Saturday, 31 October 2015

#MustRead: THE NIGERIA OF MY DREAMS

The Nigeria of my dream is a nation-state founded on justice and honesty of purpose. This is so because all great nations of the world thrive on justice. I want a Nigeria that has zero tolerance for corruption, religious and tribal bigotry. Indeed, I want to see a Nigeria where people will proudly say “I am a Nigerian living in so, so and so state” and not a Nigerian of a particular state of origin! This arrangement will unite the people, eliminate mutual suspicion among the people and remedy the indigene-settler induced crisis ravaging Nigeria especially in the northern parts of the country.

I have a dream that sooner than later, the votes of Nigerians will count and we shall bid adieu to electoral fraud. I envisage that in no distant future, our democracy will be built on one man, one vote – the only condition for the sustenance of constitutional democracy. I believe that if the people’s votes count, the leadership will be more accountable to all Nigerians. This will positively impact on all sectors of society because politics is the super structure upon which the economy rests. Once you fix the polity, you remedy so many socio-economic problems plaguing the society. Though this sounds like a tall dream, it is possible with electoral reforms, empowerment and positive attitudes by Nigerians. Continue.......

Even in the best of systems, it is the operators that make it work and not the Constitution or Act of Parliament per se. The implication of this is that irrespective of the constitutional review and the electoral reforms carried out by the National Assembly, if Nigerians stick to their old ways of doing things, the system will still not work effectively! It is thus left to our leaders to take the baton of leadership and spearhead a change that is needed and must come. 

The Nigeria of my dream is a country where Nigerian citizens enjoy critical infrastructure such as good road, water, and uninterrupted power supply, to mention but a few. Power will power the economy and help the country to attain the Millennium Development Goals. With power, industries including large and small scale businesses would yield optimum results. I want to see a Nigeria in which a vibrant railway network is an integral part of the transport system. This will make our roads last longer because most of the cargoes carried on roads will have to be transported by rail. This has far reaching short and long-term impact by reducing the cost of transport and subsequently of foods and other goods transported, which will ultimately lower inflation.

I foresee a Nigeria devoid of alarming unemployment and insecurity. This is the kind of country for which Dr. Nlogha Okeke strived for but sadly, never lived to see. It is possible for us to achieve this vision in view of the abundant human and material resources that God Almighty has bestowed on us.

The Federal Government and the 36 states of the federation are striving hard to make the country one of the 20 most developed economies in the world by the year 2020. Even if we are not able to achieve this, it is my sincere hope that we come close enough towards doing so. The Nigeria of my dream is one in which all Nigerians join hands to build the Nigeria we earnestly yearn for since government alone cannot do it.

I want a Nigeria where citizens are proud of their citizenship and can actually take it to the bank. To achieve this, we all need to roll up our sleeves and soil our hands in work. There is no short cut to success than hard work! Dreaming dreams alone will not make it happen. Endless criticisms without providing viable alternatives will not make it happen either. It will happen only when we subsume our self interest for national interest. It will happen only when we say: ‘Enough is enough!’

This is the Nigeria of my dreams. I am committed to it even at the expense of my life. It is this vision of Nigeria that has shaped my outlook and actions. It is what keeps me going when I am tired and feel like giving up. It was what almost cost me my life at NAFDAC; it was what propelled me to resign my appointment as Minister of Information and Communications in December 2010 to seek election as a Senator representing Anambra Central in the National Assembly. What is more, it was this vision that motivated me to run a clean campaign, to refuse the use of even a single thug and to refuse to rig the election. It was what propelled me to explore constitutionally-stipulated legal means to seek redress after having been denied my mandate by those steeped in the disgraceful act of election-rigging, rather than resorting to violence as some aggrieved and desperate politicians would want to.

Unfortunately, and as I’m sure most of you already know, my quest for justice met a brick wall. Last week Monday, March 26, the Court of Appeal sitting here in Enugu declined to order the trial of the petition I filed challenging the declaration of Dr. Chris Ngige of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) as winner of the April 2011 Senatorial Election for Anambra Central. The decision was based on the recent Supreme Court ruling that any case not decided within 180 days of the filing of the petition had lapsed. Unfortunately, my case happens to be one of such. It was a sad day for justice in our country because technicality triumphed over merit.

My petition met with obstacles from the very beginning as my opponent’s legal team employed delay tactics, using one crafty argument after another to frustrate the hearing of my case. Five times we went on appeal and five times we won, sometimes with fines against Dr. Ngige.

Rather than making me give up on Nigeria, my ordeal rather served to renew my zeal to work towards the emergence of a new Nigeria where justice and equity shall prevail.

This vision of Nigeria is alive in my heart, I can see it. In summary, what we need to do as a people is to get the polity right, shun corruption, be patriotic, believe in God and every other thing shall follow. That was the Nigeria of Dr. Nlogha Okeke’s dream. It was for this that he lived and died. It is also for this that I live. And it is for this that we all should live.

(Written by late Dora Akunyili and delivered at  the 3rd Dr. Nlogha Okeke Memorial Lecture in 2012.)

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