WHEN I listen to the utterances of Nigerian politicians, I remember the song of one musician, Tony Wilson, entitled, “The Politician Man of Many Words”. In that album, the artist described a politician as ‘a man of many words going to so many places, talking to so many people, and telling so many lies’.
Do we continue to accept this as the definition of the Nigerian politician? The All Progressive Congress, APC, promised the Nigerian electorate several things during the electioneering campaigns. Not even one of the promises has been fulfilled except probably the over celebrated one-sided war on corruption. Even the so called anti-corruption war, the opinion of many is that there is more corruption now than before. The growing feeling is that this Government might turn out to be the most corrupt in terms of perception.
If politicians tell lies to win elections, one expects that after the election, the lies will give way to proper planning and execution of programmes and projects. What we see presently is a group of people who deployed lies and propaganda to win elections and have continued to run government with the same lies and propaganda.
In the Daily Sun, Friday, October 7, 2016, Rotimi Amaechi, a former Governor of Rivers State and now Minister of Transportation claimed that Governors shared oil money because former President Jonathan was always approving the spending of the Excess Crude funds on items the Governors did not know. What a false claim! Can any Nigerian believe that the Federal Government will spend money belonging to the then leaders of the garrulous Governors’ Forum and would not get dragged to the Supreme Court? It was not possible.
Under the previous administration, there were only three areas the Excess Crude funds were deployed that administratively required the approval of the President. These were the funding of the Sovereign Wealth Fund, payment of subsidy for petroleum products and release for sharing to the three tiers of Government to augment revenue shortfalls. These were well known facts and the Governors were always well briefed.
In terms of the Sovereign Wealth Fund, it was done once. And distribution to the three tiers of Government were always at the request of the Governors.
I believe that Amaechi would be well advised to limit his loquaciousness and face his duties as a Minister of the Federal Government. We know that President Buhari does not have much respect for his Ministers and described them as noise makers but Amaechi should reduce the noise and attempt to attract respect from the public.
There is no doubt that many States have serious financial crisis today because of loans Governors took. Some of such loans will take upwards of 20 years for the States to liquidate their indebtedness. What a burden some of these State governors have left for grandchildren to repay. In addition to these loans, Governors such as Amaechi and some others enacted laws establishing retirement benefits and severance allowances more than three times what a President of Nigeria receives after serving for eight years. In some States, the governors took severance allowances twice, after each of a two term tenure.
How can a governor in his right senses collect severance allowance and retirement benefits that is more than three times the pay package of the President of the Federal Republic? Amaechi recently invited the President to commission the Kaduna-Abuja rail built by the Jonathan administration but refused to appreciate or give credit to the previous government.
If it was something negative, the airwaves would have been over-stretched with abuses and insults on Jonathan and his Government. No matter what he says or does now, we will not forget that Amaechi, as the Governor of Rivers State initiated one of the most expensive mono-rail projects in the world. Stupendous amounts had been paid to contractors. The money paid can complete two times the size of that project in some countries but Amaechi is yet to invite the President to commission it.
Those like Amaechi who developed the President’s 1st October Independence Speech made the President insinuate that Nigeria is a pariah State before the inception of this administration. Really? Was Nigeria a pariah State? The dictionary definition of a pariah State is a Nation considered to be an outcast in the international community. A pariah State may face international isolation, sanctions or even an invasion by Nations that find its policies, actions or its very existence unacceptable.
Was Nigeria a pariah State or just one of the false claims of the APC propaganda machine? At the inception of this Government, Nigeria was still a member of the United Nations Security Council. Can a pariah State be admitted into the UN Security Council? Never! Nigeria was never a pariah State and was not close to a pariah State. It is a very embarrassing APC propaganda, one of those that hurts more than it helps the country. Frankly, it is now that Nigeria is drifting towards being a pariah State with the abuse of power that is going on. The ECOWAS court has admonished us. The African Bar Association has also warned us!
You can continue to call a dog a bad name to justify hanging it but will that provide rice, millet, amala or garri on the table for Nigerians? Will the propaganda get us out of the economic recession? Propaganda is a war strategy to elicit the support of other countries and International organisations but can it get us out of the economic challenges we are facing as a Nation?
Many Nigerians including traditional rulers and clergymen have been insisting that the blame game by the present administration should be set aside and that it is time to work to move the nation forward. The economic and social challenges facing the country requires all hands to be on deck. The APC continuous stigmatisation of people is inimical to the call for collective efforts to get the nation out of recession.
Does Amaechi take time out to think about how much money he received as the Governor of Rivers State and the infrastructure he left behind? Although the federal authorities continue to protect him, he has so far being indicted in a white paper issued by the Rivers State Government after a judicial panel found him culpable over corruption charges.
President Jonathan served for five years as President of Nigeria. Within this period the Kano-Lagos narrow gauge rail was completely refurbished and put to use. Others include Port Harcourt-Enugu-Maiduguri and Lagos -Ibadan lines. The Kaduna-Abuja standard gauge was also completed. Nigerians are watching what the angelic Transport Minister Amaechi will accomplish in four years.
Just as Amaechi, his Lagos State counterpart Babatunde Fashola also exported the APC propaganda to the United States of America. The world knows that President Obama installed the Buhari Government but is that why Fashola has to export lies and propaganda to the US? While giving a talk in the US, Fashola claimed that, “stomach infrastructure” was the cause of the recession. According to him, the previous Government bought rice and distributed during the election and that resulted to the economic recession the country is experiencing today. Fashola did not name the departments of government that budgeted for the rice, bought the rice and distributed it. It is all about managing the economy with propaganda. People are committing suicide in the country out of frustration. It is time to look and move forward.
As Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola received over three trillion naira from Federal allocations and internally generated revenue in his two tenures of eight years. Even with that, Fashola borrowed more money than any other State in Nigeria. Lagos State under Fashola was the richest State and also the highest indebted State in Nigeria.
Then as Governor of Lagos State, Fashola claimed that a serious Government can fix power in six months and that the people managing the Federal Government were neophytes. Now Fashola is a Minister in a serious Government working with the most cerebral and experienced Nigerians.
Fashola himself is sitting over the Power sector but for sixteen months, Nigerians are still waiting for power. It has been one excuse after another since Fashola became the Minister of Power. What a false propaganda by a loquacious man. Amaechi, Fashola and their cohorts should work and stop these lies and propaganda.
Ignatius Okpanachi is a public affairs analyst resident in Makurdi, Benue State