By Odilim Enwegbara
'' Puppets don’t build a great country, nationalists do''
Today, Nigeria is in a hell of crisis. It's on a debt-based life-support. Over half of its employable workforce is unemployed. The accompanying social dislocations are increasingly beyond its carrying capacity. Expectedly, ethnic and religious battle-lines have since been drawn. The prepaid media now spend all their time talking pom-poms. Confused and overwhelmed, physically and mentally overstretched, the economic managers seem to prefer complacency and rhetoric. For the blissful and shopaholic public servants, time, energy, and money are spent on inconsequentials. More tragic in such absence of inspirational and crisis head-on leadership, is the confidence that ignoring the crisis will eventually make it go away on its own. Even though they loved their country so much, even though they know there's nowhere else to run to, the compounded Nigerian problems seem to be forcing Nigerians give up on Nigeria.
With imported technocrats unable to revive the economy, it now makes the ruling party unease. In fact, the regrets of the economic gang's abysmal understanding of how to turn the economy around are now openly discussed. As they increasingly steer the economic ship right over a cliff, worries now turn into regrets and feelings that maybe these are more of economic hit men and women than economic magicians. Why blaming them now? Wasn't the writing on the wall enough to show that these imported technocrats have lived so long out of the country to be able to truly comprehend the country's problems? Why is the ruling party not blaming itself for handing our country's economy to these imported technocrats, when if it looked inwardly, some practically-minded and commonsense managers could have been found within the party, who should have been assigned the job of overhauling the economy? Why these regrets now, when the economic realities showed that a pack of strange 'technocrats' would be the last to effectively turnaround the economy, especially given little or nothing they have to lose should the economy collapse in their hands?
What else do people do when they can't solve a problem than indifference? When this bozos economic team showed indifference early enough, why didn't the party get the message? Should a good manager wait more than 18 months to observe that employees are not fit for the job? Maybe so carried away by their beautiful resumes and untested experiences to the extent that the ruling party forgot that what always matters is result? Of course, without fully comprehending the complexity of a problem, can one easily come up with a novel problem-solving plan? The truth that one can try is fine, but to believe that mere trial is enough to guarantee success should be more of a tall order than reality. Yes, one can try, but without sincerity of purpose, it is possible that it can be made worse. Planning for something one hardly believes in or hardly wants it to succeed requires a different mindset.
If rhetoric has fixed an economy and creates jobs, certainly we too should expect a rising economy and millions of industrial and service jobs accompanying it. But the truth is, rhetoric on its own can never reorganize and diversify a rundown economy like ours. Hard-working, measured risk-taking and sheer sacrificing are what help nations rise and stay on top. So, rather than rhetoric, an economic progress should happen when a well-grounded economic team, a team hungry to bring change is in charge. If we agree that rather than expecting development and progress on the basis of rhetoric, it's a stagnant economy we should be expecting, then, we better fasten our seatbelts for a rougher road; for a serious economic turbulence awaits us down the road. If our present compounding social dislocations and deep-seated insecurity spinoffs are the result of having more than 75 million of Nigerians unemployed (according to ILO), as much as this is frightening, we better be prepared for what lies ahead is going to make the present a child's play.
No matter how they try to hide the truth, the fact remains, economic development is not about a magic wand. Not only it's not a rocket science, it's equally doesn’t need complex economic thinking. What economic development requires is just a commonsense in setting right priorities and a commonsense in implementing the set priorities. But setting the right priorities should be accompanied with the right people ready to make it happen at all costs. In other words, it happens because some dedicated and selfless people, working together, badly want it to happen. Because a divided and selfish people will always fail, development has no place for such people. That is how simple it is.
So, if we want to succeed the same the Chinese and Indians have succeeded recently, the rule is the same. Rather than imported technocrats, the real magic is within all of us. It's our coming together to pursue our national interests, and matching it with individual and collective sacrifices. It should begin to happen as soon as some nationalist development goals are set, and are pursued by some gifted nationalists. If it's about all-knowing imported technocrats, how come our economy is still suffocated, how come they have not made us exit such imperial organizations like WTO and BIS? Do our leaders need some technocrats to tell them that spying fulltime the western countries like the US and Britain will continuously make us their economic and political pawn?
