Of Nigerian Democracy, Governance And Profligacy

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I have spent a total of nine months in Nigeria since my relocation experiment started and everyday I wake up to see what those ruling us have done and are still doing to Nigeria, I become despondent, desperate and disillusioned. I sometimes want to give up and when I reflect, despite my long-held belief that Nigeria will change for the better, in the face of all the evidence I see and hear and feel and experience everyday, I privately think, “No, Nigeria will not change, at least not in my lifetime”. For someone like me, a man who is convinced that all we need is a “Few Good Men and Women” to change Nigeria, I see all these hopes evaporating away on a daily basis. It is a fact that while some Nigerians are doing better, most Nigerians are not faring well at all.

The society as a whole is doing far worse, and whose fault is it? The Yorubas have a saying (and I am sure other tribes have too) that “we should do things the way they should be done, so that the result will be what we want or expect”. What kind of nation do we have if, after all we have been through, and all we know, and all we have, we still refuse to do what is right for ourselves, or rather, our so-called leaders refuse to do what is right? How far more can we expect to carry on without doing the right things before we implode? These are questions that must be answered now.

There is more urgency now in doing the right things because the world economy is getting worse, but our leaders are either ignorant of this fact, or ignorant of the consequences, or they just don’t care what happens to us and the future they will leave behind. Actually, I do not expect an ex-convict or ex-policeman or ex-soldier-turned State Governor, Senator or other law-makers to be able to grasp the complexities of world economy and political issues to be able to determine what is good for their people. Even their so-called erudite advisers (read hangers-on, sycophants and spongers) are just there for the money, so what can they teach their “ogas”? Especially now that we do not have the money anymore to get things done, because we have wasted the money and the opportunities. Compatriots, we are in very deep shit (pardon my language) in this country. We keep on shouting, threatening, begging these evil people ruling us, and they never listen to us. I am very sure that Nigeria runs about the most expensive, profligate and wasteful democracy in the world. Look at it this way:

• The presidency and state governors appoint a despicable number of aides, mostly useless and as we know, they are just saying “thank you” to these aides, whose contribution to the well-being of this country is at best, spurious and undefined. One state governor, I heard, had almost 700 special assistants, special advisers, etc • Governors are awarded almost 80 million Naira a month in what is called Security Votes, which they don’t have to account for. Beside this largesse, they still loot the treasury, demand and receive massive bribes, neglect the people and waste our money. • Our lawmakers, federal, state and local governments practically laugh all the way to the banks without any iota of work or service to show for what they are paid to do, and what they steal. Their service to the nation is hardly commensurate to the huge sums they allocate to themselves as salaries, allowance and perks; yet you still see them rushing about for government contracts. They want to have it all. • Election time is drawing near, and most elected (or should I say, selected), officials have abandoned their employment and duty of governance and are spending public funds on getting themselves re-elected (or re-selected, as it may be) • State Governors seeking second terms have bought hundreds of vehicles to campaign for re-election (I am really having problems with this election or selection, but please where you read election in this article, think selection) and hardly attend to the functions of governance. I don’t have to tell you that funds for re-election campaigns do not come from their personal pockets; it is state money, yours and mine. • Those governors not seeking a second term because the Constitution, fortunately for us, does not allow for a third term, are now busy tying up loose ends, destroying evidence of corruption, murder, etc and still looting the treasury. (These are money that should have gone into providing healthcare, good urban roads, schools and the attendance education of our future generation, potable water, electricity, railways, clean environment, etc.) • The Presidency recently bought 3 presidential jets in addition to the ones already on the fleet. Each president or ruler of Nigeria always buys jets when they are in power. I don’t know how much these cost, but I can bet it will go a long way to do some overdue repairs on certain motor-ways in the country. • The Presidency of Goodluck Jonathan, despite its very bright, promising and brilliant start when he took over from the late Yar ‘Adua, has become distracted and disoriented because of his ambition to contest for election next year. He has abandoned all his promises and is concentrating all his energies into staying in power. (Huh, huh, I am not saying he doesn’t have the right, but look at it this way: he has never contested any election on his own in his life, yet he rose from being a Deputy Governor to being President of Nigeria. Now at the pinnacle of any man’s political career without lifting a finger, he now wants to “test” himself with an election when he’s already at the top. What he’s saying is that God has not done enough for him! I personally don’t think he should run; he should be the referee in a credible, free and fair election, that we hope will produce the right person to lead us and change Nigeria, then we will carve Jonathan’s name in stone) • Then the 50th Birthday celebrations came and went, federal, states and local governments spent billions to celebrate, and they told us that the next 50 years will be better. Hardly one month into the next 50 years, there is no sign that things will change. • As if these are not enough, former Nigerian Presidents, Heads of State, Heads of Federal Legislative Houses and Chief Justices of the Federation, whose exact successes as public servants of this potentially great but moribund country is very suspect, lacklustre, undefined and unproductive, have been awarded scandalous pensions which even takes care of their wives, children and some other relatives, even when the record of the individual’s performance does not justify such privileges.

I recently drove my 80 year old mother to the Secretariat in Ibadan because the Government wanted to “screen” the pensioners. She was on her feet for almost 8 hours in the hot sun, because the seats provided did not go around and just a small tent was provided. This “screening” exercise has been going on for the past 20 years without end. Some pensioners have died without being able to collect their pensions, yet, the pensions and entitlements to these people, who truly worked for Nigeria, are being withheld by dubious leaders and useless and corrupt civil servants. Ghost pensioners abound, some civil servants collecting the pensions of the dead. My uncle died 5 years ago, without collecting his pension, but we discovered that his name was still on the list and somebody had been collecting his pension.

