by Umar Yakubu
Thoughts around security, national budget, state of the economy are not debated. Instead, you will read a lot of name-calling and exchange of insults. Ironically, that’s what constitutes present day Nigeria as these social forums comprise of Nigerians from all walks of life. Nigerians are not bothered, nor complaining, nor tired or tired of being tired.
“The people deserve the kind of government they have”- Karl Marx
Stumbling across an online newspaper item credited to Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, the former Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), harping on Nigerians to insist on leadership change during the upcoming elections, I had to ponder whether ‘the anti-corruption czar’ has bothered to ask Nigerians through any form of survey to reasonably determine whether they feel they are poorly governed.
Ribadu is quoted to have said that “Nigerians are tired. We are fed up with this bad name; we are fed up with this bad image. We want a change. We want improvement in our lives. We want jobs for our young men and women. We want better schools, hospitals, good roads. We are entitled to these and there is money. Anybody who tells you there is no money in Nigeria is lying, because the money is there. We are blessed. It is a very rich country. Let Nigerians tell them that we are tired of you people enjoying and buying airplanes. The elite in this country do not even fly commercial airlines any more. They don’t. Tell them we are tired. We also want fairness and justice”
Starting with the Presidential Revenue Special Task Force of which he headed, Mallam Ribadu did a commendable job despite the risky stakes involved. He reported that about N16 trillion ($29 billion) had been pilfered away through the connivance of government agencies such as NNPC and PPPRA. The report was supported by the House of Representatives revelation that about N1 trillion was stolen every year in the last 2 years. That is roughly about $ 6 billion dollars in a year! What has happened? Not a single government official is cooling off in any prison or has simply lost his job. In fact the NNPC paid for a chopper for the Presidency for N2.23 billion. Also, no marketer is in prison but rather are still claiming ‘subsidy funds’ approved by Diezani Allison Madueke’s NNPC. The whole process is done in Nigeria, involves Nigerians and nothing a single clerical officer has been fired not to speak of the principal officers involved. Give Greece or even the whole Eurozone $29 billion and see development wonders. Are Nigerians really tired? Remember, the BBC survey in 2006 scientifically rated us as the happiest people on earth.
Another $16 billion (or $18 depending on who is reporting) is alleged to have developed wings in the last 7 years through the power sector. The Federal Government, not known for telling Nigerians the truth on anything, recently on the 5th of June, 2013 told Nigerians that 75% of us are in darkness. Assuming we are to believe them, that translates to about 120 million Nigerians. What they did not tell us is whether the remaining 47 million or 25% enjoying stable power supply or use alternative means. This space cannot elaborate on the positive impact an efficient power supply will have on the lives of Nigeria. Unlike the oil sector, there is no semblance of any meaningless taskforce, committee or anti-graft agency investigating the scam. There has not been a single protest in the last 15 years with regard to the power situation. The only form of protest is when residents lynch PHCN staff when they go for disconnection. And yet, Ribadu thinks Nigerians are tired of bad governance. To add salt to injury, diesel is what powers most of the generators that the remaining 25% or so use. Instead of apologizing to Nigerians and giving diesel for free, it is the most expensive by-product of crude oil in Nigeria save jet oil. And Ribadu thinks Nigerians are tired? Don’t think so.
Majority of the users of kerosene in Nigeria, are mainly the poor. Those whom the World Bank categorized as below the poverty line of living on less than USD2 per day. Kerosene is their means of sustenance and livelihood. The users of these products always queue up for hours and days waiting for this at an exorbitant price. The recent ‘suspension’ of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, because he alleged that between January 2012 and June 2013,the NNPC ‘paid’ about N1.728 trillion (about USD 10.8 billion)for kerosene subsidy, has any kerosene consumer revolted on why he has been paying more than the ‘approved’ N50 per liter ?
Under the scorching sun, Nigerians queue for kerosene. Some have lost their loved ones due to the inefficiencies of past and present governments. Have they ever complained through demonstrations or insisting that competent people are in the business of governance, to ensure that they get this necessary commodity on time, at the right price? So far, only Sanusi Lamido, someone that has probably never used kerosene all his life, is the one being questioned for ‘complaining’ about leakages.
History is awash with details of those that were ‘really tired’ of inefficient establishments. During the period of Han dynasty Chinese history, Zhang Jiao, in the year 184 led a peasant revolt against the Han in response to amongst other oppressive policies, rampant corruption and stealing. The peasants of those times are similar to buyers of kerosene in Nigerians today. Also in 1907, the Romanian Peasants Revolt, took place over discontent about the inequity of land ownership, which was in the hand of just a few large landowners. What percentage of Nigerians are in the ‘economic cabals’ that are bleeding this country dry? The US think-tank Fund for Peace in 2013, categorized Nigeria as a failed state, amongst other negative indicators for, ‘”uneven economic development long group lines” and “rise of factionalized elites”. How many citizens are complaining for being on less that USD2 per day.
Recently in 2003, the ‘Rose Revolution’ in Georgia, took place after widespread protests over electoral fraud, economic mismanagement, political corruption, poverty and state failure. It led to the resignation of the then President, Eduard Shevardnadze. In Nigeria, no-one has resigned or been made to resign for any of the factors above. Well one was recently suspended!
Brazilians since June 2013 have protested in over 100 cities, over issues bordered around multiple issues regarding public services, increased government spending on insignificant projects, scandals for corruption, high cost of living and special benefits conceded to Brazilian politicians, just like how their Nigerian counterparts are the most expensive legislature in the world.
Despite the miserly fraction of funds budgeted for key sectors of economic development such as health, education, agriculture, the chunk of the vote goes into paying salaries and allowances of government employees. The budget implementation is averagely 35% and out of that, at least 70% of it is allegedly misappropriated. Who has really complained when we are now even borrowing to fund national security!
If Ribadu really wants to know how content Nigerians are with the current state of governance, he should go to any social website, highly patronized by a lot of jobless Nigerians such as Facebook. If any comment with an intellectual bend encouraging ‘good governance’ is posted, 85% of the responses and not inclined to see the reason behind the write-up or post. They are more interested in where the next President or Governor comes from. Thoughts around security, national budget, state of the economy are not debated. Instead, you will read a lot of name-calling and exchange of insults. Ironically, that’s what constitutes present day Nigeria as these social forums comprise of Nigerians from all walks of life. Nigerians are not bothered, nor complaining, nor tired or tired of being tired.
Umar Yakubu tweets from @UmarYakubu
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.