What Can be Done in Four Years
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