Worthy Agenda; Setting the Potential Focus Areas for the Next Presidency

46
Spread the love

Nigeria is in dire street and could well be defined as a failed state. Oxford dictionary defines a failed state as a state whose political or economic system has become so weak that the government is no longer in control. Other definition of a failed state is a state that is unable to perform the two fundamental functions of the sovereign nation-state in the modern world system: it cannot project authority over its territory and peoples, and it cannot protect its national boundaries. The governing capacity of a failed state is attenuated such that it is unable to fulfill the administrative and organizational tasks required to control people and resources and can provide only minimal public services.

A failed state is composed of feeble and flawed institutions. Often, the executive barely functions, while the legislature, judiciary, bureaucracy, and armed forces have lost their capacity and professional independence. A failed state suffers from crumbling infrastructures, faltering utility supplies and educational and health facilities, and deteriorating basic human-development indicators, such as infant mortality and literacy rates. Failed states create an environment of flourishing corruption and negative growth rates, where honest economic activity cannot flourish. While it might be hard to get an overwhelming majority of citizens to agree that our country has failed, many would agree that we are at the precipice.

Thankfully, within the next 7 months, we have a chance to recalibrate Nigeria through the ballot if the state is not overrun by non-state actors before February 2023. The person who would become our next president must have certain qualities that would make all Nigerian irrespective of tongue and tribe queue behind him as he builds a new Nigeria premised on the “Worthy Agendas’.

Person specification

A country bedeviled with many ills and characterized by multiplicity as exemplified in our over 200 million population and 250 ethnic groups should be led by an individual who is an efficient communicator. The next president therefore should have the oratory of great leaders like Winston Churchil, Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln& Barack Obama. Beyond oratory, the next Nigerian President must not only be inspirational, he must also be diverse.The next president must understand economics, Philosophy, Sociology, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. He must be able to see the insulation, linkagesand interception between insecurity, parenting, religion and poverty. He must be able to think critically, spot patterns and relationships among phenomena, articulate possible solutions to issues, hold deliberations, aggregate agreed problem-solving approaches, communicate such approaches to his team and citizens and be flexible to adjust approaches as needed.

The next president of Nigeria should also be positively brutal. I define positive brutality as the ability to deploy the right amount of force, coercion and seriousness in such a way that greatest good are done to the greatest number of people. For example, it is known that corruption has hands and weapons needed to fight and indeed fights in Nigeria. We have many instances in the evolution of our democracy where corruption has fought and continues to fight. The next leader must therefore be able to deploy brutality in such a way that the enemies of Nigeria are fought to a standstill, made to repent and sin no more or wrath in hell.

Worthy Agendas

I call the potential focus areas of the next administration the ‘Worthy Agendas’ and define these worthy agendas as a collection of causes which if faithfully implemented can put Nigeria on the path of progress and prosperity. These worthy agendas are National reawakening, value setting and resetting,Education, Agriculture, Corruption and Anti-corruption, economy, security and infrastructure.

National reawakening, value setting and resetting

While we all blame and condemn leadership, a bulk of our problem is caused by followership. Nigerians are the best and worst people all over the world. While our bests are all over the world making positive impacts and contributions to global discuss in finance, climate change, energy transition, global warming, medicine and faith etc.,sadly, many of our people are equally into drug trafficking and other vices in Europe, Asia, the Americasand many other parts of the world. Our citizens abuse visa privileges all over the world by for example entering host countries with temporary visas and refusing to exit the country as dictated by the immigration laws of the host country. Domestically, fellow citizens engage in dubious acts and criminalities such as pick pocketing, armed robbery, child trafficking, prostitution, banditry, terrorism and other forms of malpractices.

The seeds of many of the challenges we now face was sown many years ago. Many of such seeds were sown within family and religious settings. We have worshiped money and material for so long that we often forget to question the source(s) of wealth of these moneybags. For example, the growth of Pentecostalism in Nigeria has contributed to income disparity, corruption and criminality. For so long, many of our churches preached miracle money and raised an army of people who put something on nothing expecting it to stand. The idea that God can bless anyone overnight has produced many billionaires who profited from corruption, cybercrimes, drug and human traffickingand ten percent of such proceeds have been used to build mega churches, mega schools and mega everything while the souls of men continue to harden. The holy book says the Lord will bless the work of our hands but we have produced many blessed men who did not have any workat hand.

In the Islamic faith, people have preached jihadist doctrines for years, abused Islamic education and have raised armies of Almajiris who have now become the menace  called banditry and terrorism. Sadly, some people responsible for these mis-normal have now been rewarded with ministerial positions of the Republic.

