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NIGERIA: A UNIQUE COUNTRY OF UNIQUE ISSUES


By: Chris Onyishi  
 Published  May 9th, 2012

There was this picture painted by a certain comedian.  He had depicted that corruption in Nigeria could be viewed from the point of a huge structure with pillars. These pillars were constructed with a mixture of conventional cement and concrete. But unknowing to the builders, a mischievous person sprinkled some corrosive material on the pillars immediately after they were constructed.  People later found out that the corrosive material was destroying the pillars and then called in a builder to see if he could remedy the situation. The builder had indicated that the corrosive element had eating deep into the pillars of the structure and that any attempt to extricate it from the pillars would mean pulling the whole structure down and leaving it there would also mean that the structure would collapse over time since the corrosive element kept on eating into its pillars.  And the most amazing thing is that this cancerous bug seems to be entrenched in PDP which keeps winning election at the center; rightfully or wrongly.

When I was younger, or smaller as Nigerians would say it, there was this understanding that very portent “juju” is usually prepared by a very strong medicine man and thereafter, himself, would be killed and the key to the padlock of the elements of the “juju” would be thrown into a fairytale bottomless river. The danger in that kind of “juju” was that when it destroyed generations, it never stopped as there was no clue as to how it could be undone. The medicine man would have died and the knowledge of the nature of the herbs used in the “juju” preparation would have died with him.  So even if you had an equally powerful medicine man, he would not have any inkling as to how to undermine the deadly “juju”.

The story went that the solution was that the whole community would embark on an exodus and would never come back to their original habitat again.

I am not trying to say that the key to the padlock of corruption in Nigeria has been thrown into the ocean neither am I saying that the medicine man who prepared the “juju” of corruption has been killed. This is where I still think there will be a Nigeria and the devastating corruption may still live with us. There will not be any exodus of Nigerians to another land. But here lays the uniqueness of Nigeria and the uniqueness of her issues.

The first unique thing is that there are many medicine men as against one.  The medicine men or the padlock to the “juju” are still very much here with us. In short the medicine men are still the very people determining what goes on in our every day economic and socio-political life. So, you get something like a witch crying in the day and the child dying in the night. If the medicine man had died, exodus would have been a viable option. But if you attempt exodus, you would be moving with the medicine men to a supposed new land.  And we may have barely settled before these groups of medicine men would start the preparation of, maybe, another sophisticated “juju”. 

If I am asked to point to the medicine men who prepared the demonic “juju” – corruption – in Nigeria, I do not have to look up the sky to remember and name them.  But I will not name them. I would rather give you a guide; but that is if you do not know already. But before I give you the guide, let me remind younger people who were not there when our all knowing Army Engineer once, in the late seventies, suggested that we could use “Okpo” – a more portent and sophisticated brand of “juju”  - to fight apartheid in the then enclave of SA.

The “okpo-for-apartheid” lecture was a televised program. I cannot remember now whether it took place in South Africa or back home here in Nigeria. But that is not very important.  What is important is that the creativity was that of the then immediate past military ruler of Nigeria; in the person of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. This, in my opinion, caused him the coveted job of the Secretary-ship of the UN. The owners of the job would have taken exception of the efficacy of this ingenuity.  I think they would have used their various institutions – Expert in one African affairs or the other – to gather that when “okpo” starts to work, it would not just stop at eliminating apartheid in South Africa but may face the other side; maybe reparation, stoppage of flow of raw materials, etc.  This is the uniqueness of Nigeria.  That was the working of the head of an immediate military ruler of Nigeria somewhere in 1979.

Some of us would also, probably, remember when young General Gowon, after execution of the civil war, had boasted to the hearing of the whole world that Nigeria did not know what to do with her wealth. That was the mentality of a young General who just declared “no victor no vanquished” at a time the partially vanquished were being asked to change all their money for just twenty pounds.  General Gowon is today leader of Pray for Nigeria sect., though not as a Pastor or Overseer.

Then entered our very astute young officer in the person of David Mark into the stage. Bereft of any rationality and responsibility, Colonel David Mark who was then the Mister for or Minister of Communications was quoted to have gleefully said that telephone, and communication by extension, was not for the poor.  Honorable David Mark is, as we speak, sitting on top of the highest law making chamber of the land on a second term  and – by the special grace of God – he is warming up to take his turn on the presidency of our dear country.  That is how unique our issues are.

Before you would say “JACK”, our maradona: the evil genius himself, the very ebullient general, the gap toothed Mina born and eight years – uninterrupted – military head of state of Nigeria, who stepped aside voluntarily, told us that because we have not scavenged for food from the dustbin, we would count ourselves blessed. That was how a military leader for eight years in Nigeria summarized our faith.  The June 12 imbroglio, the Gloria Okon saga, the Dele Giwa abracadabra; all happened in this era. And that is what I regard as the uniqueness of our land.

