Urgent need to pull Nigeria from the brink
Veteran politician and former Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Nduese Essien, has delivered a poignant message to President Bola Tinubu, urging him to prioritize the establishment of a Government of National Unity (GNU) over seeking a second term in office. In a State of the Nation Address to mark the closing ceremony of his 80th birthday anniversary activities, Essien emphasised the need for a collective effort to address the pressing issues facing Nigeria, setting aside personal ambitions for the greater good of the nation.
In the six-page address, Essien justified the need for a GNU on the grounds that the maladies plaguing Nigeria are too entrenched and pervasive. “These maladies have become so entrenched that it appears no administration emerging through our electoral process will ever be able to overcome them. The quality of governance in Nigeria has continued to plummet through successive administrations since 1999, and gotten worse since 2015.
“I, therefore, urge President Tinubu to do his best to address these issues and keep the country together to the end of his first tenure. Thereafter, a Government of National Unity should be formed to chart a new course for our nation.”
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Essien, renowned for his decades-long involvement in Nigerian politics and advocacy for good governance, expressed deep concerns over the current state of affairs in the country. The elder statesman stressed the urgency of steering Nigeria away from its current trajectory of corruption, insecurity, impunity, and bad governance, warning of dire consequences if nothing is done to check the drift.
“Our beloved country, Nigeria, is at a crossroads, grappling with crises that threaten the very fabric of our society. Endemic corruption, insecurity, impunity, nepotism, bad governance, and a flawed leadership recruitment system have cast a shadow over our nation’s future,” Essien lamented.
Continuing, he said, “Corruption is not merely a crime; it is also a betrayal of the trust placed in our leaders and a theft from the pockets of every hardworking Nigerian. We cannot hope to move forward as a nation until we root out corruption at all levels of government and society.
“Regrettably, corruption is most unlikely to reduce in Nigeria with the laissez-faire attitude of successive administrations wanting to accumulate excess resources to outpace opponents to win the next election. What is required is a selfless leader with a determination to address the menace the way Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore tackled it.”
Essien also lamented at the level of insecurity, which has left too many of our citizens living in fear for their lives and livelihoods, arguing that Nigerians should not be allowed to endure the horror that has become a national phenomenon.
He, therefore, called on the government to strengthen the country’s security forces, invest in technology and intelligence gathering, and address the underlying socio-economic factors that fuel extremism and criminality. “But we must also recognise that security is not just about guns and bullets; it is also about justice, opportunity, and dignity for all,” he added.
Nepotism and impunity as national culture
Since 2015, Essien said the country has witnessed the worst levels of nepotism marked by lopsided appointments that negated not only the Federal Character principles, but also the tenets of justice and equity. He said that impunity has become pervasive, with powerful individuals and institutions flouting the law carelessly while ordinary Nigerians suffer the consequences.
“This culture of nepotism erodes trust in our institutions and undermines the very foundations of our democracy. No one should act outside the law. No one should be above the law. We must collectively ensure that justice is blind – meting out punishment to the powerful and protection to the powerless,” he said.
He accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of failing in its duty to uphold the integrity of Nigeria’s electoral process pointing to the cascading fraudulent conduct of general elections as testaments to the erosion of democratic values. To correct the situation, Essien called for an immediate investigation of the INEC and a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s electoral system, adding that Nigeria cannot go to another election with a porous system.
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“Furthermore, the judiciary must be reformed to ensure the fair and impartial administration of justice. The prevalence of cash-for-judgment schemes undermines the very foundation of our democracy and erodes public confidence in the judiciary.
“At the heart of these crises lies the issue of governance – or rather, the lack thereof. Governance in Nigeria has continued to deteriorate with successive administrations. Our leadership recruitment system is broken, allowing unqualified and unscrupulous individuals to ascend to positions of power, while those with the vision and integrity to lead are sidelined or silenced.
“We must overhaul our electoral process, strengthen our democratic institution and empower our citizens to hold their leadership accountable. True leadership is not about wielding power; it is about serving the people with humility, honesty, and compassion,” Essien said.
Restructure Nigeria now
He also called on President Tinubu, Senate President Godswill Akpabio, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, and speakers of the state houses of assembly across the federation to heed the call for constitutional reform and restructuring.
“It is time to embrace true federalism – whether based on the six geopolitical zones or the current state structure – and empower our states and regions to take charge of their own destinies. The oil producing communities will not succumb to the present level of frustration and subjugation where their resources are confiscated for the development of the whole nation and a pittance grudgingly allowed to them.
“More frustrating is the situation where the resources of the oil producing regions have been seized and exploited without their active participation. It is a ridiculous political arrangement which cannot be sustained.”
Restore confidence in healthcare system
Following his visits to hospitals within his Senatorial Districts, Essien raised concerns about the dire state of secondary healthcare facilities in the country, adding that citizens have lost faith in public healthcare system. Despite efforts made by past administrations, such as the refurbishment and equipping of hospitals under former Governor Udom Emmanuel, numerous facilities still fail to meet citizens’ needs, with equipment missing.
Essien emphasised that the poor state of healthcare is not unique to Akwa Ibom but constitutes a national emergency, calling on both federal and state governments to intervene urgently.
Kudos to some governors
He commended the governors of Akwa Ibom, Abia, Edo, and Borno states for their efforts in serving their people. Specifically highlighting Governor Umo Eno of Akwa Ibom, Essien praised Eno’s embodiment of humility, prudence, and commitment to the safety and well-being of the state’s residents.
Noting Eno’s actions such as settling the backlog of gratuities and pensions for retired public officers and cutting costs of public celebrations, Essien lauded the governor’s departure from conventional political practices.
However, Essien also suggested that there is still room for improvement, particularly in reducing the cost of governance. He proposed the formation of a smart cabinet comprising experts with a proven record of integrity and achievement, emphasising that such measures would not only fulfill the promise of good governance but also demonstrate the value of honesty and hard work.
Amid these challenges, Essien announced his gradual disengagement from active politics, a process he plans to undertake soon. Even when he would have withdrawn from partisan politics, Essien reiterated his commitment to offering guidance and counsel as an elder statesman in the pursuit of a better Nigeria.
Essien urged fellow Nigerians to remain resilient in the face of challenges, emphasising the collective effort needed to build a Nigeria free from corruption, insecurity, impunity, and bad governance.