By Donu Kogbara
IN last Tuesday’s Vanguard, Henry Umoru reported that Senator Arthur Nzeribe has accused National Assembly members of lacking the moral courage to impeach President Jonathan for poorly implementing the 2012 budget.
Nzeribe apparently said, during a recent interactive session with journalists in Abuja, that “nobody respects the average lawmaker any more” and that “with the kind of corruption in the system, I do not think the threat is real…”
Nzeribe has echoed the views of many Nigerians.
It may be that most legislators are utterly sincere pillars of respectability who won their elections fair and square, passionately pursue their constituents’ interests, take their oversight duties very seriously indeed and firmly reject any bribes they may be offered to turn a blind eye to misconduct in high places.
But there is a widespread belief that they are a bunch of blackmailers and riggers who are only there to line their pockets and only threaten to discipline heads of state, ministers, DGs, etc, because they want to be bought off.
The National Assembly has a huge image problem and it will be interesting to see whether it can launder its reputation, recover from scandals like the Farouk Lawan subsidy saga and conclusively prove that it is a credible institution.
In the meantime, many people will continue to be convinced that the majority of legislators are like insatiable lapdogs who are only pretending to bark…and will never inflict any big bites on any hand that is willing to feed them juicy bones.
AN editor called Gbenga Alaka (firstname.lastname@example.org) contacted me a few days ago. He runs a magazine that promotes tourism. When I expressed skepticism about Nigeria’s tourism potential, he got back to me with the following comments:
Dear Sister, we have so many natural tourism sites in Nigeria not minding the fact that they have not been harnessed and that a lot of our artefacts were stolen and stored in the British Museum. Security problems aside, Nigeria is not a bad holiday destination, from Argungun in Kebbi to Durbar in Kano, the Sukur world heritage site in Adamawa, the Mambilla in Taraba and the Obudu Ranch and Calabar Carnival. On your next trip to Naija, hold me responsible. I bet I can take you to a few places that will make you have a rethink.
I responded somewhat waspishly:
Dear Gbenga, I have visited some of the tourism sites you mentioned and feel that they are OK rather than impressive. Having travelled fairly extensively at home and abroad, I think it is fair to say that there are higher mountains, bluer lakes, nicer beaches, prettier landscapes, more distinguished architectural structures, more historically important sites, etc, in so many other countries.
It is also worth noting that there are countries in which the average citizen is more interested in making visitors happy than in squeezing money out of them….and that the same cannot be said of the average Nigerian…who is aggressively materialistic by nature and therefore not tourism-friendly.
My view is that individuals and nations should concentrate on developing their core strengths and competitive advantages. Why try to chase after a slice of the African tourist market when Gambia, South Africa, Egypt,Tunisia, Morocco and Kenya are better at entertaining visitors and more beautiful?
Nigerians are more entrepreneurial in outlook than other Africans and are blessed with abundant natural resources. So shouldn’t we channel our energies into becoming a highly desirable business/investment destination?
As for our stolen artefacts: In an ideal world, the Nigerian government would insist that foreigners return all of the items that were removed without our permission during the colonial era. But this is not likely to happen. And, frankly, foreigners probably do a better job than we would of caring for them!
Dear Readers, am I right or wrong or both?
AT a workshop organised by the Intergovernmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa, Femi Falana, the well-known lawyer, accused Western nations of fuelling corruption in Nigeria and other African countries.
Falana produced various examples to support his claim and I have no doubt that most of the points he made were valid. And it’s not the first time that this type of complaint has been publicly aired. Several observers of the arenas in which Africans and foreigners relate to each other have jumped to similar conclusions.
History has shown us that too many Europeans and Americans are too eager to collude with local officials who specialise in dubious business deals. Furthermore, it is sometimes the foreigners who initiate the dubious element. It is also true to say that dodgy foreigners sometimes receive covert encouragement from their home governments – ie, the very same home governments that sanctimoniously lecture Africans about ethics.
BUT, BUT, BUT: Even though Americans and Europeans can be hypocritical and corrupt, they do not allow corruption to totally mess up their own countries!
Their schools and hospitals are, on the whole, good. Their roads are not full of potholes. They have round-the-clock electricity. It is only we who have taken corruption to such ridiculous, self-destructive extremes that we are drowning.
At the end of the day, we are the architects of MOST of our misfortunes and should not spend too much time blaming foreigners for our failures.