What Can be Done in Four Years

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One thing I pride my­self in, if I have to say so my­self, is the abil­ity to be real­is­tic. I al­ways have big dreams, some of them Utopian, but I also al­ways pro­ceed with real­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions. For in­stance — and I have said this so of­ten that I my­self am get­ting bored — no pres­i­dent can trans­form or change Nige­ria dra­mat­i­cally in four years. I have said this a mil­lion times. I dream of a Nige­ria where clean water flows in ev­ery nook and cranny, where elec­tric­ity shines bright round the clock, where health­care is top-class and ad­e­quate, where the roads are smooth, where most peo­ple have jobs, and where crime rate is neg­li­gi­ble — but I am real­is­tic enough to know that these things take time.

I would not ex­pect any pres­i­dent to wean Nige­ria off petrodol­lars in four years. We rely on oil rev­enue for over 90% of our forex Even if we are short-staffed, we can bring earn­ings and as much as 70% of na­tional in doc­tors from In­dia, Pak­istan and Cuba ex­pen­di­ture. It would be noth­ing short of while we work hard at fill­ing the gaps and magic to re­duce de­pen­dency on petrodol­lars pro­duc­ing our own doc­tors and spe­cial­ists to 49% within four years. I am real­is­tic enough for the fu­ture. I can’t see any se­ri­ous pol­icy to know that it would take con­sis­tency in in that di­rec­tion. I may be wrong. plan­ning and im­ple­ment­ing sound poli­cies Two, will it take a thou­sand years to re­form over a pe­riod of time for us to be able to and mod­ernise the po­lice force and make it grow the al­ter­na­tives to oil and di­ver­sify our more ef­fi­cient to tackle com­mon crimes and sources of rev­enue. Let us not ar­gue about se­cure our com­mu­ni­ties? As things stand, that. But some things can be achieved within only the rich are fairly safe. I use those words four years — the min­i­mum length of ten­ure de­lib­er­ately be­cause, in truth, even the rich of Nige­rian pres­i­dents and gover­nors. are not that safe in Nige­ria, just that they are

In­deed, some things are so straight­for­ward safer than the poor be­cause they have the — they can be tack­led sig­nif­i­cantly by any means to pur­chase se­cu­rity. They have siren leader in the short run. It is all in the mind. and bul­let-proof ve­hi­cles and fortresses and It is about com­mit­ment and de­ter­mi­na­tion, po­lice es­corts for per­sonal safety, but they driven by vision and pas­sion. My in­ten­tion live in an un­safe so­ci­ety and are con­stantly to­day is to list four of such things, with spe­cific look­ing over their shoul­ders. They feel safer fo­cus on how they can im­pact on the lives in their man­sions in Europe where there is of the ordinary Nige­ri­ans — not the obese nei­ther fence nor po­lice es­cort. That’s true elite. With a pop­u­la­tion of nearly 200 mil­lion, se­cu­rity. Nige­ria of­fers a tragic ex­am­ple of a coun­try I again con­cede that com­mon crimes are where the elite en­joy all the good­ies and the best tack­led with eco­nomic pros­per­ity. When mas­sive ma­jor­ity of the peo­ple are left to the hu­man be­ing can meet ba­sic needs and is wal­low in stink­ing poverty. It is one coun­try gain­fully en­gaged in earn­ing an in­come, the where cit­i­zens are pre­sented with bud­gets of pull of crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties is not as ap­peal­ing bil­lions of dol­lars ev­ery year yet their lives as when the in­di­vid­ual is idle. And to ban­ish are not less wretched. poverty is not a four-year job. It takes much

What can be done in four years? One, we longer. I wouldn’t ar­gue oth­er­wise. How­ever, can re­mark­ably re­vive, re­vamp and ex­pand our what would it take to re­form the po­lice for med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties within that pe­riod. What are bet­ter per­for­mance within the cir­cum­stances the ma­jor prob­lems? I would say in­suf­fi­cient that we have found our­selves? What would it bed space, lack of ba­sic drugs, in­ad­e­quate take to equip ma­jor cities with CCTV cam­eras, equip­ment, poor emer­gency response and pro­vide the po­lice with mod­ern lo­gis­ti­cal over­worked and un­der-mo­ti­vated per­son­nel, back­bone, and in­cen­tivise them to be proud par­tic­u­larly doc­tors. How long will it take to of wear­ing the uni­form? cre­ate ad­di­tional bed space? How long will Will it cost an eye and a leg to set up a it take to pro­vide drugs? How long will it world-class foren­sic lab for the po­lice so that take to buy equip­ment? You may find this they can solve crimes in mod­ern ways? In hard to be­lieve, but it won’t take up to one Nige­ria to­day, the fin­ger­prints and pass­port-size thou­sand years. Any pres­i­dent or gover­nor pho­to­graphs of most crim­i­nals have been can sig­nif­i­cantly ex­pand and equip gen­eral cap­tured sev­eral times — through driver’s hos­pi­tals within one year. It’s the pas­sion li­cence, BVN, in­ter­na­tional pass­port, na­tional that is of­ten miss­ing. ID, SIM reg­is­tra­tion, pop­u­la­tion cen­sus,