But we are going to pay Gowon, Shagari, Obasanjo, Babangida, Buhari, Abdulsalaam, and even Shonekan and their families, awesome pensions for life. And what about the families of Tafawa-Balewa, Aguiyi-Ironsi, Abacha and Umar Yar ‘Adua? Are they going to get their late fathers’ pensions too? I am not even talking of the Chief Justices and the others who they say are entitled to this pension.

As the respected Reuben Abari wrote in his piece, “Scandalous pension benefits for former leaders”, The Guardian, Friday, 05 November 2010 “We run an economy that services the privileges of the already over-privileged, an economy that promotes waste and inefficiency with little consideration for the poor and the aggrieved. In a season where the world economies are making austere plans; with the UK shaving off expenses and benefits and the USA saying loudly to the President through the mid-term election verdict that the economy cannot wait much longer for the economic prosperity promised; this action can be nothing more than insensitive”.

Insensitive? No Dr Abati that is the mildest word to express our anger. It is a show of utter disregard for the people who put this set of people into power. It is a show of absolute power of life and death over 150 million people. It is a statement that “We own you; we own Nigeria; Nigeria is ours to do what we like with”. It is a statement of blatant inconsideration for the plight of 150 million Nigerians. It is profligacy at its best, or worst. It shows you that we are being ruled by thoughtless, brainless morons who couldn’t care less if 150 million Nigerians die.

The impact of most of these people have always been negative, otherwise if they are successful, Nigeria will not find itself in such big problems as we have today. They did not even try to change things. They did very little to impact on our lives. They pretended they want to serve, yet they serve only themselves and some other selfish sectional, tribal or religious interests. And they have never, ever been accountable to their people. In fact they shun accountability. They have never ever been responsible for their people.

Every day in the newspapers, it is one corruption scandal or the other, yet, nobody is ever held to account. What this tells us is that some people are above the law in Nigeria and can do whatever they like with impunity and immunity. What it tells us is that all the law enforcement agencies, including the EFCC and ICPC which were especially created to fight corruption are nothing but toothless tooth dogs at best, or as camouflage by the government itself at worst. Even recent pronouncement by Government officials on the list of corrupt politicians that the EFCC was seeking to bar from contesting elections tells us how insincere the fight against corruption is, from the perspective of the government itself.

Look at the waste of all these monies and resources, wasted opportunities; wasted individual and collective brilliance; wasted generations.

How many of our governors embark on aggressive revenue drive to supplement shortfalls from their allocation? None! They all wait on the monthly allocation, and even when that comes, profligacy, corruption and mismanagement begins. Half of the money disappears into private bank accounts, leaving capital projects devoid of funding, hence the roads are bad, the schools are poor, healthcare is poor, etc, and Nigerians are dying unnecessarily.

One of the problems with our democracy is that people (s)elected into public office do not regard themselves as servants of the public who elected them and is paying their salaries. They regard governance as a right for them to do as they like with public money; with our lives. They regard the governed as their servants and slaves, and their states and boundaries as fiefdoms. The reason might be because we do not have a truly representative democracy where credible, free and fair elections are conducted. Most of these vagabonds in power (VIP) lied, rigged, murdered, raped and looted their way into positions of power; so what should we expect of a brigand and rogue to deliver when he/she becomes someone with authority?

Read the newly published Wale Adedayo’s book “Micro-seconds Away From Death” and you will understand how base, evil and depraved our so-called democratic rulers have descended. And for what? Money, power and recognition.

Look at the way they carry themselves in public. They are “gods”. They are untouchables. They are the privileged. They have power of life and death and they constantly exercise it and remind us of their immortality. They forget, or perhaps, chose to ignore the fact that power, and indeed, life itself is transient. And in so doing, they forget there is a Greater Supreme Being than them. It is as if their tenure in power will never end.

In a way, I can’t blame them; it is an African thing, an African disease. Centuries of feudalism will be very difficult to replace with true western-style democracy. But we should still try. We must let them know we are living in the 21st Century and not in the Dark Ages, and we have examples we can emulate properly. We do not have to re-invent the wheel.

We can also jettison what will not work in Western-style democracy and our own African culture and tradition and ways of life and amalgamate the ones that can work to make our societies better. In order words, let’s fashion out what mode of government is best for us.

Are we going to survive? Your guess is as good as mine. Election 2011 will come and go, and Nigeria will remain. If we fail with that election, we will moan and shout, but the eternal optimists that we are, we shall be looking forward to a better election in 2015.

If we succeed with this election and we get the right person (but with Babangida, Atiku, Gusau, Saraki and others of their ilk vying to become President, forget that optimism) then perhaps Nigeria would have come of democratic age. And perhaps there is a chance that the future of our children would be secured.

Finally, let me borrow the words of Gbola Bowale X (one of my Facebook friends) “We have a CHOICE in OUR GENERATION to either continue dealing with the SYMPTOMS of our multifarious and entrenched challenges or we can make a VERY BOLD attempt at dealing with the ROOT CAUSES of OUR COMMON CHALLENGES! Until and unless we do what is NEEDFUL and not what is CONVENIENT; my folks, the wahala (problem) will continue to stare us in the face koro koro (forcefully) and we can continue to “blow” girama! (Grammar!).”

Let the truth be said always.

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