Monday, October 15, 2007

Garbage Removal Is President Obasanjoâ's Job!

Garbage Removal Is President Obasanjoâ's Job
Monday, 26 December 2005

Recently, I read a beautiful opinion piece written by Mr. Uche Nworah. This is not a rejoinder to that article of his, but instead, his article constitutes a reference point for this.

Mr. Nworah wrote eloquently about the negative impact of garbage and erosion on the good people of Aba, Aba, in case you did not know, is a major city in Abia state, and beyond Abia state, Aba is actually renowned, as a major commercial nerve center for the entire Eastern region, south of Onitsha, and Aba, it must be added, is a major metropolis in Abia state currently presided over by PDP enfant terrible, Governor Orji Kalu, my former school mate.

Aba has rich culture, and the people in Aba have strong work ethic and extraordinary business acumen! But Aba has also suffered historical neglect beyond wanton!

Unfortunately, Aba as bad, as its luck has been with utter neglect of garbage removal and disposal, outrageous environmental degradation, through the scourge of urban erosion, Aba sadly, is in “good” with Onitsha in garbage and erosion gully crises.

Aba is in the unsavory company of our megalopolis of Lagos, Lagos has enough filth and erosion combined with flooding to stop the flow of the Atlantic Ocean! Lagos, is sadly, not remarkably different from the plight of Benin City in these categories of the most garbage filled streets, erosion gullies and urban decay. And the same can be said of our sister city of Kano.

I think garbage removal is the most elemental form of governmental functions. And I think the responsibility to remove garbage falls squarely, on the shoulders of municipal authorities, or local government councils, as municipal authorities are known in Nigeria, in most parts of the world, it is beyond dispute, as to whose responsibility it is, to gather, remove and haul garbage. It is clearly so, in most parts of the world that I have traveled, including Nigeria.

But why do we have garbage encroachments in most major cities in Nigeria?

Why is garbage collection, garbage removal, such, clearly elemental public hygiene, is seemingly regarded as unimportant by municipal authorities in Nigeriaa? What can the states do about the invasion of our public space by unchecked growth of garbage in public, which is so unseemly?

Why, am I, talking about garbage here? Please do not dismiss this as just rubbish! Or garbage talk; It is actually more than a story about filth and pollution in Nigerian cities and towns.

I am really not interested in a single story about garbage collection, garbage removal and disposal, as I am interested in the attitude that has become pervasive among too many Nigerians. This attitude that I here talk about, has to do with apparent misunderstanding of the duties and functions of our different strata of government in our democratic Nigeria.

In a federal structure, there is of course the central government at the federal level, then, there is the state governments and the most basic strata of government with the most basic functions, the strata of government that has the closest contacts and dealings with the average citizen in a huge federation such as ours….in the municipal or local government authorities of our 774 local government areas, or LGAs, as we fondly call them in Nigeria. Why is it more sexy, or fashionable, to attack the president but, OK to ignore the failings, ineptitudes and thievery of the governors and councilors, Senators, House of Rep members and House of assembly members?

Why are too many Nigerians uninterested in the push and pull of democracy? Why are many Nigerians not concerned with the call and response of participatory democracy? Why are so many Nigerians infinitely unmoved by the ineffectiveness of state governments and municipal governments or local government authorities?

Why is it that we are not vigorous and robust, in our pursuit of accountability and transparency at state and local levels of governments in Nigeria?

When will the majority of Nigerian citizens, wake up and realize that democracy is not a spectator sports? When will some us, wake up to the duty, responsibility, and corresponding obligations on the parts of citizens and government and vice versa?

Why is it that some Nigerians tend to or seem to ignore or even condone the abuse and misuse of power right in their backyard? Why is it that citizens of Edo state are not protesting the high crime rate of robberies and general insecurity in Benin City? Where my niece, Mrs. Ogbu, informed me that her husband can no longer travel with his mobile telephone as nobody does that anymore for fear of being attacked and robbed of the mobile telephone! What is a mobile phone if you cannot be mobile with it? If you cannot take your mobile phone with you, what the heck is the use?

Why is it, that Governor Kalu Orji is frequently visiting the United States to tout himself as a presidential candidate, when the local government council in Aba, Governor Orji’s domain, cannot remove garbage from the streets of Aba? Why is it, that Governor Orji has support for his Sun newspapers and Slok Airlines, when erosion has taken over major roads in Aba, roads that are municipal or local government roads and NOT federal roads!

How does Governor Kalu Orji, alias “blabber-mouth” plan to be a good president? When he currently presides, over a state, his small domain, where garbage collection, removal and disposal is not tackled by the local government or municipal authorities, and the state government of Governor blabber-mouth does nothing?

I suppose that most Nigerians have during the military government administrations in Nigeria, has gotten Nigerians accustomed to expecting a unitary form of government actions, in a purely federal setting and systems! For decades, Nigerians expected and received federally mandated rules and command-performance of military administrators and so, we now expect the same in a democratic civilian government in a federal system?

This complete misunderstanding, misperception and even ignorance, probably explains why the federal government of President Obasanjo is blamed by so many Nigerians for matters and issues that are clearly state matters, that are clearly local government or municipal province and exclusive preserves, even mundane municipal issues such as garbage collection, garbage haul and disposal.

