El-Rufai on Friday: Indifferent Middle Class, Failing Government ~ Japheth J Omojuwa

Published:19 Oct, 2012

Young Voices (4) – Introducing Japheth Omojuwa
I met Japheth Omojuwa on Twitter before we met in person a few months after. He is one of those young Nigerians that are brilliant, courageous and detribalized and express these philosophies passionately using social media. With nearly 40,000 followers on Twitter, Japheth is both a thought leader among his peers, but gives sleepless nights to President Jonathan media managers. His blogging website www.omojuwa.com is one of the most popular amongst young people.
He writes today on the lackadaisical attitude of our elites focusing on the indifference of our middle class as one of the root causes of our failing government. He believes that unless our middle class rises up, organizes and demands decent governance and public accountability, it will be squeezed into joining the ranks of 112 million Nigerians currently in poverty.
It is my honor and privilege to introduce Japheth Omojuwa, an alumnus of Kings College, Lagos and graduate of Agricultural Economics of the Federal University of Technology, Abeokuta. He follows the tradition of Yemi Adaomlekun, Auwal Sani Anwar and Elnathan John in writing on a subject of concern to young people.

Indifferent Middle Class, Failing Government ~ Japheth J Omojuwa

Every day, Nigeria’s presidency – excluding the vice president – will have a bazaar-esque table of food and refreshment worth N2,010,000.00 excluding special events. The 2012 budget reserved N951 million for the president’s foreign travels and the president promised to cut on this after the Occupy Nigeria uproar. In keeping to that promise, the president has averaged two travels per month since then but that is nothing compared to the N2.6 billion dedicated to his 2013 foreign travels – N7.1 million for each day of 2013 including weekends. N2.6 billion is the salary of 12,037 Nigerians on the minimum wage working for the whole year.

For a government that says it has transformed our power challenge, one would wonder why they had to budget N72,510,832 to fuel the state house. Aso Rock expects to burn some 1,300 litres of diesel per day based on the pump price. The budget contains more irresponsible allocation of state resources to political office holders, including National Assembly members who get to spend some N150 billion up from not more than N50 billion from the Obasanjo years. It was established in a well-publicized paper how the worth of an average bill passed by the national assembly is N10 billion! Each legislator costs Nigerians over $2 million per year. How can this not be criminal in a supposed representative democracy? This sheer irresponsibility and obvious disregard for the people’s yearnings will continue as long as those who should demand for at least the application of common sense in the governance of Nigeria decide to keep quiet.

The world over you’d hardly find any country that ever survived the domination of a few over many without the rise of a people who are neither at the top of the pyramid nor essentially at its bottom, those who find themselves between both ends of the socio-economic divide. You cannot get to any Promised Land worth the travel without getting to cross bridges as we cannot bank on the miracles of going through water. The bridge of progress and development in any modern nation is the middle class. If a nation stays stagnated or retards in development, check the bridge.

Read tales of the Industrial Revolution, the American Revolution and other mass movements including the several movements across Europe and even more recently with the likes of Rudi Dutschke in Germany and the Arab Spring and you’d find the middle class at the end of it if not at its beginning. This is because this class has the number and the resources to make change happen. Unlike the poor, they have resources to spare for advocacy. The poor live from hand to mouth and are the worst hit in case of any campaign that halts production one way or the other.

That Nigeria needs saving is a foregone conclusion and that there has to be a mass movement that seeks and demands genuine transformational change is a long delayed reality. Easterly, William, 2001 defined a “middle-class consensus” as a situation of relative equality and ethnic homogeneity, he went on to show empirically that such a middle-class consensus facilitates higher levels of income and growth, as well as higher levels of public goods. This may sound counter-intuitive especially considering the fact that the finger of blame for our national woes have always been pointed in the direction of those directly involved with governance but we are at fault for the woes of Nigeria because we are too docile and we have come to accept nonsense from our office holders as the norm.

We are the ones that live in homes with generators that have sworn an oath of war with silence. We don’t care if the roads to our houses are motorable, we just ensure our second tokunbo car is an SUV and we never care to bother about lasting solutions. We create a cocoon around ourselves against the many menaces of our society. We sit at beer parlours and gist about what is wrong with our country without ever really doing anything to be part of change. And now who do we blame for having a president whose policies look more like documents drafted from such beer parlour gatherings? Our government has policies with sounds without meaning, words without power and trillions of naira without value to the people.

