By PHILIP ASIODUObahopo
ABOVE all, a far-reaching rationalization of the Ministries and Agencies of Government taking into account the Oronsanye Report.
There must be a drastic reduction in the cost of governance at Federal, State and Local Government levels. Let us consider that the Federal Government of USA is run through 12 Departments (our equivalent of ministries) and no American State has more than 6 persons of the status of our state commissioners. Here some states have more than 24 Commissioners and scores of Special Advisers and Special Assistants.
If above suggestions are strictly implemented, we would be aiming for target resource allocation of at least Recurrent to Capital ratio of 45 Recurrent, 55 capital, compared with the ratio of 74 Recurrent, 26 Capital in the Federal Budget of 2012. Considerable resources will then be freed to be invested in Education, Power, Transportation, Health and other priority sectors.We must recall the example of Balewa, the Regional Premiers and all the Ministers, who in 1962 at the launching of the 1962-68 National Plan took 10 per cent cut in their salaries to signal the need for national savings to help finance the Plan. That measure brought the salary of a Federal Minister below that of a Federal Permanent Secretary! I should add that in the First Republic, the salaries of a Professor, Federal Permanent Secretary and Federal Minister were about equal. A Federal Legislator who was part time then earned about one third of the Minister’s figure. Compare the position today!
The Private Sector in Nigeria also needs to improve corporate governance and to rein in excessive executive greed. Some of the charges in court against some bank managers, for example, made me extremely sad. A few constitutional amendments would also be useful. There should be provision for independent candidates. Some outstanding independent candidates will get elected and help to improve the calibre of members in the legislatures.
Consideration should be given to increasing the membership of the State Assemblies to make it more difficult for state governors to direct and manipulate the State Assemblies. They should not be full time but have two sessions of two – three months each a year. Their salaries and allowances should also be drastically reduced to free resources for capital investments. The Federal and Regional Legislatures before Independence and during the First Republic -1960-66 were part time.
The 774 Local Governments recognized under the 1999 constitution are too many. Many of them are too small to be able to deliver their constitutional services unlike the situation before Independence and the First Republic where you had Local Governments like the Lagos City Council, the Kano Native Authority, and the Benin Native Authority etc. which were large enough and had the resources to maintain professional and technical departments, able to deliver good services in health, educational, and public works sectors. In our present circumstances of very atomized LGAs consideration should be given to enabling several LGAs to be grouped in viable catchment areas to establish competent Technical Boards funded equitably per capita by the co-operating LGAs to deliver services in sectors such as Educational Inspectorates, Teachers Commissions, Public Health Services, Rural Roads etc. There is no time to go into other desirable re-organization details to ensure service delivery.
Investor friendly civil service
It is very necessary and urgent for the Government to continue the reforms towards the re-establishment of a greatly improved, re-organized, re-oriented, re-motivated, continuously trained and re-trained professional, non-partisan, empowered, well-remunerated, non-corrupt, investor-friendly Civil Service which is merit and productivity driven. This is to enable the Government deliver. Can Nigerian leaders and citizens rise to these challenges and do what is necessary to save the country? Let us recall some achievements in the past:
•The achievements in the vast improvement in the provision of education for children, the establishment of plantations and farm settlement schemes and initiating industrial development under Regional Self-Government in the late 1950s and the First Republic up to 1966.
•Despite the dire predictions of the doom of genocide and lynching which would follow the defeat of Biafran Secession, Nigeria surprised the world with the success of its programme of Rehabilitation, Reconciliation and Reconstruction under the 1970-74 second National Plan.
Annual growth rate
•The impressive average annual growth rate of six per cent+ from 1962 -1966; and after the Civil War, the average annual growth rate from 1970-75 of 11.75 per cent.
•Supposing even after removing Gen. Gowon, his successors had continued with the disciplined implementation of the 1975-1980 third National Plan, and under subsequent National Plans, 10 per cent+ average annual growth rate was maintained for the next two decades, Nigeria would have escaped from poverty and under-development and would today be an African Lion or Tiger amongst Asian Tigers.
•Besides economic growth and improving welfare for all citizens there are other initiatives a patriotic leadership can take to foster national integration. Supposing following up on the early successes of the National Youth Service, the Nigerian leadership was able to introduce a Language Policy to foster national integration? This people like me would have urged on the patriotic nation-building listening leadership which we had then but for the termination of the Gowon Administration by the coup of July 1975. Such a policy would require each child to learn to read and write the local language where he is born. By the age of 10, the child begins to receive his instructions in English.
The new policy would be that by the age of 12 or 13 when he or she enters a secondary school, he/she has to make a choice. If he is in the North, he must choose one Southern Language which he will be taught to speak, read and write. The chances are that the child will chose either Igbo or Yoruba. In the South, the child will likely chose Hausa as a Northern Language which he will be taught to speak, read and write. All secondary schools will have the necessary language departments.
•The upshot of this policy will be that within 15 to 20 years all educated Nigerians (like the Swiss) will, apart from their local language and English, be able to communicate in one or more Nigerian languages. With the ongoing inter-action and cultural exchanges and the pressures of globalization, you can imagine the situation among our children and grand children twenty years hence. Such a policy should be implemented after careful detailed consultations and preparation.
Conclusion: Our current circumstances are indeed dire and all sectors of society seem increasingly mired in corruption and self-seeking and engaged in a process which is unsustainable. It does not appear to matter to those engaged in looting and exporting our national resources instead of applying them to local development, that the world has changed and there is little room for successful money laundering. That indeed when they leave office they will not be able to access their exported loot.
Let me here give you a quotation from the great Lee Kuan Yew who in thirty years led his small island state of Singapore after they were excluded from the Malaysian Federation, from a Third World subsistence economy to a modern First World metropolis and a Regional economic and financial hub. He says: “We cannot afford to forget that public order, personal security, economic and social progress and prosperity are not the natural order of things, that they depend on ceaseless effort and attention from an honest, effective government that the people must elect”.
What answer would I suggest? I believe that if President Jonathan today, regardless of how all the key players have arrived at their present positions, calls for a drastic change in the object and conduct of politics and dedicates himself in deeds to good governance and genuine service of all our people on the lines briefly indicated above the vast majority of Nigerians will follow him. Two years of honest, vigorous, pursuit of the right policies will put Nigeria irreversibly on the path of growth and development. FDI will begin to flow in massively and this time bringing back in great numbers our very competent and accomplished Nigerian technocrats and managers in diaspora.
I still believe in the dream of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe described in his book, Renascent Africa in 1937. I still believe that with all our great endowments of natural and human resources, Nigeria will play a vanguard role in African Renaissance and accomplish for the Black race before 2050, what the Japanese accomplished for the yellow race by the end of the 19th Century.
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