NIGERIA: A MOST ARTIFICIAL SOCIETY
It did not occur to me only recently that Nigerians have been living artificial lives. The thought has been there for a better part of my young life. I have sat down to ponder over what made the mix and I concluded that it is not the first Republic patriots who put us were we are. They took their time to give us a focused leadership through exemplary developmental projects. They gave us schools, hospitals, civic centers, roads, water etc. all these were free we drove them out in the 1967 coup, and then the civil war and all vanished.
Now, even with your money and paying for the same service, they are no longer there. Instead, with your money in your hand and while queuing for payment of unnecessary levy or tax, you are insulted by a collecting clerk whose bosses are absent from duty so cannot receive complaint. What they do is busy themselves amassing wealth leaving their duty post and no one listen, no one cares and decay steers us in the face then we cry blue heavens!
Hardly do we see a Nigerian civil servant or employee drive a car which is ever likely to be equal to their status in office. It is common knowledge that ordinary clerks drive Sports Utility Vehicles to offices unquestioned. In years gone bye, an Executive Officer would save under cupboard, pillow, mattress (apology to Fela) to buy Volkswagen Beatle with car loan. Now the loans are on longer there. But better cars are here and on our roads! Ha! employees do not live within their income. How can they, with price of everything skyrocketing daily and we all buy from the same market as the wives of national assembly members, Police Officers wives, wives of CEO in big and small organisation etc? But Irrespective of their levels, ostentatious life style has eaten deep into the marrow of almost every one so much that try as you may; you are in the middle of nowhere.
In January 2008, this writer was in Lagos Transformer market. I was in search of a particular new brand of Transformer and transverse everywhere it could be found in Nigeria. What I saw at a location where I got what I needed but couldn't buy shocked me. I saw about 50 of the exact type of product and decided to see the Oga for effect. I was promptly told that they were sold. On a closer examination, I discovered that the products had been there longer that necessary and asked why the buyer would not take delivery of his purchase. I was to be informed upon serious enquiry, that the products were recycled annually by regular invoicing. How? Every year, a contractor in connivance with the power that be in the one of the power distributing offices would quote for the product and the contract is awarded, then the contractor comes to the selling company, collects invoice and receipts as having paid and some one would sign as having received in the store! Then the money is shared among the clique and the business is concluded. That is how and why electricity has never been supplied some areas or why we never have full current everywhere. Take note, one transformer at the time was valued at N450,000 that is N 22,500,000.00 million gone to the pocket of about five persons whose total annual income would have been less than N2,000,000.00! That is business in Nigeria.
Road construction is a bowel of mystery. Billions of Naira has been voted for the re-construction of Ore axis of Benin- Shagamu Express way. But up till date, no meaningful work has ever been done courtesy of the back hand business of the various agencies involved. A particular states ministry of works approves N30,000/sqr mtr of road. But on proper investigation, it has been discovered that minimum if N300,000/sqr mtr is the award of some of the contracts yet we have none of the jobs called finished. El-Rufai threw up a challenge the other day and I am yet to see who took it up. He said that none of the road contracts he awarded has gone bad over five years he left office. Yet most of those awarded by Governors after him are annually yearning for rehabilitation. What is the magic? In Port Harcourt, Ikwere and Aba Roads have been there long before the 1999 political dispensation. Why is it that all roads after them have been resurfaced ten times more without success?
In education, parents pay through their nose for every need of their wards including providing school busses. These services are well provided for in the annual budget, yet there are no signs of improvements. Today English majors in Universities are hardly able to write a paragraph of unedited statement. The thieving heads remains a clog in the wheel. Years in and out hugh sum of money is budgeted for development. Nothing is done, the year rolls bye and no one complains. Nothing is done we move on and some persons pockets the entire fund unquestioned!
Politically, we have been brought to our knees. Every Nigerian know what to do and how but none attempts the solution because the accused may be our kinsman/woman, member of our religious sect, ethnic group, professional class etc. So we set up probe panels knowing in advance the result and expectations nothing only dousing off the heat for a while and life goes on. Any wonder why no probe panel has had it recommendations implemented? Now at least the chicken has come to roast.
After years of reckless killing without any effort to punish the culprit, the United Nation building and staff were at the receiving end the other day. To demonstrate how docile we are, the criminals in the name of Boko Haram or al-Queda are even in a war to claim responsibility! To the Boko Haram, the Inspector General of Police had spoken with the two sides of his mouth after the bombing of his office this same year. Yet as soon as the events happen we are told that our security operatives are on top of it. Where were they at the planning and implementation stages? Where are the security operatives in Jos Plateau state? Has the war the abated? I am only happy that the FBI will brush aside all our reports and go ahead to dig up substance before long. I know for certain that the fear in the minds of most people now is that real and dumbfounding revelations are about to be made public.
God in His all wisdom arrenges things. Just before the bombing of UN building, we were being entertained by the restless gladiators who at their separate times sold Nigeria to themselves. IBB and OBJ thought that they are done with yet? No, they have just given us the preamble. They must talk and now. They did not know when they started dancing naked. Can anyone see the rot we have been in courtesy of the greed of these two old haggs?
While musing over all these, I was awaken by the thought of Nigeria's Council of state meetings. What manner of meetings do they hold? When Obasanjo and Buhari have been locked in political war since 1999 and now with Jonathan in the toe? How can Buhari and Babangida ever come together for the common good of the people? Now it is IBB and OBJ in the open! Can someone call for the next council of state meeting please? Well welcome to Nigeria the plastic and artificial Country. Everyone preached peace the other day. Yes what peace? Peace of mind or peace of the grave yard? I demand an answer from the nation's leadership. They owe me a lot and have done nothing about their indebtedness.
It was J. F. Kennedy who said think not of what the country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. We have tried this dictum and I am not sorry to say that it has not worked. Nigeria, do something for your people. It's soon to be another independence anniversary. Good lock.
Mike O. Akpati is a Public Affair Analyst based in Port Harcourt