Bar may be Sir Ahmadu Bello, every Nigerian leader has been from the middle class or from an even more wretched background. They get to the top by hook, crook, coup or luck and don’t give a damn if the people die or live. They could care less about the people where 2 out of 3 are poor. We can dress all up and go to church giving praises in empty stomachs that may never be filled except we get a chance to attend a church related event after that. We invest in cheap London-America outfits – wash am, press am well, spray perfume and we look good to go. If you are lucky to add a few fats on your cheeks then your money has indeed come. We wallow in poverty and have become so numbed to this abnormality as though we were pigs destined for dirt so would find calm where others find discomfort.

We are progressing and transforming Nigeria. We are progressing on our known path of mediocrity and transforming from a people that though did not have everything, had values and the basic things of life. Where the laws did count, to a country where the lawmakers are the chief lawbreakers, transforming to a land where to steal in a better and more rewarding position you must loot and loot well in your current position. A minister spends over N2 trillion naira on what the people agreed N260 billion should be spent on, she could still go ahead to make the laws that make her even more powerful. Every other presidential broadcast results in protests and every presidential broadcast either makes you angry or sad. You are angry about the fact that the Presidency has become the mascot for national intellectual poverty and sad that a nation, in all its glory and human resource endowment has been limited to being led by its dross.

Nigeria is what it is because we are who we are…mostly selfish, short-sighted, parochial and a grab-your-own mentality obsessed group of people who make noise when not positioned to steal, who steal when positioned to do greater good. We have hit rock bottom even though the realities of modern day Nigeria make us feel our current office holders will breach even this bottom and take us further down. God forbid! We can forbid it too.

We need to organize ourselves and start right from our local governments. One person takes up the challenge, gets others together and pays the local government chairman a call. You want to know all there is to know about what s/he has been doing with your money. We cannot just live in patience for the day someone from our family will get the chance to steal. As bad as that sounds, it is even more statistically impossible compared to if we ensured our country works for us all at the same time. As for those of us who cannot see beyond a need to divide Nigeria, let me state that Ibori stole Delta people’s money. The people of Oyo state are not looking for the Hausa Governor that stole their money and the people of Edo State are not cursing an Igbo man for the development they seemed to have had a divorce with until the Oshiomhole years. The homogeneity of language is essentially a need for us to see beyond our differences as a group and at least get involved. We must fight to cut down the size of government. This is killing development. Recurrent expenditure has barely changed despite what the statistics intend to tell you. N2.425trillion in 2011, N2.47trillion in 2012 and N2.41 trillion for 2013 is not change. Cut this big government and for every cut, we cut down its failures. We need to reduce its obstructive size for a people driven economy and system. What Nigeria needs is an army of active citizens because activists and CSOs are always going to be limited. What we need is an economy free from cronyism and incessant government control. Are we ready to get involved yet or do we just wait our turn to chop?

  • ahmed ibrahim

    Having said it all,the question that keeps raising in my mind is that,should we now drop our pens and take up to the streets?Alot have been written about the Nigeria’s elites and ruling class,its high time we make history repeat itself by taken the footpath of the likes of Michael Imodu,the champion and pioneer of the 1945 general strike……..Omojuwa you hav played ur role…..what a prolific writer you are!!

  • U are really on point! what pains me most is when this ppl in power execute a small kangaroo project bootlickers will gather all around them singing praises and giving them kudos as if they used their salary to do it. The hardest part is someone who wil break the ice!

  • haryodeyley.

    Waow nice piece. How I wish all nigerian middle class could read dis. Awake from ur slumber nigerians, now time to redirect dis country and chase d evil pple ruling dis nation. Suffering tire me jooor

  • @ayox2003

    I’m still yet to come to terms with the fact that bank workers who were laid-off are yet to take the streets. Very naïve of them!
    I want to keep my job; my shit does not smell: my family matters to me… And all sort of weak sentences are what u’d hear from those sacked bankers until govt policies kicked them out of “their jobs”, made their shit to smell, made them lose respect in their families. Can u see what it means not to take ur destiny in ur arms at the right time? Had they demanded for justice from the govt during those scams? Had they marched to the CBN headquarters to make their voice known during the trials of their bosses? Had they sacrificed their job, time with family and so on for just one day? I bet their bosses would be scared to lay them off.

