Nigeria is beset by two twin ailments which have become a cancer in her soul – Iniquity & Inequity. Iniquity is a continuing breakdown of law & order and inequity connotes a lack of justice for the average citizen.
Over the years, the problems that have come to define our country’s image include 419, Yahoo Yahoo, Terrorism, Sporadic Power Supply, Decaying Infrastructure, Corruption, Kidnapping, Degraded Education, Lack of Job Opportunities, Lack of Finance for Fledgling Businesses – the list goes on and on. But, my argument is that these things are just symptoms of a deepening disease. The disease can be traced to just two things: Iniquity & Inequity.
If our law enforcement agencies worked, for instance (the Police, Customs, Judiciary, Military etc.), corruption would have immediate consequences. As long as crime continues to pay; 419, kidnapping and the like will proliferate. It’s a simple economic concept – when output exceeds input, you have a thriving enterprise. The minute the consequence for a crime far outweighs the crime itself, and when that consequence is consistently and equitably meted out, the crime will reduce.
Today, we have law enforcement agents that are so poorly trained and motivated, that they do not give a damn about offences. We have disparate national databases, a limited fingerprint registry and no forensics department worth writing about. Criminals can disappear across state borders without getting caught. With the right amounts of money, you can ease the passage of any type of package across Nigeria. Suspicious characters can bring in explosives registered to construction companies in containers, and then clear them through customs. Embassies can bring in weapons (like Iranian diplomats allegedly did for Boko Haram terrorists). Fertilizers can be imported en masse by agricultural concerns and then used to make bombs with little oversight. A West African can easily get a Nigerian passport from the Immigration Service for a pittance, commit a crime in Europe, dump his Nigerian passport and then travel home with a passport from his actual country of origin.
Interestingly, it’s the weakness of our national databases that limits the ability of entrepreneurs to get loans. Without verifiable credit history, there can be no leases or mortgages. While we have a fledgling credit bureau system, we don’t have a foolproof way of tracking people’s addresses, assets or identities. Checking job histories or Youth Service records is cumbersome and ineffective, as a deposed Minister has taught us.
I once heard of a bank that offers a low-interest facility to the staff of some blue chip corporations. The corporations take on the burden of “vetting” their staff for creditworthiness. If the staff members default, the organisation’s corporate relationship with the bank stands at risk (and perhaps future corporate credit lines). With a lot riding on their “vetting” process, I’m not sure many staff will get the clearance required to access the loans. Or perhaps their gratuities or pension funds will be used as “collateral”.
On the education front, Nigeria’s cancer of iniquity is widespread as parents aid their children in cheating on exams. Government officials embezzle monies meant for classrooms; teachers fail to show up for work and face no consequence.
Injustice is bred as we fail to practice true federalism. States are prevented from keeping the bulk of what they produce while remitting only what is necessary to run the federal government. They are also prevented from taking charge of their destinies and so, our states remain noncompetitive. Religious and ethnic violence are rarely dealt with, impartially. Crimes against vulnerable groups are ignored. There are scant social safety nets for the poor, aged and mentally unsound and many Nigerians die like cockroaches. We do not protect intellectual property rights and creative endeavour is cheapened. In our society, you are only assured of basic services and rights when you are a “Big Man”. The concepts of service, self-esteem, individuality and self-respect seem to have been bludgeoned to death by our law enforcement agencies, particularly the military.
We have failed to foster a national unity and identity that takes into consideration our diversity. We have tried to build a nation without recognising individual tribes and without apologising for historic atrocities to ensure forgiveness.
In light of our many problems, here are my solutions for creating a Nigeria we can be very proud of.
Instituting True Federalism and Constitutional Reform: I would push for a more equitable distribution of resources. That way, each state can create a viable domestic economy and all states can lead the charge in national economic diversification and export. This would ease some of the ethnic tension around marginalisation. I would also support state Police to beef up internal security.
Revamping Our Law Enforcement Agencies: I would focus on welfare first. I would demand signed but undated letters of resignation from officials in charge of law enforcement agencies. Then, I would give them timelines for implementing robust internal welfare structures for the people in their care. I would happily jail anyone who steals their pay. As per corruption within those agencies, I would institute the stiffest penalties and ensure public shame. In terms of training, I would ensure aggressive skills transfer from international counterparts.
Developing a Cross-Referenced National Records Database: If you commit a crime, you will be caught because our disparate national databases will be interlinked and cross-referenced. I would sponsor robust forensic units in each state and link them to the databases. I would empower credit bureaus and encourage long term leases and credit lines. And, I will ensure the stiffest penalties for the misuse of data.
Encouraging National Dialogue: I would encourage different Nigerian groups to talk to one another, with trained professional moderators. I would ask us to admit the mistakes of the past and declassify important historical records. I would document long buried but relevant national history so that we may never again forget the lessons of the past and together, can design our collective future.
Thank you for reading.Nigeria is beset by two twin ailments which have become a cancer in her soul – Iniquity & Inequity. Here are my solutions. Click To Tweet