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Date Published: 07/19/10

Governance As A Comedy By Idumange John

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A comedy is a dramatic work that is light and often humorous or satirical in tone and that usually contains a happy resolution of the thematic conflict. Such works are comic nature as they use the themes or methods of popular entertainment composed of jokes, satire, or humorous performance. It is the humorous element that distinguishes a comedy from other genres of literature.

A comedian is a professional entertainer who tells jokes or performs various other comic acts deliberately designed to amuse his audience. In Nigeria, the educational system has expanded exponentially. Whereas quality is compromised the army of unemployed is on the rise. Work or no work, human beings must meet their biological needs. It is understandable why most young graduates now take to professional comedy not just as a means of amusement but also as a means of survival. The pact of comedians can only increase because of the growing feeling of anomie exacerbated by the grave economic situation in the country.  

In an economy where major of the people have a sinking feeling arising mainly from inability to meet their basic needs or a psychological trauma accompanying a morbid feeling of insecurity, comedy becomes a source of succour. In mundane and esoteric science, unity brings strength, stability and power. However, experience over the years has shown that Nigeria is like a grand irony where the centripetal bearings of the nation tend to unite the people. A friend of mine, from Edo extraction now resident in Oklahoma, U.S. once likened Nigeria as a comedy. According to him, everything in Nigeria is the opposite of what its should be. I believe that Nigeria is not only the opposite of civilization but an epitome of what other nations have rejected. But President Jonathan promised ‘Nigeria cannot fail’. I thought Nigeria has been a failed State some eight to ten years ago.  

The grand finale of the world cup held in South Africa saw many countries celebrating. Whereas the losers believe they had given a good account of themselves, the winners were being celebrated as heroes in their countries. Sadly however, the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) is stinking with scandals such that operatives of the anti-graft agency have been dispatched to South Africa to ascertain the magnitude of malfeasance and lucre of the officials. That is our own way of celebrating the first world cup held on African soil.

Now, a huge comedy is playing out in the political horizon. The political atmosphere has been rendered quite toxic by the contestations of whether the Presidency should be zoned or not. In my view, those who dissipate quantum’s of hard earned energy on the issue of zoning do not love Nigeria, as there are more serious crucial issues verging on unity or lack of it that should occupy the minds of people. Again, how can the elders pre-occupy themselves with a fruitless exercise such as zoning when poverty walks in the streets, our roads are just metres away from ‘hell’ and the few industries are winding up because they cannot operate in darkness.  Unemployment is unimaginably high, the quality of education is at its nadir, a rent-seeking class with empire–building tendencies have besieged the land. We are all comfortable because Nigeria is a criminal enterprise where the “banks operate like ‘Casino Centres’. It is a nation where everything is a gamble and the masses are the losers. 

Here and there, huge sums of money have been voted for road construction and power supply have been diverted to build personal estates; our economy is in shambles yet some public office holders are inclined to privatize the nation’s resources. The elders in the land have demonized politics and now they are energetically zoning good governance.  

When God created the world he gave man free access to  all natural endowments: water, land the air and life. Cultural and linguistic disparities are also accompaniments of God’s creation. When a nation distorts the divine creation scheme, stagnation, inequity and mis-governance are the necessary corollary. Nigeria is the antithesis of God’s creation. The Land Use Act handed over the land and all resources to government, when the natural owners of land are the people. With the appropriation of land from the people, all the petroleum resources in Nigeria belong to government, and the masses are worse for it because the leaders are adept at mismanaging resources.  

In the National Policy of Education, the learning of indigenous languages was rationed. There are more than 400 languages spoken in Nigeria yet our leaders recommended the teaching of only three languages namely: Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo and to adopt them as lingua franca at the expense of the multifarious odd languages. One of the reasons often cited for this policy is that Nigeria needs a lingua franca to forge National Integration. As it later turned out to be, the adoption of these languages helped to fan the embers of ethnic nationalism. Even the National Youth Service Corp initiated 35 years ago has not doused ethnic tensions and the centrifugal forces in the land. The federal character principles is a comedy choreographed by the majority elements in our clime. It is a pragmatic fallacy.

