Before The Next Elections Begin By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, you will all agree with me that the only business of politicians in Nigeria is about winning elections, by hook and by crook, in order to settle down pretty to the business of unprecedented looting and wasting of the people’s commonwealth and resources. The biggest scam in the land is the unproductive governance that makes it possible for a certified and certificated pauper of yesterday to gain instant access to power and wealth as soon as he wins or rigs himself into office. This is why elections have become matters of life and death in Nigeria and nothing is spared in the process. Everything imaginable is thrown into the ring and we’ve been regaled with stories of all manner of stunts by office-seekers and power-grabbers. One would not have worried much if all the hullaballoo was about making the lives of the citizens better and bearable but it is far from it.
The sad reality is that no political party has been totally immune from the brigandage that has clearly taken over and engulfed our political existence. Human lives have become meaningless and without value in our nation. We don’t know at what stage Lucifer crept in like a thief in the night and took total possession of our affairs. Politics is no longer a game for the weak or faint-hearted. You have to know how to do it the way they’ve always done it or get kicked out of the race. The stakes are too high while the rewards are equally stupendous.
It cannot be otherwise and I will explain momentarily. It is about the fight for the control of Nigeria’s Black Gold in the form of oil and gas which is practically at the jugular of our precarious economy. Raw cash is at the heart of the matter as well as unparalleled power of life and death. It is unlikely that any politician in the world enjoys the type of privileges available and accruable to a Nigerian politician. There is no bigger goldmine anywhere on the surface of this earth and this not an exaggeration. The politician and his cronies can get away with almost everything effortlessly. To attain power is to obtain an automatic license to mint money and acquire unbelievable wealth.
As I write this, I’m watching a report on BBC World and what is termed Nigeria’s Criminal Crude, an intricate web of collusion and conspiracy from the lowest to the highest levels by roguish gangs involved in the massive stealing and humongous appropriation of our vast crude deposits. This obviously lucrative occupation is apparently oiled with the actual and active collaboration of very powerful forces that are able to offer adequate protection to these daredevil rings of accomplished plunderers. The criminality is as intricate as nuclear science and may not be easily decipherable to the ordinary man who’s not versed in the art of incredible deception.
It is estimated that oil theft in Nigeria has reached the unimaginable mark of between 100-400,000 barrels per day with no hope of it abating in the foreseeable future. Even official figures of what is lifted, processed, refined, sold and/or reimported are disfigured with no one being able to render appropriate accounts with mathematical accuracy. Depending on who you talk to, you are most likely going to get as many illogical answers to as many incongruous questions you ask about the state of affairs in the oil sector.
The scandalous subsidy regimes in which trillions of naira evaporated and vamoosed into thin air have produced neither scapegoats nor reliefs. There were no reasonable and tenable explanations offered even if they were badly sought and needed. It was as if it was such a normal occurrence everywhere that demanded no plausible clarification from those saddled with such superlative responsibilities. What makes it even more horrendous and worrisome is that the government at the centre is majorly controlled by a son of the soil, who would have been expected to jealously protect the huge mineral deposits it has pleased God to bestow on the Niger Delta region, as well as undertake the most aggressive developmental projects ever known to these parts of the world. Unfortunately that has not been the case.
This is why I find the cries of those fighting for the South-South zone to retain presidential power in 2015 very unpatriotic. I won’t get tired of saying my preference is for the best candidates to emerge from any part of Nigeria. Even if it were possible to employ a surrogate President to lead us from any part of the world I won’t mind. Nigeria has reached that comatose and terminal stage that we urgently need to get serious about seeking comprehensive surgery. Those who cannot see or feel the necessity for a complete overhaul of this debilitating system are those benefitting from this peculiar mess. It is unfathomable how some Nigerians think we can sustain this cycle of madness perpetually without suffering a cataclysmic fall sooner than later. They are those who take elections as mere rituals and rites of passage into eternal paradise on earth.
