Sharing my thoughts and putting my message accross
Given the facts and figures available to the beholder, this question should ordinarily pose no match to the intelligent mind probing for an answer. Yet, the natural instinct of the average Nigerian that is configured to serve the cause of private and strategic interests often makes it difficult these days, to find even the simplest and most obvious answer to a very simple question. In the midst of incomprehensible polarization and subjective sympathies devoid of rational appraisal, it will be difficult in today’s Nigeria to find common grounds even on the question if “Satan was truly evil or was maliciously painted black by God”.
Judging by comments and analyses made by reputable international economic pundits and institutions, Nigeria’s economy is growing impressively and performing adequately well to fuel optimism for a brighter future. In fact, nothing short of this judgment would have been expected of an economy managed by a powerful name like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Unfortunately however, the layman, the domestic consumer and millions of unemployed graduates in Nigeria express legitimate bewilderment at such claims in the face of indices and realities that glaringly contradict any semblance of economic progress.
News report at the end of the year 2013, unveiled a steady decline of the Nigerian Foreign Exchange Reserves to $39 billion from its peak of $48.85 billion in May 2013. In fact, records show that the sum of $1.33 billion was lost from this reserve in just one month (between August and September 2013). The Excess Crude Account in which the difference between the benchmark oil price and real market price is saved after sales stood at a peak of $10 billion at the start of the year 2013. Latest records however show that this account has been badly plundered down to $2.5 billion as at December 2013. Meanwhile, the foreign debt status that was zeroed down under Olusegun Obasanjo’s government rose by 19.36% from $6.92 billion to $8.26 as at September 2013. It will surprise no one if the $10 billion limit is hit again as we discuss our problems in March 2014. Youth unemployment rate stood at 54% according to the latest figures for 2012 with prospects of a drastic rise in the run up to 2014.
Amid all these bleak and gruesome messages stands an upcoming highly contentious presidential election period in 2015. These badly depleted resources, which translate into the tragic reality of less money to share between the states, less money to spend on public infrastructural projects and difficulties in the payment of salaries and wages to public officers are rendering the government cash-strapped while the barrel prices of crude oil have enjoyed an all-time high in recent years and months. Yet, it is the proceeds from this single product that the central government relies on to finance the reelection ambitions of a President, who does not “give a damn” about the word he had given as long as there are Nigerians who will encourage such uncouth political behavior on the pretext of constitutional legitimacy.
In fact, talking about the gains realized from high oil prices, none less than Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala cried out recently: “2014 will be challenging because of the elections. If we don’t make it tight, the elections will unravel all the macroeconomic stability we have achieved so far.” After all: “The oil benchmark proposal is $74 per barrel. We want the National Assembly to push it to $76.5. We did $79 last year.”
In other words, the Nigerian economy cannot afford to finance the electoral machine of the ruling party. It is of extreme importance that the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Finance cried out in this tone because she has lately being in the eye of the storm for her perceived transformation from Technocrat to benefit-seeking Politician. The fears that she expressed in these words are not a far-cry from the alarm raised by the suspended Governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.
Without prejudice to the accusations of financial recklessness and maladministration leveled against the suspended Governor, which he – by the way – has debunked to the satisfaction of a huge number of non-Aso Rock affiliates, the notion that his revelation (claiming that oil proceeds are being habitually stolen) would have the ultimate consequence of robbing the ruling party of a vital source of financing electoral campaigns, is widely believed by many Nigerians. In the end, he was hastily suspended from office in defiance of strongly suspected misuse of constitutional powers by the President.
The absence of the same haste in clamping down on oil sector thievery since 2012 when the last wake-up call was sounded on the government by massive civil resistance, now raises questions on which direction Nigeria is heading. If anything, corruption in the oil sector has grown with impunity rather than diminishing. Cash-in-hand in the aftermath of the partial withdrawal of oil subsidy has dropped rather than increasing and the fall back on reserves and Excess Crude Account to augment public spending testifies to this. There is hardly any report of refurbished local refineries or newly built ones since 2012 as promised, nor is there any report of the prudent implementation of the subsidy reinvestment program (SURE-P). Now the audacious move to finally eliminate residues of subsidy is making the round again and Nigerians now seem fed up and may finally accept the total removal with the impending risk of loading the final straw that may break the camel’s back.
