Economic Difficulty: Are Strangers Ruling Us?

by L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu

Despite the level of difficulty and some positive economic indicators for the years to come, the government failed to pursue policies aimed at political transformation. The Obasanjo administration, though assumed to be the last hope of the downtrodden Nigerian in particular, lacked the capacity to pursue a policy of consensus building. Thus, political, ethnic and even religious violence and to a certain extent organized crime, remained the strategic consideration and option for several relevant political gamblers in this country.

We have only two acceptable ways of becoming president of Nigeria as prescribed by the constitution. You can as the choice of your political party or a “godfathered” presidential candidate, present your manifesto to the people, campaign against other contestants and win an election to become president, or you can as the Vice president, assume the presidency on the death of the president using only the provisions of the Nigerian constitution and with the approval of the people of Nigeria.

If you do not become president this way and take up a gun simply because in your opinion you cannot convince the electorate to vote for you, or that you lack the means to contest an election, that no political party will accept you as a leader, that the processes of winning power genuinely through the ballot box is too cumbersome, that you are the only one mentally in order to steer Nigeria on to the right path or that every politician is corrupt; once you shoot your way to power in any shape or form, you become a political armed robber. You may use state money to build new schools and hospitals, improve the existing road networks, sell out state enterprises to private companies and exert a new gloss on public attitudes. Still, you remain a political armed robber and subject to the full rigours of the law.

Probably the most interesting and most important issue today is what those of us who were born the years after these brave men achieved independence for Nigeria are doing, either to emulate their good examples or to learn from their mistakes. Yes, they did make mistakes but unlike you and I, they had no predecessors, they were the pioneers, they had to be innovative, they had to use their creative abilities, they had to learn from their own mistakes. The dilemma from learning from one’s own mistakes is that the only thing one could do at times is to say, “If I had known…” These men and their followers did what they believed were their responsibilities at the time – not to let their children go through degradation in the hands of foreigners. They were committed not to let you and I see foreigners as role models, they were committed to the maintenance of our cultures and traditions, their ideals were to see the people within the territory called Nigeria make their own determinations and make decisions of their own, what they wanted for Nigeria and her people was “Freedom and Justice”. They did their best but were their best enough? Some would say yes others would say no. I say yes, at least in relation to what you and I are doing today to enhance and maintain the values they envisaged for us.

Ridiculous! Ex-President Obasanjo felt patriotic because he was well taken care of and does not have to wonder where his children’s food will come from each day. If the government in Nigeria protected and took care of its people then perhaps more people would feel patriotic. The flaw in his argument was that he did not live on the same level as most of us and did not did enough to make sure that they can live a decent life.

The thinking among civil society groups and other watch-dogs is that enactment of the Whistle-blowers Bill into law, coupled with a Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, would serve to protect those citizens who have vital information on corruption at all levels, and thus help improve prosecution and curb corruption in the country. Experts and analysts believe that whistle blowing, the act of exposing fraud, waste, abuse or other misbehaviour in this government, is on the rise globally. Although members of the National Assembly in Nigeria are yet to pass the Whistle-blowers Bill into law, a quick passage and assent by President Umaru Yar’Adua would help to reduce corruption in the nation. In a case where potential corrupt offenders know they are being watched and their deeds may be exposed, this would discourage sharp practices. Everyone, from the Presidency to the local council levels thus practices peer review on each other and this will eventually kill off corruption totally. The time to pass such a vital Bill in Nigeria is now. Then will the nation witness an era of disclosures, which would serve to bring erring public officials to book and act as deterrent to potential treasury looters? Nigeria needs the Whistle-blowers Act.

The present situation in Nigeria has resulted in millions of deaths (if that is dying for the nation). How can we die for a nation that refuses to be sincere to her citizens? A nation that can boast of the best brains in the world yet still suffers heavily because of the legend nicknamed “corruption”. It could be interesting to find out from ex-president Obasanjo if his definition of corruption includes acts of impunity, such as taking away Delta Steel Company won ‘fair and square’ in open competitive bid by a Nigerian company. Then giving away the company by Presidential fiat to an Indian company? Obasanjo should also let us know if his definition of corruption takes in the messy SOLGAS deal at Ajaokuta or the PENTASCOPE scam at NITEL. Obasanjo was also ‘disheartened’ that ‘the number three man in the government hierarchy in the country is involved in this sordid matter’.

