I am really scared now. My state of mind has gone from “concerned” to “really scared and despondent” now, when it comes to Nigeria. Over the past two weeks, indeed over the past one month, things have really gone from bad to worse for me.
I am scared for myself, my family, my people (all Nigerians), Nigeria itself. Please don’t get me wrong, I am not going to let Nigeria kill me. I am just sad and scared because idiots are getting away with murder, literarily. I am scared because I might die outside Nigeria, with my family scattered all over the world, not wanting to have anything to do with their fatherland. Lord, am I scared?
There is the issue of the Niger Delta to contend with and I bear the pain of my brothers and sisters in that region. Then there is the ever constant issue of corruption, which does not seem to be abating, but is now at an alarming level, despite all the noises made by this administration, and everybody else. Then the issue of federal character in public appointments comes. And we also comment on our pseudo-democracy, electoral reforms and the Ekiti State election debacle.
I will have to take this one by one, in my own simple way. Unfortunately, I have a lot to pour from heart, but that will have to be in a book, not an article.
Niger Delta Crisis.
Everybody has written about this in one form or the other. I have too in one or two articles recently, highlighting the need to spread the blame, and hey presto!, comes the news or discovery that several politicians, both in and out of the government have been identified as being the cause of the militancy in that area. Highly placed figures including ministers (if indeed they minister unto us and not their families), ex-governors, serving governors (if indeed they serve us and not their damn pockets), lawmakers (if indeed they make laws) commissioners and even local government chairs and councillors, traditional chiefs, business people and oil concerns are variously and severally involved up to their dirty, cowardly and murderous necks.
Really, this is not a new discovery. Nigerians love re-inventing the wheel. We have known this to be a fact a long time ago. What is amazing is that it took this long to be made known to us, and even then, up till now, those involved, whose names are in security reports lying on the President’s desk, have not, and may never be released to the general public. Nor do I expect those implicated to be brought to justice now or ever. Am I being pessimistic here? The Abuja politicians will not allow the grass to grow under their heavy feet.
With the reports of thousands dead, mostly innocent Nigerian, and thousands more displaced, this is really genocide. And what about the militants? Every side is claiming victory. Who is the victor, who is the vanquished? Are the militants totally decimated now? Will peace and oil business as usual, return to the Niger Delta? All Nigerians are the losers, but we don’t know it yet. We have always been the losers.
Corruption (political, governmental, financial, etc).
Can we ever say enough about this? It is becoming kind of repetitive and boring, you might say. But we still have to hammer it into their thick skulls, until the skulls break; otherwise it is our skulls that they will break. No, dear compatriots, we can never say enough about Nigerian corruption. To abate the fight or rather the discussions against corruption on all fronts is to concede defeat to an enemy that is just waiting for you to do so. We will play into their hands.
I attended Kayode Ogundamisi’s Nigerian Liberty Forum held in London on Friday, 29th May 2009, where the issues of the State of Nigeria was raised by several high-calibre and respected speakers. Professor Wole Soyinka, our very own Nobel Laureate and promoter of African culture, human rights, freedom of expression and political activist of over 50 years, many times a prisoner of conscience of many Nigerian military administrations; Professor Sola Adeyeye, an ex-legislator and academic; Mallam Nuhu Ribadu,ex-EFCC Chairman, now hounded out of the country; Omoyele Sowore, that intrepid fighter from Sahara Reporters and a thorn in the flesh of corrupt Nigerian officials, no matter how highly placed; Professor Okey Ndibe, award-winning poet, novelist and political activist; Sister Affiong Affiong, a committed Pan Africanist who does not believe that Nigeria should break up; Mr Femi Falana, lawyer, human rights and political activist, and Jean Lambert, Member of the European Parliament who shared with us how Europe views and value Nigeria as partners.
Some of the speakers moved me close to tears about the situation in our country. They made me see clearly how desperate our situation, and existence, have become. And all because we have “Vagabonds In Power, VIPs”, paraphrasing the late great Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.
The corruption in Nigeria is very alarming. A friend in Abuja told me recently that this is the time that ministers, senators, Reps, etc steal most because, as he put it, 80% of them, not satisfied with their positions, now want to go for governorships in their respective states, and they need massive amount of money to realise their inordinate and misplaced ambitions.
You see the problem with us? A man or woman brought from relative and deserved obscurity and thrust into power because of political connections to become a Minister, now having tasted power for only two short years, now wants to move to the next level of corruption, to become a governor and hence, loot the treasury at his disposal. Really, if you look at it this way, a man who stole whilst a minister or legislator, will never be a good governor, because he will still steal more. It is a matter of insatiability and kleptomania.
A good example is our Attorney General and Minister for Justice who is now tussling with his state governor to become Governor of Benue State in 2011. And the AGF is embroiled in many bribery and other corruption scandals right now, but everybody is turning a blind eye to his misdemeanours.
Federalism and living together.