While the anti-corruption agency EFCC is being openly scuttled and underfunded, actions like the Presidential pardon for an internationally acclaimed economic and financial felon in the person of Diepriye Alamieyeseigha are comfortably perpetrated without any care in the world. Facing no pressure of any sort in a move that many consider a ploy to intimidate political opponents of his reelection ambition, the President suddenly convened a National Conference allegedly to discuss the future of the country without compromising the unity of just that same Nigeria.
Worse still, the so-called delegates to the National Conference (numbering a total of 492) that are each rewarded with the whopping sum of Naira 12 million (approximately EUR 60,000.00) for the three months of deliberation are largely drawn from among friends of the establishment and their family members. It has so far been one of the government’s closely guarded secrets, where the allocation for this payment will be drawn from.
Today, many forces have quietly designed strategies to hijack the National Conference from the President and alienate its outcome from the very objectives that the President has publicly propagated. In the end, the stage is set for yet another roof bearing a huge potential of collapsing on the President’s head.
One can hardly help these days but compare the current leadership in Nigeria to a pitiable and helpless individual that is cursed with the gift of courting troubles when it least requires one.
The Nigerian military now witnessing strategic weakening through a combination of factors that includes corruption, is fighting a huge battle to contain misguided religious insurgency in Northern Nigeria – a battle that is yet anything else but won! On the flipside of constant strategic reformations of the military in processes that have seen the weeding out of experienced Generals and high-ranking officers to avoid coups d’etat, reports are reflecting a decimation of discipline and combat motivation. No doubt, the same military in its present state is making tremendous progress in fending off the consolidation of insurgency into a nationwide network. Reports however show that it works successfully in planning strategies and taking the enemy by surprise and recording enormous successes. Yet the same military will reportedly abandon defense posts and checkpoints when alerted of impending attacks by insurgents, it will refuse to appear for direct combat when insurgents attack helpless soft spots for hours unending and will require hours to repel attacks when they are taken to its barracks often with treacherous inside information.
This is a pattern that Nigerians have actually grown accustomed to by the Police Force. Reports often show under-equipped and poorly trained policemen removing uniforms to blend in with civilians, when insurgents attack their stations. That the Nigerian Police often shies away from appearing at scenes of robbery operations to take on robbery gangs in direct combat is no secret much like they are known to arrive at such scenes wielding heavy armory to intimidate civilians only after it is safely known that the robbers had long finished their operation of several hours and left the scene. If this mentality now moves to the military as reports seem to be suggesting, it will be a huge cause for alarm over the bigger picture of national security.
The dangerous drift in the country is further compounded by other social vices. Today, employment seems purchased rather than simply applied for. It has been pathetic enough that corruption and nepotism have always played a major role in securing gainful employment. It is now even more disastrous that hapless and poor job-seekers have to pay for forms, medicals and the like before being considered for employment interview in the first place. The employment process has now turned into a major source of internally-generated revenue (IGR) for government agencies. The natural result manifested recently in the death of innocent Nigerians when the Nigerian Immigration Service sought to conduct the shortlisting of employment candidates in stadia nationwide out of over 2 million applicants for just 5,000 jobs. Yet this does not preclude the phase of bribery after shortlisting. Mind you, we are talking of unemployed individuals with no source of income.
Then there is this issue of a Pastor-turn-Presidential Adviser on New Media. A Pastor that is expected to cover high moral grounds in matters of national unity! Yet Reno Omokri was reportedly caught recently in a willful campaign of calumny to smear a public figure-turn-enemy of the President in a dirty trick of sort. Till the present moment, Pastor Omokri’s boss is maintaining sealed lips over this highly disturbing conduct much like he did in his frantic efforts to retain erring Minister Stella Oduah in the wake of her armored car scandal.
Steady progress on infrastructure and the wellbeing of Nigerians is echoed these days by government and given a beautiful face on paper and political rhetoric. The reality however, unmistakably shows a nation that is drifting uncontrolled in search of a quick redeeming action.