Dear Obasanjo, please spare us some of this emotional blackmail! Who put Patricia Etteh there in the first place? A charlatan that did not win an election in the first place or didn’t you write a congratulatory letter to her political rivals, whose mandate was traded away in order that Etteh’s; colourless, tasteless, philistine and quisling, can be made the ex-Speaker of our nations lower legislative body? An act of impunity by Obasanjo, to underscore how imperial his leadership evolved in the years since 1999, but especially after the charade of the 2003 and 2007 elections. The imposition of Politicians by hand-picking instead of constitution, is a reflection of the flaw in the ex-president’s own persona; that inability of absolute power to condone dissent, and of an old African chief, groomed in the rural tyranny of a peasant society who made good as a military dictator. This ex-dictator is suffused with a messianic strain, was imprisoned and humiliated, discovered religion a-new in adversity and walked almost directly from prison to power, as the consensus choice to lead Nigeria, by a military constituency directly responsible largely for the ruination of our country. This sequence of events steeped ex-president Obasanjo in his subjective idealism, philosophically, as being the indispensable source of all wisdom of statecraft.

Evidence can be seen in the country’s chronic underdevelopment. In the last 47

years, the quality of human life has dropped, in general, and in that Nigerians have witnessed a great failure in these aspects of their lives: education, health care, roads, electricity supply, the national employment profile, and public institutions as a whole. (…) $380 million is six times the value of the amount of money that was used to rebuild Europe at the end of the Second World War, as part of the well-known Marshall Plan. The EFCC boss identified the 80s and the 90s as being the worst period for Nigeria in terms of the evils of corruption. Yet this may not be entirely true, given the absence of reliable statistics stating the contrary. The country has made more money from the sale of crude oil in the last 10 years than perhaps in the preceding 20 years. Where has all the money gone? Under the present government, institutions and public infrastructure have practically collapsed…’

Today, the average Nigerian struggles hard to make ends meet; sees himself or herself as being poorer than he or she was a decade ago; and finds it hard to be hopeful that things will get better soon. It is against this background that this project sets out to increase the knowledge about state capacity in Nigeria by taking stock of economic and governance issues. Using a simple growth model, we illustrate the interrelationships between natural resources, corruption and economic growth in Nigeria; as well as proposing anti-corruption policies for Nigeria.

Oh God, why did you inject crude oil under Nigerian soil? We all know that your omnipotence empowers you to see all events in advance. Surely, you knew and saw in advance that Nigerians would be incapable of setting up the appropriate governance and management. You knew and saw in advance that wolves disguised as leaders were going to gain access to the honey. These looters cite your name on daily basis in order to convince their naïve and hopeless masses that they are following your rules. Only few Nigerians understand that when these looters use the word ‘God’ in their speech, the word ‘Satan’ should replace it.

Oh God, why did you allow Nigeria to have about the world highest concentration of evildoers? Nigeria has broken records. It is the only land where looters are so plenty in the government. It is the only lands in the globe where, governors, ministers, presidents, even police chiefs have been so involved. This deadly pathology has been so institutionalized that each new regime deliberately ignores dragging their predecessors to justice as regards the source of their conspicuous prosperities, which are always no match with their official salaries. This record-breaking development spills to others disciplines too. Where else in the world do we hear of the use of human spare parts for financial ritual adventures or hear of armed robbers raiding police stations, sometimes in broad daylight. And what’s more? It is only in Nigeria that the so-called pastors have so much talent of indoctrination, which permits them to milk to the bones, their miserable and hopeless followers. Tithes? Oh yes, 1/10 of one’s monthly income. What justifies it from a woman who does not have enough cash to buy daily milk for her baby or weekly meat for her family soup?

There is ignorance, unemployment. People seem to be at loggerheads even with themselves. Otherwise how do you explain somebody picking up arms to kill other people and destroy property? People are frustrated with life as a whole, that is why sometimes without even provocation people exhibit violence tendencies, he said.

The drive by the government to tackle the country’s economic problems has been put on hold by the failure to date of the lawmakers to pass the 2008 budget earlier. The lawmakers have so far refused to approve government spending plans, despite a growing chorus of concern from business leaders that the delay is crippling business confidence.

The Obasanjo government’s own privatization programme has meanwhile appeared to stall, with many flaw warranting reversal. Power supplies are as episodic as ever and an attempt to end Nigeria‘s crippling lack of telecommunications (500 000 lines in a country of 120 million people) plunged into farce last month with the cancellation of a bidding process and the arrest of the communications agency chief for financial misconduct.

Many Nigerians are as frustrated with life under a civilian president as under his military predecessors. And much of the reason is economic. People are suffering economically and this (the violence) is an expression of that. If something doesn’t change soon for people, in their daily lives, it is easy to see more trouble in such instances.

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