I am not even sure anymore what to write. However, two things Nuhu Ribadu and Sister Affiong said gave me some hope. Nuhu Ribadu said we should look at Somalia, and that is when we will know that a state has failed, and that Nigeria is not a failed state, something I have always contended in my articles and discussions. I was assured by this. Sister Affiong, said that she is an Efik, and told us to forget about breaking up Nigeria; we are all in it together now, and we all, irrespective of ethnic origins or religiousl affiliations, have to find solutions to our problems and make Nigeria work. This is very poignant, indeed.
However, the replacement of Professor Charles Soludo, who we mush recognise and acknowledge as having done a lot to shore up not only the banking and financial sector, but the whole economy of Nigeria, as the Central bank Governor with Lamido Sanusi is hardly an example of Federal character, judging from all other political appointments that Yar ‘Adua had been carrying out since he came to power. This is not to say that Sanusi is not qualified or capable, but clearly, his appointment hardly reflects the so-called federal character in public appointments. The Northern hawks surrounding the president are bent on having their way, which, as they often like to say, is to protect Northern interests. But are they really protecting Northern interests, or their own personal selfish interests? If Northern interests had been really and sincerely protected all these almost 50 years since independence, would we still need to be protecting their interests? Sincerity is apparently a word alien to these hawks.
At that Nigerian Liberty Forum, when you hear Nuhu Ribadu, a scion of the North spe
aks so passionately about Nigeria being one, about all of us having our destiny tied together that is when you will know the hypocrisy of these Northern elites.
I however would like to commend Mr Sanusi who said the depreciation of the Naira in November was “absolutely necessary”, supporting and praising the performance of his predecessor Chukwuma Soludo, as opposed to the typical Nigerian trait of successors rubbishing the performance of their predecessors. “With oil prices falling, no responsible central banker will continue to subsidize imports,” he said. I wish him every success and he should try and prove his critics wrong that he got there purely because Northern interests want him there.
It was interesting and alarming to learn that our Representatives earn N20m every four months ($413,000/year, even more than what the President of the United States or the British Prime Minister earns) for doing almost nothing, so said a former member of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Farouk Adamu Aliyu, who queried the rationale for expending over 80 per cent of Nigeria’s income on the public service. Aliyu said if the expenditure is not curtailed, it would be difficult to address the problem of poor infrastructure in the country.
He disclosed that each serving member of the Lower House now collects over N20 million every quarterly as against the N9 million he earned within the same period during his tenure from 2003 to 2007. This, he said, is a tip of the iceberg of what both elected and top officials of the government receive at the three tiers of the government in the country.
With the above, it is no wonder that politicians consider it a matter of life and death to get into power. And what value for money are they giving Nigerians? There does not appear to be any at all. Most of our representatives do not even have constituency offices where they can meet, hear and address the problems of their constituents, their people. Once they are (s)elected, they disappear into the luxuries of Abuja, and hardly ever identify with their people. All expenses and constituency allowances allocated to them for doing their jobs merely disappear into their pockets. And they are still chasing contract all over Abuja.
During my last visit to Abuja in November 2008, I met a Representative, from the South-East who told me that he takes or sends 500,000 Naira to his village every week, and this is considered cheap. He said he distributes this money to his people for such things as paying somebody’s child school fees, hospital bills, etc. So I asked him, how does he come by all this money, and why doesn’t he put all this money together to build a hospital, or a community centre, or a school or set up scholarships or do some boreholes, instead of distributing raw cash each week? He looked at me and said things cannot be done that way. I asked “Why not?” He said the system does not allow it. I was flummoxed. What does he do with the money for his constituency projects? He said this is the money he distributes. I was again flabbergasted. But he has four properties in his hometown and one in Lagos.
Paraphrasing the late Malcolm X, Nigerians have been had. We did not land on Abuja, Abuja landed on us.
Is this waste sustainable? Should we continue to sustain wastefulness and mismanagement? Democracy, Nigerian-style is a most expensive one that is not yielding any dividend for the people, but into a few irresponsible and greedy pockets. It is not a true democracy in every sense. Yet I must admit democracy is the only way forward for us, however, we must take control of it. We must refine it.
The Ekiti State election debacle again highlights what is bad about our democracy, the way we practice it. Despite the watered-down Electoral Reforms exercise carried out prior to the election, there is no real hope for Nigerians to have duly and properly elected officials come 2011. With certain Ekiti Senators and other politicians running around the state with thugs carrying and shooting guns and a Governor promising to supply guns and fake army and police uniforms, we are at a dead end.
I am so scared. You might ask me what my concern is. Nigeria is my concern – its people, its resources, its leaders, its management, its air, its lands, its children, its economy, its politics, its culture, its religions, its everything, good and bad, positive and negative.
Incidentally, I am also scared for our leaders, past and present who have done this to us. I am scared for them because as our elders used to say “There are many days for the thief, but there is only one day for the owner”; the “thief” being our thieving leaders (very apt) and the “owner” being the real suffering, oppressed, deceived, railroaded Nigerians. When the goat is backed against the wall, it will fight back with ferocity. Trust me. When that day comes, and I have no doubt it will happen very soon, what happened when Jerry Rawlings cleaned out Ghana will be child’s play compared with what will happen to Nigerian leaders.
This is why I am even scared for those who have made the lives of Nigerians hell on earth.
The day will come when true Nigerians will no longer be scared. Amen.