    I just hope we rise up and do what’s right because Nigeria is all we’ve got.
    Nice write-up.

    Frawzey

  • You seem to be calling for an intellectual revolution; it would help to have a bullet point step-wise plan on how to carry it out. The middle class must understand the possible consequence of such a coup.

  • @ayox2003

    Oops! Kindly disregard my typographical errors ^^

  • Musa Bashir

    Great piece. Omojuwa is obviously advocating masses revolution under the leadership of intellectuals, a group Marxists describe as petty bourgeois class. However, the experience of history is that petty bourgeois intellectuals are not capable of independent political action; they eventually rely on one of the two better organised and more disciplined classes; the big bourgeoisie and the proletariat. If not under the leadership of working class, petty bourgeois intellectuals always capitulate to the big bourgeoisie; this is what Arab Spring confirmed where elements of the old regimes hijacked the masses revolution. So I think Omojuwa is right in recognising the inevitability of masses revolution and his emphasis on the fact that economic classes are the motive forces of change. But he missed the class historically capable of playing a leading revolutionary role; it is the working class not the petty bourgeois intellectuals/activists.

  • Haruna akombo

    Its time 2 stop talking abt our problems, its time 4 action 2 begin

  • IamLegendIam

    For all those who are concerned with a real change in this country, you’re saying their thoughts aloud. Thanks for penning this down. I have always believed that the present Nigeria is in itself, an oxymoron. The more things change, the more they remain the same. This has to stop. We must cease to be comfortable with mediocrity, legalised thefts (by the legislatures) and non-performance of our leaders. Just as you said, “the middle class will be squeezed into the lower class living below the poverty line” if they keep “oath of war with silence”. And surely, it is that class that can make things happen. Let everyone, just as you said, start doing something about. Enough of keeping quiet. Infact, keeping mute in these Nigerian times is A CRIME.

  • @sinzubaba

    Nice piece Japheth, cleverly written and great sub themes but the question heavy on my mind is this- Who can lead us? Its not just by talking and doing nothing, if there is a lesson to learn from Occupy Nigeria is the fact that the lower class will join in any cause as long as it strikes dear to them and only when they see the middle class pushing it forward but my fear is no matter how we tend to swing it our political elders will find a way to kill this dream the only way to stop this is to completely remove their hold on us and it starts with enlightement, let’s wish for the best.

  • Jimoh Dauda

    Yes, me am ready.

  • Remmy

    Nice piece and good analysis brother. Keep it up!

  • Orujekwe Chibuzor

    Omojuwa we need revolution but every revolution is spearheaded by a group of people or person. We need line of examples to follow.

    You talked about going down to Local government, we might want to see a practiced example from someone who have done that.

    Apart from the fact that the youths are jobless, they are also afraid. Omojuwa this subjection all begins from our educational system. We are socialized to be subservient and withdraw from reaction to oppression. We have a long way to go – the Nigerian youths must need a role model to reckon with or else it might be hard for folks to take a decisive step to revolution.

  • parrot

    Omojuwa, the fist thing that struck me after reading your tedious article was the stark contrast between what you were preaching in the essay, and your avatar on the blogsite – depicting you attired in a suit and conspicuosly advertising (what i hope is not) a tokumbo watch obtained from our ubiquitous road-side retailers.

    Now before anyone crucifies me for the preceding comment, my purpose was not to ridicule Omojuwa but to advance his very valid arguments by illustrating the contradictions of our middle class in Omojuwa himself.

    That picture says it all – the grotesque portrayal of an individual in vainglorious posturing to convey affluence and importance that should be the last concern or preoccupation of a self-acclaimed activist.

  • Excellent write up.

  • Fatyma

    I’m happy you summarized the main concepts of the issues revolving the situation in Nigeria. Like one of the commentators said, subjugation and lack of proper education is A hindering factor in getting people to understand the importance of acting out. Eventually, and I’m not going to say hopefully, things have already been put in motion. Such awareness is not abstractly left in the dungeon, but rather is taken piecemeal. We cannot solve our current situation instantaneously because it also took a lot of years for the problem to evolve into what it is today.

  • Qasim

    Fela said this same thing years back..what did d masses do? Nothing! We have a long way to go. I must say, a revolution is long overdue in Nigeria.

