(An extract of the Presidential Charge delivered by the Rt Revd Dr. James Olusola Odedeji, the Diocesan Bishop of the Diocese of Lagos State (Anglican Communion) at the 3rd Session of the 6th Diocesan Synod on Friday May 20, 2017 at Archbishop Vining Memorial Church Cathedral, GRA, Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria).
In few days from now, Nigeria and Nigerians will be celebrating 18 years of uninterrupted democracy in our nation. This is clear indications that never again will our nation be ruled by the military; rather, the men in uniform will learn how to subject themselves continually to civil rule.
However, an 18 year old boy or girl cannot be said to be a toddler anymore. Many of them may have been in the University, while some may have graduated. Can we therefore say that our nation has matured democratically, or better still, changed for better since the inception of the 4th Republic in 1999? Have we really fared well as a nation and a people? How far have we enjoyed the dividends of democracy? What shall we say if opportunity unveils itself, of our eighteen years of uninterrupted democratic rule? Is our nation today developed, developing or underdeveloped? These are pertinent questions that are really begging for answers from all and sundry. These questions are better addressed when we consider, in a holistic way, how Nigeria is fairing in all areas of its existence. That is, in the area of economy, social, education, religion, health, or better still the impact of the Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary on Nigerian nation to mention just a few.
We will love to open this aspect of our Charge with the contribution of the three arms of government upon which our democracy stands. These are the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. It is important to start with the trio because all other sectors rest firmly on them.
a. THE EXECUTIVE
This arm of government dictates the pace, controls the resources and gives direction for development. With all modesty, we can say that only God knows the sum total of resources in monetary terms, that we have generated in this country, within the last eighteen years of our uninterrupted democracy and civil governance. The total budget, on yearly basis, had run into several trillions of Naira, if not in dollars, which had been approved for expenditure and yet, Nigeria is still experiencing infrastructural decay, epileptic power supply, educational comatose, economic policy summersault, moribund health facilities, security threats all over the place, suicide news among the high and the lowly, to mention just a few. Those that should facilitate development in various areas are busy padding the budgets, year by year, thereby accumulating ill-gotten wealth for themselves and their generations yet unborn. This is a country where white elephant projects are scattered all over, and contracts are being re-awarded, one regime after the other. The immediate past Prime Minister of Britain, Mr. Cameron, was quoted recently, to have said that if it were Britain that lost all monies that had been stolen from Nigeria, it would have ceased from existing. He was also quoted in the media, both local and foreign, as saying that “Nigerians are fantastically corrupt”. This is a country where moral values have long been thrown into the dustbin. It will be practically impossible for our politicians, either in uniform or mufti, old and young, or better still, ancient and modern, to trace all monies stolen by them, even many years after their death. May God have mercy! b. THE LEGISLATURE The foundational dispute on which the eighth parliament was built continues to haunt this arm of government. The election of officers into both the House of Representatives and the Senate, whereby those elected were not the choice of the party that formed the government at the centre, but rather, those that were labeled as rebels, won all the important offices. Ever since, it has been one issue or the other. The smooth relationships that ought to exist between the two (National Assembly and the Executive) had turned sour, and the game has been that of a cat and a mouse. And since there must be that smooth relationship between the two arms in particular, for any genuine or meaningful development to take place, it has been the other way round. Each of this arm continues to arrogate power to itself, and hence the near total collapse of the economy. For instance, while high profile corruption cases are being pursued on a daily basis, little success is still noticeable. The reason is not farfetched, those that should legislate laws that could help curb corruption are daily engaged in oversight functions that slow down development, rather than aiding it. When the Executive and the Legislature are working at variance with each other, then the electorate is usually at the receiving end and hence the stage we are in - Recession.
c. THE JUDICIARY
The recent event in our nation has cast a lot of doubt on the saying, that the “Judiciary is the last hope of the common man”. The invasion of the homes of some Judges and the revelations thereafter have made some so-called “common men” have a rethink, that for one to get justice in our Courts, you must secure the services of Lawyers that know the language of some Judges. However, it is sad, to see Judges being arraigned before fellow Judges to defend their integrity which before now is regarded as sacrosanct. This is a country where Judges give different judgments on the same subject matter, and where ‘interlocutory injunctions’ and ‘stay of execution’ are being used as weapons to attract compensation both from Complainants and Defendants.
When we consider occurrences around us as a people, one will not hesitate to conclude that our dear nation is sick and begging for instant surgery. And whereas darkness covers the land, we want to appreciate the doggedness of our President, Muhammadu Buhari, and his Vice, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, to have resolutely confronted the menace of corruption, and to fight it to a near still. We pray to God to continue to strengthen them in this onerous task of rescuing our nation from the jaw of the corrupt leaders.
Suffice it to say, that if Nigerians will make any headway, the three arms of government must be ready to work together to save our nation from total decay. May God help us all.
