Wednesday 23rd August, 2017
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Some lessons from America

Some lessons from America

I am a bushman. And, I make no pretensions about it. I do not mean that I am a support­er of former President of Ameri­ca, George Bush, Junior. Not at all! What I mean is that I am not cos­mopolitan, but rather insular, pi­geonholed in a little corner of Nige­ria. Save for journalism, I believe I would have been in a small village close to Owo in Ondo state, where I was born and bred, teaching the English language in some second­ary school.
 
Providence ordered my steps to journalism. A personal decision to opt for the study of Mass Commu­nication instead of English language, to me, represents the turning point. This helped me to focus my eyes on the ball of journalism. After two un­successful attempts at university ad­mission through the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) in 1984 and 1985 to study law, I was con­fronted with making a choice between studying English at the Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma, and studying Mass Communication at the Auchi Polytechnic.
 
I scored 245 in the 1985 JAMB ex­amination. It was a good score, but when subjected to the specifics of quota system and local government of origin, it was not good enough to qualify me for admission to study Law. The cut-off point for my local government area, the old Okpbeho Local Government, now Esan Cen­tral Local Government, was pegged at 252. I lost the opportunity of be­ing admitted for the Law programme due to the formalism of quota system. I was advised to apply for a change of course to English language, which I declined.
 
If I was somewhat lucky to get my fallback position in journalism, what of other brilliant and smart Nigerian students whose steps in life had been cruelly altered by the formalism of quota system; and who had ended up in professions for which they nev­er had passion? This variant of nep­otism has also manifested in the form of federal character principle, which is a yardstick for employment into fed­eral civil service in Nigeria. The cor­ruptive predisposition has become so entrenched that political and pub­lic offices are now determined by the vagaries of zoning so much so that its observance has destroyed our sense of oneness.
 
The north-south divide has stuck out like a sore thumb. Rather than prudently address the self-inflict­ed dichotomy through conscious ef­forts at political accommodation, we have allowed our nation to slip down the path of diversity through con­structions of, at first, regional identi­ties and now zonal identities. Over­all, merit has been sacrificed on the altar of nepotism. And because of selfishness and greed on the part of the elite and political leadership, the right things are sidestepped. They see exemplars in developed countries, but will not replicate them here.
 
It is clear that that the notion of sac­rosanct national interests in Nigeria is a mirage. What has been amply dem­onstrated is the only and ugly side of enlightened self-interest that finds an­chorage in the mindless plundering of our national treasury and the eco­nomic re-partitioning of our nation by a clique. It is sheer elite conspira­cy against the rest of us that successive governments have not put in place a workable system to punish corrupt public officials in ways that will serve as deterrence.
 
We watch helplessly as the bulk of our national wealth has found and continues to find its way into the pri­vate estates of a privileged few while millions of Nigerians wallow in abject poverty. Nigeria has become a para­dox of a supposed rich nation of poor people. I am justifiably angry with Ni­geria and the bazaar-canteen model of administration that leaderships foist on us in a deliberate bid to appropriate our commonwealth as their person­al wealth. And, like a cult, they pro­tect themselves despite their egregious culpability.
 
Nigeria practises the presidential system of government like America. It also subscribes to federalism even if it is not conscientiously practised like America. Yet there are many positive things to learn from America’s bu­reaucracy, constitution-making, jus­tice administration, political system, anti-corruption posture and the exec­utive-legislature checks and balances of powers in relation to the overall in­terest of America and her people. The fine details of these are quite evident in the greatness of America.
 
But consider the recent vote by the American Senate on the “skinny re­peal” option of the Obamacare (Af­fordable Care Act). The so-called “skinny repeal” bill, which the GOP titled the Healthcare Freedom Act, would have rolled back several Oba­macare provisions, including the key individual and employer mandates.
 
The bill would have led to an esti­mated sixteen million Americans un­insured by 2026, according to a report from the nonpartisan Congression­al Budget Office (CBO). Accord­ing to the CBO, “Premiums in the non-group market would increase by roughly 20 percent relative to cur­rent law in all years between 2018 and 2026.” But three Republicans - John McCain, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins - voted against it, thereby sink­ing the “skinny repeal” measure in a 49-51 vote.
 
Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer said Democrats were not celebrating but were relieved for Americans. What does this develop­ment explicate? It simply explains that the three Republican senators who broke ranks with their party voted with their eyes on the American in­terest, not on their party’s partisan po­sition. The trio of McCain, Murkows­ki and Collins, did not cave in to the brinkmanship of the presidency of Republican President Trump. Not even the talks Vice President Mike Pence reportedly had with McCain before the vote could dissuade him. This kind of nationalism by McCain and the other two Republican sena­tors cannot happen in Nigeria.
 
Sadly, in Nigeria, legislators of the ruling party will, with good grace, abandon their people in order to be politically correct so that they can se­cure re-nomination or return tickets. Such wicked elite conspiracy! Exploit­ed Nigerians must henceforth, and, anyhow, seek to redefine and insist on devotion to the terms of the social contract between them and those who govern them.
 
•Mr Ojeifo contributed this piece from Abuja via ojwonderngr@ya­hoo.com 

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