Date Published: 12/09/09
NIGERIA: A PLACE WHERE A DAY AFTER BECOMES WORSE THAN THE ONE BEFORE (3) By Temple Chima Ubochi
We will not tolerate their ineptitude, turn a blind eye to their failures or ignore acts of terror. They will not be able to shirk their responsibility. ( Dan Halutz)
I saw things I've never seen in a city. The criminal ineptitude makes you furious. This is what happens when you play political games with people's lives (Bruce Springsteen)
Government is inherently incompetent, and no matter what task it is assigned, it will do it in the most expensive and inefficient way possible. (Charley Reese)
But alas, they are all sadly deficient, because they leave us under the domination of political and religious prejudices; and they are as inefficient as the sleepy dose of an ordinary sermon. (Adam Weishaupt)
In civilian governments, everybody is a rogue - from the councillor to the chairman to the commissioner. Everybody - special adviser, special assistant, hundreds of thousands of people are let loose on the system and they rob the nation blind. (Olu Falae)
There is an increasingly pervasive sense not only of failure, but of futility. The legislative process has become a cruel shell game and the service system has become a bureaucratic maze, inefficient, incomprehensible, and inaccessible. (Elliot Richardson)
It was a great tragedy for Nigeria that politicians were not only corrupt, but that the nation also celebrated theft by granting national awards and encomiums to the smartest looters of the nation’s public funds, the sad development had led to the crumbling of education and economy in the country. (Dr. Omololu Olunloyo)
To digress: What’s in a name? This writer might be right or wrong here: His premonition tells him that it’s only a matter of time before the vice president becomes the president of Nigeria. No matter what those around the president say, the game is getting over for him (the president). Unfortunately, the president’s health would remain precarious and that would force him to “throw in the towel”, no matter what heartless and senseless people surrounding him say or do to fool Nigerians. Even the Nigerian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia thinks he’s smart by telling Nigerians that the president’s health has so much improved that he now watches football matches on Saudi Television. What a stupid thing to tell Nigerians praying for their president. The Ambassador should have gone further to tell Nigerians that the president is not only watching football matches, that he’s also playing squash, tennis and doing jogging. We all are wishing the president well and would want to see him back rejuvenated, but, that should not be the reason for people to cloak his real condition in deceit. Those leaders, who think they’re fooling Nigerians with the president’s real health situation, would pay a price for it when the time comes.
The doctors have warned that Yar’Adua cannot withstand any further rigour of office, but, his wife does not want to know. We read how the family is said to be divided over the bid by some forces to have the President resign his position on the basis of his ill health. That there was a sharp division between the president’s wife, Hajia Turai and his mother, Hajia Dada Habib, over the next step to take by the president. While the mother was said to be advocating that the president should resign so that he could take care of his health, Hajia Turai was said to be insisting that he would soon get over his health challenges.
The report reaching this writer says that the Nigerian intelligence has requested the vice president not to leave Abuja till further notice. For those familiar with intelligence gathering and analysis, this speaks volume. Goodluck Jonathan has been living up to his name “Goodluck”. This was a man who never dreamt of becoming a governor the time he became one. True to his name, his boss then, Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha, the former governor of Bayelsa State was arrested in London on money laundering charges; he jumped bail by disguising himself as an old lady and found his way back to Nigeria. He was then removed from office paving the way for Goodluck Jonathan’s ascendancy as the governor. He never envisaged it when it happened.
Then before the PDP presidential nomination on December 16, 2006, everything favoured the nomination of Governor Peter Odili as the party flag bearer, until Nuhu Ribadu as the then EFCC chair, surfaced with damning corruption reports on Peter Odili, then, Obasanjo was forced to look for a successor elsewhere. Then after, Obasanjo was tending towards giving the vice presidential slot to Peter Odili as a consolation, after he had travelled the length and breadth of the country campaigning, but, people around Obasanjo told him that Odili has a strong personality and might try to overshadow Yar’Adua, the president. They reminded him (Obasanjo) of his own experience; how Atiku, his vice president, wanted to consign him to political oblivion (as a ceremonial president), while he (Atiku) wields the real power. So, with the benefit of hindsight, as regards to the altercation between him and his then vice president, Atiku, Obasanjo gave up on Peter Odili. But, the vice presidential slot must go to a governor from the south-south in order to assuage the agitations and placate the minds of the Niger Deltans.
Dr. Goodluck Jonathan came to the PDP national convention held on December 16, 2006, as the head of his state’s delegation to support Peter Odili, his neighbour, at least for the vice presidential slot, but, little did he know that the post has been reserved for him. He was called up from where he was sitting and asked to fall behind Yar’Adua as his vice presidential candidate. That was how he became vice president without even campaigning for a second for it.
