OPINION: Things are gradually falling apart in Nigeria – by Emmanuel Nwachukwu
Published:10 Oct, 2012
Yet another sad news with the reported massacre of over 20 innocent students at the Federal Polytechnic Mubi in Adamawa State. These are indeed troubling times for Nigeria. We have not trod this path before. There is a palpable sense of anxiety, if not fear over where the country is heading. Terrorism, kidnappings, armed robbery, ritual killings and assassinations are now common place, with no signs of abating. Businesses in the north have almost ground to a halt because of the incessant bombings. Agitations by tribal groups to go it alone, that were once quiet mutterings are now getting louder and bolder. Cases of tribal and religious intolerance are on the increase as Nigerians are beginning for the first time to question openly the basis of our federalism. States are at loggerheads on the fairness of the current revenue sharing formula as the debate rages on how the nation’s wealth is shared. Cracks are appearing in the bond that once held us together as a nation. Things seem to be falling apart and the centre is struggling to hold. The president of the Senate, David Mark, captured the mood of the nation, in his summation of the dire state of the nation in his welcome address to his colleagues, from their summer recess. The message was honest, it was blunt, it was timely and needed to be said from the high echelons of power.
Paradoxically, the emergence of Boko Haram seems to have awakened northern leaders from their slumber. For decades, this elite group of individuals paid little attention to the developmental aspirations of their people. They were content for their people to forage for crumbs falling from their table, whilst they lived sumptuously from state revenue allocations and oil patronages. They learnt nothing from the selfless leadership of their forebears, such as Ahmadu Bello and Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. Apart from a few progressive governors in the South, the story is the same; the story of greed, graft and incompetence. Driving through Asaba, Delta State’s capital, it is hard to believe that this state gets more than four times the revenue allocation of Edo State where so much is happening in infrastructure development.
At the root of all our current challenges are corruption and incompetence of leadership. Although the President tells us he is doing his best to fight corruption, the evidence does not support this assertion. Although Nigeria is ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, and the issue of corruption dominates our daily discourse, it is ironic that no politician or civil servant of any note is serving time for this crime. This is the question the President should be asking his Attorney-General and Minister for Justice. All across the length and breadth of the country, the cry is going out that we are tired of corruption, but the response from the nation’s Attorney-General, who should be at the forefront of this fight, is a deafening hush. Obviously, any serious fight against corruption must begin with his replacement. He is clearly not part of the solution. Sadly, most Nigerians believe that the President either lacks the metal or the will to make the far-reaching changes required to tackle corruption. Most agree that the fight against corruption in Nigeria effectively ended when Nuhu Ribadu left the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Not many individuals in the world would have turned down a $15m bribe from an ex-State Governor as he allegedly did, for love of country. These are the kinds of individuals the President needs in his cabinet to lead the shakeup of the entire justice system and the fight against corruption.
The frustration Nigerians have with government is borne more out of the lack of progress in the security, social and economic well-being of citizens. There is a deficit of trust between the government and the governed. The people do not trust the government because they have not delivered in the past, nor punished those who have stolen from the public purse. In the same vein the government is nervous of all criticism, be it constructive, and sees critics as enemies of the President. We are constantly being told by ministers that Nigeria has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, recording GDP growth of around seven per cent per annum. This may be so on paper, but ask the man on the street what he thinks; ask him if he is better off this year than five years ago or indeed last year and the answer is most likely to be an emphatic No! The truth is that most Nigerians are not seeing that change in their economic well-being that is commensurate with a GDP growth of zero per cent let alone seven per cent; unless of course you are one of the oil marketers that shared half the country’s entire annual budget in subsidy claims, or one of the Directors-General and permanent secretaries in the public sector, or one of the retired generals and their cohorts who own the country. Sadly, for the majority of Nigerians, the talk of a GDP growth of seven per cent is simply hogwash.
Nigerians do not expect the President to be at the trenches doing the work himself but we expect him to appoint the right people to positions and hold them accountable when they fail. We expect him to start making an example of corrupt and failing ministers by publicly sacking them. The President did not need any other evidence to tell him, for instance, that his minister for sport was failing when he visited the National Stadium in Abuja, but instead of holding the minister to account for incompetence, he appointed yet another commission, led by Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to investigate the matter. This poor woman must feel the weight of government on her shoulders. She is called in everywhere and is fast becoming Jonathan’s abracadabra. Ironically, the President needs many more of her and the likes of the Agriculture Minister, Akinwumi Adesina, in the cabinet. One is convinced that a critical mass of the likes of these individuals in the cabinet will transform Nigeria in just one term of government.
It appears at last that we have a tough Inspector-General of Police who knows where he wants to take the Nigeria Police. We urge the President to implement without further delay the Parry Osayande report on the reorganisation of the Nigeria Police, including the abolition of the Police Commission. The President must not place the interest of powerful individuals, who obviously have a vested interest in the status quo, before the interest of the nation.
These are indeed challenging times for Nigeria. At periods like this a nation needs a strong leader that is plugged into the mood of the nation. A leader that will deliver on the root causes of our current discord – a leader that will deliver on the nation’s current challenges of corruption and lack of opportunity. The President to his credit has started delivering on power for the first time in our history. He has allowed democracy to flourish by allowing free elections. He has listened to protestations from Nigerians, not least the recent debate on the introduction of the N5,000 note. For these achievements he deserves our commendation. However, corruption continues to undermine every effort to move the country forward. Surely, if this is not addressed with the vigour and urgency it deserves, it will eventually consume all of us, and who knows, even the oppressors themselves may not be lucky to get out fast enough.
•Emmanuel Nwachukwu, an International Business Consultant based in London, UK, wrote in via Emmanuel@pssolutions-ltd.com