Nigeria at 49: Speeding Backward – by Debo Adeniran
One had once observed that Nigeria has never been lucky to have good leaders even when it has all the human and material potentialities to be one of the greatest nations in the world. Like bad managers of good business, bad leaders have succeeded in ruining good fortunes that Nigeria is naturally endowed with. Mal governance of a people is Akin to mismanagement of a business. It leads to low capacity utilization, inadequate supervision and ineffective facility maintenance which often give room to higher level corruption. Corruption then dwindles capital impute which in turn leads to bankruptcy. A business outfit is bankrupt when it is unable to meet its financial obligations.
It no longer has control over its own affairs but has to take instructions from its creditors. The company may have so much quality goods to sell but only to the creditors who dictate the quantity they intend to buy for how much they are willing to pay. Such a company may only retain its name but the totality of its rights, its sovereignty has to be surrendered to the creditors who determine the very future of the outfit, whether to continue in business or be declared a failure and liquidated.
Dreams of our Fathers Truncated
The past forty-nine years of self governance in Nigeria had been years of dashed hopes, truncated dreams, distorted vision and misdirected aspiration for Nigerians. All the relief that came our way with the eventual release of the reigns of our governance from Britons to Nigerians was short-lived after all. Even when independence aided the quick enthronement of Nigeria as a republic where we are ruled by representatives elected by ourselves through a process decided by us, we our leaders found it difficult to enthrone true democracy in our polity. The relief was to explode on our faces as soon as the attempt to elect subsequent political leaders turned a democratic sham. The exercise led to various internecine which eventually plunged us into a needless civil war that truncated the dream of Nigeria becoming the true giant of Africa.
In the days of yore, even before petroleum was discovered in commercial quantities our fathers rely on agricultural produce like cocoa, coffee, palm produce, groundnut, rubber etc and solid minerals like coal, tin bauxite, clay etc for foreign exchange. And so much was achieved with what they got from the proceeds of their sales. Nigeria was put on the right track with which the lofty dreams could have been achieved. Nigeria became pioneer country in Africa in establishment of much sought after institutions and social infrastructures such as tertiary citadels of learning, sophisticated electronic and print mass media, housing and industrial estates, quality road, rail and airway networks, stadia, skyscrapers, etc. The modest lifestyle of our leaders of the days made stealing unnecessary as goods and services were affordable to the average Nigerian. Nobody was homeless, jobless or lacking in wherewithal to procure good education, health care services and other developmental needs.
When the war came, it brought with it greed and avarice. People who had the benefits of the spoils of war, both military and their civilian allies no longer satisfied with modest lifestyles. They came up with socio-political policies and systems that guaranteed their newfound opulent tastes. They no longer care about the need of those without the opportunity to be in government to control sources of national income. They became heady, selfish and bestial. And on the advent of oil boom of the early seventies, and money making became a lot easier, our leaders became reckless in spending. They then declared that money was not our problem but how to spend it. That was the beginning of Nigeria's journey to perdition.
Those born in the early periods of Nigeria's independence thought the merry would last forever, and even got improved in expanse and reach but they soon grew to realize that they were wrong. Our leaders soon began to plan to fail because they failed to plan. Free education declared in some part of the country soon ceased because plans were not made for continuity of the programme. The deluge of eligible learners that showed up for subsequent enrolment confounded the leaders and had to urgently license private operators including missionaries to take over. In parts where it succeeded, curriculum content was watered down to suit the purpose of available teachers who were barely better than their students in many lesson elements. That was the beginning of downfall of public education. At a later times, when political expediency would not allow some leaders in some parts to scrap free education policy of their progenitors and there were no enough educational structures to cope with the influx of learners from other fee-paying states they have to resort to shifting system where a schooling day was divided to morning, afternoon and evening. This soon became problematic and had to stop. Make-shift classrooms had to be constructed in a fashion that resembled poultry sheds which became unattractive to students thus increased the rate of truancy and school dropout.
