E O EkeSunday, January 26, 2014
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“State governments’ proposed recurrent expenditure, comprising salaries and overheads, has increased by 30 percent this year compared to last year, according to an analysis of the states’ 2014 budget presentations. The 36 states have proposed to spend N2.740 trillion on salaries, allowances, overheads and other components of recurrent expenditure. This figure is about 30 percent higher than last year’s N2.105 trillion budgeted for the same purposes” Transparency for Nigeria.

arly in 2011, I wrote an article ‘ethnic nationalism the elephant in Nigeria’. In the intervening period, many of the issues I raised in the article have become reality and sadly, have become a common feature of the Nigerian democracy and society. There is no doubt that Nigeria’s democracy is endangered by corruption, suspicion, and mistrust, which have their origin in a culture of dishonesty and ethnic and religious intolerances and prejudices. The very sad thing about it is that, successive governments have not focused on these problems with the view to finding solutions to them, and they are becoming herculean as the country continues to fracture along sectarian fault lines.

The result is that Islamic fundamentalism has taken root in the north, while criminal fraternity involved in oil bunkering, kidnapping and armed robbery has taken over the south. Nigeria is indeed, bedevilled by serious human, social economic and political problems whose capacity to bring about its demise can no longer be ignored. What has emerged is a Nigeria where politicians preach one Nigeria in public, while in private they reinforce and appeal to sectarian constructs to remain relevant and retain their position amongst their people and continue to benefit from the rot and misgovernance that is the order of the day. Consequently, all political permutations in Nigeria remain on the basis of ethnicity and religion and nothing is said about the ideologies, policies and values of the people seeking power. This is the true tragedy of Nigeria and why the current segregation of PDP to metamorphose in APC is a source of worry and does not represent a future for the country. Nigeria needs a leadership that would take the bull by the horn and wrestle it to ground, and not one who would shoe it a red rag and frighten the people with how strong the bull is.

It is also disheartening that after giving Nigeria Shehu Shagari and Alex Ekwueme, himself and Abubakar Atiku for 8 years, Umaru Yar Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, and Goodluck Jonathan and Namadi Sambo, that Olusegun Obasanjo still believes that he knows what is best for Nigeria and is plotting to have another say on who becomes the next president of Nigeria. How does a country deal with a problem like Obasanjo?

This is unacceptable. A good statesman should know when to quit the stage no matter his sense of self importance and how intelligent he believes he is. It has become a particularly black African thing, for leaders not to know when to leave the stage. This is one of the reasons why the world respected Nelson Mandela. He understood the ephemeral nature of power and knew when to pass it on. Very unfortunately, this does not seem to the case with Nigerian leaders, who never really believe that the world is a stage and we come play our part and leave. At 70s and 80s, they are still scheming to be party chairmen, Ministers, Ambassadors, senators and presidents, when there are young and dynamic youth, who have what it, takes to correct their mistakes and take the country forward. How can the old, lead the way to the future?

When they meet, they look more like people in old people homes celebrating Christmas, instead of people who want to be trusted with the future of their country. The result is that they have governed Nigeria to death and still believe that they hold the solution to the problems, when every move they make makes worst. They have a dog in a manger mentality. They have had their time but could not solve the problems. Yet, they refuse to give way for people with a different mind-set and understanding of the problem to try. It is either them, or nobody, a scotch earth attitude to life that is routed in ignorance, greed and selfishness.

Through corruption and greed, Nigerian leaders have created a very unequal, unjust and unsafe society where the rich live and the poor die, the strong succeed and the weak fail; a society that measures its morality in its persecution of those who are different, intolerance and prejudice. They have left a society where merit is not rewarded and who someone knows, is more important than, what they know, can do or their character.

Through the pursuit of discriminatory and unjust policies which lead to development of good schools and hospitals for only the army, police, and politicians, they have created a divide society where a section of the country benefits, while the rest is worse off. The result is elitism which defends injustice, inequality and unmerited advantages of a few. Politicians, and senior army and police officers are able to send their children to private universities abroad, where they pay exorbitant school fees from money made through corruption, while they do nothing to create conducive environment that nurture leaning in Nigeria and give teachers what they need to do the work they love very much. They show no concern that academic staff of universities are on strike for several months because their own children are not studying in Nigeria. They show no interest in research and often do not include it in the budge, and when they do, they just pocket it. Yet they are aware that everything that exists today came from research. They are flown abroad at tax payers’ expense to receive specialist medical care, while the rest of the people patronise hospitals that are not fit for purpose.

Many Nigerian politicians, while in power, stole public funds, which should have been in invested in laying solid foundation for the education of Nigeria youth, building and equipping hospitals, good roads, strong institutions and a more equal society. Some of them used the money to build private schools, universities and hospitals where only the rich can send their children. There is no greater evil leaders can inflict on their people, than to worsen the natural disadvantage of the poor through greed. All these have resulted in a divided society with fissured moral conscience, which is about to fall apart. No wonder there is today in Nigeria, ‘a them against us mentality’ which poison the polity and create the need for scapegoats.

