• Participants in Lagos seminar proffer solutions
By Cosmas Omegoh
No doubt, Nigeria is currently going through rough times. Indeed, a sizable majority of the citizenry is passing through very difficult phases in their lives. They can neither feed well nor provide for themselves life’s essentials.
If you ask an average man on the street the cause of his plight, he is sure to point at the next man as the source of all Nigeria’s problems, real and imaginary. He will quickly identify that the politician next door, that fellow from the other ethnic nationality charging down the road as the cause of Nigeria’s growing challenges. He will vent his spleen on that fellow who is also feeling the heat. He will see nothing wrong in himself. He will pass the bulk and count himself “a good man.”
But a recent seminar in Okota, Lagos, opened the eyes of many to how Nigerians individually and collectively are contributing to the woes of the country. It brought new perspectives to the way Nigerians have been causing the country to bleed. The participants were unanimous and unsparing in their submissions.
Entitled: “Good governance and economic growth, the role of the citizens,” the seminar was organised on the margins of the 33rd anniversary of a non-governmental organisation, Citizens for Righteousness and Social Justice (CRJ).
The National President of CRJ, Pastor John Adesanya, told our correspondent that once every year, the body gathers eminent persons of cerebral quality to stimulate and promote discourse, adding that it was usually its own contribution to advancing the frontiers of social justice.
Based on what Pastor Adesanya said, this year’s edition which held at CRJ’s headquarters, Success Attitude Development Centre (SADC), Okota, Lagos, followed their tradition.
The lead speaker was Mr Solomon, Segun Ojo, a chartered accountant, former lecturer in Accounting Department of the University of Lagos and retired Director of Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC).
Loaded, he sent his audience thinking, leaving them wishing he was addressing a much bigger community.
Ojo set out with a caveat, when he warned that he was not a politician, and wouldn’t want to be misinterpreted.
“I’m not a politician,” he toned, “I’m only here to raise issues for us to reflect upon, to stimulate discussion and not to solve Nigeria’s problems.”
Having set the stage, he took the gathering through the synopsis of his lecture: “Characteristics of good governance, features of economic development, and the growth and the expected roles of citizens in achieving good governance.”
After ex-raying the various forms of government, and their characteristics, he observed that “good governance entails active involvement of all citizens in managing the affairs or charting a course that will provide basic necessities,” of life.
He noted that a part of characteristics of good governance is that the “Executives should operate independent of the legislature at all governing levels and the practice of ‘settlementocracy’ should be avoided,” observing that “the provision of basic facilities to meet the need of majority of the people” remains an essential ingredient of good governance.
On the features of economic development and growth, he acknowledged that Nigeria is enormously blessed with abundant economic and natural resources.
He told the leaders to explore Nigeria’s resources to achieve economic greatness. “We need to harvest the benefit of Nigerians outside our shores in education, health, sports, engineering, space exploration for development,” among others.
Talking about the expected roles of the citizens in achieving good governance, he called for “compliance with the law, truthfulness, honesty and commitment in employment, ‘like they say in banking, we should make our words our bond.’”
He called on the citizens to be ready to make sacrifices as a nation. “We need to be security conscious as prevention of crime is the job of all,” he said.
He also appealed to the citizens to “project positive image of the country when on a visit or residing in foreign lands. Negative publicity about the country will eventually affect most citizens adversely.”
Ojo was not totally unhappy that the citizens were migrating to other lands for greener pastures.
He said: “Today, many Nigerians are running away, going for greener pastures overseas. But one is not saying that japa is bad in itself.
“Japa becomes bad if you are going to other lands without the right papers. If you do that, you are not doing Nigeria any good. It means that you have nothing to contribute there.
“Nigerians need to travel with the right papers so as to positively harness the opportunities available there.
“But going there without the necessary papers spoils us.”
He beckoned on the teachers to seek to promote quality learning in educational institutions, and the politicians to “remove the practice of win-by-all means from our political landscape and promote peaceful co-existence irrespective of religious, ethnic professional and political affiliations.”
He also warned politicians to desist from using young men as tools to achieve selfish ends.
He asked the citizenry “to establish, maintain, promote and defend values that are ethical, devoid of ethnicity, religious and political considerations with political perspective.”
On the apparent failure of the government, he told this story thus: “I felt much worried recently when I visited a police station in Lagos to sort out an issue.
“While there, a young man lumbered in, pulling with him, a nylon bag full of papers. Guess what he was carrying: charge sheets which the police use daily in the office.
“He printed them on his own and was selling them to the police.
“Now, the bad news is that he was going from police station to police station selling the document.”
Ojo wondered why such a sensitive document could not be provided by the government and the police establishment, and why a private individual would take the initiative of supplying it to the police at a cost.
He urged smugglers of goods to turn a new leaf, recalling that they have an inglorious place as destroyers of the nation’s economy.
Ojo ended the night with a clarion call on Nigerians to realise that they have a huge role to play in building a glorious future of everyone’s dream.
It was gathering of the clergy, professional men and women, a sprinkle of members of the civil society, and officials of the National Orientation Agency (NOA).
Speaker after speaker commended Ojo for his insightful presentation.
They were of the opinion that he did justice to the paper.
They all agreed that all Nigerians have a stake in nation building, while calling on others to shun the culture of finger-pointing. Only by doing that would a future everyone wished for be guaranteed.
Excited Pastor Ojo told our correspondent that “the theme of the lecture came up because of the state of the nation.
“We chose the theme because we know that everybody in this country today is yeaning for good governance.
“Many Nigerians are not particularly interested in which party that is in power, but the type of leadership it brings to the table. That is what is needed.
“Besides, our economy is looking ruined at the moment. Now, the question is: how do we restore our economy?
“Right now, the message we are presenting is this: for us to have good governance and economic growth, we the citizens have a lot of job to do. So much depends on the citizens.
“If we think those in political office must give us the national cake, we get it wrong. They organise a rally, we sew asobi and rally round them, they giving us handout and we don’t think about the nation, we need to change the narrative.
“So much depends on us as citizens of this country. We are the ones to make those in government; we must force them sit up and give us good governance.”
He regretted that “we are the ones engaging in all sorts of illegal trade and shortchanging the government and doing things that are not helpful to our economic growth,” maintaining that “we have so much to do to achieve good governance.”
He called for active participation in party politics without ethnic and religious sentiments and political acrimony.
He said: “We must come out to work together without acrimony.”
He took a swipe at smugglers, and importers of fake and prohibited drugs and substandard goods, recalling that they bring the society to ruin.
“Ingesting of hard drugs is now making our youths addicts. This is terrible because it is placing huge burden on the health sector.
“At the same time, we call on those who are kidnapping people for ransom. They should put a stop to this. They should know that they have a responsibility under God to stop this.”
He believes that if the citizens play their roles properly, the leaders on their part must ensure good governance, insisting that “the citizens must demand accountability rather than sharing in the politicians’ loot.”
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