By Dele Sobowale
“In every community [and country] there is a class of people profoundly dangerous to the rest. I don’t mean the criminals. For them we have punitive sanctions. I mean the leaders. Invariably, the most dangerous people seek power.” Saul Bellow, 1976 Nobel Prize Winner. VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, p 124.
What constitutes Nigeria’s greatest security challenge today? You might consider it a silly question to ask. But, if you think about it, you may then decide that it is either Boko Haram, herdsmen, lack of restructuring, poverty or unemployment especially among youths. And you are partly right.
But, has it ever occurred to you that the number one source of insecurity from which all the others derive sustenance is the Nigerian political leadership as a whole? Perhaps, in few countries on earth today has the global community witnessed the rise of dangerous men and women to political leadership roles as in Nigeria today.
Some of our politicians are involved in Boko Haram; others are Life Patrons of the Mayetti Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN; we are aware of those who stand resolutely against restructuring despite the widespread call for it. Nigerians are getting poorer at the rate of six new destitute people per minute while billions of naira disappear regularly from the federation account into already over-stuffed pockets under a government which came in promising to eradicate corruption. Instead of creating new jobs, more jobs are being lost everyday.
When global banks leave the country they sack their staff and leave their suppliers of services facing lower income. Woe to the supplier whose biggest customer was UBS or HSBC. Liquidation is a likely prospect and the domino effect of one bank’s closure will cause ripples down the entire economy. Is there a politician in this country today who is addressing all these problems in a holistic manner with the aim in mind of solving them?
“Every country has the government it deserves.” Joseph De Maistre, 1753-1821.
All the issues listed above, as well as others not mentioned arose from monumental errors made by our political leaders – past and present. There was no Boko Haram insurgency until the end of Obasanjo’s administration in 2007. It had its origin during YarÁdua’s government and remains till today. Herdsmen killing farmers and burning down villages were unknown during Jonathan’s five years as President. Unemployment started rising in 1978 and has remained a major problem till today.
By contrast, there was full employment during the Yakubu Gowon and Murtala Mohammed regimes in the 1970s. Anybody with a certificate in that period, either from secondary school or university who was without a job probably did not search for it or was dismissed for misconduct from the one he’d had. I had three employers in from August 1974 to September 1975 and still had the luxury of rejecting two great offers.
The descent from workers’ job market to employers’ choice did not occur by accident. It occurred as a result of policies embarked upon by our leaders at every stage of the developments. One very important difference was the change in the percentage of national income to the elected officials at every level, as well as, the amount of public revenue going into paying salaries and entitlements of public servants. Let me provide a comparative example.
In the old Western Region, under Chief Awolowo, GCFR, the Head of Service, legendary Simeon Adebo, MBE, had only one official car and driver; so did all the Permanent Secretaries. Today, the garage of each of the Heads of Service in all the states carved out of the old Western Region will make a car dealer grin with envy and they are often top class. The situation is worst at the Federal capital – which is the engine room of all our economic progress.
There, among the consequences of the rampant dissipation of collected revenue are the problems we are trying vainly to solve. Unfortunately, the change we thought would come with the election in 2015 has eluded us. Gradually, we are experiencing the same sort of mindless corruption and waste of our collective resources which made progress impossible until now. We now have the government we deserve because we failed to ask specific questions in 2015 and we cannot get this government to deliver what it does not have – a full understanding of our economic predicaments as a prelude to moving more vigorously against corruption and waste.
“An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.” Emerson, 1803-1882.
When people announce that the Nigerian problem is one of leadership, they fail to go the full distance and identify who is the leader at the moment. In 1999-2007 it was Obasanjo. Now, it is Buhari. Though, any leader taking over from a former Head of State inherits many liabilities, but, they also have left for them some assets on which to build. While it is legitimate to chronicle the problems assumed, it cannot be an excuse for perpetual failure. Certainly, adding his own mistakes to those of his predecessors would only guarantee greater problems.
The first mistake is made in the choice of top government officials and making sure that they can be trusted to be faithful to the President’s agenda. A leader who gained power promising to end corruption and waste must not only be ruthless with his appointees who are corrupt, he must set the example with transparency and accountability.
He must also discipline members of his own political party who deviate from the stated objectives. From information now available nationwide, obviously, Buhari has failed woefully in all the aspects of leadership. The repercussions of all his failures now include a ruling party in total disarray and a nation without any credible leader to follow.
