PRESIDENCY: OKOTIE MUST THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
'If at first you don't succeed, try, try and try again.' This is the maxim that perhaps addressed the mind of President Abraham Lincoln who contested the presidency of the United States of America several times and became, in the process a record perennial loser. A man of few words whose speeches are still being widely quoted today, more than any American president, Lincoln later became the president that abolished slavery in America.
A Nigerian presidential aspirant that seems to be following the footsteps of the President Lincoln is Rev. Chris Okotie, but for him to make the necessary impression on the voters, like the US President, he should think outside the box. Examples abound on many socio-economic challenges facing the Nigerian polity that call for fresh perspective, which Okotie seems to offer in his impressive manifesto.
One of them is the neglect of the payment of pensions to our senior citizens. Many of these pensioners have not been paid a kobo for over a year. Periodically, despite this deprivation, verification exercises are carried out in a shoddy manner with little consideration for their health conditions.
Effective policy on pension administration should be enunciated to take care of those who retire from active service in the year 2000 and before them. And I believe that only a compassionate leader like Okotie can give lead to this silent groaning. It could be argued that these set of Nigerians are old. It is the young voters that count, but for the advantage of its multiplier effect, a positive change of attitude in form of a fresh policy thrust to combat this challenge should be viewed with all seriousness because it would also help in fighting corruption in high and low places.
The younger ones, who are still in active service, see no virtue in not being corrupt, if the retirees are made to go through the harrowing experience of endlessly waiting in vain for pension that may never come. It was never like this, until the mass retirement launched by the military in 1975. Reliable information has it that; it was during the military era in Nigeria that earmarked pensions funds were spent recklessly. It would take strong political will to re-instate it to its former glory. Then, Nigeria would rise high in the corruption index of the United Nations.
Another often neglected, but very important area is a look at the administration of accurate weights and measures in the Nigerian economy. Indigenous measures used for the sale of grains and liquid food items have been standardized. This leads to exploitation of consumers. As someone who defends women's rights, Rev. Okotie must know that women easily fall prey to unscrupulous standardized traders who manipulate these standardized measures to short-change them, so they are never sure of accurate measurement of oils, either extracted from palm tree or groundnuts. Measurement of refined petroleum at the retail outlets is another kettle of fish. Ask any motorist about the sharp practices of these outlets. The stories of woe would fill pages of a book.
Perhaps, you cannot blame the petrol dealers outright. Their fraudulent practices could be traced to the short stock supply they receive from the depots; few dealers take accurate deliveries form the tankers. Stock shortages are traceable to inaccurate loading meters at the depot, dented tanks used as receptacles for the haulage, and downright pilferage of petroleum products on the highway, between the depot and the station of delivery of the products. This is one of the sharp practices in the down- stream sector of the oil industry. Okotie needs to look into this sector carefully, because it is the cesspit of corruption in the Nigerian polity, where oil blocks are shared for political patronage.
In thinking outside the box, the reverend is to start serious homework on various aspects of governance in education, youth employment, agricultural, economy, and many more. Templates are required to show practical examples. Examples are the low-cost housing scheme and the phasing out of the shift in the school system by Governor Lateef Jakande during his administration in Lagos State.
There are communities in Lagos where there is dearth of government actions. Let Rev Okotie show us what he would do to exemplify his fresh action. Should he go on the media for interviews, this is what we intend to see or hear, no doubt; Nigerians recognize fresh ideas when they see them practicalised. We are waiting to support him in his bid for the presidency, but more than other recycled old leaders and pretenders to the throne at Aso Rock, Okotie seems to embody fresh ideas and a new beginning, but we need to see him do more to identify with the masses in all the areas where the shoe is pinching most.
•Joseph, a public affairs commentator, writes from Lagos.