Nnamdi Ebo | NewsBlog

In my NewsBlog Nnamdi Ebo, I provide perspectives on news, events and analysis of unique stories, and I also offer original content, articles and photos; with contributions from some of the best minds.

Nnamdi Ebo | NewsBlog

In my NewsBlog Nnamdi Ebo, I provide perspectives on news, events and analysis of unique stories, and I also offer original content, articles and photos; with contributions from some of the best minds.

Nnamdi Ebo | NewsBlog

In my NewsBlog Nnamdi Ebo, I provide perspectives on news, events and analysis of unique stories, and I also offer original content, articles and photos; with contributions from some of the best minds.

Nnamdi Ebo | NewsBlog

In my NewsBlog Nnamdi Ebo, I provide perspectives on news, events and analysis of unique stories, and I also offer original content, articles and photos; with contributions from some of the best minds.

Nnamdi Ebo | NewsBlog

In my NewsBlog Nnamdi Ebo, I provide perspectives on news, events and analysis of unique stories, and I also offer original content, articles and photos; with contributions from some of the best minds.

 

Letter to President Goodluck Jonathan

jonathan . president . C-in-CHis Excellency,

Dr. Ebele Goodluck Jonathan (GCFR).

President and Commander in Chief

Federal Republic of Nigeria,

Office of the President,

State House,

Abuja.

8th June, 2011

Dear Sir,

CONTRIBUTIONS OF A NIGERIAN TO A NEW NATION 

May I first congratulate you Sir, on your assumption of office as the President and Commander in Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Your Presidency and inaugural speech will serve to awaken the polity to the new wind blowing, ushering with it new ways in tandem with global expectations. May I also congratulate you for having the courage to assent to the Freedom of Information Bill, this, coupled with the recent retirement of the “Generals”, officially or otherwise, from active politics, perhaps marks the end of an era, and the beginning of another.

The choice of those to pilot the affairs of your good offices continues to occasion much politicking, national discourse and grandstanding by politicians and technocrats alike. But though many opine desires and areas of focus, largely without attendant modalities for achieving same, to most, the more important question remains the course that you will chart for our Nation. As you have promised much, change is on everyone’s mind, but what kind of change and for whose benefit?

Indeed, many have been our cabinets, national agendas, reforms and visions. We continually pick and choose areas of focus or “capable” individuals, yet, much of what we seek as a nation collectively and individually have remained food, light, water, shelter, security, jobs and universal participation founded on equity, transparency and rule of law. It has become obvious that for real and tangible development to occur, all variables and elements must be integrated and simultaneously activated.

In our peculiar instance, the foundational fundamentals of production are lacking, without which we can only boast of sporadic economic activity. Naturally, sustained tradable value in any polity lies in production and productive capacity. Our primary industries i.e. agriculture and mineral extraction have been neglected while our secondary industry, i.e. production of goods and services, has been thwarted by the lack of Power and Energy, whilst our tertiary continues to fail, being not premised on production. And, deliberate or not, so it has been for over three decades.

Then, like now, we had challenges with power and energy supply which affected industrial and infrastructural development, education and healthcare were in decline as was food production, unemployment and poverty were high, leading to heightened insecurity, cost of living was rising as service delivery was in decline. Consequently, mass alienation, corruption and despair were also as evident then as now. More bizarre, we had, and still have, abundant reserves of oil and gas, a wide variety of solid minerals, vast expanses of uncultivated productive land and abundant wealth of experience and funds. Then like now, we are also the largest single market in Africa numbering over 100 million people, with an equally huge labour market (albeit largely unskilled) and a rich variety of collective acumen. Enough to propel any nation to global reckon.

Sadly the overall effect of our collective history is currently unfolding before us and, indeed, before many of those who officiated much of our decline. We range blame from the imbalances within the “geographic expressions” created by the colonial masters, years of oppressive and successive military rule, mismanagement by politicians, theft by public servants, to massive corruption and lack of political will and good leadership. The narration and lamentation of our collective woes has become a national pass-time, even in social and prime-time entertainment.

