The Hub

November 24, 2011

The looming emergencies

By Josef Omorotionmwan
THE Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is asking for moderate revolutions, oblivious perhaps that there are no moderate revolutions.

Every revolution is a tsunami of sorts. It clears everything on its path. Under the tsunami regime, you cannot be talking of good roads in isolation of the people that will use the roads.

Agrarian revolution must travel hand in gloves with economic revolution. Security of lives must be a co-traveller with environmental security and so on.

Suddenly, the Senate wants to force itself into developing a character that is similar to that of the United Nations, UN. Since October 24, 1945, when the UN was established by charter for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security as well as developing friendly relations among nations, it has remained one international organisation that has been very good at dishing out humane declarations but with a very lousy sense of mathematics. In all its mathematics, the sum of the parts has always been greater than the whole. It approximates something like this: Resolution One – Every worker deserves a decent pay; therefore, every nation must devote 50 percent of its annual budget to the payment of salaries. Resolution Two – Since education is the bedrock of national development, every nation must devote a minimum of 30 percent of its annual budget to education.

Resolution Three – A healthy nation is a wealthy nation. Therefore, every nation must devote at least 30 percent of its annual budget to health. Resolution Four – At any given time, there is progressive pogrom and, in fact, war is going on in more than 40 percent of the countries of the world.

This underscores the imperative for every nation to devote at least 30 percent of its annual budget to peace-keeping efforts. Resolution Five – The current level of unemployment among women and youths is unacceptable. In order to ameliorate their suffering, at least 20 percent of every country’s annual budget must be devoted to the development of this vital sector; and so on and so forth.

After all the lofty resolutions, the UN does not go back to monitor the level of compliance and countries, therefore make and implement their different budgets without any regard to the UN resolutions. This has led many critics to the conclusion that the UN is a big toothless bulldog that barks but does not bite.

Of a truth, the Nigerian roads are bad. Recently, this column drew attention to the deplorable situation of our roads in a piece titled “Bad, Worse, Nigerian roads”.

The Senate has just passed a Resolution seeking to declare a state of emergency on Nigerian roads. Whatever that means, that Resolution is only reminiscent of the Senate’s closeness to the UN, at least in character. We only need to examine a few areas to remind the Senate that this myopic approach to emergency declaration is unacceptable. No matter how bad the roads are, they are still a big improvement compared to our educational system where we are already failing our children.

The Senate is aware that the IQ level of the pupils in our public primary schools is perilously close to the eligibility for special schools for the mentally retarded. In the 21st century, many classes are held under the shade of trees; pupils sit on bare floors to receive instruction; even where we are duty-bound to give every child a place to sit and a teacher to learn from. Yet, the Senate continues to assert in the abstraction that poverty must not be a barrier to learning and that learning must offer an escape from poverty.

The Senate is aware that government must provide an educational system that grows in excellence as it grows in size. We certainly need a state of emergency in this sector.

To the unemployed, the rate of unemployment is 100 percent. The Senate is aware that the unemployment situation in Nigeria is getting out of hand. Our unemployment rate defies statistics in the sense that no one knows exactly what it is. All we guess is that it is outrageously high.

There is this simple euphemism for unemployment: the youths are often asked to become self-employed. But we also ask, did they go to school to study self-employment? And how has the school system equipped them for the so-called self-employment? It is a serious affair and this is perhaps where the Senate should start its state of emergency.

What about the energy sector? From the little we know, it is clear that this was supposed to be the life-wire of the nation but it is totally comatose and that is why every other sector has gone to sleep.

It certainly needs an emergency to wake up. Why don’t we stop wasting space and go straight to the vital issues? We challenge the Senate to tell us which segment of the Nigerian economy is not deserving of a state of emergency.

Is it housing, security, the environment, or the government itself, which is almost synonymous with corruption? The Senate has not defined the content of its state of emergency.

Is it that we are to devote our total budget only on roads? But that is not an answer. Right now, that sector is unable to exhaust the billions we appropriate to it annually, with the result that a good part of the unspent fund gets returned to the treasury at the end of the year. Lack of money is not the problem.

Shouldn’t we be man enough to declare a state of emergency on NIGERIA? Every other approach begs the question.