An Advice To President Yar’Adua Towards Agenda 2020
Dear President Yar’Adua,
Nothing could be more worth than the honour to serve one’s own country, which you rightly profess as-servant leader. Equally, I recognise the political space and interests that are likely to overwhelm your inability to prioritise the issues of public interest for the sake of quisling associates; who would leave you in a lurch should things go wrong. This is why I am using this medium to reach you in reminding you to reflect on the foregoing suggestions or recommendations:
The focus of Nigeria’s government to project its thinking on long term policy objective is the only recipe for economic progress. However, mindful of the interplay of political interests in the execution of government’s policies and the parameter that interlock how much your government can achieve within its life span besides other intervening factors; any exterior input could become useful and handy. So, just like Mr President, who shares the desire to take Nigeria out of economic slumber and conundrum because of the failings of some of your predecessors’ policies, which of course requires you to take bolder action if it is to lose the whiff of corruption; see how you will prioritise your goals and hence, I am passionate to recommend the measures that your government should pursue for you to achieve the set millennium goals.
The role of education in national development cannot be emphasised, which is the reason why the developed societies place huge premium on the educational success of every individual as a complete electoral package. Whilst geniuses given every leeway and opportunities to be differentiated to reach the height of their abilities as their nation’s treasure for global economic prowess and innovation. In this regards, irrespective of how much our government is prepared to sink into education, the current universities are simply in a bad shape that they are not going to produce the results needed to cure Nigeria and to a large extent responsible for our developmental nightmare. So, we would be better off if your government will look into the idea of building a new national university for our geniuses, which is outside the realm of federal character; and the selection of its staffs and students on merit only. For optimum result and excellence, we should recruit international scholars and managers, who will give Nigeria a value for money service and not a return to the scenario of ‘brother help brother,’ which has lamed our nation in all respect. Since such measures could minimise political interest and conflict that continues to plague our institutions and why they have remained a bad investment of public resources. Furthermore, I would suggest that the new university should be named - The Imperial University or any other suitable name as the government deem fit insofar as any name that is chosen symbolises a national pride and excellence. However, in choosing where the proposed new university should be located, the underneath criteria should be used:
- Access to good transportation network- air, road and sea;
- Industries to take benefit of the university’s research findings and
- In an exclusive part of an urban area-that is, it should be located in a town or city that has minimum of 500,000 inhabitants. Since a university ought to be part and parcel of the entire community-serving both its academic environs and the general public interest.
In addition, the autonomy of the new university should not replicate what is currently operating in our existing universities. In that case, the proposed university should be in a class of its own with the primary focus on research and development of our exceptional students, which would then serve as a model for the regeneration of our decaying tertiary institutions. So that the government could take the benefits of the public finances put into the universities for the training of our manpower and developmental needs like other countries that are benefiting from the research findings of its universities; and as such have become the cornerstone for their technological advancement and in knowledge based global competition. Remember that once we are able to create a successful university that has all that is required to re-engineered Nigeria in all facets of excellence, then the know-how could be transposed into the older institutions and universities without having to waste so much resources in bringing help from outside that are unlikely to yield results. Home based solution is always the best, and only if the government is honest to pursue our national interest and not those of our enemies prepared to sabotage Nigeria’s chances of renaissance.
Mr President, the current structure on which our universities is run is faulty-especially, the career and salary structures for its academic staffs. As a suggestion, I do not see any reason why universities staffs whether academic or non academic should be treated like civil servants. Better would be if each university is able to set its own salary scale and according to its own available resources, subject to government’s statutory minimum wage and labour laws. For a start, I would recommend that the career position for academic lecturers should begin from: assistant lecturer/researcher - senior lecturer - associate professor/reader - professor. Others that are not mentioned in this category should cease to exist because such designations are unnecessary and wasteful; since lecturers ought to be rewarded by their contribution to knowledge only and not for the period of their service like civil servants. Reforming our university system is very urgent since it is the bedrock for national development and the economic empowerment of our citizens. You cannot afford to letdown our people who put so much trust in your wisdom and as our first graduate head of state not to correct the rot in our educational facilities and the universities in particular that have been left in tatters by your predecessors, who did not understand the role of education in development and progress.
Even when I recognise the essence of attractive salary in our increasingly materialist and market focus economy, I do not share the view that our universities’ pay packet should be competing with those obtainable in the private sector. Since, universities are able to offer to its academic community other benefits, which even though not expressed in financial terms but enough to compensate those in the system in broader context than are available elsewhere to still encourage our best scholars to remain in the system. Who should not consider taking up career in academics just for the sake of money; but for the passion of using their knowledge to make an impact in the development of our youths to meet our nation’s need through the power of education that incorporates critical content for nation building.