In Nigeria the grand irony is that political campaigns are dominated by sentiments rather than policy issues. It is not surprising that candidates often promise basic things such as sinking of boreholes, building of cottage hospitals, buying and distribution of rice during Xmas and such phony projects. At the national level, Nigerians are  pre-occupied with the payment of wages, constructions of roads, improving healthcare, providing power supply, sinking of boreholes and other similar projects. As it stands now, Nigeria may be the only oil producing country that will not meet the Millennium Development Goals, let alone come near the aspirations of Vision 20:2020.

Every day in Ripples, Nigeria Must Go and other celebrated cartoons, Nigeria is portrayed as a nation in darkness where leadership thrives on double-speak. This is why Nigerians trust our probe panels. When the Elumelu Committee was set up to probe the power scandal, the hunter became the hunted. Comedy Is n’t it? Why will President Jonathan not take charge of power supply when all previous administration preferred darkness to light?  I don’t know whether the generator importers share the vision of the President, when the likes of Dele Sobowole believe that President Jonathan is adept at commissioning mugu projects.  I think they are not only mugu projects, because I had thought that the President would by now be pre-occupied with how to keep Nigeria on the fast track of development without the benefit of importing gasoline.

Even the EFCC casts its net to catch small thieves because the big thieves will tear the net. EFCC will never investigate the Siemens Scandal, the unresolved PTDF corruption scam, the Power scandal and several others. Nigeria can changer her national anthem to condemn corruption rather than preach unity. Why not? Why should we preach unity when the real killer of the nation is corruption and mal-governance. We do not need a babalawo to predict that the Governors with the worst record of financial mismanagement can be sure of their ‘second tenure’.

Nigeria has no policies on the development of automobiles, health care reforms, social security reforms, investment security and research. Nin principle, Nigeria is making frantic efforts to industrialize but the leaders are not in a hurry  revive multi-billion Naira industries like the Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill, the Aladja Steel Complex, the Nigerian Railways and other key sectors of the economy. We have also discouraged foreign direct investment because of the patently corrupt attitude of the political class and the bureaucratic elites. The main sectors of the economy will continue to lie  prostrate because of the near absence of nexus between politics and the economy. The irony is that we pretend to formulate policies that will drive pro-poor growth on one hand while we deliberately dislocate, alienate and dis-empower the poor.

There is now a cruel hegemony in Nigeria - battle ready to rape the economy to the point of overkill. Nigeria’s economy is characterized by strong cyclical fluctuations owing to the internal contradictions associated with structural imperialism. The mandarins are also compradoring and they would not want the economy to work because a working economy would not serve their interest, but those at the receiving end of poverty, misery, disease and death are the hapless masses, the economically excluded men, psychologically disoriented youths, the politically dislocated women and the rural folks. The mandarins have sucked away the vitality of the nation and only technocrats with altruistic motivation can resuscitate the economy.

Sometime ago, the House of Representatives ad hoc committee investigating the construction of Outer Northern Express Way, Kubwa (ONEX) and Abuja Airport road contracts concluded that the contracts were inflated by over N2 billion even as the contractors insisted that the discrepancies were computer errors. This is no news at all. Similarly, if the Rivers State Government says contracts amounting to billions of Naira are awarded to fake contractors, the politicians are only emulating the good examples of Abuja. Such computer errors can be pleaded in the case of the $16 billion fleeced through the several power projects in Nigeria. The abuse of court processes by the high and mighty taken to EFCC is like the Tom and Jerry comedy.

Inflation of contract values is a daily pastime in the South-South States where most often excess crude oil money is wasted either in roforofo fight between power holders and the opposition or diverted to fund private investments. We have been lamenting that Law makers in Bayelsa State do more contracts than the registered contractors. This is noise because Law makers at the national level are better road builders than Julius Berger. Why not? If  Speaker Bankole is an automobile expert and Hon. Dino Melaye is a noise maker, why did we chase away Patricia Etteh in the first place?. This is the comedy that the nation has been turned into. As a nation, we may forget about those hectic debates about zoning, governance, revamping the economy, electoral reforms or power sector reforms. These good things may never be achieved in our life time. For most Nigerians, those mouthing the transformation of the country in the light of the MGDs and Vision 20:2020 are comedians, clowns and dreamers of social utopia.

Idumange John, wrote from Yenagoa 

 

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