June 21, 2009

10 years of democracy: What are we celebrating?

By Peter Ojo

IF  God is a visible Being, Nigerians could have protested and asked Him: Why did you create Nigeria as a nation, with oil and so much resources to make her a leader of Black Africa and yet the people are going through untold hardship, even after ten years in the Fourth Republic and almost 49 years of independence?

And God will answer: I created Nigeria as a nation to lead the rest of Black Africa. I gave them oil and other resources and I blessed their land. But their leaders are selfish, greedy, corrupt with a do-or-die attitude election. No nation can survive where the  leaders are corrupt.

With the above scenario, I believe God  cannot be blamed for our economy that has been ailing for the past 10 years under PDP governance.

In 1979 when the former president of Ghana, Jerry Rawlings executed three of the country’s former heads of state, questions were raised and most of African countries condemned Rawlings for the killing of the former leaders. When Rawlings was asked why he carried out the action, he said: “If an armed robber steals your money, it will affect the individual.

But if the politicians still the money that belongs to the country, it will affect everybody”. Ghanaians today are grateful for that  action of Rawlings because he  saved the people from the stranglehold of corrupt leaders who put the economy of Ghana into jeopardy in the 70s. That is why today the economy of Ghana has improved a lot.

Former President Obasanjo, the apostle of do-or-die election in his usual pessimism early this year sent a new year message to the nation, that Nigerians should expect tough times in 2009. What the former president failed to tell Nigerians was how he ruined the economy of the country during his tenure from 1999-2007. Obasanjo does not need to tell Nigerians what to expect in the year, Nigerians have been going through untold hardship for many years, even during the military era.

During Obasanjo’s eight year tenure as  President and the Minister of Petroleum, Nigerians witnessed incessant increases in petroleum products prices which became a constant source of agony to them.  Yet the  Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) told the nation that they don’t have evidence to prosecute Obasanjo.

What both EFCC and ICPC should note is that Nigerians cannot be fooled. They failed to tell the nation how Obasanjo, during his tenure, abused his office by inviting his business cronies to donate money in respect of his presidential library where over N7 billion was realised for that purpose. But since then nobody has heard anything about the presidential library.

The G-20 leaders Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy was held in London on April 2, 2009. President Yar‘Adua lamented that Nigeria was not invited to the summit. What the President should note is that we are talking about  countries that have done well in their economies.

It is indeed  a  shame that Nigeria could not get an  invitation when   countries like South Africa, Indonesia, Japan, Saudi Arabia, India, Brazil and China registered their presence at the summit along with some powerful nations like the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, France, Netherlands, etc.

I do not expect President Yar‘Adua to lament over the absence of Nigeria at this summit. What would Nigeria have  contributed to this summit? Are we going to the summit to contribute our incessant power failures, insecurity to human life and property, kidnappings, rituals, child abuse, unemployment, decline in our education, bad roads that have claimed so many lives and poor health services?

Recently the Nigerian government lamented over the global economic meltdown. I wonder why we should be crying over our mismanagement. The financial crunch started in the year 2008, and because our corrupt leaders could not manage what we have we were caught napping. I ask: Is the financial meltdown the reason why we cannot get energy which has resulted in some of the multi-national companies leaving Nigeria to re-establish in Ghana?

With the rebranding being embarked upon by the Minister of Information and Communication, Professor Dora Akunyili, the first major assignment for her is to prove her sincerity in this project.  We will also like to know the sincerity of  President Yar’Adua in respect of his promises regarding electoral reforms. We demand this based on the fact  that Ekiti State conducted a re-run election in 10 local government areas and 65 wards but the outcome is still enmeshed in controversy.

Nigerians had expected  a free and fair election in Ekiti. But it is a pity that the election which could have enhanced Nigeria’s democratic profile ended up as a do-or-die affair where the Ekiti REC, Mrs. Ayoka Adebayo, was reportedly forced to declare  fake results at  gunpoint.

It was at the same time South Africa conducted their presidential election which was described as free and fair. Then the question is: If INEC cannot conduct election into 10 local government areas  in one state what are we expecting of them in another two years by 2011 when we shall have another general election?

Under the PDP government, Nigerians have been going through untold hardship with  unemployment on a steady rise as more Nigerians are now being thrown into the labour market. According to a newspaper report in March this year: Algeria sells petrol for 34 cents which is N49.30; Iran and Iraq at 10 cents, which is N4.50;  Kuwait is selling at 24 cents, which is N34.08; Libya sells at 20 cents, about N20.30; Qatar sells at 22 cents, which is N31.90; Venezuela sells at 0.2 cents, which is N2.90; South Africa sells at 16 cents, which is N23.00 and Nigeria sells at 44.04 cents, which   is N65.00.

Recently, I went to some of the filling stations in my area to buy kerosene, most of the filling stations claimed they do not have the product and the few ones that  have sold between N80 to N85 naira per litre for a country that produces oil and where N7,500.00 is the minimum wage for Federal  Government workers  and N5,500.00 for state workers.

Mr. Ojo writes from Orile-Iganmu, Lagos.