By Jerome-Mario Utomi
There was a report by ONE Campaign, an international organisation that keeps track of progress on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and development financing in Africa, submitted May 29, 2013, to the African Development Bank (AfDB), during the bank’s annual general meeting in Marrakech, Morocco.
The report, among other concerns, accused Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) of dragging the continent backwards, as a result of the two countries inability to spend 15 per cent of their budget as agreed by the African Union, for the health and education sectors, unlike countries which have made progress.
A key aspect of the report, going by commentaries, finds a clear link between African country investments in health, education, agriculture and improved MDGs progress in those areas.
In the Dakar framework on education, African governments were to ensure that at least 7 per cent of their GDP is allocated to education within five years and 9 per cent within 10 years.
On health, according to the Abuja Declaration in 2000, Heads of State of the African Union pledged to set a minimum allocation target of 15 per cent of their annual budgets to the improvement
Essentially, like every other across the world, the report in focus was in the views of this piece meant not to condemn but to act as a pointer to what is to come if urgent action is not taken by the two countries.
But as a result of what analysts call the Nigeria factor such a useful warning was ignored. While the then federal government tagged the organisation’s effort as not only inaccurate but a prank, the present administration failed to draw a lesson from or heed the ingrained warning.
After about a decade the report was discredited, the chicken has come home to roost.
Appreciable, this non-adherence to issues such as this may have in the opinion of this piece, contributed meaningfully to why Nigeria and some other African countries performed below average in the United Nations pursuit of the MDGs, which lasted between the year 2000 and 2015 and was among other intentions aimed at eradicating extreme poverty and hunger as well as achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, and improving maternal health among others.
It was this reality and other related concerns that conjoined to bring about the 2030 sustainable agenda- a United Nations initiative and successor programme to the MDGs- with a collection of 17 global goals formulated among other aims to promote and cater for people, peace, planet, and poverty.
The goal has at its centre; partnership and collaboration, ecosystem thinking, co-creation and alignment of various intervention efforts by the public and private sectors and civil society.
Today, the entire sectors of the nation are not only on strike, rather, but the nation as a whole has also become a shadow of itself. While the two sectors (education and health) captured by the report have overtly become characterised by incessant strike actions, other sectors such as the economy, security are covertly experiencing situations stakeholders believe are worse than strike action.
Looking at these spiralling occurrences in the country, will again necessitate the questions as to; what actually fuels strike actions in Nigeria? Was the One Campaign Organisation right in their report? Why has the nation Nigeria recently become reputed for joining international organisations/bodies even when it is obvious that it neither obeys nor abide by the rules/dictates of such groups?
In trying to provide answers to the above questions, the piece will be education and health sectors specific. But before, there are again some distinctions to make.
Every successful nation/leadership owes its success to certain causative factors. If it loses sight of these, the success of such a nation/leadership or survival may soon be in jeopardy.
Foresighted leader and nation don’t forget for one moment that the education sector holds the keys to the success and development of any nation both socioeconomically and scientifically. And I hold the opinion that it ‘will definitely be tough to make progress as a nation with the way the education sector is presently handled here in the country.
Second, globally; ‘the relationship between employers/employees is always strained, always headed toward conflict. It is a natural conflict built into the system. Unions do not strike on a whim or use the strike to show off their strength. They look at strikes as costly and disturbing, especially for workers and their families.
Strikes are called the last resort and any government that fails to manage this delicate relationship profitably or fails to develop a cordial relationship with the workers becomes an enemy of not just the workers but that of the open society and, such society will sooner than later find itself degenerate into chaos.
Now to the education sector, the Nigerian polytechnics, which happens to be a major player in the nation’s education sector, is at the very moment on strike.
Promoting the present strike action as disturbing development is that it came just before the dust raised by a similar protracted one- from their university counterpart recently called could settle.
The ongoing strike qualifies as a crisis happening at a time stakeholders and of course, the world are in agreement that for Nigeria to solve its unemployment/industrial challenges, it has to increase drastically the number of her current polytechnics, colleges of technology and technical colleges in relation to the inexplicable very large number of universities and related academies in the nation’s economy in order to clearly address the training and development of professional and technical skills for technologies and industrial goods production in Nigeria’s economy.
Away from education to health, the story and experience are not different. Without wasting words, while it is no longer news that strike actions have become the second nature of the Joint Health Sectors Union (JOHESU), the Association of Nigerian Resident Doctors and of course the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), it is important to underline that every occurrence in Nigeria has its in-built crisis component.
Yes, it’s certain that as humans/mortals, we are bound to fall sick, leaders and the masses alike. What are the views of this piece is worrying, looking at commentaries, is the degree of distinctiveness and separateness of the solution destinations between the government officials and the masses?
Comparatively, while the leaders’ have demonstrated incapacity to revive/manage the health sector despite having it as a campaign promise and huge annual budgetary allocation, opt for medical tourism, the masses in their affliction, and grinding poverty are made to seek a solution from a sector that is visibly sick, ill-equipped, and governed by ignorance and backwardness occasioned by neglect, a state of affairs that has sent many innocent Nigerians down the’ valleys of the shadow of death.
Again, though not limited to President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, the recent trip by Mr President to keep an appointment with his doctor in the United Kingdom while his nation’s education, health and judicial sector were in disarray, remains a vivid example of leadership that listens without being attentive and has, in turn, become an albatross.
The trip, without a doubt, has but, appreciably supported the belief by the vast majority of Nigerians that this administration, though eloquent in analysing the nation’s hydra-headed challenge, is grossly inept in turning the analysis to the final result.
To be continued.
Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org/08032725374
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