If I Were President…(1)

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President Muhammadu Buhari signing the New National Minimum Wage bill into law in his office at the Presidential Villa , Abuja Thursday Photo: Godwin Omoigui

THE FRONTLINES

By  Josephine Ushigiale

The news issuing out of Libyan this week has been very disturbing. According to the Libyan authorities, there are over 700,000 migrants from different countries, majority of them, Nigerians holed up in that war torn country. This figure excludes those who have successfully been evacuated back to their various countries including Nigeria, those who perished at sea in their last ditch attempt to make Europe and the few who successfully made it across.

The debacle in Libya has been described globally as modern day slavery. This trade in human cargo has been going on in Libya for decades even under the watchful eyes of the late Muamar Ghaddaffi. Last year, a CNN team shattered this closely guarded secret in an exclusive expose on the clandestine activities of smugglers, human traffickers in connivance with rogue Libyan security officials.

The outcry and condemnation that greeted the CNN expose notwithstanding, back home the response or rather reaction has been to say the least noncommittal. As recent as few days ago, rather than recognizing the migration in drove of qualified citizens to foreign land to seek greener pastures as a major human capital development challenge, the minister of productivity, a medical doctor by profession, Chris Ngige decided to make a huge joke out of it by justifying brain drain saying Nigeria has enough doctors to cater for its population. Can Ngige tell Nigerians that our country has met the UN standard of 1:100 – a doctor to a hundred patients?

Ngige’s mouth diarrhea is hardly surprising. He is an establishment person who has virtually been a parasite on Nigeria’s commonwealth. Why not? At what age was he physician to President Shehu Shagari? Ngige has been on the corridors of power almost all his life living at governments’ expense.

The irony of Ngige’s type is that, they suffer from short term memory and have easily forgotten they had the very best out of Nigeria. Nigeria trained them in the best schools, provided them jobs and all the comforts of life. But today, they have all constituted themselves into a bourgeoise class where they lord it over the masses whom they should be serving as ministers.

All we hear from government is that the administration is taking Nigerians to the next level, what other next level could be worse than this if not death? It would appear that our leaders, past and present either were and are ill prepared to lead, jinxed or are outrightly wicked.

Which is why it is hard to comprehend why policies that work effortlessly in other climes fail woefully in Nigeria because Nigeria lacks institutions but rather has in place, tin-gods comprising of strong men and women that are holding the country down. Let us face it, things have been bad but nothing has been as hopeless as what obtains in Nigeria today even when we have a government that rode to power on the Big promise of Change.

To underscore how hopeless NIgerians are in their own country, check out the number of people, skilled and unskilled seeking sojourn abroad. There is hardly a country in the world today that Nigerians are not seeking to migrate to including even Ghana, the same country whose citizens were expelled in 1983 by the Shagari regime. On a daily basis, Nigerians are leaving in droves, those who are still here fervently want the easiest way out.

The beauty of democracy is the right it bestows on every eligible voter to vote and be voted for. The Greeks were quite smart in conceiving this governance system where The People remained central to the formation of any democratic government.

The people of Ancient Greece coined the word demokratia from two words demos meaning People and kratia meaning power or rule both of which form what is today known as democracy.

Loosely defined as a government of the people, by the people and for the people, Wikipedia defines Democracy as a system of government where the citizens exercise power by voting. In a direct democracy, the citizens as a whole form a governing body and vote directly on each issue.

Whatever it is, the centrality of the concept is that the people are firmly the drivers of the process since they are instrumental to forming the government through voting, have the right to change government through the same system of voting and the focus of any democratic government should always be about the people.

But Nigerian politicians have changed all that to mean government of the elites, by the elites and for the elites. It is so because, they have muddled up the system in connivance with some rogue technocrats to ensure that votes don’t count. Since your votes don’t count, who needs you the masses?

But Nigerians continue to groan and to borrow from Fela, suffering and smiling under the yoke of democracy, where rather than reaping the dividends of democracy, the reverse is the case.

From a global point of view, is governance such a big burden on our leaders? I do not think so as today I’ll outline what I would do if I were President.

On assuming office, my actions and policies would be guided by two principles: to sacrifice and lead by example, end fiscal profligacy to save cost by doing away with wastefulness and make Nigerians the central focus of my administration.

To begin with, I will shun official accomodation, get a modest and comfortable accomodation from where I would commute to work daily.

My convoy would be reduced to just two vehicles, my vehicle and a backup just in case of a breakdown. These vehicles must be my personal vehicles and must be fueled from my pocket at all times. I will reduce security details to the barest minimum two and a steward.

I would donate the entire presidential fleet to kickstart the national carrier, return the crew either to the Air Force or convert them to be integrated into the national carrier. I will proudly fly our national carrier to any country I am going to in the world as a passenger and would not charter any plane to cater for me and my family exclusively. This singular initiative will save the country N7.3b which is the 2019 annually budget for the maintenance of the presidential fleet. It was N4.4bn last year.

My cabinet would be dominated solely by those who are offering to serve in the true sense of the word. What it means is that, my ministers would have to come from their homes, drive their cars to work and work for the good of Nigeria.

This time around, they will truly serve and not to be served. It is about time our ministers live among us, feel what we feel, see what we see and eat what we eat.

This would give them a better understanding of what the masses are passing firsthand rather than them conjuring these images from their glass houses.

This way, a Babatunde Fashola would not try to bamboozle Nigerians Nigerians by claiming that some states enjoy 24/7 electricity when the national grid can ill afford 3000MW to light up the whole country. Fashola himself should take a cursory look at the budget and see how much is budgeted for fuel and diesel in the 2019 budget before trying to hoodwink Nigerians.

With this template in place, during the inauguration of the National Assembly, I would urge the lawmakers to adopt part time legislature going forward to save the country and people from fiscally bleeding to death. Under the new arrangement, the law makers would be paid per each sitting for the entire year.

All permanent secretaries, heads of government parastatals, departments and agencies would be forced to adopt the same austere profile to save cost and end the current fiscal profligacy.

You ask how do I secure myself? The answer is that the people who gave me the mandate would secure me. But why am I taking such radical steps? Our leaders are very far from reality. They all cocoon themselves in the comfort of their homes maintained by tax payers’ money’s oblivious of what happens around them.

Nigerians have completely lost fate in the entity called Nigeria, it would appear as if the country and people are cursed on account of the profligacy of a few entrenched interests that are holding down the country in a vice grip.

From Independence in 1960 till date, every administration has urged Nigerians to sacrifice for the good of the country and Nigerians as good followers obey. But what happens afterwards?

While the people are sacrificing, surviving without electricity, water, housing, transport, medicare, our leaders are junketing the world with their privileged kids enjoying the very best things of life at the expense of the tax payers.

It would be a welcome development to see a president live around the neighborhood, among the people, no fence, no security, no retinue of gun wielding soldiers and mobile policemen keeping watch over him and his family when the larger population is vulnerable to attacks by hoodlums, armed robbers etc.

We would reverse the current trend and decisively take up the responsibilities currently totally abdicated by precious administrations whereby Nigerians became governments to themselves, providing roads, security, education, healthcare, electricity etc and yet pay taxes.

To be continued…