Publisher of Nigerian Labour Law Reports, Africa’s first and only specialised law report in employment and labour law, BarristerEnobong Etteh in this exclusive interview with The Daily Timesreviews the first year of the government of change, our expectations and the reality before us as a nation.
The labour rights activist of conservative activism school mirror’s President Muhammadu Buhari’s one year in office and laid a spreadsheet of checks and balances in retrospect.
Nigeria has witnessed 16 years of democracy under one political party and has witnessed one year of democracy under a new political party and Nigerians are expecting change. The wind that brought the new government and the new political party into power generated too much high expectation, consequently, Nigerians expected the government to wield magic wand under the very first month in office; and if not the first month, under the first six months in office. As far as they are concerned, one year was too long to experience a change and therefore there is a degree of self expectation.
But expectation within one year, I think, is a bit unfair. The government has done one year; the leadership of Muhammadu Buhari has exuded the confidence and integrity Nigerians have been looking for, so I will advice that Nigerians should give the govt a little more time. Even in a school, there is what we call mid-semester exam or mid-term exam; if they’re going to assess the government, it should be done after two years; that will constitute mid-semester or mid-term exams.
Year one is only but a test and is not sufficient for an exam. So with the situation we have now, we should be able to put them together and see what the government can do by midterm. And I want to say that it is only a blind man, or a stranger that does not know that things are hard, tough; you cannot get the basic necessities to buy with ease; the basic requirement of business and companies are difficult to come by. The assurance the president has given is that, with the difficulties Nigerians are passing through, he would keep his promise of giving us a better Nigeria.
On this I am optimistic because I am praying for the government; I am under a command to pray for Nigeria. I am optimistic that if the system does not derail, if the government in power should keep to course, his promises to Nigerians, he is true to his words. If he continues to focus on the majors and reduce focus on the minors, I believe we will have reasons to smile in not too distant future.
Right now, the pains that we are going through would best be described as labour or delivery pains and Nigerians are indeed willing to go through a little bit of those pains in expectation that the baby of change would be delivered. I do not want the baby of change to be aborted, stillborn or premature delivery, etc.
We want a full term delivery of change and we’re ready to give this government the support that we can; we’re ready to have our elasticity stretched to ensure that this government delivers on its promise.
I strongly believe that PMB means well for this country. However, may be some of the policies in the process of execution were not properly executed and so it has inflicted some tremendous pain on the common man; and I know that this sensitive government is conscious of this pain and I believe they’re doing all they can to ameliorate this pain and take it out of our shoulders.”
There is some apprehension that after Buhari, can the polity sustain this tempo of public accountability? Indeed, after Buhari, what next?
First of all, if the change in the area of public accountability is ephemeral, then it will not endure and that’s why we mustinstitutionalise the public accountability process. It should not be seen as an individual campaign; there should be an ethical reorientation of Nigerians; and I believe that if the process is entrenched within the system; if those that have run fowl of the law are prosecuted and punished, if Nigerians want those in government now exhibiting public accountability; if Nigerians are satisfied that the campaign for public accountability is not used as a bid for witch-hunting, if Nigerians are satisfied that the process of public accountability is not directed at only one political party; if Nigerians can see the good face and benefits of public accountability, I strongly believe that it will be engraved in the psyche of Nigerians to such that Nigerians will become the possessors of public accountability; will become defenders of a system; will become the watchdog for future of Nigeria when it comes to public accountability. It will come to a stage that breaking the rule of public accountability would not be fashionable. Subsequently Nigerians will naturally embrace this new system.
I urge the government to ensure that whatever process they are taking, they are judged right and fair in the court of public opinion.
I have come to discover that Nigerians are not only disciplined, they are willing to pay the price of discipline. Nigerians are willing to ask questions about how their resources are managed. Nigerians are willing to take a stand against corrupt management of their resources. Once the polity is satisfied that what the federal government is doing is transparent and in good faith, that before the end of four years, we see the positive impact, we all will embrace it and it will become a parameter for electing new leaders.
That’s why there is pressure on this government to be even handed to ensure that the crusade and campaign cuts across the strata in the society and this cannot be overemphasised.
But I can assure you that all these will mean delivering the change we desire in just four years? I would say no; not altogether. What will happen in four years would be an aggregation of all the interim impacts in all the sectors that will be used to assess the government after four years; but we must begin to see sectoral changes until such a time when the wind and machinery of change will reach to all the sectors of our economy.
News reaching our desk confirmed that the Trade Union Congress at their 10th Triennial National Delegates Conference/Excellent Service Awards on Friday June 3rd honoured Barrister Enobong Etteh with the prestigious
Outstanding Labour Friendly Legal Luminary 2016 Award at Sheraton hotel in Lagos for his outstanding and qualitative service and unflinching support to labour movement and efforts towards building a better Nigeria.