electricity; in what context should electricity be present in Nigeria? Is it mainly for consumption like watching African Magic, DSTV, etc? Because we have said earlier that a resource-based economic system is good for Nigeria, not knowledge based one yet, it therefore will be right to say that we must have electricity for the primary reason of productivity. Another example of deceitful argument under the pretence of issues is education. In what areas of life should Nigerians be educated? Should we continue with the nominal education of Nigerians started since 1914 and without desired results? When something is not achieving the desired result, then it should be reviewed and an alternative sought. Education in Nigeria should be seriously linked with the Nigerian resources that need to be developed by Nigerians. Nigerian education should be able to discover Nigerian talents through a more rigorous process all the way from the nursery school through to the tertiary institutions. The current system of teaching skills to everybody without linking it to areas of natural ability is responsible for Nigeria's high level of unemployment. Again, the Nigeria's health system should go beyond training medical doctors and pharmacists whose duties are mainly to import drugs and administer them. But who produces the drugs? From where are drugs produced? Does Nigeria have green leaves, trees, plants as well as roots, stems and water? These are the basic raw materials for drugs manufacturing and Nigeria has all in great abundance. So why should Nigeria import drugs hook-line-and-sinker? As a presidential candidate, how do you plan to attend to these general issues that point to misunderstanding of development, maladministration of education and healthcare priorities in policy making in Nigeria?  

  Thus, the debate should be about those fundamental issues that are so sensitive to Nigeria that some people will call them 'no go areas'. Again, the candidates must go beyond areas where they have comparative edge and educate Nigerians on how they will bring such edge to bear in the goodness of Nigeria's social, economic and political progress. They must tell us in clear terms how they intend to deal with the problems of true federalism, economic system, indiscipline, common good and resource underdevelopment. Any one of them who fails to robustly deal with these five issues during the debate is not fit to lead Nigeria.      

  Okachikwu Dibia