For those in that school, no manifestos are needed to sell the policies of political parties to the electorates and no ideology is necessary as the Bible of governance between the government and the governed. Those days are gone, probably forever, except something drastic takes place to shock us out of our present state of inertia, when we knew the difference between the Unity Party of Nigeria and the National Party of Nigeria. We are not likely to witness a very robust and cerebral debate that separated an Abiola from a Tofa before the June 12 1993 Presidential election. It is such a tragedy of monumental proportions because once upon a time even students union elections were won by eloquent and not delinquent debaters.
Where do we go from here? The solution is not too difficult to find and actualise. Nigerians must insist on a much thorough electoral procedure when next the politicians come knocking. The reasonably educated voters must go all out to educate those who may wish to waste their votes as usual. We must demand a comprehensive elucidation of what the candidates have to offer the hapless voters. A nation without ideology and principle of governance is ostensibly doomed. This theoretical platform is the plank on which the soul of government itself rests. It must be noted that it is not possible for government to know and do everything or tackle all problems. But it must strive to identify the few cogent areas that must be handled with total passion and commitment.
We are not likely to find saints in politics today but we must seek out as many performers as possible. The task of rebuilding Nigeria can best be handled by those who had shown sufficient promise and action in their previous engagements. A country as impoverished and problematic as Nigeria is in dire need of accomplished fixers. We have them in all the parties but this time around they must assemble themselves in a new political configuration. We must change the way things have been done in the past that led us to nothing but unmitigated disaster.
Social welfare must be seriously considered. The level of poverty and mass unemployment has made this absolutely imperative. The new political leaders that will emerge out of the present rubbles of total confusion must give a new commitment to the people. The first thing they must do is about how to reduce the atrocious cost of running government in Nigeria. It has become too extravagant and unsustainable. If something drastic is not done about this, I’m very certain that the country will witness an unprecedented conflagration one of these days. Just like we warned about the implosion that is currently ravaging the People’s Democratic Party and we were scorned at as prophets of doom, we are predicting a major explosion in the country if this present drift is not speedily arrested. The new leadership must demonstrate a willingness to share in the plight of the people by visibly reducing their outlandish propensity for spending money strictly on their class while the rest of the people live below poverty lines.
No nation has ever developed with a credit system. The emerging leadership must display a fresh understanding of how to fight endemic corruption. Those people who are thinking that only certain incorruptible leaders can wage the war against corruption and indiscipline have missed the point. Corruption in Nigeria, like in most parts of the world, is largely systemic. It is not limited or restricted to those in government alone. Its root cause is traceable to the pressure on everyone to operate under a cash and carry regime. This makes it impossible for most people to survive on their regular incomes without subscribing and succumbing to self-help and sharp practices. Our economy therefore must be restructured in such a way that citizens would be less dependent on a system that forces them to live perpetually in fear of how to raise instant cash for everything whether they can afford it or not.
Education naturally is the key that can unlock the door to the future. Our future leaders must tell us how they want our youths to catch up with the rest of the world in the academics. We cannot continue to churn out half-baked illiterates with worthless certificates. An embargo must be placed on creating more institutions when the existing ones are hardly viable. We must explore the possibilities of merging some of the schools for better and effective management. If we fail to improve on the quality of our graduates we shall ultimately end up with not just the unemployed youths but a mass of unemployable ones as well. Of course, we can imagine the spiralling negative effect that will have in the area of security of lives and property.
On a departing note today, job and wealth creation must be deliberately and assiduously worked out. A certain percentage of our annual budget must be committed to providing opportunities for some of our brightest minds in all fields of human endeavour. A drastic reduction in the salaries and emoluments of public servants and political actors will certainly go a long way. It is a sacrifice that must be made or we stand to risk a future of total collapse of our society through the handiwork of people without hope or help. If we can find enough resources to fund our leaders’ unnecessary flights of fancy, it must be possible to substantially alleviate the general poverty and misery in the land through genuine commitment.
Before the next elections arrive, we must settle some of these issues or return to our state of hopelessness. God save Nigeria.
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