Thursday 25 June 2015

Letter to President Buhari (II)

(To get acquainted with the first part of this piece, click here)
Picture of President Muhammadu Buhari in his office.
President Muhammadu Buhari in his office.
Dear Mr. President, the first part of my advice may have packed quite a punch but I hope you can look beyond that and see the issues raised within. I am calling this part of the advice the second phase. This requires that you meet with technocrats and stellar business minds to see what can be done to make this a reality. They are not less important than the first phase. If anything, they are equally important.

3.       Make Proper Education a Priority

You cannot overhaul the economy without proper formal education…and yes, I said formal education. In this sense, education is allowing the mind to be free and open to thinking up innovative ideas and not filling it with supposed outdated knowledge. I got this definition from Innocent Usar of Innocent Minds. You should consider working with him. We need a school system that encourages innovation rather than one that celebrates certificates. Certificates should only be as good as they can be translated to solving everyday societal issues. With proper education, a door to infinity will be opened in the minds of the recipients. Let me tell you a story. My younger sister who is a mechanical engineer passed by a mango tree. She stopped abruptly and turned back. She stared at that tree for a bit and came back home. When I asked why she acted that way, she in turn asked what I noticed about the tree. I told her I noticed it was a mango tree with lots of rotten fruit beneath. Then she asked me if I had ever had vodka. I was surprised because she knew that I was a teetotaler. She laughed and said abstinence was no reason to pass up a chance to make money. Yes…like you, I had a stupid look on my face. She smiled and asked me which country drank vodka more. I said Russia or Germany…wasn’t too sure. Then she said, ‘Do you know vodka can be processed from rotten fruit?’ Then it hit me! My Biochemistry came back to me in that instance. She said we could export rotten fruit to Russia for their vodka and make some money out of it. Talk about waste-to-wealth!

Only the illumination that comes from proper formal education would have made her open her mind to the possibilities that were beyond what she saw. If schools are properly furnished and equipped, have teachers who know their onion and are willing to not just teach but learn and students are made to understand how important their collective visions are to the country, then research and development will shoot at tangential velocity until as a nation, we become a force to be reckoned with.

 Revamp the Military

As a former military general, it shouldn’t be hard to realize that our military needs a touch-up. Get the military to look inward. Let them design weapons, machinery, and strategies that prepare them for unplanned circumstances. I’m talking tactical knowledge that can rival Jack Bauer in 24, or Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series, Sherlock. The military should be so elite that physical strength is not the only criterion to get in. I want to see a military that can hold its own without having to beg other nations for help. New and innovative maneuvers and tactics should be commonplace. You need to bring the glory and pride back to the Nigerian military. You can do this by flushing out redundant military top brass and propagating fairness in recruiting and admitting military personnel. As you prepare for that, buy an advanced arsenal and train and retrain our military personnel for the uphill task they have ahead, a task that will ensure that Nigeria is as safe from foreign invasions and attacks as is humanly possible.

 Make Security a Prerogative

Security was not my first point because I know that when the things I have mentioned above are in place, especially regarding our military, security will naturally fall into place. But, you can still go further on the issue of security. You have to make do with your promise to end the insurgency that brought this nation to her knees. While doing so, you also have to make sure the military, police, and other paramilitary agencies are prepared for another form of terrorism that may or may not spring up from the South-South region of the country, or anywhere else for that matter. Security agencies, especially the police and paramilitary outfits, need to be trained in intelligence gathering, quick response, and the ability to nip crime in the bud because, in truth, many of these personnel are not proactive in carrying out their jobs. Get security personnel to curb armed robbery and kidnappings so that foreign investors and citizens can go about their duties without fear for their lives. Urge the police to respect the basic human rights of anyone they address and/or arrest.  Nigerians need to trust the police and other security agencies to be able to effectively carry out their jobs.

   Ensure that there is Proper Healthcare

This especially has to start with you. You need to use your veto power to prevent ALL public officeholders from going abroad for treatment, even if abroad is our neighbor Ghana. This will mean that our lawmakers will ensure proper legislation for the healthcare sector. This is how you can do this.

