Mr Momodu's Dream
By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, after two weeks of igniting a passionate debate about a dream team for Nigeria, I have come to some serious conclusions. Nigerians generally see a need for radical change. That change they crave ranges from a full-blown revolution to a systemic change through the electoral process. Most of the contributors to the controversy generally agree that the ruling party at the centre has failed abysmally in the dire quest to move Nigeria up to its rightful place in the comity of nations. None disagrees that our country has had no value for its humongous investments in the leadership of the People’s Democratic Party these past 13 agonising years. I chose the PDP because it has been in control of more than 70 percent of our commonwealth and frittered most of it away.
The report card is a resounding F in all subjects like Education, Power, Infrastructure, Manufacturing, Agriculture, Health, Judiciary, Legislature, Foreign Policy, Security, and so on. A review of the performance chart would expose a government that never met its own targets by up to 20 percent but collected the over-inflated payments in full and up-front. But the die-hard supporters of President Goodluck Jonathan insist the problems were not caused by the present President and as such we should not expect him to clear the mess in one fell swoop.
As tempting as their argument is, they are definitely wrong. Jonathan did not create the problem but he was a prominent part of the decay that engulfed Nigeria since the unfortunate ascension of PDP to power at the centre. And even if he was as powerless as he looked in those years, he should have realised his limitations and let the baton of leadership pass over him. It is wrong for a man to put himself forward for a heavyweight bout when it is clear he belongs in the featherweight class. What has happened to us in Nigeria is a classic mismatch of an unprepared leader in the face of great expectations and a fatal calamity. No nation at this time and age can afford to gamble with the future of its citizens by placing it in the hands of defenders of the status quo.
I do not dislike President Jonathan as a person but I’m certainly not a fan of his modus operandi. I see in Jonathan a man who’s merely in power for the sake of power; what the literati call arts for arts’ sake in Literature. It is a formalist way of maintaining the structure without considering the content. The Jonathans of this world would be too happy, and even consider themselves successful, for as long as Nigeria does not collapse totally but is able to maintain its perpetual state of higgledy-piggledy. It is a selfish attitude to politics.
A leader must place the interests of 160 million Nigerians above that of personal ambition and accomplishments. At any rate there is nothing the President wants to prove again after climbing the ladder of power and breaking the world record almost effortlessly. It is sad he wants to continue this charade that would keep us perpetually in a state of inertia if we are lucky and things don’t spiral beyond control and endurance. A situation where a leader decides to announce gleefully that he must win the next election nearly three years in advance is tragic and unfortunate. It is a terrible slap on the electoral process and an insult on long-suffering Nigerians that they have no hope of changing incompetent leaders through the ballot box.
Where then do we go from here? Some have argued that we don’t need a dream team but a dream institution. Again they are wrong. The dream institution won’t build itself. It has to be erected and supervised and sustained by human beings. Those human beings can only succeed where there is that general consensus to excel. The PDP has quite a number of bright people in government but they won’t be able to achieve their optimal level when the man at the very top is not absolutely committed to making the necessary sacrifice. The few good ones would normally get disillusioned.
Let me illustrate with the following examples. We are all witnesses to the fuel subsidy brouhaha caused by a motion moved in the Senate by the former Governor of Kwara State, Dr Bukola Saraki, to call attention to the mismanagement in the fuel subsidy scheme. The Federal budget of 2011 had become virtually un-implementable when over N1 trillion had been spent on fuel subsidy alone as at the end of September. A more responsible administration would have gone all out to unravel how such humongous payments were made without going through the due process but not in our country. Even the Senate that raised the query did not find the courage to summon the President on whose table the buck stops. The supervising Minister of Petroleum is still sitting pretty and unperturbed. The Ministry of Finance feigns ignorance. The Central Bank paid the money as if under a spell. The payees face indictment but not the payers who almost certainly colluded with them to spring the biggest scam ever on Nigerians.
And yet everything goes on as normal. The President is totally innocent as an unprecedented amount of money is stolen under his nose. That is why the priority of our dream team is to find a President who would take full responsibility for his failure and enjoy full glory for successes. The inspiration for good governance and accountability must flow from the top downwards and not the other way round. There is nothing Madam Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala can do to check the financial recklessness of the ruling party if the President insists on not rocking the boat. They will find other means of scamming Nigerians to raise money for their next elections. Most people are in PDP not out of Faith but to fulfil all requirements for government patronage. Most members of the party I know are always lamenting behind the scene like Jeremiah but can’t speak up for fear of falling out of favour.
Most of the good materials in government are never in the inner caucus while those in it quickly get sucked in based on ego-trip. The rulers know how to rubbish the equity of the Dora Akunyilis and the Barth Nnajis by giving them difficult assignments without commensurate backing of the Him on High. The former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua disappeared for about three ugly months without the then Minister of Information having the faintest idea about what had happened to him or indeed exactly where he was. How would she have performed her duty well? I can imagine how favoured PHCN contractors must be making life miserable for the Minister of Power, Professor Nnaji and would love to see him rebuff friends of the First Lady or some members of the National Assembly.
