“If they go about solving the problems this way, how many more problems will they have created by the time they finish?” – James Baldwin: 1924-1987, in TELL ME HOW LONG THE TRAIN’S BEEN GONE (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 201).
By Dele Sobowale
For the first time since 1960, Nigeria has been ruled by a government which had solved none of the problems it met, but had multiplied them or made them worse. The self-proclaimed Giant of Africa is not only “the wretched nursery of discord among its citizenry and the miserable object of universal pity or contempt” (apologies to Alexander Hamilton: 1757-1804), it is also a hopeless abode for its citizens and a present danger to all the nations of Africa and the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS. The recent closure of our national borders smacks of utmost desperation by a government which had, from its inception, mismanaged the Nigerian economy. It is only the latest in a series of measures taken by a government headed by someone who does not even pretend to understand economic principles. Like most of the wrong-headed measures, there is suspicion that it was taken to serve the interests of a small circle of insiders who, knowing about the closure in advance, had stockpiled rice and “made a killing”. They predictably “killed” Fellow Citizens while smiling all the way to the bank. The heavy price we are paying for rice today is enriching those close to the Rock who were aware the measure was coming. Corruption has now assumed a new face – contrary to what Professor Sagay thinks. He is not an economist; so it could not have occurred to him that Nigerians have been fleeced to the tune of billions of naira by rice producers close to the seat of power.
“An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man” – Ralph Waldo Emerson: 1803-1882, VBQ p 105.
In any country, government is the greatest institution. The leader of that institution defines the limits of possibilities for good or otherwise of the people. We elect (if allowed) the people who will rule or ruin us. And, Nigerians have been doing that since 1960. But, we have had a terrible run of bad luck since 1999. The military and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, connived to impose Olusegun Obasanjo instead of the late Dr Alex Ekwueme who was set to emerge the civilian President. Eight years after, close to N8 trillion was not accounted for by the Federal Government (see my book PDP: CORRUPTION INCORPORATED). One of the people who brought down a major parastatal (Chapter 8) is an APC governor today instead of answering questions from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. His concubine heads a major agency where Nigeria haemorrhages dollars into private pockets. Obasanjo forced Yar’Adua on us. One of the abiding legacies of that government might turn out to be the $9.1bn damages awarded to P&ID in London.
Yar’Adua passed away; and Obasanjo would not let us rest. “Jonathan, you must run. Don’t tell me you won’t run”, OBJ thundered in 2010. GEJ ran; he also ran the country down. Crude oil prices reached their highest level during his years in office. No need to list seriatim all the atrocities committed until 2015. Diezani allegedly has trinkets worth millions of dollars and houses in Lekki.
Not contented with all the problems he had caused Nigeria, Baba Iyabo again supported Buhari after getting disenchanted with Goodluck. We are here today partly on account of, in my personal opinion, the misguided interventions of Obasanjo in our national life since 1999. But, we are here; and we are trapped.
Recently, almost as a rebuke to Nigeria by the Almighty, that rash step to close our borders, with unknown consequences, occurred as a far smaller African country – Ethiopia – was making the continent proud. The President of Ethiopia was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for bringing an end to the conflict between his country and Eritrea which lasted for over years – bleeding both countries of funds for development and human resources as well. By contrast, Nigeria is just now investing in military hardware to continue the war against Boko Haram and to start a new one with Shi’ítes. The count of able-bodied men now gainfully employed as bandits, kidnappers etc is steadily mounting. Nigeria now spends more of her resources on bullets while Ethiopians eat more bread. Babies drink more milk there while here we celebrate the procurement of military hardware. Our CBN has actually stopped forex allocation to companies importing dairy products. But dollars for bombers is unlimited.
“A man cannot gradually enlarge his mind as he does his house” – Alexis de Tocqueville, 1805-1859.
Consequently, Ethiopia has been growing its economy by almost six per cent per annum for the last four years. By contrast, Nigeria had registered -1.4, 0.8, 1.98 and perhaps less than 2 per cent in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 respectively. And, Ethiopia is not an oil producing nation. Was it an accident? Definitely not! I won’t do it for you readers. But those interested should go and Google the Ethiopian President’s credentials. You should also try the Nigerian President’s own. As the old Seven-Up advertisement said, “The difference is clear”.
“It requires wisdom to understand wisdom…” – Walter Lippmann, 1899-1974.
If there is one other major fault Buhari has, apart from transparent hypocrisy on corruption, it is his inability to judge the qualities of his most important appointees. Allegedly, he places a great deal of premium on loyalty to himself over demonstrable competence. If so, he should never have run for the Presidency. The most effective and successful managers of the affairs of men never place loyalty ahead of performance and experience – certainly not for the most important assignments of their institutions – government, corporation etc. Secondly, they all have the innate ability to judge talent and deploy it for maximum results. And, they don’t waste time removing an official who is not performing. Two examples will illustrate why we might need to send an SOS, Save Our Souls, to the world before we perish under Buhari’s government. Incidentally, die-hard card-carrying members of APC who continue to ignore the danger signals forget that the calamity will befall all of us. They and their loved ones will go down with the rest of us. Are floods devastating communities all over Nigeria discriminating between APC and PDP?
The new Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning has probably never participated in preparing budget for any large organisation, or in planning. Which other organisation in the world will give her present assignment?
Attorney General Abubakar Malami, despite his furious releases to the Nigerian media about P&ID, knows that he is just bluffing. For instance, the plan to file action in the US suffers from a fundamental flaw. All P&ID has to do is to prove that the Federal Government of Nigeria regularly disobeys court judgments that are not in its favour and our funds would have been needlessly wasted on a wild goose chase. There are thousands of cases to prove that the FGN is lawless….