By Jaye Gaskia
As the 2015 general elections approach, and before it, the test cases in the Governorship elections of Osun and Ekiti states before it; the desperation within the ruling class will increase, raising the level of antagonistic tensions within and between the main political parties of the ruling class. In all of these however, in the midst of these intense crisis created and occasioned by the blind quest to retain power or supplant those in power; the overriding interest of these thieving light fingered ruling class has precious little to do with our collective interests, aspirations or pains. Rather it has everything to do with their competitive greed and gluttony.
So as usual, as it has been the case since 1999, and even long before that, what they will want, and in point of fact, what they will try to force us to discuss and focus on will be the mundane, the base, the primordial. They will ratchet up tensions around religion, around ethnicity, around geo-political zones. They will situate the search for our next President, our next governors, our next legislators at all levels, within the parameter of ethnicity, religious faith, and geo-political zones. There will be absolutely no attempt on their part to make merit, capacity, ability, competence, vision, and the articulated program of the candidate and manifesto of the party; the basis for seeking to govern us.
And why should programs, manifestoes, merit or competence and capacity matter in any case? What merit is required of a treasury looter? What competence is a pre-requisite for dipping their rotten fingers into our collective teal? What programs of reconstruction are expected from pillaging pirates? What vision is a requirement for Maladministration? What manifesto is needed to steal?
Furthermore, what is the difference between the parties of the ruling class? If there was ever any doubt about the sameness of the opposition APC with the ruling PDP, surely its merger with the New PDP ought to dispel any remaining doubts?
The rivalry within the ruling class, manifested in the antagonistic competition between its various factions and its major parties; can be justifiably equated to the bitter rivalry and antagonistic competition between two gangs of armed robbers; between two rival mafia families fighting over control of territory; only in this case the territory in contention is our treasury, the tuff over which they fight for control is our lives, our very existence.
Well, thus far we have focused on their agenda and on their intent. Let us now focus on us, on our agenda and our intent.
Do we have a choice? Can we still make a difference on the road to 2015? In the course of 2015? And beyond? Yes we can. Yes we should. Yes we have no choice but to ensure that we make a difference. Because it is our lives that is at stake; it is our collective existence that is on the line.
When they come to us [more like at us] with talk of how our ethnic group will be short changed if they are voted out or not voted in; we should shout back at them with the misery that our lives have become, with nearly 70% [that is 112 million] of us living in poverty. We should ask them where was our common ethnicity when they were growing gluttonously fat on wealth stolen in broad daylight from our common wealth? Were we not from the same ethnic group when throughout their pestilential reign they built no new standard infrastructure, and watched existing infrastructure get dilapidated, because they had diverted public wealth for their private comfort?
When they say to us that we should vote for them because we practice the same religion; let us ask them where our common faith was when they made 54% of youth between 15 and 35 years old [that is more than half of 70 million people] jobless, unemployed, and unemployable? Were we not worshipping at the same mosques and churches while they were presiding over the abandonment of 12,000 development projects across the country? Where is the benefit to our senatorial zone when our nation and people are confronted with the humongous challenge of 18 million housing deficits [that is nearly 90 million either homeless or living in inhabitable homes and under subhuman conditions]?
In nearly 15 years of the current 4th Republic, with three presidents [from the same party], with a national assembly that currently designates itself the 7th assembly; and after nearly $50bn worth of investment thrown down the drain the power sector; all we can show for it is the addition of 3,000MWs to the power generation capacity which was about 3,000MWs as at 1999. What is even worse, the capacity of the national grid has remained at just about 4,000MWs all through this period. The implication being that although we have managed to add 3,000MWs to the national generation capacity at the scandalous cost of nearly $50bn; we can actually not transmit more than 4,000MWs at any single point in time.
It is why the cost of doing business in Nigeria is among the highest in the world; it is why industrial capacity utilisation has stagnated at below 40%; it is why the Business Confidence Index is at it lowest, and has never risen above 25%; it is why the jobless rate is hovering around 30%, rising from a mere 9% in 2000; it is why although GDP growth rate has remained above 5%; it has nevertheless been on a consistent decline from more 8% annually at the beginning of the 4th republic to just over 6% in 2013. These are the issues that make our existence so filled with hardship and misery; it is the situation that enables criminality, enhances insecurity, and ennobles the criminal and the violent. These are the issues we should confront and challenge them with; these are the issues that should determine the recipient of our mandate. Over the past 5 decades since independence, the ruling class has grown stinking rich on our collective sweat, stealing in our ethnic name and pillaging in our religious behalf. It is this trend that we need to halt, it this deceit that we need to reject. It is our country. Let us rise to collectively take it back from this swarm of locusts. We must make the 2015 general elections a watershed in our history.
Jaye Gaskia is on twitter@jayegaskia