Now, it’s most likely that he might become the president of Nigeria without much input or asking for it. It might be only a matter of time before he ascends that throne without fighting for it, everything seems to be working out, as smooth as the silk, for him. What’s in a name?
To the point: Nigerians, instead of “jumping from fire to frying pan and then into something that’s better, are rather jumping from frying pan into fire and then into hell, where fire and brimstone rage". Nigeria of yesteryears is better than Nigeria of today.
Take electricity generation for instance: Since 1999, Nigeria has been battling with plans to generate at least 4,000 to 6,000 MW, but, the aspiration remains a delusion and till today, the prevalent outage had defied solutions. In the 1970s/80s, there were many companies in Nigeria, almost all the S+P 500 indexed companies were operating in the country due to the high value of naira and educated work force then. From east to west, north and south, Nigeria was a humming as production/assembling was going on, days and nights 24/7. Despite all these, electricity was relatively constant then, but, today, all the multi-national corporations which operated in Nigeria in the 1970s/80s are all gone because of the catastrophic devaluation of the naira, the few that remained till today are relocating to neighbouring countries like Ghana and many indigenous companies have packed up, due to high cost of production and no enabling environment for local businesses to thrive. It’s incongruous that in 1970s/80s when many companies were operating in Nigeria and making use of more electricity in their operation/production processes, Nigeria had relative constant electricity supply than now with fewer companies and diminished operation/production processes.
It’s a long time since Yar’Adua said a word about his electoral promise to declare an emergency on electricity within months of being in office. A Paper wrote that electricity is central to the existence of the modern society. Decades ago, it was one of the strongest factors that promoted the rural-urban drift as electricity epitomised the good life. Electricity remains the life wire of any economy and countries that have realised this, have sustainable energy policies that are religiously implemented. Nigeria’s electricity supply is getting worse by the day and cannot support efforts at joining the information technology (IT), which drives the world. Attempts in the past 10 years to address the situation were just sloganeering. Government’s excuses were either the gas pipelines that supply feedstock to a thermal power station were vandalised, or the power transmission lines had been stolen. Sometimes water levels are too low for hydro power stations or systems collapse occurs. Excuses cannot improve anyone’s electricity supply.
Government’s response is sometimes comical. The government promised all along to generate 6000MGW in December 2009, here’s the December and the 6000MGW is not there, that’s one of the many failures of this government. Yar’Adua, on assumption of office in 2007, made power supplies a fulcrum of his seven-point agenda. More than two years into his administration however, we’re still waiting for the proposed power emergency. The challenges in the sector vary from technical to structural and human factors, including pettiness, muscle flexing and other mundane matters.
The Presidential Steering Council on the National Integrated Power Projects on Thursday March 19, 2009 raised the alarm that an unidentified generator importation cartel is frustrating the success of ongoing power projects aimed at alleviating the dismal power supply situation in the country. This writer wonders what Yar’Adua has been doing with all the powers at his disposal. It’s repugnant to learn that a cartel is holding the country to ransom and the president with all the powers and paraphernalia of office is not able to break the back bone of the cartel and free Nigeria from its strangulating grips. Olu Falae summed some of this writer’s points when he said these not too long ago:
“If you look at the area of electricity supply, throughout my secondary school years between 1953 and 1959, outage was something we did not know. In that sense we have been retrogressing. In the area of security, as a little boy of 13, I would travel from here in Akure to Lagos when I was in school. There was no anxiety, there was no danger. But now the secretary to a state government is being kidnapped. Human beings are being stolen, not their property anymore. That is retrogression. When I was in secondary school, I only read of typhoid in the textbooks, it has become extinct. It did not exist when I was a boy. It has stopped being a health hazard before I was born but now typhoid is a current disease. So in many respects, we are moving backward not forward. It is very sad to say that with all the resources that we have, all the opportunities that we have, all the learned people that we have, not only are we not going forward, we are not even standing still. We are going backward in very many areas. In the areas that really matter to the people, we have been retrogressing.
Talk of unemployment. 30 years ago, those who were unemployed were the uneducated, the unskilled. Today the unemployed are the highly educated graduates of universities and polytechnics. Some of them have been unemployed for over six years. What do they do to survive the harsh reality of their situation? They take to all kinds of criminal and anti-social activities like 419, drug trafficking, international prostitution, kidnapping of people and many more. These were things totally unknown 30 to 40 years ago in Nigeria. All in all, I am sad to say we have not made success out of the independence. We have made a mess of it. Unless we break away from that habit of throwing the highest position to anybody, another 49 years, God forbid, we will still be going like this. We cannot grow and develop if we do not put the best people in the most important positions. Mediocrity cannot win for Nigeria either in football or in politics.”
