By Tabia Princewill
ONE of the side effects of being a population with an acute experience and understanding of injustice has been the sense of entitlement these feelings produce. Successive governments had little impact, so we began to feel we were owed everything, whether we were ready to contribute and work for those advantages or not.
The political class taught Nigerians that one could become a millionaire over night and most were eager to wait their turn for the opportunity to carve something for themselves out of the national cake. Corruption thrives because we are all complicit, from the media, which celebrates those with dubious pasts, to the universities rewarding fraudulence with honorary degrees, to every voter who either abstains or returns inefficient, short-sighted men and women to the National Assembly.
Access to opportunity
Life in Nigeria has become a zero-sum game where individual benefits exist at the expense of others’ access to opportunity. Zoning, cabals, ethnic mafias, Niger Delta Avengers, “killer herdsmen”, are evidence of larger unresolved issues in our society: how is wealth to be shared, distributed and what mechanisms exist to guarantee favourable conditions for enterprise, fair chances and prospects for anyone willing to work hard? Nothing in Nigeria supports initiative or creativity.
Those who dare to be original, those who possess the get-up-and-go boldness that built America, are routinely discouraged and ultimately swayed by the realization that the only functioning business in Nigeria is corruption.
Part of the opposition to the anti-corruption war comes from the inability, in so many quarters, from the media to the political establishment, to imagine a Nigeria free from graft. What would it mean for men who need free money to impress girlfriends, for a generation of women that has been raised to see independence as un-African or a White woman’s whim or finally, for everyone in the society propping themselves up with public office funds, knowing full well they cannot compete in a level playing field? So many things have been done to trick Nigerians into apathy, to feed our cynicism and belief that the status quo is our only option.
Fuel subsidy is an illusion: we believe we benefit yet subsidy was turned into a scam, fuelling millionaires who sometimes didn’t even import the product they were paid for, where crude oil swaps were conducted (in exchange for refined products), yet amounts don’t tally and our coffers remain mysteriously empty.
Rather than make millionaires of a few politically connected people, this government proposes to use subsidy funds for infrastructural necessities with an almost immediate impact on all our lives. Things are tough but this could have been avoided if previous governments had done well by us.Why don’t our refineries work? If the huge sums earmarked for Federal roads had been properly spent the cost of transportation wouldn’t be skyrocketing. If young people could get a globally competitive education, they would be equipped to deal with a fuel price increase, having the inventiveness to create technologically based industries, provided of course they had electricity.
Why, under the guise of privatisation, have we sold key assets only to politically exposed persons without the ability to manage them effectively? What happened to the River Basin Authorities, RBAs, that were supposed to manage grazing reserves for cattle, as far back as the ’70s?
Why do we keep treating our problems as if they were new, as opposed to resurgences of the same old unattended issues? RBAs were supposed to ensure food sufficiency (now virtually everything in Nigeria is imported), instead they sold farmlands to politicians; they didn’t provide water to irrigate and with scarcity of resources comes conflict: by ceasing to combat desertification (the same desertification which turned Boko Haram into a recourse for destitute Nigerians), they impoverished herdsmen, sending them further down south with their cattle. These same RBAs were meant to stop pollution of the Niger Delta, create fisheries and support rural electrification.
Anyone who still misunderstands the situation and thinks corruption is not the number one issue which deserves an honest, sincere President’s attention must review 16 years of malfeasance, plus another 30 under the military where we ourselves bought into economic slavery under the new social contract promising that one day, we too would be allowed our time to steal. We are indeed fantastically corrupt.
The fact that foreign powers have assisted us in laundering money, etc, is another discussion entirely. No one forced us into this mess; even if it is true we inherited corrupt institutions and government processes from colonisation.
Cynicism is a privilege we shouldn’t want. Those who don’t want change have enough stolen funds to isolate themselves from the issues their negligence and stupendous greed caused. Most of us don’t. Let us not play into their hands or cause them to laugh at us any further. Hope is an act of survival, particularly when the signs of something great to come, are all there. Let’s stop dumbing down public discourse with ethnic slurs and politicised rants defending the indefensible.
Without corruption, who could you aspire to become, in a country that accepts, encourages and rewards your talents? Only the talentless or those allergic to hard work and merit would want to fight such a dream.
Labour unions’ effectiveness over the years is doubtful: brown envelopes allegedly curtail strikes. The NLC should strike to protest the inefficiency of state governors, past and present, who have done little to develop their states. We have focused so much on the Presidency’s policies and forgotten to interrogate our governors. Why is the NLC yet to ask state governors not only what they did with the bailout funds meant for salaries but what mechanisms they have put in place to boost states’ economic output and productivity so they can pay workers salaries in future and create an enabling environment for us all.
The NLC seems to have little real understanding of public policy and even less of an appreciation for the political and economic circumstances which ought to call for a strike or not. Hopefully the cynics and the morbidly corrupt haven’t gained too much ground. For the first time in a very long time, a leader means well. Let’s tighten our belts (easier said than done, indeed) and finally correct man-made problems we once endorsed. Nigeria, wake up.
Niger Delta Avengers
THE National Coalition of Niger Delta Ex-Agitators, NCNDE-A, alleged the new Niger Delta Avengers militant group was founded by former President Jonathan to destabilize the country.
In a country where conspiracy theories aren’t implausible, only security agencies would know the truth. I won’t dwell on both group’s names: one seems reminiscent of a cartoon, the other’s existence itself is just plain ludicrous.
Despite all this, the president of the improved militant’s group made one comment which should draw our attention: “Our common enemies in the Niger Delta region are those governors, ministers, senators and other representatives from the region who participated in government and use their offices to enrich themselves at the detriment of general good.
We must redirect our anger to those who cornered the dividends of democracy in the region buying fleet of aeroplanes, building mansions in choice cities of the world while their people live in abject poverty.” Let every militant andseparatist organisation wake up to this fact. He further concluded: “President Buhari isn’t our problem our leaders from the region are”. Nigerians, demand more.
HIS comments on Buhari are preposterous, like his self-congratulatory stance on fighting corruption (how was the recovered Abacha loot spent?)
Perhaps there is something to be said about a jealous impulse. Why disown those he hand- picked for office? Why did he attempt a third term, does that still count as “statesmanesque”?
One might have to blame the media for becoming the platform for remnants of undistinguished times past.