…as leaders play selfish card
…In Nigeria, everything that can go wrong has gone wrong – Eleazu
From the army of jobless youths in all corners of every state of Nigeria to the rising spate of petty crimes across the country, and to the increasing suicide cases on a daily basis, it is obvious that something is wrong with the distribution of wealth in the most populous black nation on the globe.
The high level of poverty in Nigerian homes viz-a-viz the ostentatious lifestyle of leaders in the same country amid a cost of living crisis speaks volume of a badly run state.
Many citizens have given up hope about anything good coming out of Nigeria as 24 years of unbroken civil rule appeared to have shattered the dreams of many citizens.
Lives and destinies are in a reverse gear, so badly that many citizens a volunteering to be second citizens in foreign lands.
Read also: North East, insurgents and bad leadership.
The “japa” syndrome now sweeping through the country is a direct offshoot of a nation that has disappointed her citizens in all fronts. Today, things have dreadfully gone wrong.
At an event in Lagos recently, Uma Eleazu, a 92-year-old former director/coordinator of National Policy Development Centre, Supreme Headquarters, Lagos, lamented the state of the nation. He said: “In today’s Nigeria, everything that can go wrong has gone wrong, thanks to the fumbling of our leaders. The economy is not growing, in fact the growth rate of the GDP has slowed considerably due to poor economic management, the Naira has lost its value, interest rate is so high that it does not encourage either savings or investment, and without these, the economy cannot grow.”
According to him, “The physical infrastructure that support growth of businesses – energy, roads, ports etc. have dilapidated. The general business climate is harsh and uninviting; those foreign businesses already here are taking their flight out of the country – Dunlop, Michelin, M-Benz Trucks, (ANAMCO), etc. I shouted myself hoarse in the 1970s and 80s. The powers-that-be did not listen.
Security-wise, we appear now to be living in a Hobbesian state of nature, where, as he put it in his book Leviathan: ‘There is war of all against all, and the life of man is nasty, brutish and short.’
“Daily, people are killed in cold blood, others are kidnapped, raped or put through inhumane physical torture only to exact ransom from their relatives. Life is now so precarious and cheap that one is afraid to venture out of one’s house. You can get killed on the streets and no one will be held responsible for taking your life, unless caught red handed. And if he, the culprit, is unlucky and apprehended by a mob, they will execute jungle justice. It is now toxic to live in Nigeria. Any wonder the so-called ‘japa’ syndrome has gained ground among the youths.
“There is banditry and kidnapping for ransom, murder of innocents by known and unknown gunmen, highway robbery, rape, murder and arson especially on Government facilities built with colossal amounts of public funds; there is blatant looting of public funds by the people who were elected or appointed to use it for the welfare of the people.
“Our elected leaders appear to be ‘fiddling while Rome burns.’ Debates in the National Assembly, and even state assemblies sound so flat, self-serving, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. The debates do not show that our leaders understand the people’s problems except when it touches their pockets. At the end of their term in the House, they take their loot and retire to their homes abroad only to be replaced by another batch of treasury looters under immunity from prosecution. Do they understand their role as elected representatives of the people? I doubt it. Appointees to public offices consider their MDAs as fiefdoms from which to extract wealth for themselves.
“Corruption has reached high heavens as to make the angels weep. Add to this the impunity with which public officials deal with the down trodden, the wretched of the earth of Nigeria; there is much extrajudicial killing of innocent citizens perpetrated by state officials paid to maintain law and order. The youths are hounded into prisons for having an earphone; some are arrested and detained without trial for having a computer to ply their trade. A panel beater was sentenced to death for stealing N57,000 while an Accountant General was fined N750,000 for stealing N109 billion of public funds. If that is not a travesty of justice, then I don’t know what justice is.
“The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) says 45.6percent of youths (aged 18 – 35) are unemployed. Many are unemployable – a result of poor educational system. Those of them who managed to go through primary and secondary level of education have no employable skills. Those who managed to finish their tertiary education eke out their living on the periphery of the formal economy, thanks to the internet and IT revolution. Most of them are starting families and will soon have other mouths to feed! The result is intergenerational poverty of body and mind. Any wonder the World Bank says Nigeria is now the Poverty capital of the world with over 130 million suffering from multidimensional poverty. That is the former Giant of Africa.
What happened? What did we do to ourselves?
“How did Nigeria descend to such a level? Our children are now asking questions. How do we get out of the mess the country is in and join the rest of the world and they deserve an answer. IT HAS NOT ALWAYS BEEN THIS BAD.
“In the past 30 years or so, I and a number of others had noticed this downward trend in values, decay of institutions, and erosion of moral standards. Imperceptibly, the social order was being undermined. The result in the political sphere was decay of democratic institutions. In a situation where there are no strong institution to uphold the social, moral and political order, anomie becomes inevitable.”
Recently, some supposed leaders from Rivers State flocked to Abuja to meet with Nyesom Wike, former governor of the state, to plead on behalf of Siminalayi Fubara, governor of the state, against whom the state House of Assembly initiated a motion of impeachment.
Police officers allegedly under the influence of powerful interests in Abuja, deployed tear gas and water cannons against the governor while he was on his way to inspect the damage at the state House of Assembly complex.
Sadly, the governor, who was also on the Abuja trip, was allegedly asked by the leaders to apologise to the former governor, just to placate him.
