As Nigeria marked its 60 years of independence on Thursday, youth leaders, civil society actors, journalists and other stakeholders have decried the country’s failure to tackle critical problems such as impunity and corruption by public officials.
Speakers at the Fix Nigeria National Youth Conference, an initiative of the Ernest and Ibrahim Foundation, on Thursday in Abuja, spoke on how lack of accountability and transparency from different sectors had aided bad governance.
Though President Muhammadu Buhari has the fight against corruption as one of his focal points, he has been accused of being selective in the anti-graft crusade.
According to the Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), Nigeria ranked second most corrupt ECOWAS country and is rated 146th of 180 countries.
“Transparency and accountability are the bedrock of good governance,” said Shola Olapade, a leadership and government consultant who spoke first at the event.
Reducing corruption and strengthening accountability at all levels of the government and ladder of the society are recipes for effective governance, added Mr Olapade.
Fixing Nigeria, he said, must be seen as a collective responsibility of all, including the citizens, for “a docile citizenship cannot bring about change in any situation.”
For Ike Neliaku, the executive secretary of Nigeria Prize Leadership, the media should do better at holding leaders accountable.
“If there is no accountability, there cannot be transparency. It is when people are being watched and monitored that they become conscious of their actions,” Mr Neliaku said.
He accused the Nigerian media of bribery, corruption and complacency in its reporting.
This, he said, has made the media weak in delivering its primary task of holding power to truth.
“Question the system, the media needs to pay more attention by staying on critical issues affecting the citizens until something shifts,” said Ndi Katu, the convener of Dinidari Foundation.
However, Idris Akinbajo, the Managing Editor of PREMIUM TIMES, disagreed on the claim that the Nigerian media is totally corrupt and does not hold politicians accountable.
“Yes, the Nigerian media has many challenges. It is true that ‘brown envelope’ (collecting bribes) affects the quality of journalism Nigeria practises. Any journalist that denies that is not truthful.
“It is also true that there is a massive corruption in the media, not only among reporters but also the publishers. But it is also true that there are some courageous organisations that don’t condone ‘brown envelope.’
“When we exposed Kemi Adeosun for falsifying her certificate, we stood by it until she was removed. In all, the Nigerian media is trying its best,” Mr Akinbajo said.
On why the Nigerian youth, instead of participating in nation-building, indulge in entertainment adventures, Mr Akinbajo said years of constant disappointment from the government had squashed Nigerians’ hope for good leadership, thus the loss of interest.
“Over the years, Nigerians have been disappointed by various governments such that they now seek solace in entertainment. Is that the only problem? No, I don’t think so,” said Mr Akinbajo.
He said the media should up its game in spurring the interest of Nigerians generally in governance with good reporting of issues concerning them.
“I agree that the media needs to do a better reporting of issues so that they can be attracted to them. If the Nigerian populace is no longer interested in their governance, the government should (also) be worried.
“We have got to a point where last elections we have had, the turnout is decreasing to 30 per cent, 20 per cent and nobody is saying anything. It’s not the youth.
“Nigerians are not taking it seriously because they have grown tired of consistent drawbacks as a result of bad government. We need to keep encouraging ourselves in the demand for good leadership,” he said.
Nicholas Ossai, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreement, said there was a need for lawmakers to be courageous with high levels of integrity.
Over time, the legislature has been under fire for being a platform for amassing quick riches through mass corruption, embezzlement and many other acts of impunity.
For former senator, Dino Melaye, the failure of the legislators hinges on their bond with the executive who he said are largely corrupt too.
“The National Assembly is not independent; it has been turned to an appendage of the President. You cannot produce good results when cats and rats become friends,” Mr Melaye said.
Sa’adatu Hamu-Aliyu, a lawyer and social advocate, said the problems extends beyond the unwarranted executive-legislative marriage.
She accused Nigerian lawmakers of neglecting the people they were elected to represent and protect, while they satisfy their own selfish interests.
“There is a disconnect between the citizens and the legislature. We need the bills passed to work effectively. But more importantly, people should identify those who will truly move them forward and ensure they deliver,” Ms Hamu-Aliyu said.
Hamzat Lawal, the founder of Follow The Money, a social accountability initiative, said the people should hold their leaders accountable themselves.
“Democracy is about demand and supply; the more you ask, the more you get. Be sure to ask, using informed data,” Mr Lawal said.
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