2019 AND THE PROSPECTS OF A BETTER NIGERIA

Welcome to 2019. Let us thank God for granting us the grace of entering into the new year. Thank God we are not in the statistics of those killed by Boko Haram insurgents, militant cattle herdsmen, kidnappers, armed robbers, police/ military stray bullets and sundry marauders who combined to turn Nigeria into a killing field in 2018 particularly. We thank God that we did not die on the road, on the sea, or in the air. We really must thank God that there was no fatal air crash, despite several reported near misses, including air craft doors opening in mid flight or cabins being decompressed in flight. I am starting this way, because it is normally necessary to thank God for crossing from one year to another but every Nigerian, including the military must give more thanks for surviving 2018. It was a bloody year from the first week of January starting in Benue State and concluding in the last week of December in Zamfara State. 
  
Importantly also, we must continue to pray, first for the comfort of the family of the bereaved. Except you have been through similar experience, it is difficult to truly understand how it feels to lose a family member through brutal human violence. It is extremely distressing to go to sleep and wake up in the morning to see your home ablaze and and sometimes watch family members who are running away from danger being cut down with guns and knives as happened in several parts of the middle belt during the outgoing year. What is worse, is when no meaningful effort is made by the authorities to arrest and punish the perpetrators of the heinous crimes. Then some busybodies arrive to preach peace to you asking you to live at peace with your neighbors, only for them to depart and the attackers return, sometimes under the watch of security agents, to kill and destroy what was left from the earlier attack. That is the burden, some of our Country men and women are carrying today and largely everyone else gets on with their lives, oblivious of the deep pains in the hearts of these victims.Secondly we need to pray with greater intensity for the mercy of God on Nigeria and its leaders. The blood of the innocent shed all over Nigeria continues to cry for judgement, justice and appeasement. Unless God Shows mercy, there will neither be sleep nor rest for the perpetrators of the crime, their agents, collaborators or those who failed to exercise the duty of protection over the innocent. 
  
Thus we arrive 2019, a year that is already pregnant. What shall it deliver? A child of destiny or a child of perdition ? Me  I think a child of destiny, though the signs indicate it will be otherwise. In 2015, the World predicted that Nigeria would walk down the road of perdition. It was widely predicted that Nigeria would split. But Nigeria disappointed the World. That was essentially because the church prayed. Is the Church praying for 2019? True,the church is praying hard. In addition, 2019 elections is not between the North and South, neither is it a contest between Islam and Christianity. For the real first time in Nigerian political history, religion and region will play very minimal role  influencing voting preferences at national level. And for me that is a good thing . For instance, the two principal contestants for the presidency are from the North and they are both Muslims. Thus other critical criteria will play significant roles in determining who wins.  The first criterion in my view is believability. Which of the principal candidates do Nigerians believe most? Making promises is the forte of politicians, but living up to promises is what differentiates one politician from another. Iam Persuaded that most Nigerians can differentiate between facts and propaganda. Luckily both leading candidates have been in the public space and Nigerians can assess who is best able to fulfill promises or political campaign manifestos. I believe that Nigerians have been disappointed too many times that they must be wise enough to interrogate all political promises. They must now be wise enough to separate propaganda from reality. I will like to believe that Nigerians can predict what a politician can do in the future from what he did in the past. If you promise buoyant economy, is there evidence that the economy was buoyant when last you were in power? If you promise a secure and safe nation, what was the situation last time you influenced National security. If you promise employment, how much jobs did you create at the last opportunity. If you promise democratic freedom, how much freedom did we see at your last opportunity? If you promise a nation free from corruption, what was the situation the last time? If you promise peace and unity, how peaceful and how United was Nigeria when last you were in position to influence both?

I truly believe that Nigerians have never had a better opportunity to make rational decisions as to who governs them at State and Federal levels this time than they ever did in the past. That is what gives me hope that 2019 will be truly a  year of destiny. My prayer therefore is that Nigerians must take the opportunity and responsibility with both arms. If we miss it, then we must blame ourselves not ethnicity or religion. 2019 is our year of manifest destiny. Happy New Year Nigerians!