Generally, Nigerians are now out to game each other, outsmart one another and take undue advantage of ‘slackers. To make meaningful progress, we must first tell ourselves the truths, admit our wrongs, heal and begin the process of rebirth. The next Nigerian president must work with the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to pioneer our national reawakening, value setting and resetting. We must do this through our traditional and religious leaders. The religious leaders should be encouraged to teach true righteousness so that our nation can be exalted. The traditional leaders should equally be encouraged to exemplify and cascade good conducts in their domains. To be able to perform the task of birthing a new national reawakening, the religious and traditional leaders must themselves be people of impeccable character and conducts. There therefore might be a need to support religious and traditional institutions to come up to speed and be able to perform the task efficiently and effectively. Political leadership must help institute efficient regulatory frameworks to guide registration, accreditation and reaccreditation of cultural and religious institutions and leaders. We must find a way to ensure that only people of knowledge have access to podiums and conversations that shapes the views of citizens.This we can do working hand in hand with existing institutions like the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) and the Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs.

Education

Our public education system is in shambles. Except in a few states, many people no longer send their wards to our public primary and secondary schools. The next president must therefore prioritize education. We must begin our educational transformation from the grassroots. The incoming administration must understand the difference between the education that builds and the education that manages. I defined the education that builds as the type of education that empowers students with skills and know-how to build the productive base of a nation. Specifically, this education is in the areas of Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics. To be able to produce pupils who can excel and perhaps invent in STEM, we must return rigor to our classrooms. The federal government should coordinate with the states and the FCT to revamp our basic education system. A place to begin is to embark on holistic teacher training across the country, examine the competence and capabilities of the teachers, weed out incompetent teachers from our system and hire better qualified teachers. The adverse consequences of recommended teacher retrenchment can be forestalled by encouraging the affected teachers to embrace Agriculture. The federal government and the states can coordinately embrace an Agric revamp scheme,co-opt affected teachers into the scheme and support them with soft and hard inputs.

Conversely, I define the education that manages as the education that empowers people with management, leadership and emotional intelligence skills that empowers them to manage the productive base of a state. This education is in areas of economics, public administration, political science and other courses in the arts, humanities, social and management sciences. I recommend a 60:40 split between the education that build and the education that manages. We must encourage our students to embrace STEM courses such that 60% of students go ahead to study these courses at the tertiary education level. In thinking about a new approach to STEM, we must go beyond paper certificates and embrace vocational and blue-collar trainings like welding, plumbing, bricklaying, wood work, tile laying etc.

We must also leverage on education to build a nation. Firstly, we must enforce existing laws on compulsory free and quality basic education. I recommend a punitive measure of any of a fine of a hundred-thousand-naira, 3 months’ imprisonment or a charge to public works like street sweeping to erring parents who refuse to submit their children to the schools. We can enlist the NSCDC, vigilantes and neighborhood watches to help enforce this policy at scale – this also gives us an opportunity to hire more people into these institutions creating millions of jobs. Another specific intervention I recommend is the replacement of faith-based studies (Religious studies like Christian and Islamic Religious Studies) with Inter-Religious Studies. In IRS, pupils would be taught major religion like Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism and stoicism in addition to IRK and CRK. Similar to the IRS approach, we must replace local language studies with intercultural and multicultural studies. In IC and MC studies, we teach major global cultures like Chinese, Japanese, European, Russian, Arab, Korean and American cultures in addition to our local culture and languages. These two interventions I believe would help us breed a new set of nationalists and humanists who would be a lot more tolerant, less attached to their faith and tribe and gain an understanding that faith and tribe is an aspect of life and not life itself. It is hoped that this recommendation would help ameliorate many of our faith and ethnic based violent clashes.

On Tertiary Education, particularly University Education and the menace of ASUU strike, I recommend the commercialization of our tertiary education so they are truly autonomous and positioned to be self-sustaining. Currently, Nigeria have about 43 federal universities, we can classify these universities into three groups; tier 1, 2 and 3. Commercialise tier 1 (say, 15 federal universities like ABU, BUK, Unilag, OAU, FUTminna, FUTA, UniPort etc.) such that the fees are similar and comparable to private and foreign universities. The federal government can at the first instance retain 51% controlling interest in these tier 1 universities. The incoming investors and management should revamp performance management in these universities so that workers really do the work for the salaries they get. The government can therefore remove funding totally from tier 1 universities to make funds available to tier 2 and 3. We can also marginally increase tuition in tier 2 and 3 schools butretain government 100% ownership.

Today, Parents pay 250k to 3 million naira per term in secondary schools but pays 15k to 30k per year to train Medical Doctors, Engineers, Accountants etc.in our public universities. We need to be more realistic with ourselves. You wonder, how about the poor people? Tier 3 would remain affordable and heavily subsidised by government.

