FEDERAL CHARACTER CLAUSE IS KILLING NIGERIA
The idealists who added the “federal character” clause to our constitution had good intentions as they wanted to eliminate the constant cries of marginalization from the polity. But like some good intentions the application of the principle now has had a choke hold on the nation. It has completely eliminated the concept of quality from our vocabulary, and unfortunately has still failed to kill the frequent cries of marginalization among us.
We now have low quality appointments, AND marginalization to go with it; a sad case of double jeopardy.
I have in my mind the most recent appointments and elections. Mr. Jonathan was elected by the overwhelming majority of SE and SS voters primarily on the assumption that “he is form out parts and it is our turn.” Those who opposed his election voted against him because he is not from these areas. At no point was the question of his ability debated or questioned. Of course neither were the abilities of Buhari, and his other rivals debated.
Until we get to demand that the best Nigerians be appointed or elected to offices, we will be guided by mediocre leadership.
The election of the senate president, and speaker of the house followed the same pattern. He is one of us (supporters of the officers and the president) and not one of them (those who opposed the officers and the president). Nobody ever questioned the abilities of the “elected” leaders to lead. Are the senate leader and the speaker the best of the best?
We will find out in 4 years.
For the electoral offices a strong case can be made for the federal character clause because the intention is to make the voices of all segments of the electorate heard. It is a different matter when we are hiring technocrats. Recently I was sick and was saved by superior knowledge of my health care deliverers. It would not have mattered to me if all of them were men or women; black or white, Chinese or Nigerians. The important question was: did they have the technical knowledge to do the diagnosis, map out a plan of action that would heal my wounds, and carry it out.
Nothing more than that.
If I were building a home that qualification would also be the basis for my search for a builder.
What do we have as we look for the ministers (technocrats) to develop our economy, our education, our finances, and our power output? We are looking into where these people come from. Do we not know that two brothers/sisters could tower over everybody else in our search? If the best carpenter and the best mason are blood brothers should we reject hiring both because they are brothers? Would a wise man/woman reject one and hire the second best simply because of blood lineage?
It seems that we would.
The current judicial appointments are raising the federal character issue once more. But should it? There are many things wrong with meeting the federal character requirement in any and everything.
1. The idea of looting is encouraged. Since the idea is for the appointed, elected person to represent his state, tribe, religion, etc, the first advice the person gets from his constituency is a reminder to him that the last Yoruba in the office looted $1 billion and that he must top that. It is our turn.
2. Poor performance is seen as OK so long as he employs from our neighborhood, gives contract to our suppliers, and sites projects to benefit our people. The wisdom of these decisions will never be debated. Those who are not “one of us” in raising objections would concentrate on the “place of origin” of the employees, contractors or the location of projects. The opposition would not debate quality of the work being done. These lead to one action by the technocrat. If the Igbo become too worrisome they are thrown a bone to chew on. The quality of the decision to hand the meddlesome Igbo a bone will not questioned.
3. Under these circumstances Nigeria suffers. And we are all unhappy. The technocrat meanwhile has built a strong following among “his” people. Note that the technocrat may not be sharing his loot with “his people.” He is more likely to be sharing his loot with Swiss Bankers or more recently with the monarchs in Dubai or Saudi Arabia. His people would only show up when he is dodging EFCC or CIA to protect him even though they were all victims of the looter.
What to do?
• Hire the best people available and empower them. If you want Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala bring her on board and if her daughter is also the best economist around bring her on board too. If it turns out that best planning and finance people are all from Abia state so be it. We hold her responsible for our development and if we do not see results we will know whose head to demand on a platter.
• Nobody can implement a project all by himself/herself. A project is executed by a team and one of the more important conditions for a successful project is team cohesion. The techno we hire would be allowed to form a team he would be able to work with; who understand his “style” and are comfortable with it. Most coaches hired to coach a football team to success usually insist on hiring their assistants from, therapists, to offensive or defensive coordinators, etc. When these people are in place they could communicate just by looking at each other’s face and the message is understood.
• The above can only happen if we start by electing the best talents around and allowing them the freedom to select their team and if they allow their subordinates to select their teams all the way down the line.
Remember that definition of insanity? In case you have forgotten, it is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I will not be bold to say that Nigerians are insane. Far be it from me.
But sometimes it seems that we are doing the same things over and over again.
Into thy hands O Lord! we commend our future.
Written by Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba, Boston, Massachusetts.