We thank God that the present Chief Justice is taking steps to redeem the image of the temple of justice by instituting a Committee on the Reform of the Judiciary. We can only lift him up in prayers for the courage to see it through. The alternative to a respectable judiciary cannot be contemplated. d. CORRUPTION – THE FIGHT SO FAR Aside the incompatibility of the three arms of government in Nigeria, another monster is the issue of corruption among the high and the low, among the politicians and the civil servants. We may not have known the level at which corruption had eaten deep into the fabrics of our nation, if not for the election of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, and his willingness to rid this country of all forms of corruption at all cost. It is a pity that people now bury money in cemeteries, open shops to stock money as wares, build houses in isolated areas to keep stolen money and even rent an apartment where money is the sole tenant. May God help us. The various policies of government, both fiscal and monetary, had gone a long way in exposing the decay in our system which makes the rich become richer on a daily basis, and the poor, poorer as if the rich people were created differently from the poor. Permit us to speak on two of these policies which had worked effectively against corruption and are still working. The first is monetary while the other is fiscal. The monetary policy has to do with the introduction of the Bank Verification Number (BVN) which gives the full data of what individuals have in their various bank accounts, while the fiscal measure is the recently introduced Whistle Blowing policy. The policy enables the public oblige necessary information on how to recover looted funds from corrupt people. This includes giving information on where such funds are kept and who their keepers are. The only area of criticism by the members of the public has been the fact that only corrupt officials from the opposition of the government in power are being exposed. However, the sword of truth is not just cast and sharpened for the neck of foes but also for those of friends. No wonder, the recent suspension of the Secretary to the Federal Government (SGF), Mr. Babachir David Lawal, and Director General, Nigerian Intelligence Agency (DG.NIA), Ambassador Ayo Oke, for corruption related cases under investigation, have been applauded by many, as the right step in the right direction. The search light of the government must be beamed further on officials around Mr. President, to balance up the fight against corruption and related offences.
Lastly, there should be better coordination and synergy among the various security agencies fighting graft in the country such as the Police, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Department of State Service, Code of Conduct Bureau, Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission; and the Office of the Attorney–General of the Federation.
e. SECURITY MATTERS
One major area of commendation for this government is indeed the area of security, especially curbing the menace of Boko Haram in the North Eastern part of the country. But for the political will on the part of this government to deal decisively with the matter of the deadly sect, the major part of the Northern Nigeria would have been ceded to them.
However, it is not yet uhuru, as the sect continues to use teenage boys and girls for suicide missions, using improvised explosive devices (IEDS). Not only that they use innocent boys and girls, they also invade at odd hours, some border villages with Cameroon and Niger Republic, killing and maiming people, and destroying their properties including their houses and animals. Also, the government may need to adopt the same strategy used to curb the activities of the insurgents in the North East, to put a stop to the activities of the Herdsmen in States like Kaduna, Zamfara, Benue, Plateau, Enugu etc. where it has been reported that these herdsmen kill and maim people, at will. Militancy has gone beyond agitation for resource control by the people of Niger Delta, but they are spread all over the creeks around major rivers in the South-South and South Western part of Nigeria. They engage in all things that amount to criminality, kidnapping, ritual making and cultism. We pray to God to continue to strengthen our President, and grant him wisdom to cope with the demand of his office in all regards.
f. INFRASTRUCTURAL DEVELOPMENT
Since the inception of the fourth republic in 1999, this government may have been the one that has released more funds for capital projects than any other regime before it. No wonder, projects like power, housing and road constructions have actually received a boost, with evidence in all the geo-political zones of the Federation. There has been mass production of housing units to care for the low and middle income people of this nation. All states of the Federation are having their share of this project. Road networks have not been left out, with all major road networks linking the six zones under reconstruction and rehabilitation as the case may be. However, stable power supply is still very elusive, as the sector has defied all solutions to date. As much as we want to commend the Federal Government for her various initiatives to ensure that Nigerians enjoy stable power both for home use and for their businesses, a lot still has to be done. The solar energy programme, the hydro-power generation, the coal option etc. must be explored to the fullest. The private partners must also be monitored properly to check possible sabotage. Providing uninterrupted electricity for the populace in this country must be a task that must be done by any government that will receive the acceptance of all and sundry. We want to join millions of Nigerians and even foreigners to pat our government on the back, for the feat of a major rehabilitation exercise it carried out on Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja within six weeks. It showed the seriousness of government to really address some of the prevalent infrastructural decay. If there is the will there is a way. However, the same magic could be applied to rehabilitate our National Sports Stadia all over the country, because sports could be a major diversification of our economy, attracting huge resource generation for our developmental purposes. g. EDUCATION We wish to renew our advocacy for technically oriented curricula for our institutions of higher learning. This is because the present curricula in various forms and applications had failed us. For instance, Engineering graduates are being produced yearly from our institutions and yet, we still depend on technical expertise of foreigners who only attended technical schools in their countries. Many graduates of Agriculture are massively being produced on a yearly basis, yet imported gari from India still found its way to our supermarkets; even with the blessing of uncountable hectares of arable land in virtually all geo-political zones of Nigeria. How do we justify an Agriculture graduate looking for banking employment, or other white colar jobs? Something is definitely missing. Our orientation must be addressed in such a way that a student knows what he wants to study before seeking admission into Colleges. The idea of having to get to the College before you know what you have applied for as a course of study should be checked. The government must be willing to do all things within its power to ensure adequate incentives are provided, to encourage graduates to remain in their choice of career.
Many farm settlements of old are without resident farmers today, while the land has been kept fallow for years. Where are our Agricultural graduates? Are they aware, they are to become professional farmers by the time they were applying for admission? If they knew, and probably ready to go into farming, are there incentives? Government at all levels must therefore address the need for our educational sector to make education really worthwhile.
There was a debate by some Public Speakers on Television on how best to curb and treat, if infected, the disease of cancer on the World Cancer Day. One female discussant, who was previously infected and cured, made a revelation of how she had to travel outside the country to diagnose the ailment, having been so frustrated with the responses from our hospitals in Nigeria. She went further to say that out of about eight Teaching Hospitals that are attending to cancer patients, only one has a functional equipment, while the machines in other seven are mere decorations. This must be the peak of embarrassment in a country where several thousands are already infected, and about 70% cannot afford to go abroad for diagnosis, let alone treatment.
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