        ·         Ensure that all Federal hospitals are well equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and well-trained and empathetic personnel. Many people do not go to Federal hospitals because, even though it is cheaper than most private hospitals, the staff can be completely apathetic to the plights of patients. I have two examples. My mum had a car accident sometime in 2012 and was taken to National Hospital, Abuja. After stitching her up, they discharged her that same day. I was shocked because she had head wounds. In my view of what standard procedure should be, I felt that they should have kept her overnight (at least) to monitor her. When I got to her, she kept complaining of some pricking pain in her head and beneath her feet. Upon inspection, I saw bits of glass in her head and her sole. I had to gently remove the glass before she could sleep that night. When I asked if she complained to the nurse about the pain, she told me the nurse had been brusque with her and the doctor wasn’t much better. Also, I went to visit a friend at Federal Medical Centre, Yola, and I was in a large group. We were treated so poorly that we had to communicate with him through the window…and even at that, someone asked us to move away from there. This happened during the visiting hour so it is not like we were breaking any rules. Anyway, back to the present. Do all you can to ensure that there are proper facilities AND well-trained empathetic staff in Federal hospitals.

       ·    Direct state governors to ensure the same thing for the state hospitals they run. Adamawa-German Hospital is a well-equipped, albeit expensive, hospital that has very modern facilities that should be emulated by other states (if they do not already have such facilities) and they should be managed properly by the best persons.

       ·        More primary healthcare facilities should be built across local governments, towns, and villages. This will make access to health care easier for people in rural communities and in my view, will reduce cases of preventable diseases and mortality rates in rural communities.

    ·  Ensure that the health insurance scheme is effectively functioning so that patients can receive medical attention even when they have no money at hand.

      ·   Make sure medical personnel are well paid for their time, effort, and energy. They give a whole lot to ensure that they save lives, treat diseases that may be communicable/infectious, and repair wounds. The case of Dr. Stella Adadevor is a clear example of doctors putting their lives on the line to ensure that the populace is safe. Their pay packages should not be delayed or tampered with.  They should also be encouraged to keep on doing their jobs. Also, encourage further training for medical personnel. In fact, make it compulsory that anyone who works for the government gets training once may two or four years.

        ·     Research should be made into how made-in-Nigeria drugs can be standardized for public use and how to get Nigerians to trust our Pharmacists and Pharmaceutical companies, Biochemists, Analytical and Industrial Chemists, and the like. If formal education is worked on as mentioned above, this will be a stroll in the park. We can then think of how we will export drugs and other health products to African nations and from there, to the rest of the world.

      ·      You need to enforce weekly sanitation so that diseases like Malaria, Typhoid, Dysentery, Diarrhea, and Cholera can be drastically reduced. Trust me; some cities in the Northern part of the country are just disease-prone time bombs waiting to detonate. Somewhere in Bauchi (the state capital), and not too far from Zaranda Hotel, is a refuse dump right there in the middle of the road. It is an ugly site and a health hazard! I saw pictures on Linda Ikeji’s blog of streets in Ajegunle (Lagos state) that were disgusting dumps after heavy rainfall. This means that the problem is not just with the North but with the entire country. It has been said that the cleanliness of a town (or the lack of it) is a reflection of the mindset of the people and I cannot help but agree. If you can enforce weekly nationwide sanitation, Nigerians will understand the need for a clean environment and a healthy nation.

     ·  You also need to advocate for the complete reduction of maternal and child mortality, cases of fistula, and other diseases that are only peculiar to women and sometimes, children.

If you can kick start this necessary change in the health sector, it will not only be useful to keep the nation healthy but can become a viable source of revenue for the nation as a whole.

 Push Forward Infrastructural Development

You don’t have to be Einstein to figure out that our infrastructures are in a state of great disrepair (at best) or completely obsolete (for worst-case scenarios). There is so much work to be done in the following areas.

      ·       Road network: most of the roads across the federation, both Federal and State, are death traps for people who ply them. Many roads are constructed through shady deals which results in roads constructed this year needing another construction next year or at best, maintenance. I will use Adamawa as an example because I have lived here for a while. When leaving or coming into Adamawa, there is this joke among travelers. It is said that as soon as you hit bad roads, you know you are in Adamawa. The road between Numan in Adamawa and Balanga in Gombe is so bad that one cannot help but be sick when traveling. It isn’t until you get to Balanga that you begin to hit good roads. From Gombe down to Abuja, the road is a bit okay but can be better. Their breadth can be wider to make traveling easier. On the other hand, Abuja has a very good road network which can also be seen in some parts of Kaduna, Kano, Gombe, Enugu, Sokoto, Owerri, Calabar, Uyo, Ogbomosho, Plateau, Lagos, and other states. You need to replicate this type of good road network ALL OVER Nigeria! This will make Nigeria an investment haven for development. If I know that I can get to Gombe from Adamawa in 3 hours with good roads as compared to the five or six hours it takes now, I will be able to shuttle between Adamawa and Gombe for business and still be back the same day. I am one individual. Imagine what a company will think if they know they can do the same without being hampered by poor roads? I can assure you, the interstate business will take off like a G-6. You also need to get state governors to ensure that the intercity roads are all good as this doesn’t just make accessibility easier and invite industrial revolution, it also beautifies the state.