This is why some of the ‘have nots’ justify crime and see nothing wrong in kidnapping those who seem to them to have benefited unfairly at their expense. Nigeria needs leaders, who recognise these facts and, are prepared to pursue inclusive polices that would give everyone a chance, a sense of belonging, reward merit and ensure equal opportunity, and not leaders who would differ to ethnicity, religion or status. Without this, Nigeria will disintegrate under the weight of injustice, intolerance, greed, extremism, criminality and ethnic nationalism. Nigerian seems primed for an upheaval of wanton destruction of lives and properties with complete anarchy and confusion.

No government can sustain a country, where only a few people benefits and the greater majority of the people live in poverty, suffer, are dispossessed and have no opportunity to achieve their potential or earn a decent living. I suppose Nigerians need to start seeing our problems for what they are: man made human, social, economic and political problems; created by a succession of bad and corrupt governments: instead of ethnic or religious problems. Of course, those who are currently benefiting form the status quo, would like the people to believe otherwise. The poor in the north, south, east or west of Nigeria and Christians and Muslims, all want the same thing: security, good schools, accessible good health care, good hospitals, good roads, pipe borne water, and electricity, good sewage system and jobs. These should be the problems Nigerian government and people should focus on and not on ethnicity and religion, important as they are. Nigerians and her government need to get serious with nation building or vote to peacefully dissolve this increasingly impossible union.

It is difficult to see a future for Nigeria at the rate corrupt leaders is recycled. Instead of expelling them from the system, successive government recycle the same old criminals, who have been destroying the country. If they are not ministers or special advisers, they are chairmen of boards. If they are not senators, they are party chairmen. While many developing countries are restructuring their armies and reducing defence spending, Nigeria is increasing her defence spending and increasing her army. While many developed country have phased out automatic promotion in their military, Nigeria continues to operate a system that sees promotion as right instead of privilege, and produces many army generals, than any comparable country needs in peace time. Nigeria has many army generals, but cannot articulate an effective strategy to defeat Boko Haram.

There is no attempt to task them to provide an effective military strategy to defeat the Islamic insurgency crippling the north of the country and spreading insecurity through out the rest of the country. Daily we hear of Boko Haram ambushing army convoys and attacking military barracks and yet, the army seem unable to modify the way it transports soldiers to stop them being soft target for the terrorists and how they guard their military bases to avoid being taken unawares. Does one need to be a general in the army or have a PhD in warfare and military tactics to figure out that the first thing a man who is fighting an unseen enemy should do, is to become both invisible and unpredictable. Who is the defence minister, what does he think of the current military strategy?

It is the way Nigeria is governed that makes me think that there is something schizophrenic about the country. It does not seem to conform to any known rule. There is no pattern to its decision making. Often it is based not on evidence or economic principles, but on ethnicity and religious convictions, which have been demonstrated to be unsafe constructs on which to base such decisions.

In the midst of serious economic and political problems worsened by institutionalised corruption , and poverty of leadership, what some of those whose past inaptitude , prejudice and greed created the sowed the seed of the problem can do, is ask the country to fast and pray. This is in a world where we know that God always work when men decided to do what is right. Sometimes I wonder, if Nigerian leaders are simply naïve or out right, evil, ignorant and deluded. Why should a country that should be strengthening its institutions to hold every body accountable and enforce the rule of law, resort to praying and selective justice? What will those who are causing the problem do when everybody closes their eyes? Why should Nigeria declare fasting and praying, when what it needs is criminal justice reform that would be effective at ensuring certain retribution for all offenders and that no one benefits from the proceeds of crime as many politicians do at the moment?

At present, the same old culprits are ganging up under a different name. They have not opened any conversation with the Nigerian people. They have not published any manifestoes and policies they would pursue in office. They have not said a word about how they would fight the elephants of corruption, religious intolerance and toxic ethnic nationalism. Rather, they have already shared the position and outlined the various ways they plan to siphon public fund into their private pockets through phantom projects of the kind we have seen recently executed by the deputy senate president in his constituency.

I weep for Nigeria. Please, God open the eyes of Nigerians to see the enormity of the problems and the future that awaits those who cannot escape, when the evils days come and help us by at least ensuring that one honest man is elected as a legislator, senator, governor and if at all possible, as president in 2015, so that they can show Nigerians that governance is about making life better for all and not opportunity to steal what belongs to all.

E O Eke is qualified in medicine. At various times he has been a General medical practitioner, Medical missionary, Medical Director and senior medical officer of health in Nigeria. He specializes in child, Adolescent and adult psychiatry and lives in England with his family. His interest is in health, religion philosophy and politics. He cares for body and mind.