Empty Promises And Selfish Governance

by L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu

During my university days, we had a manual for workshop (machine) practices. It imbibes safety precautions, which was a “must-adhere” guideline to ensure zero-casualty tolerance. After my course-completion, everything turned out to follow the same scenario at non-academic world; almost all promising and social settings in both political and religious arena do have one.

For instance, Nigeria and her people unanimously agreed that security and wellbeing of the citizens shall (must) be “a must” or priority of any government and persons sworn to discharge duty as head of Nigeria government; by local, state or federal level. It simply means that the first ‘precaution’ or ‘debt’ any government which take oat of office must exhibit is to care for the citizens before any other thing. But this government went the other way round. Instead of acting as brother’s keeper, they stage-managed a situation where life becomes miserable to all of us. According to how they draft it, Nigerians needs not to bother, but to observe the constitution, pay taxes, and supplement whatever subsidy government could be able to offer. But instead of things to work this way, political logjams saddled by ‘king-makers’, make patriots behind patrons to reverse the hand of the clock, to set up the system that works against us.

No favourable deal on the ground for prospective Nigerians. This government move ‘for our sake’-use our interest against us. They obtain loan for our interest, at the end they become interested to have all for themselves. They budget for ‘our wellbeing’ which later turn into their selfish wellbeing. The 2008 budget is an epitome of what I am talking about. The 2008 Budget was based on a number of assumptions and it is driven by the need to meet certain targets. These were: Oil price of $53.83 per barrel, Crude oil production of 2.45 million barrels per day, Joint Venture Cash Calls of US$4.97billlion, GDP growth rate of 11%, Inflation rate of 8.5% and Exchange rate of N117 to US$1The budget was based on a prudent benchmark price US$53.83 per barrel meant to ensure that Nigeria fund the budget with predictable revenues, whilst ensuring that the benchmark price remained realistic. What then happened?

If this government could be gunning for another N683.3 billion supplementary budgets at this tail-end of the year, at the same time proposing for a N2.67 billion as 2009 budget, one would pause to ask, how was 2008 budget spent?. An already passed Appropriation Bill signed into law four months after the beginning of year 2008, (April 14) failed yet to meet the citizens expectation. Where are those monies? This is the explanation Nigerians need before another appropriation. That the senate defends this quest by announcing “make-up” sum saved from the 2008 appropriation act, never give room for this government to live without keep a word promised. It appears that after the government takes enough to balance the budget, the taxpayer has the job of budgeting the balance

Ever since this regime comes on board, budget leaves no impact on the lives of Nigerians. What we hear on radio is that government has spent that, the presidency has spent that; from fiscal bills to contracts award, which leaves no reward to even broken citizens. Imprudence reigning here and there; the FIFA U-17 World Cup hosting N35.5 billion price inflation, like the vision 20 20-20 which appear just like a mirage and illusion orchestrated for self-enrichment in detriment of the already suffering masses. Show us the oat they swore to degrade the dignity of Nigerian tax-payers? For God’s sake,this is a new regime; old way of live should be made to pass away! Which ministry is given free hand? Every person in government is making mid-night effort to cut from an already shredded budget fund, at the end the real capital project suffers financial insufficient.

It is yet another season of budgetary planning in which official economic pundits and advisers are expected, as usual, to tinker over the state of the national economy and proffer solutions to grey areas and offer projections for the next accounting season. Unfortunately, economic planning in Nigeria has tragically been reduced to mere annual ritual. But this country has never wanted for brilliant and lofty policies. For instance, the First National Development Plan at independence in 1960 envisioned that: ” Nigeria should be in a position to generate, from a diversified economy, sufficient income and savings of its own to finance a steady rate of growth with no more dependence on external sources for capital or manpower.”

In 1986 the world got traumatized about the starvation of the 6 million Nigerians, courtesy of IBB’s Sutural Adjustment Program which has also substantially contributed to the strength of the then military to loot us. By then hunger is already believed to result from policy failure rearrangement. Private FM Radio and Television were not allowed to exist. It was just the government owned radio and television, which were working and allowed to work. Then, there was only few press in the country. Most of them ended up in exile when they survive imprisonment and killing. Corruption reached the highest institutional level from top down. A peep into the recent Government’s own Auditors report showed that almost all bosses in the states and the federal government domain have been exposed, dismissed, replaced, imprisoned, sentenced, or escaped because of corruption scandals. These victims are those who at the same time came challenging the engineer of the ruling party- IBB, Sanni Abacha and or Olusegun Obasanjo. Otherwise, the authorities remain in power despite the misuse of taxpayer’s money and rampant corruption in the offices if they bow to the autocracy rule of these men.

Our nation was returned from Big Man rule to Big Man democracy in 1999, which implied that the ordinary Nigerian who is qualified to vote can determine who rules him or her. Democracy, as defined by Abraham Lincoln, is government of the people, by the people and for the people. Ideally, real power resides in the electorate in every true democratic state. The 1999 constitution of Nigeria requires a duly elected politician to exercise power for four years then go back to the voters to renew his or her mandate if they wish to remain in power. Yar’Adua is entering into the second phase of his regime, having house-cleaned his cabinet;the political pendulum will swing from the ministers to the presidency.

The usual practice in Nigeria is that the politician becomes too remote, a Big Man, and unapproachable as soon as he or she gets the power from the electorate. The federal ministries is obliged to contact their permanent secretaries when the balance of power moves from the sacked ministers to incoming ones. The 2009 budget will bring the opportunity for every Nigerian to determine who they think is qualified to run these virgin ministries created by Yar’Adua government. As citizens, what should we do with that spending-power? Are we going to allow the national assembly fall into the same portmanteau trap again?where mr. president, his immediate family, friends, supporters and cronies are shortlisted? Or will we sit back and say, “Well, all politicians are the same. There is no need bothering ourselves in searching for a better technocrats.”

