Vanguard News Nigeria

Isn’t anyone going to talk about AMCON?

By Tabia Princewill

NIGERIANS have Stockholm syndrome: they come to love their captors, the same politicians who make true progress and development impossible.

A new coalition has been formed, bringing together many of the same people who have been in government with disastrous consequences, many of whom still have nefarious allegations pending, unanswered questions surrounding them or who were perhaps even acquitted under circumstances which might not stand in other climes.

How can reform come from the same old hands who’ve had more than their fair share of opportunity to do the right thing? In a land where a person can commit a crime but it remains “hearsay”, how can the guarantors of such an order deliver anything new?

Unproductive Nigerians

It is quite honestly a shame that the killings in Nigeria coincided (perhaps not unintentionally, this is Nigeria after all) with some revelations by AMCON which were underreported.

Anyone in doubt that corruption is indeed fighting back should read carefully and realise that the fight against corruption is not about APC, nor is it about Buhari, it is about the survival of Nigeria.

AMCON says that only 350 Nigerians are responsible for 80 per cent of AMCON’s N5.4 trillion debt. Please read those figures again. It amounts to saying that the entire Nigerian population of about 200 million people is working to offset the debts of 350 unproductive Nigerians who take out bad loans and leave the repayment to the rest of society. Many loans are taken out by politically exposed persons. AMCON’s revelations didn’t stop there. They also reportedly said in a country of near 200 million people, only 100 BVNs (so not all the 350 people initially mentioned have registered BVN numbers on file) are responsible for 60 per cent of all bank loans in the country.

Let us, therefore, put the recurring farmer versus herdsmen clashes in context and also appeal to our religious leaders to stop war mongering given that many banking insiders also admit that a good number of loans are taken out by churches and not businesses who produce wealth for the economy.

Can you imagine what would happen in Nigeria if small businesses could access loans at the same rate as politicians or pastors? Imagine if both Muslim and Christian farmers in the North and the Middle Belt rather than overseeing small holdings with no business growth, could expand through loans, access to financial services and advice? Imagine if rather than our economy being dominated by 350 people and existing only to serve their needs, our system’s economic growth actually worked for all?

Imagine if the “Fulani herdsmen”, or the “Niger Delta militants” were not prisoners of a system where economic opportunity is in the hands of only a few. Imagine if politically exposed persons didn’t defraud the system with impunity then turn around to make different ethno-religious groups, their victims, resent each other and compete for scarce resources. When politicians do business and pervert the system to their benefit, there is no question of ethno-religious difference.

Ethnicity only comes into play when it’s time to mobilise support for or against individuals. Nigerians have not assisted the fight against corruption and have played into the hands of those who would rather things remained the same. Even when the Buhari administration fell short of expectations, too many of us were too eager to accept its failings: Nigerians have never truly mobilised for change.

Sixty per cent of Nigeria’s bank loans are shared amongst a 100 people who don’t even repay them. Are we surprised there is hunger in the land? Or that we lack electricity etc.?

Where are the funds for development supposed to come from if government coffers are looted with impunity and the businesses it should ordinarily tax and receive revenue from are also conduits for fraud and embezzlement?

Corruption is the stain at the heart of our system which makes governance and reform near impossible. So, we the people are left fighting for crumbs and fighting each other. Many of the debts are reportedly greater than the budgets of some Federal ministries’ for the entire year.

Had the Northern political elite, for example, played its role and done right by its people, today’s herdsman should have become something of a business man who looks fondly on the traditions of the past but whose access to education, financial aid and modern cattle rearing techniques makes his lifestyle profitable rather than a fundamental marker of his identity.

According to reports, many senators are also on AMCON’s list of debtors and so are a number of prominent Nigerians whom society celebrates as wealthy entrepreneurs without mentioning their parasitic activities. The ability to take out loans does not make one brilliant. This is the Stockholm syndrome I mentioned earlier: we celebrate the people who are actually the causes of our despair, we are addicted to the aura of money, no matter the damage it causes the rest of society.

In the North, when the children of the rich marry, hundreds of poor people gather outside their estates waiting to receive alms. Why are we surprised that herdsmen and farmers clashes have been a near constant of our history, despite, on paper, our return to democracy?

Criminal activities

We operate a formal democracy with no benefits for the common man: violence is, therefore, the result of the criminal activities at the very top of our society, which isn’t to say the perpetrators of violence must not be punished. Impunity at the top leads to the acceptance of impunity at all levels.

Amongst the names of the 350 people holding the Nigerian economy to ransom, one is sure to find Hausas, Igbos, Yorubas, Fulanis, Ijaws, Muslims, Christians who do business and exchange benefits without a problem.

The current “war” in Nigeria isn’t about pitting Muslims versus Christians, nor is it about political parties, many of whom are infiltrated by undesirable elements. At every turn, Nigeria is fighting a battle for its soul but without the help of you and I, who choose to take sides based on ethnic origin or religion.

Human history is replete with aristocracies who maintain power by dividing the bottom of society. Did I mention the N5.4 trillion owed by 350 people is over half of the N9 trillion 2018 budget meant for 200 million people? Until we get to the root of the issues in this country, no real change will be possible, no matter the party in charge.

 

Kawu Baraje

THE Chairman of the new Peoples Democratic Party, nPDP, thanked the PDP for accepting him as well as other nPDP members back into its fold.

He was quoted as saying: “If a child goes out and gets his finger burnt, he returns before he gets the entire hand burnt”. It would be interesting to know what exactly is meant by “getting his hand burnt”. Politics in Nigeria isn’t about ideology.

Very few people in Nigeria are committed to real change. Perhaps everyone ends up where they truly belong: many nPDP members have behaved, for the past three and a half years as bonafide members of the PDP and not the APC. In fact, the real opposition to APC ironically came from within. Opportunism reigns in Nigerian politics; the question is: are Nigerians fooled?

 

Religious leaders

READING the Bible, one finds that Jesus is not described as a rich man. He was born in a manger not a palace and many lifestyle traits of that period point to his social origins.

So, why is the Nigerian church by definition elitist? Why does the church defend the rich and not the poor? Reportedly, the Anglican Church in Enugu expressed fears the executive order meant to stop suspects of corruption from freely “enjoying” illegally obtained assets amounts to attacking the opposition.

Not if they or whoever is investigated can prove those assets were not obtained through corruption. Until the society itself decides to fight corruption and stop making excuses for it, violence and a general lack of progress is sure to continue.

Tabia Princewill is a strategic communications consultant and public policy analyst. She is also the co-host and executive producer of a talk show, WALK THE TALK which airs on Channels TV.

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