The appropriate definition of “change” for the purpose of this article (and when it is used as a verb) is to “become altered or modified”. The alteration or modification usually takes place when there is a new impact, be it environment, challenges or exposure. For instance, some products change colour when they are exposed to sunlight.
Nigeria, as a nation, is due for a change. Our future and the future of the generation yet unborn cannot be guaranteed if we continue to do things as we are currently doing. We had, in the past few months, been inundated with flowery expressions by politicians that we are living in paradise as Nigerians. The incumbents – the president, the governors and other political office holders tell us how they have made the country so good that everything works! The aspirants make promises of what new ‘heaven’ they will turn Nigeria into, if elected. But we know the truth. We feel the pain in our everyday life. When we are told that all promises on power have been delivered, we know it is not true. We know that we still rely on our generators to power our offices and homes.
The choice to make
Currently, there is no particular political group that can be singled out as an outstanding agent of change. They all, to different degrees, have their hands soiled in the cesspool of decadence that has brought our country to its knees. Therefore, there is no very strong justification to choose one over the other as to who will bring the needed change that we want, the change that we truly deserve.
Unfortunately, we must make a choice. We must make a choice because that is what the constitution says. We must make a choice because that is the only way we can bring about the changes desired. For the incumbent, it is a straight line consideration. He has not, in the past six years, demonstrated enough capability to lead us to Eldorado. Is there any evidence that he has accepted this reality and is ready, like Mathieu Kerekou, to repent and turn things around? In what can we pin him down on his words? Will anything really change in the next four years if we vote for the current order?
This last question must be answered with the reality of the fact that President Jonathan, as a person, is no longer coming to ask for our votes. Is there any incentive for him to change to what we want: effective governance? Honestly, the probability of getting anything new by voting for the current order is very small. On the other side of the divide, there is really nothing fantastic to rejoice about. The only cheerful news from that quarter is the spartan life or disposition of candidate Buhari and the expectation that this will weigh heavily on his presidency. There is not so much other attributes in terms of management, economics or strategic skills that can make us bet all our life on this candidate. However, the definition of our change here is the alteration or modification of our national life. Therefore, we may be flying at a more comfortable altitude by taking this path.
We should not forget that what we change is 16 years of unpleasant story. At 72, I will not think that primordial acquisition of wealth that our leaders are famous for will be candidate Buhari’s pre-occupation. I think he means well for the country. I will cast my vote for him.
The change we need
Now, what are those changes that we want and that we richly deserve? Firstly, we really do not need anyone to tell us that we are living in a corrupt country. It is all around us. This is not just about the president and his ministers. The entire system stinks to high heavens. What is it that you can do in this in this country without having to pay something extra? To get driving licence, passport, motor vehicle plates and licences, post office key and ID cards, etc. We can go on and on and everybody pretends that things are normal. It is much bigger ‘at the top’ where there is much bigger cake to cut and share. Any time I hear or read that the federal government is spending billions of naira, my body shivers because I know we will not get any value that is commensurate with the amount mentioned.
We need a new style of leadership that will change our thinking and return our system to normalcy. We want to pass through customs and immigration at the airport without being harassed about ‘what did you bring for me?’ We want confidence to be restored in the entire value chain. We want officers who will not undertake the budget procedure for their selfish ends only. We want a new set of managers who will not sub-optimise the budget provisions year after year. To get this change, we need a new leader whose entire being will personify the attributes desired.
Secondly, the disposition (and orientation) of our political class to the populace is that of a master and servant. Once they assume a position of authority, they become untouchable, unreachable and unrealistic. Some of them see their new position as their inheritance bequeathed to them and, thus, behave as if tomorrow will never come. What we need are leaders who are conscious of the ephemeral nature of their power; leaders who have vision of a brighter tomorrow and are prepared to roll up their sleeves and work for it. We want leaders who will feel uncomfortable with the pervasive and abject poverty in the land. Leaders who have what it takes to impact the society positively. We do not need globe-trotting, siren-blaring, elitist and elusive leaders any more in this country. This is the change we want and the change we deserve.
Thirdly, most of our ministers are tactical in their approach to governance. They assume positions just to cut their “shares” of the national cake because their “time has come”. There is no deep thought about the tasks to be accomplished or the results expected. We need strategic managers as ministers in the various ministries; ministers, who will properly define their purpose, map out plans and execute flawlessly to produce results. We need ministers who will be conscious of their positive impact(s) on the nation during their tenure. For instance, we need a health minister who will properly segment the health sector and design development and growth paths for each of the segment. In the pharmaceutical segment, we need a minister who will come up with a master plan for full optimisation of the nation’s pharmaceutical resources. We need a minister who will take Nigeria to the height that the likes of India and other forward looking nations are currently are. We need a minister who will accept responsibility for ending the recurring and destructive acrimony among the different cadres of health care workers. This is the change we need, the change we deserve.
Fourthly, there are too many unemployed people in the land. As you move through the traffic every day, you see them lining the streets, with distress and hopelessness written on their faces. We need to get jobs for them – I mean REAL jobs, not the propaganda stuff that cannot be touched. We need to encourage the manufacturing sector to work. When the factories are working, people will get jobs. The operating environment must be made conducive for manufacturing. Our current imports-laden taste bud is only improving the economies of other countries and providing jobs for their citizens. In the pharmaceutical sector, 70 per cent of our national consumption is imported. Local manufacturing is not very attractive due to high cost of operation and low patronage. We can make it work with the right leadership focussed on making things work. This is the change that we need and that which we richly deserve.
Furthermore, countries like Canada and the USA are running innovative programmes to encourage people from different nations to come and contribute to their development. These countries thrive on the diversity of their societies. In Nigeria, the cleavages are palpable. We are a country and not a nation. We are comfortable only with people from our ethnic group and treat others with suspicion. The current political debates have been tilted along the ethnic divides and no rational argument can be articulated without someone pointing fingers at your face. We need a national leader who can unite this country. We need to see ourselves as Nigerians and the quick resort to ethnic origins must stop. The country is too divided. The change we want is that which will unite this country and make us stronger.
In addition, there must be a way to hold the public office holders accountable for their actions and inactions while in office. We must come up with fool-proof and transparent criteria to measure service delivery. Every election must be a reward time. If you do well, you will be rewarded with re-election. Otherwise, you will be voted out and this will serve as a lesson and performance template for others to follow.
Most importantly, without security of lives and properties, nothing can be achieved. Nigeria must not be left to the whims and caprices of the criminal elements in our midst. There must be adequate security for all and sundry. No one should live in fear as this will emasculate creativity. Undesirable elements or groups must not be allowed to blossom. Political thugs must be re-educated and rehabilitated. The society must show enough concern for the less privileged and prevent them from embracing crime as a way of life.
We can start by pursuing excellence at the basics. Let us be truthful and deliver on promises made. Let us eschew bitterness and embrace love of others at all times. Let us hold our leaders accountable for the resources under their care. Let us work together to build a great nation. Then, we will have the change we want and the change we deserve.