FEATURE ARTICLE

Monday, October 1, 2018
[email protected]
Atlanta, GA, USA
NIGERIA AT 58: IT’S STILL ORGANIZED BANDITRY

“Some state governors in the oil- rich Niger delta command budgets bigger than entire West African countries, yet traditionally, after they have spent most of the money on their own helicopters, limousines, and Glory lands, together with gangs of hired thugs at election time, there is little left over for anything fancy like schools or hospitals*” (The Economist, November 14, 2009).

t was my mentor and Ogoni super hero, the late Ken Saro Wiwa, who said what goes on in Nigeria in the name of government is nothing but organized banditry. Yes, the operation of “government” in Nigeria revolves around two focal points-robbing and killing. Of course, the only motivation for people in Nigeria to go into government is to have access to the oil money. And once you are “elected” or appointed into public office, you are essentially inducted into the looting hall of shame. Yet, the higher the office, the bigger the looting platform; with the grand prizes being the office of the president and state governors.

And the killings! Anyone who has the audacity to question the mindless looting of the public treasury is targeted for elimination. Ken Saro Wiwa himself was murdered for confronting the robbers of the Ogoni oil wealth and for demanding justice for his oppressed people.

General elections in Nigeria are getting bloodier as the cut throat competition for public office becomes more intense. As if we did not know that they kill to get “elected”, a state governor was caught on the phone advising his counterpart in another state to kill as many people as he can; in order to “win” his election.

Enter Nigeria’s electoral process. General elections in Nigeria are essentially a sham, with the state governors as the biggest election fraudsters. The “winners” are for the most part, the biggest riggers. And those who “win” are mostly those who have the money and who have access to the instrument of violence. This is where the state governors thrive.

In Nigeria state governors have unfettered access to public funds and they are unaccountable. Perhaps the biggest conduit pipe created for state governors to siphon public funds is what they call “security vote”. Sometimes those thieves contrive crisis in their states to justify the spending of security votes, For instance, at the height of the Ogoni crisis in the 1990s, the Rivers state government would at times deliberately escalate the crisis in order to justify “security vote”.

Last year the speaker of House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara challenged state governors to publish what they spend monthly on security votes. The Speaker also demanded from states executives the disclosure of how local government funds under their jurisdiction are disbursed. (check out Vanguard,April7,2017} . It is common knowledge that state governors routinely confiscate and embezzle local government allocations .By the way, why should local government allocations have to pass through the state governors? Why can’t there be direct allocation from the Federation Account, to the various local councils in the country? Passing local government allocations through those bandits in States Houses is a way to further wet their appetite for embezzlement.

I think this is another issue with the “Resource Control” debate. Some proponents of the resource control debate, tend to mistake resource control as sending more money to state governors to steal. On the contrary, those of us in MOSOP, Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, believe resource control to mean those communities who produce these resources should be allowed to manage the proceeds of their land and contribute whatever quota to be worked out to the central government,

Even with its vast material and enormous human resources Nigeria’s development has been stagnant; leading to a situation which Tekena Tamuno, professor emeritus of history and former Vice chancellor of the University of Ibadan referred to as PARADOX OF TALENTS.

Meantime, every, nearly every, Nigerian, have since agreed that the problem with the country is that of leadership. So, like other peoples across the globe we have always agitated for change of leadership. Until the recent past those changes have always come in the form of military coups. Thank goodness the military guys have been disciplined enough not to meddle into civilian business for quite some time now. Since they left for the last (and hopefully the final time) in 1998 we have had a series of general “elections”. But we have hardly gotten any meaningful change. Change has been so elusive in Nigerian political culture because the corrupt and vicious old guard are so deeply entrenched that it is almost impossible to dislodge them. And the reason they are so entrenched has to do with the pervasive culture of impunity out there. Past public officials are neither investigated nor transparently put on trial and justice exerted. Virtually every looter of public funds and murderer of political opponents walk free and are later recycled into the succeeding administration where they continue the looting spree.

Since they have limitless amount of money ( looted public fund) at their disposal they can always buy their way back to power. A prime example here is the immediate past governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. This is a guy who has been having a running battle with the EFCC since his days as Speaker of the state Assembly. So what earned him a ministerial appointment in the Buhari administration?. Former governor Amaechi is alleged to have sponsored President Buhari’s electioneering campaign with the looted Rivers State funds in his inordinate ambition to be vice president. He missed his crown prize and was compensated with the lower office of Transportation Minister .So President Muhammadu Buhari and Senator Bola Tinubu are complicit in the looting of Rivers State. So when I hear people say Buhari is fighting corruption, I say according to my former high school Mathematics teacher, Mr.A.B. Akpan,”that is the biggest joke of the year”. If President Buhari is fighting corruption why should he surround himself with past treasury looters?. Why didn’t he reject their offer to fund his campaign?

Consider this: General Ibrahim Babangida whom Ken Saro Wiwa called the monster of Minna, and the former NBA, Nigeria Bar Association, President, Alao Aka Bashorun called evil, and General Olusegun Obasanjo whom Nigeria’s sole Nobel laureate, the indomitable Professor Wole Soyinka recently accused of trading Niger delta oil blocs for sexual gravitations, are the ones deciding the fate of Nigeria rulers. It is amazing or is it frustrating, seeing potential presidential candidates streaming to Minna and Otta to seek the “blessing” of those evil men, in order to rule Nigeria. You can imagine how bad things have gotten in that blessed but grossly abused nation. Whereas in places like the United States association with such men of questionable characters would doom the political ambition of any public office seeker. These are men whose tenures in office witnessed multiple cases of assassination of political opponents and massive treasury looting among other crimes against humanity. In saner climes those guys should be cooling their feet in jail not controlling the fate of a nation.

According to former British Prime Minister, David Cameroon, fragile nations are those who are unable to provide basic needs such as education, healthcare, infrastructure to their citizens. All those basic needs cited by David Cameroon are in shambles in Nigeria today, not because of lack of resources to operate them but because successive bandits who have ruled the country over the years have chosen instead to plunder the nation’s wealth for their personal aggrandizement and leaving public institutions and infrastructure in shambles. So, Nigeria at 58 may well be a fragile state that is likely to collapse, anytime.


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