Home » Cliff I. Edogun, PhD, Columnists, NNP Columnists » For the Attention of Goodluck Jonathan & Nuhu Ribadu-By Cliff I. Edogun,PhD

For the Attention of Goodluck Jonathan & Nuhu Ribadu-By Cliff I. Edogun,PhD

By Dr. Cliff I. Edogun, NNP – Feb 1, 2011 – At no time in our checkered political history have Nigerian voters been offered such a choice between two new generation of political leaders whose intellectual depth and sense of vision far surpass the trove of auctioned certificate and degree holders of our recent past. For the first time in recent memory, we have two candidates vying for the highest office in the land with no hidden bank accounts, no hilltop mansions, no allegations of offshore money laundering or official corruption while in government, no multiple wives with countless children snooping for public attention, no ownership of estate properties overseas and no shadow ownership of foreign named front companies operated by foreigners.

Believe me, you both are now the talk and the toast of town among curious western diplomats in Washington and New York City who long to see Nigeria’s vast human and natural resources rise from slumber and take its rightful place on the global roster. There is even the suggestion that if either of you could muster the required courage and political will to commence cleaning up the mess of the last thirty years, the violent social revolution that is hovering above the Nigerian skies might just not be necessary after all. In fact, if any Nigerian politician or feckless citizen is still second guessing the spread effect of the current wave of revolutionary fervor now saturating Tunisia, Egypt and the rest of the Middle East, then such politician or citizen must be brain dead. The uprising  in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen or Algeria are solidly rooted in the same issues Nigeria has grappled with for years: massive official corruption, political godfatherism, high joblessness among young school leavers, election rigging in favor of the ruling party, religious fanaticism and mediocre government appointments. What is probably certain about the ongoing Tunisian and Egyptian rebellion is that the vast majority of Nigerians may never get to see the images that are being conjured in the minds of observers since much of Nigeria will be in the dark for lack of power.   

For a nation that has suffered the shameful blights of religious, regional, ethnic and class bigotry, your nomination by your respective parties is viewed widely as a tempered relief for the younger generation of Nigerians whose entire lives has been saddled with little or no access to technology educational standards, no access to gainful employment years after university or secondary graduation, no access to basic visual communications systems that would open up the rest of the world to them, no quality of life benefits from simple electric power, pipe borne water supply, safety of life and property, medical attention or even a clean environment. For all they know, this younger generation continues to believe erroneously that the rest of the world is very much like Nigeria. For years, they have been compelled to trust in riches and rewards without laboring for them, they have accepted fraud and deception as pure convention, and they consider open-eye bribery and corruption as civilized conduct. Today, in the prevailing competitive world of the 21st century, countries are competing to fill their primary and secondary school classrooms and libraries with computer soft-wares, so children can start the race to the top very early. Nigeria can surely afford the least of these but the greed and the pernicious aggrandizement that still color the worldview of the country’s ruling class would make such effort an impossible dream for the younger generation.

My dear honorable nominees, I have sought your very valued attention for this reason: Judging from all calculations in the gradual changing face of Nigeria’s struggling democracy, one of you will emerge president of Nigeria after the April poll. When this happens, please, please, for goodness sake, dedicate your historic presidency to Nigeria’s young people by striving with all the power and authority at your disposal to fulfill their dreams and aspirations. Establish works and training programs to absorb them into a good paying labor force; engage the unemployed and the underemployed university graduates in creative public-private projects to disengage their minds from unworthy pursuits. For a country with a critical shortage of judges and court houses where writs of habeas corpus are rarely evoked, the trove of Nigerian law graduates who roam the streets in vain to be trial lawyers could be lured into the administration of justice as prosecutors and criminal investigators, with good pay, just for an extra six months of professional training. Your immediate attention must now turn to investing the riches of Nigeria on these young people by enforcing laws to stamp out the root causes of their social degeneration. Wiping out these root causes will ultimately prove to the young and old alike that your presidency is either the peaceful revolution many have been wishing for or just another polar bear charging to push our young people this time towards the Tunisian example.

Before recasting some of the most notorious root causes of our nation’s degeneration and why wiping them out would set a new moral standard for our younger generation, I’d briefly introduce some findings from our public opinion survey research conducted in the Lagos metropolis this past summer between July 1 and August 7, 2010 and titled “The State Of The State In Nigeria: A Citizen’s Survey Of A Political System In Perpetual Decline.”  Some 872 sample representatives of Nigerian citizens were asked to indicate their presidential preference among Atiku, Babaginda, Buhari, Gusau, Jonathan, Kalu, Ribadu and Saraki. 40% chose Jonathan, 31% chose Ribadu while 15% chose Buhari. The rest of the pack received single digit pledges. The vote for Ribadu was quite surprising, considering he had yet to be nominated by CAN. This preference pattern in itself is clear testimony that Nigerians are painfully starving for new young blood. In this same survey, participants, by a margin of 89%, believed Jonathan’s ascension to the presidency brought a cooling effect to the Nigerian nation after the mysterious circumstances surrounding Yar’Adua’s death. However, only 32% of these same respondents believe Jonathan is capable of transforming Nigeria into a nation of peace and prosperity within the current PDP political arrangement. A whopping 89% of those surveyed view the PDP ruling party as “corrupt”, “heavy-handed”, “unaccountable”, “irresponsible”, “election riggers”, and “money-mongers”.