Tackling the decay of our universities alone would not bring much, unless, there is a complete reversal of the odd against our basic education, which also requires incorporating pre-school education into primary education curriculum. As an advice, I would suggest that you visit any pre/primary and secondary school during your next trip abroad to understand why a Nigerian child is short-changed by its government, disadvantaged and less likely to succeed in comparison to the nationals of advanced economies and those in the same level as ours. If we are to turn things around, the President must begin massive investment on new infrastructures for all the Nigerian schools to replicate the standards available in Advanced-countries so that our schools are suitable and conducive for learning both for the pupils and teachers alike; because an attractive learning environment enhances creativity and productivity. It is unacceptable that our youths are continuing to learn under trees or in dilapidated buildings if they must attend public schools-a condition, which should be contradictory to our present time or should not have been norm any longer in consideration of our huge oil revenues that officeholders have converted into private wealth through corrupt practices. We can get it right if you forsake the interest of your selfish friends who believe that only their ward should have access to privilege education. And as such implemented policies to favour private education at the backdrop of repositioning public schools whose products are likely to increase our commonwealth and our economic prosperity. Remember, the products of private schools are unlikely to giveback to our society what it needs; since they will pursue the same interest like their parents who have deprived us of the essence of our self rule so far. You will be on the side of our people by the time you understand the role of good public schools and make them to correspond with those of OECD countries with the school curriculum designed to meet PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) standard and its recommendations on basic education in order for Nigeria to actualise your millennium developmental goals.
Furthermore, a modality should be put in place to give heads of primary and secondary schools the opportunity to have international exposure in the administration of educational facilities and how to improve teaching standards. Such international internship should be for at least one month for serving head of schools who still have a minimum of six years left before retirement if government is to reap the resources put into such exercises. The programme should be financed through international development aids or through a new form of taxation. Since any investment in education could lead to ten fold returns in human capital development, which Nigeria could exploit in economic terms-such as in global competition and knowledge.
Mr President, you cannot leave our economy in the hands of few oligarchies who are only happy in ripping-off every kobo from our hapless people that are already walking skeletons because of your predecessor’s greed to auction Nigeria to our economic saboteurs. Please, set up a committee to review all the oil rig licenses to assess whether they are held for economic activities or are simply tied up resources with no relevant operational trading and thereby denying the government of its relevant taxes, which could be used in meeting society’s social needs. You should put an end to fuel importation since it is preventing us from developing downstream industries that could help in creating large employment opportunities for Nigerians who are currently cornered by those hoping to make our economy foreign dependant.
Reactionary policies that are intended to leave our borders opened for the importation of everything cannot be a sustainable economic policy simply because it has helped to ease the adverse effect of high prices of goods on the short-term. But think of the long term consequences such as the stagnation of our manufacturing sector; hooding that might be perpetuated by importers who despite having enjoyed government’s generous importation tariffs might still not pass any price benefit to consumers; or may foreclose the market to raise the prices beyond the government’s target; and the concern that open border might help other economies to grow and put a negative strain on our trade balances that could in turn have huge impact on the value of the Naira. If Nigeria is to curb youth joblessness and crime that is making Nigeria unattractive for foreign investors who ought not to shun our market potentials other than the oil sector only. Then, it should discourage our people’s taste for foreign goods through public enlightenment campaign programme so as to enable us develop our manufacturing and other agro-allied industries for a start and a long term goal of aspiring to that of knowledge based economy.
I have no understanding for those who breached their position of trust to dispossess us of our national assets to be allowed to keep them even when no rules were broken. Because, the duty of service means that at no circumstances must one thread the line of public and private interest divide. Since any private benefit that accrued to a public officer in the course of a public duty are prohibitive under the Fifth Schedule in Part 1 of Sections 6-14 of the constitution of Nigeria. Irrespective of the legality of the laws of your predecessor’s policy, which paved the way for auctioning Nigeria and its assets, for the sake of equity, you must revisit some of the abnormally in the sale saga independent of the outcome of the ongoing parliamentary inquiry.
Again, the nuisance and death on our roads is a source of concern. So, for us to put an end this intractable problems and to give value for the public money that are going into our road networks, it would be in public interest for the government to establish through a statutory order, a corporation or a quasi public company. Whose duties are to develop, maintain and manage all the road networks in Nigeria plus the relevant powers to formulate road pricing regulations for road users; if the government is to end the bad state of our roads, the sufferings of commuters and to minimise loss of lives.
