CURTAILING COVID-19: THE FLAWS IN ‘COPY AND PASTE’ OF FOREIGN POLICIES BY NIGERIAN LEADERS
Social commentators and public policies analysts have at different fora lamented about the ‘copy and paste’ approach of policies by Nigerian leaders from time immemorial. Even our democracy they argued, is an edited version of a combination of different democratic governments in Europe and America, notably the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
Copying ‘good’ policies is not a bad idea in itself, but the crux of the matter is copying policies that you cannot implement to the letter and without taking cognizant of the contextual application of such policies, is as dangerous as not taking any action, if not worse.
Today, one cannot categorically say we practise the American system of democracy, nor the British system. We are neither here not there, making us look like a confused set of people with no direction.
Even God detests such confused state, hence he said in the book of revelation when he wrote to one of the churches at Asia Minor, saying “thou art neither cold nor hot, but thou art lukewarm. I will spew thee out of my mouth”.
This confusion has continued to sap us and waste our resources like people, making us go in circles without making progress.
Listening to Barrack Obama’s speech some days ago, where he endorsed Joe Biden for the Presidency of the United States, a particular sentence caught my attention.
“The pandemic has revealed more conspicuously the anomalies in the current government”.
Borrowing that line, I would say, the pandemic really has helped to put in proper perspective what public analysts have been trying to explain in time past, about the unscrupulous adoption of foreign policies by our leaders.
With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Asia, Europe, and America, and the implementation of specific measures by their governments to curtail it, the Nigerian government as always, without recourse to our peculiarities, adopted the same measures.
Enforcing lockdown and announcing palliatives to cushion the effects of the lockdown.
Now, these nations we chose to copy from having a robust database, organised markets and shopping centres, good internet connections, and very efficient online retail markets, not to talk of the well-structured security outfit.
How many of these do we have at 25% efficiency in Nigeria?
A country that doesn’t even have the actual data of staff in her payroll, battling year in year out with the menace of ghost workers, is talking about sharing foodstuff to the doorsteps of vulnerable Nigerians. Is that not laughable?
With the growing criticism of the conditional cash transfer programme, the government took a detour and announced that the new qualification for the cash transfer from the government would be those with five thousand Naira or less in their bank accounts or those who recharge not more than a hundred Naira on their mobile lines. If this is not comical, then I wonder what is?
Let’s compare the borrowed policies as practised by the countries we borrowed them from.
In Spain, Italy and the UK, their citizens can place orders for almost anything online and these retail stores will deliver it at their doorsteps. They are also guaranteed the security of their lives and properties for as long as they stay indoors.
Their governments are also making plans to give palliatives, not just to the poor, but all those whose jobs will be affected by the lockdown.
The level of assistance is proportional to the previous earning powers of each person, with other measures such as family size also considered.
In Spain in particular, those doing legal jobs and pay taxes are entitled to 50-70% of their salaries during these ‘stay at home’ order. And this is not limited to those under the government workforce, it includes both private and public sectors.
In America, the tax returns of employees and employers are used to measure the level of palliatives they will get from the government. A percentage of their monthly earnings will be paid to them, even those under private employment, as a way to cushion the effects of the pandemic.
In Nigeria, they are making it a crime to be among the working class, cutting them off without a show of remorse, from the palliatives.
Speaking with a friend of mine who runs a hospitality business in Lagos, he said he had laid off all his staff since March, and with the extension, those workers will be without jobs until the pandemic is over. What then is their fate? Obviously, they have been cut off from the government palliatives because they most likely would have deposited five thousand or more in their accounts, and also have recharged more than a hundred naira on their mobile lines.
Entrepreneurs are not left out in the quagmire. In a live radio programme in Benin city, Edo state, I called to draw the attention of the government to consider feeds for livestock among the essentials. To my greatest dismay, the anchor asked me if I was talking about animals when they are talking about human lives? I could not comprehend how someone at that supposedly enlightened level could reason in such a pedestrian manner.
On the flip side, that’s how our leaders reason too. To them being alive is having breath in our nostrils, whether we are happy or not, they don’t care. How do you tell a farmer with over five thousand birds and about twenty thousand fishes, to sit at home relaxed without giving him access to buy feeds for his poultry birds and fishes?
Who will pay for the losses? That man will be killed by high blood pressure before coronavirus would get to his domain. And when such a person defy the ‘stay at home’ order, you call them stubborn and unpatriotic?
One would have expected the Nigerian government who has been trying so hard to encourage her citizens to pay tax and get taxpayers identification number (TIN), to have leveraged this opportunity to give palliatives to those already captured as faithful taxpayers. This would have in no little way, encouraged them to be more committed to paying their taxes, and also serve as a deterrent to those that have not been paying taxes.
Rather, the government at all levels have been busy sending ‘palliatives’ to party faithful, and the chunk never gets to those who deserve it.
The Nigerian government as at the time of writing this article is yet to make any statement with respect to a robust post-COVID plan for her citizens. This is the basis for the protest and the brazen flaunting of the ‘stay home’ order in different states across the country.
In Ghana, for instance, the government has declared three months free water bills and those using 50kw and below per month, would enjoy free electricity, while those using 50kw and above will pay 50% of their bills. That is a fellow African country like ours.
They did not go about looking for poor people with less than five thousand cedis in their account to enjoy government palliative. Not to talk about the various novel innovations they have adopted to keep the school calendar running during the lockdown.
Tertiary institutions are encouraged to continue the semester via distance learning, and the institutions have done so by gifting each student 20GB of data to enable them to download course materials, get connected to live streaming sessions where the lecturer can teach them right there in the comfort of their homes.
That’s a government that thinks with the future in mind, not the stone-age leaders we have that think only of the present.
In retrospect, the Nigerian government reminds me of a student in a secondary school who copied from the textbook during exams but lacked the gumption to change the context, therefore labelled a diagram thus: ‘as shown in figure 4’, just as it was in the textbook; when there was only a diagram in her answer sheet.
The Nigerian government should as a matter of sustenance of this nation learn to improvise home-grown policies that are in consonance with our peculiarities, or at best learn to apply borrowed/copied policies bearing in mind the contextual differences.
We cannot continue to be the ‘stupidity centre’ of the world.
“Every institution rise and fall based on its leadership”~ John Maxwell.
For Nigeria to move forward, we must rejig our leadership structure.
Social Watcher writes from Benin City.
IDEDE Oseyande, a graduate of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, is an unrepentant believer in the Nigeria project.
His concern for the actualisation of a prosperous nation and the continent, in general, is reflected in his written works.
He currently runs an online advocacy platform (www.socialwatchdog.ng) where he engages the government and the people.
Among his published works are ‘What is Left of What is Right?’, ‘The Portrait of a Revolutionary Leader’ and ‘Warri No Dey Carry Last’.
He is a guest writer for several blogs and his Attitudinal and Behavioral Coaching classes has transformed many lives.