How To Build A Nation
Tosan Okotie

Nation building rests squarely on both leadership, which includes the National Assembly and followership. However, the situation in Nigeria is such that, nation building is more on the shoulders of leadership, because government machinery controls a huge chunk of everything. This is all the reason why decorum demands that leaders in Nigeria must be scrupulous so that the masses would trust their decisions and actions. The masses must see its leader(s) on the right path to harness the country's natural/human resources with a view to make better living conditions for everybody. A leader cannot carry his people along when he has rogues as Ministers but would much later turn around to prosecute the rogues only when they have personal crises. President Yar'Adua cannot have people society tagged as venal in his cabinet and expect Nigerians/foreigners to have confidence in his government. The reality is that, the manner in which you're perceived as a leader goes a long way in enhancing your leadership. Thus, as simple as dress code, it was one reason that sold out President George Washington to Americans. His dress code to meetings of those days 13 colonies was a factor why Americans had confidence in his leadership and unanimously chose him as a leader.  

We hear/read every day of the high levels of corruption in Nigeria, which negatively impact on the efforts of serious minded individual Nigerians interested in building the nation. The system can easily reduce the images of corruption by stream-lining few things. An example is facilitating fees, which do not exist in most offices; this is wrong. Suppose getting a new travel passport cost N10, 000.00 and takes 10 days, it's natural for some persons to need it as early as 2 days. The point is, there should be facilitating fee of say N4, 000.00 (total N14, 000.00) charged by the passport office so that, the clerk who worked extra hour(s) to see to the document processed is paid overtime from the extra N4, 000.00 collected. The inability of government to do this has created an opportunity for people to charge this N4000.00 to their pockets, thereby giving a bad image of that office. Everyone in the office knows that if a person is receipted for N14, 000.00 and he does not get the passport after 2 days, some heads may roll. It's important that, in nation building we put policy like this in place in all the offices concerned. 

It will be a mental misjudgment to say that Nigeria is only 47 years old; therefore, the country must continue to lag behind. You must keep in mind that, this was a country founded in modern age and is blessed with natural resources. Indeed all segments (education, energy, agric., etc) of human existence are germane to nation building. However, where we are presently should determine our priorities, because our resources cannot afford everything to be accomplished at any one given time. Understandably, President Yar'Adua is an educationist, so his focus would be the education sector. Not a bad idea, but education should take the back seat to energy, agriculture, and communication. For instance, you need energy to store your agricultural products. On communication, this writer reiterated before cell phone market exploded in Nigeria that, what Nigeria needs is advanced land line phone system. The expectation is for government to demand quality phone equipments from abroad with her oil money and don't allow foreigners to hoodwink govt. officials and introduce rubbish to our system then, exploit the masses in this jet age. Other than, to make love talks/gossips, what's the contribution of cell phones to the nation's industrial growth? If only those at the hierarchy will listen and think a bit, building a nation, which is a step-by-step process, is piece of cake. You want to consider the role of cell phones versus the role of land lines in offices and know which has more value. 

The issue of confidence cannot be over emphasized when you talk about leadership/followership, and to foreign investments in Nigeria. Regardless of who is in power, do Nigerians portray good image when assets are sold today, and tomorrow such sales are revoked? Do they know the implication as it pertains to foreign investments in Nigeria? Of course, President Yar'Adua was right to have revoked some of those sales made before he took over Aso Rock, because the valuations must have swindled the nation. If we believe in the old adage that says one head is better than two heads, then where were members of the FEC and Congress when such horrible sales decision were conceived? If any of them did not agree, did he/she use the press to draw the attention of Nigerians? It's important that, no one sent to Congress must be a mediocre. A nation must be seen to be upright before it can attract foreign investment. As such, one of the present challenges would be to construct a stable system of governance. This can be easily achieved if Congress/Presidency can spend reasonable time within their chambers to brainstorm in order to avoid hasty decisions on vital issues. Government would be surprise with the input they would get if such matters were introduced to colleges for debate, before the business people are notified. 

Maximizing the oil and gas natural resources definitely require importation of technology. Nigeria can do this without foolishly increasing its population by opening its borders to bicycle/shoe repairers from China. On the other hand, the courage to smash that cartel causing hardship on Nigerians with petroleum products is desirable at this time. Mr. President of Nigeria is educated enough to instantaneously dismiss the notion that, to export Nigeria's crude and import it as petrol is cheaper than refining the crude at home. Suffice it to say that, what is wrong with going to Venezuela where petrol is cheap to inquire of their petrol technology? The world has become a small village with the help of information technology, so simple management dictates that, Nigerian leaders have the prerogative to get whatever they want from anywhere most convenient in terms of price and quality. 

Where there is injustice, the outcome is unrest just like the one looming in the Niger Delta region. Because of the "black Gold," the region is now a concern to everyone in Nigeria and the industrialized nations. When years back, the North, Yorubas, and the core Ibos teamed up to marginalize people of the Niger Delta, they thought their palace coup would last forever. First was the NYSC program, which was orchestrated to allow the Yorubas and Ibos, take over the oil companies. Up till now, key oil decisions are made by non Niger Deltans so what concerns the region is irrelevant to them. For example, when Shell Petroleum is sacking people, the victims are the Niger Deltans because the henchmen are Ibos and Yorubas who wallow in power while those from the region are severance to face the oil polluted creeks. Of course, you don't need to talk about contracts from the oil companies, as this is alien to Niger Deltans. Furthermore, can Abuja tell Nigerians and the world how many Niger Deltans own oil blocks in Nigeria? What about the land use Act designed to arm-twist revenue sharing formula? There was a clear formula when the nation's revenue was not oil, but that changed overnight when oil became the "alpha and omega." If a nation must be built, then, the nefarious acts against the people must be reversed immediately. I believe the dream of a friend few years ago that, "another nation like Israel is in the making." Who knows how, where and when it would happen. An educated guess is that, Yar'Adua would avert further crises in the region by introducing true justice, which wouldn't cost him anything. Trying to sow seeds of discord among the people as some past leaders did may not be a way of distraction, but will exacerbate the problem because time is running out. Nigeria has comparative advantage in oil products, so this should be seen in the lives of the people. It's jargon to say that government subsidizes petroleum products. The sure thing is that the exploration companies inflate their operational cost which impact on the final product at the pump.  

After the President has initiated the moral justice needed for nation building, it's up to the Judiciary to implement legal justice since no nation would strive without all the form of justices. Before the Justices make pronouncements, they should conduct enough research on the subject because bogus judgments are flashed in the Internet for the whole world to read. It's an embarrassment to Nigerians across the globe when silly pronouncements are made from the Bench. An example is the recent judgment that, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala and her colleague should refund monies, being excess salaries paid to them during their meritorious services to the nation. While it's okay for the Judiciary to admonish Presidency for violating the Constitution, common sense should have reminded the Judges that, this was employer/employee relationship. No fraud was committed here, so where is the word "refund" coming from? 

It has become common knowledge that, corruption is the biggest sickness of Nigeria. Therefore, the best form of management would be to eliminate unnecessary middle men in the chain of governance. The Traditional Council should be honorably removed from the federal organization chart because they have no role to play. Of course there is no particular culture to be maintain at the federal level, neither is Nigeria still in that era when the Caucasians were talking to Nigerians through middlemen. 

Those names that contributed immensely to nation building are conspicuously written in history books for generations to read. All it takes are courage, confidence, vision, management, and justice. Above all these, God created the heaven and earth, so all Nigerians must fervently pray to God for His unlimited support in this task of nation building. 

Tosan Okotie Lives in Texas, USA 

July 21, 2007