In the 1960s/70s/80s, poverty was not as prevalent in Nigeria as it is today. Today, people are starving to death, going hungry for days or managing to eat only once a day. More than 80% of Nigerians live with less than 2 dollars a day. That was not how bad, things were in the preceding decades. Majority of Nigerians have never been so poverty-stricken before. According to the World Bank, 18million Nigerians became poorer in 2009. According to the Breton Woods institution, Nigeria will account for 18 of the 90 million Africans that will sink below the poverty line in 2009. World Bank Country Director, Dr. Onno Ruhl, disclosed this in Abuja on May 12, 2009. So by now it must have happened.
Dr. Onno Ruhl also disclosed that the Federal Government has approached the World Bank for a $1 billion loan to fight the malaria scourge. After receiving the money, malaria is still prevalent as never before. This government resorted to reckless borrowing from foreign institutions. And still we don’t know what they’re doing with the whole money they have borrowed while putting future generations of Nigerians into debilitating debts. We learnt that the European Union gave this government about 1 billion dollars for the amnesty programme implementation and still the government never gave it the necessary publicity. This writer is sure that the repentant militants are yet to be rehabilitated and the promises given to them, before they laid down their weapons, are yet to be fulfilled.
In the 1970s/80s, Nigeria was really the giant of Africa and an emerging economic powerhouse in the world. Nigeria peddled influence all around the world then and Nigeria and Nigerians were respected everywhere in this globe. The Europeans were begging Nigerians to come to their countries and only few were interested in going, except for education, business or official duties. When Nigerians arrived at airports all over the world then, the “way” used to be cleared for them, because they (those countries) knew that they (Nigerians) came to spend their high valued naira. But today, Nigeria and Nigerians are avoided like plague, no country wants to see a Nigerian and many Nigerians are being maltreated or even killed in many countries now. Every Nigerian becomes a suspect anywhere he’s seen, unless the person did not show his green passport.
In the 1970s, Nigeria played a cardinal role in freeing South Africa from apartheid system and that even took the life of Muritala Muhammed because he nationalized British Petroleum (BP) and renamed it African Petroleum (AP). The Brits paid him back by compromising some Nigerian Army officers who decided to take over the government through coup. Even the former head of state, Gowon, was then in England and must have played a role that led to Muritala’s death as a revenge against him (Muritala) for overthrowing him. Infact Gowon was implicated in that coup that took Muritala’s life.
Nigeria committed huge material and human resources to the fight against apartheid and no other country in Africa equalled Nigeria’s role to that effect. Nigeria offered scholarships, money and trainings to many South Africans. But, when apartheid was defeated, it did not take long before Nigerians became enemies of South Africans. They(Nigerians) was hounded, maimed and stripped of all their possessions, even Lucky Dube, the charismatic reggae singer, was killed because he was mistaken to be a Nigerian, just to tell you the level of hatred against Nigerians in that country.
The South Africans are getting their act together and are trying to colonize Nigeria now, just few years after Nigeria helped them end the apartheid system. The Tribune (October 14, 2009) wrote:
“South African Standard Bank Group Limited is planning to buy some of the troubled banks in Nigeria. The group is owned by South Africans. Stanbic IBTC Bank, said to be owned by the group, is doing well in Nigeria. It is not one of the problematic banks in Nigeria now.
The dismal performance of some banks in Nigeria in recent times has necessitated the need to look for new owners. Less than 20 years after the dismantling of apartheid, South Africans have proved that they are capable of governing themselves. Unlike in Nigeria, things are generally working well in South Africa. They have transited from one civilian government to another without any major rancour. Infrastructure is working well. The ordinary people in South Africa are happier than their counterparts in Nigeria.
As a matter of fact, South Africans should not just think of acquiring some banks in Nigeria, they should think of acquiring the entire country. After 49 years of independence, Nigeria is still sitting down on a spot and is, therefore, due for acquisition by a serious-minded people.
Maybe, what Nigerians did not learn well under the British colonialism, they will do under black colonialism. Because of the similarity in colour, maybe, it will be easier to learn from brother Africans than the whites.
This is not a matter of patriotism, it is that of necessity. By the time South Africans acquire Nigeria, they will be able to produce the much needed megawatts of electricity to grow the economy and move the country forward”.
In Nigeria of today, Nigerians have been turned into beggars and people are looking for one patronage or the other from the politicians. Due to the poverty of today, Nigerians have sold their dignity and self respect for a “plate of porridge” in order to make ends meet. Before, in Nigeria, nobody cares what you have or who you’re, because everybody was relatively self-sufficient and had self respect and dignity. Today all that’s gone, people worship wealth and personality due to the prevalent poverty in the land. From whatever perspective it is viewed, government patronage and begging are also caused by greed and selfishness without due consideration of the reality that such individuals stand to gain from the overall development of the country. Embracing accountability and political maturity is, therefore, urgently required by public officials to wake them up to the much-needed task of ensuring that the socio-economic development of the country is the only guarantee for improved living standards of the people and, indeed, only true cure for poverty.
