QUOTA SYSTEM: SACRIFICING HARDWORK, EXCELLENCE, MERIT ON THE ALTAR OF NATIONAL UNITY
Quota system, otherwise known as Federal character is a concept or principle designed to enthrone fairness and balance through a structured pattern of allocating public posts, positions and infrastructures among the federating units or constituents of a Federal system.
The Federal character principle is described as a child of necessity by its proponents and beneficiaries. They say it was built on the twin intents of equity and justice.
The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, under section 14 and sub-section 3 states, among others; "The composition of Government of the Federation or any of its Agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the Federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or any of its Agencies."
Although the quota system came to being before independence, the Federal Character principle was officially recognised in the Constitition of 1979. The Policy, no doubt was needed at the point in time, to address issues concerning fair ethnic representation in the public sector.
In other words, Federal character is supposed to prevent tribal and regional domination as well as foster national unity.
What then happens to hardwork, merit and excellence? Unity and equal representation are virtues worthy of emulation but at what cost? Are these virtues worth offering on the altar of national unity?
How well has the Federal character principle enhanced productivity and efficiency in our Ministries, Departments and Agencies anyways?
Let us use a natural illustration. At what point are parents supposed to stop breast/bottle feeding or strapping their babies on their backs? Does a time not come when the child is expected to grow into adulthood, become independent, start fending for themselves and others?
Besides, in this age and time when the world has obviously moved on from products to a knowledge based economies, how much longer are we going to lag behind?
In Asia, children as young as Six are taught how to code. Those are the future Apps and Tech makers. In Europe, more than 80 percent of the Countries have decided to completely replace fuel based automobiles with electric vehicles by 2030.
In America, they have almost commenced commercial flights into space. All these happen because there is a consensus to create and maintain an enviroment which encourages competition of ideas from far and wide, regardless of ethnicity, religion, geography or other primordial considerations that are not in sync with modern thinking.
The Federal character principle may have been founded on good intents but has it not outlived it's usefulness? If it has, then it is wicked and fraudulent to retain it. Justice is the foundation upon which a sense of belonging and peace are built.
Nigeria must put an end to brain drain and stop demoralizing its citizens in the name of balancing appointments and opportunities. If the principle is counter-productive, it should be deleted from our National lexicon with immediate effect.
How well has the principle fared, really? Has the quota system served it's touted purpose of fostering unity in this Country? If the answer is in the negative, why should it be retained and not discarded?
This writer may not be in the the best position to answer some of the questions raised, but one thing is certain. Nigeria has never been this divided along various clannish, religious and socio-political lines as we have experienced lately.
How does a principle largely perceived to supress the minority interests by majority groups foster national unity? How do you encourage unity by not creating an equal playing ground?
In any case, why is there no Federal character principle when it comes to revenue generation and remittance to the Federal purse? Is this obvious double standard not an elitist construction meant to keep some interests in perpetual wealth and power?
Quota system may have been conceived with the Country's interest at heart but in this age and time, it is nothing but a relic. The Federal Government doesn't ask anyone's State of origin before appropriating their taxes. If the country progresses, we progress together and if we fail, we fail together as well.
There are also legitimate concerns that some groups have taken advantage of this concept to perpetuate themselves and their kinsmen in power and positions at the detriment of more qualified people.
Quota system does more harm than good to the psyche of Nigerians.It reduces the bar of intellectual engagement. It robs Peter to pay Paul. It demotivated some people while it creates a sense of entitlement on others. It leads to anti-social behaviour in those who feel short-changed from the arrangements.
While it is obvious that nobody supports a change in a system which gives them undue advantage over others, it is criminal for people to give the impression that all brains are not the same at birth. Biologically speaking, no child was born smarter than the other. It all depends on how that child was trained. It is a shame for some people to say they are educationally disadvantaged in the Twentu first century. Besides, whose fault is it if they really are?
Historically, all societies get more of what they value, encourage or reward. A cursory look at the more prosperous and peaceful countries should clear the doubts, if there's any. The Countries Nigerians of means run to for security, education, tourism, investments and health care are all built on competition and merit, and not quota system.
It is criminal for a citizen of a Country to experience real or imagined hinderance to opportunities or positions they are qualified for simply based on catchment or where they are from.
Economies of Countries like Canada, Britain, Germany and the United States of America are not in their robust state today due to allocation of positions and infrastructures based on primordial considerations. Rather, they operate a futuristic system based on competition and merit.
Therefore, it is the opinion of this writer that if Nigeria is serious about attaining that much desired but elusive all-round development she direly desires, it is time to let go of all the clannish and primordial hurdles militating against her progress. The so-called quota is one of such historical relics.
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