Also, during the gubernatorial primaries, most party leaders were not happy how the governors used fiat and all manner of intimidation to get their anointed candidates as the party flag bearers, leaving out the most competent candidates, all because they want governors they can control while out of office.
The Rivers scenario is not the first in the state and not the only instance, as many sitting governors, political and public office holders have severally been intimidated by their former bosses all to be in control of the state, local government or office budget, steal as much as they can, while the incumbent incur the blame.
The situation cuts across many layers, from bottom to the top, with superiors dealing with their subordinates ruthlessly. The ugly trend has also been the bane of underdevelopment in Nigeria as well as the reason the country is passing through persistent tough times in the last decade.
With a 26.7 percent in September 2023, up from 25.8 percent in August, representing an over 18-year high, high unemployment resulting in high rate of insecurity, hosting a good number of the world’s poor people, huge infrastructure gap, amid weak currency, leaders should concern themselves with how to find solutions to these problems, rather than intimidating the masses and removing every obstacle that will prevent them from looting more from the lean coffers of the country.
Regrettably, the destinies of over 200 million Nigerians are in danger of going atrophied with sustained suffering and use of standby security apparatus to quell revolt from the masses, who sometimes wake up to the reality that their country is in bad shape and need help, but not from those in power.
The fact that the country is declining in all development indices, according to Siene Obrutu, a human right and environmental activist, should be a wake-up call for leaders to embrace collaborative efforts at developing the country rather than scaring away both corporate and individual citizens with capacity to help with unnecessary intimidation.
“From their convoys with loud sirens that forcefully open ways in traffic jams, bashing motorists, to forcing everyone on standstill till they enter or leave a public place and to illegal acquisition of properties from the poor, hijacking royal thrones and more, our leaders have never ceased from showing off and rubbing their ill-gotten wealth on the faces of the poor masses. For me, that is the height of intimidation and the reason many youths do everything to get money,” she said.
According to the Warri, Delta State-based lawyer and activist, Nigerian citizens have never been happy since the return to democracy in 1999, rather they have been suffering and smiling because of the sustained intimidation from their leaders.
“The military rule forced Nigerians to become docile as the soldiers cracked down on any uprising then. Unfortunately, that suppression got into our blood and became a culture.
“Today, Nigerians can hardly sustain a demand from the government, they can hardly defend their votes, they cannot starve and cannot carry on for long. Our leaders, especially politicians know this weakness and even selfish entrepreneurs have taken advantage of this to treat their employees badly, after all, who will challenge them, the politicised Nigerian Labour Congress or government they support with campaign funds,” she lamented.
Juliana Akanji-Morgan, a public and external affairs manager in a multinational company in Port Harcourt, decried that the quality of leadership has dropped drastically, leaving Nigerians with those less-concerned about the country’s progress, but their pockets.
“If you observe, the quality of leadership in Nigeria has been dropping since the return to democracy in 1999. Sincerely, from Olusegun Obasanjo, it keeps declining and I am scared of the kind of leaders we will have tomorrow with the kind of politics Nigerians play now. We need sanity, sanity and sanity to move on as a people and a nation,” she said.
But the February and March 2023 general elections were the height of intimidation for Onyewuchi Akagbule, a senior lecturer at Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka.
“They told us that they will abide by our votes and they did not, they stopped many people from voting through intimidation and inefficiencies from INEC, they made intellectuals and activists to back off and now they can enjoy their loot without being queried because those who will ask are in their appointees. The masses have been intimidated and I don’t see any challenge, hence bad governance and underdevelopment will continue. Who will check who?” he wondered.
The university lecturer regretted that the leaders are not mindful of the bad image and negative perceptions of the country across the world, especially as the world capital of poverty.
“If it were in other climes and sane societies, leaders are mindful of the direction to go in time like this and make efforts from day one in office to change things for good.
Instead of intimidating life out of the masses, they will embrace them through people-friendly policies and measures, provision of infrastructure that will enable more sustainable development and a thriving democracy,” he said.
However, Sam Onikoyi, a Nigerian academic in Brussels, blamed the lingering sufferings, poor leadership and sustained intimidation on the inability of Nigerians to live above their ethnic and religious differences.
According to him, developed countries have been able to make all the citizens see the country first, to respect the constitution, which is above every citizen and justice for all.
“The fact that Nigeria is a multi-ethnic and religious nation, there should have been sustained efforts at upholding the constitution stronger than the ethnic or religious lines. If the constitution is strong enough like in Europe, politicians cannot divide Nigerians along ethnic or religious lines just to get their votes.
“Blacks are in top political positions in the UK, if the constitution is not all-embracing and diversity-conscious, no African would have risen to any political relevance here. We should campaign for the Nigerian constitution to be strong, it is the only succor for the poor when it is religiously followed,” Onikoyi said.
Speaking further, the academic noted that strong institutions in the developed world that have fought and won the corruption battle, true federalism, separation of power, justice for all, good governance, corporate governance and ethics and sustained social-economic infrastructural development are all guaranteed by a strong constitution.
“We have representatives at the National Assembly and the constitution said they can be recalled if they are not doing well, we keep saying they are not doing well, they are looting our treasury, intimidating and rubbing their wealth on our poor faces, but how many of such House of Representatives members and senators have we recalled, how many governors have been impeached by the masses’ sustained outcries, none. We need to be serious with our politics or forget development,” he concluded.