By Tony Momoh
Recent outings of President Goodluck Jonathan revealÂ how frontally he can address issues.Â At the inauguration of the first implementation plan for the Vision 20:20-20 on June 14, he said, looking straight into the cameras and the faces ofÂ those who were there to listen to him, that greed has been responsible for retarding the growth of this country.Â
As an intellectual who went to school, from primary through secondary to university, and did his graduate and post graduate work in Nigeria, he must have been looking beyond the faces of those present, to those, dead or alive, who have manifested greed in the performance of the duties assigned to them.
His mind undoubtedly roamed the distant past, the recent past, the immediate past.Â He may also have remembered the present which in the next few years and for many, many years to come, will be recalled as the years of tenure of Chief Priest Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
Yes he is the political chief priest of the present, will remain chief priest until he quits the stage, and will be remembered for what he did and what he failed to do.
As one who must tell his people what is wrong and how to go about righting the wrongs, he hit the nail on the head and told us that we have not developed because of greed.Â But what difference can he make, can anyone, however dedicated, make, when staring us in the face are the ruthless structures we have deliberately instituted to promote greed?
Watching Jonathan pronounce on our national ulcer, I recalled what the world thought of us at independence.Â Ghana had set the ball rolling a few years before our flag replaced the Union Jack in 1960.Â Those who should know did not look at Ghana or any other country in Africa as a flag bearer of the continent.Â The rising stars to watch in the firmament were Brazil in South America, India in Asia and Nigeria in Africa.
Jonathan may have looked back at that time we were a promise.Â But that promise failed, and what caused it was greed. And the reason we have not done much to ensure the safety and welfare of our people for 50 years is that greed.Â What causes greed is, for want of a word pungent enough to carry the weight of the offence is osami. I am not speaking in tongues.
Osami is my peopleâ€™s word that describes hunger; not just hunger for food but a passionate craving for what belongs to others that you badly wish to have.Â One thing you cannot associate with that kind of hunger is honesty in doing anything.
The craving is anchored on an incurable propensity for accumulating material things, for grabbing what is in sight, without fear of the consequences here or even the hereafter.Â Â Such calibre of greed knows no songs of praise, forgets the ways of worship, is blind to its share of the work that will grow the community.
By October 1, our greed, nourished and wateredÂ to grow since independence, and which has borne luscious fat fruits, will beÂ 50 years old.Â Â Those born on October 1960 had been bright students, and have even produced their own children whose adventurous taking of what belongs to others has burst our borders, and brought for us a name we refuse to avoid by the things we still do.
Those who watch us in disgust, therefore, know what drums we will roll out, drums and drumming we have budgeted N10 billion for.Â There will be no display of cars we have built, because, unlike India and Brazil, we have built no cars; no military hardware we have manufactured,Â noÂ computers we have designed and produced, no books and other educational ware that have been used to grow the people of serious-minded countries and governments.
There will be no space to showcase what our universities and other institutions of higher learning, numbering about 90, have produced for the world to thank us for.Â Why, because we have nothing to show the world!Â But we will celebrate all the same, announcing to the world that we have lived in one piece as a united people, as integrated space that has been kept together because of a common objective, to eat as much of the future as we can in the present.
So, in the budget of N10 billion, I hear there is provision for eating.Â We ate rice and chicken during those days when we celebrated the British empire, and thanked the Queen for permitting us to be partÂ of a world order in which exploitation of the subject people,Â forcefully taking over what they owned, even making them accept the inferior status of their beliefs, were routine.
They handed over to us on October 1, 1960, the management of public institutions.Â There may have been greed in what they did, but, oh God, not on the scale it has assumed, from the weight of an insect to that of a hippo.Â Almost to the last man who made it in this country over the years, the place sucked has been the public space.
The institutions in Nigeria are modelled to sustain greed. What power has greed but for the fact that it is a badge that can be stamped on the chest of the way a man behaves!Â And we here in this country have chosen that badge and the world, lo our president, is telling us how we stand.
But for greed, we would listen to those who have told us, loudly and boldly, that a system chosen to regulate the affairs of a people should not be more expensive than they can accommodate in their earnings.Â Is it not greed that would influence the provision that has made less than 17,500 of us, in the name of holding public office,Â to pocket more than half of the budgets of federal and state governments?
It is greed that must be at the back of those who want House Speaker Dimeji BankoleÂ removed more because he refused to via the capital vote for allowances than that he had mismanaged the House funds. It is greed that is at play when our managers of the economy want our excess crude reserve shared now rather than save it for future use or build structures that would outlive present holders of public offices.
It is greed for the Senate of the National Assembly to increase allowances of its members to the huge sums which are being published in the media.Â We refuse to punish greed even where greed leads to a breach of our laws.Â This is the challenge for Jonathan. But having identified greed as the bane of our development, he will go to sleep, as others have done because he will be helpless doing anything effective about it.
One effective thing he can do but will be unable and even unwilling to do is to initiate action to collapse the states, get back into regional administrations, cancel the executive governor position and make those who want local governments create and fund them!Â Will greed permit these?Â So the bane of our development will continue to be greed.Â Oh yes, greed, osami.