By Henry Boyo
POWER, they say, belongs to the people. This may actually be true where there is respect for the rule of law, and where equity and justice subsists in the free association of people and communities. These are inalienable characteristics, which positively impact human capacity development and improved social welfare, in enduring democracies. Indeed, in such a progressive ambience, political power becomes a motivation for public service rather than the pursuit of self or partisan interest, despite the obvious collateral of social deprivation and oppression.
Nigeria’s political history, after we became self-governing in 1960, has been grotesquely smeared by the usurpation of power, through electoral fraud and the barrel of the gun; consequently, the people’s voice has remained largely mooted, except for a brief flicker, before the result of a free and fair election was brazenly annulled by the army in 1993.
The net product of electoral fraud and military brigandage is mass disenfranchisement, with disastrous consequences for the rule of law, particularly, when equity and justice become the prerogative of the beneficiaries of political power. Regrettably, in place of growing public wealth for the common good, the cancerous seed of corruption is now generously cultivated, nationwide.
Nigerian billionaires (in all currencies) have blossomed without any antecedent in industry, commerce or family inheritance, while some have also been listed among the world’s richest! Nigeria’s economy has ironically, also become blighted with the gradual erosion of an emerging middle class, such that more Nigerians now, reportedly, live on less than $1 a day! Sadly, high unemployment, armed robbery, insecurity and general lawlessness have become abiding features, while the judiciary and police have become emasculated by poor remuneration and decayed social infrastructure. Worse still, there is now blatant disregard of court orders by the governments itself! Indeed the celebrated independence of the judiciary, as a bastion against tyranny, is unfortunately, only in the letter of a military constitution, than in the spirit of its application. Over time, our psyche and social values have been turned upside down, and the Nigerian identity now also connotes all that is negative in International social consciousness.
The nature of the 2007 elections campaign leave little hope that political power will begin to truly flow from the electorate, to make public office holders accountable. The undemocratic twin instruments of intimidation and hot money are usually weaponised to produce pliant electoral candidates, in virtually every political party primary. The political class has also become estranged from an electorate, reduced to mere rubber stamp of those candidates directly selected by a party elite, which does not favour genuine ability and desire to serve the people, as a preferred qualification. Furthermore, party primaries also, often favour those who agree to sharing of public funds if elected! However, God help such victorious candidates, if they failed “to perform” while in office; the big stick of impeachment will be quickly deployed to flatten any ‘traitor’.
The masses are not deceived that huge electoral campaign spendings are borne out of a desire to serve. They recognise that funds ‘invested’ by sponsors on any election, will have to be recouped, from the public treasury, once the candidate is elected, even if deepening poverty is the product of such greed. But what can the masses do? The choice they have as electorate, is that between the devil and the deep blue sea! Furthermore, there are really no significant differences between the various political parties, as their manifestoes –where they exist– all make same promises without any realistic preparation or expectation to fulfill these promises.
Sadly, despite the abysmal apparent failures to deliver the expected “dividends of democracy”, outgoing Governors, and indeed also the Presidency, have all dug deep into their pockets (some say public treasury) to support their chosen candidates who will protect their interest and sustain their legacy (of profligacy and corrupt governance)!
There is no way that a candidate with good intentions, can match Naira for Naira the seemingly inexhaustible campaign chest of anointed opponents! Furthermore, the power of incumbency at the highest level of government, has often been abused to edge out formidable opposition. Ultimately, the masses are the real losers and their hope of a ‘better tomorrow’ will clearly remain a mirage.
The press, the fourth estate of the realm, true to their calling, continues to report the news; regrettably, however, there is little affinity for investigative analysis, and there is also no sustained attempt to condemn oppressive policies and irregularities in governance. This is really not surprising, as most media houses may not survive without the patronage of political money bags who have cornered all the commanding and most lucrative heights of commerce and industry, with funds looted from the nation’s treasury. It is quite telling on the media alertness, that it required, for example, a fall out between President Obasanjo and his VP to reveal the sordid details of the corrupt application of the PTDF (Petroleum Technology Development Fund).
Notably, billions of dollars will continue to be laundered through our banks; it is also disturbing that, despite the critical revenue generation significance of NNPC and CBN to our economy, these Government Agencies have, not been audited for so long. Notably also, PHCN, NITEL, NPA, Ministry of Works, and Education respectively, (the list is endless) have received trillions of Naira in subventions, in addition to their individually internally generated revenue, without making any positive social impact; sadly, it is unlikely that media investigations of these pervasive scams will ever be undertaken.
The Okigbo report on the oil windfall of the 1990s, for example, has audaciously disappeared; furthermore, even when Mister President also doubled as Petroleum Minister between 1999-2007, despite the related constitutional limitations, the performance of this billion-dollar ministry still brought so much anguish and economic distortion, in place of the expected blessing to the masses.
Honestly, the press cannot save the masses under such circumstances, as the emoluments of journalists and other media professionals are also inadvertent victims of the subjugation of the system to corruption; arguably, most media owners, for their own survival, dare not take a firm stand on the side of the people or even knowingly cross the path of our untouchable oppressors! Lord help us, for as long as this charade of opportunism reigns.
POSTSCRIPT MARCH 2019: The above article was first published in April, soon after the General Elections in 2007. Painfully, however, nothing has changed and ultimately six more Nigerians, will join the rank of over 100 million Nigerians who, reportedly, presently earn below poverty wage of less than N1000/day ($3/day). Conversely, however, more than 90 percent of Nigeria’s wealth may now be controlled by a small enduring, favoured, amorphous cabal, who has become strategic, unrepentant rent-seekers.
SAVE THE NAIRA, SAVE NIGERIANS!