• Sunday, July 21, 2024
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BusinessDay

A concert of colours in governance

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I  have always aligned myself with the great saying of Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821) that “every nation gets the government it deserves”. This is simply and squarely the reason monumental acts of frivolity and financial recklessness continue to grow and dominate in governance, because Nigerians simply watch and do nothing. In fact sometimes individuals and groups encourage “their own” in government who are entrusted with public treasury to be untoward.

I recall a certain occasion where president Obasanjo remarked that a delegation from one of the ethnic groups in Nigeria accused him of marginalization because he gave their son a ministerial portfolio that was “not lucrative”; even after they were told that all ministers earned the same pay. This is the extent to which corruption in high places is tacitly approved by the ordinary Nigerian.

Over the years, persons in government have continually failed the nation and human conscience with reckless and rather wayward misappropriation of public funds. Obasanjo himself had contextually captured this rebellion when he referred to certain governors as Owambe; those mostly rookie politicians who became governors in the early days of this present republic and who partied with abandon both at home and abroad. There were even peacock-like concerts of colours where some state governors had turns in heavily costuming their colleagues in governors’ gatherings hosted by them. And each governor, at stupendous expense to public treasury, would raise the bar when it came to his turn to host these bogus meetings.

But as things have turned out, Obasanjo’s metaphor had shown that things of such were only beginning. These days frivolous misappropriation of public funds has become institutionalized, tacitly accepted and all caution seems to have gone to the winds. For instance, in 2010 when Nigeria turned 50 as an independent nation, one of the planned highpoints of the celebration was what was to be the biggest cake in human history, such that would have a “pride of place” in the Guinness Book of Records. And this act of shame was actually building up, until perhaps reason prevailed and the 2000-man, 65,000 kg, 100-foot-long, six-foot tall, billion-naira laughable “private project” cake was halted.

That was not all. In 2012, Nigerians watched helplessly as Aso Rock spent N1 billion to feed the first two families, buying cassava bread, Ofada rice and other “home grown” foods which President Jonathan said he would resort to after cassava bread was successfully developed. Today, the apex custodian of Nigeria’s purse the Ministry of Finance, biggest income earner the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Central Bank sing discordant tunes running into scandalous billions of dollars. These days we see a Central Bank of Nigeria that is supposed to be the conservative bastion of national wealth, become Father Christmas, doling out unguided and even questionable donations.

But CBN’s jamboree may not have created, it seems, the highest bar in the macabre dance that is now in proportions that border on crass irresponsibility. We have seen an Aviation Minister spend hundreds of millions of tax payers’ money on armored cars she did not need. And as if challenged in the wild concert of colours, we see a Petroleum Minister who must not be outdone by a fellow public servant spend over N3 billion in two years to service an aircraft that belongs to her alone, in what qualifies perhaps, as the mother of all recklessness in high places. This is aside from spending about 600, 000 euros in a single return ticket to London, at least twice in less than three years.

A few days ago, the nation woke up to what appears to be a wheeler-dealer arrangement between a “consultant” and the Immigration Service Department where a supposed mass recruitment exercise ended up taking hundreds of millions of naira and at least seven lives from job seekers. Only last week, a high court in Lagos, in its wisdom, declared the new car number plates introduced by the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) illegal. Unfortunately billions of naira had already been extorted from helpless Nigerians under the scheme; a scheme which is just one out of about as many chief executives as the nation has had since the inception of FRSC. Each time, Nigerians are made to pay, and of course every change of scheme leaves billions of naira in contracts in its wake.

It is indeed time someone stopped to think. Nigeria runs one of the largest apparatuses of law-making in the world what with large houses of legislature complete with several-figure pay packets, yet there is so much lawlessness in the land. A system where those entrusted with public funds and far-reaching responsibilities operate with uncommon abandon can only breed anger in the land. The fact that today, gangs and farragoes heavily threaten the peace and security in the land, and even sometimes police the land, simply suggests a near anarchy situation. And unless an end is put to lawlessness in high places, it will only be a matter of time before the bubble bursts. No evil lasts a life time.