Many Nigerians are still in doubt of what we can do with public sector. Most Nigerians have given up on themselves and believe that the government needs not provide services that they enjoy abroad.
When we travel to countries that work, do we think the serenity, cleanliness, order, aesthetic beauty that we see were born with those countries? No! they worked for it. It is a daily grind, but their leaders have a long-term vision. This is also what gives those nations the edge in everything else over the rest of us. In fact, many Nigerians constitute a significant part of the labour force that makes those things happen. I also realised that in those countries, they would rather take much time in fixing their public spaces than to acquire private mansions.
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People there sometimes live in hovels, but the local park looks pristine and peaceful. Here, the inverse is the case. Nigerians – especially our leaders – are chasing large mansions, but once you step out of those mansions, you step into filth, disorder, chaos, ugliness. This is where the work is.
Imagine that Kaduna. If there are 10 million children roaming in Nigeria, there could be say 800,000 of these national assets in Kaduna. What we have had so far are half-hearted, fleeting attempts to get them off the streets and into schools. Yet, everyone knows that investments in the education of these children is the best gamble this country could ever play as our future will be bleak for as long as that ugly culture persists.
To take 800,000 children off the streets in Kaduna State they probably need a new task force that can absorb as many as 5,000 workers, constantly on the streets to ensure compliance. They will also need at least 4,000 teachers if each teacher is to handle 200 kids. It will cost untold billions but will pay off soon. Why had El-Rufai chosen to ignore this possibility and would rather shrink his workforce? It can only be that, like every other government in Nigeria, El-Rufai’s is not ready to make the needed investment.
What is the option? The option is to find ways of pushing the people into despair, in the hope that they disappear or die off. Our current leaders are certainly not interested in helping our people find a better life.
The almajirai children example is just one. There are others. The environmental sector could employ two million people in Nigeria immediately. Nigeria is the world’s biggest open-defecation country. Yeah, DJ Trump was right about that ‘shithole’ reference.
Daily Trust newspapers carried a report two weeks ago about how all the roundabouts in Bauchi metropolis have turned into public toilets. Bauchi is far. Come to our glistening city; Abuja, where all the road medians and gutters are very perfect for people to take the dump in broad daylight. I see why this country has no respect from foreigners. Open defecation meanwhile, is only one aspect of the environment, but an aspect wherein India has created so many jobs in the last 10 years and caused the world’s biggest behavioural and culture change in recent time. There are desertification, erosion, waste management, beautification and other works that our states can create but have refused to.
What about security? El-Rufai is more concerned with laying off workers, in a state under siege from kidnappers and all sorts; in a state that is still a flashpoint of communal clashes. Listening to the villagers in some of those places ravaged by bandits and kidnappers, the simple message that jumps out for me is that the same villagers should be employed as security operatives by government, to guard their domains, not left to their own devices and made to suffer in the hands of marauders.
If El-Rufai wanted to beef up security in that state, he could employ up to 10,000 young men to guard their areas and villages. Inclusion works wonders. These young boys will be so happy to contribute. The civil service of a state can never be too large when the state is under the jackboot of terrorists.
Our governors should be reminded, that they are here to supervene over the PEOPLE. The people are their key charge, not machines, or books of accounts. That job is not all about looking good for the cameras. The people may be dirty and stinking and unwashed. The people may be untrained and uneducated and uncouth. Still, the role of leaders is to take the people to where the people need to be – sometimes kicking and screaming.
Unfortunately, the young Nigerians have been infected with the same disease. They believe there is no space for improvement of lives, through governance. They have been miseducated to go and all become entrepreneurs, pushing wares in people’s faces, trying to make a buck that does not improve the quality of their lives. We need to slow down and realise that there is great value in service for humanity.
Most of our idle, angry youths, should be in the security services, be serving as teachers, working in the environment, be social workers. The USA has 680,000 social workers in employment. Those are the types we need to take care of the millions of traumatised children all over Nigeria.
The big fallacy being pushed that the private sector creates employment is what I come against. The IMF/World Bank type sowed this terrible seed and our policymakers and politicians have carried it forward how so wrong. This is also how they propagate their ideologies using falsehood. What a shame. But we too are meant to be educated, aren’t we? The internet is there for anyone to research the truth.
For in truth, in ALL the most developed nations of the world, the government is the largest employer – the NHS in the UK and the Department of Defense in the US are the largest single employers, with 21 per cent and 17 per cent of their workforce working in the public sector in those countries respectively. I have laboured to open the minds of Nigerians to this truth but too many have been brainwashed. El-Rufai types are in the vanguard of that brainwashing.
Yet El-Rufai is not ignorant of the truth. He is just being egotistic. When he was on the other side, he gave the leaders hell. On May 16, 2010 he tweeted that teachers should be paid like bankers to attract the best by cutting unnecessary luxuries. He advocated for education. He was a chief backer of the same labour unions he attacks today. They demonstrated together. But today, he sees workers as irritants and has populated his government with the shallow, over-educated, disconnected-from-reality, consultant types who only end up emptying any state’s treasury. I recall that Aregbesola had them in Osun way back. They devastated the state and the debt overhand is still there today.
I close by quoting the serving British High Commissioner, Catriona Laing, who said just last week: “I do have some sympathy for Nigeria because if we as the UK have one of these problems your country is having today, we will be struggling. Here, you deal with everything, from insurgency to kidnapping, to piracy off the Gulf of Guinea and you don’t have such a large army and police force for a country of this size. The only way you turn this thing around is that government has to build the trust of its people, to have the people working with the government to deal with criminality. That’s how successful anti-criminal operations work.”
Since they only listen to white people, maybe this will sink. You have a security challenge, and a small police force which you have privatised. Then, how best to get the trust of the people, than to put some cash in their pockets. Let us not forget; PUBLIC GOODS – is our next bus stop. We must create all the things that make life worth living and it is our people that will do it. This country can work.