By Dele Sobowale
“Are you better off this year than four years ago?” US President Reagan,1981-1989.
When Reagan was contesting against Jimmy Carter, US President, 1976-1980, he asked Americans the same question over and over again, “Are you better off this year than four years ago?” Much as I hardly supported Reagan’s approach to governance because it represented “government of the rich by the rich for the rich” – a bastardisation of democracy, he left us with a metric for judging whether or not we had been well-served by governments, at Federal, States and Local government levels in 2012.
With only two days left in the year, that is a question which each of us can reasonably answer for ourselves without waiting for governments’ spin doctors to tell us what to think.
However, please permit me to provide a guide for our decision making by pointing to certain areas of our collective lives about which we can obtain some consensus.
On security, the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, had this to say on the rising insecurity in the country. “Boko Haram insurgency, political violence, corruption, nepotism, tribalism, indiscipline, abduction and kidnappings, armed robbery, murder and extortion, bombings of places of worship and innocent Nigerians are all indicators of a failing state”.
The year, which started with an economic crisis, ended with an explosion of kidnappings. Somebody estimated the price Nigerians paid as ransom at close to N750 million in 2012. Yet, since October 1, 2010, when the first major bombing took place in Abuja, till now, nobody had been successfully prosecuted – despite repeated assurances by the President that the culprits will not go unpunished.
The mother of the Finance Minister was kidnapped a few days after President Jonathan had assured foreign visitors that Nigeria “is safe”. Obviously a President, so far removed from reality about security, might also be self-deceptive about other matters and should not be believed. Do you feel more secure today than this time in 2011?
On power generation and distribution, the Vanguard reporter, Clara Nwachukwu, provided us with this depressing revelation on December 24, 2012 on page 1. “No fewer than 38 electricity generating turbines are grounded in various power plants in the country”.
Perhaps that is all we need to know about power. Still, we remember that there was once a Minister of Power called Professor Bart Nnaji, who, shortly after his appointment as Minister promised to deliver 5,000MW of power by December 2011. The year ended and the nation was still stuck with about 4,000MW – approximately the same as in 1999.
Instead of an apology in 2012, the former Minister issued another promise; an empty one it has now turned out to be. This time it was to increase power supply to 6,000MW by December 2012. As you are reading this column, Nigeria is again generating less power than the single largest power plant in South Africa. The 5,000MW target is proving to be a mission impossible.
Meanwhile, between January 1, 2012 and today, this country has added another 4 million people needing power supply. Are we better off today than on the first day of January this year?
The score card on corruption is easy to place on the table for all to see. The year started with an anti-masses fuel price increase from N65 per litre to N141 per litre or 170 per cent increase authorized by a President who went to school shoeless.
The nation was thrown into a political crisis which lasted for weeks. Later, it was discovered that the nation had been defrauded by fuel marketers with close links to the corridors of power. Still, Nigerians have been forced to live with a 49 per cent increase in fuel prices. So if you spent N20,000 in 2011; you would have spent N29,800 this year.
Since Jonathan became President in May 2010, no major case, involving multi-billion naira embezzlement of private or public funds, has been concluded; and no one had gone to jail. In fact, this has been the safest period for safe-crackers in the history of Nigeria. Money laundering, pension funds scam, crude oil theft, fuel subsidy swindle, MDAs larceny have all yielded “dividends of PDP democracy” to criminals with strong links to the corridors of power; they have also ensured that “Fellow Nigerians” and “Fellow widows” continue to be impoverished. Foreigners tell us that an estimated $750 billion had vanished from our shores; while government is begging for a mere $9 billion loan. Are you better off?
The expanded Presidential Airline fleet, and the nation’s largest, was depleted by one military helicopter which was deployed to ferry people whose tummies were full of choice food and drinks; not to protect the pipe lines or fight kidnappers. Only God knows how many times bombers have been flown to bring amala and okro soup until a tragedy exposed the impunity.
Anyone who fell for the crocodile tears flowing at the funerals must step up for MUGU OF THE YEAR AWARD. Why? Nollywood actresses drop phony tears every hour on our television sets for the fun of it. It is possible that as you are reading this piece another one is on the way to an island to carry crayfish. God help us. But, are you better off this year than last year? That is the issue.
Meanwhile, we started the year with DANA Airlines, AIR NIGERIA, AERO CONTRACTORS, and four or five others, easily forgotten. Now the Federal government has taken control of AERO without telling us. That means that the airline, now down on its knees, will soon be flat on its back.
Governments have never managed anything successfully and this one is not different from the rest. Increasingly, Nigeria is becoming a four airline nation – Arik, IRS, Overland and Presidential. I can assure you, as a regular traveler by air, that Molue drivers and conductors, ruffians as we call them, treat their passengers with more courtesy than any Nigerian airline – without exception.
No nation among the top twenty would have allowed the atrocities committed by our airlines to go unchecked. Meanwhile, take another look, a close look, at the new airports in Lagos and Abuja and you would wonder if the Ministry of Aviation has any competent civil engineer. Am I better off this year, with respect to air services? The answer is definitely NO. But, are you?
VOTE OF THANKS
Another year ends and God in his infinite mercy had spared our lives – from the President of Nigeria to the president of area boys, as well as 167 million Nigerians. We thank Him most sincerely. Yes, we disagree but we don’t want anybody dead prematurely.
Next, our gratitude goes to the readers of VANGUARD newspapers; we cannot exist without you; we know you have a choice. We are grateful you chose our paper. Irrespective of whether you agreed or violently disagreed, let me assure you that there is no malice; no rancor. To those who agreed with me, let me confess that we might be wrong. And for those who disagreed, I grant that you might be right. A newspaper is a market place of ideas. Nobody has monopoly of knowledge, truth or ideas. We are all learning to live and to create a better Nigeria.
Then, we must express our profound gratitude to the Publisher. It had been a particularly difficult year for all papers. But, our dear Uncle Sam had continued to put the paper on the news’ stands with courage and fortitude which needs to be chronicled in the near future.
Have a pleasant 2013.
P.S. We will start out by declaring a war on GSM (Great Society of Monsters) Operators who are defrauding us mercilessly and government is looking the other way. Believe me, we will defend ourselves the Area Boys way.