Little wonder then, that so many Nigerians are unwilling or unaware, that they ought to hold their governors’ feet to the fire for local issues, and further hold the feet of their local government councilors and ward members and local council chairpersons accountable for the existence or provision of local public infrastructures and social amenities, instead, we have Nigerians always accusing the federal government, when in fact, the issue is just a mere failure on the part of a local government or a state authority to live to its bidding and responsibility.

There is therefore and urgent need for a national enlightenment, a national re-orientation and focus on the duties, rights, share power, exclusive powers, current powers, responsibilities, corresponding obligations, both on the parts of the citizens and our governments at all levels. Nigerians must also begin to understand the importance of volunteer efforts, such volunteer efforts are frequently necessary as additional or even independent component of efforts by governments at all levels, even here in the United States. Efforts independent of governments or complementary of governments are a common feature of public social intercourse in America and Europe.

Example of these, that Nigerians are familiar with are, the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders, there are Non-Governmental Organizations, NGOs, Support Groups of various types.

It bears repeating here, that Nigerians must learn and accept participatory democracy. It is assuredly not a spectator sports, there is no room for “sidon look!”

When Nigerians learn to imbibe the ideals and tenets of participatory democracy, imbued in the thorough understanding of the constitutional arrangements for our federal system as laid down in our constitutional framework, many Nigerians will cease to blame rainfalls and sun shines or cloudy days on President Obasanjo! And whoever becomes a president in Nigeria thereafter.

I have wondered why, there were no public demonstrations urging the Houses of Assemblies in Bayelsa and Plateau to impeach Alamieseigha and Dariye respectively!

I have equally wondered why laudable efforts by our current federal government never met with thunderous and uproarious applauses, from our citizens at home and abroad, praise from our citizens in the nook and crannies of our dear fatherland.

But the same docile, quiet or seeming comatose public, are assumed to be irritated, when the EFCC and other federal agencies do their work? Even when EFCC doing its work actually means the pushing the hitherto inactive hands, of members of Houses of Assemblies in Yenagoa and Jos; Pushing of the hands to perform duties that are clearly specified in our federal constitution in the first place! Duties that were neglected by them!

Constitutional duties which these Houses of Assemblies ought to have performed months or years prior to the so-called pressure or the push of their hands by the EFCC and other federal apparatuses. What is a responsible federal government to do? Let criminals and fugitives remain governors and ridicule their state and all Nigerians worldwide? I am an advocate of due process and the rule of law. I am a literal sucker for letting our system work and be fine-tuned. I am a strong believer in making imperfect democracy perfect with more practice of democracy.

I am quick to say, do not truncate the process, never truncate the institutions.

But what do you do, when some states rush to create new local government areas and councils, contrary to the provisions of our federal constitution 1999? What should a responsible federal government do in the wake some governors in Nigeria, literally holding guns to our head in hostage-taking like crisis?

Should Nigeria allow hostage takers and hijackers and child molesters walk free in our land? all in the name of the fine ideals and tenets of due process and the rule of law?

Acute infection requires aggressive and rigorous regimen of treatment or therapy!

Alamiesiegha and Dariye in engaging in criminal activities, in engaging in gross misconduct and subsequently becoming fugitive of the law, they shredded our constitution, our laws and our shared sense of common decency.

Alamie and Dariye sneered at us all, sneered repeatedly at the constitutions and rules! What is a responsible government to do in the face of thieving governors making the front page of The New York Times and cover stories repeatedly on the BBC worldwide?

And when Houses of Assemblies are quick to impeach deputies of governors, not for public good or purpose, but because there are schisms and chasms between governors and their deputies and House of Assemblies Speakers, as we have witnessed in many states in Nigeria since 1999.

Whereas, state Houses of Assemblies have been asleep at the wheel, in the face of impeachable offenses, including being fugitive on the lam from the law, by Alamie and Dariye etc Why do these states and citizens of these states stand aside and look,? And then, when there are federal interventions, as when Dariye looked the other way, when anarchy reigned in Plateau state and innocent citizens were slaughtered endlessly? When event reached a tipping point and precipice of anarchy and lawlessness, the federal government declared a state of emergency in Plateau state, after duly consulting the relevant opinion and community leaders.

Some still criticized the declaration of emergency in Plateau state as a constitution aberration, which they considered unacceptable! These same persons omitted to call Daryie to order, before matters in Plateau state degenerated to lowest levels, and he was more interested in his foreign personal bank account in England!

We must balance our national interests, even if, delicately, due process, rule of law and national self-preservation. We must act when exigent circumstance requires it! We must protect Nigeria in the face of the imbecilic onslaught brought on by Alamie and Dariye.

Nigerians must hold political leaders’ feet to the fire, make office-holders become accountable and transparent, make them become good listeners, make them responsive and compel them to practice good governance, this must not be limited to the presidency!

Make your ward representatives, your councilors, your local government chairpersons, you House of Assembly members and your governors and federal legislators in the House of Representatives and Senate, accountable and transparent, make them become good listeners, make them responsive and compel them to practice good governance.

Nigerians must urgently become engaged in learning how a democratic system works, especially, a federal system; Nigerians must learn and grasp our individual and collective roles as specified in our constitution… of our rights, our duties, our responsibilities and our equally important obligations! Nigerians must play our required roles for Nigeria’s progress, development and greatness

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