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Averting A Shipwreck: Engaging The Walking Disaster In Nigeria By Lekan Akinosho

December 14, 2014

Dr. Lansana Gberie, my friend, a fellow political historian, a well-travelled journalist and author of 'The Dirty War in Sierra Leone', and I shared some fond memories reliving the tragic events which devastated his home country, Sierra Leone. I remember my boastful gestures to the effect that what befell his country could never happen in Nigeria, my beloved country. I indulged in comparing two countries with manifest differences in terms of origin, size and experiences. As the French aphorism goes, it is futile to place small and great things on the same pedestal and not expect disappointment (Il est vain de placer de petites et de grandes choses sur le même piédestal et ne pas attendre déception).


Nigeria has, evidently, fallen on bad times. If anyone had predicted that our country would dwarf Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan concerning daily occurrence of sordid events, he or she would have been dismissed as an amateur shaman or a desperate swindler. The pro-democracy struggles of the 90s, for which many of us suffered privation of varying degrees of injuries, with some unfortunate ones paying the ultimate price, could not have contemplated the disastrous consequences of our passivity and, sometimes, active connivance. Nigerians watched with trepidation as General Olusegun Obasanjo imposed a sick man and a mediocre personality on us as the President and the Vice President respectively. The man is, currently, pontificating on the best way possible to rule the country. He expresses regret, in a characteristic display of hypocrisy and mischief, on the state of things in the country today. History reserves for him and his cohorts a very harsh judgment.

The impostors at the seat of power shocked the knowledgeable around the globe with a ludicrous claim that the country is the largest economy. They ignore the simple economic logic which places production at the base of any realistic economic development. A country that can hardly boast of 4000 megawatts of electricity, which prides itself on being about the only place in the world where importation is based mainly on what is produced locally, where life is the cheapest commodity and security seems an utopian possibility that no news is considered tragic and shocking any longer, celebrates her status as the importer of anything. Any article of trade, considered of little or no importance, finds acceptance in our country. Is it not shocking that some people, among whom are World Bank and IMF agents, will talk about rebasing an economy that is monolithic?

Could there be any doubts with regard to the itinerary of this government? Is there anyone who still harbours any hope of redemption coming from these elements in government? Since the current handlers of our affairs have surpassed their predecessors in nation wrecking through unprecedented profligacy, recklessness bordering on banditry, must we continue to waste our time discussing the suitability or otherwise of having these directionless elements as our burden as a people? Who will deny the fact that the economy is comatose? All the commentaries on the state of the country, both informed and downright ignorant, appear to ignore the fact that the nature of the economy determines all other things. Insecurity, unemployment, thuggery, collapse of infrastructure, promotion of mediocrity in place of merit and other social vices, associated with evil spirits by commercial pastors, are symptoms of a failing state.

Furthermore, empty postulations on Gross Domestic Product, GDP, and per capita income by IMF and World Bank pundits have been nothing other than dubious attempts by paid agents of the state to hoodwink the ignorant with figures which stand at variance with the harsh realities on ground. Talking about gross domestic product in a country where virtually all industries have folded up, where the generation of electricity has become a perennial campaign point and a veritable source of having slush funds for looting, where about 90% of the revenue is derivable from one source, crude oil and unemployment of the most critical segment of the population, the youths, has been embarrassingly high, making the claims of the current impostors a huge joke and, most importantly and deplorably, where there is seamless regression into the Hobbesian state of nature, is cruel. Can there be any better befitting epitaph on the cenotaph of the worst profligate government in the history of this government than this distressing anecdote?

Giving this background, is it not tragic that the President, Goodluck Jonathan, is seeking to renew his mendacious mandate from the battered, dispossessed, and serially abused citizenry? How else can one explain this brazen disregard for the plight of Nigerians? What is democratic about this conscious expropriation of the commonwealth by a cabal? How more audacious and stupid can a political office holder, whose stint in public office has inflicted pains, endlessly, on the citizenry, be? Who will set the people free from this rudderless and roundly corrupt government?  How else can an insult be described if the attempt by this man to remain is not one?

To imagine that an upstart, who was a nonentity when Nigerians took their destiny in their own hands during the military era, is now the one who is reintroducing and promoting a culture of impunity, is ironic. He underestimates the capability of Nigerians to resist his ruinous rule because many of the erstwhile activists who fought to chase away the military are now quislings. He is at home with the outlaw and scum of every clime. He is less pretentious about giving ethical consideration to governmental actions. You are good enough to belong to his band if your immediate society has some grouse bordering on non-adherence to ethical values with you. You become an instant celebrity if you have been accused of crimes ranging from mindless looting of treasury to murder. You can be as uneducated and untrainable as a donkey. Once you are considered a "grassroots mobiliser", a euphemism for a certified brigand, you are his choice. 

