Of officials, offices, offerings

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WHAT services do our officials offer us? What are the purposes of all the offices that we create? How are officials of governments helping our peoples in the various situations living in Nigeria entail?

DAILY, evidences abound about the failure of those entrusted with running Nigeria to ensure that the country works for its peoples. It does not matter how small and simple the issue is, or how troublesome its challenges are. Nigerian officials step over those failures and target new areas to display their incompetence.

WHEN would Nigerians start living with certainties about some expectations from their governments? What can they expect from their governments as rights? Do the promises made at elections mean anything? How should Nigerians start holding their officials to their words?

THESE questions apply to government ministries, agencies, and parastatals. There is no difference in their indifference to the people whether they operate as federal, state or local governments. What will change their attitude to the needs of Nigerians?

A RECENT example of the indifference was the 6 January 2018 closure of the Niger Bridge to traffic because of the local government election that held in Delta State. Traffic stretched on both sides of the Niger Bridge for kilometres. There were similar scenes at boundaries of Delta State with Edo, Rivers and Bayelsa States.

TRAVELLERS, some of who started their journeys at night, discovered they could not enter or exit Delta State. They were caught in the curfew that began at midnight and was to be lifted at 3pm on 6 January.

REACTIONS to the ordeal of those who travelled on the 6 January across Delta State vary. Some blame them for not heeding the warning about the closure of the bridge. Others wondered why the roads had to be closed because an election was going on in a State. Must roads be blocked to conduct election? None of these positions addressed the situation that was unleashed on travellers because of the election.

IT is the convention to close boundaries of States during elections, whether they are the general elections or elections within the State. Among the reasons often given is the security of electoral materials. In 19 years of consistently conducting elections – federal, state, local government, bye – nothing has changed.

ACTIVITIES are shut down to accommodate demands of the election, including the movement of materials and personnel. The restriction in movements of the people is supposed to ensure the safety of election materials, and minimise chances of people compromising the process.

6 JANUARY was trying. Hundreds of families were leaving the South East and South South back to their places of residence after the end-of-year festivities. From Lagos, there were also families who were travelling to homes in the East or South South.

ARE there no ways of holding election without disrupting peoples’ lives? Must the boundaries of States be locked because of election? What measures are installed to assist those who would be caught in the gridlock? Did anyone think about those who would be stuck in traffic?

WHERE were the emergency services on 6 January? Did they hear of the chaos that the closure caused? What did they do? Did they spare a thought for the thousands who were stranded? Did they realise there could be emergencies like fire and or accidents? They did not plan for the fact that someone could fall ill in the traffic?

FAMILIES, young and old, were stuck in that traffic. They ran out of food and water. They spent over six hours in some cases, trapped in the frozen movement, and limited by their purses, and the emptying sources of things they could buy as the jam persisted. Nobody thought about them. Nobody saw their situation as an emergency.

ANNOUNCEMENTS on the proposed closure of the Bridge for the election had assured that the security and emergency agencies would be at work. They were not there. The few who turned up were not on official duties. They were helping out.

WHERE were the Federal Road Safety Corps, the Police, the Civil Defence Corps, the Fire Services, and the ambulance services of the States? Who were to cater for people if there were emergencies? Where were the thousands of personnel these organisations keep at public expense supposedly to serve us? What do they really do and when do they do them?

OF course, there were emergencies. A woman was reportedly delivered of a baby in the gridlock. There were no emergency services in sight, except those that fellow travellers, trapped in the gridlock, provided. What would have happened to her and the baby if they depended on those who are hired to provide emergency services? How would the governments have explained failure to provide assistance to her, if anything went wrong?

6 JANUARY exposed the minimal services that Nigerians get for the high costs they bear for governments to operate. If we have governments that cannot realise the possibilities of emergencies with traffic gridlock of the type the Delta local government poll caused, we would not be surprised by the low commitments to daily governance.
THE Delta State local government election was the second implicating the closure of the Niger Bridge in less than two months.

Only on 18 November 2017, the governorship election in Anambra State saw the Niger Bridge shut, all traffic in and out of Anambra State, stopped for the duration of the exercise and now this. The hardship last November was nothing in the scale of what happened on 6 January.

BARRING any last minute legal obstacles, the Anambra Central Senatorial seat re-run would be contested on Saturday 13 January 2018, a week after the gridlock in Onitsha and Asaba. Seven local government areas are involved – Awka North, Awka South, Njikoka, Dunukofia, Anaocha, Idemili North, and Idemili South – at least, four of them have direct links to the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway. As the lockdown for elections go, parts of the Expressway would not be in use on Saturday. Has anyone prepared for possible emergencies?

THAT elections have always been held this way is no reason for ceasing to search for solutions to the chaos these elections cause. Better security, and more importantly a determination that it is possible to hold elections without the lockdown could lead us to those solutions.

LEADERS, whatever their offices, should strive to improve society’s conditions, by their actions, otherwise they become officials with offices but no offerings to the public.

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