By Sunday Anyaele
Because the APC is in power right now and the need to maintain the misleading impression that everybody working for President Buhari is not corrupt, it would require public pressure and sustained effort backed by solid evidence from reliable sources outside officialdom to compel the EFCC to thoroughly investigate top officials of government.
Buhari’s condemnation of those who accuse his subordinates of corruption without evidence appears fair and reasonable at first sight. Nevertheless, on closer inspection a more plausible interpretation, especially given the EFCC’s unwillingness to probe activities of notable APC stalwarts and ministers accused of corruption before their current appointment, is that Mr. President may indirectly be telling potential whistleblowers “touch not my loyalists and do my appointees no harm.” But it is wrong to exonerate someone based on shoddy or hurried investigation simply because he or she is a loyalist of Buhari, belongs to the ruling party or occupies a high position in government.
Returning once again to the contentious issue of restructuring, which I consider to be the most important challenge facing us today, I wish to reiterate the point that President Buhari is still repeating the same mistakes made by military dictators in the past, including himself, by thinking that Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable. The hubristic assertion that the geopolitical, institutional, and constitutional architectonic of the country cannot be renegotiated is not only incoherent and false, it negates the fundamental lessons of our chequered history.
Aside from death, there is nothing concerning human beings in this world that cannot be negotiated or renegotiated. So, granted that the creation of Nigeria in 1914 through amalgamation was not the outcome of negotiations between the indigenous peoples and agents of imperialist Britain, the independence granted forty-six years later was based on negotiations led by leaders from different ethnic nationalities in the country.
And although the departing colonial administration manipulated pre-independent elections to favour their acolytes in the north, there is no doubt that the regional political structure and parliamentary system of government practiced in the First Republic was the outcome of several constitutional conferences and negotiations that took place before October 1, 1960. Eventually, when the military intervened in January 15, 1966, Nigeria’s nascent democratic set-up was truncated.
Because successive military governments headed by northerners, by instituting a unitarist federalism, subverted the reasonably efficient regional system which allowed different parts of Nigeria to develop at their own pace, there has been clear imbalance in the geopolitical framework of the country ever since. Military dictators and their collaborators from the south skewed the geopolitical structure in favour of northern Nigeria to ensure that the north benefits disproportionately from revenues accruing to the federal government largely from the south.
That is why, after the riots which reached their apogee in May 1966, military dictators from the north beginning with retired general Yakubu Gowon, have always threateningly proclaimed the non-negotiability of Nigeria’s garrison federalism. It also explains why priority was given to land mass over population density in the creation of states and local government areas.
More tellingly, census figures were fabricated and doctored to sustain the myth that arid and semi-arid northern Nigeria is more populous than forested areas of the south. The way I see it, the economic and political history of Nigeria would have been different if northern Nigeria had access to the sea and vast quantities of petroleum and natural gas or other sources of foreign revenue comparable to the income accruing from seaports and petroleum products domiciled in the south. In otherwords, if there were seaports and vast quantities of crude oil and natural gas in northern Nigeria, Gowon and others would not have been so desperate to divide the country into political and administrative units to favour the north at the detriment of the south.
President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to understand that continued northernisation of the country has boomeranged since Gowon and his cohorts started it after the revenge coup of July 29, 1966. Thus, although a lot of money has been channeled to the north, still the average northerner is worse off than his southern compatriot particularly in terms of education and economic empowerment.
Members of the ruling elite from the north have actually succeeded in creating oases of incredible wealth in the midst of debilitating poverty. Meanwhile, Buhari’s northernisation agenda and exclusion of the south east in the scheme of things will benefit only members of the northern establishment, their families and cronies: ordinary northerners would continue to wallow in poverty, ignorance and thraldom embedded in the indulgent parasitic Islamic theocracies of northern Nigeria. These measures certainly cannot bridge the educational gap between the south east and the north as a whole.
Immediately after the Biafran war when the Nigerian government decided to punish Ndigbo through strangulating economic policies and unfair boundary adjustment exercises, Gowon did not consider the negative implications of his actions. For example, he did not harness the talents of the best and brightest Biafran scientists and engineers for national development. In his eagerness to teach the Igbo a lesson, he missed a wonderful opportunity to put Nigeria on the road to scientific and technological development – and the country is the ultimate loser.
Now,President Buhari is repeating exactly the same mistake Gowon made in 1970. He is dealing with the south east for not voting for him in the presidential election last year. The south east geopolitical zone has by a wide margin the least number of political appointees as well as the lowest quantum of federal projects to be executed this year. By implementing his pledge to treat each part of the country based on the number of votes he received, Mr. President is simultaneously portraying himself as a vindictive leader lacking the emotional intelligence of a statesman capable of unifyingthe country and run an inclusive government. He is also denying himself the services of some of the most brilliant minds in the country from Igboland whose expertise can be effectively utilised in tackling the difficult challenges we are facing at this time.
Of course, agitations for the resurrection of the sovereign state of Biafra and restiveness in the Niger Delta area predated the current administration. Yet, acts of omission and commission by President Buhari have aggravated an already bad situation. Both human and material resources that ought to have been used for positive undertakings are now being deployed to tackle these problems. Perhaps, the President is in the grip of sycophants and cash-and-carry politicians who are misinforming and misadvising him. Dominant in this group are APC kingpins that committed huge resources to help him win the election but who are now more interested in recouping their “investments” than in providing good governance.
Some Nigerians believe that things will get better as time goes on, that despite the worsening human condition President Buhari and his team can still actualise key promises he made while campaigning for votes in 2015. As an optimist, I always believe in the inexhaustibility of improvement no matter the situation. However, I am too much of a realist to ignore troubling facts that indicate possible degeneration in the well-being of ordinary Nigerians if urgent steps are not taken to “recharge” the economy and get Nigerians working again.
The fight against corruption is good, notwithstanding avoidable missteps in the manner it has been prosecuted thus far. But it is not putting food on the tables of the suffering masses, neither has the purported recovery of looted funds created jobs for the increasing number of unemployed youths across the country.
Let us tell the President the plain truth: Nigerians are suffering now more than they did when Goodluck Jonathan was President, to the extent that thousands of children are going to school without food in their stomachs, the population of beggars and scavengers of refuse dumps is increasing, and many Nigerians are physically and mentally sick because of escalating hardships.
Therefore, President Buhari and other members of the ruling elite must step out of their nepotic cosy comfort zones and work harder than ever before to alleviate our sufferings. Heaping words upon words, promises upon promises, changes nothing. Nigerians justifiably expect concrete actions that would make a real difference in their lives.