Leading a country like Nigeria is widely-known to be a herculean task, not only because of inherited perennial challenges but also because of the diverse nature of our nationhood. The Nigeria extraction is a confluence of religious, ethnic, ideological and socio-cultural differences. Before I highlight some things that needs to be done to make our nation work, it is important to first establish that a nation’s existence is a product of the will of a people; therefore, the task of building a nation is in the hands of the people, it is a deliberate collective effort that takes a period of time since a nation is not a product of happenstance.
A nation is first established along a given political territory bound by certain rules and norms which are generally acceptable. The second is the existence of critical institutions such as a police force, universities, an economy, a civil service and so on. By inference, the fulcrum of building a nation is in its institutions. The first task at hand for the incoming administration led by General Muhammadu Buhari is to strengthen the institutions in our country, massive elaborate reforms must be made and this includes the area of education which is lagging behind at the moment, most Nigerian students prefer to study abroad either for undergraduate or postgraduate study. It is quite worrisome that neighbouring Ghana is now a haven for so many Nigerian students, it was also declared recently that Nigeria tops the population of international students in the United States. One may assume it is an indication of a wider middle class and a more prosperous citizenry who can afford a foreign education; but in reality, it is a clear reflection of a decaying educational system, teachers must be trained periodically. I recommend a licensing process for teachers just like every other profession like law, medicine and accounting. This will also add some prestige to the teaching profession. Other sectors that needs to be strengthened is the judiciary, there must be zero interference with the judiciary in the discharge of their duties, specialised courts must be expanded and the law schools must be very thorough.
Security is also vital, the police and paramilitary forces should be retrained in line with the world’s best practices, the issue of a policeman shooting an innocent civilian and the indiscriminate mounting of roadblocks by unidentifiable men in uniform is appalling. There should be a new rule of engagement between civilians and the police, a policeman must be able to show his identity and perfect his way of interrogation. Community policing is another aspect that could be looked into for better security, it is also important for the military to be better equipped and consistently reinforced by regularly recruiting new combatants into the forces. A ratio system is highly recommended, a policeman to every 10 citizen will effectively provide the basic security presence needed within an area, this will also allow the government to effectively allot security personnel according to the population of each state. Looking at the current ratio, it is alarming, and Nigeria needs to massively recruit more men into the force. Better remuneration and incentives should be provided for military men to reduce or eradicate bribery and corruption of force men.
Secondly, corruption has cut really deep into the Nigerian system. First of all, there should be a fresh reappraisal of officials at various levels and the penalty for corrupt practices broadened, effective laws binding on all private and public organization should also be put in place to allow for optimum accountability. Technology is also a great tool to reduce corrupt practices, when special systems are built, it will be difficult for individuals to engage in corrupt practices. The reason why a person would think twice before committing a crime in an advanced country is because he knows that the system in place would block him and if he happens to be successful, the system in place would catch him. Therefore, Nigeria must launch a fresh anti-corruption master plan and improve technology.
Thirdly, the task of nation building is also an engineering process. Proper infrastructure gets the economy running; they are essential constituents that determine the quality of life of a people. New roads should be constructed, alternative means of transportation developed, clean accessible water should be provided and constant electricity available. A basic developmental framework is highly-recommended, this is where the basic requirements that gets a city or town functioning are highlighted and efforts are to be made to build new cities and upgrade existing ones, it is also important to have the welfare and happiness of the people at the background and this includes recreation. A framework could consist of advanced waterworks, power plants, roads, a conference centre, museum, stadium and so on, some town have these while some do not, the idea is to improve the quality of life of every citizen irrespective of location, there should be a basic common developmental framework for every city and town in the country. A man should be able to visit a museum in Potiskum and be sure to find a museum in Warri while carrying out his anthropological research, culture is preserved and education is improved, an example of the benefit of a basic developmental framework.
