By Morak Babajide Alabi
This article, first published in this column on Sunday, January 17, 2016, is still relevant in today’s Nigeria.
There is no disputing the fact that Nigerians are in a bad state right now. Everything, both natural and human, seem to have conspired together to work against them and the country. If you are in doubt of the above assertion, please take a moment and reflect on when last there was any cheery news from the giant of Africa.
For quite some time now it has been gloom and doom. In the past few months, apart from the initial news of “some” refineries working, stable electricity and a few overseas visits of the President and Commander in Chief Mohammadu Buhari, there had not been anything new.
I know many people will put me on the spot and argue that “situations” have changed tremendously. I have heard people say that the changes we “craved” for started immediately on May 29, 2015, when the president was sworn in.
These analysts have pointed out that because of the “body language” of Mr President, the refineries started working, fuel became “abundant”, armed robbers went on sabbatical leave while electricity “refused to blink”. Like some Nigerians on the streets, I do not really comprehend the meaning of the president’s body language. But this was a term that was thrown about for too long not in the distant past.
Will it be safe to ask if the President’s “body language” has changed again? Probably this is why the refineries are no longer working? Or his new body language is why fuel is still selling at above the official price? Probably his body language has now “faced” corruption. Someone, please explain this feature to me and many confused citizens.
Let us not engage in any self-deceit and say the majority of Nigerians are pleased with what is going on around them. It will be a great disservice to the nation to even pretend that all is well. There is no doubt that Nigerians are patient beings. We do accept whatever situation we find ourselves with a shrug of the shoulders and adapt to it.
In which other countries of the world will workers go for months without getting wages while they see their leaders lavish state funds on unproductive projects like Christmas decorations etc? It is only in Nigeria that state governments count part-payment of the backlog of salaries as an achievement in office.
The state governments seem the worst. They are closer to the citizens, yet not much is felt about the presence of this tier of government. All we hear every day from their spokespersons is the drop in Federal Allocations which had affected their ability to perform. Only a few of them are creative enough to think of other means of generating revenues for their states. Their reliance on the Federal Government is annoying.
While the majority of citizens have no means to express themselves, the ones that do are playing the ostrich and insisting that things have changed in the country. They see queues at the filling stations, yet they come on our TV screens and suggest all is well with us. The Naira is taking a bashing at the exchange market and there is no feasible solution to its fall, yet we are told things have changed.
My sympathy lies with the government, though. This is not the making of the administration. I, however, disagree with the notion that situations have not changed because a different party is at the helm of affairs. Going by a layman’s definition, the civil service is supposed to run in continuity.
By the side, I feel also for the Nigerian masses as things are not going their ways. No matter how good intentioned the government of Buhari is for the masses, the collapse of the oil market has not done any good to them. Many have postulated though that it has been a gradual fall in the price of oil for a few years now.
As a result, no government should be put on the spot if there had been good “projection” into the future based on the fall rate in the past three years. Knowing the Nigerian situation, it is acceptable to excuse the Buhari administration.
The citizens seem to have resigned themselves to fate. Many, thinking aloud wondered if there has been any difference between the government of Buhari and Goodluck Jonathan’s. They are querying because there has not been any direct impact on their lives. Majority of them are waiting for all the promises of the electioneering campaigns to come to reality. For some, the hope of yesterday is gradually turning to a torment for them.
Majority of Nigerians are not concerned about the scandal that has now been dubbed “Dasukigate” or “Arms and Ammunition Fraud”. No. They quite appreciate the efforts of the administration on corruption, but they are alarmed by the time and resources allocated to it. Nigerians are worried by the number of supposedly “eminent” Nigerians implicated in this scandal, but they want a balance between fighting corruption and facing the reality of governance.
The citizens are silently crying out to the government that what is on the ground right now is far bigger than the charade we call “fight against corruption”. The ordinary Nigerians in the streets are not taken in by the dramas. They know the country they live in.
They know nothing has changed because the policemen in their locality are still demanding bribes before they perform their duties. They have not seen any changes in the performances of their Senators or House of Representatives members. The constituency funds are still being pocketed with no meaningful changes in the community.
These Nigerians are wondering why we are now pretending as if corruption is a new thing in the country. They observe the hype that has followed this Dasukigate scandal as unbelievable. They are shaking their heads in disbelief as we all chorus the anti-corruption songs as “conducted” by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The common men and women are thinking how deceptive their compatriots are.
In all the drama, Nigerians seem happy for one thing – the EFCC has got its groove back. After parading in a shadow of itself for so many years it is indeed good news to see it with renewed vigour. We all know the track record of the agency and its “success rates”.
It is no secret that EFCC was more or less dead not too long ago when it was common for individuals to engage the services of its operatives to recoup personal debts or settle properties disputes. Of all the corruption cases pursued by the agency, not much was heard of them after the initial “gra gra” opening trials at the courts.
Will there be any difference this time around? I am quickly reminded that things have changed at the helm of affairs of the agency. The new boss is said to be a frank and no-nonsense individual who knows his onion when it comes to corruption. But same was said of Ribadu, Waziri and of recent Lamorde at the start. But at the end one thing was common to them – they all lost faces and were kicked out. Will Magu be different? Nigerians are waiting.