Good morning fellow Nigerians. This is Colonel Sani Abacha.  An American President, Bill Clinton, was once quoted as saying that Nigeria’s case gave American government headache.  That was when he visited African and came as close as Ghana but he could not get into General Abacha’s Nigeria.  Abacha had came to perfect the June 12 and in the process he deployed barter diplomacy where when American government renamed Nigeria’s corner in New York “Kudirat Abiola”, Abacha and Chief Ikimi renamed Eleke Crescent “Louis Farrakhan” close in retaliation.  And it did not stop there.  He carried our business over to the East.  One remembers how British envoy, Mr. Button or something like that, in Nigeria then referred to the situation at the time as ad hoc relationship springing up between Nigeria and other nations.  It was a traumatic time, diplomatically, for our foreign allies.

When you think all is getting better, another unknown explodes.  As if he was not yet done with us in laying the early stones and perpetuating corruption when he took over from his slain boss in late seventies, The Chief Himself:   General Olusegun Obasanjo came in with another set of mirage of all manner of wonders.  Lawlessness unmitigated, irresponsibility of the first other, squander-mania of unimaginable dimensions and a gory of other perfidy became institutionalized. Billions of Naira was spent on road contracts and yet more gullies became the other of our roads where many innocent citizens lost their lives.  Trillions were spent on power contracts and yet darkness became our other characteristic. From six months to another six months, the late Bola Ige, of the blessed memory, told us how power supply would become a thing of the past. Then the third term issue.  It was rumored that “Ghana-must-go” bags of money (50 million for each congressmen) was disbursed to instigate the lawmakers to doctor the constitution to pave way for the big masquerade’s third term ambition.  In short some senators brought their own largesse to the floor of the hallowed chamber.  That is still the uniqueness of our country.

Alhaji Yar’ Dua, of the blessed memory, stepped in.  May his gentle soul rest in the bosom of Allah. It was touted that on one occasion he spent 53 days at a stretch on medical mission abroad when he was the governor of Katsina State and when the Army Engr., turned Otta farmer, could not perfect his third term deal, he decided to bequeath us a well know sick Yar’ Dua. The mellow drama that characterized the death of Alhaji Yar’ Dua may not die away in the memory of many Nigerians for a long way to come.  Late Yar’ Dua was one of the governors who would keep back the budget while his state languished.  Thereafter he would claim to have left a large reserve for this state. That is the uniqueness of our issues.

If I can do it you too can do it. I am Goodluck. I am Jonathan. I understand your pains. From one little village called Otuoke in Bayesa state I went to school without shoes or school bag. I was a deputy governor from where I became a governor and then to Vice President down to acting President. If you vote for me as the president of this country, I will not disappoint you. I will give you breath of fresh air and transformation. 

This was how the Otuoke born teacher turned politician heralded his entry into the presidential race with all the denials that trailed the zoning system in his part PDP. Before the people knew it, he has become the President of Nigeria. Today power generation has moved from 4,500MW to scarcely above 2,800MW – in a country of about 150 million people – with one Prof.  saddling the energy sector promising and shifting the 24/7 electricity generation and supply  at every public speech.   Prof. Osuji has joined in the stale excuse of previous regimes that the river is either overflowing or under flowing or that a big python or crocodile has crept into the turbines.  This is how unique every single activity in Nigeria has become.

It is only in our country that a government boasts that its power supply is improving when the cumulative unit of energy generated is declining. When Chief Obasanjo came to power, Nigeria was generating in the region of 5,000MW of electricity.  He spent all Trillions of Naira and when he left, Nigeria was generating about 2,500MW and he was beating his chest with his party and somehow they stayed in power.  Today the power generation is still lingering in the region of 2,800MW according to their own figures.  And if one man in one part of

Here we are with the biggest fraud in the land and a transformational President, who now eats with about 500 million Naira annually, is stock with two of the most derided women Ministers in his cabinet telling us he is on top of everything from Boko Haram to power supply and yet all those things seem to be on top of him.  He even boasts that he will not spare anybody who is found guilty and yet the major functionaries of the key agencies that nurtured and brewed the corruption cannot be touched.  And the very people who are getting the accusing fingers are the very cabal the President admitted could not be touched. How he is going to do it now is a conjecture you may know more than my humble self.

it looks like the probe is targeted at some individuals. Why did they not invite Rilwanu Lukman? He was the minister of petroleum resources during the period of the probe? Where is Mohammed Barkindo who was the GMD, NNPC, at the time? Where are the other key actors who were at the vanguard of the subsidy regime? The House of Representatives must probe these individuals before we can truly say they are doing the right thing, otherwise, the report will lack credibility. What is worth doing at all is worth doing well.”

