Last week, all grieving parents had expected from a government that has for several months been on the defensive for its inability to protect from violent death, children in their schools and now, young graduates seeking employment was for the government to establish its relevance by making example of an unfeeling and insolent minister. Similarly, opinion leaders around the country were not just calling for the sack of the minister of internal affairs but his prosecution for criminal negligence following avoidable deaths of young Nigerian job seekers. But the response was typical President Jonathan. This was conveyed through the Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, who, with his characteristic zest which is often at variance with the mood of the moment, reeled out the content a new government policy ostensibly designed to assuage the raw feelings of aggrieved parents
Maku first informed us that as a demonstration of the president’s displeasure with the March 15 tragedy, he has ordered the cancellation of the bungled recruitment exercise which most informed Nigerians already knew was nothing but a swindle organized by PDP swindlers who feed on the blood and sweat of the weak.
Maku also revealed that the president who always avoids hard decisions that may impact negatively on any of his trusted party men and women has set up a committee headed by the chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission, Deaconess Joan Ayo. Other members include the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), David Paradang, who was excluded in the March 15 PDP deal, representatives of the Inspector-General of Police, Comptroller of the Nigeria Prison Service, Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and the Commandant-General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps. The committee is to conduct a new recruitment to fill the NIS vacancies.
Such mandate in itself was an indirect admission of government’s loss of confidence in its own bureaucracy and by inference in itself. Government after all is only as good as its bureaucracy which controls the water we drink, the roads we pass, the air we breathe, the education of our children, preservation of our culture and our dreams and aspirations as a nation. When it decays, society decays.
And finally, the minister delivered government’s message of hope to grieving parents; “three young members of the deceased families, one of which must be a female, are to be given automatic employment, so are all the injured currently receiving treatment in hospitals across the country”. To be sure of those who are qualified under the last category, we still have to wait for government definition of what constitutes an ‘injury’ since applicants experienced varying degree of injuries ranging from possible loss of limbs, of pregnancies, fractures, bruises and even psychological traumas.
For the survivors of the March 15 organized chaos and deaths who still eye NIS jobs, the gates have not been permanently closed, the competition has only become fiercer and their chances slimmer. But it is bad news for the hungry, the weak and the psychologically traumatized applicants who have roamed the streets in search of job for years and appear physically healthy only in appearance. Remember in 2008, when such people were subjected to physical exercise as parts of similar recruitment process, 43 of a little less than 200,000 that participated that year collapsed with 17 ending up in the mortuary.
But if this ‘death as a precondition for employment’ policy was conceived by government as a problem-solving activity involving choosing between many alternatives at minimal cost, it is dead on arrival. It will likely turn out to be a piece of bad policy that cannot be implemented.
First, one is not even sure if a government already overwhelmed by daily harvests of deaths from mindless killings by Boko Haram and some suspected Fulani herdsmen have had time to take inventory of the victims of March 15 disaster. Probably for that reason, the government is yet to release to the public the names of the dead and the injured scattered all over the country. Until such an exercise, we may not know if some of the victims are the only siblings of their parents. Even if they are not, in a society where a parents strive to train a child hoping he would after graduation take over the training of his junior ones, how are we sure some of the diseased siblings are qualified to be absorbed either into the highly coveted NIS or into the bureaucracy?
And who, if one may ask, are the family members of those diseased pregnant women? Their parents or their spouses? If the latter, will the husband be allowed to present his own brothers and sister? And if that happens, will that not defeat this government ‘creative’ policy of compensating the dead through offer of job to her siblings? And in such circumstances, can we foreclose the possibility of the parents of the dead pregnant job seeker suing government and their son in-law? But beyond litigation, an attempt to deprive a diseased pregnant job seeker of her own compensation will be a betrayal of Dr Patience Jonathan advocacy for equality of men and women in the sharing of dividends of democracy. That, in my view, is one war the president can ill afford as the preparation for 2015 gathers momentum
And still more questions. In the case of the diseased without female sibling, will her family lose out or be allowed to sell its quota? And it cannot get any messier if the diseased is from a polygamous home where the wives had just had an altercation before the tragedy of one of the family members? Don’t forget in Africa, the belief that the ‘witch cried last night, the child dies in the morning, who does not know the witch killed the child’, still holds.
Obviously this is one piece of policy that is not implementable. And as usual, the voice is behind it is that of the same PDP dealers and wheelers who in attempt to cover up the theft of 1.7 trillion mandated the president to tell Nigerians that the economy would collapse without the removal of fuel subsidy. It is the same voice of PDP men who often reap where they did not sow who were behind the president’s miscalculated attempt to change the name of University of Lagos to Moshood Abiola University. And in recent times, voice of PDP parasites behind the president’s ill-advised decision to fritter away public funds on welcoming entertainers into PDP fold in Ilorin, Sokoto and Katsina while the nation was on fire. Except those PDP dealers and wheelers manipulating the president, everyone knows the president would have secured more mileage by arranging a meeting with bereaved families of slain school pupils or survivors of bombed markets.
But as argued on this pages these past three years of PDP’s self serving policies, greed, lawlessness and irresponsibility, as recently demonstrated in NIS and has been the practice in NNPC, PPPRA, the aviation sector as well as other government ministries and parastatals, are indicative of absence of governance following President Jonathan abdication of government to PDP dealers and wheelers. Our ‘grievous mistake’ as our inimitable Solana Olumhense pointed out in The Guardian last Sunday is the wrong assumption that we have a government. What we have, he says is a “pretence-performance, like children playing in the sand”. It is just as well this grim verdict is coming from one of Nigeria’s most respected independent minded journalist and not from Pa Bisi Akande, the opposition APC interim chairman who not too long ago likened President Jonathan government to that which operates at a kindergarten level.