And though we have many and enough ministries, departments and agencies, with a plethora of laws and enforcement agencies, the structural and institutional linkages that lay foundation for socio-economic and socio-political correlation have been broken, subverted and replaced instead by interests and interest groups. These entities and dynamics have gained foothold, using the instruments of state to subdue and subvert, constituting obstacles so as to profit in madness and shelter in the chaos. If not so, for instance, how else do we explain that Nigeria, the 7th largest oil producing nation in the world, imports petroleum products?

You promised “Fresh Air” and “Transformation” and Nigerians await to respond.    

In this transformation Sir, you will agree that the provision of Power (electricity), Energy (i.e. fuels) and Rail transport is fundamental to our national development and corporate stability. Nigeria needs and can achieve 50,000MW of Power, four 200,000bpd Refineries and 5,000Km of strategic Rail in the next four years. We are not lacking capable and credible investors and these are clearly commercially viable investments in a country of over 100 million people. Further, we need to consider the use Coal power generation as do all other nations that have large reserves of the mineral. Coal fired Thermal Power Plants constitute base load stations globally and provide over 40% of the global Power generation, and our coal is sufficiently low in sulphur content to be considered environmentally acceptable. Beyond Power generation, there are also huge potentials for export and employment generation as the Coal has to be mined. However, for immediate mass employment creation, Rail transport deployment must commence.

We cannot afford to economise on the use of labour as, unlike the necessarily technology reliant “developed” world where labour is scarce and expensive, we have a “dangerous” abundance and our labour costs are low. In a country of over 100 million people, with over 60% below the age of 40 years, and wherein over 60% remain unemployed, any and all opportunities at job creation should be engaged.

You have shown commitment in ensuring the necessary enabling environment and guarantees for investors in these items. But beyond the Gencos, Discos and Transycos, thought should also be given the possibility of pseudo-privatisation i.e. creating special vehicles that allow for the use of tradable instruments and local manual labour in the delivery of the additional capacities in these objectives. This will assuage the difficulties re high capital investments and the attendant effect on tariffs and pricing, especially in our country with over 60% on the poverty line.

The deployment of Rail transport is a good example of this, wherein, most countries that boast of extensive networks achieved same with local manual labour and investment thereby imparting and internalising skills and capacity whilst retaining value. We must use internal fiscal mechanisms and manual local labour to achieve sustained infrastructural and economic development and, consequently, wealth creation. The Chinese, equally needing to provide employment, use their own local manual labour and fiscal mechanisms even for projects abroad as evidenced in their various projects in Nigeria. Indeed the lasting solutions to our challenges lie within.  

The actualisation of the necessary capital should involve Government (through instrumentalities and direct investment, but not exceeding 30% of item value), the capital markets (both home and abroad), and Nigerians globally through stocks and shares. Nigerians are ready for proper Public Private Peoples Partnerships wherein Government provides the framework, the private sector and Nigerians provide the capital through the markets and manual local labour is engaged for deployment and implementation. The model can equally be replicated in other areas as agriculture (i.e. large scale farming and farming communities), mining of our minerals and ores, even the provision of mass housing. Less direct public sector spending and more structured, prioritised and articulated private sector investment will reformulate our skewed socio-economic formations, reviving and repositioning the hitherto destroyed (but important) middle class.

(Offices here include Independent Infrastructure Regulatory Commission (ICRC), the relevant Ministries i.e. Power, Mines, Steel and Transport, National Directorate of Employment, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), National Television Authority (NTA), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Ministry of Information, Urban Development Bank of Nigeria Plc, Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), Nigerian Railway Corporation, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Bank of Industry (BOI), Jos and Katsina Steel Rolling Company ltd, National Iron Ore Mining Company ltd (NIOMCO), National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS), Nigeria Machine Tools Ltd, Nigerian Coal Corporation, Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE), Ajaokuta Steel Company Ltd, relevant professional bodies, media and the Presidency)   

The use of local investment vehicles and markets as fiscal mechanisms in this context will help to stabilise the market as investment would directly relate to tangible value and production as opposed to virtual indices and hype. Also and perhaps more uniquely, such mechanisms will ensure faster deployment and retain ownership of the means of production within the purview of all instead of the existing stagnant single-owner entities. There is an abundance of funds, especially “rouge funds” which can be productively ploughed into the system for national development and benefit, perhaps using a “blind investment” mechanism. This will assimilate these rouge funds and necessarily the owner, whilst addressing the fiscal challenges posed by the “Shadow Economy”.

