By Tabia Princewill
The question must be asked, again and again. We are a people whose collective psyche has been battered by all manner of injustice. In a country where university graduates become house helps due to lack of jobs, in a hierarchal society where opportunity and progress seem almost impossible, unless one belongs to the right circles, the idea of change, of social justice, is obviously seductive. However, little in our actions enables “change” or pushes a progressive, equal opportunity stance.
Prospects in Nigeria exist only for the rich: the prospect of making money, ad eternam, of committing crimes and escaping justice. The outcry is often fleeting. More often than not, Nigerians would rather ask meaningless questions: “is X the first person to be corrupt” or make futile statements: “But X is from my village, I should support him”, or more recently “why should the Presidency go after corrupt judges”.
We must truly hate our own wellbeing. Moreover, we do not understand democracy. Maybe we don’t think we deserve a system or a society where everyone’s natural talents can find an expression without the hindrances of gender or class discrimination. Most of us have no idea what it means to live in a republic, a state where ordinary people are not cheated out of their commonwealth. Do we believe that we are vassals of the rich, their personal possessions?
Do we believe it is our duty to shield them from prosecution? Rented crowds disrupt judicial proceedings, men and women who allegedly connived to steal elections and subvert the cause of justice are elevated to the highest courts of the land and Nigerians remain silent. Do we really want change? Do we understand the implications of change, what it could do for us as a people?
The Senate is attempting to amend the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, to remove control of this institution from the Presidency and transfer it to the National Assembly, which is read as an act to shield powerful interests from prosecution. Do we realise what this would mean for the war against corruption ? Do we realise just how much each and every injustice, every misery inflicted upon the citizenry, is a direct consequence of corruption?
Why don’t we have good schools, healthcare, roads or education if not for corruption? The ethno-religious cancer itself, which pollutes all our minds, is bred by corruption. The laws in our country have been tinkered and fixed to suit the interests of a narrow section of the population, the same way our economy is rigged to serve only a few. Where is the outcry? The outcry came under the form of a decision, by a majority of Nigerians, to vote for change in the 2015 elections. But we are still so far from the society we deserve.
Every time we justify corruption, make excuses for politicians and their business stooges, every time we allow ourselves to be used and dumped by powerful interests, we walk further and further away from the dreams of our forefathers at independence. In truth, we merely exchanged, it seems, one form of oppression for another.
Our people, held captive by poverty and a lack of education, continue to allow themselves to be used and abused by politicians and it is sickening that so few choose to educate the masses or to show them where their true interests lie. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that Nigeria will get to where it needs to be.
But the journey is long and the fight even tougher. Those progressives who believe a 21st century Nigeria cannot only belong to a few who dictate their choices to 160 million people must never give up. It’s a sacrifice, loving a people who’ve forgotten how to love themselves. It’s a challenge, fighting for people who don’t remember what it means to stand up for themselves. But ultimately, Nigeria cannot be late for its date with history, and to those progressives who have the foresight to imagine such a reckoning, I wish them all the courage in the world, the courage to keep believing in change even when it might seem like there is no sense in doing so.
The former President encouraged wealth creation during the Tony Elumelu Foundation, TEF, entrepreneurship forum in Lagos recently. He claimed to have created 25 billionaires, not realising it seems that such a statement, in any other society, would be thoroughly investigated for its potential to conceal, in plain sight, acts of corruption. Governments are not supposed to create billionaires.
What they do is create the enabling environment so that private citizens, through their efforts and creativity can be self-sufficient, engage in lawful businesses and therefore become billionaires because they provide goods and services which people need. Nigeria still operates a command economy where contracts and government decisions to assist monopolies create rich men and women.
Hence why we are in a recession today: the success of our economy is not based on the purchasing power of ordinary Nigerians, that is, our collective ability to buy what is available in the market (we produce next to nothing anyway). Our economy is based on government creating fronts and stooges who do business in its name. Obasanjo also stressed the need for foreign investment. Like many African leaders of a certain generation, he seems to believe the answer to Nigeria’s economic woes lies abroad.
Inviting foreigners to invest in Nigeria makes money for multinationals and their Nigerian representatives. Sure, they employ a few thousand Nigerians but they pay them minimum wage, if at all. That isn’t empowering Nigerians. Nigeria will succeed when there is a Nigerian equivalent of Wallmart, Mobil or other global conglomerates, not when such companies simply open branches in Nigeria.
Obasanjo, like Jonathan, who boasted of Nigeria being rich because it has the most private jets in Nigeria, does not seem to fully grasp what it means to empower ordinary people to become self-sufficient, which is strange for a speaker at a conference on entrepreneurship. But then again, there isn’t much that makes sense in Nigeria.
The former NSA is asking his former boss, Goodluck Jonathan to be his first witness and I believe this is an excellent idea, given Jonathan’s comments stating Dasuki “could not have stolen”, or “mismanaged” to use the euphemism preferred by our people, $2.1 billion in arms funds.
Those advocating for a “political solution” which amounts to brushing the evidence gathered and the allegations themselves under the rug, are themselves probably guilty of conspiracy to defraud the Nigerian people and subvert the cause of justice.
What should we tell the victims of Boko haram and their families? “Sorry, you don’t matter?” or “sorry, you’ll just have to accept that no one will pay for the neglect and criminal acts which led to your displacement, to the death of your families?” Dasuki wants an open trial, he wants Nigerians to know all those who received money from his office. Nigerians have a right to know those who pretend to be pro-people but take anti-people action under the cover of darkness. Handling of this case will prove whether or not we are serious about change.
THE former President of Salvador is the latest Latin American leader to be arrested on charges of corruption. He declared a significant increase in his net worth upon leaving office which led to his arrest on several counts of fraud and money laundering. Another former President of Salvador, Mauricio Funes was also arrested on similar charges.
The justice system, in other climes, has no sacred cows, no “untouchables” when there is evidence of wrong doing. When in Nigeria will we adopt the same? When will we the people stop shielding former leaders from arrest? When will we understand that a few thousands paid to rent a crowd can never make up for the billions in foreign currencies which should have gone to empowering us as a people?