By Tonnie Iredia
The ideal role of a critic is to serve the best interest of society through constructive criticism by drawing the attention of leaders of society to issues which are begging for redress. It is however not enough to enumerate and propagate what is wrong. A good critic ought to, in addition, proffer solutions to the problems or articulate alternative options for handling identified concerns. More importantly, a critic should be charitable enough to commend leaders in those areas where they have made efforts to right their wrongs. The latter is the premise of today’s article which identifies 3 state governors whose recent activities deserve some measure of commendation. The governors are Adams Oshiomhole of Edo, Babatunde Fashola of Lagos and Theodore Orji of Abia.
We begin with the recent story of Governor Oshiomhole who came across a widow that displayed her wares right on a road in Benin City thereby creating blockade and obstruction. The Governor, who was visibly angered by the act, chastised the lady and directed his ‘gbomo-gbomo’ sanitation officials to confiscate her wares. He did not only turn a deaf ear to her supplications for mercy, the diction of his chastisement was undoubtedly loathsome. This attracted instant public condemnation especially as Oshiomhole, a fellow comrade to the lady until a few years back, was expected to be more compassionate because of his knowledge of the ABC of the desperation of the impoverished Nigerian worker.
A few days later, the comrade governor publicly apologised for his conduct and financially empowered the lady to become a more fulfilled citizen. The drama of a tea-drinking session of the governor and the widow, the hyper publicity given to the humane dimension of the governor’s remorse as well as the political colouring the opposition party in the state weaved into the subject are not our current concerns. Rather, we like to appreciate the uncommon practice of a Nigerian governor accepting a fault and making amends. However, Oshiomhole has 2 more assignments. First, he should endeavour to create an enabling environment in the state for all those striving daily for subsistence and not just one ‘lucky’ widow. Second, he should jettison the fire brigade approach of seeking to change a people’s negative attitude through bullying and sanctions. An aggressive re-orientation and public enlightenment scheme which inculcates in the public, the advantages of orderliness portends greater efficacy.
In the case of Governor Fashola, it will be recalled that some 4 months ago, he deported from Lagos, some Nigerians of Anambra origin. This pushed the otherwise amiable governor into the camp of the myopic group of leaders who discriminate against fellow Nigerians because of their state of origin. Of course, he was roundly condemned for it by many Nigerians including this writer. In due course, Fashola publicly apologised for the action and won back the admiration of many. While thanking the governor for the posture, it is hoped that he would continue to serve as a listening leader who takes criticisms in good faith.
Against this backdrop, it is pertinent to recall the recent sanctions imposed on the Principal of Ikeja Junior Grammar School because her school was publicly exposed by the media for what it is – an institution where pupils learn on the bare floor. A government statement that the Principal was not punished but merely queried is no doubt a negative reaction to the criticism of a shameful learning arrangement by the government. Why should any Lagos School operate without furniture? Was it an oversight or the result of misappropriation of funds? If so has anyone been held accountable? Did the inspectorate branch of the Ministry of Education not know of such an appalling situation? Finally, has the situation been rectified and furniture supplied to the School? A dynamic approach to these posers is a better way to respond to the criticism at hand.
There is also the case of Abia State which in August 2011 sacked non-indigenes from its workforce. The obnoxious policy was condemned by all but Governor Theodore Orji was for long unperturbed by the overwhelming negative public opinion on the issue. All of a sudden however, Orji made a dramatic U-turn, 2 years later and reversed the policy. While the governor says his ‘born- again’ posture was influenced by the need to foster national unity, some critics believe it was done with a political agenda in mind. Even if what influenced Orji is the latest trend where vision seeing clerics manipulate our leaders we don’t care. What matters is that Abia State has cancelled her detestable policy of treating some Nigerians as aliens in their country. We commend it and pray that it is for real and also urge all our leaders to emulate the development because our heterogeneous nation is in dire need of integration.
Is this writer who occasionally seeks to enhance only his kith and kin not contradicting himself now? Of course not; because competitive ethnicity is the reality in today’s Nigeria. No one can convince me to pretend to be a nationalist if for instance; my child who scored higher than his mates in an entrance examination is denied admission simply because of his state of origin. I will similarly ignore my critics if my brother is superseded by a junior officer in his place of work only because of his state of origin. Our premise is that we cannot achieve national integration if we do not discard prescriptive matters like state of origin as a basis for enjoying national privileges.
Our Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu got it right the other day, when he reminded us that the golden eaglets that recently conquered the soccer world did not get into the team on the basis of state of origin. Thus, nationalism is good in a true nation, not one whose component parts have hidden and incompatible agenda. Let every Nigerian be committed in words and in deed to the concept of one Nigeria by following the injunction of Section 15(2) of our constitution, that no one should be discriminated against “on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties”.