Friday, March 19, 2021

GPN/NIDO Confab: FG must respond to citizens aspirations - ITREALMS

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International Conference on Patriotism, Security, Governance and National Development - Communiqué: 6th March 2021.
The International Conference on Patriotism, Security, Governance and National Development, convened by Global Patriot Newspapers, GPN (Online) in collaboration with the Consulate General of Nigeria in New York, USA and Nigerians in Diaspora Organization (NIDO) New Jersey, took place on Saturday, March 6, 2021.


The virtual conference attracted a worldwide audience and many notable speakers. Among those that addressed the conference are the Special Guest of Honor; and Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Professor Yemi Osinbajo (GCON) (SAN); the Chairman of the event and Nigeria's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador (Professor) Tijjani Muhammad-Bande; and the former Senate President of Nigeria and ex-Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim (GCON). The Consul General, Nigerian Consulate in New York, USA, Ambassador Ben Okoyen was the Chief Host.

The event started with a Welcome Address by Ambassador Okoyen. This was followed by Opening Remarks by the event’s Chairman, Ambassador Muhammad-Bande. The Keynote Address was delivered by the Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo who also formally declared the Conference open.

Other notable Speakers at the Conference include Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, Professor Murtala J. Balogun, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Professor Eddie Oparaoji, Alhaji Abubakar Sokoto Mohammed (mni), Professor Akil Khalfani, Professor Apollos Nwauwa and Engineer Obed Monago.

The President, NIDO New Jersey, Dr. Kazeem Bello and the President of the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers (GOCOP), Mr. Dotun Oladipo, personally delivered their goodwill Messages at the conference.

Besides acknowledging that Nigeria faced epic challenges, the Vice-President gave a detailed account of the efforts being made by government to tackle the economic, security, governance, and infrastructural problems. 

The Vice-President’s robust presentation included details of the government’s Economic Sustainability Plan, as well as the Anchor Borrowers Programme which are aimed at ensuring food security, generating employment, and enhancing the development of the manufacturing and infrastructure sectors.

The Vice-President further highlighted the efforts being made to diagnose the nation's security challenges, and to ensure the safety of life and property across the country. Shifting his attention to the herders-farmers’ clashes, the Vice-President was of the view that the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP), which is already being implemented in some states, would eliminate the friction between the two groups. He made it clear that no state was being, or would be, compelled, under the scheme, to surrender land for ranching.

The Vice-President reiterated his position on State Police. According to him, devolving policing powers, along with the transfer of the requisite resources, to the States was the best guarantee of security of life and property.

The Vice President urged Nigerians to be patient. Nation building, he noted, is a difficult, sometimes, messy, process. All hands must therefore be on deck if the underlying goal is to be achieved.

Those who spoke after the Vice-President underscored the major challenges confronting Nigeria, especially in the areas of security and governance. 

They held that nurturing the citizen’s patriotic spirit required that the leaders act proactively to address and, where possible, to eliminate, the security and governance factors that impact negatively on national development. 

The speakers were also unanimous in their view that government needs not only to respond to the average citizen’s aspirations, but also to give the citizen a sense of belonging. 

A concept that sums this up is the “identity-value of citizenship.” The citizen’s patriotism is guaranteed to the extent that the identity-value of the Nigerian citizenship is constantly enhanced and sustained by the state. Governance must be more inclusive to enhance the chances of development, and to trigger the patriotic impulses in the citizens.

There is also the need to resolve the nagging questions about citizenship. This is to ensure seamless integration and cohesion.

On how to further secure the allegiance of the citizen, the speakers emphasized the need for Government and its agents to work for all rather than for a few. The leaders must listen more attentively to the People and ensure that the people have unimpaired access to the nation’s policy makers. 

This was the essence of the advocacy for the establishment of a Citizens Affairs Unit in the President’s and State Governors’ Offices. When established, the Citizens Affairs Unit will collate, process, and flag for top-level attention the grievances, yearnings, suggestions, and vital intelligence from ordinary citizens.
Citizenship is of course not only about rights, but also about obligations. 

The presentations by various speakers underscored the necessity for the citizen to play his/her part in the process of nation-building. The citizen needs to be committed to the fatherland, to fulfil his/her civic obligations, and to eschew habits and choices that hold Nigeria back or make the country the butt of jokes in foreign lands. 

The citizen must also learn to hold the leaders accountable for the performance of their statutory functions, and for the allocation of resources. 

The speakers consequently recommended that Civics and History be re-introduced in primary and secondary schools’ curricula.