If our leaders love Nigeria should they have joined western secret societies such as the one Cecil Rhodes created in order to maintain Britain's invisible empire in Africa, and which he proudly informed his British apprentice empire-builders in the late 1890s that ''We must put government power in the hands of Africans whose pasts and reputations are such that between them and the people lies an abyss; puppets who in disobedience to our instructions, must face criminal charges if not death''? Or should our democracy become the kind of democracy Joseph Nye was referring in book, Soft Power to be worse than military dictatorship when he said, ''Not forcing them to do what we want them to do, but getting them to want what we want them to want for themselves is the most endearing power, our soft power''?
Also, if we want to see our dream of a Nigeria that is soon an economic and political giant, isn't our responsibility to push for that to happen? Of course, if we are truly serious shouldn't we make a law that mandates every Nigerian president to henceforth surround himself with the best Nigerians? Should every Nigerian president begin to go after Nigeria's best minds like Franklin Roosevelt went after America's most gifted and most practical nationalists, or the same way Deng Xiaoping surrounded himself with China's best and brightest, why shouldn't our presidents begin to deliver excellent results? Also why shouldn't our presidents too distrust those around them and follow Cicero's advice to Caesar, which warned him, "A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious; but it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banners openly against the city. But the traitor moves among those within the gates freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears no traitor; he speaks in the accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their garments, and he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation; he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of a city; he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist''?
Since we now want to rise and become a great nation, shouldn't we begin to sharpen our eyes too, exercising more precautions? Now that we too want to become a great nation, shouldn't we too understand that a good government is more of teamwork than one-man show? And since that's true why shouldn't legislate it? Since it's time to have the right people in the right places in government, why shouldn't we make it part of our law? Why shouldn't we make it compulsory for all presidential candidates? Now that we've discovered it's all about having the right team with the right priorities, why shouldn't be law? For these reasons, why shouldn't we ensure that starting from 2015 presidential election, all the presidential candidates should publicly announce who they should want as their shadow ministers and advisers? Let the Presidential Cabinet Bill being proposed here play that elaborate role about what a shadow cabinet and advisers should look like in every presidential election. Members of each Presidential candidate should participate in a series of fiercely contested cabinet and advisers' debates during the campaigns so that they should be assessed along with the presidential candidate.
But besides ensuring that the most competent Nigerians get the job, the Bill should also ensure that opportunists and mercenaries of foreign interests are never allowed to service on a presidential team. Besides presidential candidates presenting their team, assigning positions to these shadow cabinet members should enable Nigerians able to evaluate them. The new law should ensure that no Nigerian who is not permanently residing in Nigeria five years before such appointment, or who is living in Nigeria but working for a foreign multinational (unless having resigned three years earlier), should be appointed. Also the present 'bow and go' should become illegal so that thorough public evaluations should help Nigerians see how equipped the ministers are.
In addition, all presidential contestants should not only be mandated to publicize detailed economic development agenda, but also be able to demonstrate to Nigerians the agenda is realization given the candidates accompanying implementation plan. Not only should the agenda be required written by law, the implementation plan should be made strict by the law too. Unnecessary deviations should make the president a candidate for impeachment. Biannually, ministers should by law appear before the two chambers to defend their activities, which should be fully televised for Nigerians to also evaluate themselves.
The Bill should make it illegal for any minister or presidential adviser to accept or give gifts. The Bill should also mandate ministers and presidential advisers to sign an undertaking that should make it legal for them to take up a job or consulting work offered by any multinational, multilateral, foreign organization, or government, until three years after having left office. Once appointed, the President should require Senate majority vote to be able to sack his minister. Also, should majority of the two chambers recommend the sacking of a minister, adviser, or any political appointee, and eventually approved by other majority of the other chamber, the President should by law sack the recommended appointee within 30 days.