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‘If…’

By Dele Sobowale

“If you can keep your head while others all around you are losing theirs and blaming it on you….’Rudyard Kipling 1865-1936.

Rudyard Kipling regarded keeping one’s composure when bedlam reigns all around as a virtue to be cultivated. What you have just read above is the first stanza in his classic poem titled ‘IF’ and which was such a delight for us to memorise in 1960. In the university taking elective courses in philosophy, it soon became obvious that imperturbation might be admirable in general, but carried to extremes, it might mean that the individual has not got a good grasp of the situation. Acting too late actually turns a minor mistake into a major disaster. History is replete with instances of medicine being applied after death. Slow learners are frequently proud of a characteristic which drives others crazy. And, worst of all, they never change.

Many of our readers can recollect one of our mates in pre-primary school; the sort who takes almost forever to answer when the teacher asks “what is 2+2?” While the rest of the class are eager to provide the answer, our colleague stands there almost for eternity. Finally, he blurts out “5 Ma”. Derisive laughter invariably follows. It is impossible for an individual or a group to behave in a way that is universally regarded as ridiculous without asking for well-deserved contempt   — such as we are experiencing from the leaders of the three branches of the Nigerian government – Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. The last first.

“Sentence first, verdict afterwards.”

Lewis Carroll, 1832-1898. In ALICE IN WONDERLAND.

If we have a judiciary worthy of the responsibilities it must discharge, we would not be having people laughing at us. A classmate in the university, now a retired US Judge called me last week to ask if what he read was true. It was; and I was ashamed to admit it. The ex-parte judgment with which a “Justice” of the Federal High Court took away the fundamental rights of millions of Nigerians without fair hearing should have magistrates all over the world, except Africa, rolling on the floor in their chambers with rib-cracking laughter. They suspected all along that black people cannot understand the basic principle of letting the other side be heard. Now they know it. A Justice in the largest black nation on earth and the Dark Continent just proved it.

Comedy writers worldwide had anticipated our leaders because this farce was a conspiracy between the Executive and the Judicial branches. It was Siamese twin of clowns which brought us this hilarious joke of the decade. Was that the best we can do? Certainly not. As that show was going on in one of our national theatres, another was letting in audience in another place. That was not so amusing – believe me.

“In every community, there is a class of people profoundly dangerous to the rest. I don’t mean the criminals. For those we have punitive sanctions. I mean leaders. Invariably, the most dangerous people seek power.”

Saul Bellow. VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 124.

If only Nigeria does not now parade the worst collection of lawmakers as well as lawbreakers in the universe, then there might be hope that the trend into worse poverty will be reversed. But, right inside both chambers of the National Assembly, NASS, are some outlaws – who now only rely on rubber stamping everything the Executive branch pushes under their noses to escape exchanging their boutique designer suits and dresses for prison designed attire. Anyone expecting those lawbreakers to challenge the Executive might as well expect the lawmakers in the NASS to commit political suicide just to please us. It won’t happen and that partly explains the charade called “take a bow and go.” It lacked originality simply because we keep electing the same set of people who got us into poverty in the first place by shirking their constitutional duties.

If any of the Presidents of America, China, Brazil, France, Russia and the Prime Ministers of Britain, Canada and India had sent a cabinet list with 43 names on it, the legislators of all those countries with larger economies, geographical landmass, more extensive global responsibilities etc, would have quietly sent a delegation to the Head of Government to determine if he does not need a rest. None of them has more than 15 Ministers. So, what is the poorest nation on earth doing with 43?

No state should be forced to accept RUGA — JIBRIN, PDP BoT chair(Opens in a new browser tab)

If on further inspection of the document sent to them, the lawmakers discover that there is no portfolio attached to each name, two repercussions will follow. They will either toss the entire thing into the nearest dustbin or start proceedings to find a new leader. The reason is simple. One of the basic functions of the parliament is to carefully vet individuals to whom critical state functions will be delegated. Patriotism, which is obviously in short supply at the Three Arms Zone, demands that each senator should be able to honestly state that each Minister approved possesses the knowledge, experience, character, intelligence and attitude to make the situation better after assuming office.