“Show me your friends and I will tell you who you are.”
The party primaries and other events which occurred in the last three months have clearly demonstrated that even if Sai Baba is as clean as has been advertised, he is surrounded by the worst sort of political rascals and public purse raiders equal in every respect to any we have ever seen in Nigeria. A few examples will be sufficient to make the point.
Protocol demands that the list should start from the top. I don’t want to waste time about the Certificate saga which could have been avoided only if the candidate had done the sensible thing by applying for a replacement from the West African Examination Council WAEC, years ago instead of wasting everybody’s time. Not much intelligence on display there.
The first associate to come under scrutiny is the Vice President – a position which Americans tell us is only a failed heart-beat from the President. Ask Jonathan how that failed heart beat made him a president. Professor Osinbajo reminds me of the Chief Accountant of an Indian company who prepares three sets of balance sheets and statements of accounts.
The first for the bank when applying for a loan shows huge profits in the last five years. The second meant for the shareholders point to a modest profit. The third submitted to the Internal Revenue Service, IRS, for tax purposes shows huge losses over the same period under review. Depending on which audience the VP had addressed in the last three or four months he had given different accounts of what was spent on the Social Intervention Programme, SIP, or how much the Buhari government has borrowed since 2015.
He told the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, about N500 billion devoted to SIP in 2016 and 2017; a few weeks after he revealed that only about N250 billion had actually been spent. Even a primary five pupil knows that there is a huge difference between N1 trillion and N250 billion.
“Eni ba puro, a jale.” (Yoruba proverb) (Translation: “liars end up stealing.”).
Long before I was born the Yoruba people have always believed that a liar will sooner or later end up stealing. It is not scientific but, those who continuously dissemble in the Southwest open themselves to suspicion of dishonesty whether justified or not. It was not surprising therefore that some members of the House of Representatives are now alleging that the VP was involved in some not so clean deals – one involving N33 billion and the other N5.8 billion.
It is too early to tell what will come out of these charges. But, they can only be possible where the target of attack had exposed himself to the sort of assaults. So far, the defense offered by the VP’s Media Adviser, Laolu Akande, is so watery as to make the matter worse. At any rate, they have not fully disclosed who received the bulk of the N250 billion admittedly spent on SIP. There is sufficient evidence to prove that a high percentage was spent on the officials themselves – not the poor.
The Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, finally opened up on Nigeria Air. He asked Nigerians to trust him that he did not embezzle funds. But, characteristically, he refused to disclose the amount Nigeria lost in the disaster and who got the money. His case is similar to that of the suspended Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS. The Professor was only temporarily and reluctantly removed from office after millions of Nigerians shouted barawo. If you don’t know, Professor and Sirika are from Katsina State. Need I say more? Is nepotism not corruption?
Some Governors want to be regarded as close allies of Buhari. One is the Governor of Kano State. I was in Kano two weeks ago and naturally went about some towns and the city itself asking people randomly selected if they believe the video that has gone viral allegedly showing exchange of filthy lucre between His Excellency, HE, and a contractor.
The question asked was simple: do you believe that HE was the one in the recording? At Reno/Bagauda Lake, Gezawa and the city, the venture set me back some naira; but produced one astonishing result. Everyone asked said “Yes”. Some even added expletives while others said they were aware of other contractors fleeced. Buhari might be thinking that he is leading a party of saints, but his fellow countrymen (even when they are generally fools) are not convinced. On the contrary they strongly believe some of his party members are corrupt. One fellow asked in return: “”which APC member of the National Assembly does not collect his or her own bogus allowances? He even mentioned the name of the wife of a national leader (name withheld). Uumhh!!
“If I had served God as diligently as I have served the King [Henry VIII] he would not have given me over [to my enemies]…” Cardinal Wolsey, 1475-1530.
Finally, the National Chairman of the party suddenly scampered abroad trailed by the all too familiar bad odour of corruption. Already confirmed is the fact that he was invited for a chat by the Department of State Security, DSS. While it is common for the security services in countries where democracy has not established a strong foothold to try intimidating the Chairmen of the opposition party, this is the first time in recent history for the Chairman of the ruling party to be hauled in for questioning.
That by itself would suggest that “there is no smoke without fire”. The fact that Buhari stood aloof and allowed Oshiomole to be hung out to dry portends grave repercussions. Adams must feel like the Cardinal now that his adversaries are closing in on him.