Understandably, glasses are clicking in Abuja in celebration of the latest rating of Nigeria as the largest economy in Africa. Whilst the euphoria and jubilation concerning this self-inflicted ego booster by a lacklustre government desperate to cling to any measure of achievement is still ongoing, it is apt to reflect on some of the fundamental issues that have held us back as a country and fatally impeded our march towards progress and development. While the ego trip on a dubious self-rating is still ongoing, we as a people have the urgent task of dissociating ourselves from the obsessive delusions of a non-performing government and chart a definite path of self-sustaining progress for ourselves. A major approach towards this is the dissection of a major social malaise and the exposure of perpetrators of corrupt practices in our midst.
It has been a prolonged season of anomie for Nigeria and apparently, our woes seem unending. Whilst Abuja continued to delude itself with achieving a milestone in overtaking South Africa as the largest economy, millions of youths remain out of jobs; our roads still retain the unenviable tag of death traps whilst our schools and hospitals are nothing to write home about. Sometimes, it is a puzzle as to the indices of achievement and success being employed by the charlatans at in measuring their impact or lack of it on the citizenry. Whilst the expensive melodrama currently going on in the name of National Conference in Abuja has focused deliberately or otherwise on religion and ways of suppressing press freedom, stories and reports of monumental corruption has continued to hold sway in the country. This is not to neglect the increasingly alarming and daring effrontery of the murderous Islamic group notoriously known as Boko Haram. This brutal group has continued to maim and kill, even to the extent of rattling the seat of power lately. It is still ironical that the activities of this group are yet to be checkmated despite the declaration of President Goodluck Jonathan sometimes in 2012 that he knew who the sponsors and supporters of Boko Haram are since they exist even in his cabinet. So much so for the order of the day in Nigeria.
We had hardly taken a breather on the shameless activities of the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly who continues to expend state money like personal inheritance. We had hardly taken a moment’s rest from the much publicised atrocities of ex-Minister of Aviation, Stella Odua, when the rumpus about the prolonged excesses, insensitivity and kleptomaniac atrocities of Dezani Alison-Madueke (Nigeria’s Petroleum Minister) hits the air, once again. Diezani Alison Madueke is a parasite we have ignored and allowed to fester in our national life. Coupled with the likes of Bola Tinubu in Lagos State and Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom state, in the life of a country, such a country would only continue to exist in sheer jeopardy and perpetual retrogression considering the magnitude of money that would have disappeared into private pockets.
Thus, it is with disgust I read (as usual) the statement credited to the presidential attack dog, Doyin Okupe, restating the determination and zeal of the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration not to set up a parallel probe into the corruption allegations levied against the Petroleum Minister. This statement by itself is a contradiction of erstwhile habit of the Jonathan administration to rush into the defence of its sacred officials. A good one in recent memory is that of the infamous bullet-proof car scandal of Stella Odua, ex-Aviation Minister. Here, the Goodluck Jonathan’s government wasted no time in setting up a parallel probe panel to the one instituted by the House of Representatives. Of course, then the government had a different explanation for setting up the panel. The consistent lack of consistency often exhibited by this rather chaotic government has not helped its battered image. Here is a government that has a stupendous tolerance, affinity and indifference to corruption. Though our notoriety for corruption is renowned, is it any surprise that tales and reports of corruption have assumed mega-gigantic proportion in the lifespan of the present administration? Thus the statement credited to Doyin Okupe is a mischievous manipulation, typical of Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, to apply different strokes to different situations all in an effort to sanctimoniously protect its cronies and befuddle the Nigerian people.
In a country that has been rated one of the poorest in the world (never mind the cooked up statistics declaring our economy as the biggest in Africa), it is pertinent to take a second and closer look at the state of unbridled luxury being lived by our elected representatives. As a writer has suggested, it will be good for the system if we as a people can determine how many of our public office holders, especially governors, buy or charter aircrafts at the expense of tax payers. We need to know how many states in the federation have indulged in the excesses of purchasing custom-made bullet proof cars for political chieftains and public office holders. For a fact, it is on record that Lagos State purchased un-necessary bullet proof cars whose distribution extended to Bola Tinubu. Rotimi Amaechi bought a jet for 50 million USD while Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom bought another one for about the same amount. Other states in the federation are neck-deep involved in this orgy of national waste. It is a fact of life in Nigeria today that no governor ever flies in commercial jets for both personal and official functions.
Corruption allegations amongst government officials are common occurrences since the inception of this administration. That both arms of the national assembly have assumed the role of watchdog over overzealous and recklessly corrupt government officials is now the norm. Whilst the House of Representatives sometimes coughs and sneezes in relation to this epidemic of sleaze, the Senate has been curiously moribund nowadays. The signature tune of present administration is to ignore the findings and outcomes of such investigative panel. Whilst the shameless policy of “stand and bow” of accrediting Ministers by both houses of parliament in Nigeria has steadfastly ensured that criminals, cockroaches and goats succeed in holding sway over us. Is it then wrong for Goodluck Jonathan to treat sanctimonious probes of such negative characters by the national assembly with disdain? This administration has demonstrated over the years that it harbours a different agenda to the aspirations and yearnings of the Nigerian people. What should however be of concern to us is the system that aids and encourages and recycles corrupt politicians as our cabinet Ministers and important government officials.
Dr. Olusegun Fakoya writes from Lagos