In short the first thing the dream team needs to tackle is how to whittle down the power of the Nigerian President who has been raised to the level of a god. In agreeing to present a common front, the dream team must receive an article of faith from their Presidential candidate. Such article should include putting an end to the profligacy of our different tiers of government. This is the biggest impediment to national progress. We must make it impossible for the President’s family and cronies to run a parallel government with or without the knowledge of the President. We must discourage the First Ladies from behaving as if every day is Christmas.
The Presidential fleet must be cut down drastically to reflect the mood and true condition of the nation. There is no reason to allocate special planes to public officers in a country as broke as Nigeria. Let our men of power have pity on poor Nigerians. We see Ministers in Great Britain riding bicycles to work or taking the train to various destinations. The wife of former British Prime Minister, Cherie Blair did not abandon her Law practise because she knew no one was capable of elevating her to the status of Queen’s Counsel unless she truly deserved it. We should eliminate those frivolities that make us look more like people of the Stone Age. I’m certain that we don’t have to do things only the way it’s always been done. We must fashion new ways that can lead us to general prosperity but cause some discomfort to a few parasites. If we can reduce the waste to the barest level, Nigeria will witness spontaneous and pervading developments all over. It is very pertinent to wage an all-out war against the prodigal sons and daughters who litter our political landscape.
We must only appoint men and women of proven record to totally overhaul our dilapidated and disgraceful infrastructure. We can no longer afford to hand over such Ministries to hungry desperados who would only award the juicy contracts to the untouchables who may never execute the project not to mention executing it to the least international standards. Even some of the roads delivered to Nigeria by the so-called construction giants would never meet the rigorous tests and requirements in their home countries. The dream team must reject such jobs. We now have the advantage of technology and without flying anywhere we can see the quality of similar jobs in South Africa, Dubai, Great Britain, Singapore and other places. Why should Nigeria continue to pay more for less? Those who short-change our country henceforth must pay dearly for it.
Our Ministry of Education must only be run by those who are openly known to have a stupendous passion for the education of our kids. The politicisation of education in Nigeria is one of the biggest tragedies of our time. Our system of appointments must be elevated in other to search for the best managers of men and resources in order to ignite a major revolution in that sector. As far as I’m concerned things have gone quiet after the frenetic pace we witnessed when Oby Ezekwesili was around. What is on ground is a Ministry that is as slow as a snail as there is no visible impetus to turn things around for the better. The Federal Government ought to borrow a leaf from how Governors Rotimi Amaechi, Kayode Fayemi, Ibikunle Amosun and a few others are revamping the ancient-looking schools into modern wonders. Our school environment is a key ingredient to learning.
Health is wealth. It is sad that most of our hospitals remain anaemic and depressing. The situation is so bad that our leaders run to foreign medical centres at the slightest medical provocation. Let’s compare this to near-by Ghana where former President John Agyekum Kufuor had a spinal cord surgery at the local Korlebu Hospital in Accra. I would love to see Nigerians receive treatment as stress-less as the one I witnessed last Monday in Accra. A close Nigerian friend on a visit from London had suffered a stroke in his hotel room that fateful morning. We had spent the evening before at my house having dinner with the Managing Director of an International Bank who was heading to Lagos.
After seeing off the bank MD, I dropped my friend off at East Hotel. All seemed well until the following morning when a strange call jolted me out of my stupor and made me dash from my house in sheer panic. My lawyer friend was dying unknown to me after a massive stroke that collapsed his right side. But the brave man struggled to open his door and to reach me and a prominent Nigerian businessman from the North. I rushed over to his hotel where I saw a man ravaged by stroke. The first problem was where to find a good doctor on a Ramadan holiday. The second was how to find the cash deposit to underwrite the treatment. The third was how to find the type of technology to aid such a man in desperate need. I’m happy to report that we surmounted all our fears. First the great Mallam managed to get a very professional lady Dr Ama Boohene-Andah, a Medical Director at Brain-wave Clinic. She had worked as physician to President Kufuor for about a decade and was kind to join me at my friend’s hotel in East Legon. The hotel had even brought its own wheelchair for my friend. After a few tests, the Medical Director suggested we should evacuate my friend to Nyaho Clinic in the Airport Residential area. She had gone ahead to prepare the stage for us. We drove in and he was promptly attended to. We did all manner of scans in very advanced labs.
No one forced us to deposit millions of Naira for unavailable treatment. The safety of the patient was their priority.
We met a very neat hospital that sparkled like a 5-star hotel. The doctors, nurses and stewards were nice. And my friend felt at home. The money we eventually deposited was reasonable and no one made life more difficult. Even when a concerned Nigerian doctor from London was getting frenetic on the phone about the need to get me to fly my friend abroad urgently, the Ghanaian doctors calmly explained the intricate treatment they were applying. Our London-based Nigerian doctor could not believe the giant medical advancements of Ghana. As I close this, my friend is on his way to London to continue the great work started by Ghanaian doctors. We are praying unto the good Lord to complete the healing. And enable us have such stories to tell about our hospitals at home.
The import of my story is that we must reawaken Nigeria to modern realities. The era of the predatory beasts is over. Our nation must be governed by great ideas. We must begin to reject old ways of doing things and insist on total value for our money. I have only scratched the surface of what we must do. There is so much pending but we must start rebuilding somehow.
The dream team can actualise our dream ideas for Nigeria. It is very possible and need not be a mirage!