  • Good read, but after all is said and done,more is said than done.

  • ejike eya

    I was moved to tears Japhet as I read your piece. You are on point and we must all stand to be counted. I won’t wait until my son grows up to ask me what happened to Nigeria. More grease to your elbow.

  • How do we get here as a people? Fear and lack of confidence has destroy a majority of nigerians. So many things are now wrong with us, we celebrate mediocrity. Government deceive us,we do same to them or what do you call a visit of the minister transportation and that of information to Ilorin station of Nigeria Railway Corporation. All those doing businesses along the railway were stopped, things pimped up,wrong impression of a working system sent and the directors are our middle class. All muddled up. People should learn the value in honesty. Let’s swing into action, delay is dangerous. Naija is all we’ve got. PEACE

  • stClem

    First thing first, then comes the trivial. Omojuwa, I must say, has brought to us the reality of a modern democracy. It’s people-driven as he’s said. This huge, intrinsic conspiracy called Nigerian government would not loose her strained grip from our bony neck – wages of starvation – until we realised that we deserve more, and better more. This is the reality Omojuwa has ushered us into. And it’s a wake-up call from the stifling complacency, the virus that has eaten off the common sense of self-worth in us. Who and what we take the country to the Promise Land are not this bunch of failures wrapped in flesh and their self-centred policies which are obviously parallel, and most times antithetical to the reality of the masses, but a coalition of educated fellows who understand that as God is for all, Government should be for all as well. Enough of our “National Cake” mentality.
    Now to the trivial. Mr. Parrot, as your name implies ‘ you too dey talk’! Get serious.

  • Excellent write up JJ. You said it all.

  • ndaguye

    This piece fills a much-needed gap.”

  • FUNKE

    Well, beautiful one. . . Atleast a solution was suggested, people need to be guided. . . First we need to be organised to effect change and it can only start from an activist so dat people are well oriented and informed. . . Cos d level of decadence in Nigeria is better imagined than experienced!! From monthly area meetings to local biz organisations n stuff like dat. . God bless Nigeria

  • Dale

    An excellent wake up call from deep slumber and lethargy that has held us down for God knows when! Thank you JJ for this write up, our collective effort to translate this to action and reality NOW will not be in vain and to the non significant parrot … Mtcheeeeeew!

  • Ayodeji

    This country cannot have a revolution because of the ethnic/tribal nature of our politics. Were it left for the south west alone we could have had a revolution long ago. Look at the subsidy protest of January 2012, the south west started it, the south east was not interested because they have their eyes on 2015, the south south protested against the protest cos Jonathan is from there, the north joined because to them Jonathan must fall.

  • Obimakinde Ibukun

    Great piece,if only we can, change ??I?????n????? Nigeria s possible,

  • Jamjam

    What more needs to be said? JJ has hit the bullseye but it still IS more said than done till we actually start the ‘doing’.

    The starting point suggested is a good one but more of what is required is enlightenment of the people, as suggested by FUNKE.

    Good job at ignoring parrot, by the way. This is a serious discussion that affects his/her future and not a forum to air more mediocrity.

  • hafiz

    My people sef dey fear too much,they fear for the thing they no see,they fear to fight for freedom,…….
    Suffering and smiling…..
    FELA

  • segun

    JJ you have said it all. To start with, human right organizations should be involved cos trust the politicians to use the police against the pple. So there must be a plan to handle this

  • Toye Oladiran

    You are right JJ, we are not in anyway different from our leaders, as a matter of fact,those who lead us are reflection of us that they lead. We are ideologically poor and at the same time ready to settlle for less. Things can change for better if only the middle class is ready to confront the challenges. If we can successfully organise the occupy nigeria protest, what then are we still waiting for?

  • Ken Tagbo

    Good piece. We need a managable size of Govt officials to combat our economic quamire. A single NASS arm and cut in ministerial cronies will help us out of the woods. Good write up.

  • Bala

    JJ, what an inspiring piece. The middle class are so docile and selfish and always trying to protect and maintain their supposed comfort zone which in a way is temporary the way things are going in this country. We, the middle class need to organise ourselves, direct, guide the poor and lead change protest consistently against these criminally minded elites, so that, we can collectively rescue our dear country. JJ, you have done well in highligting this issue plainly.
    Bala

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