RIGHT OF REPLY By Hilary Okoronkwo
DEAR YINKA,I will institute the concluding part of this discourse by differing to agree on some of your earlier positions. If we agreed all the time, it will indeed be a boring exchange and it is not be in my DNA to let a good opportunity go to waste.
In so many ways, Lagos will always remain in an exclusive league of its own when compared to other States in Nigeria. Your acquiescence that if the price of oil crashed, that Lagos would be the only State in Nigeria that can afford to pay workers’ salary with Internally Generated Revenue, though not intended to delude anyone, may have been simplified. It is a shortened reckoning that cannot be sustained even in the context of the economics adage “all things being equal”.
There must be a perceptive bunch of the internally generally revenue allied directly or indirectly to the oil industry in Nigeria that was left out in your conclusion. If the oil industry collapses, the internally generated revenue of Lagos State will also be reduced substantially.
On the other hand, the upside is the fact that internally generated revenue as currently reported may be grossly under-estimated in Lagos and other States. Lagos State for example could also boost its revenues by requesting competitive bids rather than rigidly allowing Bola Tinubu’s Alpha Beta Company to be the sole administrator in managing its revenue collections. Of the figures reported, we may never know how much is lost to corruption.
The ultimate restructuring or reformation has to start with the average Nigerian. Our unsustainable ways of lives remains the biggest hindrance to a more perfect union.
One of the main reasons we have not been able to restructure Nigeria and construct it into the nation that we all think will serve us better is corruption. I am fully in favor of restructuring but I have serious reservations that it is indeed the response to most of our problems. We have evolved from 3 regions to 12, 19 and then 36 States. The hypothesis for creating more States was based on using decentralization to broaden government reach to boost developments. We succeeded in creating more nuisances in the form of Governors blasting sirens on our roads. Corruption is at all time high and accountability to the people is at its lowest since 1914?
In the history of mankind, nothing ever changed without any agitation. It is true that we need good and honest men to lead us but more importantly, we need the people to pay attention and participate. The laissez-faire attitude of Nigerians will always promote bad governance. It is not nearly enough for Nigeria to conduct elections, even if they are free and fair.
In my adopted country
In all of my 12 years as an elected Precinct Delegate, I have mostly come across politicians that demanded my support and campaign donations only. Not one of them has ever asked me to pray for them before or after getting elected.
That will be too much to ask for from those whose tax dollars support their salaries. I trade or exchange my financial and moral support for campaign promises.
At that point it becomes a contract. Holding a public office is a privilege. It is a pact rooted in trust that moderates individual inclinations and accentuates communal needs. In Nigeria, election victories guarantees winner takes all mentality.
The voters are swindled to continue praying for God to “guide” the politicians to steal with impunity.
There was a point in time when most people were convinced that the creation of the Niger Delta ministry will solve or reduce the agony of the Niger people. Those in charge of the ministry are carting away the funds designated to alleviate the pains of the people and blaming the federal government of marginalizing them.
Meanwhile in Nigeria
We copied the American system of government without bothering to modify it to meet our own unique circumstances and needs. Since the inauguration of this new government, it is impossible to point to one area where the business of the Nigerian people who voted for change has been front and center. What is obvious is the constant jockeying and positioning of the politicians for more power, influence and possibly more money in their pockets? The only other evidence of change we have seen so far from the legislative arm is the incessant bickering and counter bickering from within Party camps and among the two major Parties.
We can do better as a people but I am not sure Nigerians are ready to work for it. Those who dubiously remind us at every turn that our democracy is new and needs to mature do not see the same when it comes to the salaries of politicians.
Nigerian politicians are the most expensive in the world, perchance the least productive and ranks very high among the most corrupt.
After three attempts, the Nigerian people finally decided to elect Muhammadu Buhari President. It did not come easy or cheap for both the Nigerian people and the President. Financially speaking, Mr. President had to take out a bank loan to purchase and complete the party nomination process. On the other hand, Nigerians had to endure gratuitous hardships in order to get to this point.
From a crisis management standpoint, I recognize what it might take for President Buhari to fully scope the full extent of the “damage” done by the previous administrations but what I do not understand is why it has taken 60 days and counting. I am mystified that the Nigerian people are not provided any regular update as to the intent of this administration. The appointment of Ministers and the implementation of the right policies will take many months to begin to make a difference.
It had to be a bad policy or a sign of desperation or both that the presidency decided to write an Op-ed in the Washington Post to update the world on the future plans and progress made so far by his administration. Charity begins at home but should not end there. Nigerians deserved to know every bit of the information that was published in the Washington Post. The last foreign leader whose Op-ed was published in Washington Post that I read was Vladimir Putin. This is not a company that President Buhari should aspire to keep up with.
Damages at the state level
A substantial fraction of the damages done to the Nigerian economy and the society had to be at the State level. Some of the State Governors whose policies (or no policies) and personal greed contributed to this deterioration are currently active, card carrying and fully paid-up members of the APC. They will save us some time by making appointments with President Buhari.
The extraordinary goodwill that followed President Buhari’s rise to power cannot be taken for granted. Former President Obasanjo enjoyed the same good will in 1999 but squandered it for reasons best known to him.
He spent the first term gallivanting around the world searching for investors that he never found. He spent the second term seeking to destroy his deputy who nearly upstaged him for the second term ticket and used the balance of his time planning to amend the constitution for an illicit third term.
Laying prominence on recovering stolen funds from the last administration is not a government strategy in the long run. Emphasis should be laid on reforming the system and modifying the rules where necessary to prevent future occurrences.
The real appeal of this administration that ultimately will be recorded in the history books are those whose impacts will be felt several years after. How best we can co-exist as a people without paying attention to religion and tribe is perhaps the ultimate test of this administration.