The most unsettling in all these tragic histrionics concerns the regression into savagery exemplified by acts of impunity perpetrated by his agents to support his re-election bid. He actively encouraged sycophantic groups, prominent among which is the so called Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria, (TAN), whose activities remind all true patriots of the Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Sanni Abacha regimes, and their futile attempts to transmute from military to civilian dictators. So commonplace and dubious are their message and style that no serious public analyst will waste precious time discussing them. But just as these comedians are allowed to entertain us on the imagined achievements of this profligate and morally bankrupt administration, any trace of opposition attracts stringent measures, almost all the time bordering on the subversion of the rule of law.

As things stand on the political scene, he is the sole candidate of the PDP recently coronated by his party! What is government of Nigeria doing to our people to make them happy, obedient, loyal and honest as stipulated in our national pledge rather than coming to seek their votes in the next elections? This inept and corrupt ruler wants us to believe that his rule which has had significant deleterious impact on the polity deserves to be tolerated for another four years. He continues to boast of his achievements that are only evident in the abject poverty of the mass of the people. As argued by Larry Diamond, who has coordinated the quality of democracy project and the dimensions on which democracies can vary in quality notes, “The assessment should include social and economic quality and estimates the extent to which public policies correspond to citizen demands and preferences.” A student will only pass exam(s) when he or she attends classes and meets the requirements for promotion. Jonathan cannot seek another political capital or votes when he has performed woefully in all aspects of administration. 

Nigerians are more divided now than they were under Obasanjo. It is a question of using hermeneutics to determine or interpreting what is best for our future, which Jonathan and his corrupt cronies have been unable to guarantee.  The whole country is virtually in the dark now after billions of Dollars had been expended to procure darkness. The youths are not only unemployed but they have become despondent as there appears to be no hope in the horizon. Yet Jonathan and his fellow travelers want to cling to power.

Obasanjo made too much noise about debt repayment during his regime. Some N60 billion was paid to some funny elements as commission on the debt forgiveness scam. We were told that Nigeria was free from some nebulous debt purportedly owed some equally shadowy characters and institutions. The same Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala played a very prominent role in the grand deception. The indication of the economy since this current incumbent came to power is that, it has recorded consistent failure in controlling spending and debt. It is a government whose economic policies militate against growth in any form. The socioeconomic climate is hostile to real investment required for development. All claims to the effect that this government created jobs through some dubious Sure P programme must be regarded as noises made by desperate apologists to explain the colonial failure of these impostors. Is it not disgraceful that this country parades over 70 million of his youths as hopeless, hapless, despondent and desperate because of unemployment? On what basis is the aspiration of Jonathan for a second term hinged?

Jonathan has plunged us further into questionable debts with his profligacy. Our domestic debt is now put at about $48 billion while external debts stand at $9.3billion. The Naira has just been devalued officially by the CBN, yet government apologists claim fictitious figures as evidence of growth. Our naira is so weak in the sense that it has no value in the international market. The naira has fallen against the dollar to a new low of N180.59, bringing the total value loss by the local currency this year to 10.59 per cent. This is what late Fela Anikulapo- Kuti (Abami Eda) sang about in his Overtake Don Overtake Overtake, ODOO. "Governement announce second tier, everything come tear to pieces". “When naira crash, everybody crash with am”. Oil theft is almost equal to the official sales at the international market. Stealing is now a national culture. After about $28billion was purportedly spent in the past 15 years to solve the problem of electricity, this backward government generates less than 4000 megawatts.

On November 12, 2014, Jonathan, told his gullible PDP supporters and his hirelings that “After seeking the face of God, in quiet reflection with my family and having listened to the call of our people nationwide to run, I, Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan, have accepted to re-present myself, on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party for re-election as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the 2015 general elections.” Which God did he call on? Who are the people who called him to seek re-election? I am not going to fault his constitutional right to contest; however, I argue that his claim that he received a call from God is very dishonest and belies- as you cannot use the name of God in achieving your primordial and primitive or inordinate ambition. Is it the call of charlatans or nonentity pastors who call themselves Christians- but unGodly and have been having dalliance with your government- and living in the cesspit or cesspool of corruption- and feeding on the sweat of their congregations or the Almighty? Do these pastors share with their thieving members the biblical passage of Isaiah chapter 10:1? Or "Woe unto those who made unjust laws” or Psalm 82:2-4, which states, “How long will you keep judging unfairly and favouring evil people? Be fair to the poor and to orphans. Defend the helpless and everyone in need. Rescue the weak and homeless from the powerful hands of the heartless people”. You cannot play chess with God and therefore, Jonathan and his so called community of nitwits who witnessed his declaration that was nothing but a catalogue of his failure must be encouraged to step aside for the country to breathe.

