The Next Level Team

July 25, 2019
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Finally, The List is out. As the nation waited with bated breath, President Buhari took his time to assemble a team which we can be sure he is proud of and would gladly vouch for as an A-team. We will soon confirm as rubber hits the road. For now, we must congratulate the president and his team and pray for strength and sound health to carry the nation to the Next Level.

The release of the list comes at a time of national distress over unwelcome and unappreciated events of the last few weeks, nay, months. What started as isolated cases of criminal brigandage soon assumed a heightened level of nervousness for the future of the nation. The innocent life of Mrs. Funke Olakunrin was snuffed out with reckless abandon, leaving her 93 years old father and leader of pan-Yoruba premier organization, her husband, children and her family, in unfathomable pain, and striking a sadistic dagger through the heart of Yorubaland and, indeed, Nigeria as a whole. It is the loss of a nation. As she rests in the bosom of her Lord, here below, we approach the throne of Grace for mercy and comfort.

Not surprising, in view of her pedigree, the reaction to the loss was fierce but measured, thanks to the reservoir of patience and pragmatic orientation of the Yoruba. Traditional and political leadership rose to the occasion. In unison, they condemned the brutal murder, and delivered unambiguous messages by correspondence and in person to the President. The Yoruba are long suffering. However, it’s a mistake to take them for granted. For when they are sure they’ve had enough, their reaction is usually disproportionate. That’s a word that is enough for the wise.

As the police investigates the tragic killing on a highway that is supposed to be secure, what is clear is that no matter whoever is responsible, whether criminal kidnappers, armed robbers, or Fulani herdsmen, the government bears vicarious responsibility for its failure to provide security, a foremost duty of any government, for the shirking of which there is no justifiable excuse.

The nation was still struggling to deal with the emotional damage done to its psyche by the tragic death of Mrs. Olakunrin, when another inexcusable security breach occurred in the nation’s capital. The worst nightmare of any parent, a young Youth Corps member, serving his country, was gunned down in a cross- fire between police and Shiites protesting the over three years detention of their leader despite court order for his release on bail. A Deputy Commissioner of Police was also felled in the fracas! Was this due to failure of Intelligence? How could it be that after a violent demonstration of the sect at the National Assembly only days before, security wasn’t beefed up to forestall such a repeat incidence that turned fatal?

Perhaps, it all happened because there was no team in place. The Presidency cannot do all the heavy lifting. That is why the constitution provides for helpers, aka Honorable Ministers, with specific portfolios. Thank goodness, we now have the nominations and the Senate has promised to fast track their screening. Very soon, then, we will have the full team on duty. What should we expect? What can we expect?

Before the election that gave him a second term, the president had laid out his vision for the Next Level and his expectation, indeed, demand of members of his team is that they would help him realize that vision and take the nation to that desired level. On her part, the nation can’t wait. It is important, however, that in the light of the desired investment of the nation in her own future, she should be carried along. If this requires a revision of the president’s vision, so be it.

In particular, the matter of security must now take priority of place on the front burner. In his remarks at his inauguration, the president recalled that in 2015, he had identified security, economy, and corruption as the cardinal and existential challenges facing the country. He relished the fact that his administration has degraded Boko Haram insurgency. He also acknowledged that there are still challenges with regards to kidnappings and banditry but insists that he is meeting the remaining challenges “with much greater support to security forces with funds, equipment and improved local intelligence.”

There is probably no doubt that the administration is supporting the security forces. It is also probably true that those forces are grossly inadequate for the challenges that they face on all fronts. The ratio of police to civilian in this country is abysmal. Besides, there is no fit between a such a centralized security force that we operate and a diverse population that we proudly identify as an unquantifiable asset of the nation. Why we relentlessly stick to such a monstrosity despite its glaring inadequacy is still a mystery to commonsense.

The Next Level is a higher level. Therefore, we expect a new approach that does not frustrate expectations. It is high time we came to terms with the need for a new and effective security architecture that focuses on local policing, using personnel that identify with the people. We cannot continue recycling the same policy menu and expect different results. It is not working! Nigerians, young and old, professionals and students, low income and middle-income earners are afraid to travel by road whether on highways or even on remote rural roads because they hear stories of fellow Nigerians dying unnecessary deaths in the hands of criminals. It must stop. The team must find a solution NOW.

Beefing up security is important. It must however be combined with sustained efforts in the matter of providing functional education to the youth as well as gainful employment and entrepreneurial opportunities geared towards lifting citizens out of poverty. To be fair, we must give credit to the Buhari administration for its doggedness in making alleviation of poverty a policy priority in its first term. From N-Power to TraderMoni, Anchor Borrowers Scheme, and School Feeding programs, many of our fellow-citizens have seen dramatic positive changes in their lives. These effective programs now must be sustained and improved.

In the case of education, it seems clear that we have given an undue advantage to private schools and institutions over public institutions. This is wrong headed. A very tiny percentage of school age children have the resources to attend private schools. A vast majority of children have no alternative to public schools. But those public schools are starved of teachers, classroom space, teaching materials because they are not well-funded. Teachers lack the enthusiasm because they are not paid regularly. It is part of the reason we have so many out-of-school children and while those who attend end up not doing well.

Why on earth do we bring children into the world, count them as citizens, expect them to become useful citizens, but refuse to do our part to train them? How are they to be useful citizens if, as a nation, we left them untrained and unloved? From our apparent unconcerned and uncaring attitude to the upbringing of our youth population, we should not expect anything better than that which we now experience in their embrace of banditry, armed robbery, cultism, and kidnapping. We fail them and the devil grabs them and turns them into its dependable weapon against us. As the Sage, in his characteristic bluntness, warned the nation: “The children of the poor that you failed to train will never let your children have peace.”

In the circumstance, the team has its work cut out for it. Your role is to give useful and implementable policy advice to the President as it pertains to your portfolio. It is hoped that Mr. President chose you because he is familiar with your expertise in the portfolio that he entrusts to you. It is also hoped that he knows you for your hard work and loyalty to the vision that he shared with the nation. Therefore, you are a perfect fit for the Next Level. We pray that you do not disappoint the expectations of the nation.

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