By Adeola Aderounmu
One of the major inexplicable factors that continue to keep Nigeria in the doldrums is the myopic tendency of the general population including surprisingly the literate sector. Suddenly we kept quiet despite the fact that we know that (USD110) N17b earmarked for Nigeria’s 50th anniversary celebration is not only ostentatious but also wicked, malicious, ill-timed and very unnecessary.
The non-essentiality of the expensive celebration at the national level is not related to the wealth of Nigeria. There are retired army generals in Nigeria who boast of more wealth than some nations in Africa. Money is not Nigeria’s problem. Those who continue to rank Nigeria among the poorest countries in the world must develop better parameters for defining their expressions in relative terms.
When describing the nature of poverty and penury among the populace it will be worthwhile to present them against the backdrop of what has been done to the resources and oil revenues since 1960. Nigerian rulers, dictators, politicians and tyrants have stolen more money from the national coffers than probably any other country on the surface of the earth. Nigeria is therefore not a poor country per se. But the people are impoverished no thanks to the extreme mismanagement of the various rulers, the current ruler being no exception in any way.
Nigeria is 50 years on October 1st 2010. This time in our history does not call for any national celebration. It ought to be a time of sober reflection. Nigeria used to be the giant and pride of Africa. That was back in the days. Today, Nigeria’s economic and politics portray sad pictures. Our educational system is so bad that several Nigerian students are now trooping to Ghana for tutorship.
Those who have looted, stole and destroyed the country have several of their children and family members abroad for education and comfort. To be sure, some people who have genuinely attained economic sufficiency also travel abroad for educational reasons.
It is not only the educational system in Nigeria that has suffered. Almost every aspect of our lives in Nigeria has suffered tremendous setback in such a way that the overall quality of life for the ordinary Nigerian is below the acceptable level for humans.
In the Niger Delta for example where most of our revenues are generated life is far from being a beauty to behold. National and international conspiracies have transformed the rich oil fields to killing fields and a valley of death and despair. Even the locals have not helped matter. As governors, fake elders and senseless followers they have contributed to the devastation of their heritage.
In Nigeria electricity generation is near 0%. Millions of Nigerians and thousands of businesses, big and small, depend on power generators that also generate toxic fumes and devastating noises. Nigerian businesses are growing and developing faster in Ghana than in Nigeria whereas the Nigerian environment is now widely videoed and used in documentaries to emphasize environmental disasters.
Health care has been so neglected that almost every Nigerian politician travel abroad to seek medical help. Last week both Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan took their doctors with them to the US. Where should the ordinary Nigerian people go for medical help? They have no money and still depend on the dilapidated health facilities scattered around Nigeria.
Apart from education and health there is a general breakdown in the provision and availability of other basic infrastructure. Water is scarce and Nigeria made the global news in August 2010 as a result of deaths related to cholera. Toilets are primitive in many localities and the level of sanity is extremely low.
[As I write 2 days to our 50th anniversary, an avoidable flood situation is sweeping people away in Northern Nigeria and people are swimming to safety on calabashes. Millions are displaced. The news and images spread internationally but NTA’s cameras continue to shy away from the disaster. The focus is on the billions of naira been wasted on parties here and there to mark Nigeria’s failures].
In addition to cholera, malaria also remains a threat to human lives especially in children under 4 years of age and pregnant women. Nigeria is likely the only country in the world with records of polio incidence. While the politicians and the corrupt public and private individuals continue to amass wealth, the generality of the masses-more than 70%-continue to live in abject poverty. They suffer neglect and live day-in-day-out in hopelessness.
Politics in Nigeria is the greatest source of our national shame. It is one area that exposes us internationally as “incapable” of governing ourselves successfully. Somewhere along the line we threw away merit and replaced it with mediocrity.
Tribal politics rose to unassuming heights and corruption ate deep into every fabric of the society. The concept of politics-for-the-belly, self-enrichment, inexplicable insatiable, evil urge for stolen wealth and the complete absence of morality in public offices ensured that Nigeria moved from grace to grass with lightening speed. Nigerian politics to this day is dominated by criminal minds and nonentities because of the violence and deadly tendencies attached to it.
While the other nations of the world including neighbouring countries like Ghana and Benin Republic made progresses and giant leaps forward, Nigeria shamefully headed in the opposite direction. Development became stagnated as some individuals made away with the country’s wealth. The military men and the politicians alike stole with impunity and in such dimension never seen before among the human races.
The most disheartening aspect of the looting of Nigeria is that almost everyone who stole got away. Nigeria has one of the weakest anticorruption agencies in the world. The Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) started well and gave Nigerians hope but with the emergence of the third-term agenda of General Obasanjo in 2006 the agency went wayward and has never recovered. General Obasanjo made a mess of Nuhu Ribadu’s reputation by allowing Andy Uba-then presidential aide-to travel on presidential aircraft with looted funds without any consequences. Nuhu Ribadu did not resign as the boss of EFCC even when it was certain that the mission of EFCC was derailed. Today Mr. Ribadu is a presidential candidate courtesy of stolen funds. Who is fooling who in Nigeria?
