Every so often, we hear the people of Nigeria call on their public office holders to be more accountable about the way public funds are dispensed with, under their watch. We also witness such calls on church and school leaders as well as on political party managers. There is a dire need for those who manage public funds in Nigeria to come more public with tax payers about how the country’s money is spent under their supervision. Yet, the truth the people of Nigeria will have to face is that, generally, they do not have a culture of accountability.
For any serious form of accountability in public office to take place, every single Nigerian must evolve the culture of accountability at home, in school, at work and especially in public office.
That may sound difficult, even forlorn, but it happens to be the only ground that will get public office holders responsible for making public how the country’s incomes from taxes, crude oil, solid minerals and other sources are dispensed. Without a single exception, everyone must be made to become accountable for whatever the one does or fails to do.
For example, many parents and guardians might normally send their children or house helps to the market to buy something. When they return from the market, they don’t normally account to the parent or guardian who sent them to the market how much they spent or give back any unused money in their possession. And sometimes, the parents or guardians don’t even ask for the remaining money. And so, the culture of unaccountability begins right there in the home and before you know it, it has become a habit that can even breed impunity. Right from the home, Nigerians need to correct this aberration.
One consolation is that though the culture of official corruption has indeed eaten deeply like cancer into the fabric of the people’s public life, still it cannot stop Nigerians getting their acts right if the political leadership of the country is on the right track, if it is well articulated, if it has vision and is properly focused on what it wants to achieve while in government.
First is that the leadership of the federal government must address the challenge of being able at all times to communicate to all Nigerians concerning its aspiration, its challenges and its plans towards dealing with those challenges. It is one way the government can carry the people along.
How would government be able to communicate to the people of Nigeria at all levels? How is government using the media outfits in the country to reach out to the people of Nigeria in their generality? How is government using its political structures like constituencies or institutions like schools and colleges, churches and mosques or traditional monarchies to reach out and get the people well informed and better motivated to understand and get along with government policies and programmes?
Government must look into this challenge and tackle it seriously. To institute a culture of accountability in Nigeria, the government would need to harness all these institutions to reach out to every single Nigerian, no matter where the one resides.
When we take a cursory look at where Nigerians are today, we discover that right from the first day the people won self rule from the British government, they inherited a system of government that was not designed to last the test of time. They inherited the politics of power partly due to the nature of the country’s makeup which emphasized tribal leaderships in the east, north and west, and partly because the political leaders of those days did not see anything wrong with that.
The tribal sentiment of Nigerian people became capitalized on by the political leaders and since Nigeria was a confederation, each of the three original regions having its own governor and high commissioner in the UK, the system worked for them at the time, or so it seemed.
In 1963, a new region was created, bringing the total number of regions to four. The new region was the Mid-West Region, carved out from the old Western Region. Then came the era of military intervention and more states were created from the existing four regions. The states were created at various times in Nigeria’s history and by various military regimes. The impression the army gave everyone was that each state was intended to be a semi-autonomous political unit that shared economic and political power with the country’s federal government, as stipulated in the Nigerian constitution. But even as we speak, whether or not that goal has been achieved is anyone’s guess. Power still resides in Abuja, both economic and political power and states are expected to go there with plate in hand to solicit for their share of what has come to be known as the Abuja allocation.
In 1967, the country’s military regime replaced the four regions with 12 states. Seven additional states were created in 1976, bringing the total to 19. They included the Federal Capital Territory, created from Niger State. In 1987, two more states (Akwa Ibom and Katsina) were created, bringing the total to 21 under the military rule of General Ibrahim Babangida. On 27 August 1991, the number of states increased to thirty as General Babangida thought it fit to create another nine states, bringing the total to 30. In 1993 when General Sani Abacha came into power, the government was under immense pressure to create additional states. Under recommendations from the National Constitutional Conference (NCC), the military regime decided to create six more states, bringing the total to 36 states. This was in October 1996.
The people of Nigeria had hoped that creating more states would bring governance down to the grassroots level, induce more job opportunities at that level, and that the people would be better motivated to take more active part in the politics of the land. But that never really happened. Rather, all power was concentrated in Abuja. If, for instance, a state governor was challenged by his kinsmen and women for performing shoddily in office, he would rush off to Abuja to get military assistance and by the time you know it, the military boys are doing the snake dance on the doorsteps of your country home.
Nigerians have continued to talk the talk and walk the walk concerning politics of power. But again it is this brand of politics that has all but brought the country on its knees. It is this brand of politics that informs the official corruption that has eaten so deeply into the fabric of national life in the country. It is this brand of politics that is spurring the do-or-die proclivity of Nigerian politicians. It is this brand of politics that is buttressing the northern herdsmen to overrun entire villages, burn down the ancestral homes of fellow Nigerians, cart away their cattle and beautiful daughters and nothing definite happens to the perpetrators of such heinous crimes against humanity.
Everywhere you go, people are groaning. Food has become a scarce commodity for many families. Only a few families of the rich and well connected can daily afford three square meals these days – in a land reputedly flowing with milk and honey like crude oil and gas. Insurgencies are sprouting from every nook and cranny of the country. Kidnapping for ransom has become a familiar sight in the society and while the people live in constant fear of their lives, they try to brave the level of insecurity to get about their daily activities. They seem to have abandoned their lives to fate, believing that what would be must surely come to pass. The quality of life has so depreciated that for many Nigerians today, unfortunately life no longer has a meaning.
But that does not have to be so.
One of the ways the perennial challenge of unemployment among Nigerian youths can be confronted head-on is to create local government farms in all of the 774 local government areas of the 36 states of the federation.
If we take for an example, a state like Imo that has 27 local government areas, that is 27 local government farms. Each farm could be about half a mile to a mile in length and half a mile in width, depending on availability of arable land. Each local government is assigned at most two commodities among the staple foods normally consumed by the people to plant, harvest and process in a factory that would be established within the farm complex.
So, the local government that is allocated cassava harvests and processes it into garri in the farm’s factory. Indigenes are employed to work on the mechanized farms, harvest and move the product to the factory. Others are employed in the factory to process the harvested cassava into garri, starch, cassava flour etc. All these are neatly packaged into well labelled paper or polythene bags with expiry dates in place. People are employed to package them in N50, N100, N200, N500, N1, 000 and N5,000 packages. People will be employed to move all the products from the factory to retails shops that ordered for supplies. The cost of food would come down. And there would be employment for those who truly want to work.
This feat can be replicated over and over with all the local governments specializing in what grows best in their land. A local government dealing in vegetable can manufacture vegetable oil, pomades, even medications etc. Cashew local government can manufacture cashew nut, cashew nut oil for frying etc. There are yam, cocoyam, melon, tomato, rice, beans, banana, plantain etc. to consider. There are also snail farming, poultry, goat farming, fishery and piggery to consider. If this local government farm project is applied in conjunction with the state and federal ministries of agriculture across the 774 local government areas in the country, why would Nigerians still be complaining of unemployment or hunger? Senator Abubakar Kyari should sit up to the demands of his office and evolve innovative measures that would endear him to Nigerians across board.