Whatever may be our opinion as individuals or we may feel as a nation, this is the way the world sees us and the indices are not arbitrary, they were derived empirically. For reality test, I will urge us to recount the major stories in most of our newspapers for any two weeks within the last 20 years or so. The stories are of violent power struggles, insecurity, injustice, election rigging, group agitation, looting, hate crimes, unemployment, school closure, infrastructure decay, dearth of manufacturing, capital flight, food scarcity, poverty, infant mortality and maternal deaths, disease, conflicts, bombing, arson, and repeated failures of strategic projects like census, national identity card and privatization.
Against a battery of indicators, we look like a nation at war with itself. The institutions we have in place are ineffective to steer the country back to good health either. The decay is deep. It is short-sighted to heap the blame on the present leadership. Changing executives or principal officers do not guarantee instant new life. We are not able to stop crime; that is the natural result of a police force that the powers that be have neglected for over forty years.
Joint military, state security forces and police are not able to contain Boko Haram and other forms of insurrection; true, because for forty years they have derailed from best practices in training, organization and discipline. With 30 to 40 years of neglect, abuse and decay, there is no quick fix; it takes time to deconstruct and reconstruct. Quite often, Nigerian politicians come up with flowery manifestoes, captivating slogans, and campaign themes and agenda. But no sooner do they get elected than they abandon the promising statements and return to business as usual or worse; taking advantage of public office and the peoples trust to loot and squander their common wealth. This has been the direction and meaning of political power in Nigeria. However, this time, it has been different at least at the federal level, and few states. President Jonathan has been resolute on a National Transformation mission that would take Nigeria to its rightful position as a world leader.
The leadership vision is that Nigeria becomes one of the 20 leading nations of the world (a G20 nation) by the year 2020. The G20 nations consist of countries and regions of systemic significance for the international financial system.
For a leader intent on lasting transformation, the non-negotiable condition are authenticity; respect for law and order; trust and patriotism; abiding framework of equity and justice; integrity in all dealings; transparency, and good communication. To the chagrin of many, President Jonathan has begun to deconstruct the institution of the presidency starting with himself.
He demonstrates authentic characteristics of a leader who feels good in his skin genuinely struggling to make a difference without hubris, no superhero or Mr Know-it-all persona. Singapore remains a classical example of leading with purpose and discipline, and a model country for transformation studies. Under its transformational leader Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore soared; it now holds the records of the world most competitive country, world’s best business environment, and it’s among the best in the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI). It receives over 12 million tourists yearly, and records income from tourism of approximately USD$20 billion yearly. Singapore occupies approximately 750sqkm, has near zero of the world’s natural resources, however, its GDP (PPP) is USD$59,900, and it has robust foreign reserve of $284 billion, combined Sovereign Wealth Fund of $400 billion, and an annual budget of $40 billion.
Ironically, the population of Singapore is about 5million while Enugu State has a population of 5.6million. In Enugu, one would appreciate the fine layouts of the city road networks, good signs for a state in transition. Enugu, certainly, is well endowed for agriculture and tourism.
It could be to Nigeria what the state of Florida is to the US; a place where people from everywhere could come and build vacation or retirement homes, and experience and enjoy the wonders of nature signposted by the Milikin hills, the unending valleys and hilltops from Ninth Mile and the bye pass to Enugu city.
The huge potential of the third tier of government is yet to be fully explored. The grassroot is the foundation on which the entire structure of the state and nation rest; it is the pillar for
development and industrialization. Council Areas are strategic to Transformation, and must be driven to develop to full potentials. Deliberate effort must be made to grow the LGAs and assure visionary leadership at this critical level.
The Legislature has a duty to drive transformation through oversight functions. This will help control corruption and make the executives and their agencies function more effectively. Understandably, we have many structural problems; the legislature in Nigeria is at infancy and should not be in a hurry to overhaul the entire constitution overnight. It is important to promptly sponsor critical bills to address major structural imbalances which impede trust amongst the federating units, as harmony is needed to enable the country power along with the full force of 167million persons. The legislature should remove all hindrances to transformation and motivate the executive arm to better performance.
The idea here is not to criticize. But our court found Governor Ibori without stain; he pleaded guilty in the UK, and was sentenced to 13 years in prison in a foreign land. The Oceanic Bank Chief Executive Mrs Cecilia Ibru has been in jail for almost two years, while the courts entertain Nigerians with orchestrated delays and manipulation of its processes and deliberately shielding the other bank Chief Executives from the course of justice. The role of Magistrates, Registrars, and Judges in leading national transformation is well cut out; Save Nigeria, shun corruption; wield the gavel with courage and justice.
Transformation is about people. Until habits and attitudes change, nothing changes. Expose and report corruption in a way that discourages potential perpetrators. X-ray the image, conduct and poise of the leaders of other industrialized nations and emerging economies; USA, UK, Japan, and China, Indonesia, Singapore, Mexico, Brazil, India and South Korea; and promote them as examples for our leaders.
Continuously beam the legislators, executives, judiciary, public servants, business men and factory workers of the G8 and G20 countries at work; create opportunities to interview and interact with them, and use your different media to project what makes them excel for Nigerians to see, and emulate. People change when they are confronted with nobler and better ways that could enrich their lives.
Elder Statesmen and former Heads of State have played their roles and are a living testimony that the old ways are not the best for Nigeria. If during their years Nigeria had advanced to become a G8/G20 nation or a permanent member of the Security Council, their generation would have been our heroes. They are in the vantage position to speak out and shed light on the booby traps to nation building, so that past mistakes are avoided.
Change is difficult; people change only when their perceptions and mental paradigms shift. You can lead transformation by using your skills, classrooms and pens to project facts, new realities, alternative and better ways of doing things for students, industry, business, government leaders to see. We may lack the resources at the moment to fund groundbreaking scientific researches, but the internet has made it easier to do great literary reviews that could be impactful in our circumstance.
Career public officials, men and women of different professions and trade, and parents you are called to act with diligence, and lead by example; be the mirror. Public trust requires accountability; excellence requires commitment, great society requires quality parenting. We are all called to take a lead role for Nigeria to make the transformational leap.
My friends the Youth Empowerment Summit Group, I have taken steps to throw light on some of what is required from the various stakeholders as you requested in your brief; it is not exhaustive. I have faith in your mission, that the members of the YESgroup will go door to door across the nation to mobilize Nigerians into the transformation-craft. You are the youth of Nigeria, the Transformation is for you. If you support and drive it, it will work, if you do not, it will fail. You are extremely important in the equation; if Transformation succeeds the youths of Nigeria are the biggest beneficiaries, you will walk tall in all parts of the world.
Chief Ralphs Nwosu, being a Keynote Address Presented by Chief Ralph Okey Nwosu, at a recent Summit Organized By the Youth Empowerment Summit Group In Enugu