By Adisa Adeleye
From the time when Independence (with democracy) was joyfully handed over to Nigeria and Nigerians on a golden plate by the British colonial masters and to the period when the military rulers under General Abdulsalami Abubakar repackaged democracy in the 1999 Constitution, Nigeria and its people have witnessed many changes in social, economic and political spheres.
The country has seen good and also bad days. Sometimes, it looks as if Nigeria is still in those dark days of colonialism.
It is observed that the problems of the country‘s present rulers is inability to look into the past because of poor record keeping and are thereby frustrated in understanding the present environment and plan for the future. Before 1960, the British ruled us and directed our economy to their own advantage first, and then for our own survival. At independence, we became clueless in a new but complex political and extreme situation.
In post-independence Nigeria, attempts by Nigerians to rule and understand themselves ended woefully in a classic misunderstanding which encouraged military adventurism and later, the costly civil war of 1967 to 1970.
The economic devastation of that war is yet to be reversed even with the post-war reconstruction efforts of the past military leaders and the blessings of oil money in the 1970s. It could be said, perhaps without equivocation, that oil money has made Nigerians mad – rulers and the ruled.
The acquisitive instincts of the rulers became sharper while majority of the people have turned to be money hustlers. A fertile ground for the survival of corruption has been created and gleefully nurtured.
In the post-military era of the 1990s (1999 to be exact), the birth of democracy was born with the introduction of multi-party system – under a constitution that had a federal and central faces in its structure. Since the first President in 1999 was a former army general, the central phase of the Constitution was more pronounced in its operation.
Since 1999 one of the political parties, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been in power, directing political and economic programmes of the country towards a goal of prosperity. The efforts so far have been adjudged to be a qualified success if not total success as many Nigerians would have wished in an atmosphere of free flow of oil money and lack of organized opposition (until the recent registration of All Progressives Congress (APC). Even with the registration of APC and others, some Nigerians still doubt the effectiveness of the opposition of what they perceive as “birds of the same feathers”. Analysts are searching for ideological differences and methodology of operations on specific issues.
Of recent, President Goodluck Jonathan of the ruling party (PDP) has been on the receiving end on many woes of Nigeria. It has become increasingly difficult to differentiate the person of the President from that of his office. As laymen would say, “when you see fire and you jump into it, what do you expect?.
It was in 2011 that President Jonathan promised through his Transformation Agenda to make Nigerians smile. The expectation is that he would use a magical wand to clear the failings of his predecessors. If at the moment, there is no full employment bur mass unemployment with its associated crimes of armed robbery, kidnappings, corruption and insurrection, then the President and his government officials deserve rotten tomatoes being thrown at them.
What about oil money and economic development? At present, oil money which should be used to fuel the growth points of economic development through infrastructural reconstruction is shared amongst the various tiers of government (with heavy outlay on recurrent expenditure).
A part of the revenue is lost to oil thieves, pipeline vandals, and corrupt officials operating subsidy schemes. Recently, the sharp-eyed Minister of Finance, Dr Okonjo-Iweala talked about the N232 billion payments made to fraudulent marketers and how subsidy payments rose from N256 billion in 2006 to N2.1 trillion in 2011. The number of marketers suddenly rose from the familiar figures to 143 oil importers to share in the booty.
There is no doubt that the dismal failure of the present government on downstream sector of the oil industry is responsible for the confusion and the misunderstanding by the public of the subsidy scheme.
First, the government should have nothing to do with procurement and distribution of oil products; it should limit itself to the provision of infrastructures and regularization of safety procedures.
All present facilities should be sold or leased to genuine oil marketers (with international connections) and allow marketers to buy crude oil, refine to specification (according to their market requirements) and distribute products through their retail outlets at prices agreed with government (as representative of consumers).
It is folly and economic waste for an oil producing country to continue to import in a refined form a product or products from the proceeds of exported crude.
It may be necessary to point out another folly in the application of government monetary policy. It has been pointed out in this column how tight monetary policy has affected the flow of necessary credit to the real economy and thereby prevented industrial expansion. Of recent, Central Bank‘s decision to raise the Cash Reserve Requirement for public sector deposits in banks to 50% (though thoroughly justified) might make lending even more difficult to the critical sectors of the economy.
The expectation is to make it more difficult for the medium and small scale industries, in spite of the CBN‘s lifeline of N220 billion through the Microfinance Banks (with 9% interest for women). My idea of over-all industrial expansion is through the concept of easy money (4% -5% interest rate) as it is being done in developed economies.
Judging by the recent reactions of some writers on the alleged deportation of some Ibos from Lagos to Onitsha, some notable commentators are not sure whether Ibo and Yoruba could live together peacefully in the “Republic of Southern Nigeria”. Yes, the two tribes have been living together in Lagos, Jos, Kano and many other areas in peace and harmony for more than eighty years without any single incidence of physical bloody combat.
What you are reading in the newspapers or media forum are what the Late T.O.S Benson, a popular Lagos Lawyer would describe (in ungrammatical fashion) as a, “farrago of nonsensical effusions”.
But my fear is: If Awolowo was described as a killer, and Obasanjo is no good, who would lead the campaign for Ibo President in Lagos? Certainly, not Orji Kalu