Nigeria And A Reflection Of Ground-Zero Economy!

by L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu

Nigeria looks still, yet carries stealing government. It seems impossible for the National Assembly to summon some foreign nationals to come to Nigeria and give testimony on how the Nigerian monies were siphoned abroad. Early in life, we are taught that political leaders work for the people, that they hold a respectable position with intentions of creating a better country for us all while keeping the best interest of the people in mind. Later, however, as we age, we realize that political leaders are not the “rule-on-posterity” stereotype that we believe or need them to be.

It is difficult if not impossible to find a politician, whether early in their career or a political office veteran, who has not given in to political pressure, special interest groups, lobbyists, or the good-old-boy-network practice of you-help-my-cause-and-I’ll-help-yours. Nigeria politicians seem unable to accept responsibility for their mistakes while in office, to admit to their own political failures, to say when they might be partly to blame for a problem, or to acknowledge what the general public might refer to as “dirty hands.” It is widely believed in Nigeria that Obasanjo and Babangida still wields insurmountable veto and would not hesitate to deploy it to intimidate justice. Stealing us, stilting us! People could risk their lives? Despite living in a country that lacked patriotism, Nigerians would, one morning, come out in the open and hunt these ex-commanders-in-thieves?

The funny thing is our leaders have become more prone to power-politics these days. Name-calling is de rigueur. President Yar’Adua boldly named Niger Delta, including the media as the `axis of blood oil and security-risk prone’ possibly signifying a change in the curriculum of the nation’s foreign services. I want to say that we have only one country, Nigeria. You have been privileged to be given the obligation and opportunity to shape its destiny for now and for the future.

The big money-carrot has washed the conscious of our legislators. Law-makers is fooling nobody but themselves. They are so ego centric and their interests only go as far as themselves. There is no service to the nation at all. The future will judge us; the law-makers and the national decision-makers for being so docile.

The ghost of previous rigged election is yet hunting this dispensation. We are recasting these votes within our conscience. Summation at nigeria4betterrule,(October forum) say it all;-Nigerians are tired of “piroro-politics”, always rambling about the money factor in the government .We can analyze and psycho analyze these “piroro-politics”, taking part but the truth is we are not going to change anything as far as the old folks still remain among us to spoil things. These weak principled “piroro-politicians” did not make themselves who they are but we failed to critically scrutinize them before they become prominent. All we cared about was to politically humiliate the worthy ones that we did not like, we were ready to go with them thinking this was political victory. Shame!

Beyond politics as usual, the April 2007 hand-pick election and electoral tribunal abracadabra, the reasons we are not moved is a personal choice in mind. There are few people in Africa that I admire as much as myself. Reverend Desmond Tutu! He has been a dear friend while I have been in Pretoria, took me under his wing as a young Democrat conference in South Africa, and has opened countless doors to me.

Here lies the Nigerian politician! They prefer “grab-all” to making history. Instead of working co-operatively among our people, despite differing interests, to discover and achieve common goals, this government lacks the ability to empathize with ethnicity of varying perspectives, and failed communicate objectively on the language we can mutually assimilate. Among these thieves in Nigeria, are some of the so-called leaders, who have continued to loot Nigeria’s treasury, it is not known how many of them could give away such a fortune with the ease the good doctor was parting with his money. They refused to act on principle, and approaching Nigeria’s ideals through pragmatic tactics and achievable steps.

Nigerians scattered all over the globe, especially those in self-exile foreign countries have moaned and groaned for many years because of numerous political setbacks. Not knowing where to turn, and with no end in sight for a solution for the burgeoning political instability, economic strangulation and down-right social injustices and insecurity, most Nigerians have become disoriented, dejected and despondent. At the heart of the disappointment is the fact that most Nigerians at home and abroad reminiscent about the past when they looked up to some family members, friends and others who were graduates in society and referred to them as “Senior Service” due to the respectable life styles they enjoyed- leaving in pristine neighborhoods of GRAs, riding brand new comfortable cars and affording three square meals for their families. These are just a few stack reminders to Nigerians in the Diaspora who struggle unendingly to make ends meet by maintaining two family structures, one in Nigeria and the other in their respective unfriendly countries of self-exile.

