Quick Steps To Transform A Decaying Nigeria, By Femi Akinfolarin
Reorganise the judiciary completely, and have an advisory committee of the Nigerian Judicial Council that would be composed of foreigners who would have the right to remove the chief judge or otherwise discipline any erring judicial official. All crimes would be punishable by deportation once the person has been convicted.
My country, Nigeria has suffered, since its amalgamation and independence, from a chronic lack of intelligent and unselfish leadership. With extreme regularity, we have consistently appointed, anointed and discovered witless, senseless and selfish folks to run our affairs. Which has meant that after 59 post-independence years, a country with some of the largest mineral deposits in the world is now a beggar nation with high unemployment, crazy insecurity problems and a below three per cent annual GDP growth. Our youth are venerating politicians and ‘Yahoo Yahoo’ boys in a collapse of morality, while our professional class is jumping ship enmass to foreign lands to wash dishes in fast food joints. Our education system has collapsed, with graduates unable to speak English properly and therefore unemployable in a professional setting. We get a new homegrown insurgency every other day, while kidnapping is now a steady job for a significant proportion of our population. As a people, we are in a vehicle careening towards the edge of a precipice with unerring accuracy and the consequences will be both devastating and final.
I would like to propose a number of quick win initiatives to turn the state of the country around, some of which are nonsensical, and others workable, but I figure anything is better than our present state. We should:
I. Send everyone that has ever held a political office from the country on exile: Presidents, governors, legislators at both the state and federal levels. Strike a deal with South Sudan, Mali or any other country to take them in or buy a small island off the coast of Mauritius and ship them off there. They can visit Nigeria once in every five years at Christmas for five days. This also includes their family members and any other person who can be proven to have enjoyed the largesse of their time in office. This list will also include all top civil servants from the deputy director level to the top.
II. Remove universal suffrage rights from all Nigerians of voting age for 10 years. We should basically stop conducting elections and electing anyone for that period. We should select people instead and outsource the selection process. The president of the Federal Republic and all ministers will be selected from a list of eminent jurists from the Commonwealth or a list supplied by the United Nations (including people from the House of Lords in the United Kingdom). All these people will be granted Nigerian citizenship. Presidents and state governors get a term of five years each, with clear targets drawn for them at the beginning of their term. Key performance indicators will be drawn up for all political office holders including:
● Full Employment: Getting everybody working will be a core goal for the president. To actualise this, the economy will be divided into distinct industries. A non-Nigerian expert working at the management level of a Fortune 500 company in each industry will be recruited to run that specific industry. Full liberalisation will be introduced with no restriction on investments and investors, except that they must transfer technology and know-how within a set time limit or their firms could be expropriated. Ownership limits and rights will be determined by a council of experts drawn from international organisations. The following industries will be the focus of priority attention:
i. Transportation (Rail, Marine, Air and land)
iii. Financial Services
III. Grant free access to the Nigerian market to all foreign firms, as long as they establish physical presence with at least 10-100 employees, depending on their global size. The larger the firm, the larger the staff level must be. Technology transfer must be sacrosanct.
Merge the current 36 states into a maximum four or five states. All states must be able to pay for themselves from their internally generated revenues. The civil service at the federal and state levels would be pruned to create a leaner meaner force.
IV. Reorganise the judiciary completely, and have an advisory committee of the Nigerian Judicial Council that would be composed of foreigners who would have the right to remove the chief judge or otherwise discipline any erring judicial official. All crimes would be punishable by deportation once the person has been convicted. Persons found guilty of corruption/kidnapping/murder or other severe crimes would however be the exception. These people would be executed by a firing squad, with their houses demolished and their families deported.
V. Redraft the Constitution to entrench the rights of all Nigerians, including the right to government support for unemployed citizens.
VI. Ban all political parties and political party activities for 10 years.
VII. Merge the current 36 states into a maximum four or five states. All states must be able to pay for themselves from their internally generated revenues. The civil service at the federal and state levels would be pruned to create a leaner meaner force.
VIII. Place the education sector under an administrator with emergency powers and divide it into two distinct areas: primary/secondary education and tertiary/vocational education. All teachers/lecturers/professors would be required to take annual compulsory examinations to revalidate their skills. Those who fail would have to sit out the next academic session and try again before another academic session. Examinations would be computerised, so that lecturers would have zero ability to interfere with them. Government would set a minimum payment scale for vocational workers. Plumbers, etc would have to be paid no lower than the minimum wage. And people who pay less would be punished.
IX. Stop the Central Bank from issuing physical currency. All payments would be electronic and traceable. Nigerians would be given one – two years to adapt and open either regular bank accounts or mobile money accounts. This would strengthen the fight against corruption and also bring most Nigerians into the financial sector, where government can provide social security support in whatever form is adopted.
X. Encourage tourism, with significant investments in tourist sites and the hospitality industry. Anyone who kidnaps a tourist would be executed upon conviction.
XI. Mandate all medical treatment for the minister of health and his extended family to be only within the country. The same would go for the president, all state governors and commissioners of health. This rule would apply all the way down to permanent secretaries and doctors in government employment in the health sector.
XII. Exile bank debtors who are unable to repay their debts within a year. This should apply to debtors owing more than a set threshold (N1 billion). Anyone owing more than N100 billion for more than two years should be executed and his family exiled.
Tax churches and mosques, with a regulatory body created to review the activities and investments of the church/mosque over a period. Churches and mosques beyond a certain size would be required to focus part of their philanthropic efforts on certain sectors like health care and education.
XIII. Award government contracts through a blind trust committee that would only see the submitted award documents without company names and nothing more and would award on that basis. The committee members should be drawn randomly from the academia and would not be known to any of the involved parties. Any company that fails to complete a project within the set time would be penalised and the size and type of contract they could win in the future would be reduced. The veil would be lifted on the management and board of companies who fail to complete projects or fail to achieve a certain standard. They would be given poor performance yellow cards and upon failing a second contract, they would be forced to sell the company and go into exile.
XIV. Liberalise the oil gas industry completely. Fuel subsidies would be removed after two years.
XV. Grant newspapers a certain amount each year from the federal purse to support investigative journalism.
XVI. Tax churches and mosques, with a regulatory body created to review the activities and investments of the church/mosque over a period. Churches and mosques beyond a certain size would be required to focus part of their philanthropic efforts on certain sectors like health care and education. None primary investments like education would be taxed. Corporate jets would also be taxed.
XVII. Outlaw and discourage tribalism. We would celebrate diversity and ethnicity. History would be introduced back into schools at both the primary and secondary levels. Each tribe would have a dedicated week/month to be celebrated nationwide. Reference to state or town of origin would be removed from all official documents and slots within the cabinet in each state would be set aside for minorities.
XVIII. Publicise every contract awarded in this manner:
● For road contracts, the names of the principals of the company executing the contract and their addresses should be provided on plaques that are placed by the side of the roads, so that everyone knows who is building the roads and can identify and shame them publicly if the roads are substandard.
● Other government projects should be designed in the same way so that its clear who is executing the contract and who is behind the corporate veil and they can be publicly ostracised and shamed for bad work.
In summary, Nigeria faces an existential crisis and needs radical surgery to change its trajectory. Without dramatic and radical change, insecurity and corruption will spiral out of control and destroy the very fabric of the country within the next five to ten years.
Note: It’s important to point out that this article could be read as just satire, for any inclined to consider it so.
Femi Akinfolarin, a lawyer, writes from Lagos.