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At 62: The solution to Nigeria complex problems remains “Visionary” and transformational leadership- FCT Minister

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. Says until we fix education the future, we want is only an illusion

. we are committed to the development of the FCT.

 

As Nigeria, the supposed giant of the African continent rolls out the drums to celebrate 62 years of formal independence from British colonial rule, FAVOUR ISHEMBER in this report share how the joyful occasion is being marked amidst a host of problems, highlighting efforts taken by the past and present administration, with emphasis on the Federal Capital Territory Administration, to proofer solutions and the way forward for Nigeria.

 

These problems include: a weakening economy, huge unemployment, ethno – religious conflicts and social disequilibrium, youth restiveness, rising insecurity, all of which threaten progress made in the country’s post-independence development.

 

With the deepening distrust in government and institutions, Nigeria has significant work to do in improving national, state and local security, unity, governance and cohesiveness. Since independence, the country has made some efforts at nation-building. Some of these efforts came after the civil war which understandably was an ample time to enhance proper integration of the warring elements.

 

The same problems Nigeria was battling 62 years ago are still here, only that they are more severe and deadly. Successive governments have done little to achieve the dreams and aspirations of many Nigerians. Nigeria survived a bloody war, several military dictators, ethnic pogroms, and debilitating poverty. It is still struggling to come to terms with its past.

 

The current realities are stark and very disturbing. This situation is even more so given the contributions of the current administration to make things better.

 

The president, in his Independence day broadcast, alluded to some of the outstanding achievements his administration has made, which include: overturning the doomsday predictions over the COVID 19 pandemic by creating a solid healthcare regime that is the envy of most developing countries; fighting an economic recession that was exacerbated by the devastating financial consequences of COVID 19 ; fighting an intractable insurgency, terrorism and secession agitations across the country; and providing poverty alleviation infrastructure to cater for over 100 million poor people, whose number keeps increasing per minute because of hyperinflation and collapse of Naira in the foreign exchange market.

 

 

These efforts, although noteworthy, and as claimed by Mr President, maybe the best provisions of any administration since the resumption of the current democratic experiment, are not making the needed impact. The needs of the country are enormous and available resources are meagre. The level of infrastructure decay and deficiency is mind boggling.

 

 

Most of the roads are death traps. The electricity supply is epileptic at best. Water and basic sanitation are luxuries to many citizens. Education standards are deteriorating, painfully, especially with the ongoing ASUU strike. Unemployment, is creating substantial economic problems, and from East to West and South to North, Nigerian youths are hopelessly unproductive, restive, and endangered species. The social consequences of this are evident in the involvement of the youth in terrorism, insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and secessionist agitations across the country.

 

 

All of these are happening when the government struggles to raise funds to tackle some of these problems. Oil as the mono – product of Nigeria does not command the same economic value as in the past, and this trend will continue as the world moves on to green and renewable energy sources. The government has  been borrowing to the discomfort of citizens to fix infrastructure . It is easy to gloss over this administration’s efforts and blame it for Nigeria’s problems.

 

Despite these harsh realities, Nigerians are celebrating Independence, at least knowing that the country is still one; we are still running a democracy; COVID 19 has not had the  predicted devastating impact .

 

Narrowing down to the nation’s capital city, in the last seven years, the FCT, like the rest of the country, has faced unprecedented challenges that border on the economy, security and social matters.

However, it is in the midst of all of these that the FCT thrived. As the FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello with Strategic planning saw the FCT, Nigeria’s “Administrative Capital,” becoming the second highest internally generated revenue earner only after Lagos, the commercial capital.

 

The FCT , tops other famous commercially renowned states and plans are on ground to even wrest the top position from Lagos. This will be achieved also without much praise singing. What the FCT  has experienced over the last few years has been an unprecedented stable leadership that gets the job done despite the difficulties inherent in managing a very complex city like Abuja.

 

Speaking with the Managing Director, Abuja Broadcasting Corporation Limited (ABC), managers of Aso Radio and Television, Damisa Ibrahim Lawal, discrib  the Minister,  as a quiet achiever who did not like showmanship, but has turned the Territory into a construction site.

 

In the words of the MD: “When we came into office in 2017, we meet abandoned equipments that depreciated due to technological advancement. We want to commercialize this place to run as an Enterprise. Thank God, with the huge support of the Honorable Minister, we have put in place an organisation we can all be proud of.

 

Damisa  said the Corporation were targeting to raise N1 billion capital to drive reforms and run the corporation effectively as a commercial enterprise.

 

“One Billion Naira capitalisation is our dream. For us to fully commercialize, we must be seen and heard at all times”, he stressed.

 

Revealing plans by ABC to change its model of covering Abuja, the MD noted that he was able to record the achievements so far through perseverance and strategic thinking, which has informed the leap forward even with the hard economic challenges.

 

The ABC Boss disclosed that he was coming out with programmes such as Abuja File, City Managers and Abuja Master Plan to focus on showcasing these achievements and reporting Abuja much more effectively.