The effect of this is the high rate of street children who grow to become unemployable youths that turn to the army of area boys that flood streets in urban centres constituting menace to innocent members of the public. Since most of these unfortunate youths are from poor family background they often missed the opportunity to have worthwhile education and they cannot secure capital either from their parents, government or financial institutions to start a trade or business. Notwithstanding their situation, their needs and wants grow with their age. When social pressure becomes intolerable they turn themselves to ready hands for evil assignments such as political thugs, assassins, armed robbers etc. Of course there are some who may not turn to street criminals but go into evil trades of manufacturing fake, adulterated and fatal products for the use of their compatriots. Those who break out of poverty line would not want to become poor again, they buy their ways into political office and retain it by hook or crook. That is why many of our politicians have no other means of survival than politics.
t is the dawn of this reality that make some politicians discountenance the roles of electorates in elections. To them neither votes nor people's opinions do not matter, they are sure to force their way to political positions they desire, even if the whole world says no. What take place as general elections are and continue as orchestrated selection of cronies of the then outgoing military or civilian cabals through monumental electoral manipulation to suit the wishes of the wealthy and the wicked. Although a couple of the electoral atrocities were reversed through courageous judicial pronouncements, perpetrators are not deterred. Some of them become even more brazen in the art of bare-faced mandate robbery. Cases of Ido-Osi, Ekiti state electoral abracadabra where Resident Electoral Commissioner was publicly intimidated to work against her conscience; and Osun state where victims of the robbery are being threatened and blackmailed with criminal frame-up in phony bomb throwing, are examples that will not go in a hurry. Even when the President courageously admitted openly that the election that brought him to power was flawed and set up a Panel to reform the country's electoral process, his minders would not want the report of the panel to see the light of the day in its originality because it does not favour the machinery of their electoral manipulation.
Because the election that produced the new leaders did not count on the ballots cast but process manipulation, the resultant government does not recognize the powers of the people to control them. To compensate security agencies for allowing themselves to be used against the will of the people, police and military bosses were allowed to convert emolument of their junior ones to personal use. Victims of this injustice who protested the atrocity were either dismissed from the service or sentenced to life imprisonments after a kangaroo orderly-room trial to justify the miscarriage of justice meted out on the unfortunate junior security personnel. This however instigated the serving junior security personnel against the people they are meant to protect. They rob, rape and or open fire on them with the slightest provocation.
Where we got it wrong
Nigerians got it wrong when they allow themselves to be enslaved by moral suasion. They allow brigands to seize the rein of governance from their true representatives. They became too scared to fight for their rights and brigands cashed on that moral crisis to steal their mandate thus their sustenance for the keeps. Granted that Babangida's regime was an accident occasioned by Sehu Shagari's profligate civilian anomie, Nigerians had no business allowing Abacha to rule having gotten judgment that Shonekan's government was illegitimate. The mass action that forced Babangida to step aside for ever would have been intensified to make ruling unattractive to soldiers anymore. We would have achieved our desired goal of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) which would have been the beginning of our true nationhood in Nigeria. The truncation of the drive towards SNC by the negligence that allowed Abacha to consolidate his hold on power was the reverse gear against the struggle for true democracy.
Pro-democracy activists were betrayed by their opportunistic colleagues who became too hungry to wait for their own time before they began to eat lazed baits that crumbled our revolutionary edifice. None of them had truly survived the treachery, at least in the heart of their own people and by the judgment of history. Those who got to positions of power through fraudulent means would never make any law that will bring them and their cronies to book. They thus make laws that entrench corrupt practices and make culprits go without punishments. The principle of Separation of Powers which engenders checks and balances in a presidential democracy has been thrown overboard in Nigeria. Legislators take bribes to pass Appropriation Bills, accepts gratifications and share stolen unspent budget from the executive arms over which they are expected to perform oversight functions. They even smuggle budget items into Appropriation Bills to satisfy their gluttonous appetite for riches.
The Backward speed
Our thought that the confidence the judiciary exhibited by the court decisions that threw Shonekan out of power would be replicated was a pipe dream after all. The expectation that the Judiciary would serve as the last bastion of hope for the common man has also been dashed as that sacred arm of government has compromised its sanctity. They, for whatever reasons, sometimes allow themselves to be used against the will and interest of the people. It happened in the Justice Thomas Naron-led first Electoral Petition Tribunal in Osun State and the case of Rivers State where the ex-governor suspected to have helped himself to the public till was given perpetual injunction against arrest and investigation by any security agency.
Because of the pervasive injustice in Nigeria, people were treated with less dignity than slaves, Odi and Zakibiam people and their properties were razed, with military might; OPC, Bakassi Boys and other self-determination activists were mowed down while many political opposition figures were assassinated by suspicious elements and in suspicious circumstances that has to do with the new cult of neo-military ruling elites. Up till now this bare-faced crime is getting worse while internecine engineered by political considerations become the order of the day. Up till the time of writing this piece, genocide is being carried by the Nigerian military out in the Niger-Delta region against militant youths who are fighting to protect their patrimony. As a ploy to placate angry bereaved family and compatriots after each unwarranted attack government is usually quick at setting up panel of enquiry to investigate the pogroms and selective murders. All of such panels usually turn out to be phony as none of their enquiries has ever brought any succour to anyone or anyone to book till date as if the murderers were ghosts.