We can’t pro­duce all the doc­tors and per­ma­nent voter cards and so on and so spe­cial­ists we need in four years, I know forth. Yet these data are mean­ing­less as far that very much. It takes an av­er­age of six as fight­ing and re­solv­ing crimes is con­cerned. years to train a doc­tor. So it takes time. But I do not think it will take a mil­lion years what are we do­ing to train enough doc­tors to put these ba­sic tools in place to help the to meet our needs? Have we come up with po­lice com­bat crimes in a coun­try where any poli­cies to fill the per­son­nel gap? Are pop­u­la­tion is ex­plod­ing by the minute. We we of­fer­ing enough in­cen­tives, in form of are too ar­chaic in our polic­ing. schol­ar­ships and en­hanced work­ing con­di­tions, Three, the av­er­age Nige­rian cit­i­zen feels to at­tract more hands to the med­i­cal field? voice­less and pow­er­less — and it would not

THISDAY News­pa­pers Lim­ited. take a mil­lion years to put ba­sic pro­cesses and pro­ce­dures in place to make them have a sense of be­long­ing. Democ­racy is noth­ing if it does not serve the ma­jor­ity of the peo­ple who troop out to vote ev­ery four years. A po­lice of­fi­cer will slap a bus con­duc­tor and that is the end of the mat­ter. Peo­ple do not have a real­is­tic way of seek­ing re­dress. A sol­dier will whiplash a de­fence­less cit­i­zen and that is it. Most Nige­ri­ans do not even be­lieve they have a right to com­plain or seek re­dress. I have not spo­ken about un­law­ful ar­rests and de­ten­tions and ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings. That one is a long thing.

What would it take to en­er­gise the nec­es­sary gov­ern­ment bod­ies to tackle hu­man rights in­frac­tions? How can Nige­ri­ans eas­ily lodge com­plaints with in­de­pen­dent bod­ies and get jus­tice? Why should cit­i­zens feel so help­less in their own coun­try? If an­ar­chy was more fan­ci­ful, why then should we have a gov­ern­ment? I am ut­terly sad­dened when­ever I see the tor­ture se­cu­rity agen­cies visit upon lowly Nige­ri­ans daily. Any pres­i­dent that is go­ing to touch the lives of Nige­ri­ans and make them feel like hu­man be­ings must pay at­ten­tion to pro­mot­ing and pro­tect­ing their rights. It can hap­pen within four years. The gov­ern­ment must pro­tect the peo­ple’s right to dig­nity.

Four, and this per­tains to gover­nors in par­tic­u­lar, we can ad­dress the water and san­i­ta­tion prob­lems with short-term mea­sures. Ev­ery year, we ex­pe­ri­ence cholera out­breaks in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties sim­ply be­cause there is no clean water. The un­san­i­tary con­di­tions also make poor peo­ple vul­ner­a­ble to in­fec­tions and dis­eases, al­though Gover­nor Ab­du­laziz Yari of Zam­fara would rather blame it on for­ni­ca­tion. Will it take more than four years for a gover­nor to sink bore­holes and save poor cit­i­zens from drink­ing from pol­luted streams? When I was a kid, there were san­i­tary in­spec­tors that made sure even our pots were hy­gienic. Will it take a thou­sand years to bring this back? My an­swer is no.

Some­one is read­ing this and say­ing “it is eas­ier said than done” — and this is how we mys­tify things in Nige­ria. We make sim­ple things look in­tri­cate, as if paint­ing class­rooms is as task­ing as per­form­ing brain surgery. What is the big deal? Is it rocket sci­ence to erect ex­tra build­ings for gen­eral hos­pi­tals and buy equip­ment from Ger­many and the US? What is so spe­cial about sink­ing bore­holes in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties to tackle yearly cholera out­breaks? What is ex­tra­or­di­nary about set­ting up a foren­sic lab for the po­lice and in­stalling CCTV cam­eras at strate­gic lo­ca­tions? We mys­tify no-brain­ers. That is why gover­nors get chief­taincy ti­tles for build­ing a cul­vert.

I can list at least 50 things that can be achieved by any de­ter­mined pres­i­dent or gover­nor within four years. I am not say­ing Nige­ria would not be­come South Korea in four years, or eight years, or even 16 years. I am not preach­ing magic here. But if we can­not do the “com­pli­cated” things — such as as­sem­bling cars and mo­bile phones and get­ting the re­finer­ies to work (we’ve been burn­ing forex on fuel im­por­ta­tion since 1996, I reckon) — what is so so­phis­ti­cated about buy­ing drugs for the hos­pi­tals? I re­peat: there are a mil­lion and one things a gover­nor or pres­i­dent can do to make life less mis­er­able for the ordinary Nige­ri­ans with four years. It is about vision, pas­sion and pri­or­ity.

Yari, Zam­fara state gover­nor

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