MORE THOUGHTS ON REFORM IN OUR LAND
Every responsible government acts in the interest of the public, as whatever a government chooses to do or not to do is the open definition of public policy. Today, we blame our government and the leadership for every ill that plagues our land, expecting it to act with despatch in public interest.
Yet, if government must with the urgency and intensity we expect, it must necessarily abridge the diverse, and often conflicting vested interests that have limited our ability to reach our full national potentials. Therefore, it most step not only on the mighty cancerous toes causing extreme pains in our body polity, but also crush the feeble viral fingers of susceptible criminal toddlers.The problem with our nation is the erosion of a national culture built on integrity, defined as an unimpaired character that stands public scrutiny demonstrated by a well-ordered private and public life devoid moral or material corruptibility.
When integrity is asphyxiated in any polity, the essence of public service is lost as hedonism and pursuit of vested interests takes the instinct of virtually every stakeholder. We all lament that our constitution is deficient in certain areas and advocate that our nation must be guided by the rule of law, yet we are not united around the core value of integrity that needs to be addressed for the protection of our collective national interest.
We all cry for national rebirth or reform without appreciating the depth integrity deficit in our national polity. There are three dimensions to the compromise of this core value in Nigeria: Abdication of public service, professionalization and desecration of politics and celebration of corruption.
The sin of abdication of public service is a product of desecration of the noble art of politics and condoning of corruption in public and private life in the country. Mahatma Ghandi, the man Indian deify as father of the nation, in 1925 illustrated these vices as politics without principle, wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity and worship without sacrifice. Our nation rates very high in all these disturbing indices, needing serious and collective intervention. In discreet and practical terms, our government must make fundamental decisions that would produce radical changes in our culture of disdain. There is optimism that the various reform initiatives of the government will manifestly address these issues.
At the street level, however, the understanding of reform is withdrawal of rights and privileges and curtailment of freedoms. Therefore, it induces trepidation and rejection. Yes, reform may seem punitive (and of course would 'block' some vested interests), its longer term goals and objectives are to ensure equilibrium in the society by expanding access to national wealth, ensuring provision of public goods and services and guaranteeing protection of life and properties of all citizens.
The kind of urgency we want the government to address the accumulated challenges demands the initiation and pursuit of radical reform policies that must definitely inconvenience everyone in implementation. They will manifest in rigid state control, seemingly over-regulation of public life with strong monitoring, compliance and deterrence strategies of enforcement that are punitive in outlook. But we cannot in a world of democracy and human rights afford official high-handedness and return to a police-state.
Without being overly prescriptive, what our nation needs in this difficult moment is the regulation of our public life in a manner that does not cause extreme.