The immediate expansion in the economy occasioned will necessarily provide mass real employment, direct technical and skills transfer, micro-economic activity and macro-economic stability, and subsequently peace and security. Furthermore, the projects either involve or catalyse other variables thus manifesting the inter-related nature of development and character of good governance, economic or otherwise.

Expressly, those between the ages of 20 and 50 should be the focus of our new direction as therein reside our productive and regulatory capacities in the present. The proper collection, collation and use of data in categorisation, location, compartmentalisation, reorientation and necessarily regimented deployment of this segment of society, if thoroughly planned and pursued, will adequately address our infrastructure and employment challenges. Indeed this was what the “Generals” were supposed to do. This will also necessarily prepare labour and enhance the skills and knowledge base in the polity for the expected post infrastructure deployment economic “explosion”. (Offices here include Directorate of Employment, National Orientation Agency (NOA), Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) and The GATE®) 

But our transformation should also include the provision of quality education beyond tinkering with ownership, altering the number of years spent at each level or even breaking the relevant Ministry. The task is to immediately overhaul the Education sector in all its ramifications. The Kwara State experience (as was the case in two other States, where out of over 19,000 teachers under 1000 passed a Class 4 exam) dictates that an immediate assessment of all teachers must be conducted nationally, in both public and private schools, as a matter of urgency. Further, the regulatory offices in the sector need repositioning as hitherto they remain inactive. Adequate and equipped Science Laboratories, Physical Education facilities and even basic amenities also remain in issue. (Reformulations here include Universal Basic Education (UBE), the various Federal/Schools Inspectorate Services/Agencies, Ministries of Education, Science and Technology, 

However, Education exceeds the four walls of the classroom and includes Libraries, Arts and Drama, Girl Guides and Boys Scouts, books, even toys and comics. Age grades and other traditional structures educative and supportive of constituted authority and collective societal input are equally part and parcel of the process. Edutainment however remains more applicable in the immediate as a means of extending universality in learning, this is an area of great importance globally and much needed local focus and input. Likewise, recreational facilities, adequately spaced parks and zoos, not to mention the availability of social/societal components such as the provision of public Bins supportive and sustaining of learning, especially in the formative years.

(Relevant partners include the Literary Society of Nigeria, International Donnors (re books and comics), toy manufacturers, local artists e.g Mike Ejiro etc, cartoonists, NTA, Media/TV Censors Board, Ministries of Environment, Sports, Women and Children Affairs, Guidance and Counselling Circuits/Agencies, National Orientation Agency and media houses (especially Television), National Film Institute, National Teachers Institute (NTI), National Institute for Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA), Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC))   

But beyond the economy, Education, Health and Agriculture, etc, we must also engage mechanisms to access, asses and communicate to the individual and family units, at all levels, as the bedrock of our national revival and sustenance. Regrettably our most important platform in this regard, the Local Government structure, has been truly relegated to the “third tier of government”. This is the level of government closest to the people. It is here the people participate in government activity, initiatives and policies, and also derive benefits, directly or indirectly. And it is at this level that social safety nets and social engineering mechanisms become applicable, integrating and stabilising the polity, deployed through available local (and traditional) pairing structures.   

Historically however, our national experience at this level has been disappointing. In the forward to the 1976 Local Government Reform Guidelines, the then Brigadier Shehu Musa Yar’Adua was to comment that with “…the continuous whittling down of their powers…..Excessive politicking had made even modest progress impossible. Consequently, there has been a divorce between the people and Government institutions at their most basic levels”. That was 35 years ago. The Brigadier continued “…it is only through an effective Local Government system that the human and material resources could be mobilised for local development. Such mobilisation implies more intimate communication between the governed and the governor. But above all, these reforms are intended to entrust political responsibility to where it is most crucial and beneficial, that is, to the people.” Yet decades after the Reforms the story is evidently different, needing no recount here. Many States fail to conduct Local Government elections, thwart same in favour of cronies and henchmen or interfere in their affairs. This continues to fuel the constant, yet unnecessary, calls for creation of new States.

