By Douglas Anele
To give you an idea of the level of official corruption in the country, some estimates suggest that about half a trillion dollars have been stolen from the public treasury by corrupt government officials and unscrupulous business tycoons since 1960. So you can imagine the level of economic development and industrialisation the country would have attained if the money was wisely invested for the benefit of the Nigerian people.
Some self-styled pro-democracy activists naively thought that mere inauguration of civilian government in 1999 would automatically translate into responsible, accountable and transparent leadership, forgetting that the fundamental attitudes of leaders that would emerge and the moral dominant ecology in the country are critical in shaping the exercise of political power – if these critical variables are negative, the rot would continue, albeit under different individuals functioning within the facade of “democratic” institutions and structures.
Moreover, without strong institutions run by knowledgeable men and women of integrity and backed by resilient noble traditions and alert citizenry willing to challenge abuse of power in all its ramifications, “democracy” could easily degenerate into kakistocracy.
Nothing betrays the arbitrary misuse of office in Nigeria more than the shameful phenomenon of military and civilian heads of state allocating oil blocks to their relatives and friends, resources belonging to the citizens and which ought to be managed in trust for the welfare of the commonwealth.
The quantum of Nigeria’s wealth stolen by members of the ruling class and their acolytes since 1970 is inversely proportional to the level of development in Nigeria as a whole – the more they steal, the less the country develops. Similarly, the richer they become the poorer average Nigerians become as well.
Keep in mind that allocating vast sums to satisfy the selfish bulimic appetite of members of the executive and the legislature in the three tiers of government is an insidious form of corruption which ensures continuous pauperization of the masses under the smokescreen of legality.
Members of the executive and the legislature at both state and federal levels are overpaid, overfed and overpampered. Nothing portrays the grotesque nature of our “democracy” than the fact that the average Nigerian parliamentarian earns more than his American counterpart.
Remember, Nigeria copied the American presidential system of government; so let us briefly compare both countries. In virtually all parameters of socio-economic and political development, the United States is light years ahead of Nigeria.
Furthermore, the average American lawmaker outperforms his Nigerian counterpart – how many Nigerian senators can match the prodigious legislative output of President Barack Obama when he was a senator? Therefore, there is no rationale whatsoever behind the obscene emoluments (or more appropriately larceny) of our federal legislators.
Another cause of the growing cynicism about Nigeria’s future is that since 1999 several probes against high profile businessmen and politicians have been carried out by the federal government. But till date the percentage of those indicted and sanctioned is infinitesimally low, a situation that has created distrust in the minds of Nigerians whenever government announces it is going to probe someone or something.
In fact, at the mention of the word “probe,” Nigerians just dismiss it as a silly joke by politicians to deceive them. On the issue of indiscipline and profligacy in governance, Obiageli Ezekwesili, former Vice-President (Africa) at the World Bank and minister in Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, recently accused both late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and his successor, Goodluck Jonathan’s regimes of squandering about ten point six trillion naira left in two separate accounts by Obasanjo.
Of course, there is no doubt that Ezekwesili deliberately did not mention the profligacy of her former boss, probably because of residual loyalty. Still she must be commended for her forthright condemnation of brazen profligacy and mindless misappropriation of the country’s oil wealth in the last five years.
Nigerians should take Ezekwesili’s assertions seriously for three main reasons. First, having been part of government and World Bank, she is in a vantage position to know what she was talking about. Second, her lamentation further buttresses repeated warnings by the Central Bank governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, that bloated overhead expenditure of the federal government is ruining the country. Finally, at the current rate of spending by Jonathan’s government (which really is a continuation of Yar’Adua’s regime) Nigeria may soon become bankrupt.
Consequently, the country is moving closer and closer towards a financial cliffhanger, except urgent steps are taken right away by government at all levels to minimise financial rascality and corruption. Now the federal government has rejected Ezekwesili’s accusation (which implies unwillingness to admit its mistakes and implement corrective measures). President Jonathan, we are told, is not a reckless spender.
However, what happened to the princely sum of forty-five billion dollars in foreign reserve account and another twenty-two billion dollars in excess crude account which constitute direct savings from crude oil sales, all of which, according to Ezekwesili, Obasanjo’s government handed over to the successor administration in 2007?
If Yar’Adua and especially Jonathan were not as reckless as Ezekwesili says, how come that after inheriting those billions and receiving additional billions of dollars that accrued to the country from 2007 till date an increasing number of Nigerians are becoming poorer, more hopeless and disillusioned about the future?
I am firmly convinced that the present generation of political leaders in Nigeria appears irredeemably corrupt and unpatriotic, because it is so entrenched in bulimic egoism and completely blind to the hard lessons of history. What Nigeria needs now is a genuine turning point in her historical development led by the educated youth capable of making the right choices with respect to the controlling values that inform both their public and private lives.
Anyone who actually thinks that the present leadership and its cash-and-carry parasites parading themselves as political leaders nationwide can trigger the kind of mental and moral revolution Nigeria sorely needs must be living in a cloud cuckoo land. These people, who constitute less than one percent of the population, are unwilling and incapable of moving Nigeria from where it is at the moment to where it ought to be in future.