 

“Abuja is practically a construction site. There are projects everywhere; not only in the City Centre, but also in the satellite towns”.

 

Notably, new infrastructural development in the FCT is often carried out in a seamless manner so much so that residents do not even notice that a new road has been opened and new bridges put to use, because, to them, it seems the road or bridge has always been there.

 

In 2015, when the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari came into power, while driving into the FCT, you had to do a lot of meandering, taking several detours in order to get into the city. All that is now over.

 

The usage of those infrastructure has never been heralded by fanfare and huge ‘commissioning’ ceremonies. A gathering of the relevant government officials and the immediate community leaders are all that would be assembled for a symbolic inauguration. These are hardly the actions of one seeking any form of publicity for either political or personal gains.

 

 

Taking  a look at the COVID-19 pandemic in which the FCT was an epicenter often trailing just behind Lagos in the daily grim figures. But with careful management, very few actually realized how badly hit the FCT was, not with the mortality rate kept low in relation to the number of recorded cases.

 

The FCT’s management of COVID-19, under the leadership of Bello  was the best example of how galvanizing the private sector and leveraging personal network and contacts for public good is possible.

 

The minister inaugurated the Ministerial Expert Advisory Committee on COVID-19, chaired by a former minister of the FCT, a man who shares his passion for the development of the FCT, and had as members medical, logistics, financial and media experts and together they developed the perfect response plan.

 

 

Members of the committee provided expert advice, contributed their own funds and mobilized other resources and at the end of it all, even donated a very modern molecular lab as a legacy project.

 

 

Second is education. Education changes people’s thinking, mindset, value system and their productive capacity. Nothing prepares the next generation more than education. It enables in them the ability to change society. I am talking about education that makes youths more curious, more innovative and gives them skills and not just certificate. Our educational system and output is one of our albatross as a nation.Till we fix education the future we want is only an illusion. Education and development are two sides of the same coin.

 

 

The most excellent resource Nigeria has is its people. Unfortunately, it has neglected this fact for a long time. The quality of the people who make up the citizenry determines the country’s extent and level of development. Both the leadership and followers  in Nigeria emanate from the people. The better the quality of the people, the better the leadership and the followers.  I must state categorically, that development is not just the level of infrastructure, economic growth, or social cohesion of a nation. It is also a reflection of the sum of the level of quality of education the   people have.

 

The more enlightened, educated and self- developed  people are, the more they change their environment to reflect that level of development. And the more developed the environment becomes, the more it reinforces and reifies the self development of the people.

 

 

And as  the world marks 2022 International Literacy Day (ILD), the Bello led FCT Administration stressed the need to continue to entrench the culture of improved Knowledge acquisition and economic education and skills empowerment. The  Administration, said over the years, it has expressed its resolute commitment to quality education with renewed emphasis to overcome illiteracy and ignorance which will help to accelerate financial independence.

 

while briefing the press on the commemoration of this year’s ILD, with the “Transforming Literacy Learning Spaces; Exploring opportunities and Possibilities, FCTA’s Secretary for Education  Sani Dahir El-Katuzu, noted that the ILD 2022 theme avails  the opportunity to further deepen the efforts of the FCT Administration to ensure equitable and inclusive

education for all.

 

He disclosed that the FCT Education Secretariat has evolved series of policies and strategies to ensure that every resident of the FCT has equal access to quality education which is also affordable.

 

He added that the Department of Mass Education (DME) of the Education Secretariat had rolled out series of life changing skills acquisition, training to adults, women and youths in the FCT, which is geared towards  reducing the rate of illiteracy in the Territory.

 

According to him: “Our determination in enhancing the pace of literacy learning

space is re-enforced  by this 2022 inspired theme. It is this access to quality Education that advance the course of literacy and help to show case productivity, ideas and turn the wheels of modern day life.

 

“We thank the FCT Minister and his team for the immense support Administration, in order for us to realize our crucial role in the overall development of the FCT.

 

“We cannot try to imagine what life would be like if there was no

access to education, which is capable of transforming the learning space through many opportunities and make impossible dreams and visions become possible.

 

On her part, Director, FCT Mass Education, Hajarat Titilayo Alayande, highlighting the numerous efforts of FCT Administration targeted at raising literacy index in the nation’s Capital, said a lot of activities have been outlined to celebrate the Day.

 

 

Alayande called on residents to take advantage of it’s over 200 Mass Education and vocational centers scattered across the six Area Councils of the territory to lift themselves out of illiteracy and poverty irrespective of age, sex and status.

 

 

She explained that  the Mass Education platform of FCTA was inclusively and robustly established to cater for everybody, including the Nomadic Herders, the Almagiris’ and even the elderly people within the age of 50 to 60.

 

 

Speaking about power supply, it is no news that street and traffic lights are powered by the national grid which we all know is unreliable at best. The FCTA has often had to power the major expressways of Murtala Mohammed (Kubwa) and Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (Airport) with back-up generators at very expensive costs.

