From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
Immediate past Chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO), Americas, USA, Ms Patience Ndidi Key, has said that Nigeria needs visionary leaders in order to take the nation out of the woods.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, Key, a public health specialist and president/chief executive officer of P-Key Health Solutions INC, United States, maintained that the nation has no business sitting as the poverty capital of the world, a situation which she said, is so shameful.
Key added that the leadership of the country needs to take 360 degrees turn urgently to pilot the nation and the people towards imminent success.
With your experience in the United States, where do you think Nigeria is getting it wrong in terms of the leadership of the country?
We should be clear and understand that both countries went through colonization by the same colonial masters, having their share of brutal treatments whether in the form of slavery, infectious diseases, or both. Fortunately, both countries have long gained independence. Both countries are made up of diverse ethnic groups with different languages and traditions and later settled as Nigerians or Americans, respectively. Officially, racial and ethnic groups make up the bulk of the American people. Meaning that we have in other parts of the world where different ethnic groups with diverse tongues make up the nation just as we have in Nigeria. People must learn to live together. Exclusive of the wars fought to gain independence from the colonial masters, subsequent wars fought in Nigeria involved ethno-religious wars, tribal war, military coup, and fights for control over the lucrative oil production in the Niger Delta area. Most of the wars fought by the United States was to expand their territory and acquire more resource for the continuous development of the nation. As much as we hear that the Caucasians and blacks have issues when it comes to the growth, development, and the stability of the United States, the citizens join hands to sustain and uphold their nation. Americans fight for their nation not for their political parties or politicians. This is quite the opposite in Nigeria, where we continuously engage in tribal, religious, and political wars. Politics is mostly about the people in the United States. In Nigeria, it is about the political party in power, the politicians, and the elite class, especially those that support the government in power. Both countries practice capitalism, but the cons are more visible in Nigeria in respect to monopoly of power, inequality, monopsony of power, social benefit ignored, inherited wealth leading to wealth inequality, high rate of unemployment due to boom-and-bust cycles. Free market is abused in Nigeria. In the United States, the government intervenes for public good and embrace economic freedom when it comes to capital use. The elite and powerful enjoy all the benefits with no social justice for the people, hence the height of poverty, hunger, insecurity we experience in our dear nation and we wonder why. We have blatantly refused to deal with the root causes of our national problems. Our ongoing and increasing predicaments have a fundamental trail. We need to go back to the drawing board and fix us, by us and for us. Leadership in the United States is wholistic and inclusive, from top to bottom and vice versa. It is participatory with healthy choices and feedbacks; transparency, accountability, social justice, respect for human rights, welfare, free of ethnic-religious inclinations and quarter systems. All these are lacking in the Nigerian style of leadership. I am not saying that America is a perfect system with no hitches, comparatively the system works for the citizens. In Nigeria, things are deliberately structured to work for those in power and the elite class.
What can Nigerians do to engender a new leadership that will take the country out of the woods?
The problems we face in Nigeria is self-inflicted and can be easily resolved when we have visionary leaders. We need responsible men and women, people who genuinely believe in and love Nigeria. Citizens who understand that Nigeria is not a tree, a house, a car or an inanimate object, but that Nigeria is the human being occupying the space in all 36 states and FCT and in the Diaspora. We need leaders that are willing to do good, be transparent, communicate, firm, be accountable to the Nigerian people and work to implement the principle of good governance. Good governance is essential to the growth and stability of any nation.
Do you nurse any fear regarding current happenings in the country?
Of course. My fear is that the Nigerian people do not understand the fundamental issues and those that understand are far from working together, making the issues difficult to mitigate. At the stage we are right now, we need to work on the root causes of our issues, not beating around the bush and blaming everyone else. The name Nigeria and living together as Nigerians is not the issue at all. Dividing and forming different nations from Nigeria will not be a good action to take. The reason being that we will still be faced with the same breed of people in leadership. The three prominent ethnic groups agitating for separation have not done well by taking their groups out of poverty. If the elite among the Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa respectively focus on their immediate constituencies and work to change the welfare and living condition of their people, we would not be the poverty capital of the world. Nigerians do not speak the language of patriotism and volunteerism, but we are glad to work pro bono in our Diaspora community. We expect pay back every time there is opportunity to work in our homeland or immediate community. Every state has representation in the Senate, House of Representatives and among the ministers. The question now is why the representatives are not pushing and implementing policies that can move their people forward. Are the people asking relevant questions? Or they just enjoy celebrating these leaders and giving them the power to continue to trample on their constituencies?
What is your take on the incessant killings in the country, particularly banditry, kidnapping, terrorism, farmers-herders crisis and armed robbery?