Agriculture

Before Covid – 19 and Russian-Ukraine crisis, the USA, Netherlands, Germany, Brazil, France, China, Spain, Canada, Belgium and Italy earned an average of $150, $94, $86, $79, $74, $63, $50, $49, $44, $43.7 billion in Agric export. Agriculture is a big business; we therefore must return to the farms bigger and better. Government at all levels must in a coordinated manner improve our agricultural output by establishing frameworks and guidelines for Agricultural transformation. I alluded to how we can begin this journey first with basic education teachers who might need to find another job outside the classrooms. In addition, we can encourage the youths to embrace agriculture. I recommend that every state (except Lagos, Abuja and Rivers) have an Agric business zone in each senatorial districts where earmarked land can be used for Agriculture. We can also lay to rest the debate on ranches, open grazing and grazing routes by also having grazing areas in each state. To address the ethnic and religious concerns of people in this area, states should only be supported to run these Agric transformation models as against been asked to provide land to the federal governmentwhich would then be handed over to private business men for ranches. Every state has business men and indigenes that can embark on various types of Agric business, hence, our approach to grazing must not come across like certain Agric businesses are reserved for certain ethnic groups. For these interventions to succeed, we must get people of impeccable character to run the initiatives – we have had many similar Agric interventions in the past that did not yield expected results but rather birthed billionaires who benefited unfairly from the schemes. Our national reawakening, value setting and resetting program can also be help us get better outcome from the Agric interventions.

Corruption and Anti-corruption

On corruption, I recommend amendment to our anti-corruption laws to firstly, stipulate death by hanging or firing squad as penalty for corruption and secondly, push the burden of proof of innocence to the accused. A person alleged to be corrupt should be deemed guilty until proven innocent. Our approaches to fighting corruption must also me systemic and methodical. For example, leveraging on the BVN, the EFCC can run account balances of political office holders and private individuals and leverage other intelligence to be able to arrive at the net worth of an individual, compare such net worth to the person’s legitimate earnings. Explanations can therefore be required from the individual where obvious and notable discrepancies and mismatches in net worth and earnings have been established. In applying this framework, the EFCC should work in collaboration with the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the State Board of Internal Revenue Service of the 36 states and the FCT so that once the EFFC investigations are concluded, the tax authorities can assess the individual in order to establish the adequacy or otherwise of tax remittances and take steps to recoup previously unremitted tax liabilities where applicable. This will ensure that we fight corruption systemically and methodically while boosting tax revenue.

Economy

We must rebuild our economy to be more productive. I reckon that the worthy agendas itemized in this article would convince the world that we are ready for business and position usto attract foreign investments, improve diaspora remittances and gain the support and patriotism of Nigerians to invest in Nigeria. We must also ramp up our revenue to be able to mee our debt obligations. The holistic approach in this document should help us restore order in the Niger Delta, stop oil theft and consolidate on the Niger Delta amnesty program. Furthermore, my recommendations would help us get the resources we need to fix power, birth more companies and industries, encourage existing businesses to be more aggressive and create more employment that would help stimulate our economy. We must also review our Pay as You Earn (PAYE) to be a lot more progressive than it currently is so that we can get more resources from the wealthiest among us for infrastructural development. Finally, we must open up commercial activities in the other geopolitical zones in the country. The next president must strategically support Akwa Ibom state in the south-south, Anambra state in the south east, Oyo state in the south west, Benue & Niger states in the North centra, Zamfara state in the north west and Taraba state in the north east to become strong commercial centers with improved economic outputs based on their competitive advantages. This would help us decongest Lagos, Rivers, the FCT, Kano and Kaduna while also stemming insecurity in states like Benue and Zamfara.

Infrastructure

The next president must consolidate on our infrastructure gains by concluding ongoing road, rail, housing, power, aviation, urban renewal and rural development projects, initiate news ones and collaborate with the states and the FCT to ensure alignment of focus, plans and strategies for maximum outcome. The country can leverage on Public Private Partnerships (PPP) in many of these areas but must strengthen the capacity of the regulators for efficient regulation.

Security

I am discussing security last because I strongly believe our insecurity is symptomatic of other real problems like the lack of equal opportunities, the decadence in our educational system, faith and ethnic based failings that have breaded hate over the years, the fall of our traditional institutions and the erosion of good value system in families. Again, I strongly believe that the national reawakening, value setting and resetting agenda will contribute immensely in our fight against insecurity. The worthy agendas would help forestall the insecurity of the future and ensure success for the armed forces as they employ kinetic approaches to the fight against insecurity. This document ensures that our insecurity is fought using kinetic and non-kinetic approaches. My only recommendation on security is a carrot approach side my side stick so that we can get the enemies of Nigeria to round table discussions that might lead to a surrender. For this to work, we must also ensure the Nigerian state have the capacity to decimate these elements so that our negotiation is from a position of strength and not weakness.

Conclusion

The worthy Agenda applies holistic approach to proffering solutions to our national problems. The methodology adopted in coming up with the recommendations are brainstorming and root cause analysis.I have omitted some issues like restructuring, decentralization and the devolution of powers which many people will consider burning. This is because of my believe that any attempt to devolve power without first implementing these worthy agendas would only cascade our national challenges to 36 states plus the FCT, 109 senatorial districts, 360 federal constituencies and 774 local government areas. Whoever wins the presidential elections in 2023, it is my hope that their programs and policies are along the lines of the worthy Nigeria.

– Augustine S. Akande is a Chartered Accountant, Certified Project Manager, Activist and Public Affairs Analyst, he writes in from augustineakande@yahoo.com.


Spread the love