Parliamentarians worldwide understand this simple fact and they conduct themselves accordingly. They are now in the same class with their Nigerian counterparts – those who take for ever to answer 2+2 and still get it wrong. Every foreign embassy in Nigeria would have filed a confidential report stating the absolute truth, namely, that the NASS has become a stage for third rate comedy offered by people “profoundly more dangerous to the rest” of us.

If they were not, how can any of them us to believe that all the Ministers they heartily asked to “bow and go” will perform well since they don’t know what they will eventually be assigned to do? Can a team Manager assemble players without specific roles for each of them in his game plan? But, the entire fun and games started with the Executive branch as usual and here again we conduct the inquiry with a factual comparative analysis.

If the Prime Ministers of India, Greece and UK took five months to send their cabinet list to parliament, none of them would be PM today. The parliament won’t stand for the people will be all over Westminster. Appointment of Ministers is a serious business. In fact, it is one of the most important assignments a PM can have and the people he appoints might even determine his fate. So, he chooses them expeditiously and carefully. The new British PM took less than two days to table before parliament the list of people to help him pilot the ship of state.   By contrast, the Nigerian Presidential Election ended in February and the President was re-elected. It was not until the Senate was threatening to go on recess in July that a list was submitted for approval. Once again, it had taken Nigeria five months to undertake what other nations accomplish in less than four days. Furthermore, our leaders in the Executive and legislative branches, “profoundly more dangerous to the rest” of us, have handled one of the most important aspects of governance in a disgraceful manner. Yet, collectively, there is no remorse – just like the chap whose 2+ 2 will always produce 5, 7, 6 or any other answer but the correct one.

If taking five months to do what other nations require only maximum of four days to finish is regarded as wisdom here, then the two branches of government will have to explain to us and the whole world why none of the 10,000 Health Centres promised to Nigerians had been built despite the fact that a Minister of Health was appointed so late in 2015. And, why it took over two years to discover that the Minister of Finance forged NYSC certificate and why Nigeria now on the average generates less than 4000MW of power supply – a figure which was described as unacceptable on May 29, 2015. Let’s face it;   2+2 always poses a problem for some people. The sooner we get adjusted to that the better for all of us. Then we can begin to find a national solution to the ultimate problem.

“An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882

Obviously, judged by the yard stick of doing the same thing and expecting a different result, Nigeria, as an organisation, is under a Management which does not believe in learning new things. Our leaders in Abuja, at all the three tiers, trust in luck and good intentions (we are determined to..; we are committed to…etc)—not in planning, good strategies and first class execution. That explains why nothing started with any enthusiasm has been completed. Every one of them starts behind schedule; funding is delayed as if the whole world is under obligation to wait for Nigeria. Consequently, the numbers of those living in absolute poverty mounts – “but we are determined….”.

If we have people who can still learn anything as leaders, herdsmen/farmer/community conflicts should not have resulted in the present Mexican stand-off in which nobody is willing to make a compromise in order for us to move forward on an issue that is driving us closer to uncontrollable national conflict. Now, outright lies have to be told to defend RUGA.

“You cannot adopt politics as a profession and remain honest.”

Louis Howe, 1871-1936.

A honest politician is almost always an oxymoron – a contradiction in terms; you might as well look for a virgin prostitute. The Nigerian brand of politician once again is unique among the global class of professional deceivers. Others worldwide are embarrassed when caught uttering falsehood.

If however a politician in invited to “come and eat” inside the Rock, then he acquires a licence to dissemble as much as necessary. Thus about two weeks ago, Nigerians were told by Senator Larry Enang, then Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, that the states threw away N2 billion budgeted by the FG for RUGA by not embracing the initiative.

If it was true, it would still amount to listening to our pre-primary classmate struggling to find the answer to 2+2. Divided equally among the 36 states, each state will receive only N56 million. Is that enough money to induce all the local governments in Akwa Ibom to release their lands for RUGA? Somebody must think that 2+2 is one million.

Unfortunately, it was official fake news. A few days after Enang thought he had made an important contribution to the controversy on RUGA, Nigerians were treated to this exposure. “Senate Faults Enang, denies N2.2bn RUGA Budget.” News Report. There is no provision for RUGA in the 2019 budget.

Barefaced untruth

If thorough vetting had been done by the NASS, one of the Ministers it took five months to select will not now be receiving query about alleged missing dialysis machines in Akwa Ibom State.

Show me your friends and I will tell you who you are.

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