The opposition parties fared no better. 84% describe Nigerian opposition parties as “disloyal”, “lazy”, “disorganized”, “conspiratorial”, and “localized”. These respondents point to the devious mechanizations of major opposition party members who, in what is purely a contradiction, work assiduously to jump ship and be joined to the ruling party in pay-off arrangements. Thus, the weakness and the flirtatious character of Nigeria’s opposition parties tend to embolden the ruling party to act extra legal. {For a full account of this public opinion survey on such other national issues as Federalism, the Presidency, the National Assembly, National Security, Resource Control, Traditional Rulers, Political Leadership, Infrastructure, Elections, Social Revolution, etc., please visit nigeriarally.org, click on Rally News and scroll on to article #28}. 

The root causes of our most blatant degeneration are probably all too well known to you and you may have even condemned them yourselves in the past, but now that you are in the driver’s seat, our younger generation will definitely expect you to reverse their ditched train and head out for a more desired destination.

National security should keep you busy 24/7. How and when to bring the spate of widespread communal killings, kidnappings and hard-core white collar crimes to a minimum will eventually constitute the yardstick for measuring your effectiveness. The one agonizing and bedeviling experience that citizens and foreign visitors to Nigeria have encountered in recent years is the irrational official decision to mount illegal police checkpoints along the nation’s highways and city streets. The argument that they act to deter crime is so bizarre, so unprofessional and so intuitively primitive. For a nation not at war, mounting forty-five police checkpoints between Lagos and Benin for the purpose of deterring crime gives the Nigerian police a very bad name and defines the national purpose as lawless. For any president who will be intellectually attentive to the growth of the economy through trade and commerce, such unregulated and illegal police and customs checkpoints work to deflate the nation’s GDP. They severely limit inter-state commerce in goods and services since many of these traders have simply quit the trades because of high-handed police and customs extortions. Where they decide to recoup their police and customs induced losses, they end up setting high unit prices for consumer products, thus making these goods out of reach for the average citizen.

The impact of raw police indiscipline on our young people always tends to stifle their perception of legitimacy. The Nigerian police are known to have openly flouted several earlier directives to dismantle these backward methods of solving crimes. They would obey such directives for a week or two and then return to the same treasonable tactics. What is eccentric about their checkpoint argument is that every one knows the police engage in this practice primarily to extort bribes and gifts from drivers, motorists, traders and tourists. Even more insidious is their flagrant disregard for our freedom and rights. Is this the police agenda that a president elected by the people would accept for his country? It’s a shame! In more efficient, civilized and orderly societies, crimes are solved through undercover intelligence gathering, round-the-clock neighborhood foot and mobile patrols and expansive community outreach for information sharing.

Education modernization must be pursued with maximum vigor that this deserves. Since both of you have solid intellectual credentials, understanding the need to overhaul our education system from the primary to university levels would not require rocket science. The percentage share of federal government expenditure to education is still below 8% at 2007 level, a rate that falls far short of a UNESCO recommended benchmark of 26%. Cuba, which ranks first in the world, devotes 18.7 percent to education. Nigeria’s institutions of higher learning have fallen on such hard times that students have dutifully embraced the more engaging curriculum of cult worship while some professors find it more rewarding to charge for handouts. To continue such neglect is to willingly deprive our precocious young people from competing in the global economy of the 21st century

While we request your valued attention to the falling education standards, we are not suggesting the usual quick fix of increasing government expenditure without accounting for such expenditure. For all we know about Nigeria of yesterday, the government is always capable of showing the world the mere high numbers of increased education expenditure without ever providing proof of how the money was spent. In fact, we would suggest this practice that is familiar with clean, transparent governments: Why not set up independent project monitoring boards for every project that the government makes an investment so that the public can be assured that such projects will be executed exactly as specified. Monitoring board members’ backgrounds must also be professionally related to their assigned projects to avoid the usual conniving practice of placing round pegs in square holes.

Finally, we wish to repeat on behalf of all grown-up Nigerians that the 1999 Constitution is whimsical at best, elementary in vision and purpose at worst and represents a body of language and philosophy that smack neatly with military intellectual simplicity. It is a Constitution that should not continue to be heralded by any civilian democracy. If you wear the mantle of a progressive, since you appear to have declared yourself as such or behaved like one, you must ignite the growing quest among our people for a national convention to re-write the 1999 Convention where every ethnic and religious demographic will be represented.

The 1999 Constitution, for anyone who found patience to read through its length, tended to have confused the goals of public policy with the role of a Constitution (the final law). A Constitution should have no business addressing such matters as the goals of economic and social development that a country may pursue. Neither is it the business of a Constitution to delineate the number of states or local governments and their boundaries or establish the modus operandi for federal character. These and other such economic and social issues should be best left to the people’s representatives at the legislative branches of government to decide. Constitutions deal with grants of power. For a federal system, the Constitution should concentrate on specifying the powers of the three branches of government and the jurisdictions over which such powers must be exercised. Constitutions must spell out the rights and liberties of citizens, establish the procedures and frequencies for electing the people’s representatives, governors, and the president, including the requisite majorities (simple or super) for deciding various social, economic, foreign and cultural issues. In addition, how do checks and balances between the three branches of government limit the concentration of power in any one branch as it currently does with the presidency and the federal government. Answers to such and other legitimate questions are surely best answered by a democratic national convention rather than by a kangaroo jury that was convened by a military-leaning government in 1999. 

Above all, we seek a democratic national constitutional convention to write a new republican constitution that would define who we are as a people and what guaranteed freedoms we enjoy from Port Harcourt to Sokoto to Jos to Benin City without regard to religion, skin color or political affiliation. For our younger generation, such a civilian democracy derived from a republican constitution should instill a sense of belonging in them and enshrine the spirit of equality in their quest for a decent future.

Cliff I. Edogun, PhD.

North America Coordinator

NIGERIA RALLY MOVEMENT

cliffedo@nigeriarally.org

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