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Nigeria at crossroads: What do we do about our poorest (II)

The inefficiency and corruption that decimates every good idea in Nigeria continue to rear their head. Old ways are still largely intact. Our 2021 budget…

The inefficiency and corruption that decimates every good idea in Nigeria continue to rear their head. Old ways are still largely intact. Our 2021 budget is still based on the ‘envelop system’ meaning that ministries and agencies of government still conjure up what they think they will need and are merely given a random haircut off of their requests.

This opens us all to more inefficiency, misappropriation and fraud. Our top politicians continue to max out on their own conveniences even when it is obvious that they are not scratching the surface of the problem and one wonders why they asked to serve in the first place if they haven’t contemplated the enormity of the human crisis Nigeria is under. What I saw in Lagos is only a microcosm of what is present all over Nigeria. I didn’t even get to real inner-city Lagos but I remember what I saw around Itire during the campaigns. I also understand that urban poverty can be  so crushing because nobody gets anybody’s back, unlike in our rural areas.

Hmmm. What Nigeria will require from a focused and determined government will be enormous, and as I stated earlier, revolutionary. Gurus define leadership as the ability to take your followers to where they NEED, not want, to be – whether they like or understand why or not, in fact, kicking and screaming where necessary . The kind of poverty I am talking about here is the type that has eroded the minds of millions of our people. Many just move around mindlessly every day. No work. No destination; maybe with the hope of running into someone to ‘rag’ – as in a rag day – for a few bucks. In time, these otherwise normal people fall into drug use, little crimes, and all sorts. Something needs to be done to actively reset the minds and lives of too many millions of our people. The government that will do that work must give everything of itself, and more. No time for luxuries. No time for even basics. Total, 100%  honesty. The actions to be taken to help these people may not even be democratic in nature. I recall comedian Michael Che saying he does not vote because he thinks that is such an important and technical duty and he wonders why anyone will trust him to perform such a duty. So, democracy and voting will not save these people,, only a benevolent sacrificial leader/government can.  These Nigerians I am talking about need fundamental help. The upside is that if they get the needed uplift, turnaround and positive revolution in their lives – including a new orientation towards more productivity and better choices – they will give so much back to their nation and the crawling or recessing GDP will grow in leaps and bounds. This is, however, a medium to long term idea that must however begin immediately.

More specifically, we know that investment in education is the most profitable of investments. The return on investment (ROI) for education is ginormous under every circumstance. Nigeria should be declaring a major emergency that takes the 15 million-odd children off the streets and into some sort of active education, where they will be taught by all of us – including people who can volunteer their times from the private sector. These millions of people need basic shelter. Too many of our people live in absolutely ramshackle conditions, which already mess with their minds. When you have so many people living in disheveled, stinking, unkempt situations such as what we take for granted here, it is no wonder that the products of their minds can only be generally ugly. We need to give our people a new vision. We need a communicator as a leader… and a philosopher too. And he/she must be a doer… an action man or woman.  Successive Nigerian governments have deceived themselves about having housing programs that don’t even make any impression. Most of our spending goes to luxury housing, which mostly remains uninhabited. No government had spoken – for a single day – about which type of prototype houses our poorest should live in, much less build one for them. At best they all try and build for civil servants who are less than 2% of the population (even those ones are not covered up to 5%). You then wonder where all the money goes.

This idea is a bit hard for me to express but express I must. Nigeria needs urban renewal. Nigeria needs rural renewal. Nigerians need a renewal of our minds.  Nigeria needs an education, environmental, health, security and agricultural revolution. No matter what we do – given that all the problems cannot be solved all at once – we must place the people right at the centre of the solutions. The energy of the people must be used to prime and reboot the economy. Only this can save Nigeria. We will never be able to achieve a country where everyone is rich, but what keeps deepening everyday is not acceptable. Brutalising them further is even less acceptable; it is simply inhumane. We seize their wares and okadas. We burn some and convert the rest to personal use. We watch as they string shanties together. We look away until one person brings a proposal about gentrifying that area. Then we brutally demolish and throw families on the streets; no alternatives, no plans, only to replace  their shanties with glistening ‘luxury apartments’.  Yes, every apartment project in Nigeria is ‘luxury’.

The sheer abandonment and lack of a honest, revolutionary plan is why these people unleashed on Nigeria recently and looted to their fill.  The problems are enormous though, and I keep saying, that Nigeria as a country should be one where leaders decline to serve because of the sheer enormity of the tasks at hand. That is if people think deeply before accepting roles. If it is all about oneself, or about getting famous and rich, it certainly is not worth the trouble. Still, all of us must chip in on this human crisis threatening to consume the country – if it hasn’t already. We should note that the people themselves will resist any profound change. Our people are already suspicious and totally cynical of the intentions of government and even other strata of leadership (corporate, religious, traditional etc). This is where that type of leadership is needed, that will redefine the destiny of Nigeria, get all the blames for everything done for good or ill, and not be around when the sacrifices start to pay off. Yes, we need a suicidal kind of leadership. Any takers, please?

Well, whatever the case, I wish everyone a Merry Christmas in this super-dreary Year 2020 that started with so much hope but turned out otherwise. I strongly believe human beings are at work to seize control of people’s lives through the instruments of disease and fear. I, therefore, call on us to remain physically, mentally and spiritually strong. Happy new year 2021 in advance!

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