Published On: Mon, Sep 12th, 2016

Buhari’s New War Against Indiscipline

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By Emmanuel Asiwe


President Mohammadu Buhari

President Buhari has set out his vision for a better Nigeria, imagining an incorruptible paradise without bribes, where workers come to work on time, militants and insurgents lay down their arms, trash is thrown in bins, not the street, drivers don’t run red lights and internet scams are a thing of the past.

The re-orientation campaign conjures images of social engineering and state control but Buhari maintained it was first and foremost about a change in mindset. “We must resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship, pettiness and immaturity that have poisoned our country for so long,” he told a gathering of high-profile politicians in the presidential villa in Abuja, at the launch of the initiative.

It is, indeed, unfortunate that since the Buhari-led military regime launched the then famous War Against Indiscipline (WAI) campaign to instill discipline in 1983, Nigerians have hardly changed their ways. That in itself, should tell Buhari it takes more than the revival of a slogan to mobilize Nigerians for the fight against indiscipline.

The new campaign, set to an infectious jingle with the lyrics “change begins with me” appears to be a gentler revamp of the WAI Buhari introduced as military ruler 33 years ago. Then, soldiers enforced orderly queues for buses and fair prices in markets, while tardy civil servants who arrived late to work were made to do star jumps. Thirty-three years on, the issues are the same: police and public sector workers still solicit bribes, while stopping at traffic lights remains more of a suggestion than the law. Yet then, as now, Buhari’s social crusade risks being undermined by the country’s dismal economic performance. Nigeria just entered a recession, with the oil sector reporting a double-digit decline following a wave of attacks by rebels in the oil-producing south.

Nigerians are aware that there is a culture of indiscipline and impunity at all levels and in all facets of national life. However, a recourse to the military tactic of whipping people into line in a democratic dispensation is an admission that leadership creativity is in short supply at the moment. It is also an unhappy reminder that Nigeria has not made any significant progress in the area of social mobilization and development of a national culture of discipline in the last three decades. Before the return to democracy in 1999, there have been various campaigns and slogans to little effect. From Buhari’s WAI to Babangida’s Mass Mobilization for Social Justice and Economic Recovery (MAMSER); to the National Orientation Agency (NOA); these campaigns have all been ad hoc arrangements by the government of the day to score cheap political points, rather than a core part of the governance system.

The timing of this initiative is quite curious at a time the country lags behind in every indicator of human development. On all account, the country is yet to fulfill her destiny. Years before the oil boom and the resultant Dutch disease, Nigeria was predominantly an agrarian society with countries like Malaysia and Singapore coming to learn the secret of its green economy. This trend has been reversed as Nigeria now imports food from these countries. Nigeria is currently the biggest importer of rice in the world. Past projects to boost food production such as river basins and rural infrastructure development failed due to the corruption in high places. The net effect is food insecurity.

In Buhari’s Nigeria today, the country lacks basic infrastructure like electricity, with a population of about 170 million rationing a mere 5,000 megawatt of electricity. The symptoms, of course, are too well known: closure of businesses in the real sector of the economy due to astronomical cost of energy; unemployment, and a broader effect of de-industrialization as manufacturers relocate to neighboring countries. Though Nigeria exports about two million barrels of crude oil daily, it is still incapable of meeting domestic demands for refined petrol and kerosene. Again, the effect of this is that Nigeria is the highest importer of electricity/power generating sets the world over.

In the education sector, the university system has been wrecked by strikes, and the poor outing of students examined by the West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) and National Examination Council (NECO), offer a window into the sorry state of affairs. In terms of funding, successive governments have been unable to meet the UNESCO-stipulated 26% budgetary threshold for education. The effect is brain drain and a dip in the quality of education in the country. While public institutions suffer, the ruling class sends its children to schools abroad, often with dubiously-acquired resources.

Health wise, a recent rating puts Nigeria as one of the worst in the world, a testimony on the state of the health sector. The country is perpetually embroiled in the war against malaria, the most deadly killer of our people despite the huge roll back malaria (RBM) expenditure. Beyond these, basic morality has broken down in homes and public places. The youth no longer respect elders and are now at the center of despicable acts such as gang-raping, internet fraud, cultism, kidnapping, among others. This will not change simply because a voice in the new WAI video trailer says: “I no go do yahoo yahoo or 419 again” in reference to the online scams originating from Nigeria that have snared victims around the world.

Probity is in crisis as corruption has taken over the front burner of conduct by public officials. In fact, corruption has become Nigeria’s public enemy No.1, and is now part of the insignia of office of the ruling elite. Most citizens still need to be educated that corruption goes far beyond financial misdeeds and that a certain moral pestilence which rages in Nigeria is the essential breeding ground for corruption. All this is attributed to failure of governance and poverty. To be sure, Nigeria suffers from governance crisis, a corrupt bureaucracy, state impunity and the breach of the rule of law. The present administration is not faring any better than its predecessors, as it exhibits in many fronts, evidence of disorientation.

Security-wise, law and order have practically broken down, as kidnapping, armed robbery, marauding Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram terrorists pervade the country. The insurgency has made nonsense of security in the country and portrayed an atmosphere of siege. It is not too late to rescue Nigeria from the brink of collapse. Exemplary leadership is imperative at all levels to realize the dreams of our fathers who toiled for Nigeria’s statehood, and the hopes and aspirations of our people. That leadership must forge a creed for the country that includes new ethos, and the lowest common denominator of conduct, expected especially of those in public office. It must enthrone integrity and accountability, competence and hard work in public conduct. It must aim to redirect society from the current inordinate scramble for material gain. And it must reinvent societal values with just rewards for acceptable conduct, and punishment for deviance.

There is need to examine why in all previous campaigns against indiscipline, the leadership itself has not been disciplined enough to lead by example and therefore, defeated the campaigns even before take-off. It is only a disciplined leadership that can inspire or mobilize a disciplined followership and nurture desirable values in any nation. At this time of economic depression, it will be difficult a task to mobilize a hungry and angry citizenry. Yet those in authority should lead by example and think seriously of credible ways of mobilizing the citizens. It is not enough for the President to throw up his hands in befuddlement as he did, saying every Nigerian must change. He has an historic duty to redirect the ship of this promising state. To fail to do so will be the ultimate betrayal of the Nigerian dream.




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