t is a very sad and unfortunate time to be a Nigerian. Suddenly, the world is rushing to help Nigeria solve a problem it has been unable to solve in Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and many other countries of the world, where Islamic and nationalistic extremists have taken up arms against the government and terrorising the people. The most depressing part of this emerging Nigerian fiasco is that the Nigeria government is behaving like a rabbit caught in a headlight with leaders that can only be described as, corrupt, inept, incompetent, unimaginative and completely overwhelmed by what other honest and patriotic governments would handle with a fraction of what the current Nigeria government has spent on security. Nigeria is paying the price of what happens when sociopaths are in power.
A very prominent feature of the Nigerian kleptocracy is the security vote, which are large sums of money budgeted for security and spent at the discretion of the president and governors. The Nigerian president and governors budget billions of Naira as security votes every year and since the inception of this government, this amount has ballooned as they use Islamic insurgency and MEND to make a case for increased security spending. They seem to have used some of this money to buy armoured vehicles for themselves and families and forgot to equip the security personals and provide the equipment they need to do their work effectively. At the moment, there is an inverse relationship between security in Nigeria and the security votes and defence budget. In the light of the present development, it is now necessary for the government to explain to Nigerians, how it has been spending the defence budget and security votes in the last four years.
Nigerians need to understand why the Nigerian army is underequipped and under resourced to such an extent that they are unable to provide a robust response to boko haram and need the support of America, Britain, Israel, France and China to find a bunch of terrorists hiding in bushes, when the hunters in the area could have confronted them had they the right weapons. We also need to know how much the help from America, Britain, France, China and Israel will cost Nigeria. Unless of course, they want Nigerians to believe that America, Britain, France, China and Israel will bear the cost of their mission in Nigeria, while aware that Nigerian senators earn more than three times the salary of Barrack Obama, Nigerian president the most paid democratic president in the world and governors set up for themselves when they leave office, out of this world pensions for 8 years’ service during which they did nothing but loot the treasury.
The Jonathan administration has completely disgraced Nigerian and wiped out whatever respects the world has for Nigeria and any value its citizenship has. Nigeria is dancing naked in the world stage and the president is drawing attention to her dancing skills. No country can claim sovereignty, when it is unable to take care of its internal problems or when it needs the world to solve problems most countries can contain. If Nigerian army is unable to deal with the threat of Islamic insurgency, how can it prove that it is a reliable army? How can a man retain his dignity, if he needs his neighbour to help drive away a rat in his house or fox in his garden? What is happening in Nigeria today reminds me of what one time Public relation officer of Nigeria police, Mr Alozie Ogungbaja said about Nigeria army generals many years ago. He said that all they do is eat ‘pepper soup’ and ‘isi ewu’ and plan coups. Boko haram and MEND insurgency are the two real security threats Nigeria has had since the Biafra war and the Nigerian army has failed woefully in addressing them in a clinical and professional way and manner.
In the light of the failure of the army and inability of the president to provide leadership, the question is what does the Nigerian citizenship worth and what should Nigerians do. Even though the Nigerian citizenship is one of the citizenships in the world with the least value, many Nigerians are very proud of it, but after this latest fiasco, I am beginning to wonder, if the Nigerian citizenship is worth anything at all. What does it really mean to be a Nigeria citizen and does the obligations, rights and privileges that come with being a Nigerian citizen still worth anything?
A British citizen gets from its government a welfare package that should be able to take care of his needs from cradle to grave. He gets national health care and social services, free education and unemployment benefit, including payment to cover cost of living and housing. If he wants more than this, which is only able to sustain existence, he has to work for it. If a British citizen is involved in a trouble in any part of the world, the government comes to his rescue in the way and manner a parent comes to the rescue of a child. The government takes care of its soldiers and provides significant insurance for their family, should they lose their lives in the course of their duties. British soldier in combat have a life insurance that is worth about £500, 000, which is paid to their family in the event of their death in battle or as a result of injury sustained while in active duty. This is the right way a country should treat those who risk their lives for her security.
Today in Britain, the government has obligation to provide the soldiers with everything they need before sending them out on any mission. Therefore, British soldiers are ever ready to sacrifice their lives for the Queen and country. They soldiers also know that the country will never forget them and will forever remember their sacrifice with gratitude.
Contrast this with the Nigerian soldiers, whose salaries are often not paid regularly and who does have the equipment and resources they need to fight the enemy because the generals, defence contractors and politicians misappropriate the defence budget and security votes. I have often wondered how it can be possible for many Nigerian military Generals to retire as millionaires, when the Nigerian army continues to deteriorate. Any wonder that Nigerian soldiers do not seem to want to risk his lives for the country they know treats them with such contempt and will not provide for their loved ones if they die. Why would any rational soldier want to die for a country, where those who loot her treasury are not brought to book and the welfare of the people not part of the concern of the government?
Because of the way and manner Britain treats her soldiers and citizens; her citizenship is one of the most sorts after and the most valuable. Again, contrast this with the Nigerian citizens who seem to have no welfare and human rights value. The Nigerian government does not care for the people. The leaders are only interested in how much they can steal. The Nigerian government gives no thought to how the poor can pay the school fees, s health care bills and take care of the up keep of their children and secure housing for themselves and their families. The government sets university fees at 250,000 Naira a year, aware that there millions on 18,000 Naira a month, who have children in the universities who cannot pay. It does not care how the elderly and disabled can move around in Nigerian cities and provide for them. It does not seem to care about how to ensure fair distribution of wealth and ensure that those in power do not take more than their fair share of the national resources by abusing their position of power. It is not tough on corruption and does not seem to care that politicians are taking more than their fair in the most criminal way possible. This is why the Nigerian citizenship really worths so little in spite of the huge natural resources and great potential of the country.
What Nigeria has in abundance are some people who have stolen from the government and determined to keep their loot and avoid justice. Now and then, they attempt to do some good with insignificant fraction of their stolen wealth and then expect the world to cheer. The government of Nigeria has not and does not add any value to the Nigerian citizenship and without adding value to the Nigerian citizenship by way of good governance based on the rule of law, with aggressive social investment to address inequality and deprivation, many Nigerians will continue to opt to be slaves in heaven, than kings in hell. The activities of boko haram has exposed a very distressing underbelly of the Nigeria corrupt and insensitive system, which had underdeveloped the security agencies in spite of having budgeted billions for it over the years. Now, the government must tell Nigerians where all the defence budget and security vote went.
I have no doubt in my mind that Nigeria is facing an existential crisis and will need all those who truly love her to survive. We need to renegotiate what it means to be a Nigerian, the obligations of the government and the responsibilities of the citizens in a new Nigerian partnership between the people and the government, without this, Nigeria, a poisoned chalice; will go the way of all poisoned chalices. The fracture of Nigeria along ethnic and religious fault lines will become a gulf, which cannot be bridged and Nigeria will disintegrate like a house of cards.
Nigerians need to begin a journey to a shared future based on equality and justice where intolerance and bigotry in any shape or form will have no place. Part of this journey will involve a paradigm shift towards honesty, equality of all under the law, openness and accountability, respect for human rights and dignity and emphasis on the rule of law and due process. These things do not need capital investment, but purposeful leadership which is committed to shared values in an atmosphere of common destiny, identity and future. Can the Jonathan government rise up the challenge and begin to do what it would take to save Nigeria?