Annoyingly, as they struggle and face humiliations and mistreatments, they watch in horror and disillusionment as their elected politicians from the first man to the last loot Nigeria’s resources dry with hefty safety nets in banks in those foreign countries that are mistreating her citizenry. Exacerbating the problem is the fact that while a hand full of Nigerians can boast of descent lifestyles with hard work, most agonize for having academic accolades with no jobs or befitting jobs to reward their efforts due to massive unemployment in a corrupt oil rich Nigeria and job discrimination tendencies in foreign countries.

While it is extremely important that the Nigerian government pursue the recovery of looted funds, this pursuit has assumed political dimension. At issue is whether the investigation of Ibrahim Babangida should be played in a political arena at the National Assembly as against the legal arena within the chief executive branch where the Minister of Justice would play a primary role? There is a unison opinion among Nigerians that all the past Nigerian Heads of State should account for their stewardship. It was this need to be accountable that propelled ex-president Obasanjo to investigate the late General Sani Abacha’s government. In the process of doing so, a precedent has been set.

A closer look at the vigour and tenacity by which the Obasanjo’s government pursued recovery of the millions of dollars from Abacha family and his apostles revealed that when there is a will to pursue and recover looted money, a tangible result is attained. In the course of this pursuit, that government elicited the help of foreign governments and the Nigerian intelligence apparatus. It had the Nigerian chief legal officer at the helm of the loot recovery program. The whole process took a legalistic undertone thus devoid of ethnic politicking. What has Yar’Adua regime done about recovering Obasanjo’s loot?

They foster divisions to achieve their personal ambition and factional gain. The manipulate circumstances to look good even to foreign observers at the expense of good governance and democracy. They measure loyalty by fine-grained calculation of personal and political party benefit regardless of the constitutional approach to dignity of a Nigeria citizen. They willfully sell out any principle in the interest of their “own” popularity.

In 2003, a Nigerian newspaper has explained that the actual initial loan accrued to Nigeria was $17 billion. Nigeria has not only paid $35 billion for this loan but paradoxically still owed about $35 billion until the Paris Club debts relief came. Debt service payment for Nigeria’s debts started on a soft, tolerable level in 1958 until it became a hard bargain years later. To start with Prof. Mike Obadan explained that the average debt service in the late fifties was N3.2m annually which worked out at 0.2% of the GDP. In other words debt serving was not a big cut on the nation’s purse initially.

However, later, debt serving became much of burden for Nigeria to bear. Matters came to a head in 2003 when one of Nigeria’s creditors the Paris Club demanded on all-time high $3 billion annually for debt service payment. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala considered the payment economically unsustainable. She therefore negotiated with the club and got to accept $1.7 billion debt service payment annually. This left an unpaid debt service of $1.3 billion, which the club added to the principal alongside other interests. This is one reason the nation’s total debt stock kept on rising.

In 2005, before the exit debt payment to the Paris Club was made by Nigeria, total external debt service payment was $1,367.54 million made up of principal repayments of $978.36 billion; and interest payments and commitment charges of $389.17 million. However, with the inclusion of a debt service payment of $7,575.92 million under the first and second phases, payment made for debt service in late 2005 was $8,943.45m. The paradox of this debt becomes another conduit to loot us. Is it not the same lack of accountability that has always emboldened the Military to wreck Nigeria, loot Nigeria, and rape Nigeria repeatedly?

Consequently, in spite of voluble rhetoric, it is difficult to disassociate corruption from governance and economic policy of the present government. Certainly, we have no evidence of any break from the recent past in which pillage of the treasury is a routine aspect of governance. It must be stated that the litmus test of the effectiveness of divestment as canversed in Nigeria by the ex-President Obasanjo’s administration, did not necessarily lied on government passing of ownership title of management and control to private investors. It rather lied on the addition to value of the nation’s economy by the companies. Criteria and measurement techniques on how to evaluate post privatization and deregulation performance and contribution to national economy was ravaged by corruption.

The war against corruption in a deregulated economy failed. If there is a political will to combat it head long, the ethical responsibility of all expected transparent and accountable regime was a mirage. The more the citizens accept the fact that we are all entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring the survival of the state, the closer these leaders defraud us, each playing his/her roles and enjoying the benefits and privileges of having us in the first place, the deeper Nigeria economy derange abysmally.

In Nigeria for example, more than half of the population earns less than $300.00 per annum and, as the popular dictum goes: A hungry man is an angry man. Such a person is not ready to obey any ethics or code of conduct before satisfying his hunger. In Igbo, it is also said that: Onye agu-u ka onye ala njo; ma obu na Onye agu-u di ka onye ala. (that is, that a hungry man is like a mad man; or that a hungry man is more dangerous than a mad man. A hungry man, like a mad man, would not listen to any reasoning.)

Where man dey work, na dere him dey chop (pidgeon English which means that: Where a man works is where he will eat). This implies that a worker is guiltless of any offense as long as the corruption is perpetrated in his or her work-place. This type of culture must be constructively dealt with to overcome the problem of corruption in Nigeria. Nigerians, high and low, should understand the respect the obligation that one should not steal what is given to him/her to keep or guard and employ for the benefit of the people in general.

There is the propensity of greed and love of money, mostly of insatiable appetite. Such people will go to any extent that is humanly possible to get at and divert money belonging to the government, and entrusted to them for projects, to their own use. The appetite of such people for stolen money, property and the arrogance they find themselves swimming in is insatiable, and that means that they are greedy and avaricious. The presence of such people in positions where they can practice their art of stealing is very dangerous for the society. Therefore, such people should be found out, marked and divested of such positions and power without delay. There should be no sacrosanct respectability whatsoever accorded to such people.

What does he mean by “Due Process”? Is it by the Rule of Law or by imagined effectiveness of un-acknowledged, unaccepted and un-enforced Laws, which stay on the papers on which they are written and collect dust and mold in the files?

(It is good and dandy to pass laws, but the relevant thing is enforcing them and making them work. As Ndi Igbo say: Oburo iji iko kunye enwe mili bu nsogbu, na obu onye ganata ya iko ma onwusia &endash; the problem is not giving water to the monkey with a cup. It is who will recover the cup from him after he has finished drinking. Recently, he has claimed that “he would create 3 million jobs every year”. The question is: Is this a matter of proposition or are there any jobs that he has created on the ground? If he has created some jobs on the ground, what kinds of jobs are they? What is the unemployment index in Nigeria? Why does he not announce these jobs, month by month, as they appear? Why has he not been talking about jobs and job creation, at least, since his second term in office 1999 to 2003? Why does he suddenly start to talk about job creation and jobs? Has he just realized that Nigerians need jobs and that they are in need of employment? Why were they reserved for one fell-swoop of announcement? Had he not known that school leavers and graduates in Nigeria could not get employed because there were no jobs for a livelihood? Where are his employment agencies or job markets where people go to get employed? Is it at the labourers pool, which exist in every town, where people to engage workers on daily basis?)

Retired Gen. Obasanjo continues: “However, our Administration will remain resilient in promoting only those economic policies (like privatization and deregulation) that improve creativity and innovation by value driven productive private sector initiatives. We are only beginning to let our people know that it pays to celebrate successes rather than focus repeatedly on disappointments and that they must develop the courage, dedication, and networks to expose and fight corruption at all times and places. The metaphoric island of integrity that we seek to arrive at in the course of our journey of strategic warfare against corruption may not yet be reached. But one thing I know is that the Chinese were right about the one step that is critical for the journey of a thousand miles. For us, the deeper revelation that, that one step must not simply be a step, but a step in the right direction gives us a sense that the journey we have embarked upon will take us to our integrity island”.

The privatization and deregulation economic policies have been known by the people as being selective again in handing over the economy of the country to a few selected persons with “good” connections, who continue to oppress and exploit the people. Wherein comes the economic redemption, revival and re-establishment of the people? Where is the programme for housing the people, putting food on there table, sending and keeping their children in Schools, and jobs for them when they are finished, and payment of wages and pensions to their parents, guardians and kith and kin as and when due, not to talk about Social Welfare benefits and free or subsidized national health programme, which are anathema to Nigeria? Where has the middle class of Nigeria gone? Has this life-giving and prosperity-bearing echelon of the society not disappeared with the introduction of the Structural Adjustment Program under General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida’s Military Administration? What has Obasanjo’s two Administrations done to re-establish the Middle Class in Nigeria, and a non-starving lower class? Yar’Adua should learn from these failures!

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