Again, there are root causes to these menace happening in the country. These are multiple problems caused by poverty, religion, illiteracy, unemployment, inequality, injustice, and tyranny. It is such a sad situation that we are politicking with human lives. When people are pushed to the edge, they begin to act abnormally. That is where we find our Nigeria now. Is it not a wonder that the Nigerian Armed Forces with its reputation to be well-versed in counterinsurgency having exhibited a wealth of experience due to operations in insurgency environments such as Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Mali and now have no success dealing with the insurgency situation in its homeland, Nigeria? They had successful participation in a United Nations and African Union-led peacekeeping operations across the world. We need to quickly implement local policing. The people know their surroundings and states and would do better keeping watch over their own. The national security agencies can stand as supports and training centres. Our sovereignty is threatened. President Buhari can do something. I believe Nigeria can handle the crisis if they want. We did it for other nations. There is big hope for Nigeria. Let us not allow our dear nation to sink. Now is the time. We have given ourselves on a platter to the enemies. Nigerians arise and work together for the soul of our dear nation.
What efforts has NIDO Americas USA made to ensure adequate assistance in the fight against insurgency in the country?
We have written press releases condemning the illicit acts and disregard for human right and lives. We have held events and will continue to hold events deliberating on ways to curb our national issues. But you see, leadership is everything! To make progress, our leaders should move into action with clear strategies, hold those involved accountable to the lowest level. We need to look at the root cause of insurgency in Nigeria. What brought about Boko Haram, kidnapping, killer Fulani herdsmen, etc? We need to get those under control to enable sustainable solutions. We need to equip and transform the army from ineffectiveness to empowered and aggressive force. Seek the collaboration of foreign trained armies with extensive combat experience at the battalion and brigade, just as we supported other African countries. And we need to invest in heavy equipment to enable the armies do their job effectively. Only a reform-minded leadership can help the armies and necessary agencies adapt to respect for human rights.
Corruption is often linked with insecurity. How can the country effectively combat the menace?
Where there is the political will, all the ill situations plaquing Nigeria and the citizens will be combatted. The foundation of insecurity should be located and resolved. In an economy where inequality, abuse of human rights, poverty, hunger and injustice are the order of the day, the people, when pushed to the edge become fed up of being good citizens. So, Boko Haram, kidnapping, rape, herdsmen and banditry become the lead. The disruption in our dear country has a cause. If we have a reform-minded government, the people will be willing, and the nation will be beneficial to all.
What is your take on the NIN registration in the country?
Collecting and collating the data of the people of a country whether at home or abroad is a great idea. What worries me is that there is no value proposition. What is the need for NIN? Is it for the welfare of the Nigerian people? Is it to give access to affordable healthcare and/or develop a scheme for free healthcare for those who cannot afford it by using the NIN to know those who are taxpayers, then using the funds of the elite and other tax payers to compensate for those who cannot afford healthcare? Is it for educational reform or for skill training for the youth and those who may need the empowerment or use in creating pantries in all states to alleviate hunger and reduce poverty? These are all solutions, right. What does the Nigeria government and those contracted to do the job wish to achieve? They have no answers for us. A lot can be achieved when we become true to ourselves and serve the population who worked so hard to elect officials to positions for service. There would be no need for NIN if it is to put money in few pockets as usual. We are sick and tired of being treated as if we do not matter in our own country. Now, we are being threatened. We are being forced to have NIN with no added value to the citizens. First, it was BVN, now it is NIN. I would not be surprised if it becomes expedient for the government to come up with another scheme to generate another number. The Diaspora is their big gain. Contractors quickly run abroad to bring the good news to us, but unfortunately, could not package it well, hence they lacked success in generating the NIN in the United States when they first visited.
Were Nigerians in the Diaspora carried along?
We are never carried along. The government and its agencies speak depending on the side of the bed they woke up from. They end up using threat when it looks like people are not following their order. Some contractors quickly ran to the United States to begin processing NIN for us while feeling happy with the huge amount of monetary returns. According to the contractors, they were charging $50 per applicant because the government has no resources to embark on the project. They could not answer our questions. When the Vice President visited New York in June of 2019, we made it clear at the townhall meeting that the main problem was not being charged $50, but that we never see value in their actions and that the common Nigerians never benefit from any transaction done by the government and so, it was difficult to agree to NIN, seeing all so many went through to acquire BVN. Few years to come, they will come up with another number to generate more money. See how we are printing money in a country that produces close to nothing. How do we survive or sustain our naira? The CBN is helping to put measures on how we can receive dollars when we send money back home. It is always so quick to come up with initiatives that favour the ruling class and most elite. It is so obvious that these crops of rulers do not care and will never care about the nation and the citizens. Sad!
