"The alarm should wake our leaders up. Things have to change"August 14th, 2011
Millions of Nigeria’s graduates remain unemployed and there is a perception that jobs in government go to those applicants whom are best connected. Yet recruitment without merit risks a decline in Nigeria’s international influence, writes Nnadozie Onyekuru, 22, a Commonwealth Correspondent from the city of Maiduguri.
Cabinet confirmations in Nigeria are a caricature of intention. The 1999 constitution requires that the President’s ministerial nominees be screened by the Senate, which is the upper chamber of the National Assembly.
However, the manner with which such exercises have been conducted leaves much to be desired. Most of the nominees are simply asked to take a bow before the mace and exit the chamber.
Such privilege usually referred to in national parlance as ‘bow and go’, was initially granted to nominees who had previously served in the legislature. When the practice first arrived, a disapproving senator cautioned that in-depth inquiries on the quality of service rendered by such nominees in the past should be the guidepost for granting the privilege.
Today, however, the privilege has been extended to almost all nominees under many groundless reasons that range from geographical origin to positions in party hierarchy. State assemblies have also adopted ‘bow and go’ in the confirmations of nominees proposed by their respective governors.
A lot of reasons have been adduced for the endurance of the practice, prominent among which is that Nigerian Presidents don’t attach the cabinet portfolios of ministerial nominees when forwarding their names to the Senate, as is the case in the United States whose model of democracy Nigeria is currently operating. Citizens who advance this argument point to how handicapped senators are when questioning the less lucky nominees.
Another school of thought believes that the practice is a representation of the rot that has eaten deep in the Nigerian society. As millions of graduates remain unemployed, it has been accepted by almost everybody that jobs (especially government ones) are advertised in the media just to create the appearance of respectability – an atmosphere of verisimilitude – to a process that boils down to how many people in high places that the applicants know. This situation does not give hope to young Nigerians and, in fact, endangers the prosperity of the state.
Recently, Ibrahim Gambari, a Nigerian at the top echelon of the UN submitted a report to the Presidential Advisory Council on International Relations in which warned about the decline of Nigeria’s international influence. He warned: “by my assessment, it is not so much the policy itself but the skilled personnel, implementation mechanism, vision and sense of purpose which appears to be lacking.”
At the moment, Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is more opaque than the State Security Service. Recruitment into the service is carried out surreptitiously. A diplomat who couldn’t even sing the National Anthem was confirmed this year as an ambassador by the ‘bow and go’ National Assembly.
The result is that the country cannot boast of a firm grip on the continent she has suffered so much for in the past. This in turn may hamper her quest to represent Africa on the proposed expanded permanent membership of the UN Security Council.
The alarm by Professor Gambari should wake our leaders up. Things just have to change.
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