It is time to sit up as wise citizens to reassess, redefine and analyse the issue of who bears the qualities or is fit enough to mann Nigerian economy. From 1960 to the present day, the minds and thinking faculties of the Nigerian voter have been impaired by bogus and empty promises. Politicians step forward from all angles with energy and enthusiasm, promising to tackle development and nation building; they put before the voter over ambitious plans and policies which are impossible to achieve given the politicians’ outlook, intentions and previous performances; they raise the sense of euphoria by lavishly promising to create for us a veritable paradise of abundance and satisfaction where poverty, ignorance, disease, greed and corruption would be things of the past.

We have always been assured by the politicians that we are destined for unprecedented progress if a particular bunch is elected into office. Right from the days of nationalism, politicians have kept our expectations very high, but little worthwhile has come out of the taxes we pay. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first President of Nigeria, pledged that he had the solutions to our educational, social and healthcare concerns, as well as issues of unemployment and land for all. To achieve this, we Nigerians must seek first the political Kingdom, and all things shall be added unto us. The incumbent President also made these promises, together with zero tolerance for corruption, which we can all testify now was a vague, unrealistic and romantic idea.

I know many Nigerian voters have reached a stage where they really don’t mind who comes to rule them. For forty-eight years, deceit and lies have governed the political arena and the hopes of the people have turned into absolute despair. Many politicians have become professional liars, greedy and egotistical personalities. Some of them I believe have acquired degrees in lies and corrupt practices, hence the Nigerian mentality that politics is a dirty game. Politics, I believe, is not a dirty game. It is the personalities involved who are abusing it. Greed and corruption have become commonplace features of Nigerian society. Many people in Nigeria view politics as an opportunity or a vehicle for self enrichment. The politicians spend our money on prestigious projects with the motive of obtaining a good kickback, popularly known as 10% in Nigeria . Most politicians feather their own nests, acquiring a fortune for themselves and their political parties. In numerous cases, politicians loot the state treasury more than they actually need. Today, bribery and corruption have become a way of life, accepted as a means of getting by, earning a living, obtaining a service or avoiding hassle. It has become evident that many prominent politicians obtain car loans without the intention of paying them back. The practice of bribery and embezzlement spreads from the top politicians to the bottom ones. Of course, there are some honest, hard-working politicians in the country. These men and women bring credit to the political scene and deserve to be re-elected.

I was in Abuja , in April 2007 and observed that the national library lacks any good reading material. Most of the shelves were empty, dry and dusty, the building itself urgently requires refurbishment as it looks very shabby. Meanwhile, politicians, their great supporters and cronies who benefit from project kickbacks maintain that they are committed to providing quality and affordable education to the citizenry. Free, compulsory, universal basic education has become a myth. The nature of the towns and cities as I observed during my stay in Abuja , Port Harcourt and Lagos , has exposed the ordinary people to endemic diseases like malaria and other diseases stemming from poor sanitation and poverty. I noticed that the out patient department at the National Hospital Abuja was crowded with ailing children and women who needed medical care seriously. There is no doubt that the facilities of the National Hospital Abuja are over stretched by the number of patients attending it day in and day out. Hardworking doctors and nurses struggle to cope with the demands as conditions are not very favourable. Due to some of these appalling living conditions, the ordinary Nigerian faces the risk of low life expectancy despite the fact that some effort have been made in the health care delivery. Far more could be done to improve upon health care delivery and environmental health management if the politicians were patriotic and committed to what they promise. Most of the rural population is engaged in subsistence agriculture and the politicians do very little in some areas to assist these poor farmers to produce enough food stuff to take them through the year. Politicians are satisfied that the disadvantaged farmer is kept in ignorance of the real responsibilities of the rulers.

The saddest thing is that most voters believe that nothing can be done to reverse this trend of political hypocrisy. Therefore, voters tend to be content with the tokens offered to them by politicians. Those few voters such as the opinion leaders, who know better and could educate their fellow electorate to vote wisely, can be bribed to distort the message. When the electorate complains of neglect, the usual response of the politician is that the resources are not available to tackle the issues as they had promised. I would want to believe that our problem is not only about lack of resources, but it is greed and corruption which keep the development agenda of Nigeria stagnant. As voters we need to reconsider who merits our mandate.

As the 2011 election approaches, we have to watch out for the characteristics which distinguish genuine contenders from those who seek power to satisfy their whims and caprices. The question then is, what specific features should we look out for? Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu suggests the following: * Contenders with a successful track record, by which I mean people with a clear record of effective leadership. People who have used their talents, resources and time towards the development of the society. * Contenders with high moral standards. We have to be wary of people with questionable wealth or success. The political nature of Nigeria can only be changed by leaders who are honest, blameless and above board in conduct. Leaders who say no to greed and other corrupt practices, those who show strong determination and self-sacrifice to ensure that ignorance, disease and poverty are things of the past should be considered.

* Contenders with vision. Nigeria needs leaders who are truly not satisfied with the current status quo of the country. Leaders with realistic dreams of leading the people into new and better ways of living and those who can visualize the end of our predicaments and develop strategies and the relevant tactics which will lead us into the better future.

* Contenders who know and understand our problems. Those we can look at and see our true images. In other words the people we can identify ourselves with. * Contenders who would not come to us with bribes concealed in their cloaks.

As a nation, we have had an unhelpful dose of remote and unconcerned politicians.

Many a time we have been let down by contenders who stood out and shouted that we should follow them to be led into the Promised Land. We can redefine the political and social system of our country by voting for credible and responsible politicians who have great respect for the concerns of fellow countrymen and women; and those who would use their power and authority for the benefit of all.

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