Needless to say, we are truly at a crossroads, requiring careful and focused planning as opposed to big budgets, old names, unbridled spending, meaningless talk and fanfare. It is indeed time for a transformation. This, for us as a nation, necessarily requires a paradigm shift, not only in conceptualisation of national policy and programmes, but also in the offices and methodologies of deployment, implementation modalities, mechanics of funding and articulation of participation.

For you and your good offices however, it means a proactive government, determined to overcome system failure and the resultant decades of corruption and mismanagement in delivering service to Nigerians. It is possible for government policies to be proactive and ensure equitable uniform delivery of services and programmes. It is possible to apply feasibility and creativity to meet individual needs. It is possible to address a wide number of circumstances appropriately and institute systematic change to enable the public service respond more effectively to the real circumstances and needs of Nigeria’s diverse populations.

It is indeed the implications and opportunities of these times that call my attention, and to which I seek to call yours. 

Mr President Sir, as critical to our transformation, I make a most passionate appeal that you immediately and critically address the needs of two institutions, i.e. the Public Complaints Commission and the Nigerian Postal Service. Herein resides functionality of all our Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as these twin structures not only provide for the necessary communication between the “governed and the governor”, but also enable the prerequisite levels of universal participation whilst anchoring service delivery.   

The Postal Service, as a universal service provider, is a globally recognised veritable tool for service delivery and thus national development in most countries. And though all governments need to be sufficiently enabled with Information and Communication Technology (ICT) capacities for internal processes, hard-copy formats is necessarily the means for communicating with the general public (especially with our literacy levels and power-ICT challenges). The Nigerian Postal Service should be at the fore in extending and attaining the desired levels of information dissemination, service delivery and feed-back mechanisms, especially at the grassroots, in order not to occasion further disadvantage or notions of alienation from those in rural areas and even in the urban areas. It is a grave mistake not to utilise this most important bridge and universal service provider, especially considering the structural coverage possessed by the agency, almost covering the 774 Local Governments. 

The Public Complaints Commission (PCC), on the other hand, an Ombudsman structure, being inherently probative and characterised by complaints and demands from the populace, engineers adequate reform across the public and private sectors especially in service delivery and accountability (naturally using a bottom-up approach). In the preliminaries, the enabling Act reads – “An Act to establish the Public Complaints Commission with wide powers to inquire into complaints by members of the public concerning the administrative action of any public authority and companies or their officials, and other matters ancillary thereto”. This is the watchdog for social justice covering both the public and private sectors and ultimately addresses;

  1. Non-recurring injury to individuals or a group,
  2. Recurring, systematic injury to individuals or a group/class and

3.      Injury to the general public or the greater collective.

Nigerians largely have nowhere to turn to for solutions to the mundane, whereas the services of the Commission are free and, as evident above, critical.

Yet our Ombudsman, the Public Complaints Commission, has been subverted, being without Commissioners at Federal and State levels for over 10 years and, mischievously, resides under the Presidency as opposed to being answerable to the National Assembly as required by the enabling act. Perhaps this is because this is the agency that exposes Government to the light of scrutiny and asks for account for their conduct. Indeed it is the Ombudsman that feeds and enables the oversight functions of the Assembly. This is not to mention that under funding, under staffing and the usurpation of its powers by other agencies (not recognised by the Constitution) has rendered the PCC hitherto ineffective but for the spirit of its current leadership.

It is this same structure that also provides the bridge between the government and the governed, allowing the General Will constant expression such that Government can respond accordingly. This Will allows leadership to effectively carry real Nigerians along with Government and its policies through universal participation. Indeed, as the recent crisis in the Arab world has shown, it is imperative that the peoples of any country are granted access to their Government and allowed avenues for the reporting of perceived and actual ills and anomalies, whilst demanding and assured that action will be taken. Even in our polity we continue to witness increasing displays of desperation, anger and hostility among those who feel they are being “marginalised”, ignored or silenced.

