Tuesday, 24 May 2011

A Letter To The President

Mr. President: as you begin
to constitute your
administration, I think it
proper that you take a
moment and reflect on
aspects of your own journey
to the Presidency. You once
painted a picture of your
humble background from
the backwoods of Otueke,
where you grew up, went
through school barefoot,
without the luxuries of the
official chauffeur, and
certainly without the benefits
of the so-called silver-spoon.
In your summation of that
life, you noted that if you
could go through life in
those circumstances and still
emerge to become president,
then, anyone else could do
so. It only required a little of
“ goodluck” and a little of
hard work and a perhaps a
dash of, whatchmacalit,
shrewdness. Nigeria is a land
of opportunities – in your
I ’m afraid this is not quite so.
I might, in fact, say it’s a view
borne of naïveté and
romanticism. Nigeria is not
yet the land of opportunities.
It certainly could be. But the
Nigerian child – and you are
a very lucky survivor – with
the limited opportunities
available to it is left with only
two choices these days: he
or she either succumbs to
fierce religion or to crime.
The middle ground is the
space of hopelessness and
indeterminacy. I begin on
this note, Mr. President, to
remind you of your past, and
the challenges of conscience
as well as of consciousness.
You are a poster child for
But, as a matter, of course,
you must ensure that the
social and historical
conditions that almost
undermined your survival as
a child, which has in this
current generation become
exponential, is eliminated for
the sake of the Nigerian
child. Providence has thrust
upon you the power to
change the life of the poor
Nigerian, your true kinsman.
I do subscribe to the karmic
principle, and I would say, if
in your term of office, you fail
to hearken to the voice of
the poor, among whom you
once counted, and for whom
you have been elected to
serve, the recompense would
be heavy and eternal.
But, I would, of course,
dispense with the mystical
for the more practical and
make certain propositions to
you. First, if you wish to
succeed in your presidency,
you must keep the distance
counsel of certain characters
in Nigerian public life, among
them, Mr. Olusegun
Obasanjo. He belongs to the
museum of Nigerian politics
having stayed so long on the
scene of national politics and
having become the litmus to
political failure. In one
generation – his generation
– Nigeria went from great
possibility as a post-colonial
nation to great decay and
degeneration. Nothing good
can come out of Ota. I say
this because of the chatter
currently coming out of the
discussions around the
selection of your ministers
and the distribution of other
public positions. The
pressure is on, certainly.
Indeed, one reads with
amusement the open letter
written by Mr. Ikedi Ohakim,
the soon-to-be quondam
governor of Imo State,
defeated in the elections in
spite of your public support,
for incompetence and for his
failures as a public
administrator. He is putting
himself forward for
consideration as a minister
in your government. He will
make a poor addition to your
team. My friendly advise is
that you must assume the full
authority of your presidency,
show some backbone and
maintain clear independence
of mind and purpose.
You must seek men and
women of sterling qualities.
You must learn from the
current American president,
Mr. Barrack Obama. On
assuming office, he scoured
the best technical team from
America ’s best universities
and public institutions. They
were not only Democrats.
Indeed, the party had very
little to do with his decisions.
Competence did.
He saw the challenge of his
presidency as the call to heal
America and once again put
it on the path of fortitude
after the Bush era. He chose
a highly technical team
beyond the confines of party
politics. Mr. President, the
times call on you to act with
the same insight. Seek within
Nigeria, beyond the
patronage system of the
Peoples Democratic Party, a
team of highly accomplished
and driven Nigerians from
the academia and industry to
constitute your team.
You must reduce the number
of cabinet positions and
eliminate the excesses of
state administration. There
are seven areas to which you
must pay particular
attention: Education and
Culture, Health and Human
Services, Industry and
Technology, Trade and
Economic Development,
Home Affairs and National
Security; Labour, Employment
and Establishment,
Agriculture, the Environment
and Natural Resources. As a
former educator, you
understand the problems of
Nigeria ’s public education.
This key area ought to drive
Nigeria ’s economic and
social growth.
It demands a radical
revaluation and funding
regime of Nigeria ’s public
schools. You must constitute
a Universities Reform
Commission urgently to deal
with the situation of
Nigeria ’s public universities
with the aim of repositioning
them and re-attracting
Nigeria ’s massive intellectual
capital from the “Diaspora”
to reignite and re-energise
Nigeria ’s knowledge-making
sector and prepare it for the
challenges of the 21st
You must constitute a very
broad Police Reform
Commission to reform,
reorganise and rebuild the
Nigerian police system into a
modern and civilised police
service prepared for law
enforcement and the
protection of the lives and
property of Nigerians
nationwide. The recent post-
election riots exposed the
terrible state of the Nigerian
police, particularly its
intelligence gathering and
deterrent capacities.
Its failure to anticipate the
riots or protect the lives,
particularly the lives of young
Nigerians on national service
is a matter of outrage. The
outrage for me is even more
so that the president had to
move troops onto the street.
The Nigerian military is not,
or should not be a law-
enforcement agency. It
should be kept in top form
for the defence of the nation
against any external
A reform of the police
services must also call for a
reform of the justice system.
The president must urgently
introduce an executive bill
before parliament to begin a
thorough constitutional
reorganisation of Nigeria ’s
Judicial Services for a more
efficient court and justice
systems. This administration
must expand the mandates
of the Manpower
Development Board, create
new employment
opportunities, and re-
introduce the National
Students Loans Scheme to be
administered at the county
or community levels with
federal grants.
You must also create the
New Entrepreneurs Loans
and Credit Grant, a
mandate to provide easy and
cheap credit to young
Nigerians intent on
developing new businesses
and start-ups. These start-
ups will create jobs and
absorb new energies and
expand opportunities. But,
finally, there is urgent need
to reform the Nigerian Civil
Service and create a merit-
based service.
At the core of corruption and
failure of great national
policies is an incompetent
and corrupt service. If you
want to run a successful
administration, you must
rebuild the service into a
formidable, accountable,
efficient, and patriotic civil
service. Such a service might
as well be your lasting legacy.
It is impossible in the small
space of a newspaper
column to exhaust or flesh
out these propositions, but
you do get the idea, Mr.
President. Nigerians have
invested great hope in you.
You dare not fail them.

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