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Wanted: A New Beginning

The new mantra should also be adapted into the curricula of our educational institutions at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels

Alex Ohemu

President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) would have started governance on a new slate; a completely new beginning, after their inauguration on May 29. I had thought that Buhari and the APC would use the period between his victory and inauguration to start a process of national rebirth and renaissance. They would have used that period to introduce and prepare the minds of Nigerians on their vision and mission for the country. The administration’s first action would have been to mount a public enlightenment and sensitization campaign to educate the public on the direction and policy thrusts of the new government. This process would have started with the APC intelligentsia designing an ideology, a mantra or dogma that encapsulates the philosophy of the new government.

I have in mind, if you like, a new national code of conduct that captures the exigencies of our time including all the ills and systemic tendencies that have been buffeting the country as a nation. This can come in the form of a compelling catch phrase, a slogan or message that is capable of stirring the country towards national revival. What I am proposing here is not new to Mr. President. As Head of State in 1983, he introduced the War Against Indiscipline (WAI) as the mantra of his administration and it caught on among Nigerians like bush fire.

WAI is an eloquent demonstration that Nigerians are ardent followers of leadership by example. It is not too late for the Buhari administration to commence this process. It should immediately design the appropriate media, vehicles, platforms or channels for effectively communicating these philosophies to the electorates to imbibe as a patriotic duty. An important vehicle for driving this national orientation is the media including the print, electronic and social, to inform, educate and enlighten the public on some of the vital ingredients of these national re-awakening.

Competent local PR firms could also be commissioned to deliver appropriate and compelling jingles, advertisements and PR stunts to drive the change message home to the public. This is a familiar turf to the National Orientation Agency (NOA) which should take it as its own project and deploy her structures across the country to ensure that all Nigerians key into these new national codes in their daily lives and living.

The traditional institution is another potent vehicle for driving this process. Traditional rulers, being closer to the people, should spearhead the process in their various domains by adopting appropriate channels of communications to ensure maximum effect. Because the issue touches on the moral fabric of the nation, religious leaders too have an important role to play by constantly focusing on the change message in their sermons and preaching at their various worship centres.

The new mantra should also be adapted into the curricula of our educational institutions at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels. The role of the police, the National Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) and other law enforcement agencies should be limited strictly to enforcement and compliance. An ideal platform to drive this process could be a retreat. Mr. President and his party should organize series of retreats for various strategic groups or segments of the Nigerian society. There should be retreats for politicians, for example.

There should be a retreat for members of the National working committee of the ruling party while another will focus on the Federal Executive Council. There should be retreats for governors, National Assembly members and elected and appointed public office holders at all levels of government. The civil service, also subdivided into directorate, senior and junior cadres, is another important group to target for the retreat.

Ditto for the private sector employees, the military, paramilitary and law enforcement agencies. The general public can be reached through the various media of mass communication earlier mentioned above. The aim of the retreat, which must be frank and realistic is to discuss, educate, enlighten and sensitize the populace to key into and imbibe the new national code of conduct without which the change that Nigerians have been clamoring for, would remain a mirage. It has to be a serious campaign to be driven by a special group led by the presidency for Nigerians to take it seriously.

The ingredients of the new value reorientation will naturally constitute some of the challenges, travails, ills, trials, difficulties, setbacks and weaknesses that are currently confronting the country and increasingly conscripting her prospects for sustainable development. In this regard, the ills that dent our image as a people such as the various forms of criminal activities like bribery and corruption, armed robbery, kidnapping, advanced free fraud, drug peddling and sale of substandard, fake and adulterated drugs, foods and beverages, human trafficking, pension scam should top the list.

Those that sabotage our economy like oil bunkering and subsidy mismanagement, petroleum pipeline vandalisation, illegal refineries, illegal and indiscriminate gas flaring, illegal mining, tax evasion, foreign exchange malpractices, money laundering, smuggling and illegal appropriation of public funds for private uses must be captured. Also worth considering are some of our primordial beliefs that constitute grave impediments to the development of the country like ethnicity, nepotism, tribalism and religious intolerance.

Challenges posed to the corporate existence of the nation like the Boko Haram insurgency, militancy and herder- farmer clashes should be captured. The prevailing political culture in the country should come under focus. The new code should dissuade the public to stop putting undue pressure on public office holders while the latter must stop taking advantage of the poor conditions of the former. The new code should encourage drastic cut on the remunerations of politicians at all levels to make politics less attractive.

It should encourage the public to imbibe the culture of holding leaders accountable to their constituencies and demanding for performance as the irreducible minimum condition for their continued stay in office. It should encourage the public to stigmatize, rather than glorify and celebrate corruption. Furthermore, it should reject the old ways of doing things or business as usual syndrome.

This is the way to go if President Buhari and the APC truly desire to effect a lasting change in the system. The nation needs to be recreated and re-invented based on a new set of value system if we are to completely break from our ugly past. To carry on oblivious of this past is to put our progress in reverse gear. Ordinary Nigerians who made sacrifices and voted for this change will be the losers.

•Alex Ohemu wrote in from Makurdi, Benue State

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