Rather than “stimulate” items and areas that would simply and otherwise be catered for by the provision of necessary infrastructure above discussed, it is these twin structures that need stimulating attention as, though they essentially render social services, they hold the key to the socio-political, socio-economic and the socio-cultural in the development in our nation. Herein lies the deployment of the, much touted, one-stop-shop model for all MDAs thus enabling inquiry, information dissemination, requests, registrations ( e.g. National ID card), surveys, verification, feedback mechanisms, investigation, applications and even recruitment. Information can also be collected for the necessary task of collating data and statistics. Offices will ultimately benefit from the local coordination of MDAs, NGOs, security and emergency agencies and imperatives, with benefits to the masses in service delivery.

What is more crucial is the functionality that these structures can afford agencies and departments of government whilst eliminating the current duplicity and budgeted waste in the system through the one-stop-shop model wherein logistics and national coverage would be a collective responsibility, as opposed to the individual Office, buttressing the inter-relatedness in government and governance. This is not to mention the huge and sustainable employment potentials were the “system” so liberalised and made attentive.

Most importantly however, development is a holistic affair involving all aspects and ingredients of communal existence in a given polity. Thus focus in our transformation must necessarily involve the social and socio, lest we lose all gains in the physical and tangible. In this regard, though the various Ministries remain relevant, they are over bloated. It is the various Departments and Agencies of direct import and contact with the population that hold the key to success. And it is these that require our attention, aided by the inherent uniformity of deployment and anchoring capacities of these twin structures. Indeed the success of our transformation will ultimately be gauged by the capacity of your administration to capture and serve the people in their most basic environment and needs. In the words of Franklin D Roosevelt “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little”.

(Offices and considerations here include the Public Complaints Commission (PCC), National Orientation Agency (NOA), Ministries of Information, Sports, Internal Affairs, Health, Education, Women and Children Affairs, National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Pension and other disbursements, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), National Bureau for Data and Statistics, Nigerian Police, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), National Directorate of Employment, National Planning Commission (NPC), National Identification Management, Galaxy Backbone Plc, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), National Population Commission, Inter-Governmental Relations, Nigerian Immigration Services, School Guidance and Counselling Circuit, Civic Registration Department, National Human Rights Commission, Labour and Factory Inspectorate, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Legal Aid Council, Citizen Rights, Nomadic Education Council, National Action Committee on AIDS (NACA), National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and other Related Matters (NAPTIP), National Troupe of Nigeria, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, Nigerian Civil Defence Corps, possibly the Public Defendant  – the list continues)       

I humbly ask therefore Sir, as a young and concerned, well meaning citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that you extend tangible and adequate life lines for the immediate revival and resuscitation of these two agencies for the immeasurable benefit of all in the short, medium and long term. This in the main should focus on alternative Power for operational functionality, Information Communication Technologies, logistics and much funding.

In turn, and as a personal contribution to these times, your administration and national development, I enclose a copy of THE GATE®, a Universal Common Operating Platform (UCOP) that will serve to achieve more than the above enumerated objectives for the benefit of all Nigerians should you choose to adopt same. This will serve as the catalyst for the national and local activation and harnessing of the General Will by providing the bridge between Government and the people for service delivery, information dissemination and feedback mechanisms whilst acting as the needed gateway to government and e-government, necessarily using hard copy formats for public interface.

The platform eliminates duplicity and wasteful budgeting for coverage as it deploys and coordinates the one-stop-shop model in the localities for MDAs, institutions and structures thereby also enabling local pairing structures and anchoring universal service delivery and participation. Involved further is the re configuration and local circuitry for the implementation of public/private policy, programmes and initiatives, rural financial services, civil society/NGO activity and security/emergency imperatives.   

