A sense of fair­ness

Daily Trust - - VIEWS - ] Ena­horo] Eu­gene dr_e­na­horo@ya­hoo.com

Per­haps the sad­dest as­pect of the on­go­ing na­tional con­fer­ence is that it isn’t set to solve the ba­sic prob­lem plagu­ing of our na­tion. Lis­ten­ing to the var­i­ous noises em­a­nat­ing from del­e­gates it’s easy to con­clude that they are on a jour­ney to nowhere. The Lamido of Adamawa’s out­burst at the con­fer­ence brought home the fact that the real prob­lem which we as a na­tion need to over­come is the lack of fair­ness in our deal­ings with one an­other. All the de­mands for State cre­ation, re­source con­trol, self-ac­tu­al­iza­tion and balka­niza­tion of the na­tion are re­lated to the preva­lent at­ti­tudes of un­fair­ness in our so­ci­ety. The na­tion is at a cross­roads where cor­rect de­ci­sions need to be taken to avert a catas­tro­phe, and the del­e­gates ap­pear to be un­aware of, or in­dif­fer­ent to, their role in the loom­ing dis­as­ter. It’s all about fair­ness. It isn’t fair that Nigeria is a rich coun­try full of poor people.

A re­cent African De­vel­op­ment Bank (AfDB) re­port on Nigeria con­firmed the ex­tent of suf­fer­ing in the land by con­clud­ing that the rate of poverty has wors­ened with the num­ber of people liv­ing be­low the poverty line in­creas­ing daily. Pro­gres­sively over the years the na­tion has seen its wealth and re­sources dwin­dle with lit­tle to show in terms of im­prove­ment in the lives of cit­i­zens. The pre­vail­ing poverty, law­less­ness, and in­se­cu­rity are all symp­toms of an un­fair so­ci­ety. There is noth­ing about the con­fer­ence to sug­gest that it will ad­dress the fact that mind­less ma­te­ri­al­ism rules the thoughts and ac­tions of our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers. Will they dis­cuss how come all our past lead­ers have been de­voutly re­li­gious yet haven’t been able to leave be­hind any pos­i­tive lega­cies in terms of a fairer so­ci­ety? Will the con­fer­ence de­ci­pher why with­out ex­cep­tion, all have failed to prac­tice the self­dis­ci­pline, tem­per­ance, tol­er­ance, and fair­ness in­her­ent in their reli­gions? It will be dif­fi­cult, if not im­pos­si­ble for the del­e­gates to ad­dress is­sues of fair­ness, be­cause they them­selves were not selected on a fair ba­sis. The ma­jor­ity of them are those who have spent their lives en­trench­ing un­fair­ness in our so­ci­ety and pros­pered from it. It’s un­fair that 75% of our pop­u­la­tion is aged un­der forty, yet the con­fer­ence is pre­dom­i­nantly pop­u­lated by del­e­gates over the age of sixty whose fu­ture, as some­one rightly pointed out, was yes­ter­day! It isn’t fair that govern­ment has no real foun­da­tion in the lives of cit­i­zens other than to ex­tort all sorts of taxes and levies with­out pro­vid­ing com­men­su­rate so­cial ser­vices.

Where is the fair­ness in po­lit­i­cal of­fice hold­ers driv­ing men­ac­ingly on the road and break­ing all traf­fic reg­u­la­tions, mis­us­ing pub­lic as­sets, and con­tribut­ing to the ob­scene cost of gov­er­nance? Where is the fair­ness in the failed an­ticor­rup­tion war? Surely it isn’t fair that de­spite our cre­ativ­ity, large un­tapped mar­kets and artis­tic tal­ents the sim­ple wield­ing of po­lit­i­cal power continues to be the most lu­cra­tive oc­cu­pa­tion in Nigeria? To be a fair so­ci­ety means that we as a na­tion must pro­vide for the min­i­mum com­fort of the least per­son amongst us. That is the start­ing point. Our con­sis­tent fail­ure to solve our prob­lems is be­cause we are not ready to be fair to­wards one an­other. Nigeria is a collection of proud and in­de­pen­dent peo­ples and king­doms who were made to sac­ri­fice their cul­ture and iden­tity to ac­com­mo­date the idea of “one Nigeria”. These dif­fer­ing peo­ples have yet to learn how to be fair to­wards one an­other. The size and cost of our govern­ment is un­fair. For years so­cioe­co­nomic ex­perts have been ad­vo­cat­ing a change in the ex­ist­ing un­wieldy po­lit­i­cal struc­ture and bu­reau­cracy in the coun­try in or­der to sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce re­cur­rent ex­pen­di­ture av­er­ag­ing at over 70%. Un­for­tu­nately the trend is to ex­pand govern­ment and ap­prove friv­o­lous ex­pen­di­ture.

The re­cent Oron­saye Re­port which, as usual, has been buried to gather dust, con­demned our overbloated govern­ment and rec­om­mended merg­ing many agencies whose func­tions over­lap as well as scrap­ping oth­ers which are un­nec­es­sary. It isn’t fair that Govern­ment of­fi­cials can budget bil­lions for their own re­mu­ner­a­tion, wel­fare, and en­ter­tain­ment but can­not find money to fund hos­pi­tals or ed­u­ca­tion. Re­cently Bri­tain’s The Econ­o­mist mag­a­zine high­lighted the dis­pro­por­tion­ate re­mu­ner­a­tion of our Min­is­ters, leg­is­la­tors and po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees and ex­pressed con­cern over the in­creas­ing cost of Nige­rian democ­racy. Com­ment­ing on the op­por­tu­nity costs, it pointed the un­fair­ness of mem­bers of the Na­tional As­sem­bly and min­is­ters be­ing paid more than their coun­ter­parts in ev­ery other African coun­try and be­ing amongst the high­est paid glob­ally. The real prob­lem we need to ad­dress is that our na­tion with its grow­ing class of in­do­lent mil­lion­aires cre­ated by govern­ment pa­tron­age, is be­com­ing a less car­ing and com­pas­sion­ate so­ci­ety and cit­i­zens are re­act­ing against the trend. Is it fair that four­teen years into our democ­racy pub­lic fi­nances re­main opaque and pub­lic funds mis­ap­plied as a mat­ter of course? How can it be fair that that leg­is­la­tor’s emol­u­ments have no bear­ing on the pro­file of the na­tional econ­omy and no cor­re­la­tion with the gen­eral wage struc­ture in the econ­omy? Is it fair that the Ju­di­ciary soft ped­als on cor­rup­tion and po­lit­i­cal cases, that plea bar­gain­ing and in­junc­tions are con­tin­u­ously used to frus­trate the cause of jus­tice, and that courts hand out hand puni­tive jail sen­tences to poor people while the rich go free? It cer­tainly isn’t fair that the Pres­i­dent trav­els all over the world with mas­sive del­e­ga­tions com­pris­ing gov­er­nors, min­is­ters, a corps of aides and me­dia per­son­nel as well as his wife and her ret­inue of hang­ers on. It isn’t pos­si­ble for a con­fer­ence to ad­dress all the ills of the na­tion but we need to ad­dress this pic­ture of a coun­try trag­i­cally with­out fo­cus. The aver­age Nige­rian is not a self­ish or heartless per­son but Nige­rian politi­cians have pol­luted the en­vi­ron­ment with their im­moral, self­ish be­hav­iour. It would be far more im­por­tant and ben­e­fi­cial if, in­stead of all the bel­li­cose pos­tur­ing, the del­e­gates con­cen­trated their ef­forts in en­sur­ing that we be­come a fairer and more car­ing so­ci­ety. Then ev­ery­thing else will take care of it­self.

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