All essential sectors in crises
Before the coming of petroleum products Nigeria survive better. We had thought the party would continue to get better with increased income from oil sources. It turned out to be another failed hope as the petro-dollar is concentrated in the hands of only a few while the condition of living of the vast majority of the people continue to plummet by the day. Before the present civilian dispensation, Nigeria has four refineries that were producing at almost 50 percent capacity on average in the days of military. This has dwindled to nothing, meaning zero per cent within the past ten years thus raising prices of petroleum products to more than 900%. Nigerians were at the mercy of the exploiters of its natural oil and gas for the volume of their exploitation in products and cash. We have to import finished products and their by products at exorbitant costs to feed our factories. Meanwhile most industries and factories that depended on petroleum and its by products could not survive the input starvation had to out rightly close down their production lines and either resorted to importing goods they used to produce or moved out of the country altogether.
Powering the Darkness
Before the advent of the present republic the power generated by then National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), re-branded Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), came close to 4000MW. The Obasanjo's regime promised to up it to about 10,000MW. This was not to be, despite the whooping sixteen billion dollars expended on supplementary National Integrated Power Project between 2004 and 2007. Contracts were fraudulently awarded full contract sums were paid upfront to fraudulent firms with illegal, fictitious and questionable qualifications and standing. What the regime had to show for it is power degeneracy to less than 3000MW. All of the workplaces and homes had to contend with high cost of fuel to run power generators or inconveniences of power cut. This has turned many able-bodied young men and women to criminal of varying descriptions who are over filling various prisons or making living scary, and dying cheaper in Nigeria.
It is a shame that all levels of education is experiencing one form of crisis or the other. University teachers have been on strike for more than four months while our president was fraternizing with countries that pay much more premium on their own educational system. The teachers are fighting for improved condition of tutelage so that our graduates could be useful to themselves. The response from our Education minister was a multi-million naira wedding anniversary party. While himself, our president and vice president who, as former academics themselves were exposed to the sorry state of instructional materials, teaching and research equipment in the universities but met the agitation with utter disdain. Maybe things would have been better if we had good educational system. Curriculum implementation in all institutions of formal learning had never been so degenerate in the history of Nigeria. Public education system had been killed to pave way for private ones to profiteer.
Opportunistic investors in the education sector moved from Nursery, Primary and Secondary Schools into establishing tertiary institutions. Government actors see investing in Universities as a veritable means to launder ill-gotten wealth from government coffers into the system without concern for the quality of minds they churn out. All levels of public institutions are in various state of disrepair: No libraries, no laboratories, no workshops, no equipment, no materials, and no motivated personnel. Their highly expensive private counter parts are only embellished with state-of-art facilities and other wherewithal but lacking in-depth quality curricular implementation. Others are substandard in forms and function; with inadequacies in everything that could qualify any contraption as a school. Their products are like mechanically driven technicians lacking in versatility; with little or no intuitive, imaginative and creative minds. They therefore become robotically-gullible, hypnotically dogmatic and pathologically stupid. This is why they bank only on inherited or fraudulently secured platform to operate such as family business, stolen public institutions or politics.
Most products of decrepit public institutions find it impossible to compete favourably with those who had sound educational background from well-equipped and facilitated institutions. The certificates they wield worth less than the paper that bear them. Bearers of such certificates are referred to as educated illiterates. They are unemployable and the socio-political and economic environment does not favour their taking solace in creating jobs for themselves. They form the army of idle-handed and therefore turn themselves over, either as cheap labour to slave drivers who use them as machines or unscrupulous politicians as devil's workshop used as thugs, assassins or terrorists. This state of affairs has also escalated within the past ten years. It has also dipped security of lives and properties deeper in most urban centres and highways.