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR, FPSN

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Some how, you get the impression that the President or the State Governor alone is the government and everybody else is either the governed, observer, bystander, supporter,complainant or critic. Perhaps this may explain why there is a woeful failure of the"government " to satisfy the expectations of Nigerians. It is practically impossible for only the President to satisfy the 170 million Nigerians or the Governor to satisfy all the over 12 million people in Lagos for example. Everywhere you go,you meet people who work in the government institutions who act as if they care very little about the success or citizen perception of the government they serve in. When you complain about the poor service you are getting,the same people who are part or agents of the government turn around to blame the 'government', absolving themselves of any blame and often the complaining citizen seems to either agree or empathize with the government employee that the problem is with the mystery ' Mr Government ' Early this year, I wanted to make a trip to the United Kingdom and applied for the UK Visa. Few days after submitting my visa application, I received a call from the British Embassy that there was no space left in my passport to affix the visa. I quickly collected my passport and ran to the passport office in Ikoyi Lagos to get a new one. It took me six visits to the passport office over a period of six weeks to collect a new passport.Reasons ranged from missing file to long queues, mismatch of finger prints, the absence of the engineer and late approval from Abuja. It was an ordeal. Mean while I missed the trip to the Uk and was almost missing a trip to the USA because my subsisting US visa was in my old passport which had been 'quarantined' in the passport office. At the end of this rigmarole I was still expected to show 'gratitude' In August last year, I went to renew my driving license and I was told to fill out forms and make payments. Thereafter I was asked to come back one year after in July this year at the FRSC camp in Ojodu, Lagos for what they called 'capture'. I wondered why it would take a year to come for the 'capture'. I was told that many people were on the queue and their 'capture' equipments were few. I was told that a photocopy of my form on which the July date had been written would serve as my temporary driving license until that date. I shook my head and left. On the assigned date and at the stipulated time of 7am, I arrived. First, it took a lot of pleading to let me drive in through the gate. With one year scheduling, I had expected few people but was shocked by the large crowd milling around the place. I moved from place to place and after several hours when I arrived in front of the 'capture' machine, I was told that my name had not dropped. 'From where ?' I asked. I made three other visits over a period of five weeks, because either, my name was still traveling from wherever to the 'capture' machine, or because there was no 'network' to capture me. I finally got another temporary driving license. And so I will have to return to Ojodu in 60 days when it expires or wait to be called to come and collect the permanent driving license when it is ready and who knows how many more trips that will take, because I saw People who had been called to come and collect, and they came, only to be told that the license was not yet ready. I do not know of any other country in the World where citizens are subjected to this kind of torture just to obtain a driving license. When my son-in-law heard my story, he sympathized with me because he went through an 'agent' and got his with ease! I suffered the same fate in trying to renew my plate numbers as demanded by FRSC. I have completed my registration for the National Identity card at a special unit set up by the National Identity Commission at an interaction in Lagos. I was given a temporary National Identity card. I do not know when I will get the permanent one. Now I have been asked by the Central bank to go to my bank and obtain another Universal identity card. I do not know how many trips I will have to make to obtain a temporary card before I struggle to get the permanent one. I will still go for my voters card and do biometrics and for my Pension, another set of biometrics and identity card. How many Identity cards is a normal law-abiding Nigerian expected to carry?.Why the National identity card can not suffice for all these is what I am asking. I am searching for Mr Government to ask him, because that is what I am asked to do. Can't these government agencies and officers who are asking for these many identity cards share information ? Or is it the fault of Mr government ? Why do we relish in making life difficult for fellow Nigerian citizens and then blame government. Any where Nigerians are to receive service from a government agency, the story of misery and denigration of human dignity is repeated. Who is government? What can be the problem? Is it a matter of lack of a compelling vision, or lack of motivation, or lack of empowerment or plain lack of commitment. What ever it is, I believe that something must be done urgently and in a holistic manner to remedy this anomaly which is creating a lot of problem for the citizens in Nigeria. The unnecessary suffering to which Nigerians are subjected to at every point can not continue this way. What is worse is that the pains intensify when people are doing their best to obey the laws and be responsible citizens. This backlash may seem to promote deviant behavior or corner cutting. Some are 'compelled' to 'settle' police on the highway than go through the torture of trying to get a driving license. All those who are part of government at all levels will need to undergo a fresh orientation to make them understand that point, that a chain is as strong as its weakest link. That Government is not about a single person but a chain of persons who deliver service to the Citizens and that the best President or best Governor will achieve little if all other parties are not playing their roles with the same efficiency and consistency. The leaders of our Governments must therefore take appropriate initiatives on building this consciousness in all persons in government. For empowerment and motivation, the leaders must ensure proper skilling up and motivation of all those involved in the governance process. The right persons must be put in the right positions to ensure the integrity of the chain.For commitment,the leaders must demand evidence of performance down the line. This must be measured and rewarded so that the unskilled for the assignment, the unprepared and the indolent are weeded from the system, so that the impact of good governance can be felt by citizens leading to improved quality of life and the reduction of the misery index. It seems this is perhaps the most critical responsibility of the leaders of the different tiers and arms of government and may actually be the differentiating characteristic of the effective government leaders. Sitting at the capital and hoping that all the 'beautiful' policies, projects and programmes are yielding the desired result will not do. If those who are part of government are blaming the government,one can then understand why some other Nigerians make a past time of blaming government for every problem. If the gutter overflows, it is the government that must be blamed and nothing to do with the citizens who throw pure water satchets and sundry rubbish into the gutter. When the road is blocked, it is the government and nothing to do with the indiscipline of citizen drivers who refuse to give way to each other. In those Countries that we admire and aspire to be like, most Citizens regulate themselves and accept responsibilities for the good order of the society, thus allowing the regulatory enforcement agencies to effectively contain the few deviants. If everybody is a deviant, no government can effectively manage public order. That is my point and it does not in any way absolve the government in power from its statutory responsibilities. There is a role for the government and there is a role for the citizen. Any dereliction on either side will create problems for the society, just as we are having,Period. Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR