There May Be Trouble Ahead

“Dear brother, just pray for Naija. General strike looms; new state governors are meeting empty treasuries; the fleeing governors are coming back one by one, including Atiku, and they are plea-bargaining with the EFCC; EFCC is a bit weak now that OBJ has gone; many ex-governors now looking for ministerial positions; OBJ not happy with the choice of Kingibe as Secretary to the Federal Government; Senators are planning to remove David Mark (new Senate President) who is accused of being very corrupt; Peter Obi is back in Anambra State government house, while Ladoja of Oyo State lost at the Supreme Court because the man had foolishly paid himself all his salary, expenses and Security Vote arrears for the eleven months whilst he was out of government; Niger Delta celebrates the release of Asari-Dokubo; Ekiti State in crisis due to equal number of legislators in the House of Assembly – 13 to PDP, 13 to AC; Akala of Oyo State cancelled local Government elections done by his predecessor, Ladoja, five days before his exit, but the case is still in court; Akala has had the indictment against him quashed by a judge from his home town, whom he reinstated as the Acting Chief Judge of the state; Adedibu set to control Oyo State treasury from his Molete fortress; political killings here and there; God dey”.

The above is the body of a very long text that I received from one of my cousins in Nigeria about a week before the recent national strike. The text sent me into some kind of frustration, bitterness, paralysis and anger. It took me some time, as usual when I hear all these kind of bad news about my country, to compose myself and think.

Dear oh dear! There we go again! Nothing seems to be going right or moving us forward. We seem to be on the path to regression and lost hope again after the Obasanjo years. Or, are we just underestimating the new President, Umar Yar’Adua? Maybe he’s just learning the ropes of governance, so we should give him time to acclimatise to his new position and responsibility of governing a country so corruption-ridden and driven that it will take a miracle from God or very drastic and unsavoury action to cleanse? I tried to remain positive and full of hope, but the more news filter out of Nigeria, the more depressed I become.

Oh Lord, I prayed, what is the matter with these people? Why did Obasanjo increase fuel price almost surreptitiously just days before he left Aso Rock? How could he be so insensitive? Who are the people who advised him to do this, or did he just unilaterally take this decision, knowing he was going and damn the consequences? How can he sell two of the nation’s oil refineries to two people perceived as his friends or boys without apparently going through Due Process, the same innovation that he set up to enable good governance?

After eight years of democracy, our politicians have apparently learnt nothing. They think politics is a life time career. How else can you interpret governors who have been in power for eight years, have corruptly enriched themselves to the tune of billions of Naira, now hustling to become Ministers again? Is governance their birthright? Greediness. They seem to be totally unaware that their tenure in their respective states was a disaster, and they could not offer anything new to the country as Ministers, yet they must be in government one way or the other. They have absolutely no consideration for the people of Nigeria. Selfishness. I have said it more than once, our leaders hate us. This just further confirms that statement and conviction. They want to be leaders everytime; they want us to be their servants everytime and forever.

Most, if not all of them left empty treasuries in their state. “Empty treasuries all over”, wrote Reuben Abati. In Niger, Jigawa, Akwa Ibom, Plateau, Enugu, Sokoto, Bauchi, and almost every state in the country, it is the same complaints from the incoming governors. And unfortunately for us, I can bet that when these new governors have served their term in four or eight years time, we will hear the same story and complaint, mark my words. Another vicious unending cycle of corruption, deceit and insincerity.

This is why I feel so disappointed with Nuhu Ribadu and the EFCC who, before the elections and long time ago, has been threatening brimstone and fire on corrupt governors, indicting many of them and saying that come after 29 May 2007, most of them will be marched off to prison where they belong. But what do we have here? The man seems to have gone quiet all of a sudden, and those thieving ex-governors who fled are now coming back, plea-bargaining with the EFCC, even returning some of the loot (you bet your life, we can never recover all the loot) and even going further to angle for Ministerial jobs. What a shame? Unbelievable. The wicked shall no go unpunished, I know that.

Apart from the looting they rigorously effected, what about the misery, suffering, humiliation and death they visited on their people? They had nothing but disdain for the Nigerian people. They were arrogant, selfish, greedy, unrepentant and shameless. They bask in corruption like lizards bask in the sun. They are even proud of it, proud to be called “thieves”. I wonder how they sleep at night with the direct and indirect genocide of thousands of their people in their mind. Corruption surely is Nigerian.

And those of them who secured second terms through rigging and a very flawed elections? They are left to continue looting, and after their eight years, they will flee at first and then start coming back again. It is a vicious cycle. No end to the kleptomania, it seems. Nigerians are saddled with them till the end of time, it seems. They still keep insulting us and our intelligence and grinding us deeper into the dirt and mud. Our children dying everyday due to lack of provision of healthcare; our university graduates turning into cultists and armed robbers because these morons did not provide jobs for them; every part of the cities in darkness; no clean water; thousands dying on our pot-holed roads; the suffering continues unabated, while the looting continues unchecked. Nero playing the harp and wining and dining, while Rome burns. Lord, have mercy on us. How long must we allow this to continue?

Most of the new governors were imposed on us by the ex-governors, and even those who were not, are also in there for the loot.

This brings me to David Asonye Ihenacho’s article “Nigeria’s Anti-corruption Shenanigan” (Nigeriaworld.com, 21 June 2004) First, there must be a realization that corruption is the bane of the present-day Nigeria. It is the greatest threat to Nigeria‘s security, peace and unity. Unless it is eradicated, Nigeria will not survive. Unless there is absolute transparency in the administration of the nation, corruption will continue to thrive unabated. Nigeria is hopelessly corrupt and needs urgent and radical treatment to heal. These facts must be recognized and accepted as self-evident truths. Justice Akanbi’s continued rejection of Transparency International’s rating of Nigeria as the second most corrupt nation on the planet is a classic case of self-deception. No sincere Nigerian needs an international organization to inform him or her about the truth of our nation. Any reader of newspapers across the world will recognize that there is hardly any other country in the world that ranks ahead of Nigeria in corrupt activities. Until situation changes, Nigeria, and not Bangladesh, is the reigning kingpin of corrupt activities throughout the world. So Nigeria‘s first step on route to redemption from corruption is for her citizens to recognize and accept what the evil of corruption has done and continues to the nation. Nigeria is a nation without any credibility in anti-corruption measures. For her to gain any credibility in fighting corruption, all efforts along this line must be above board. So far this has not been the case. Nigeria‘s anti-corruption programs are filled with blatant inconsistencies that naturally lend themselves to suspicion about what our nation might have up her sleeves”

That was in 2004. We are now in 2007 and nothing seems to have changed. We now, again, have several unsavoury and corrupt characters occupying high and responsible positions across the land. A sacked policeman is now the governor of a state. An allegedly very corrupt ex-military officer, who, when he was a state Governor and a Minister, showed such contempt and utter disregard for his fellow Nigerians is now our Number 3 Citizen as the Senate President. Everybody in power seems to be heavily compromised. Even our Vice-President, whose wife was accused of money laundering a few months ago, and we never heard more from it, is carrying on with business as usual, blissfully unmindful of the allegations against his wife. An ex-governor accused of acquiring over 100 properties within 8 years of his tenure is taking his place as a Senator, and it seems we can’t do anything about it. Another ex-governor is said to have returned over 23 billion Naira that he looted from his state, and is even now contending to be a Federal Minister. The list continues. Boy, it is a dog’s life for true and innocent Nigerians!

So much for the EFCC. An organisation I used to have so much respect and admiration for, that I defended in so many of my articles and in debates. What a let down for me and for millions of Nigerians? You hear about one scandal or the other today, and by tomorrow, it has been buried. No more word on it and everybody goes home and live happily ever after, but the looting continues. Ex- Governors: What is Nuhu Ribadu Doing?” asked Sonala Olumhense.

The national strike came and went. If we had a good and responsible government, sympathetic and subjected to the people, such a crippling strike could well have been averted. But no, it had to happen, because of power and muscle-flexing as well as unconcern. The strike inflicted a lot of pain, as usual, on the common Nigerian. No electricity, no water, no transport, no movement, no work, and after the strike was called off, the government started giving us the bull about losing billions of Naira. They will say that, wont they? After all, they were insulated from the agony and suffering of it all, in their government villas, with use of free cars, free electricity, free water, free food and free everything. Yet, with all these free living off the sweat of Nigerians, they still have to loot from the people of Nigeria. Who won? The people in government. And who lost? The people of Nigeria. That is the way we should see it.

Ekiti State in crisis due to equal number of legislators in the House of Assembly – 13 to PDP, 13 to AC. Normally, in a good, working and effective democracy, this should be good for both the polity and the people, as it means there have to be compromises between the two political parties and effective checks and balances. But not in Nigeria. This actually spells CHAOS in capital letters. Watch this space.

With the Great Godfather (or Thug-father, as some people put it) in Oyo State in control of the treasury (another continuing anomaly and aberration of democracy), it remains to be seen how long his godson can be the Governor, because, as they say, thieves have a way of falling out. The Thug-father will soon not be content with merely getting 20% of the security vote and providing 10 out of 12 commissioners, and boom! His Excellency will be sitting on a keg of lighted gunpowder. Unfortunately for him, he’s not from Ibadan and his own honesty and credibility is nothing to write home about. The question is not if he will rule Oyo State for four years but rather how long it will be before he is in trouble with his Thug-father? If he survives into his second year, it will be a minor miracle. And does he deserve to be there in the first place, or to survive? No! As we say in Yoruba, the whip that we used to beat the eldest wife shall be used to beat the younger one. You stab somebody in the back; you also get stabbed in the back. As you sow, so shall you reap?

And to prove what I am saying, the poor protesting workers in Oyo State had unleashed upon them, the army of thugs controlled by the Thug-father and his proxy in the government house, actively aided by the state police command. This is the first time that I will hear in Nigeria that thugs are used to prevent civil servants from protesting working conditions and terms. What this means is that the Governor will not tolerate any protest against his bad government, and instead of using the police to control protests, he prefers to use the thugs that he used during the elections to intimidate opponents. Well, one thing for sure, he’s keeping these thugs employed.

You see. It is not really good for Nigeria on the corruption scene. It has never looked good, but we thought that the anti-corruption initiatives of ex-President Obasanjo was going to take firm root and be carried forward and further by the new administration of Umar Yar’Adua. While I will concede that the man is just getting to know the system and may take a while for him to be in full control of all affairs, these initial hiccups do not bode well for the future of Nigeria. The President has to act fast and firm.

A common saying is that money is the root of all evil. I believe that for the most part, this is true. Money has the ability to change people, especially when it is equated with power. For much of our Nigeria’s corrupt class, it becomes a game—more money equals more power and respect. When times get tough, they ignore laws and morals and proceed to cheat, lie, and steal to make sure they stay ahead of the game. This is exactly where my problem arises. While they’re “playing” this game, millions of Nigerians are living in poverty. Many people even live on the streets, trying to survive until their next meal. Some rich people have done extraordinary things with their money through philanthropy and charity and creating employment. I wish that every wealthy Nigerian would follow this same path of giving. I would like for this selfish “game” to finally end. Will it happen anytime soon? I know that it won’t. But I do have the power to control my own actions. I have set high goals for myself with my career and in my life. Coming from a disadvantaged background I know that I will better appreciate whatever wealth I attain. Whether or not I make it to the top one percentile, I am certain that I will never forget the struggles that millions of Nigerians endure everyday for the past several decades.

There may be trouble ahead, but we should still be hopeful and optimistic for Yar’Adua’s new government. He should do well; let’s give him a chance and our support. He had better do well.

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