Monday, June 10, 2013

What President Obama wants from Nigeria By Abimbola Lagunju

Recent news carried the oncoming June / July itinerary of President Barack Obama’s visit to sub-Sahara Africa. To the dismay of millions of Nigerians, Nigeria was again left out of Mr. President’s plans, despite being home to “Africa’s largest political party” and notwithstanding the rebranding slogan of “great nation, good people”. Neither is the “Centenary” celebration an attractive pretext.

As is the case for many other things in Nigeria, each of the several million dismayed, either as individuals or small groups has their own motives for their disenchantment. And as usual and because, public-interest individuals or groups are routinely labeled public enemies, these motives are founded, on what we call here, “self-interests”. Nigeria is essentially a collection of fragments of rampaging competing conflicting self-interests, where the notion of “public interest” is not only alien but considered self-destructive.

Under the drive of “self interests”, mountains can be moved in Nigeria. If Mr. Obama had been a Nigerian, he would have made a lot of money for a few minutes’ visit to Nigeria from several self-interests individuals and groups. These groups and individuals would have sent huge “Ghana must go” bags laden with any currency that catches the President’s fancy to his hotel round the clock to “settle” him or to “carry him along” to visit the country. He could even bag one oil-block or two and become an “oil magnate” for a few minutes job. And his aides would have benefitted immensely too. The political philosophy of “everyone has a price” as instituted by one of the nation’s previous presidents has gained an unshakeable foothold. Here we do not talk of bribes and corruption. The words do not exist in our national lexicon. Their place has been permanently taken by words and phrases like “settle”, “see”, “carry along”, “PR”. And because these words and phrases have not yet been criminalized as is the case with “bribery” and “corruption”, and because the English thesaurus has not synonymized these words with criminal acts, the pursuers of self interests do not see anything wrong with buying out their way to achieve their goals.

Unfortunately for all these self-interest individuals and groups Mr. Obama cannot be “settled”, he cannot be “seen” nor “carried along” in order to make a visit to Nigeria. What Mr. Obama wants, they do not have, and as the saying goes, “you cannot give what you do not have” and in this case, they do not have it, neither can they buy it.

What does Obama want that Nigeria does not have?

President Obama will like to see a Nigeria where public interests override self-serving interests among the political class.

Obama will like to see the reintroduction of the words “bribery” and “corruption” into the lexicon of our national life.

Obama will like to see the criminalization of words and phrases like “settle”, “see”, “carry along”, “PR” in the corporate and public conduct.

Obama will like to see responsible leadership and not arrogant rulership.

He will like to see responsible followership where the leadership is held accountable, either for its promises or for its actions or inactions.

Obama will like to see functional institutions of the state that serve the state and not individuals.

He will like to see a responsible legislature where genuine public interests bills are debated and passed into law; and where these bills do not die under the weight of bags of money stuffed into “honourables’ “ cubicles in the name of self interest.

Obama will like to see transparent elections where two and two make four and not twenty-two.

Obama will like to see a democracy in Nigeria and not royalty-like comportment of elected officials of the state. I am sure he will like to see less number of cars in the convoys of these officials and only one or two cars in the convoys of their “first ladies”.

Obama will like to see transparency in governance and not a mafia-like assembly.

Obama will like to see a situation where Nigerian lives are not wasted under ethnic, political or religious pretexts. He will like to see a nation where each life counts and is protected.

Obama will like to see a Nigerian Police Service (not Force) trained and versed in human rights and respect of law.

Obama will like to see a judiciary where justice is not for sale and where due punishments are meted out to all criminals small and big.

Obama will like to see a functional public health system where the interest of the patient is paramount and lives are saved, not wasted.

Obama will like to see an educational system that produces top quality and employable graduates at all levels of the educational system.

Obama will like Nigerians to have electricity and not kilowatts verbosity.

Obama will like Nigerians to have potable water and not polluted well-water.

Obama will like Nigerians to have good roads and not pothole-ridden deathtraps.

Obama will like to see a Nigeria guided by vision and steered towards greatness under responsible successive leaderships.

President Obama is not asking for too much. If we had these basic things, he probably would have visited this country on more than just one occasion that we are craving.

How can a nation get it so wrong?

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