Friday, December 14, 2012

Nigeria on the Brink: A Nation that Negotiates with Terrorist will Deal with Kidnappers

“We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....” –Martin Luther King Jr. "Beyond Vietnam"
There is a scourge loose in Nigeria, this scourge is aided and abetted by an incompetent State headed by some of the most educated elites that ever ruled our land. I wrote elsewhere that there is nothing wrong with Nigerian that can’t be cured with what is right with the country. But sometimes the level of incompetence in Nigeria truly beggars belief. Administering a state in this century is definitely not rocket science but the current Nigerian leadership in Aso rock may have turned their ineptitude to an art. The entire apparatus of administration in Nigeria is farcical in appearance and reality. Every step of the regime in Abuja seems to be steep in colossal failure. Even they themselves know it but they would rather live in denial so they could continue to milk the country dry while the entire state apparatus of governance goes to the dog.

The Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s administration (GEJA) may go down in history as perhaps the most incompetent in terms of application of the massive resources available to it and its sheer incompetence in the administration of same. We are almost four years into GEJA effective control of the levers of powers in Nigeria and one cannot point to any positive achievements of this administration in any strata of Nigerian’s society. This is a government that comes loaded with so much promise and yet abysmally succeeded in frittering away every opportunity to advance Nigeria in the comity of nations. The carcasses of its missteps are everywhere to behold; name it, power generations and distributions, road constructions, infrastructural developments, oil subsidy imbroglio, failed banks, stock and financial management meltdown and most important of all inept security management. Yes, I readily agreed that some of the problems may have been caused by forces beyond the reach of the administration but then consider the inept response GEJA has made to address some of the problems.

It is not as if the administration is short of funds or hampered by inability to borrow funds. In fact under GEJA, the “Federal Government has borrowed a total of N2.57tn… The Federal Government’s debt profile rose from N4.18tn as of June 30, 2010 to N6.75tn as of June 30, 2012, ” as we learnt recently from Punch Newspapers. From the moment Jonathan was sworn in as the elected president on May 29, 2011 to June 30, 2012, the debt profile of the country rose by 61.48 percent: within 2 years!

It is not as if we have massive infrastructures to point to as fruits of all these expenses, we’ve got zilch! Zero! Nada! To the contrary, more people in Nigeria are mired in poverty at this time than at any other time in the history of our country. According to a report by Nigerian Bureau of Statistics widely publicized by BBC in February 2012, the number of Nigerians living in poverty rose from 54.7 % in 2004 to 60.9% in 2010 and is still growing. I agreed that the same report shows the Nigerian economy grew exponentially during the same period. The truth however lies in between. Most of the economic gains we had went to a very select few at the top echelon of the country. These are politicians and their contractors who can afford to send their wives to Western Hospital and their children to well heeled universities abroad. The saddest part of the saga is that despite the huge windfall we are getting from high oil price and increased production, GEJA has saddled this country with more debt than any other administration in the history of the country albeit with little or nothing to show for it. GEJA currently plans to borrow N633.85 billion from domestic debt market in 2013. What they intends to use the borrowed money to do remains illusory. In 2012 alone, GEJA earmarked N560 billion for domestic debt servicing. When you consider the fact that some of the politicians running our government owned some of the banks we are borrowing from one will see the inevitable conflict of interest. In fact, the irony of a coordinating minister of the economy who championed the nation’s exit from foreign debt between 2004 and 2006 but who now leads the charge to send the country to a future laden with debt is not lost on anyone.

The saddest part, is that there are hardly any feel good story coming out of Nigeria since GEJA got the reins of governance. Increased terrorism in the northern part of the country ensures that half of the country will remain on lock down for a long period of time, even though the government spends more money on intelligence and security than tertiary education. The lack of viable opposition ensures that our National Assembly remains at best toothless bulldogs, if not a substantial contributor to the national malaise. Our financial sector is in doldrums, the power sector that would have provided an elixir has been hijacked by powerful interest in the ruling People’s Democratic Party. Impunity reigns supreme in Nigeria. If politicians steal millions from the coffers without any prosecution, it will surely instill in terrorist and kidnappers that they could get away with nefarious acts.

What these breed is an increased state of lawlessness. Whenever and wherever people lost hope in their government the result is what we are seeing now, increased brigandage, kidnapping, brazen acts of terrorism, and brutalization of innocent citizens. Someone once said that “a society is judged by how well it cares for those in the dawn of life, the children. By how well it cares for those in the twilight of life, the elderly. And by how well it cares for those on the edge of life; the poor, the sick and the disabled.” You can pick up any Nigerian news daily and find news on how someone somewhere brutalized Nigerian children, the elderly, poor, disabled and the sick. You do not even need to look far; the fact that a nonagenarian mother of our Coordinating Minister on the Economy could be brazenly kidnapped in daily light and her family had to pay ransom to rescue her speaks volume on the ineptness of our security agencies. The fact that the president’s own wife and brother had to be flown abroad for emergency hospital services speaks to that ineptness too. What is more, majority of the children of our government officials in Nigeria attends schools abroad!

Of course, I expect some folks reading this piece will say that government cannot fix all the problems that ails our nation. Well, what have they fixed lately? And is it too much to ask that police patrol the street of our nation to keep people save without demanding bribe? After all, as Edmund Burke once argued, representative government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants and men have a right that these wants should be provided for by this wisdom. Effective leadership as Peter Drucker once said is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes. It is high time our mainstream media start holding GEJA to task for the inanities of its realm. The sideshow about the fall out between President Jonathan and his godfather, retired General Obasanjo, should not merit the front page of any well meaning newspaper in our country. Let’s focus on the million dollar contracts GEJA and the OBJ administration before it awarded with little or nothing to show for it. Who got these contracts? Why are we borrowing money to put our great grandchildren in perpetual slavery to creditors? Let’s save our country from a disastrous future.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Quotes from elsewhere

A society is judged by how well it cares for those in the dawn of life, the children. By how well it cares for those in the twilight of life, the elderly. And, by how well it cares for those on the edge of life; the poor, the sick, and the disabled. - Anon
It is part of the purpose of representative government as conservative forefather Edmund Burke himself once envisioned: “Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. Men have a right that these wants should be provided for by this wisdom.”

Karl von Clausewitz: “The higher the rank, the more necessary it is that boldness should be accompanied by a reflective mind . . . for with increase in rank it becomes always a matter less of self-sacrifice and more a matter of the preservation of others, and the good of the whole.”