By Reno Omokri
On Tuesday the 27th of January, in Lafia, Nasarawa state, President Jonathan said “we are building a country for a digital generation”. Let us ponder on that for a second. That statement rings true, as I cannot imagine any truly patriotic Nigerian that will want Nigeria to remain in an analogue state.
That being said, what place does a broom have in a digital society?
You will agree with me that brooms are more suited for an analogue society.
Let me expatiate. One vacuum cleaner can do the work of one hundred brooms and can do it faster and more efficiently too. The APC and Muhammadu Buhari are representative of brooms. This is why Muhammadu Buhari keeps saying he will throw corrupt Nigerians into jail. Now, as a means of fighting corruption, there is nothing wrong with throwing corrupt persons into jail, particularly if you follow due process. But will that tactic work in Nigeria today? Yes, to an extent it will work, just as a broom will work to an extent in sweeping a dirty house.
But supposing you try a new and better way? Supposing that instead of just concentrating your efforts at sweeping people one by one into prison, you use a vacuum cleaner to clean the house at a faster pace by employing technology that makes it difficult, nay impossible, to steal?
Prior to the Goodluck Jonathan administration, there were fifty thousand ghost workers in the Federal Civil Service. They drained the treasure of about 2 billion US dollars annually. President Jonathan could have used the broom on them by unleashing the police and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to investigate who and who were collecting these fifty thousand unearned salaries. It would have taken many hours of investigation, evidence gathering, judicial process and lawyers to achieve that.
Being the philosopher king that he is, President Jonathan chose instead to employ technology to tackle the problem and using the software of the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System, IPPIS, this administration made it impossible for anybody who has not been physically captured in the IPPIS system, by way of entering his/her finger prints and biometrics, to receive a salary. And voila! in one fell swoop, all the fifty thousand ghost workers were excluded and the Federal Government was able to save billions every year that would have gone on salaries.
Also, it was common practice for civil servants to mop up unspent votes at the end of the year. The only problem is that they mopped up these funds into their private accounts rather than back to the government treasury.
But instead of going about with a big stick to bash in the head of offenders, the President simply approved a system that mandated that all payments be made by e-payments rather than cash and any e-payment that does not come under the sub head of salaries will shut down the system at the end of the year so that civil servants could not mop up funds as they were used to.
Take another instance. Prior to the rise of President Goodluck Jonathan to power, the fertilizer procurement and distribution system of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture was one of the biggest avenues for corruption. Contracts were awarded at hundreds of billions for products that either did not come or were substandard. Moreover, in the process of distributing the product, a lot of it was diverted and resold with the government not getting value for money and farmers not being able to feed the nation.
Enter the Jonathan administration and the e-wallet system of fertilizer distribution, in which the Federal Ministry no longer used middle men contractors, but dealt directly with the manufacturers and the end users of the product, the farmers, and used a simple text message to connect end user with manufacturer. The manufacturers simply debited the cost of the subsidized fertilizer from the e-wallet funds the farmer had on his phone, saving tens of billions and increasing efficiency.
These examples show that with a broom, you will work harder, but with a vacuum cleaner which President Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP represent, you will work smarter!
With a broom, you will deliver activity, but with a vacuum cleaner, you will deliver results!
It is this broom mentality that caused Major General Buhari to answer to the question “how do you intend to manage the economy in the face of dwindling oil price”asked during his Channels TV interview as follows “first we will stabilize the oil market and run an accountable government”.
Do you control the price of oil? How do you want to stabilize the oil market if you do not control the price of the product and the global supply of the same? This is analogue thinking! This is broom mentality! That is the mentality that says that you will concentrate on curing corruption instead of focusing on preventing it when even a nursery school pupil knows that ‘prevention is better than cure’!
And that is the choice before Nigerians. Are we going to go with a broom or with a vacuum cleaner? Are we going to go with an analogue leader or continue with a digital leader?
To make the choice easier for you, let me ask those who are able to remember how many schools were built by General Muhammadu Buhari when he was military head of state. The answer is of course none! But you might say that he only spent twenty months in office. But what if I told you that in his first twenty months in office President Goodluck Jonathan built nine new Federal Universities in Ebonyi, Kogi, Nasarawa, Bayelsa, Gombe, Taraba, Katsina, Jigawa and Ekiti?
Let me ask you also to remember how many Youth Empowerment Programme the Buhari led government put in place to spur youth employment. The answer is of course none! But five months after he was sworn in as Nigeria’s President, President Jonathan launched the Youth With Innovation in Nigeria Initiative which is a unique business competition where Nigerian youths submit their business ideas to a consultancy chosen by government who then selects the best proposals and then the government trains them in modern business skills and grants them between 2-10 million Naira. Remember that this is a grant, not a loan. They do not have to pay back. Over four thousand youths have gone on to be selected and trained and have started up businesses that are employing other youths.
So once again, I ask are we going to go with a broom or with a vacuum cleaner? Are we going to go with an analogue leader or continue with a digital leader?
Nothing exemplifies the fact that the world has passed the APC and its flag bearer by than the use of a broom as their party’s emblem. Yes, it is a fitting analogy for the All Progressive Congress, APC and its Presidential Flag Bearer, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd), but facts will bear me out that a broom cannot do the work of leadership that is expected in Nigeria today.
Reno Omokri is Special Assistant to President Jonathan on New Media.