The issue of Diaspora voting has been on for a while. What are your thoughts on it?
Sometime last year in an article, I said that where there is a will, there would be a way. It is not in their agenda, so the government is not willing to let us vote from the Diaspora just yet, but things may be changing. Recently, some of us have received invitations to impromptu and time sensitive meetings both virtually and in-person meetings. The invitation are okay, but we should be well informed and given a good time to organize and deliberate with main stakeholders to come up with beneficial policies for the greater good for the majority of the Diaspora. CBN has been coming up with different initiatives to get into Diaspora funds. They want to tax us, there is the promise to get dollars when we remit money to Nigeria and all kinds of schemes. We really do not need to go through back doors to get to our people and threatening the Diaspora is no gain at all. So, it is easy to come up with means to tap into Diaspora funds or remittances, but no one want to sit down and come up with quick and genuine means to organize Diaspora voting. On the same publication last year, I enumerated some strategies that could help the initiative on Diaspora voting. We can use non-corrupt INEC staff, diplomatic staff, and diasporas to do the job among relevant other agencies. We have a globally recognized organization; Nigerians in Diaspora Organization. Reputable members can be used. The Diaspora should understand that as much as they continue to form several organizations to enable them gain power or influence, they will continue to gain disrespect from the Nigerian government and those advising them to form organizations. Loyalty, firmness, integrity, and unification are the key words if we want to succeed as a people. Most Nigerian leaders come into office to destabilise working groups instead of making them better and setting good legacies. Nigerians living abroad should be leading way to mitigate our home problems and not to be used to distract our unity. Nevertheless, we still have Nigerians abroad working for the betterment of Nigeria.
You are a woman and when women complain about discrimination in politics from the menfolks, it is often said women are the problem of themselves. Do you think so?
Well, through my experience, I would say it is both ways. Although some women have come to believe the notion that men should be left to lead. Leadership is meant for the right people that understand their positions from a servant-leader space and not by gender. Women need the exposure and training so that they can understand more about leadership. I believe that when more women embrace self-respect, understand their self-worth and the values they can add to their communities, nations and global community, their thought level will be refined. There is no need to beat yourself down, beat one another down or disrespect the opposite gender. Whether women or men, people should believe in themselves and be firm.
2023: Is Nigeria ripe for a female president?
A leader could be a male or female. Leadership was never meant for a particular gender. All we should be advocating for is the right leader. A goal oriented and focused leader, a genuine reformer, a visionary, a transparent and non-biased leader, a leader that will fight for the nation and not for a particular ethnic group, religion, or political orientation or quota system.
Are you going to throw your hat in the ring in 2023?
Hahaha! Excellent question. If I do, Nigeria will stand out. Time will tell. The nation and the people need sincere and servant leadership. We need positive influencers. We need strategic leadership that can facilitate growth and development in human and the nation.
Nigeria has been battling the issue of drug and human trafficking that are giving the country a bad image. How can the NDLEA and NAPTIP effectively end the ugly situations?
The complete disregard for human rights in Nigeria is severe and worrisome. The root causes of human trafficking in Nigeria are poverty, corruption, gender inequality, globalization, and ignorance. The victims are exposed to this global crime against humanity due to the severe economic hardship in the nation among other factors mentioned earlier. The environment is hostile. The same goes with victims of drug trafficking who are equally engaged in the illicit act for survival purposes. Addressing these situations will take a communal effort, continuous education, and awareness campaigns on the realities of human trafficking, creation of jobs and skills training.
Do you support the restructuring of the country?
Of course. Restructuring is the way forward for a successful and sustainable Nigeria. Everyone, Nigeria and all states will be beneficiary of a restructured Nigeria. Nigerian states are blessed with resources that could be used to bring sustainable reforms and development to the states. For truthful and sincere operation as a federation, we need to act accordingly. Restructuring will bring great benefits, respect, and global attraction to our economy. The government must learn to listen to the citizens and do what is right for the people and the citizens must learn to embrace our diversity and their position as the influencers and drivers of the economy. When we organise, advocate, and worry for the right cause, put the nation and her citizens first and sincerely live beyond self-gain and self-interest, we will soon begin to see progress in all aspect of our lives and our economy. It takes the people to build or to destroy. Let us make a sincere and selfless choice to build the Nigeria that favours all, equitably. Restructuring is the way forward. The process already started by the Confab of 2014. We do not need to waste any more resources further to talk about restructuring. Let us review and work with the process already started during former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. The government and the governed are joint stakeholders in the Nigeria project. Respect must be given to all Nigerians.