ThisDay once wrote that successive governments have failed to frontally address critical issues like provision of social infrastructure and security. So, in the absence of adequate empowerment, health facilities, education, shelter and others, desperation compels the people to directly source money from persons they see as the faces of government. This option is not only beggarly but also undermines the essence of representative administration- the very soul of democratic practice. Public officers must come to terms early with the doctrine of true service. In most cases, people are reduced to beggars by twin effects of illiteracy and poverty, so prospective office holders should be determined to discharge their responsibilities effectively rather than succumb to any shoddy practices. No excuse should be made for corruption and ineptitude. This nation will fare better if persons in places of authority insist on doing the right things, and not compromise responsible and responsive governance.
In the 1960s/70s/80s, Nigerian roads were durable and better, even some of the roads the colonialists constructed, are still in good shape till today, but, many of the roads constructed a year ago have gone bad. Today, what we have are death traps in the name of roads, different from those of yesteryears. Before, a journey from Lagos to Aba (by bus) takes 7 or 8 hours, but today, the same journey takes about 36 to 48 hours due to bad roads and menace of armed robbers.
Dr. Amadi wrote of the numerous deep craters that dot Nigerian roads, especially roads in the South-east. Between 1999 and 2003, Chief Tony Anenih as Works Minister spent a whooping N400 billion to fix these roads. And yet they remain incinerators of the dreams and hopes of thousands citizens.
The collapse of Nigerian roads and the carnages on them every day raise the spectre of a failing state. There is a theoretical relationship between road fatalities and state failure. If a country cannot guarantee life and free movement then it has failed fundamentally in its social responsibility. All failed states, for different reasons, fail to guarantee social stability and good enough social service. Nigeria has one of the worst road fatalities in the world, maybe more than Iraq and Afghanistan. The Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) has declared that most accidents in Nigeria result from the state of disrepair of Nigerian roads. The spate of freaky accidents on our roads contributes to parlous human development. We are not making any improvement in human development if our roads remain death traps. A nation wracked by polio and HIV pandemics and high deaths from malaria and could not afford the most rudimentary supply of power for any meaningful economic activity is on the pack of country showing critical signs of failure. Add road mortalities to already increasing infant and maternal mortalities and you get a depressive index of human misery.
The challenge of making the roads safe may seem like a simple task until you map on it the political economy of corruption and political irresponsibility. Then you realize how far Nigeria has travelled on the road to failure.
In the 1970s/80s, life was peaceful and quiet, people slept with two eyes closed, people slept with doors and widows open and not many lives were lost and few properties stolen, quite different from what’s obtainable today. Nowadays, people are imprisoning themselves in the name of building high fences with barbed wires and all security gadgets and still nobody’s safe. People spend more money building their fences than they spend building houses. The politicians and their sidekicks have turned Nigeria upside down: guns and sophisticated weapons have found themselves into the hands of criminals and Nigeria is no longer a safe place. The elections are coming, the politicians have started refilling/reloading their armoury; when the time comes, they (politicians) would give the weapons to the hoodlums (thugs), so that they can use them (the weapons) to rig election for them or harm their opponents. After the elections, those weapons will never be recovered from those hoodlums and the miscreants will “submerge” themselves into the society with those weapons and would use them in their future nefarious acts. The Customs recently intercepted arms at Apapa port. We learnt that the arms and ammunitions were neatly and carefully packed inside containers loaded with other consignments. On the whole, a total of 21 containers comprising of 1x40 ft container and 20x20ft containers were seized by the Customs. We were told that though the 1x40 ft container was declared as personal effect but on examination was discovered to be carrying personal and household effects as well as a carton of gun cleaning kit with accessories and chemicals. Other items discovered in the containers were two boxes of gun assembling tools, a small bag of gun powder, reloading scales, precision tools, 539 empty shells of various calibres, and 5218 live ammunitions of various calibres. (ThisDay Oct. 8, 2009)
That the Customs seized 21 containers of weapons, means that thousand and one others have slipped through undetected. Where are they and what will they be used for?
Also, the Nigerian Navy intercepted two ships loaded with weapons in Calabar recently, but the third one evaded them and escaped back to the sea. Who imported those weapons?
To sign off: This writer wants to know what happened to the love and happiness Nigerians once shared? Where are they now?
To be continued
THE THANXS IS ALL YOURS!!!
Continued from Part 2