by Babatunde Rosanwo
As long as the Nigerian government continues to battle fruitlessly with the legitimacy and morality to govern, the spate of on-going activities across the country will prevail.
The dilemma of governing is not farfetched from the pretentious attempts to rule in unity while divide-and-rule measures are applied to satisfy the divisions that abound in a heterogeneous state like Nigeria.
One of the greatest threats to democracy is anarchy and Nigeria is inching dangerously in that direction. The trend of wanton corruption, egregious human rights abuses, abuse of power and office, impunity, crime and violence continues to grow and these subtle or obvious indicators of lawlessness cannot be tolerated for longer.
More recently, there has been an alarming rise in kidnappings across the country. Sufficient prima facie evidence indicates that government does remit ransom to meet the demands of kidnappers and worse still their targets have expanded from oil expatriates, highly placed politicians or affluent Nigerians to now include ordinary citizens who live through the drudgery of daily frustrations.
We must not also be unaware that there are a number of incidences that do not get into mainstream news or social media, not to mention the increased number of “unknown” gunmen who perpetuate a cocktail of crimes in the land. Anyone and everyone can be kidnapped for a ransom as low as the cost of a couple recharge cards; the ransom demanded largely depends on the magnanimity or sophistication of the captors who play on the emotions of worried family and loved ones who have lost faith in the police.
There are rife but unconfirmed reports that some victims are made to write cheques and then escorted to their banks where they withdraw the ransom and hand over to the daring kidnappers.
The list of victims are endless – journalists, teachers, lecturers, students, doctors, lawyers, traders, the elderly, babies/toddlers, politicians, policemen, judges, pastors, imams and even unemployed youth have not been spared.
A friend told me of a story making the rounds about how youths in a certain community kidnapped a corpse and demanded that the bereaved family pay a ransom. What does one make of such?
The chairman of Ejigbo Local Government Area in Lagos was kidnapped some days ago and the ransom was set at US$1million. The persistence of unresolved high profile kidnappings that bore no consequences have surely influenced and encouraged the evolution of kidnapping gangs across the country.
It appears that the response of elected officials in both the executive and legislative arms of government is fortification of personal security of the individuals and their immediate family, which further depletes personnel available to secure the rest of Nigerians.
It remains a dream only attainable in Mars, for the Senate and the House of Representatives to declare how much they earn per month (basic salary + allowances). The senators and honourable of opposition parties are not left out in this uncomfortable silence over the status quo that enriches their private accounts in exchange for their ‘service’ to the nation.
While those who we have entrusted with checks and balances have turned into parliamentary rubber-stamp bulky-sitting ducks, the executives have not shown any intent to be above the fray. While one idle minister is led by the nose to embark on a road trip which has no value on good governance (hopefully Orosanye recommended the scrapping of the Ministry of Misinformation), the Presidency is largely drawn into weekly controversies by its action or inaction.
The turn of events which includes granting State Pardon to the international fugitive and ex-convict, DSP Alameiyesiegha to the shameless appointment of another ex-convict and certificate forger, Salisu Buhari (disgraced former speaker of house of reps, who was pardoned under the Obasanjo government), as a member of the governing council of one of Nigeria’s foremost citadels University of Nigeria, Nsukka. All these go to confirm that President Goodluck Jonathan has no moral scruples. He is simply a misfit and has consistently fouled the exalted office of the President of the Federation. His has severally abused the trust Nigerians placed in him when he was deemed elected in 2011.
Weeks after a former minister Obiageli Ezekwesili (known as Madam Due Process) challenged the Jonathan’s government to an open debate in respect of squandering funds inherited in the Excess Crude Account (ECA), the response has been laden with rhetoric and obloquy characteristic of the administration’s institutionalized lack of accountability. The pettiness of the presidency, which causes it to reason in a vacuum, begets the idea that only Mrs Ezekesili is interested in accountability and good governance and not the millions of taxpaying Nigerians who have seen no usefulness of the present government.
The governors also seem to be on another jamboree; from Akwa Ibom where the governor has run out of ideas on what to do with ‘overflowing’ state funds; one can easily deduce that the momentum is with the foolish leaders.
Who else declares N6million for lunch at an eatery or as hospitality donation apportioned to buy gifts for private citizens?
It is not only the oil producing states that have become clueless and unproductive as a result of the monthly allocations from Abuja, the non-oil-producing state governors have also turned profligate. Another governor was showing off the private jet he acquired using taxpayers’ fund at a symposium with young people. His actions and audacity were short of him poking his fingers in their face as he branded them cowards who could never stand up for their rights. In this quagmire, the civil society can’t find its voice especially the civil liberties organisations.
We must come to understand and accept without bias that the intensity at which the country is being polarized on several issues will continue to weaken our institutions. The recent debates on what amnesty means for the extremists in the northern part of the country has been soiled by ethnic and religious sentiments. Unless we address these issues with a national approach and see that it is Nigerians who are being killed and not just Muslims or Christians i.e. place more value on every single Nigerian life, we are in for more years of tears and sorrow.
Sadly, Mr Jonathan who continues to portray himself as political victim of hatred on account of his place of origin is more concerned about regime security and how he will retain power beyond 2015 on behalf of his lackeys.
Mr Jonathan who declared gleefully on national TV that Obasanjo’s law and order approach to the security challenge in the Niger Delta did not solve the problem, must also confess that his touted Amnesty Programme has not in any way addressed the concerns of Niger Deltans beyond feathering the avaricious nests of his ex-militant friends. Any amnesty programme that does not first diagnose and acknowledge ramification of a crisis with intent to implement resolutions, apply justice and seek reconciliations, is an exercise in futility. It is bound to fail from the outset.
With millions of young unemployed Nigerians, it is sheer anathema that ex militants who have taken up arms against the state murdering thousands of innocent Nigerians in their path will earn monthly incomes far higher than the average university graduate or minimum wage of toiling public servants. Jonathan is indeed sending a dangerous message.
The obvious faults here are in our weak and ineffective institutions which are overwhelmed by different variables, chief of which is lack of the political will and wit to govern. The inability to enforce the rule of law because of de facto discretions and political patronage goes alongside the low durability of formal rules. Statutory institutions vested with the authority to represent the state in enforcing the laws upon powerful actors are either underfunded, drifting away or in cahoots with the rampaging politicians.
A few analysts have attributed such dysfunctionality to our wholesale adoption of institutional frameworks from other countries without adaptation to our peculiar context – all in a bid to conform to international tugging usually a prerequisite for granting ‘free’ foreign loans.
Bad governance coupled with poor economic performance is a recipe for disaster. The Minister of Finance and Central Bank Governor may continue to tout 7% economic growth, except this begins to sustainably impact on the life and livelihoods of ordinary Nigerians, it is meaningless and the growing discontent will not cease. Poverty, inequality and injustice will continue to debase the value and morals of our society. In the midst of abundant natural resources and a youthful population that can be harnessed to boost the economy, the will to effect a change is being overshadowed by the failure of the state, while those who should care are cocooned in the vile statistics churned out from New York or Washington or in keynote addresses delivered at Davos.
Is Nigeria truly a democracy? Many schools of thoughts are of the opinion that it is a developing country that should be allowed to grow. The dilemma is simply that since 1999 not even those in power could locate the site of the formidable foundation upon which the real socio-economic edifice mouthed daily in government speeches is located.