 

Efforts are currently being made to retro-fit others with solar powered lights and none of these come cheap. Perhaps we should lay the blame where it really belongs.

 

The Minister has even received commendations from several quarters on the on-going solar powred street lights currently lighting up several streets in the city.

 

Malam Bello has always provided exemplary leadership based on the provisions of the law because as he has always said, the FCT is a creation of law and “all that we do here must reflect that”.

 

He has often come under tremendous pressure to circumvent the law for either political or even personal gains and the man has refused to budge. The latest being the court ruling elongating the tenure of FCT Area Council Chairmen.

 

 

The Minister was asked by many to ignore the ruling and swear in the Chairmen, a move which he vehemently resisted and insisted the law must take its course. The FCTA appealed that ruling, had it vacated and he subsequently inaugurated the Chairmen.

 

 

On crisis management, The Dei-Dei issue was notable . The level of maturity and  artistry with which that was handled is commendable. Despite a lot of criticism by many who have very little knowledge on the complexities of managing the FCT, the Minister got all the parties involved to commit to the maintenance of peace while the government does the needful.

 

Truth is that managing the FCT is one of the most challenging jobs in our country. Every Nigerian has a right to the FCT and every Nigerian wants the FCT managed in a manner that suits his or her own peculiarities. This is in addition to it being the seat of government and home to most of the international community in Nigeria.

 

The delicate balancing act of governing the FCT, dexterity, courage, wisdom and the guidance of the Almighty. Malam Muhammad Musa Bello has made a success of this tedious assignment, largely without blowing his trumpet.

 

Of recent, there has been  rising cases of insecurity in the FCT, as critics has pointed out. The question is, where in Nigeria is security not a challenge? The minister has often said that, with the leadership being provided and the cooperation among security agencies in the FCT, for every crime reported, at least 10 are nipped at the bud or solved. Take the high-profile crimes such as the kidnap at the University of Abuja staff quarters. The culprits were caught, victims freed and it was discovered that the target was actually high profile individuals within the city with the ultimate aim of creating panic and drawing maximum public attention.

 

The Director, FCTA Security Services, Adamu Gwari who gave his voice on the efforts made by the Minister to ensure residents enjoys security,  noted that the FCTA has reviewed transportation laws in order to seamlessly carry out enforcement that will restore all round sanity.

 

Notably, he said the ‘G7’ security operations that involve collaboration and partnerships with states that are contiguous to the territory is a major step taken by the FCT administration to cub the urgly  menace of insecurity.

 

 

The Director explained that the operation would involve taking the fight to the bandits and terrorists in their camps which are mostly located in states bordering the FCT.

 

Community policing and involvement of local vigilantes with their traditional leaders are also key steps to fight insecurity in the nation’s capital city.

 

 

Gwari , however, called for the collaboration and cooperation of residents of the FCT to provide actionable and timely intelligence to the security agencies.

 

He advised them to be security conscious at all times and call on  residents to give actionable and timely intelligence to all the security agencies.

 

 

Gwari who commended the efforts of all components of the task force involved in the enforcement activities in the city, also urged for more synergies.

 

 

The Minister has always said that Abuja is like a living, breathing entity that must be nourished and cared for. If you neglect it, like a living human, it will become ill and possibly die. You must own the city, you must love it and you must care for it. He stressed.

 

By constantly drawing attention to all that is seemingly wrong with the city and her managers without giving credit for progress made and offering no solutions to identified problems, you are killing it slowly, but surely.

 

 

The laudable questions to ask here are what does Nigeria  need ? And how can we start to achieve them?

 

Nigeria has the potential to be great. In recent times, it has had the biggest economy in Africa and boasts of the highest number of Billionaires from Africa in the Billionaire list yearly. However, at best, Nigeria has only maintained ‘tremendous potential’ and has struggled to live up to this lofty bidding of greatness.

 

This greatness is more evident in our diversity – great diversity in cultures, languages, religion, and attributes. Instead of being a source of conflict and angst, this diversity should be harnessed  for the country’s greatness. We aspire to dwell in unity and peace despite our differences. Equity, justice, and tolerance should be embedded in the fabric of our existence. Therefore, all attempts by some groups, be they ethnic, religious, or regional, to dominate others must be resisted and corrected.

 

The solution to Nigeria complex problems remain “Visionary” and transformational leadership. It is leaders that set and create the right environment for people to give their best. Nigeria needs innovative leaders capable of  articulating our common aspirations and creating  an overarching vision of a Nigeria of our dreams. We need transformational leaders to set our priorities right , enthrone meritocracy, do the actual work of inspiring the people and allocating resources to accomplish our shared vision. Without a responsive and responsible leadership, Nigeria will remain in a quandary with all its enormous potentials.

 

It is time we got men and women of character, competence and leadership skills in all facets of our national life and economy to work together as a team to salvage Nigeria.

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