Fifty years after independence Nigeria’s democracy remains in shambles and is highly disgraceful. In 2011 Nigerians are faced with presidential election which in my own estimation is a catastrophe waiting in the wings. In several essays I have argued that we don’t need elections in 2011. What we need are the structures to deliver free and fair elections in accordance to international standards. The starting point is a valid forensic-based identity registration for every living Nigerian. The arguments on these issues are available elsewhere notably on my blog.
While the government of Goodluck Jonathan will be wasting N17b (or more) on parties and prodigality millions of Nigerians will continue to live from hand to mouth and unsure of the next meal. Nigerian rulers are characterized by low levels of cognitive abilities. It doesn’t matter how little or much the education they received. It’s always the same sad story.
The amount of funds planned for this “celebration of failures” in 2010 is unwarranted. It should have been low keyed and time for sober reflections. We should have used this golden moment to evaluate where things went wrong and write genuine blueprints of how to emerge from our present pitiable predicaments.
Moreover this anniversary should have been dedicated to arresting and prosecuting all those living large as emperors with our stolen wealth. Not so.
Nigerian embassies across the world will waste funds this season to mark our ineptitudes and the world will pretend to laugh with us. In Nigeria on October 1 2010 Goodluck Jonathan will preside over the most expensive party in Nigeria’s history and cut the biggest cake ever made by man. No greater deceit. Shame is a virtue in my country of birth.
Nigerian rulers are fond of propagating lies and falsehood. They are so cut away from the realities of our lives one would think they live on another planet.
It is not a secret that most of the N17b would end up in private accounts at home and abroad because the funds have been inflated in the first place and contracts awarded to families, friends and fair-weather acquaintances. Nigerian rulers and politicians are also notorious for their capabilities to directly divert funds regardless of the original pretentious intentions. This is common in Africa and it’s a sad situation.
For the avoidance of doubts it is morally wrong for Nigeria to celebrate the 50th year anniversary in an ostentatious manner because of the resounding failure of the various governments since 1960.
Arguments against such a shameful charade have fell on deaf ears.
When Goodluck Jonathan planned or decided to execute a plan to celebrate with 10b Naira. We complained. We suggested that the money should be used to procure cancer testing machines for our dilapidated hospitals.
Mr. Yar Adua who was declared winner of the fraudulent 2007 elections died of kidney and heart problems earlier in 2010. The government of Nigeria should consider millions of Nigeria suffering/dying daily for the same/ similar reasons and procure kidney dialysis machine and other instruments relevant to the testing and treatment of kidney and heart problems.
It will also remain a human mystery why our rulers fail to see the need to divert money into the health institutions so that we can increase the life expectancy of Nigerians with figures less than 50 years. A friend of mine is planning to release a research report which amazingly revealed that the life expectancy in Nigeria is probably lower than 40 years. I have stated in several articles as well that the situation in Nigeria represents one of the hidden tragedies of modern era.
One man told me that if Goodluck does not do the party that some other persons will embezzle the money. This is the level to which the Nigerian mentality has descended. We have been brainwashed so much that we can’t think right most of the time. In our dear country several people believe in the principle of “embezzling turn-by-turn”. They think that government is a venture that will at different times benefit a few people directly and directly. This illusory mindset unfortunately and tragically is dominant in Nigeria. The essence of life is almost completely eroded.
The heavily corrupt men and women in Nigerian House of Assembly confirmed the stupidity in the Nigerian political space by reviewing upward the money for the party. We forget so easily that we live in a country where scavengers make less than 200 naira a day and they have families to feed. Sometimes they earn nothing over a long period of time.
Our politicians in Nigeria are special. We are complaining that we should have a low key celebration and use this time of our 50th anniversary to map out strategies that will make us emerge a developed country in our second jubilee and all we can get for the calamities in Nigeria is a party worth N17b or more.
The money is not a big deal to those who approved it because they can steal, loot and cart away millions through exaggerated salaries and bonuses while the rest of us can go to hell.
These people who think and act foolishly owe us no apology, no probity and no accountability because we didn’t vote for them. Our politics is jungle politics where the fittest survive and win everything. The weak and losers lick their wound and beg for favours.
We are in trouble and constant dilemma.
It is hard to believe how we reason and how corruption had destroyed the essence of our lives. Invariably the issues affecting Nigeria as a 50 year old crawling nation are huge and inexhaustive in a single essay.
Has anyone even thought of how much a N17b education endowment fund would avail if it is not looted?
Curse apart, suffering will persist on the African continent and even elsewhere in the world until social justice and true freedom are fought for.
They always say the best things in life are free. Social justice and freedom have not yet made the list. They are definitely not free. The oppressed must rise, fight and take what is theirs.
For Nigerians and several countries in Africa the days of true independence and liberation are still ahead.