 “Yes, money has been stolen in NNPC and we have to get to the root but in doing that we must go back to when it all started? At what point did things go bad? Mr. President is even the one that is saying no more stealing with the subsidy regime and that it must stop. How can he then turn around and sit on something that will help him sanitise the sector? People should not allow themselves be used to promote the political agenda of some selfish individuals.”

The above excerpt is from a national daily and was credited to one Alhaji Ali Gullack who is the Special Adviser to President Jonathan on Political Affairs.  That is the mentality of our rulers.  Alhaji Gullack agrees that money was stolen but because all people who have ever had a stint in NNPC were not invited by the probe committee, it has become targeted to some people.  This is the uniqueness we are talking about.  But we can start with what we have and make case for what is omitted since it should be a continuous process.   Where in jurisprudence is it stated that unless all the thieves are apprehended, trial should not commence?  Alhaji Gullack is beginning to trivialize a clear case of fraud and ineptitude. He has mentioned two or three names to make it look like North is targeting South or Moslems against Christians.  But the truth is that even if the rot started before Ms Diezeni came on board, she came and exacerbated it.  But we are in a country where corruption is reciprocal and revolve around the political class within the political zones.  South will steal this term while North will steal next term.  So when politicians clamor for rotational presidency, what they are saying is let us rotate corruption: chikina. The President, who promised he would not disappoint us, will usually keep mute in situations like this. This is how unique everything about us has become.

We are witnessing a country where the National Security Adviser is pointing to the cause of insecurity in our land and the President who appointed him, with his party PDP, is waving it aside with ignominy.  The SNA incidentally comes from the same zone with the President otherwise the President, in his characteristic outburst, would have been telling everybody who cared to listen that his enemies want to pull him down.  You then wonder if the SNA was originally appointed on nepotism or on what he knew about security. Either way, the President and his Party are the biggest gambler if they cannot listen to the advice of an SNA they employed and whose services they have never shown discomfort with.  We now see that the Nigerian state has been cruising on mere divine intervention and not because we have any imaginative set of people steering the affairs of government.

When a President of a country begins to talk about providing jobs in an economy where there is no energy, and there is corruption of daunting magnitude, then any sane person will agree that there is a real problem.   The oil subsidy jumped from below all time 350 billion Naira to an all time high 1.7 Trillion Naira within a few months of President Jonathan’s ascension to power.  The number of the cabal rose geometrically from all time low of below30 to an all time high of over a hundred. PMS not shipped into the country is paid for and then directed to another country under the very close watch of agents of a President who shouts about zero corruption and transformational government.  We now understand where he is transforming this country to.

We are a government. As a government, we are not expected to succumb to people we rule or pander to them. Fuel price increase is final government policy. What the Nigerian Labour Congress should do is come to the round-table just to discuss its implementation. President Jonathan has directed us as Ministers to immediately reach out to NLC and TUC for a meeting on the implementation of the fuel price increase.

The above is the only way Chief Emeka Worgu, the Labor and Productivity Minister, has to address Nigerians at the heat of a stupendous decision of a government to raise oil price while his master feeds with 500 million Naira every year. This is the uniqueness of our society. He is still at his duty post gallivanting in the face of a failing state where educated and skilled youths roam about, in their thousands, aimlessly.

Labaran Maku advises that people who are not comfortable with what is happening here should relocate to another land.  He had hinted in the past that Northern Nigeria cannot stand alone.  He is still breathing hot as the Information Minister. That is part of our uniqueness as a country.

I am ashamed that people who were nothing a couple of years ago and who were on top of student unionism now talk like drunks just because they smuggled themselves into corridors of power.  Can any one of these people stand on their own without government patronage for good one year and survive?

I keep repeating my dogma which is that people who do not know how to use their political office or power position to add value to humanity have no business staying back in office.  Everybody must not be in power. Power should be left for very creative and proactive social engineers who have a covenant with God to put smile, and not tears, on the faces of the majority of less privileged masses of the society.

I have severally said that our democracy defies the tenets of democracy elsewhere.  In our clime, none performing political or elected office holders are further rewarded with bigger offices whereas in a well constituted democracy, none performing office holders are booted out if they fail to do the right thing at the right time which is to quickly resign their appointive or elected positions at the slightest of opposition or falling public opinion ranking.

The very unfortunate thing is that we are unique in a negatively demeaning manner.  It is now clear that the person who will rid Nigeria of corruption must not be a conventional politician or put in the other way round is to say that the person may never be a President on the ticket of PDP.  I would be glad if President Jonathan will prove me wrong.

 

Chris Onyishi (ctekchris@yahoo.com)

Abuja Nigeria.


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