The need for the Government to ensure safety of life and property was underscored by various speakers. The first clause in any social contract, whether explicitly written or implicitly understood, is securing the life and belongings of the citizen. 

When a state is remiss in the discharge of this vital obligation, the citizen’s trust declines along with the citizen’s patriotic fervor. 

The speakers accordingly endorsed the proposal for the creation of State Police, the transfer of policing resources to the States, and the establishment of mechanisms to ensure proper accountability for the allocation of the resources. 

The speakers in addition, stressed the need to immediately increase the number and quality of law enforcement personnel. Above all, they counseled the adoption of effective intelligence gathering techniques, the application of modern surveillance technology, and the linkage of citizen registration database with law enforcement information systems.

Is Nigeria’s diversity a curse? The speakers did not think so. They noted that diversity is natural and normal in a society of humans. It is the way in which diversity is managed that matters, not the very fact of diversity. 

For instance, insecurity could not be defeated with ethnic profiling or religious stereotyping. If Nigeria is to vanquish the forces of instability, the People must speak with one voice against criminality, and must work together to secure one citizen from the rights-extinguishing tendencies of another.

The speakers paid special attention to the need for free, fair, and credible elections. The citizens’ votes must count, while thuggery and other electoral offences, should be banished from Nigeria’s political landscape. The speakers further emphasized the need to raise the standard of leadership as well as the qualifications for strategic government and public service positions.

The speakers observed that Nigeria is a nation richly endowed with boundless resources. Almost all states of the Federation, they noted, have resources which, if properly harnessed and allocated, should enhance the standard of living of all citizens. 

The resources must, however, be judiciously managed and invested in critical sectors, especially, education, health care, and infrastructure rehabilitation and development.

The speakers felt that the time was ripe to address the challenge of poverty. The poor, after all, hardly understand the notion of patriotism. The wealth flaunted in the faces of the poor by a few privileged compatriots, including wealth that is perceived as dubiously acquired, cannot but dampen the patriotic spirit.

A few speakers called for a radical review of Nigeria’s economic and social policy. They noted with concern the role that indiscriminate privatization of public enterprises plays in widening the gap between the rich and the poor and in deepening poverty and entrenching inequality. 

The neoliberal policy has virtually wiped out the middle class and turned highly educated citizens into economic refugees in foreign lands.

Capital flight is another issue that should be addressed by Nigeria’s economic policy. Loopholes through which billions of dollars flow out of the country must be immediately plugged. Ill-gotten monies lodged in foreign banks must also be reclaimed and allocated to priority sectors at home.

Corruption, no matter what form it takes, must be fought with renewed vigor. There should be no sacred cows in the struggle to liberate Nigeria from the stranglehold of bribery and corruption. In this regard, the searchlight must be seriously beamed on the Judiciary and the Police. The security challenge facing Nigeria especially dictates the need to fight corruption with everything the state has got.

Nigerians in the Diaspora must insist on having voting rights at home, especially as the volume of Diaspora remittances, estimated at $25 billion annually entitles them to have a say in who governs the country. They should also be eligible for consideration for elective and appointive offices.

The speakers observed the unsalutary effects of ethnicity and other factors on excellence. Nigerians must come to common cause on how to eliminate mediocrity in all spheres of life. The success of the effort will depend largely on the institution of arrangements capable of delinking government decision-making processes from extraneous influences, notably, ethnic origin, religious belief, or political affiliation. 

Merit (by which is meant competence or proven ability to deliver specific outcomes), for instance, must be the paramount consideration in the selection of public personnel.

Patriotism is inevitable for development, but leaders must point out the way. They must lead by example and be selfless. Absence of role models leads to justification of criminality and celebration of ill-gotten wealth.

The buck stops at the desk of the head of state and government. It is up to him to ensure that both the physical security and the economic security of Nigerians are guaranteed. A physically insecure and economically unstable country cannot develop.

It was agreed that there is need for a Peoples Constitution, arrived at through dialogue, rather than imposition.

It was also the consensus that Nigeria should lead the way in the evolution of pan-African patriotism. The new doctrine will bring together Africans and black peoples all over the world.
Africans and blacks must begin to emphasize the values that unite them as a race. 

To leave lasting legacies, they must proceed from their obviously disadvantaged positions, to think long term, and to craft a shared vision of a willed future.

*eSigned by Mr. Simon Ibe, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, Global Patriot Newspapers on behalf of Conveners

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