Nigeria is beset by two twin problems which have become a cancer in its soul – Iniquity & Inequity. (Where iniquity is a continuing breakdown of law & order and inequity connotes injustice).
Over the years, the problems that have come to define the image of our country include 419, Yahoo Yahoo, Terrorism, Sporadic Power Supply, Decaying Infrastructure, Corruption, Kidnapping, Degraded Educational System, Lack of Job Opportunities, Lack of Finance for Fledgling Businesses –and the list goes on and on. But, my argument is that these things are just symptoms of a deepening disease not the disease itself. The disease can be traced to just two things: Iniquity & Inequity.
If our law enforcement agencies worked, for instance, (and by law enforcement agencies, I mean the Police, Customs, Judiciary, Military etc.), corruption would significantly reduce, allowing our national and state institutions to work more efficiently. As long as crime continues to pay; 419, kidnapping and the like will proliferate. It’s a simply law of economics – as long as output far outweighs input, you have a viable business. The minute the consequence for a crime far outweighs the crime itself, and once that consequence is consistently and regularly meted out, the crime will reduce.
Today, we have law enforcement agencies that are poorly trained and motivated and so do not give a damn about crime. With the right amounts of money, you can ease the passage of any type of good across Nigeria. Nigeria has no credible national database, no fingerprint registry or forensics department worth their salt. Criminals can disappear across state borders without ever getting caught. Suspicious characters can bring in explosives registered to construction companies in containers and clear them through customs. Embassies can bring in weapons like the Iranian diplomats did for the Boko Haram terrorists. Fertilizers can be imported en masse by agricultural concerns and used to make bombs with little oversight. I doubt if bulk shipments are tagged. A West African can easily get a Nigerian passport from the Immigration Service for N18, 000, commit a crime in Europe, dump his Nigerian passport and travel home with a passport from his country of origin.
Interestingly, it’s also our lack of national databases that limits the ability of entrepreneurs to get loans. We have no credit bureau, no credit history, no way of tracking people’s addresses, assets or identities. Checking job histories is cumbersome and ineffective as a recently deposed DG of a Securities Regulatory Institution has taught us:). Where there is no credit history, there are no low interest leases or mortgages.
I recently heard of a bank that offers a purported “12%” low-interest facility to the staff of a few selected corporations. The corporations take on the burden of “vetting” their staff for creditworthiness. If the staff members default, the organisation’s corporate relationship with the bank stands at risk (and perhaps future credit lines). With a lot riding on their “vetting” process, I’m not sure many staff will get the clearance required to access the loans. Or perhaps their gratuities or pension funds will be used as “collateral”.
On the education front, this cancer of iniquity is bred at home as parents aid their children in cheating on exams. Government officials embezzle the monies meant for classrooms; teachers fail to show up for school and face no consequence.
Injustice is bred as we fail to practice true federalism. States are prevented from keeping the bulk of what they produce while remitting only what is necessary to run the federal government. They are also prevented from taking charge of their destinies and so our states continue to remain uncompetitive. Religious and ethnic violence/repression is rarely dealt with impartially. Crimes against vulnerable groups are ignored. There are no social safety nets for the poor, aged and mentally unsound and many Nigerians die like cockroaches. We do not protect intellectual property rights and creative endeavour is cheapened. And in our society, you are only assured of basic services and rights when you are considered a “Big Man”. The concepts of service, self-esteem, individuality and self-respect seem to have been bludgeoned to death by our law enforcement agencies, particularly the military.
We have failed to breed a national unity and identity that takes into consideration our diversity. We have tried to build a nation without recognising the individual tribes, without apologising for the atrocities of history and forgiving one another.
If I were president I would focus on 4 major things:
Instituting True Federalism: Yes, I would push for State Police. I would support the states retaining the bulk of what they make. It will end all the gawdamn excuses about the federal government not doing enough. If your state does not work, look at your thriving neighbour next door, then go stone your thieving Governor. It will also shut up the ethnic groups that keep saying they’re being marginalised – Once you’ve been “set free” – produce and work for your survival
Revamping Our Law Enforcement Agencies: I would focus on welfare first. I would ensure that I have on my desk a signed but undated letter of resignation from the officials in charge of setting up a sustainable welfare structure for our law enforcement agencies. I would happily jail anyone who steals their pay. As per corruption within those agencies, I would institute the stiffest penalties and ensure public shame. In terms of training, I would ensure aggressive skills transfer from the international agencies that work
Developing a National Records Database: If you commit a crime, you will be caught because I would institute the development of a robust national database, and I’m not talking about a pork barrel national identity card project. I will put in place a credit bureau to encourage leases and credit lines. And, I will encourage the stiffest penalties for the misuse of individuals’ data. The data must not reside in a government agency, so it does not become a tool of oppression.
Encouragement of National Dialogue: I am not referring to a national constitutional conference, for in truth, we have not even learnt to talk to or listen to one another. Instead, I would encourage different Nigerian groups to talk to one another, with trained moderators. I will encourage our people to admit to the mistakes of the past without embarking on a witch-hunt. I will document long buried but relevant national history so that we will never again forget the lessons of the past and together I will encourage us to design our collective future.