GUEST Column by Carl Umegboro
Military junta of General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida had inadvertently made June 12 a historic day Nigerians will never abort from their memory. It symbolizes oppression, injustice and tyranny against the masses. By the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election presumably won by late Chief Moshood Kolawale Abiola, the military’s insistence to control political power was finally brought to an abrupt end albeit the presumed winner lost his life in the struggle to reclaim the mandate. In tribute, federal government has reserved June 12 annually as a Democracy day with public holiday alongside other remarkable compliments.
Without a doubt, the country has not achieved much generally when measured by the number of years – 26 years. However, measuring from 1999 that military men finally handed over, June 12 inadvertently drew a line between two distinct eras; dark ages and renaissance period. The latter is a democratic government through universal suffrage. No doubt, the dividends of democracy are still not fully realized; nevertheless, there are, empirically green lights.
For example, the nation was democratically put back on track from 1999. The first civilian administration after military era which was led by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo recorded some progresses by establishing essential government structures like the EFCC, ICPC and other agencies which are fundamental. No doubt, they weren’t as effective as today but establishing them was a step in the right direction.
Although, arbitrary power was at its peak then particularly against oppositions and perceived enemies, even elected state governors were not safe. It was more or less like a Commando that arbitrarily decides who remains as governor or on any political office. It was indeed a disaster. Political ‘godfatherism’, imposition of candidates, fraudulent electoral system, random removal of elected governors and obtaining sham court injunctions even at midnight, name them, swayed abundantly.
Thereafter, Goodluck Jonathan’s administration succeeded after a brief stay in power by late Umaru Yar’Adua and through his government, a number of outstanding policies like the BVN, Treasury Single Account (TSA) and others were conceived albeit unimplemented. However, the squandering, looting and diversion of public funds that became the order of the days overshadowed the positive initiatives. Public funds were shared and diverted mercilessly. Corruption was different from stealing. Maybe, simply put, sharing of national cake. In fact, the system was in a total mess that corruption became Nigeria’s middle name.
Then, from 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari was first elected to date, through political will, these structures and policies on ground have been substantially activated and under implementation for service delivery. Similarly, most irregularities such as the notorious financial inducements at the National Assembly tagged ‘Ghana-must-go’ bags for performing legislative duties and most of the abnormalities listed above are now histories. In particular, countless abandoned uncompleted projects scattered all over are receiving cogent attentions.
Remarkably, people are presently, gradually beginning to have confidence in the judiciary which is fundamental in any thriving society. Similarly, people are beginning to live by their lawful means. Civil servants will tell you that it is no longer business as usual. Politicians masquerading as contractors no longer liaise with public officeholders to sign and abandon government projects after mobilization. These are critically, systematic progresses looking at the point where we began the journey.
Of course, it is undeniable that these reforms tightened the economy but gradually, it is bouncing back to true, consolidated and enduring greatness. Principally, sanity is gaining way in the polity. Essentially, right to freedom of speech and expressions has since Goodluck Jonathan’s administration gathered momentum till date. Governors and oppositions have in many times rudely attacked the president, though condemnable and unlawful, yet no arbitrary reactions.
Therefore, the nation has good reasons to celebrate these trajectories and progresses despite insecurity and the fact the masses in the streets have not been directly affected. With the structures being improved and continuously running expediently and effectively, without a doubt, jobs will be robotically created and the economy will proficiently be stimulated for common good.
But imperatively, government must invest more in education as nonchalant attitudes to the sector some decades ago birthed the insecurity of the present times. The education system needs to be restructured to realistically meet the contemporary needs beyond mere certificate display syndrome. The present system promotes and places certifications above skills acquisition, thereby making high number of graduates unproductive, redundant and unemployable. An education system where certification will accurately reflect degree of proficiency is a panacea to moving out of the quagmires. A system where lecturers and students arbitrarily determine grades either by sexual harassment, financial inducements, intimidation or cultism can never give birth to positive outputs.
Presently, National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) is remedying the irregularities through its mode but other conventional universities need to follow suit. The present systems in the conventional universities produce more of people with illicit behaviours who are later released back into the society; sadly, many of them at the point of admission into the universities were identified with good manners.
NOUN’s mode which completely separates students from examiners is a welcome development. By such mechanism, students only know and meet their lecturers/facilitators in classrooms without knowing who or where the examiners come from, let alone the questions. Hence, examination malpractices and other illicit activities are systematically circumvented. It is either a student is determinedly serious with studies or out. Conventional universities should therefore be upgraded for national security. Any graduated student with good grade but unproductive and unemployable will likely resort to crimes for survival.
Umegboro is a public affairs analyst and Associate, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (United Kingdom). Https:www.carlumegboro.com