LOOKING BACKWARDS TO MOVE FORWARD
“When a child falls, he looks forward, when an elder falls, he looks backward.”
Since 1960 when Nigeria gained her independence from the colonial masters, we’ve had so many governments in succession. In retrospect, we started with the parliamentary government which fragmented Nigeria into three broad regions (Eastern, Northern and Western) for easy administration. The military incursion into governance through the barrel of the guns further divided the country into states to be governed from towns designated as state capitals. Prior the handing over of the military to democratically elected government in 1999, Nigeria had been divided into thirty six (36) states and the Federal Capital Territory with Abuja as the administrative capital.
The main thrust of the successive governments had been to enhance the development of the country in its entire ramification through improvement on infrastructure, educational system, health sector, provision of gainful employment and creating enabling environment for economic development amongst others. The approach at achieving the laudable objectives was for the state governments to prepare annual budgets to guide in the implementation of both recurrent and capital expenditure. Funds are received in the states annually from the Federal Government in line with statutory allocations provided for in budgets prepared for the nation as a whole. Both the States and Federal Government also get funds from internally generated revenue through taxes and other legal sources. The more encompassing development tool produced was the National Development Plan, this came in phases spanning over several years to accommodate all sectors of the economy that will improve the standard of living of the average citizen of Nigeria. At a stage in our history, there were intervention programmes introduced at both the Federal and State levels to address specific issues in our developmental process, they came under different names like “Green Revolution”, “Better life for rural women”, “Women empowerment”; “National Directorate of Employment’, others are ‘Directorate of Foods, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI), ‘Family Economic Advancement Programme’ (FEAP), ‘Ecological Fund’, ‘National Poverty Eradication Programme’ (NAPEP) etc. A regime in early 1990s came up with another plan tagged “Vision 2010” to include housing, health etc for all by year 2010. We have now transformed into “Vision 20-2020”. All these do not exclude the numerous developmental projects in different States under different acronyms to which State and private resources are deployed.
The activities for the implementation of these programmes are usually anchored with fanfare, presentation of speeches enumerating the objectives and modus operandi of the laudable projects. While it is incomprehensible to justify the associated cost with such pronouncements, the implementation is what had continually called for a paradigm shift in our approach to government development plans.
I have ruminated over my experience in the past five decades which afforded me the opportunity to travel the length and breadth of Nigeria; the situation with most if not all the sectors of the economy can be likened to ‘movement without motion’. While the general populace listens to speeches, radio and television broadcast by our rulers on what is generally referred to now as ‘proposed projects’ as a matter of routine, expectations are always kept high awaiting improvement in the quality of life for all. These endless waiting has shown that only lip service is paid to both urban and rural development. A cursory look at the educational, health care, roads, supply of potable water, electricity supply sectors show them in very deplorable states; the quantum of resources sunk into them cannot justify what is on ground. To compound these problems, successive governments at all levels keep vacillating in policies culminating in discontinuity and abandoned projects/ programmes with the resultant effects of further impoverishing the masses of this nation. It had been ‘all talks, no action’ syndrome. A Yoruba adage says ‘Orisa bo le gbemi, fimile bo ti ba mi’ (meaning if you cannot improve my condition, maintain the status quo) is not operational here. An example will suffice here to buttress the wastage of our resources and the excruciating effect on the society in general, the list is alarming. The railway service had served in transporting goods and humans across the length and breadth of Nigeria at relatively cheap rates as well as in high volume right from the colonial days.
Heavy goods from agricultural (cocoa, groundnuts, cattle etc) to petroleum products were transported on trains; this placed less pressure on the few good roads that existed which were then well maintained. The heavy investments on the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) could be justified on a continuous basis because it created job opportunities for a teeming population both in urban and rural centres where train stations are located; furthermore, exportable goods as well as consumable agricultural products were appropriately moved and distributed across the country judging from the network of rail lines through our rural settings. The citizenry only looked forward to more rail lines to cover areas that were hitherto not linked. Alas! A government regime sometimes from mid 80s to early 90s not only succeeded in making NRC moribund, but added to employment losses, industrial unrest and even deaths of unpaid workers who wallowed in abject poverty. Individuals who are influential on governments are believed to have ‘killed’ NRC to monopolise road haulage which has now contributed to the damage of the few good roads.
We have been on the ‘Project Nigeria’ for over fifty one (51) years; the results are glaring as earlier stated. Where did we get it wrong, what do we do now? The solution is to look backwards through a comprehensive Evaluation of Performance of Government activities at all levels and review operational procedure; comparison of plans with the actual to ascertain where we got it wrong. A way of life for both government officials and the wider society is hinged on bribery, corruption and embezzlement of public funds. The need for checks and balances in the society deserves urgent attentions on unexplained wealth of government officials and individuals; it is better to nib the menace at the bud before its committal. Punitive measures have not been deterrents for corrupt citizens because it now wears a discriminatory look; stealing small attracts very big punishments while it is vice versa for big stealing. This is not recommending probes whose reports will never see the light of the day. LET’S LOOK BACKWARDS TO MOVE FORWARD.
EPILOGUE: ‘Oro t’onlo’ (What’s up?)
The issue of prostitution as it relates to trafficking in humans was discussed on the floor of the Senate. Sacrilege! A Yoruba adage says ‘ a ki ru eran erin s’ori ki a ma fi ese wa iho ire’ which literarily means that you don’t carry the meat of an elephant on your head and start hunting for crickets. Whatever interpretations given and insults received by our dear Senator who spearheaded the discussion it is merited. Despite the enormous problems requiring the urgent attention of both the executive and the legislative chambers, how can an issue of prostitution be a public discuss on the floor of our hallowed chamber! Urgent attentions are needed to fix electricity supply, the dilapidated roads, threat to life and property from ‘Boko Haram’ and armed robbers, impending fuel subsidy removal etc. If concerted efforts are made with all sense of commitment to tackle the problems highlighted, an enabling environment would be created for the private sector to thrive to create job opportunities and minimize social problems like prostitution etc. If the registration must be done, it should include the ‘customers’ too, the directory will be interesting to read.
A top military brass does not want to belief that Nigeria is no longer safe with the ‘Boko Haram’ insurgence; he lashed at the media as just exaggerating the situation. His recommendation: ‘if you hold the opinion that Nigeria is not safe, go to heaven’! Let’s ask him if he can pick a visa and return ticket there first, bring back a report to convince all that heaven is free of ‘Boko Haram’ and related groups. He should not put salt on the wounds of those who have been victims while we pretend that all is well with us. Let us buckle up.
J. Oladele Ogunniran is an Agricultural Consultant, Abuja. [email protected].