Indeed, and speaking for my Generation, national contributions and “solution conversations” are required of all of us in the immediate. It is not enough to complain without proffering solutions. And though I lost in my recent bid to represent Onitsha Federal Constituency in the Federal House of Representatives, I still insist that we should stop complaining but instead start asking “what we can do for our country”. Born during or after our national Independence, we are in the main drifting away from docile acquiescence based on familial and feudal lines, but rather continuously requiring more explanation, transparency, logic and reason. The problem was not the emergence of the younger Generation into “Leadership”, but rather the necessary exit of the older Generation from “Rulership” and the constant occupation of the political and economic landscape (usually for personal and mercurial gains) under one guise or another, most commonly to “stabilise” the polity or “move the nation forward”.

Indeed in most countries, after the rule of the “Generals” emerges a new era defined and propelled by a new Social Contract. A new generation emerges and, devoid of the antagonisms, affiliations and linkages of yore, understand their collective realities and potentials. And through greater participation and cooperation, the emergent formations move the collective to greater heights. Perhaps we are on the verge of such an era now. An opportunity not to be ignored or wasted, but rather, requiring a harnessing of the “General Will” to productively engage the citizens through the integration of capital and labour for wealth creation and development.

Largely devoid of regional, religious and tribal motives (though poverty allows the miscreant to instigate), and roughly below the age of 55 years, we are the hands and feet in most uprisings, the voters in most elections, the opinionated in most debates and the achievers of most endeavours. In recent times, the same Generation has become the backbone of our economy and are graduating to becoming the Guardians of our society. This is where the transformation should derive its human face. It is proper now Sir, and to be expected, that this Generation should start controlling the affairs of our nation rather than the usual return to the feudal past to resurrect and recycle. Our new dawn must be manifest in new thinking, amplified by new ways and personified by new people. Indeed within this Generation many are capable, dependable and with pedigree. We are indeed ready to work for our country and we are bold enough to give our “GOOD PEOPLE A GREAT NATION”.

It is time for our nation to emerge as a productive peaceful entity. Many developed nations witnessed even worse than our current situation and attendant dynamics at differing times and still forged ahead. This is the only country we have and there has been enough complaining and protesting, orchestrated or otherwise. There is now need for unison of purpose, guided dialogue and coordinated action in addressing the important and necessary tasks in our polity, especially that of uniting capital and labour and fostering a socio-economically/culturally viable entity regulated by the rule of law. 

This has become more glaring with the obvious and eminent emergence of a new economic world order destined to ravage the developing nations, Africa especially. The dictates of globalisation determine that production will continually seek cheap skilled labour and more importantly capital will continue to seek secured profits.

Few moments in the history of our nation have been so critical and I make bold to remind you of the transient nature of power and the haste of time. I urge you Sir, to always remember that you are the President of a nation and not just a political party, interest group or region. You have rightly called for national contributions such that collectively we can all make our country a nation. Many contributions have been made herein and with modalities. And though I have not had the pleasure of your acquaintance, I sincerely wish you well in the next four years, as your successes (and/or failures) will equally be ours.

I pray you forgive the length and possible public nature of this letter as it is borne out of the conviction that all Nigerians, both home and abroad, should participate in this conversation, as much of its contents affect us all. Majority of Nigerians love Nigeria, not “because of”, but, “in spite of”. We collectively seek to light that candle of change and merely ask that you muster the courage to bring the spark. This only requires honesty, focus, transparency and sincerity of purpose from you. Seize these times and step out of the box.

Finally, as an inauguration gift, please find enclosed a modest copy of the album “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye. Though my children wish me to draw your attention to the 4th track, I find the 1st and 8th tracks most rewarding as expressive, incisive and inspirational.

With the rest of us, I share a poem by John Donne, “For Whom the Bell Tolls”.

No man is an island,

Entire of itself.

Each is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manner of thine own

Or of thine friend’s were.

Each man’s death diminishes me,

For I am involved in mankind.

Therefore send not to know

For whom the bell tolls

It tolls for thee.

Indeed it tolls for all of us.

 

Yours Sincerely,

Akunwata Chuka Modebe Esq.

________________________________________

Akunwata Chuka Modebe Esq. | © 2011–2013

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