Last week’s twitter feud between Governor Nasir el-Rufai and Senator Ben Murray-Bruce on whose administration brought the standard- light- rail from Abuja to Kaduna was, uncomfortably, hilarious. While el-Rufai gives the credit to former President Obasanjo’s government, of which the governor was part and parcel, Senator Bruce loudly showers immense adoration on his political benefactor, former President Jonathan Goodluck, for the project. The word “uncomfortable” is inserted above because, if at this age of our national underdevelopment, these political heavy- weights are submerged in the illusion that the railway project is such a milestone achievement, worthy of such a dispute, then we are, as a nation, truly unfortunate.
If the newly introduced trains are better than the old, renovated coaches, the minister of transport alone can take a ride with journalists and their cameras to spread the breaking news that semi-modern trains, capable of 160Km speed are ready for use on Kaduna rail tracks. This is not an achievement. A country like Kenya, which is less endowed in natural resources, has been operating more modern trains from Nairobi to the rest of that country for more than five years. The serviceable railways exceed 2000 kilometres, with ongoing expansion by the Chinese. The government of Uhuru Kenyatta casually mentioned it during one of last year’s election campaigns. Indeed, expanding the railways to every part of Kenya is a worthy performance, but it is not such a big -deal that the President would ride on a train to impress his compatriots that “we have brought the most, hitherto, unachievable development” to our country.
Our leaders should not engage in empty rhetoric on mediocrity. Nigeria is lagging behind in every facet of economic and social development and, the fact remains that the crop of its current leadership is unable to drive home the desired aspirations of the populace. What is the essence of blowing one’s trumpet, when glaringly, nothing has been achieved? Nigerians deserve better than what the series of administrations have offered. There is nothing to show that with a new President of Nigeria, attitudes, behaviours, and performance will improve. The hope of every Nigerian is dashed once elections have been concluded and the actors mount the stage to exhibit their poor premiership skills.
It has become a norm that even the most revered professionals dump their profession to engage in politics; where get-rich syndrome drives social values. This is exactly the point I want to express in this narrative, the moral of this article.
A prognosis of our political climate does indicate the various wolves and hyenas that clamour around for some form of government jobs; appointment as ministers, directors-general, directors, permanent secretaries and so forth, leaving their areas of core competence to rot. How do we brighten the future of Nigeria if professionals, primordially and parochially, are comfortable with unrelated to profession government appointments because of available funds to steal? What is most absurd is, when they have stolen so much from the treasury, it becomes difficult for them to return to their profession to groom the younger generation. This is an endless circle which we have witnessed over and over again to the detriment of economic growth and well-being of the people.
Two weeks ago, the long- awaited list of board appointments to federal ministries, agencies, and departments was published to the delight of politicians and other Nigerians craving government offices. It is disheartening that seasoned professionals, Doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects, and so forth, irritatingly scrambled through pages of newspapers for a rare luck of making the list. The quest to get appointed by a government in power is how diminished our values have become.
Nation building requires putting round pegs in round holes, when opportunities abound, but not at the detriment of merit. Meritocracy should be at the fore of every appointment into government offices, party loyalty or not. The developed nations of the world quickly realized that for a steady economic growth, mediocrity must be relegated behind meritocracy. Nigeria cannot tread further from our present economic malaise without shedding nepotism, mediocrity, ethnicity, religion, and other self-defeating vices currently in our DNA.
If government is a continuum, then, there should be congeniality. Why the argument of whose government conceived the idea to reactivate the Abuja-Kaduna rail? Why should Nigerians idolize any government that has brought sheer misery to the polity?
The euphoria associated with the renovation of the Nnamdi Azikiwe airport runway last year is another delusion of our narrow-mindedness. No one, to date, has dared to ask the actual cost of the resurfacing project. Nothing extra ordinary has happened to the runway other than mere resurfacing, yet jubilations and self-serving ovation overwhelmed the Minister of State for Aviation and his team. The Nnamdi Azikiwe runway renovation embedded other ancillary projects: completion of Kaduna airport terminal building, and Kaduna- Abuja highway. But it is interesting to note that as of this writing, the Kaduna airport terminal building is uncompleted, and the Abuja-Kaduna highway has become worse than it was prior to the asphalt patches– within a span of one year.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), over 85 million Nigerians (workforce) are unemployed. The term workforce means people who are capable, willing and able to work; therefore, as of today, about 47 per cent of Nigeria’s population is unemployed. The demographic shows that more than 70 per cent of Nigerians are below the age of 40. This means a dire situation for this country.
The issue at hand here is what is the benchmark to use in a government’s performance? Should we simply accept below -average as the optimum grade to evaluate a government in power? Where should we start from, and which country of the world should be our benchmark? On the other hand, should we base our grading system on the previous administrations, if yes, which past government is worthy of this feat?
All sectors of Nigeria’s economy are in a chronic mess. If we take education for analysis, it is obvious to any rational Nigerian that we have fared woefully in the current standard of education and its derived products. The half-baked university graduates we produce these days cannot take Nigeria to any level higher than the current state. In health- care services, even the President of Nigeria has lost faith in our domestic hospitals, private or government. In the power sector, privatization has brought more misery than hope. In the general economy of the country, there is no sign that the private sector, the major determinant of a nation’s economic growth will survive at the current bank interest rate of about 30 per cent. Obviously, discounting the dollar to leverage accessibility of foreign currency for importers of goods and services cannot be viewed as the most favourable monetary policy to spur economic progress.
The ultimate hard-truth is that no government, not even President Buhari’s administration of today, can confidently figure out the way forward for Nigeria’s emancipation from the lingering economic doldrums.
Without a credible opposition to this administration, there is no contention that Nigeria will remain in limbo for a long while. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has not been able to get its act together because the cancerous Nigerian factors— greed, selfishness, and extreme disregard for law and order have obscured party members’ views.
If the government in power and those associated with it cannot see the derogatory position of things as narrated above, and with no feasible access to credit by the private sector to stimulate economic activities, the future of Nigeria remains gravely precarious.