        ·       Power supply: we all know that this is a big problem in this country. Almost every middle-class home I know has a generator for when there is a power outage – which is usually often – and the same can be said of most businesses. The supply has been better since you came into office, which is weird because there hasn’t been any report of more generation. But that is a story for another day. What you need to do is start gradually by ensuring that we have the power supply for at least 12 hours every day. After a couple of months, up the standard to 18 hours daily. Then look for ways to get it to 24 hours 4 days a week and 18 hours for the remaining 3 days. As time moves on, plan for 24 hours daily and see how the nation will boom. A man I know, whose name is Bolaji Adams, is an entrepreneur in Adamawa state. His biggest problem is setting up industries that run on diesel. If there is a constant power supply, I can assure you that he will pay just about anything to ensure he doesn’t have to spend so much on diesel. That is the same view shared by most business owners across the federation. If you can ensure that there is an adequate power supply, you won’t feel guilty about taxing businesses, which will serve as internally generated revenue for the country. Win-win situation right?

       ·     Water supply: in all honesty, I cannot remember the last time water from the Water Board flowed into my house. In my parents’ houses, they put in their own boreholes and water reservoirs to supply them with water. Houses for rent also have the same reservoirs for tenants. I can be bold enough to say that the Water Board is obsolete. I won’t say more than that. Wait…I will. Fix it!

      ·       Buildings: replicate the same ingenuity in buildings that are seen in Abuja, Lagos, and certain areas of Rivers. I am not talking about just concrete jungles that characterize public offices but also perfectly designed housing estates, natural and amusement parks, and the like. I want you to also ensure that whatever building goes up is in compliance with global best practices and puts into consideration the climate change that seems to be speaking of an impending doom for the earth.

When the aforementioned are worked on, the economy will experience a boom that will help you carry out the plans you outlined in your campaigns.

8. Ensure Strict Adherence to Policies That Protect Women, Children and Vulnerable People

I am glad that the Violence Against Person (Prohibition) bill was passed by the National Assembly. I am worried though about the Sexual Offences Bill because of the grey areas that seem to accept child marriage. You need to enforce equal treatment of women in this country. Your views and body language should agree to laws protecting women, children, and vulnerable people, even if that means standing firm on the issue of child marriage. Your wife made a public pronouncement that no girl should be married until she is 18; until she is an adult capable of making her own decisions and physically ready for the rigors of marriage and childbearing. I hope you agree with your wife on this. I have seen that you afforded your daughters the best education possible and I want you to also advocate for the same for every young girl who is a Nigerian and subject to your government. You also need to look at the crimes labeled against the military on extra-judicial killings. The internally displaced people also need to be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society.

   Follow Through On Your Promise about Corruption

I let corruption be the last because that is the biggest problem you addressed in your campaign. Now, I do not know how you plan to punish corrupt public officers but I want you to consider the option Late Lee Kuan Yew took to get his nation in line in his book ‘From Third World to First: the Singapore Story ’. Keep in mind that if you do follow through on some of the principles he used, you might completely damage the new image you have and remain, in the eyes of most, a dictator. Now, you have to weigh which is a better image for you; a dictator who reduces corruption to the barest minimum or a 'people-pleaser' who fails in his promise to curb corruption. Sometimes, the necessary has to be done to get the desired. I am leaving this particular one a secret because many people will not read the book because of its sheer size. This is the only secret I have in my advice to you. Even if people try to read summaries on the internet, they still wouldn’t get the full information that the book gives. I ask that you read it yourself and digest some of his principles.

As your governance proceeds, I will bring up other issues as they come up. I do not believe that you can do this alone; far from it. I believe that you need patriotic advisers, ministers, and cabinet members to translate your promises into a reality that will ensure the APC remains in power and should you lose, set a new pedestal for the next political party that assumes power and governance. I was weary that you had not chosen your ministers but I hope that when you do choose them, it will be after great consideration and forensic review of their abilities and integrity.

I have great hope in Nigeria; this is my home and my destination of choice. I believe in Nigeria and I pray you do too. If you get this right, you will set your name in stone. If you get it wrong, you will also set your name in stone. In the first instance, you will be remembered for taking Nigeria out of the quicksand that was pulling us in and unto the solid growth of development and national advancement. In the second instance, you will go down in history for making promises you couldn’t keep, vilifying a president who you weren’t better than, and reducing Nigeria to less than the power it ought to be. I want you to choose the former. The next four years will determine how Nigerians perceive your ideals and policies. Use them judiciously.

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