Friday, March 27, 2009

Words Not Enough

NIGERIANS delight in words. We adore them; we think that they are everything. The importation of that type of thinking into the conduct of government’s business has resulted in our belief that words answer all questions.
We are the most populous country in Africa. We are the giant of Africa. We are the most populous black nation. We are the fastest growing telecommunications market in the world. We import the highest number of used cars.

We import the highest number of generators. We have made the most number of changes in our Constitution for a country that is not 50 years old.

Most of the indices point at nothing positive. The fact remains that various Nigerian governments tend to seek excuses in place of actions that can correct anomalies. Where the World Health Organisation states that rate of maternal deaths in Nigeria is too high, we dispute the statistics, threatening to come up with our own figures. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo even disagreed with the inflation figures a government agency, the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, used in its master plan and refused to launch the document “until we get the figures right”.

These attitudes are important in the light of the efforts to re-brand Nigeria. Nigerians want to see actions that prove that governments are done with empty words. Whatever happened to Servicom, a service that was launched six years ago to improve public access to services of government agencies? Who did Servicom serve? Is there a better way to re-brand Nigeria?

“Servicom (Service Compact With All Nigerians) is a social contract between the Federal Government of Nigeria and its people. Servicom gives Nigerians the right to demand good service, the service claims in its website.

In a June 5, 2003 speech to the National Assembly, President Obasanjo said: “Our public offices have for too long been a showcase for the combined evils of inefficiency and corruption, whilst being impediments to effective implementations of government policies. Nigerians deserve better. We will ensure that they get what is better”.

According to Service Delivery In Nigeria: A Roadmap, a 2004 federal government publication, “Services are not serving people: they are inaccessible, poor in quality and indifferent to customer needs. Public confidence is poor, and institutional arrangements are confusing and wasteful. The need for a far-reaching transformation of Nigerian society through a Service Delivery Programme as a step in the process of moving to a government that is more in touch with the people”.

Obasanjo at the 2004 presidential retreat remarked: “The message should also be about leadership that has all these attributes selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, and patriotism. It is also the message of leading from the front in the battle to sanitise our system morally, politically and economically. Above all, it is the message of leadership that the Nigerian people can trust”.

Nigerians are still waiting for governments that would lead and gain their trust.