Whereas Nigerians agreed that their nation is in dire need of several projects to arrive at some considerable level of development, there are by far too many views and counter views as well as actions blocking the way forward.
For now, almost every topic has an opposite perspective that can confuse leadership. This includes even serious security issues bordering on terrorism and banditry.
A few days ago, former Imo Governor, Rochas Okorocha argued that although he has never supported the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) he did not agree with the appellation of terrorists given to them.
Instead, he says “I see them as children who have not been properly educated on the happenings” they are reacting to. On his part, Islamic scholar, Ahmad Gumi had insisted that banditry was essentially a business because the “big weapons bandits were using could not have crossed the borders into the country if money was not exchanging hands.” Unfortunately, arguments such as these which appeal to the emotions and sentiments of some people cannot help the nation.
A more substantive issue different from the allegation of money changing hands is the other point made by Gumi that our military troops were colluding with the bandits. Perhaps because the military refuted the claim little was done about it.
In other climes, the media would have on the basis of their mandate of holding those in authority accountable to the people who followed up the subject. But in Nigeria, that is almost impossible because our media professionals are greatly hindered by several handicaps among them official policies, ownership control and poor media financing.
How can the media hold the government accountable in Nigeria when its leaders are enacting laws which in all respects have the same provisions as those of the obsolete law of sedition which imperialist agents used against activists during the colonial era? These days, every media report that is not exactly favourable to the government is classified as hate speech capable of destabilizing the country or state as the case may be. Before the reporter can defend himself especially in states such as Ebonyi, he has already been traumatized by law enforcement agencies who are relying on some local laws on fake news.
Thus, with government leaders using their offices to stop the media from holding those in authority accountable to the people, what other options are available to the nation? Why for example couldn’t the relevant committees of the legislature take up the allegations raised by Gumi and indeed any other allegation?
We are encouraged to raise this poser following the report a few days back that the House of Representatives had resolved to investigate the ongoing recruitment exercises into the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) and other agencies under the Ministry of Labour and Productivity.
The House allegedly found that only people from a particular part of the country were being recruited in breach of the federal character principle.
The resolution of the House includes an appropriate sanction for anyone found culpable of undue favouritism in the exercise. The probe is to last four weeks.
Any well-meaning Nigerian ought to commend the decision of the House of Representatives. However, how come it is only the Ministry of Labour and its agencies that are so selected for investigation? Is anyone suggesting that the House is unaware that the allegation which is the sing-song in today’s public service affects virtually all Ministries, Parastatals and Agencies (MDA)? When will the exercise be extended to such other bodies? Our point must not be misunderstood; we depart entirely from critics who oppose the checking of wrongdoing at one location simply because all other culprits are spared the agony.
We call on all committees to investigate MDAs in their spheres of oversight with respect to the same exercise which is to hold at the Ministry of labour shortly.
We recommend that the terms of reference of the committees should include the identification of powerful citizens in government behind the trend of favouritism in personnel recruitment in Nigeria. I will be shocked if many legislators will not be indicted.
It is our hope that the investigations would not take the pattern of previous exercises that were fitful and whose results were never made public. It will be recalled that in November last year, the Senate had raised an alarm that some officials of the federal civil service had engaged in secret recruitment while wrongly claiming that there was an official embargo on employment.
Having discovered that some Nigerians who graduated some 15 years ago were yet to be employed we had thought the Senate would follow the subject through and reduce the tension of unemployment in the land. Painfully, we are yet to see any positive development.
We hope the alarm raised by the Senate was not just a ploy to get spaces for their relations in some agencies and that this investigation into the Ministry of Labour and its agencies would be more transparently handled in the public interest.
Indeed, the issue of adhering to the federal character principle should not be toyed with because it is high among the items creating disaffection in the land.
It would do more harm if our top officeholders continue to pay lip service to it. When the police announced recently that many applications were not received from some states in the South, many people expressed surprise.
With the revelation two days ago by Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa State that the police recruitment template was skewed, those in charge must return to the drawing table.
As argued by Diri, “equitable recruitment into federal agencies can only be achieved if the process was in tandem with the federal character principle as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution.” It is in truth a different ball game if the template used was based on a number of local government areas in a state which is unjustifiable and lacks merit.
The point Governor Diri is making is that there is a need for consistency in our understanding of the federal character principle. We cannot, as many politicians are doing now, pick and choose when to or not to adhere to it. Some presidential aspirants and other leaders have recently made a strong case for merit which on its own has many advantages.
But we cannot be seen to be describing the rotational presidency as obsolete and unmeritorious while still hanging on to our quota system and federal character principle which offer selective gains.
If Nigeria has developed enough to have its president come from anywhere, our entire structure should be devoid of those lower and unimaginative prescriptive criteria. In fact, we cannot continue to operate a federal character principle when the body is set up to ensure its observance is itself in breach. Among all agencies, the federal character commission cannot but have a federal character.
Last year, two allegations were made against the commission. The first was that its tradition which from inception has been to ensure a chairman and a secretary are periodically sourced from North and South was breached as both offices are now held by appointees from the same region.
The second was that 20 out of the 37 commissioners had drawn attention in vain to the fact that the chairman had been engaged in secret recruitments in which 50% of those employed were sourced from her kinsmen.
Nothing appears to have been done to these allegations. If, however, anything was done, it probably did not attract the same publicity as the breach of the federal principle making it difficult for many people to know about it.
But if nothing has been done since then, efforts must now be made to handle it simultaneously with that of NSITF so as to send the correct message that we are set to rebuild our nation without fear or favour.
We must put our legislature to better use, rather than engaging them in bogus impeachment exercises such as the wind blowing currently in Zamfara state.