Nigeria News

NIGERIA: How they Make Us Savour Mere Tokens

It is not for nothing that we are classified as a third world country. A defining characteristics is that we celebrate near inanities, tokens and sub-feats.
It is not so much the virtue of gratitude but ignorance, supported by the fact that we have hardly seen anything better. We are therefore quick to seem overawed by a government of token gestures.
Our leaders understand the sociological shortcomings of the led and do more than the ordinary to fully exploit it.

As a reporter, I have witnessed the many acts of  some governors who make a big deal of less than modest accomplishments in office. Till date, many state governors organise huge parties and elaborate fanfare when they sink three boreholes in a community. Boreholes! Yes, just boreholes! It is remarkable to add that the cost of the celebration of that “feat” is sometimes more than the cost of the project itself; as some state governors, desirous to sell a pseudo-performance card, advertise the events in some national newspapers, dole out huge sums to mobilise the women (usually gullible and hapless rural women) to come witness the commissioning of the water project of the century. It little matters that few weeks after the commissioning, the taps stop running and the people are forced back to point origin.

I remember how former Governor Joshua Dariye of Plateau State, took pages of newspaper advertisements in a couple of dailies then to advertise his version of democracy dividends as evidenced in the pouring of laterite on some community roads, as well as constructing narrow culverts across some shallow streams.
Too often, we see a collage of photo-shots advertised by state governments showcasing long rows of renovated classrooms, sometimes without furniture, as the testimonial of performance. Yet, the decibel therefrom is even much higher when some exercise books, yes, exercise books, are distributed to some of the pupils in the state.
Under former Governor Chimaroke Nnamani of Enugu State, so much hue and cry was made of a certain construct he eponymously named Ebeano Tunnel.  The hype and blitz that heralded the commissioning of the Ebeano tunnel would make one think there is a domestication of  tunnels like Mount Blanc (in France) or Derbyshire (in the UK). But our version of this tunnel in Enugu is not more than a burst-hole between two short points.

Have we not seen the celebration of freshly- painted hospital wards with beds bedecked with brand new bedsheets, even when the pharmacy is virtually empty? Yet there is dancing and drumming on the day  such hospitals(?) are commissioned.
A more ridiculous case was recorded in one of the South eastern states, when the governor, while reeling out his self-crafted score card to journalists, listed the establishment of Mr Biggs (an eatery) in the state capital as one of his achievements in office. He argued that it was his “correct policies” that attracted the eatery to open an office in the state capital. And that by that, his people were now privileged to taste and enjoy the delicacies of the eatery.
Yet, a state like Abia, under Governor Orji Kalu made a show of his ability to clear the   refuse dumps that had almost blocked the Aba-Port Harcourt highway, at the time. It was considered a product of strategic thinking and “firm determination of His Excellency”.
For some state governments, the ability of the state to even regularly pay the salary of the civil servants in the state is something that should be applauded, after all, “it is not easy”.
There are some states whose capitals are still like gloried Local Government  headquarters. Until Sule Lamido took over in Jigawa State, for instance, Dutse, the state capital, did not look better than a refurbished cowshed
For some state governments, there is a big photo show in exhibiting some dozens of mini-Buses meant for “mass transit” service in the state. In one of the South East states, the governor was even so possessive of the state and its resources that he named the buses after himself.

Perhaps it will all hurt less if the cost of these “great projects” are not over exaggerated in the books.
Funds that can conveniently sponsor, let’s say, twenty  kilometers of road, is said to have been used in constructing just five or less kilometres. The rest goes in there. And we cheer and clap.
It is just the Nigerian crafty culture. The other day, an audit report in one of the federal parastatals said the sum of N3.2 million was used in opening Facebook account for the parastatal.
We hear of projects, we are hardly told the cost. The treasury is raped many times by government officials, all so they can match the next electoral contest with cash-for-cash, rice-for-rice etc.
My friend and ex-boss, Simon Kolawole, had once argued that even if 50% of the nation’s resources is expended to develop the nation, Nigeria could well be like Japan. I agree.

Many of the states have neither character, nor development identity. We cannot associate them with any strength in a particular area of social development. They claim to be servant leaders whereas they catapult themselves into a parvenu status soon after getting into office— flying chartered planes—(like the Petroleum minister, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, who is now too big to fly with “ordinary mortals) even when they should have the privilege of flying Business or First Class
The measly development rate of the country cannot be a function of poverty, rather it is the coefficient of fraud and bare-faced corruption. Have you ever imagined the unaccounted-for nebulous sum allocated for security votes,  travels, “runs” maintenance of long convoys, mindless expenditures (like Godswill Akpabio who can dole out N6 million lunch gift to the six South-south state PDP chairmen at a meeting in Port Harcourt, to “go to Mr Biggs and refresh”)? It’s all at our expense.
Let me be clear. Not all the states serve us half meals. Indeed, some states have shown great courage and determination in some of their projects. The international airport project of Delta State, for instance, or the “uncommon” massive road networks in Akwa Ibom, or the 12 giant bridges to Opobo in Rivers State, not to talk of the exotic standard schools in Rivers and the expansionist reconstructions going on in Ogun State are some of the exceptions.

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