November 14, 2009

Before we join the 20, in 2020


THERE is nothing wrong in visioning. Good leaders often have a vision of how they intend to leave the country different from how they met it. But there is a catch here; visions have to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound. I will leave you to conclude if our vision 20, 2020 conforms to some or all of the above. I will dwell on one aspect of visioning; the area that says it has to be measurable. We have to be able to say we are almost there, or that we are about to be there or that we are finally there as we count down to 2020. Let’s take a few cases. Before we join the 20, we have to look back to the era when we were at par with some of those in the present 20; that was before the locust descended on our dear native land, Nigeria. Take the health sector for instance. The general hospitals were properly run. Patients had hospital clothes given to them on admission. There were beddings, side cupboards all marked with the hospital initials. They were clinically clean and the beddings were changed regularly. These created jobs for the laundries, cleaners, carpenters and even welders who made the hospital beds. The nurses took care of the patients who did not have to stay with their relations in the hospitals. These created jobs for the ward maids. The nurses then did not shout and curse the hapless patients for not providing bandages and hypodermic needles! Before we join the 20, our leaders should stop telling us that there are no jobs because there are jobs and work begging to be done. Our health workers go to the 20 abroad and do the work that we refused to do at home, at eight  dollars or less an hour.

Before we join the 20, take a look at our hygiene level and you will think we are a little better than pigs on two legs. If you travel to Port Harcourt from Warri on the East-West Road, you will come to a place called Mbiama. Take a look at the women sitting on top of filth selling food items including meat and vegetables spread on the filthy swamp on flimsy cellophane sheets. If you look under the meat tables, where there are tables at all, you will never eat any food prepared with items from that market! This situation is replicated all over the country. Before the others left us to be among the 20, we used to have sanitary inspectors who went round to the villages to check on the hygiene of the people. They checked their toilets, their environments, the eating houses, the abattoirs, the drinking parlours, etc. Today, there are teeming numbers of school leavers who can do these jobs with little training and yet our leaders tell us there are no jobs. The few sanitary inspectors we have today sit at home and wait for the butchers to bring them choice meat; the food-is-ready vendors send them their protection money and life goes on. The governors scream past these places daily in their wailing sirens and pretend that they are shielded from the scum with the tinted glasses of their gleaming SUVs.

Before some of the 20 left us, we used to have road menders cooking tar and filling pot holes on the highways both regional and local. They cut the bushes by the road sides and made temporary drains wherever there were water pools. The 20 that left us, these days, use modern equipment to mend the roads and do not wait until the roads cut in two before they are attended to by party contractors. Roads are resurfaced and marked with bright white in the middle and yellow at the edges as at when due. Here we spend billions of naira to build roads only to leave them to break up before the next republic after four rainy seasons. The new Bayelsa State Gateway, which was commissioned by the president two months ago, is already being taken over by grasses and has began to break up in some points! Jagged remains of accident vehicles litter the highways causing more accidents while the Road Safety Corps,  the VIO, the Highway patrol, the FERMA, the Police look on. There are jobs but our leaders tell us there are no jobs. Or perhaps they mean that there is no money to pay for the jobs because some fat cats and smart Alecs sitting in Abuja had cornered all the money for the next election.

Before we join the 20, we should stop pissing in the streets. Public places should have rest rooms. Filling stations, motor parks, eating places should be made to provide conveniences for travellers and the workers. These things don’t cost the heavens to install. Public conveniences are kept clean by workers who get paid and jobs are provided for our people. The same jobs they troop abroad to do. Bus stops should cease to be abodes for mad people or at best shops for poverty alleviation. Before we join the 20, our police will have to move from analogue to digital policing. Every single police man should be equipped with a walkie talkie. A police man that cannot talk to the next police man at the next check point fifty metres away is just a sitting duck to any kindergarten hoodlum and at best a toll collector. The salary of one senator in one month can buy walkie talkies for about 100 police men complete with the chargers! Don’t ask me how they will charge the walkie talkies because they also charge their mobile phones! We don’t need Police Trust Fund gone awry to purchase walkie talkies. If the bush allowances and inconvenience allowances of policemen are paid promptly, the rate of collecting money at check points will reduce drastically. Where they are found collecting money the DPO of the area should be held accountable. Enough of this open shame! If we intend to join the 20 in 2020…These are just a few of the measurable deliverables that don’t require high brow seminars and workshops in five star hotels if we want to join the 20 in 2020.
Onigbo is  Awo Mbieri, Imo State based engineer