‘We Need Govt That Understands Its Essence’

Gbenro Olajuyigbe, author and humanitarian and development worker is the coordinator of Human Security in Conflict and Emergencies works of ActionAid in Nigeria. He sent his expectations and projections for 2012 in an email exchange with GBENGA SALAU.

ASIDE from the period of the civil war, year 2011 stood out as the gloomiest, darkest and the most brutal in the annals of Nigeria’s history. The number of people killed, wounded and threatened by human-made and natural disasters increased by three times over the previous year and the number of people affected by disasters was on the increase.

People were exposed on daily basis to diverse forms of threats, especially those of the Boko Haram that had crippled whatever was left of governance. Monumental state of insecurity and ubiquitous unsafe conditions were the greatest twin-threats to Nigerians as a people and to Nigeria as an entity.

The consequence is that terror, robbery, road mishap, murder and diverse forms of violence and crises have driven death rates to frightening crescendo. Ruthless intrusion of fear have drawn the preferential scale of Nigerians in respect of where to go or not, what to do or not, what to say or not. More people are now living in exposed and vulnerable areas.

Most of the villages, towns and cities in Nigeria have become crime-centres and danger zones. Their inhabitants are living in terrible fear and always apprehensive of survival. Every time, the situation is always zero degree to disaster.

However, in 2012, I look forward to seeing a country whose citizens, especially the poor, ordinary and largely ignored and uncared for, begin to enjoy the three key freedoms: freedom from fear, freedom from want and freedom to act on their own behalf.

I look forward to seeing a government that understands its essence, does not grope in darkness and has no trappings of indecisiveness and rudderlessness. A government that appreciates and understands the need for comprehensive governance reform programmes that address exclusion; by promoting participation, transparency, accountability and enhancing capacity of the state to deliver services.

A government that understands that comprehensive reforms must target basic services and access, social protection, justice sector, livelihoods, education, women’s rights, health, energy and wider constitutional and legal reforms that address and redress root, structural, and institutional causes of poverty, conflict and crimes, including terrorism.

These reforms must provide answers to questions that affect our economic structure such as: Who owns what? What is survival like? What are the primary sources of people’s livelihoods and incomes? What is human condition like and how are economic resources distributed?

How do we prevent a Master-Servant syndrome in the social and economic intercourse among the people? Where is the portion of women in the economic space? Is government values-driven? What are the values? How does state/society treat citizens, ethnic and religious groups?

What values and lifestyle do government officials promote? Does society tolerate differences and accommodate diversities? How are the diversities managed? Where is the place of merit? What are the family values? How do we support the people to promote good values?


THE duty of a responsible and responsive leadership is to solve problems and not to abdicate responsibilities. Call it National Conference or dialogue.

In 2012, we must come together to talk and discuss our collective future and address our different fears and threats in this country. And the effort must be conscious and structured. This sort of dialogue must allow people to speak as individuals and groups about their peculiar experiences, hold their beliefs and freely express their feelings and fear.

Government/authorities must listen, understand and address the concerns of people. People should also be able to express themselves in peaceful atmosphere without hindering others from doing the same.

Government and people must listen to other’s ideas with open mind even when people question popular stand, public policies and discuss various options for defining and resolving national problems. This cannot be conceived in governance vacuum.

Government must appreciate the fact that we have nation-threatening problems that can no longer wait till tomorrow. Our problems have disguised in forms that invoke temptation of accepting their irredeemability. They are nothing but simple leadership problems worsened by altitude and thoughtlessness that continue to promote structural and institutional dysfunctions that generate injustice, poverty, inequity and inequality.

The systematic marginalisation of the poor, women, children and youths, especially those from the rung of the society has exacerbated the shift of the country’s ownership from the majority, who are poor to the minority, who are rich and powerful. This split is already drawing our conflict map.

In 2012, I want to see governments at all levels addressing the increasingly widening gap between the poor and the rich, putting in place target-focused social security that enhances right to life, relentlessly, sincerely and proactively waging war against corruption and severely punishing corrupt practices, blocking fiscal leakages and restoring respect and dignity that assure and ensure safety and security of citizens.

In 2012, I want to see a government that is not trapped in monotheistic thought and decisional web, thinking that once fuel subsidy has been removed, fresh air will suddenly appear. I want to see a government that understands the social cost of every decision and appreciate the fact that the business of governance is different from commodity marketing.

What government is planning to do in 2012 by removing the so-called subsidy is mere transferring of the subsidy payment burden to the already pauperised poor, who have been subsidising government’s inefficiency in energy with generators, subsidising government’s inefficiency in water resources with self-dug wells and boreholes, and subsidising government’s inefficiency in security with vigilante services, among others. If government can no longer pay the so-called subsidy, the poor cannot also pay!

In 2012, I want a government that understands Mohandas Ghandi’s assertion that ‘Unjust Law or Policy is itself a species of violence. Arrest for its breach is more so.’


‘We Need Govt That Understands Its Essence’