As Buhari Blazes The Trail for Merit, By Reno Omokri

To match Interview NIGERIA-BUHARI/

Recently there was a big uproar about the appointments made by President Buhari. I disagreed with those who complained that the President’s appointment were lopsided. Appointments should not be made on the basis of ethnicity, region or religion. Appointments should be made strictly on merit!

As far as I am concerned, the President can appoint all his appointees from the same state as long as they are the best Nigeria has to offer.

In 2013, Nigeria won the Africa Cup of Nations. That victory was only possible because we selected our best players.

A large proportion of the squad were from the South-East and South-South, including Vincent Enyeama, Austin Ejide, Chigozie Agbim, Joseph Yobo, Elderson Echiejile, Kenneth Omuero, Efe Ambrose, Azubuike Egwuekwe, Godfrey Oboabona, Mikel Obi, Reuben Gabriel, Nosa Igiebor, Obiora Nwankwo, Brown Ideye, Ogenyi Onazi, while Ejike Uzoenyi, Victor Moses, Ikechukwu Uche, Sunday Mba and Emmanuel Emenike.

Nobody complained that this squad was lopsided because we knew these were our best, and if we wanted to win we had to present our best. At the end of the day they brought home the cup and that was all that mattered.

In the same vein, nobody should complain about where Buhari’s appointees come from. What we should insist on is that they are appointed on the basis of merit and that by the end in 2019, they must have brought home the cup by giving Nigerians the good governance that will yield tangible democracy dividends.

Nigerians are always quick to say the problem with Nigeria is corruption, but I am not so sure it is. Corruption is a symptom of the problem but it, in itself, is not the problem.

Corruption is the catarrh coming out of Nigeria’s nose. If you experience catarrh you do not treat it by merely cleaning your nose. The discharge will simply keep coming because you are treating the symptom, not the cause. The way to treat catarrh is by treating its root cause which is the common cold.

What is the common cold that is causing the discharge of mucous from Nigeria’s nose? In my humble opinion, it is quota system and the principle of the federal character principle. Federal character and the quota system are the root causes of corruption in Nigeria.

As long as ethnicity is the yardstick for admitting children into schools or recruiting adults into the civil service, we will never have a merit-driven system and where we do not have a merit-driven system, the end result will be corruption.

President Muhammadu Buhari means well in his anti corruption battle, but if a civil servant has to report to someone who is less qualified than him and who only got his position because of the quota system or the federal character principle, his morale would be low and he will not be committed and when opportunity presents itself to be corrupt, that civil servant will seize it and he will not feel sorry or guilty.

As long as there is no level playing field in Nigeria, none of our anti-corruption efforts will work. We will merely be cleaning rye discharge of mucous from our nose. There cannot be a successful anti-corruption war in the midst of social injustice.

Nigerians are not by nature correct. It is the Nigerian system that is by nature corrupt.

The other day the Federal Ministry of Education released cut off marks for unity schools and the cut off Mark for one state is 138 out of 200, while the cut off mark for another state is four out of 200. This is not a joke! This is the reality in modern day Nigeria in the year 2015, and I kid you not!

Right there and then Nigeria has planted the seed of corruption in the heart of the child from the 138/200 state and the seed of entitlement in the heart of the child from the four/200 state.

Any system that is not built on merit cannot but be corrupt. It is a fact of life and those who do not like this inconvenient truth can get as angry as they like with me and people like me, but that will not change the truth.

Whether we like to say it or not or whether we choose to pretend it does not exist, the truth remains that so many groups in Nigeria feel alienated by the quota system and the federal character principle.

We have grand plans as a nation of being among the top 20 biggest economies of the world by 2020, but which of the countries amongst the current top 20 economies has a system like ours?

The answer is none.

The G-7 nations of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, along with their partner nations of China and Russia are constantly competing with each other in the areas of early childhood to high school education.

If the educational pass rates of children in America is slipping, when compared to that of other nations in the G-7, it will become a major electoral issue.

The influential Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) releases a regular triennial study of global education systems and these nations keenly compete to outdo each other in these rankings.

Now, how can Nigeria expect to join their ranks and compete internationally when we do not even allow fair competition domestically?

Are we going to write a letter to the G-7 or the OECD telling them that is not fair to expect us to compete with them and ask them to lower the standards for us?

I don’t think so!

Merit is the way. No, I take that back. Merit is the ONLY way. And I thank God that we have a President with the foresight to base his appointments solely on merit.

That is a beginning, now we must ensure that merit is also applied to admission into government schools and recruitments into the public service.

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