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The need for change

By Donu Kogbara
YES, I know that there is no excuse for the terror and mayhem that Boko Haram is inflicting on law-abiding citizens. Yes, I too was appalled when the car bomber invaded Police Headquarters and killed himself and several others.

But I feel obliged to point out that the Northern elite deserves at least some of the blame for the profound bitterness that has motivated these attacks.

When a bunch of fat cat cronies shamelessly chop alone, deprive their communities of progress, steal an entire generation’s dreams and leave young men with nothing to look forward to except years and years of abject penury and utter powerlessness, I for one am not surprised when some of these victims of theft, oppression and injustice descend into murderous rages and lash out.

Religion may be the vehicle. But the underlying cause is frustration.

Whenever I’ve visited Northern rural communities, I have been absolutely shocked by the Mediaeval conditions, grinding poverty and widespread illiteracy.

The average Southern village is no big deal. But it is an oasis of prosperity compared to the average Northern village. Not all Southerners have access to  educational opportunities or quality schooling. But I hardly ever come across young Southerners who don’t possess basic reading and writing skills.

Northern VIPs have gained substantial benefits from oil wealth. There are many billionaires in the North; and I urge them to stop behaving in a manner that encourages suffering ‘Have Nots’ to rebel…and to search their souls, apologise to their masses and do whatever it will take to placate and empower them.

By the way, Southern VIPs should not be too complacent. They are always taking  pride in the fact that they do more for their communities than their Northern counterparts. But let’s face it: Most of them are still chronically selfish.

There are exceptions to every rule, but most VIPs, whether they be from North or South, are not doing enough for the millions who depend on them; and since they will be targeted first by furious mobs if revolution ever engulfs Nigeria, they should change before it’s too late…for their own sakes if nobody else’s.

Nigerian VIPs and enlightened self interest

WHY do Nigerian VIPs find it so hard to embrace the concept of enlightened self-interest? Why do they not realise that if they establish improvements that ordinary folks can enjoy, they will also gain from these improvements?

As I’ve said before, no matter how loaded you are, you will die if you have a heart attack in a place where there is no decent local hospital. A heart that is threatening to collapse requires immediate attention. The fact that you can afford to fly abroad for treatment won’t help you if time is in short supply.

There are so many other situations in which VIPs would benefit if they took the idea of enlightened self-interest seriously. In the spirit of interacting with my audience, I am inviting Vanguard readers to please put their thinking caps on and send me some examples. The best response will be published next week.

The Economist magazine, a leading British publication, recently profiled Nigeria and quoted Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Governor of our Central Bank, as saying that: “We need a civil war in government. We need people who will fight for change…”.

I assume that Sanusi was not misquoted and would like to say that I completely agree with him. I am increasingly disheartened by the profound corruption and relentless incompetence that characterise the Nigerian public sector. We DESPERATELY need a civil war (or tsunami!) in government and I am impressed that a senior government official should express such a radical opinion.

Having said this, Naija politicians and civil servants frequently make sanctimonious comments about ethical issues. One often hears them banging on – like pastors and imams – about the need for transformation, transparency, etc, etc, etc. But  they rarely do anything to improve the society or economy and are famed for causing problems rather than contributing to solutions. The majority are either lazy and ineffective or dishonest and destructive.

Let’s hope that Sanusi means what he said and is practising what he preached.

Abuja rents

IN some parts of Abuja, rents have quadrupled in the past five years. Landlords here are, in many cases, earning much more than landlords in richer countries that look nicer, are infrastructurally superior and have lower crime rates.

Since I don’t own any property, landlords will no doubt scoff and accuse me of bad-belleh when I say that their profiteering jamboree should be curbed by the authorities. And I must admit that I would also ruthlessly exploit the property market if I was in their shoes. If there are people who are willing and able to pay you N15 million to live in your house for a year, why charge them less?

…Who’s checking these landlords?

BUT isn’t the whole point of government that it is supposed to prevent individuals from doing as they please and imposing excesses on society? Aren’t these landlords creating a crisis that will have dire effects on the economy in the long-term? Or am I being an alarmist anti-free-marketeer? Do you share my view that government interference can be justified within this context?

At any rate, ridiculously inflated property prices are not the only headache we have to contend with on a daily basis. MANY of the goods and services we need cost much, much more than they should. And what I want to know is this:

a) Why has a deeply flawed developing nation become so obscenely expensive?…And b) How, in a place where salaries are, on the whole, pitifully low, does the average person manage to survive?


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