By Tabia Princewil
WHEN former President Goodluck Jonathan said Nigeria was rich because of the number of private jets owned by Nigerians, the political class was silent because many of our leaders, irrespective of party, are quite comfortable with the status quo whereby wealth is owned only by a tiny percentage of the population based on no business acumen or production of goods and services but government proximity and patronage alone.
Our country is only stable when oil prices are high and money flows from big men to all the little people who depend on them to survive, as opposed to a system where everyone can live and produce something through small scale enterprise, the backbone of modern economies (most politicians don’t want that freedom for us, they would rather this feudal system where we continue to blindly defend their right to enslave us).
With all this in mind, let’s talk about Executive Order 6 and the placement of 50 high profile persons on a watch list restricting travel.
True, when politicians are on trial, they surrender their passports. But one of the many loopholes of prosecuting those accused of stealing our commonwealth is that during the trial, many people simply sell off what they can and the new buyers “hold” the money or assets in trust for the accused until the scandal dies down.
The average Nigerian does not realise just how difficult it is to secure judgement on corruption cases or to retrieve assets. Virtually every aspect of our system is compromised: the banks, the judiciary, the political class, the citizens, almost everyone is willing to help hide stolen money, justify or excuse the crime.
Many law firms employ lawyers specifically for corruption cases: these are some of highest paid sharks who know how to bend weak laws to the benefit of their clients, who know how to interfere with trials, who know what drama and crocodile tears will get a reaction from some section of sentimental Nigerians who are unwilling to face the harm corruption does to our economy and society. The EFCC alleged one trillion Naira in unremitted funds “escaped” the federal government treasury due to illegal oil/cash swap deals under former minister Diezani Allison-Madueke’s watch. Nigeria relies on profit from oil to survive: are we surprised there was a recession? How many other African countries could survive one trillion naira (in one crucial sector) supposedly leaving their coffers and stay standing? This tells you how rich Nigeria is, but our wealth is misapplied and mismanaged.
Political propaganda is the name of the game in Nigeria. It always works. When the economy was controlled by Igbo ministers and senior appointees under Jonathan, many didn’t complain.
When all of Obasanjo’s service chiefs were Christians, we didn’t complain and we moved on fairly quickly after the gruesome murders of Marshall Harry, Bola Ige and others under Obasanjo’s infamous “watch”. Violence and mass murder is constant in Nigeria, no matter the man in charge. Every president/head of state since independence has faced exponentially increasing violence and insecurity because the fundamental issues (poverty and corruption) have only grown throughout the years.
The political restructuring, we talk about today amounts to giving politicians more jobs and more income, more access to resources which will only amount to more opportunities for corruption (and therefore more poverty and violence) unless we work on our low human capital development by seriously focusing on education and health care and therefore raising informed citizens who can engage with politicians on equal terms rather than seeing them as a meal ticket.
The rise of terrorist groups, violence, trafficking etc is linked to poor education in mothers, poor healthcare and lack of opportunities in expanding families, studies show this yet while we argue over what politician gets what all Nigerians suffer.
Nigerians, we need to think for ourselves. Many of the people we look to for answers are the originators of our problems: our “super pastors” some of whom get billion dollar concessions from government which are only meant for business men employing Nigerians and manufacturing or producing goods of use to us all (further secretly impoverishing us), the imams and “marabouts” who pray and fast for corrupt individuals to remain in office, too many of our so called spiritual leaders have failed us, not to talk of the “elders”. If asked why the Niger Delta is poor, Edwin Clark would probably blame the North and Buhari. Unemployment in Rivers State is currently at 57 per cent despite the 13 per cent derivation and Niger Delta Development Commission funds. Bayelsa doesn’t fare much better which is curious for a state of only about two million people and 24 billion naira Paris Club refunds. Where does the money go?
Bishop Oyedepo and Sheikh Gumi, two well known religious men were present at the much publicised Atiku and Obasanjo meeting. Nigerian politics is a fascinating drama: the use of religion to dull the minds and senses of the common man who is purposefully kept poor, illiterate and unquestioning, is second to none.
Interestingly, there was suddenly no talk of herdsmen, no fiery mention of a northern agenda or northern domination, no talk of Fulani herdsmen, despite the fact that Atiku like Buhari and most members of the Northern establishment owns cows. Instead, Oyedepo made a curious statement justifying his presence at the meeting, “I have never belonged to any political party and will never belong to one, wherever parties you are in that is where I am in”. Nigerians must ask themselves why.
Religious doctrine in Nigeria is also twisted to justify clerics’ intervention into politics, which in most modern societies is frowned upon. Sheik Ahmed Gumi said: “it was the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad that whenever you are invited for a peace or reconciliation meeting even between Muslim and non-Muslim, the Prophet said you should attend it because Islam is concerned about Peace”.
How about peace for poor people, not just the rich and powerful? Where are all the clerics when corruption is encouraged and excused? Nigeria can’t have peace so long as corruption goes unchecked. Look no further than the man or woman in the mirror to find enemies of real change.
PDP vice presidential candidate
THE position was finally “zoned” to the South-East, which is the destructive and intellectually fraudulent idea that having a representative of one’s ethnic group at the federal level produces a “sense of belonging”.
True belonging will only come when all Nigerians have access to decent state services. Beyond exploiting ethno-religious sentiment and discouraging meritocracy, zoning has not tackled poverty or produced any long-term benefits.
Igbos remained just as poor and disenfranchised despite Ekwueme or Ekweremadu’s positions, the same can be said for Bayelsans under Jonathan or any common man in the core North despite the succession of Hausa/Fulani leaders. Politicians would rather we’re divided worrying about whose village is represented or not while our real problems (corruption as the root of poverty and underdevelopment) remain unaddressed.
Atiku as ‘business friendly’
ATIKU’s “business friendly” tag is linked to the privatisation of Nigeria’s national assets. Still too many of these companies allegedly hide dubious partnerships between government officials and business men who exist only through government patronage.
What is tagged as brilliance in Nigeria is often merely access to government.
Jim Yong Kim, the World Bank President, admitted the West was wrong to encourage Nigeria and other African countries to prioritise pumping money into infrastructural development over a focus on human capital. The poor can’t eat airports and bridges nor do they benefit from privatisation or putting money in the hands of Western banks, foreign companies and Nigerian elites building roads and bridges to nowhere which is what happens when you build with no plan to increase people’s capacity to use shiny new projects.
The next election should be decided over who has the best plans for human capital development, but alas, this is Nigeria where ideas count for nothing.