Jonathan says corruption is not stealing. $20billion simply vanished from NNPC accounts. The whistle blower was removed from office unceremoniously as the Central Bank Governor. There was nothing this administration did not do to humiliate him. He triumphed at last. He became the Emir of Kano after the death of the former king. On May 11, 2014, Hilary Clinton,  a former US Secretary of State, put the situation of Nigeria succinctly. As Clinton notes, “Nigeria has made bad choices, not hard choices," Further, "They have squandered their oil wealth, they have allowed corruption to fester and now, and they are losing control of parts of their territory because they wouldn't make hard choices”. This is a very touching one and serious indictment on Jonathan’s government who is seeking another mandate under the brand of mis-governance and maladministration. 

Where is Jonathan’s love for the common people? Like the brutal winter of Western Canada, they are left with no shelter and treated like lumpens without a candle light flame on what the future holds for them. They are like the lonely night, ordinary candle in the wind and not knowing what tomorrow holds for them. Every day is not beautiful to them -and yet, their votes count now that they have been grossly abused. 

My mum, auntie Titilola, who voted for Jonathan during the last Presidential election, has vehemently complained of the negative performance of his administration. During the last election, I tried to persuade her with coherent arguments on the need to vote for Buhari, but she stood her ground- using irredentist counter. I guess her blood tie to Ijaw informed her decision at that time. She was born in Port Harcourt; her mother, late Mrs. Angelina Onitiri, from the famous Banigo family of Bonny Isiele in Rivers state, who married my late grandfather, Olawale Cole Onitiri from Lagos. My mum speaks, fluently, some of the major Ijaw languages like Kalabari, Okrika, Opobo and Nembe. She is also very versed in Ibo language due to her schooling at Orlu Girls High School in the then Eastern Region now called Imo state. However, she is regretting and lamenting for voting Jonathan -and without scruples- has vehemently told me that never again will she support a character like the President.

Nigeria is going through devastating experience of epidemic proportion. Corruption and insecurity have brought this country to her knees. Our situation is akin to what James Wilson and George Kelling call the ‘Broken Windows’. Wilson and kelling argued that bad leadership is the inevitable result of disorder. They posit that “If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude no one is in charge.  Soon, more windows will be broken, and the sense of anarchy will spread from the building to the street on which it faces, sending a signal that anything goes”. All of us have the bounden duty to stop Jonathan before he turns the rest of our people into refugees in their own land as it is happening in the north east of the country.   

Considering all that has been happening in the country since the inception of civil rule in 1999 up till the assumption of office by the incumbent in 2011 through to this time, it will be safe to conclude that Jonathan is a walking disaster. Jonathan has become an epidemic virus that walks and a ship wreck that is imminent. The corruption virus has become a contagious epidemic in the land. There is virtually no section of the economy that has not been affected adversely. The country bleeds from its deleterious effects. 

Nigeria is one of the most insecure countries of the world today. The government has been overwhelmed by the enormity and scope of the current wave of insurgency. This president is inept and incapable of tackling the problems of insecurity. The economy problems defy all solutions. Nobody is safe even in his own house and some are saying that we have never had it so good under him. Our girls were kidnapped after their male counterparts had been murdered in a gruesome manner in Yobe. Nyanya was blown up in Abuja and our people were mowed down like grass in Borno. Jonathan went to Kano to launch his campaign for re-election in 2015. Road construction is now part of the political campaign. Contractors are mobilized to site not to execute any project with maximum efficiency. Politics of presence is played in the crudest of forms. The body language of this man is clear. He wants to rule or Nigeria will not know peace.

On February 14 in 2015, Nigerians will make another decision that will reverberate across the country and the global world. The two prominent and major candidates are busy selling themselves to the electorate. It is going to be between Mohammed Buhari, a proven man of integrity and the current President, Jonathan Ebele Goodluck. The first stands out by virtue of excellence, personality, charisma, achievements and trust, while the latter is exceptional for anything that is negative. At stake, is the effective administration of Nigeria. Buhari has emerged as the only candidate proposing thoughtful policies that represent change. l en est sûr (He is sure).  In today’s politics, Jonathan has no market place to sell his candidacy. We should all take note that failure of a nation-state looms when the greed of rulers overwhelms their responsibilities to better their people and their surroundings. In this situation, governments lose legitimacy in the eyes and hearts of a growing plurality of its citizens. Jonathan is a walking disaster that must be averted. If the country is afflicted with this menace once again, one shudders to think of what may happen. Every onlooker is either a coward or a traitor. The time to show him that the country belongs to all of us is now. As the French says, “Abonne chance dans votre choix” (Good luck in your choice).  Your vote is your choice as ours is to continue to articulate what is the best for the collective interest.