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A sad day for progressives

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By Tabia Princewill
For people who believe in intelligent conversation, in debates on policy or anything other than blind ethnically motivated support for individuals who’ve done little to deserve it, living in Nigeria can be frustrating.

Despite the huge budgets voted in every year, despite the millions in foreign currency we, like other African countries receive in aid, the institutions which should make life better for the average Nigerian, as well as make life in our country bearable for those who neither steal nor subvert the processes meant to make life fair and decent for all, remain dangerously underfunded, their mechanisms and thinking obsolete faced with the sophistication of the evil political intentions holding Nigeria back.

I was stunned by a statement released by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) recently, proclaiming the navy is ill equipped to arrest its members. I was equally surprised by Tompolo claiming Buhari needed him to effect change in the Niger Delta. Everything in Nigeria is curiously (and continuously) upside down.

If the navy is ill-equipped (how ironic for pipeline vandals to be the ones to point this out) one must wonder what happened to the funds meant to equip it. Given the current probe of funding in the army, the question is not out of place. How does any group claim to be militarily or tactically superior to the Nigerian army?

The question of where (and how) the NDA gets its arms remains. Further commenting on the arrest of two individuals whom the Navy said were members of the NDA, the group’s spokesperson said “they are not part of us. All NDA operatives are intact. No security operative has arrested any of our members.

Must he (the commanding officer who said the navy arrested NDA militants) connect innocent people to us? Very soon, the general public will know the truth about the Nigerian military, especially the Nigerian Navy that specialises in illegal oil bunkering. Stop arresting innocent people in the name of looking for NDA operatives. It’s obvious that the Nigeria Navy is incapable of policing the Nigerian maritime space. Even the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, made it clear while briefing the Senate that the Nigerian Navy was ill-equipped to match the Niger Delta Avengers.

So how can the well-trained NDA members bring themselves so low to be arrested by the Nigerian Navy?” Such a statement raises too many urgent questions (let’s set aside the oil bunkering allegations which is yet another example of institutionalised corruption). Unfortunately, the Senate is on yet another recess, despite some senators, some of whom are on trial, allegedly sitting for less than 70 days in the past year.

The temptation might be to dismiss what the NDA has to say, but we need to get to the bottom of what it is that constitutes or enables everything from their bold declarations to government’s inability to remove such a threat to our economy and security. More widely, we need to get to the bottom of what enables criminality in our society, from the misconduct of politicians to the sabotage orchestrated by militants of all sorts.

The news of General Ihejirika’s arrest by the DSS due to investigations of allegedly falsely awarded arms contracts during his tenure as a military service chief, surprised many who surmised that if Ihejirika has any questions to answer, so might Lt. General Dambazau, his immediate predecessor in the position.

This, added to the Chief of Army Staff Tukur Buratai (a former director of Procurement in the Ministry of Defence) allegedly owning millions of dollars’ worth of property in Dubai, which the military says was purchased with family savings, does not bode well for the spirit of change in this country.

It is a sad day for progressives, for anyone who believes in Nigeria operating differently or that the status quo has not delivered the promised gains of democracy, when more and more of the questions which give credence to the insinuations of those who hate Nigeria and its people, remain unanswered, therefore enabling those who benefit from their misdeeds, to smirk and take pride in the prospect of the war against corruption not running its full course.

But it is only a fool, a short-sighted person (or a corrupt person) who would rejoice at the thought of the failure of a war which could only mean the ultimate triumph of the common man who is denied development and resources due to the interests and greed of the powerful.

The idea of change goes beyond the APC or the PDP, it is about the Nigerian identity: will we have a country that belongs to everyone and no one. That is, one where cabals are too frightened by the law and the courts to subvert the public good.

Or will we continue with a country where only a few lay claim to all its riches? The danger at this point, with so many vital questions remaining unanswered, is for Nigerians to be swayed by the yells and the screams of those who stand to benefit the most if the war against corruption is derailed. Their incessant whispers about its futility rest on the idea that it is partisan.

They must not be given any reason to believe so, otherwise Nigerians themselves could cease to believe in the usefulness (or possibility) of ever defeating corruption, given the fact that so many in our society rely on its proceeds for their daily needs. Every time the spirit of reform and broad-mindedness which Nigeria desperately needs, is attacked and assailed by the spirit of greed, it’s a sad day for progressives.

Security votes

CONTINUING with the theme started last week of things in Nigeria which seem right or normal but when probed hold little logic, Nigerians must think carefully about security votes.

Despite the NLC calling for the billions mysteriously and secretly allocated as security votes to be used for other purposes (to the benefit of ordinary Nigerians) many state governors have predictably refused to either allow transparency (how much does each state receive as a security vote and how is the money spent?) or to allocate these funds to either pay workers’ salaries or embark on projects to boost their states’ economies.

The Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, said the state wouldn’t cancel security votes, due to insecurity in the Niger Delta. The question is, with security votes continuously paid and unaccounted for since military rule, insecurity in the Niger Delta has not lessened (quite the opposite). How the money has been used by each state should be of vital interest to Nigerians, whose lives and property have not been rendered more secure.

Rather, most state governors leave their citizens poorer than they found them (and often less secure).
In fact, the correlation between insecurity and poverty in Nigeria should be inexistent, given the huge sums states dispose of for so-called security purposes.

It is curious that states like Plateau or Bauchi, are routinely plagued by religious conflict and more recently terrorism despite the “special funds” which the average Nigerian cannot account for.

Regina George

THIS Nigerian athlete set up a GoFundMe Campaign online (a platform where users donate towards an individual’s specific goal) in order to raise money to enable her participation at the Olympic Games in Brazil.

Can you imagine a British or American athlete needing to resort to this? For the past few years Nigeria’s overall performance in different sports has been lacklustre at best.

The question, as always, remains what we have done as a country with the funds meant to train and prepare our players and athletes to compete on the world stage. The phrase “it’s corruption, stupid” could explain many if not all our woes.

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