In our Nigeria of today, several Nigerians are stuck with zero experience of what it means to live in a decently administered society with robust leadership. The unfortunate situation of these days, quickly reminds me of the past. In my school days, bars of soap and school uniforms were given out to pupils, free from primary – secondary schools. In Government College Keffi (GCK) for instance, even toilet paper were given out to students for free accompanied with weekly stipend while the school food was superb and rich. The college’s sick bay was stocked with medicines and positioned to admit patients managed by a, qualified medical personnel. When we were to vacate, transport fare was given to each student by the school authority depending on destination. Text and exercise books accompanied with writing materials were free. GCK was one of the best secondary schools in Nigeria ever.
But today, Nigeria is laden with a long history of mostly inept and less than patriotic leaders. It seems abnormal for the governed to expect any bit of improvement in their daily existence from the government. Massive infrastructural decay and regular reports of primitive accumulations of illicit wealth have since lost their capacities to shock.
In fact, most people have since adjusted their living styles to perennially absorb the vicious impacts of these debilitating vices. They constantly extract some bit of comfort from continually reassuring themselves that they are in such a hopeless and helpless situation where these excruciating fallouts of leadership failure will remain the resilient, inseparable companions they are condemned to perpetually, co-exist with.
Those who lack the resources to obtain some form of alleviations resign themselves to fate hoping that they would be able to sustain the capacity to continue enduring the searing rewards of successive wayward and rudderless leaderships—which will remain their perpetual sources of torments.
Even those Nigerians who reside in well ordered societies where leaders are accountable and basic amenities are meticulously provided and maintained, once they touch down on Nigerian soil automatically adjust their minds to endure the excruciating realities of life in Nigeria. They only derive some consolation from the fact that they would soon jet out again to where sanity and orderly existence are taken for granted.
And so, when it is election season and this set of disoriented Nigerians are ready to vote, they do not even bother to interrogate the antecedents, hallow promises and other antics of the candidates having concluded they all belong to the same cult of corruption and ineptitude; they would only seek to extract some ephemeral emotional satiation from lending their support to somebody who shares the same ethnic or religious identity with them. At least, they can always derive some comfort for even animation from the fact that their “brother” or “sister” had also joined the rampaging band of locusts, and that their votes had helped to achieve that feat for their people!
But sadly, there is hardly any green vegetation anywhere again for the locusts to, swoop on and devour unless, and only unless if it is to be thrown down from another planet.
What we have all over the place are long stretches of excruciating aridity which only rewards with poverty and hardship all that are unlucky to have Nigeria as their home at this time.
Only recently, the London-based Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) told the world what most people already knew, namely, that Nigeria’s “debt service payments in the first four months of 2022 totaled N1. 9trn, which was greater than its total revenue of N1.6trn, according to the 2023-2025 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper(MTEF/FSP) draft presented by the Finance, Budget and National Planning Minister, Zainab Ahmed, on July 21, 2022.
In plain language, what we are being told is that the amount being spent to service the huge debts accumulated by the exiting Buhari administration as a result of reckless borrowings, including the USD1.96billion foreign loan for the construction of an undesirable rail line from Nigeria to Niger Republic, has far exceeded our country’s income, forcing Nigeria into the perilous state of compounding the debt burden by borrowing more money to service debts.
The Excess Crude Account (ECA), Nigeria’s savings for the rainy day, which stood at $2.1billion when Buhari became President in 2015, instead of increasing, had by June 2022 been brutally and corruptly reduced to $35.7million. By July 2022, it plunged further down to $376.655. It will be a huge surprise if one cent remains in the next couple of months before Buhari exits power.
And clearly at sea as to how to crawl out of the sticky pit he has dragged the profligate big brother out there, doling out USD$1million to Afghanistan a few months ago and recently approved Ni.14billion for the purchase of posh SUV’s for Niger Republic to strengthen their security operations while the country he purports to rule is scarily submerged in worsening insecurity in all fronts. For over seven months, the nation’s Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) was on strike due to poor working conditions, and hapless parents were forced to watch the unsightly and devastating spectacle of their children’s future toyed with by insensitive politicians whose own children are mostly studying in quality schools and colleges in better managed countries of the world. The ASUU versus Federal Government misunderstanding could not be resolved by any member of Buhari’s cabinet until the patriotic intervention of Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila and his deputy, Ahmed Idris Wase before truce was brokered and ASUU called-off the strike.
Indeed, unless a competent and patriotic manager is allowed to take over the leadership of the country in 2023 and steer it away from the path of disaster, Nigeria, already miserably broke and prostrate, will fall beyond what anyone had thought was possible in a country ruled by human beings.
At the concluded national conventions of the two faces Nigeria’s terminal affliction, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the delegates that voted to choose their presidential candidates were reportedly bought soul and body with crispy wads of US Dollars— an, unwholesome indulgence that unleashed further hurt on the economy. This is apart from the hundreds of millions of naira earlier squandered to purchase party nomination forms and sort out other logistics.
Now, after investing all these millions of dollars and billions of naira to secure party tickets alone and then more billions to prosecute the campaigns and buy votes from willfully impoverished voters, what would their first mission be if by any stroke of misfortune any of them emerges as the president of this unfortunate country? Is it not to hurriedly seek to recoup their investments with fat interests against our collective development, security and welfare?
And will Nigeria’s already bankrupt economy be able to survive such boundless looting for a few more months when they and their associates who supported them to power descend on it like starving locusts on a rampage? Social media reports say that one of the presidential candidates has hired about 500 able-bodied young people and armed them with laptops and data to market him and demonize his opponents in the other contesting parties on created social media platforms. It will be tragic if among these misguided lot, are university undergraduates who were at home for the past seven months because government officials think it was better to pocket and squander the scarce resources of Nigeria than to use them to secure the future of the younger generation by giving them quality education.
As some of those parties which have since eroded their credibility and ability to inspire the populace deploy the same well-worn shibboleths to recapture power and continue Nigeria’s march to desolation. One of those presidential candidates that suddenly emerged at the scene is Peter Obi of the Labor Party (LP) who captured the widespread admiration and possibly acceptance of some Nigerian youths with his touted sterling records of transparency and competence demonstrated while serving as Anambra State Governor and a clear concocted message of economic recovery. But having governed just a state out of 36 states isn’t enough to trust Obi, Kwankwaso or Tinubu with the presidency of the largest black nation on planet earth. Leading Nigeria is far more than governing a minute component of it.
It is far better for those hired image launderers to change their tactics of packaging Peter Obi for the Nigerian voters than trading in those fabricated imaginations that are senseless and unintelligent.
But, if the Nigerian voters so allow themselves for whatever reason to be deluded once again, they would all be here in Nigeria to suffer the consequences of their tragic decision and cry to no listening ear. They are presently crying because of the pepper rubbed on their eyes with the worsening hardship of the last seven and half years without a soothing balm applied other than peanuts periodically doled out as palliatives to the already half-dead citizens on oxygen tubes.
The excruciating pains of corruption and incompetence do not unleash their torments with discrimination. They attack everyone irrespective of voting preferences or the tribal marks of the new bad ruler. Nigerians from Daura, Katsina state which is Buhari’s home town can attest to his style of leadership better. Should Nigerian voter repeat the same pattern of voting in 2023? Should we pray and hope to have a resemblance of Buhari in leadership? Whosoever showers praises on the Buhari style of governance must be an accomplice of our impoverishment and economic imprisonment. That’s my Take!
Muhammad is a commentator on national issues