Opinion

Nigeria: Foundation, Fundamentals And Future

By Gabriel Akinadewo 

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, you are welcome to the third annual lecture of Freedom Online.

Our task here today is simple. What is the value of human life in Nigeria? From the North to the South, this is what everybody is asking. And if we sincerely want to answer this question, this is not the time to blame the APC or PDP or any other party but to address fundamental issues affecting the country.

Everybody is talking about insecurity but no country can be safe and by extension develop without an efficient police force.

Obviously, everybody here knows that the challenge facing the Nigeria Police Force did not start today. The degradation of the Force started after the collapse of the Second Republic and the result is here with us today.

An effective, efficient, well-funded and well-motivated police force is central to the success of any democracy. Pitiably, successive administrations have not really done much to equip the Police.

India, the world’s second most populated country after China, has more than 2,000 ethnic groups. The population is 1.3 billion. India has 29 states and seven union territories.

To tackle insecurity, each state has what is known as State Police Services, directly under the control of state governments.

Recruitment of police officers is done by state governments through State Public Service Commissions.

The Federal Government also has what is known as India Police Service and the Federal Government is responsible for the recruitment.

Because the states recruit more police officers, some of them are exceptionally good and the Indian Police Service will write to the states to deploy the brilliant ones to the Federal Police.

There is always a ‘silent’ yearly competition among the police commands in India and New Delhi State Police Department is always number one. It’s the best in terms of staffing, infrastructure, modern gadgets, training and welfare, followed by Kerala State.

States of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar always come last because they don’t have the same resources as New Delhi but these states are still well-protected.

India is a big country. Now, let’s go to a small country.

The population of Switzerland is just 8.7 million, not up to half of the population of Lagos State, but this rich country is divided into 26 federal states (cantons).

Law enforcement in Switzerland is mainly a responsibility of the 26 federal states with each operating police agencies. Some cities also operate municipal police agencies as provided for by cantonal law.

The federal police is mainly responsible for the protection of the Swiss border and the requirement to be a police officer in Switzerland is not central. It varies from one state to the other.

With what I have read from India and Switzerland, Nigeria is not too big to learn from big or small countries.

Nigeria’s problems are localised, so we cannot continue to use a central method to tackle local challenges. An intelligence-driven police force, working with security bodies at the states level, will ensure insecurity becomes history in Nigeria.

In essence, we must re-evaluate the country’s security architecture.

If we are talking of development, it can only start from the grassroots, not at the centre.

We can’t be running a federal system with a unitary attitude and expect development.

The population of Washington State in the United States (U.S.) is about 7.4 million (not up to half of Lagos State) and in this state, there are about 60 universities. The population of Lagos State is more than 20 million. How many universities do we have in Lagos State?

The population of New York State is 19.54million and there are about 110 universities in this state. Each state in the U.S. is allowed to flourish according to its pace, not regulated by the Federal Government.

The U.S. has 50 states and the heads of executive departments are called Secretaries (Of State, Defence, Commerce etc). Just like we have ministers in Nigeria. In the U.S., there are only 15 Secretaries, not 50 to represent all the states. I don’t think I ever read it anywhere that a particular state is protesting that it is not represented in Washington D.C., the capital of the U.S.

But what do we have in Nigeria?

In Brazil, the State of Sao Paulo, because of its terrain and soil, is well-positioned for business. Its GDP is $550 billion, responsible for one-third of Brazil’s GDP. There are many states in Nigeria which can boast of better soil than the state of Sao Paulo in Brazil. What do we have here?

Talking of power generation, as Governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi completed 130MW at Trans Amadi, 150MW at Omoku, 180MW at Afam and 75MW at Onne. He could have done more but for the challenge of the federal system that we operate in Nigeria. Many governors are still facing these challenges today.

We believe there is no state in this country today that cannot sustain itself if given the legal backing to tap its resources, but we cannot unlock the potential at the sub-national level if we don’t look at the foundation.

We need a national conversation and it seems the political class is the challenge. I don’t think it is right for us to still be blaming the military. The military left about 21 years ago, enough time for the political class to have laid a better foundation than what the military left.

Based on current realities, we must look at Nigeria’s foundation.

When Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello, and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, were Premiers, I don’t think they ever sent officers in charge of Finance Ministry to come to Lagos monthly for financial bailout from the Sir Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa-led Federal Government.

One critical question we must ask ourselves today is this: if the oil dries up today, what exactly are we going to be sharing in Abuja?

Nigeria, as the giant of Africa, cannot afford to be stagnant.

Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, is the busiest and most efficient airport in the U.S.

Last year, it generated more than $34 billion (about N12 trillion) in direct business revenue.

The airport is so big that it has 152 domestic gates and 40 international gates.

It handles about 2,500 flights and 275,000 passengers a day.

This airport is controlled by a local government, Atlanta City Council.

If a local government can control and effectively manage the busiest airport in the U.S., what makes it impossible in Nigeria?

Globally, change is the only permanent entity. Once agitation starts, and it is legitimate, nothing can stop it.

In the 70s, 80s and 90s, Kodak ruled the world of photography and was the leading seller of photo paper. In fact, it controlled 85 per cent of the market.

In 1998, there were 180,000 employees working in Kodak and they used to sell close to 90% of the world’s photo paper. In a few years, digital photography drove Kodak out of the market.

Where is Kodak today? Gone. Why? Because the world found an alternative to Kodak.

Thank God President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to work with governors to fix Nigeria and the National Assembly has started the process to ensure we look at the foundation of this country.

We should not allow the world to find an alternative to Nigeria, the most populous black nation.

The time to change is now.

Thank you.

Gabriel Akinadewo

MD/EIC

Freedom Online

February 25, 2020

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