Towards the Bala Usman Laws

During the meeting of Secretaries to the State Governments (SSGs) in Calabar, Cross River State in 1981, a proposal to travel to the United States (US) to “study the presidential system”, which was discussed in a previous meeting, was raised for decision. Reacting to that, Dr. Bala Usman, SSG of Kaduna State, raised his hand, was recognized by the chairman and he said thus: “Mr. Chairman Sir, if we need to travel to the United States of America to learn how to do our jobs here in Nigeria, then I propose we all resign our appointments here and now”. Immediately thereafter, his counterpart from Kano State seconded it in a manner that clearly indicated readiness for combative courteous confrontation.
A protracted thunderous graveyard silence permeated the hall and dragged virtually eternally until the Chairman, Alhaji Shehu Musa, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), found his voice and asked thus: “Any counter motion?” The thunderous silence resumed, this time with participants’ faces contoured as if they were about to have collective cardiac arrest. Along with that, popping eyes darted across the hall obviously wondering if anyone was courageous enough to bell the cat. Again, SGF found his voice and stood down the proposal.

Political leaders, authority figures and public officers must emancipate themselves from that mental slavery, which has proven to be the most insidious and resilient legacy of imperialism. Click To Tweet

Legend has it that Bala Usman adamantly refused to embark on medical tourism when he had health challenge with one of his arms. In his firm-rooted sure-footed patriotic fervor and disgust for imperialism, he remained resolute that it would be beneath his conviction to travel overseas for medical attention. Resultantly, he lived with a challenged left arm until his exit in 2005. While the leaning Tower of Pisa has earned the moniker of “Beauty in Deformity”, Bala Usman commanded enormous grace in deformity throughout his intellectually productive life.
Currently, an online newspaper report faulted President Muhammadu Buhari’s frequent medical tourism since he assumed office in 2015 while Nigeria’s healthcare system suffers criminal neglect in many aspects. Using Buhari as a point of reference, the author berated African leaders for the scandalous negligence of the healthcare facilities of their respective countries, while they run overseas for medical attention. Barring the cost of medical bills and allowances for the retinue of support staff, report has it that the more than 237 days spent overseas by Buhari so far for either treatment or checkup cost Nigeria an estimated N64.15bn on the maintenance of presidential jets.
Almost immediately after receiving the Certificate of Return as President-elect, Bola Tinubu, traveled to Paris, France, “to rest and plan his transition program ahead of…inauguration”, Of course, Oguta Lakes, Yankari Game Reserve, Tinapa, Obudu Cattle Ranch and other international-standard tourist destinations in Nigeria do not present the ambience for rest and soul searching towards forming a cabinet; it has to be overseas. And we harass and harangue Russian President Vladimir Putin for saying that Africa is a cemetery.

Let us transcend our silly little retrogressive sentiments and differences; let us tear down these man-made fences, look inwards and make Nigeria work. Click To Tweet

A common knowledge amongst fisher-folk in riverine communities is that the process of decay commences with the head. It is, therefore, offered that if Nigeria must depart from the mental slavery and psychological defeatism of considering everything foreign as superior to the Nigerian alternative, it must begin from the top of the system. Political leaders, authority figures and public officers must emancipate themselves from that mental slavery, which has proven to be the most insidious and resilient legacy of imperialism.
Mental slavery is psychological unlike the physical variant; it is, therefore more tasking to break from. Incidentally, it is the worst form of slavery; it gives the enslaved the illusion of freedom, makes him trust, love and defend his master while making an enemy of those who endeavor to emancipate him. Mental slavery is responsible for the persistent craze for Western education even when Africans have now realized that the West destroyed our culture in the name of religion, made themselves rich at our expense and is now stealing our brain through education and propaganda.
Recently, there was an account of a Nigerian who traveled to India to treat prostrate. At the waiting room on D-Day, he observed that seventy percent of the foreigners waiting for surgery were Nigerians. The surgery took less than one hour after which he rose unaided and went to his hotel; talk of modernity of technology. The next day, he headed home. Conversely, his colleague was subjected to hours of surgery for the same ailment in Nigeria. He spent weeks in excruciating pains in the hospital and, many months after the fact, he is still wearing diapers.
In view of the above, the in-coming administration should tackle the health sector by building international standard hospitals to reduce the heavy financial hemorrhage through medical tourism by public office holders. These officers should be banned from undertaking medical tour and any infringement should attract instant removal from office and loss of all entitlements.
Bala Usman laws should not be limited to the health sector; the phenomenon permeates every sector of the Nigerian economy. Therefore, similar measures should apply to every sector of the economy. Either by legislation or executive order, it should be stipulated that after a given reasonable timeframe, no government facility except hospitals should have independent power system. Not Aso Rock or any Government House across the land. If there is no light let there be no light across the land. Dire situations require drastic measures. Again, a prerequisite for appointment into ANY AND EVERY public office is that none, NOT ONE, of the prospective appointee’s children should be in any academic institution outside Nigeria. If this is applied across every sector of the economy, public officers will become more likely to ensure that public facilities and utilities function optimally.
I had the privilege of traveling to every continent except Australia before I was twenty-eight. As a graduate of Broadcasting, I rejected the offer by my Dean to attend interview for employment with Cable Network News (now CNN) and headed home in 1979. Ever since, I have travelled to every nook and cranny of Nigeria by land and low altitude flight. Based on this, I came to the conclusion that “no other country on earth is as endowed as Nigeria”. For the sake of whatever or whoever we blindly believe in, let us transcend our silly little retrogressive sentiments and differences; let us tear down these man-made fences, look inwards and make Nigeria work.
Jason Osai can be reached via

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