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The goal of our independence : Way forward to a great future

By Philip Asiodu

A Great Role Waiting For A Player

There is a great role waiting for a player in Nigeria. There is need for a great patriotic and visionary leader to articulate a National Vision and Agenda of where Nigeria should be by 2040, to be at least a top middle income nation of over 300 million people and to quote from Vision 2010. “A united, industrious, caring, God-fearing democratic society committed to making the basic needs of life affordable for everyone and creating Africa’s leading economy”.

He will need to lead a revolutionary change of attitude, beyond party, tribal and religious divides, amongst leaders of all sectors of government and society to embrace all aspects of good governance and re-launch Nigeria irreversibly on the path to unity and greatness. He must be ready to commit his life to this great cause.

National Vision and Agenda 2040

It is critically important to elaborate a National Vision and Agenda 2040 now to enable the Leader mobilize the broad masses of the people to move forward to progress, unity and greatness. The goal of Independence and sovereignty was a uniting anchor for the political parties and other interest groups before 1st October, 1960.

Chief Philip Asiodu

Our national tragedy is that since then there has been no national consensus on objectives to pursue. Confusion in objectives, and discontinuities in policies and programmes have been the Nigerian experience of Government, resulting in the lack of progress in developing a one-nation consciousness and in developing the economy to lift our richly endowed country from poverty.

The essential elements in the National Vision 2040 will include:

National Economic Perspective Plan 2020 – 2040;

Adoption and Implementation of all the Aspects of Good Governance;

Necessary Urgent Amendments to the 1999 Constitution;

Universal Compulsory Good Quality Education for all Citizens up to the age of 18;

Maintenance of Nigeria as a Secular State and Religious Freedom for the Individual;

A Language Policy to Promote National Integration;

Eradication of Corruption in all facets of National Life and Adoption of a Realistic Personal Incomes Policy;

Determined and sustained retraining and re-motivation of the Civil Service and staff of all Agencies so that they may achieve a new image of competent, friendly, prompt, patriotic, non-corrupt, pro-investment, pro-development public service dedicated to prompt cost-effective service delivery.

I shall only sketchily deal with above essential elements because of limitation of space.

 

National Economic Perspective Plan 2020 – 2040

The National Vision 2020 (as indeed the earlier Vision 2010) was not implemented. Vision 2020 is a good basis to elaborate a bold and inspiring National Vision and Agenda 2040. The Economic Perspective Plan would be broken up into 4 or 5 year Plans. It will deal with all sectors of activity, achieve an annual growth rate of at least 10% by 2025AD and sustain the rate up to 2040AD by which time Nigeria should be at least a top Middle Income country whose economy is industrialized, diversified, developed and globally significant. We must stop re-starting and re-naming National Plans with the change of batons from one Administration to another.

Adoption and implementation of good governance at levels of government.

The Leader will insist that all political office holders, political activists, and the leadership in all sectors of society who wish to remain with him must embrace and conduct themselves according to all the values of

Good Governance including :

The Rule of Law;

Efficient and prompt administration of justice;

Predictability, objectivity and consistency in government measures;

Respect for the sanctity of contracts;

Tolerance of dissenting views and opinions;

Abandonment of the pursuit of self-enrichment as the motive for seeking political leadership and office;

Drastic reduction in the cost of engaging in politics and seeking political office;

Zero tolerance for corruption and the prompt application of adequate sanctions against offenders including seizure of all properties corruptly acquired and no plea bargaining;

Efficient and timely service delivery by all government agencies;

Return to planning and submission to the discipline of planning, respecting pre-determined priorities in the utilization of national resources;

Re-allocation of resources in order to greatly increase capital expenditures and investment to promote economic diversification and growth;

Return to the principle of collective responsibility of government; and

Entrenchment of merit and the pursuit of excellence as core national values.

 

Necessary urgent amendments to the 1999 Constitution

Several groups talk about the need for political restructuring of Nigeria but they all mean different things. Some mean using the 6 zones as the Federating Units, some mean restructuring   Revenue Sharing to make the principle of derivation 100%, still others are not satisfied with the composition of one or two of the existing zones and would also want more states created.

It will take a long time to reach agreement on such issues. However, I do not believe that they merit the priority which the various protagonists ascribe to them. On the other hand, if the essential elements of the National Vision and Agenda 2040 described above were successfully addressed, they would cease to be important as Nigeria would be safely and irreversibly on the path of progress, improving general welfare of all citizens and unity.

If it is intended to go through the processes of Constitutional Amendment within the next years, I would urge the following :

Unity and structure of Nigeria

Nigeria however restructured should remain one sovereign entity.

Nigeria should be organised as an effective Federation.

The Exclusive Federal List, may be revised to include only subjects essential to the functioning of an effective Federation. Such a List should include: External Affairs, International Agreements, Defence, The Armed Forces, Immigration and Emigration, Currency and Monetary Policy, Customs and Excise, International and Inter-State Trade and Investment, Aviation, Oil, Gas and Solid Minerals, Inter-State Railways and Highways, Inland Waterways, Ports, Federal Police, Interpol Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications, Supreme Court and Federal Judiciary.

It is not practicable to regroup States so as to make the six (6) zones the federating units in lieu of States. Zones should remain fora for consultations and the basis for applying the principle of rotation in selection of the President and other office holders by political parties

Form of Government

The Presidential System should be retained with some modifications.

The Post of Prime Minister should be created in addition to the Post of

Vice-President.

The President will nominate the Cabinet comprising the Prime Minister and Ministers to specifically designated posts, who must be approved by the Senate before they can assume office. The President may change his cabinet subject to the approval of the Senate.

The Prime Minister will be charged with day-to-day coordination of the work of the Ministers under the direction of the President and will lead the Ministers in parliamentary debates on government bills and policies.

