NIGERIA AND THE URGENCY OF EMERGENCY DECLARATION
Of late, the declaration of a state of emergency has become a way of calling government’s attention to some sectors of our national life in need of urgent attention. In recent times, I have read articles in some national dailies calling for a state of emergency to be declared on Nigerian roads. Without any doubt, our roads are more than in a parlous state. They are hazardous, dangerous and deadly. Honestly, if ever you travel safely on our roads and arrive at your destination, you should thank God because it could have been otherwise. However, we are all too used to our president’s attitude to emergency declaration. For over a year now, the man promised and then threatened to declare an emergency on the power sector. One would only hope the declaration will be made before the end of this century. The man is too slow to understand or grasp the extent of harm that lack of power supply is doing to our economy and the nation at large. Since the president is reluctant to declare such an emergency on a crucial aspect of our national life, it is very unlikely he will be able to extend it to other aspects as well. I think people have been too selective as to what areas are in dire need of urgent emergency. They forget that the Nigerian state is an agglomeration of different republics. You run your life regardless of government. Basically, your life is incomplete until you have been able to provide all the important amenities for yourself. Since electricity is unreliable, you have to purchase your own generating set to provide power for you. You need a borehole or well since public water supply is almost non-existent. You cannot do without a high enough fence complemented by guard dogs and security-men to watch over your house lest you be an easy target for thieves. You simply have to provide all these and many more for yourself if you are to live a fairly comfortable and normal life. In essence, every aspect of our life as a nation is in need of emergency declaration. Simply put, we are failed state because we cannot guarantee the basic necessities of life for our people. Our problems are multi-sectoral to the extent that solving them will take a lot of efforts and goodwill on the part of government. Just check out every major sector and you will see so much need for urgent action to reverse the decay. Is it healthcare, education, transportation, agriculture, security, power, provision of water and so on?
To start with, the state of public healthcare in this country today (if there is anything so-called) is lamentable. Public health system has simply collapsed. So much is heard about huge amounts of money being budgeted for the provision of primary healthcare but there is nothing on ground to justify the huge expense. It could be said that our people enjoy such healthcare programmes on the radio or television than in reality. Nigerians today would prefer to patronise private hospitals than to risk their lives going for treatment in government hospitals that are no more than consulting clinics. Lack of government’s lack of concern for equipping our public hospitals coupled with the attitude of the health-workers in those hospitals have become the bane of our health sector. This sector is definitely is in need of emergency if we take seriously the saying that ‘health is wealth.’
The neglect in the public education sector today is unimaginable. From primary to secondary and up to tertiary level, there are so many ill-thought policies and programmes, poor or non-existent infrastructures, low morale on the part of teachers and the list is endless. The bitter truth is that since the children of the rich and powerful do not go to our public schools, there is less hope that these problems will be attended to in the nearest future. The upsurge in the number of private primary, secondary and tertiary institutions will, if care is not taken sound a final death knell to our public educational system.
Our transportation system is perhaps one of the worst in the world. On land, air or rail there is a lot to be done. Most of our roads are in a terrible state of disrepair. Not only are they not good, they are also unsafe. I believe the Nigerian Railway Corporation is stunt dead. Whereas travelling has been made easier in other parts of the world through an effective rail network, getting our rail transport system working is a near impossible task. In the Abacha era, I believe a contract was awarded to the Chinese but it ended nowhere. Instead of regionalising railway services and forcing state governments to run local railway services, Obasanjo promised us he will deliver cheap and affordable train services but like everything he promised, we now know better that we can perish the thought. The string of air crashes we have had in the country in the last eight years is an indication that all is not well with the aviation industry. It an industry that has suffered, and is still suffering from a lot of incompetence, corruption and under-investment. I still remember what happened during the Bellview Air crash, while a rescue mission was being dispatched to Oyo State, the actual crash site was in Ogun State right at the nose of the radar at Murtala Mohammed Airport yet no one saw anything on the radar. In the area of agriculture, as a nation blessed with fertile land, Nigeria should not complain one bit about food crisis. Before the discovery of oil, the nation survived more on its agricultural exports. Instead of keeping up the same momentum that made Nigeria a food basket in the past, government has paid only lip service to food production. The result being that, in our dear country today the price of food stuff is shooting through the roofs and reaching for the sky. Talking of security of lives and property, we all know that security is key to the preservation of any decent society. The alternative is a return to the state of nature where life is brutish, nasty and short. Saying that law and order has broken down in Nigeria today is stating the obvious. The Nigerian police and other law enforcement agents are overwhelmed as a result of the high crime rate. The unprecedented rate of unemployment of young and able-bodied Nigerians has added pep to this distressing situation. It is simply foolhardy to sleep with two eyes closed unless you are in Aso rock villa. The helplessness of the situation is seen in the fact that it is rare to find the perpetrators of hired assassinations. Most investigations into such have been inconclusive because they are hired by the ‘high and mighty.’ Every major street now has its own vigilante group apart from special guards hired by each home-owner at least for those who can afford it. Depending on state security agents to provide adequate and reliable security is asking too much as dead men don’t tell tales. So long as our cities and streets are unsafe, we shall continue to scare away willing investors which we desperately need to bolster up our economy.
The provision of power and pipe-borne water is very critical to every nation. Power is an important engine that drives the economy. This is why most industrialised nations of the world would not joke with any of this two. The provision of clean drinkable water has become nearly a thing of history in Nigeria. The state governments have failed miserably in this regard. But even when the Federal government started a ministry of water resources, its failure was even more pronounced. I couldn’t help laughing when the then minister of water resources Alhaji Muktar Shagari said that his ministry has provided clean portable water for over sixty percent of the Nigerian population. Everyone knew he was deceiving himself. Each time I hear people trumpet vision 2020, I tell myself that they are making a comedy out of a very tragic situation. For a nation of over 140 million to live on below 2000 megawatts of electricity is laughable to say the least. More laughable still is to expect that we are suddenly going to produce enough power to propel our economy to the level of joining the best industrialised nations of the world in the magical year 2020. Morning shows the day. We have not shown enough seriousness (and this is not going to be done by propaganda) that we are ready to achieve this feat.
In all, what I have set out to do in this piece is to drive home the point there is not need for the Nigerian government to be asked to declare a selective state of emergency on one sector or the other. In the alternative, a comprehensive emergency should be declared on the entire country itself. Believe it or not, Nigeria is overdue for such a declaration. But just who is going to declare such a crucial emergency on these ailing sectors? It brings me to the all-important issue which is leadership. We need a highly motivated, focused, selfless, disciplined, committed, passionate leadership. We do not have this at the moment. Until the Nigerian system will allow us to have one, the waiting game goes on.
By Fr. Emmanuel Ogundele
Fr. Emmanuel Ogundele is with the Department of Philosophy, Ss. Peter and Paul Seminary, Bodija, Ibadan.