Mr President, Nigeria is not so rich to mean that any registered political party should enjoy government’s funding. However, we could streamline them with the requirement that only those that meet at least the five percent benchmark result in any national election should be recognised as political parties. Furthermore, the five percent benchmark should be decided on basis of the national assembly election result-house of senate and representatives if any given political party is to have access to public money. This should equally be the benchmark for the political parties at the state level using the states’ houses of assembly election result. However, this disparate treatment could mean that in the future that there could be a scenario where for example, a party might not be able to fill candidates for federal elections because it could not meet the benchmark in the previous election to be recognised as a political party for that election year at the federal level and yet able to meet the five percent hurdle at the state level to retain its political party status for state electoral purposes. These measures could wither the unviable numbers of political parties instead of a two party system by a constitutional fiat as being advocated by many who thinks that too many political parties are responsible for weak opposition politics in Nigeria, which to a large degree is wrong. Whereas, we know that electoral fraud and thuggery are our biggest nightmare.
Please, review all the international treaties signed by Nigeria to see which policy has been transposed into positive effect because our international obligations are meant to help our people and nation, and not for keeping in cupboards or book shelves. We do not send our experts to international conferences for symbolic gestures only; but also to represent our national interests. And as such, any international resolution that carries our people consent through the signatures of our government’s officials should be implemented if Nigeria is to meet its developmental goals and not kept away in the drawers of ministers or public servants or politicians.
Mr President, there are people waiting to help you make Nigeria great without payment because they fear the trouble ahead if you disappoint our people to cleanse Nigeria of your predecessors’ sins. Remember that the foreign remittances from our overseas citizens are coming to end as most of them are no longer willing to be generous towards sending money to their love ones in Nigeria due to rising costs of living and the cost of their children’s education, who are now entering into schools, which are putting strains on their income that nothing are left to be sent to Nigeria. Since such remittances have helped in the past to calm social tension that the government never bordered to address; because of our politicians’ disservice and selfishness in developing an economic policy of self reliance and citizens’ empowerment programmes. I doubt whether our government will be able to quell the impending uprising that is imminent should the foreign handouts from their relatives abroad stop.
That your government is tardy is due to the fact that the wrong hands are appointed- linked to godfathers and political settlement. This means that most of your ministers are simply there just for the privileges and not to help you achieve anything meaningful. But to make you fail so that you will join the list of those who rubbish our nation and put scum on our people. I hope you will have the courage to take bold decisions to liberate Nigeria, which could preserve your place in history? It cannot be right and reasonable that Nigeria has so many ministers and yet our country is in chaos, which the so-called federal character added to the burden since each state must produce a federal minister. There could be other ways of compensating any of the states left out of the ministerial rush in sharing the boot of democracy, which other political appointments could do. After all, USA and other richer nations that have done far more better and yet have less ministers. Why do we have two ministers for a ministry-minister of state plus minister proper? Still you want our people to believe that you are not the stooge of others.
Inasmuch as our people will continue to pray for the good health of its leaders, it cannot be in our national interest that its leaders put their fate in the hands of foreigners and its hospitals abroad. Look, you have displayed unethical statesmanship, which contravened your servant leader code in going abroad for medical treatment. I wonder how you want to challenge our political criminals, who while facing criminal charges for the theft of our commonwealth and ordinarily ought not to have any privileges like other common criminals, unfortunately are still behaving like kings who have no shame and brain to know that the hospitals they run to abroad are the efforts of selfless act and patriotism. Unlike our politicians whose actions led to the poor state of our healthcare system and infrastructural decay. What a hypocrisy, whereas the rest of our people have no access to good healthcare. The earlier you act to stop this madness the better before a calamity will strike. I think our people are tired of this humiliation.
Leave a legacy that you were the president who ended the culture of public treasury looting, the man who shamed all those who put shame on Nigeria and its people to return our stolen national assets. Help the judiciary to put these wayward leaders of shame behind bars for no less than a minimum of 40 years for the returning of sanctity to public offices, which will give criminal law its true meaning of deterring criminal behaviour.
I thank you for sparing the time to read my entreaty and look forward to my upcoming book on Nigeria to be publish by Lit Verlag in Austria in July of this year. Until then, I wish you every success as you sail Nigeria through the troubled waters.
Patrick Odionikhere, LLM, writes from Austria
By: Patrick Odionikhere,