Health of Death
Quality health care delivery most often exists only on papers. The available inadequate hospitals create more deaths than health. Life-caring machine that lack adequate, proper and competent handling churn out foul results. This elicits wrong treatment and ultimately leads to compounded ailment which eventual results in untimely death. Useless machines and expired drugs are imported by incompetent business concerns and badly motivated medical personnel administer them without necessary checks and precautions. A case in view is that of a daughter of the former president who disguised with her grandmother's name to collude with an Austrian firm to rape Nigerian's health care system to the tune of about N27billion in useless contracts. Quality innocent lives are in the wake lost in droves to preventable diseases like ignorance, stupidity and poverty.
Transportation to Eternity
Transportation of all types at all levels and varieties pose grave danger to lives and properties in Nigeria. Disrepair transportation facilities such as roads, airports and water ways have become dilapidated and pose death trap to users. More human lives were wasted within the last ten years in avoidable, road and sea accidents than it happened in all the military regimes put together. Most of funds voted for the fixing of equipments and facilities that could have prevented such disasters ended up in private pockets.
This brings us to the issue of corruption that has become pandemic in Nigeria. At the advent of the present republic Nigerians were given the hope that the rate at which corruption were perpetrated in public and private national lives would be drastically reduced. The hope was further raised with the establishment of ICPC in 2000 and EFCC in 2004. The enthusiasm started to wane with the lack lustre performance of ICPC but was rekindled with EFCC that was able to achieve some superlative feats while the feast lasted. But things changed at the twilight of the last tenure of EFCC's progenitor when it began to exhibit traces of selective justice system even when the outfit continued to deal decisive blows on high-callibre offenders.
Many cases of corruption that were in progress in the days of Nuhu Ribadu were either truncated or frustrated. Even when the present Chairman of the Commission gave indications of readiness to work, the AGF planted so many landmines on her way of success. These antics therefore led the adoption of plea bargain justice system that is available only to the high ranking economic rapists. This syndrome gives room to administering only slaps-on-the-wrist as punishment for convicted corruption criminals like former Inspector-General of Police Tafa Balogun, former Governor of Edo State Lucky Igbinedion etc. It also gave relief to suspected former governors like George Akume, Peter Odili, Ayo Fayose, James Ibori, Uzor Kalu, etc. Whose files were emptied before the new helmsman (helmswoman?) resumed at the Idiagbon House headquarters of EFCC. It also emboldens new entrants into the cult of high-flying corruptionists like Chief Kenny Martins of Police Equipment Fund (Foundation) notoriety, managers of National Electricity Regulatory Authority (NERC), Rural Electrification Agencies and their National Assembly collaborators.
International scandals mostly bordering on bribery like those of Halliburton, Wilbross, Siemens, Sagem ID card, Pentascope etc. were either ignored or, frustrated at home and abroad. Corruption in the National Assembly like that of bribe for budget, a la Fabian Osuji, former Minister of Education, unspent budget, oil, power, health etc were governed up under administrative encumbrances.
Attorney-General of the Corrupt
Worst still, the advent of the new Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation Mr. Michael Aondoakoa became the albatross to the activities of anti-corruption institution and agencies. His approach constituted a clog in the wheel of the appreciable progress the EFCC made before his coming. Like the performance of his principal, President Umaru Yar'Adua, his approach to justice is slow, cumbersome, ineffective and therefore unproductive. The AGF who is expected to be the number one public defender by his approach becomes their number one offender. Michael Aondoakaa used everything in his powers to ensure that corruption suspects evade justice. He distorts or hoards information required to prosecute favoured criminals both at home and abroad. He manipulates due process like ensuring he waters down charges proffered against his corrupt cronies before anti-graft agencies file them in court. And the AGF went to Geneva Conference on Human Rights to obliterate the truth about man inhumanity to man that is prevalent in Nigeria.
ConclusionOne is not pretending to doing thorough assessment of the current republic in Nigeria in this piece. It cannot be done except in a book. However it is clear that Nigeria is yet to find its democratic footing, even after 49 years of self rule and the current decade of uninterrupted civilian (not civil) rule. The tragedy is that the succeeding regimes have only succeeded in plundering the viable business of runinig an independent democratic and economically buoyant country. No progress has been made in any sector of our national life but losses. It is also clear that the inability to harmonize our differing “tribes and tongues” as typified by the variances in our socio-cultural and political orientations we can only pretend to that “in brotherhood we stand”. And until we realized that our inability to govern ourselves up to the par we were under colonialism or surpass it stems from the fact that we have not discussed under which conditions, rules and regulations we intend to base our agreement to live together as a country (not even a Nation). Until we discussed at a National Conference, that will be entirely sovereign, we will only continue to make pretences to nationhood. Debo Adeniran [email protected]