The Prime Minister and Cabinet must resign if they lose a vote-of-confidence in the National Assembly.

Any political party which chooses may adopt the principle of rotation for the office of President amongst the 6 zones recommended for a transitional period of 48 years.

No person who has served two terms under any Constitution is eligible to present himself as a candidate for the Office of President of the Federal Republic, or Governor of a State.

Reducing the Cost of Government

The size of the Federal Executive Council should be reduced to not more than eighteen (18) and Ministries, and eighteen Cabinet Ministers.

The provision in the Constitution that at least one Minister must be appointed from each State should be removed and replaced by a better definition of the Federal Character Principle based on zonal representation.

The State Executive Council should be reduced to comprise The Governor, The Deputy Governor and not more than 9 Commissioners. Special Advisers and Assistants should not exceed a total number of 14.

Political Parties

No political party will be registered which is formed to pursue ethnic, religious or anti-democratic causes.

Except for the restriction in section 15 above, any group of persons is free to form and register a political party and there will be no statutory limit to the number of parties.

The Electoral System

The method of appointment of members of the National Electoral Commission should be reviewed to involve the National Judicial Service Commission.

Prompt and adequate funding of the National Electoral Commission should be guaranteed.

Elections should be staggered to make it easier for the National Electoral Commission to organize free, transparent and fair elections.

Nigeria should adopt the system of the 2nd (Run-off) Ballot as practised by the French.

Provision for Independent Candidates

  1. There should be provision enabling independent candidates to contest elections at all levels.

Cost of Elections

  1. Legislation should be introduced setting limits to donations which an individual can make in any one year for political purposes and to amounts which can be expended in electoral campaigns by political parties, and to amounts which a political party can charge a candidate for the party ticket.

Eradication of corruption, adoption of realistic Personal Income Policy

The Buhari Administration has been battling with corruption for two years since it assumed power. Hundreds of suspects have been arrested and interrogated and some have been arraigned in courts. Regrettably, no high-level convictions have been made in Nigeria, and all the proceeds of corruption seized to send the badly needed signals to all and sundry that the national blight is near ending.

There is no doubt that corruption, the insensate voracious greed of people in key positions, and rent-seeking and demands for corrupt enrichment in all levels of bureaucracy have greatly impeded investment, local and foreign, and put us back several decades; greatly increased the vast numbers of our citizens living in abject poverty and available for recruitment into terror and criminal gangs and has led inexorably to greater insecurity throughout the country.

In only pursuing those who have corruptly enriched themselves, we appear to be only waiting to treat the disease when the symptoms appear, rather than dealing with the root cause of the disease. It is good that President Buhari has launched the slogan “Change Begins With Me”. The current epidemic of competitive corruption and excessive greed amongst the political class and our elites in appropriating national resources to themselves must be stopped now.

Way forward

In order to launch and begin implementation of the new National Vision and Agenda 2040, there is need to pass new laws and even a few amendments to the 1999 Constitution. The National Assembly is composed entirely of members of the various political parties and this presents great difficulties which must be overcome.

The present post – 1998 political parties formed even more hastily than those in 1979 have no roots in past political parties and usages. They have not articulated long-term party visions for Nigerian Society or the Federal Country which they seek to administer. Most of our new politicians are not aware of the self-sacrifice, the patriotism, the idealism, the promise and commitment of the pre-independence politicians to improving the welfare of the broad masses after Independence nor do they know about the discipline and self-restraint required in managing the lean resources of pre-oil Nigeria. No fault of theirs. Most of the comments on the past in Nigerian media since 1966 have been self-denigrating and abusive of the national psyche.

The political parties and the party system have to be re-invented and re-engineered to become patriotic responsive vehicles for promoting the general welfare of all citizens and national greatness. They must adopt and believe in clear manifestos and programmes to promote national progress. Indeed, it will be desirable for all of them to base their programmes on the new National Vision and Agenda 2040 and let partisan competition and differences be on how best to achieve Vision 2040 and loftier goals beyond.

They must become effective organs for selecting and disciplining candidates for positions in the executive and legislature all of them subscribing to the same policies and programmes for moving the nation forward. Only such re-engineered political parties can help the President and leadership, and the country to achieve National Vision and Agenda 2040, and good governance.

There is still room for hope. The least traumatic way of saving Nigeria from the threatening disaster of a failed state and violent anarchy is for President Buhari as the elected President to get a group of capable patriotic people to elaborate a new “Vision and National Agenda 2040”, embracing all the main goals and objectives described above and to require all who love Nigeria to identify with him. He must discharge all ministers and political appointees who do not accept the concept of the New Vision.

Meanwhile he should initiate a vigorous campaign for the New Vision. He must begin to implement all the aspects of good governance and the preliminary work required for the elaboration of the major elements envisaged for the new Vision and National Agenda 2040. He must use all his executive powers to implement the necessary reforms of the Executive especially the new Incomes Policy, and challenge the National Assembly to enact the necessary laws and conform to the new Incomes Policy and new pro-people patriotic and honest governance. To overcome legislative delays and obstruction, he must be willing to take the campaign to the electorate in the various constituencies. The great majority of Nigerians will rally round the President.

Two years of honest vigorous pursuit of the right policies as briefly outlined above will put Nigeria irreversibly back on the path of growth, development and greatness, bringing back in great numbers our very competent and accomplished technocrats, investors, innovators and managers now in diaspora. The doleful catalogue with which we started this paper will begin to disappear. Nigeria will then play the vanguard role in African Renaissance and win back for the Black race the respect of the rest of the world which was lost with the imposition of the Atlantic Slave Trade in the 16th Century.

 

  • Chief Philip Asiodu, CFR, CON


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