To build Nigeria, it is also important to be an effective global player. Nigeria earned her mantra as the “Giant of Africa” not only because of her population and oil wealth but because of her role in international politics, Nigeria assisted South Africa during their days of apartheid, assisted Namibia to gain independence and played important roles in preserving West African democracies. For Nigeria to remain an important nation, we must continue to tow this path, it is unfortunate that Nigeria’s global reputation is really bad at the moment, we need to build from the scratch in this aspect, this backlog is heavily telling on Nigerian citizens abroad, the respect Nigerians used to enjoy in the past in almost absent. Nigeria should not wait for a crisis in another nation before becoming a global participant, it begins with strengthening our embassies and high commissions abroad, some are currently redundant, the presence of Nigeria must be felt in every nation, a programme should be handed to embassies to implement in their respective countries and adequate funds should be provided, some embassies are literally non-functional or even into oblivion at the moment, nothing stops a Nigerian embassy from having a cultural programme for their host country or a department to run a Nigerian market or restaurant to cater for her citizens abroad for instance. There are so many things an embassy can do that can make the nation’s presence felt abroad and for Nigerians abroad to feel protected and at home. Our biggest export is our nollywood movies for instance, that is where rebranding Nigeria’s image starts from, it is the sacred responsibility of the embassies to promote the nation and this aspect has not been harnessed at all. The incoming government has the task of assigning real tasks to the embassies abroad if Nigeria wants to be a real global player.
Furthermore, national orientation is needed for the people, we need to be patriotic as a nation, we should develop a concept of a Nigerian spirit. The Nigerian mentality has a negative undertone which is not meant to be. We should recall at this point that a nation is a product of human will and imagination, it is also a collection of agreed norms and ways of life. Our way of life as a people needs to be re-evaluated, the entire populace needs to be aggressively sensitised on what is and what is not. It is very possible, it was possible when ebola was diagnosed within the nation’s territory, it is the same process and level of sensitisation that is needed to put Nigerian’s attitude right; however, it must be a continuous process. Values and virtues of nationhood must be fully enmeshed into the psychic of the nation’s populace, it becomes a habit and then it forms the character of the people. The educational system plays a vital role in this aspect, the exclusion of history in the school’s curriculum is just a very major mistake or decision a government can make. History when it was part of school’s curriculum was not really grounded, the next best thing is to find ways of making it more attractive and lucrative and not to scrap it. The solution to headache is not to cut off the head, history must be brought back to schools, it is the child’s first encounter with her nation, the study of history is where the sense of patriotism is developed.
Finally, the right policies must be put in place. There is no limit to the policies the government can put in place to make a nation stand. As development, trends and technology improve, policies must improve along too in order to meet the needs of the time, this makes policy review crucial. The first step is to reorganise Nigeria’s political system because it is the bane of policy-making, policies and politics go hand-in-hand. With the right politicians, we can have the right politics. Other areas that require political reform include agriculture and natural resources, education, power, labour, welfare, immigration and sports. Unemployment for instance is a major problem, many youths are roaming the streets, some are degree holders and others do not have the funds to start their own enterprise. The government must begin to show the desire to own and run institutions, privatisation is a good idea but is not automatically the best, it is ok for the government to build industries and outsource them, it creates a favourable value chain. The logic is that people work in firms and if more work is needed then more firms are to be created. One of the government’s surest solutions to unemployment is to build firms where people will work, there cannot be wastages because every excess of a nation is an opportunity for export. The incoming national leadership should harness the resources of every state and build industries and invest in the service sector too, the government can own hotels or run ferries for instance and also build cement plants, there will be jobs and the service and industrial sectors would be thriving concurrently with government having favourable stakes that can run the economy. A central national job portal is a good way for making Nigerians know where to find and apply for jobs created by the government. Government must not leave its sacred duty in the hands of private individuals; it will only widen the gap between the rich and the poor.
No nation can exist in isolation and it is the duty of the people to develop their country by entrusting their desires in the hands of credible leaders. Nigeria must remain a global player internationally, develop her infrastructure, put adequate policies in place and develop new systems for tackling her problems. It is important to state that investment in research and development in all or atleast critical sectors of the economy will make Nigeria a continental forerunner. A sense of patriotism is crucial for citizens to be able to cooperate with the government and these and many more tasks are ahead of the incoming administration to achieve. Together, we can build a Nigeria where things work.
– Written by Bolu’ Michael-Biyi