Monday, September 20, 2010

Multi-Ethnic Greed: Why There Can’t Be A Revolution In Nigeria!

Written by Tony Ishiekwene

At a recent book launch, eminent legal icon, Professor Ben Nwabueze, SAN, advocated a violent and bloody revolution as the only way-out of the mess and indeed hell, successive Nigerian leadership and their ally- a tiny segment of the private commercial elite have turned the country into.
For the erudite professor, after ruminating over all the ills plaguing the nation, caused largely by corruption and greed of the ruling class, no law, edict or moral suasion is capable of dissuading the ruling class from their path of perdition taking along with them the entire nation of 150 million people.

To some extent the professor may be right. A bird’s eye-view of the going on in all political office holders, be it the local government chairman and the councilors, the state governors and their state legislative assemblies or the presidency and the bi-cameral legislative houses, all you see is monumental greed cutting across all the states, religion and ethnic groups. Nowhere is spared, and the result is a living hell for the vast majority of Nigerians, old and young, men and women who try to eke out a living but a denied the chance to do by a very rapacious, kleptomaniac group of leadership who think the wealth accruing to 150 million people could be shared exclusively by less than a million political office holders and their cronies.

Successive Nigerian leadership have run down the Nigerian Airways, Nigerian railway, Nigerian Shipping line, The Nigerian Steel Mills in Ajaokuta and Aladja, State governors have run down state corporations under their watch using their stooges, as chairpersons of these government parastatals, in stealing, asset-stripping and selling off remaining state assets to their close private sector friends and the rest allowed to decay as carcasses, and yet nothing has happened by way of punishment or sanction to these thieves who caused misery to hundreds of thousands of Nigerians who became jobless by the excessive greed of a few, sending many to their early deaths. It costs far more to undertake any government project in Nigeria than in US, UK and other EEC countries, where labour costs is sometimes triple that of Nigeria, because of budget corruption and the over-inflation of budgeted expenditure through budget padding and similar corrupt practices with legislative approvals, thereby legitimizing such corruption. And so Nigerian legislators at both national and state levels are mere rubber stamp of corrupt budgets, and for their troubles they get massively inflated allowances, perks and exotic car gifts from the executives and no one cares about the checks on the other as envisaged by the constitution.

And so millions of Nigerian are plagued by troubling poverty and disease, mass unemployment of its able youth who have now become so helpless that young ladies have turned to selling their bodies both in Nigeria and abroad, whilst young men and women who cannot go into armed robbery or other criminal behavior for survival are forced to find any means to leave the shores of Nigeria- many dying in the Sahara deserts and the ones who manage to get through Morocco die in ramshackle boats trying to cross the Mediterranean sea unto Canary Island, Spain or Italy- all in desperation to seek a means of surviving the hell that the political elites have turned Nigeria into. And all these misery happening 11 years after democracy was supposed to have taken root and the massive petro-dollar wealth that has accrued to the country in the last 10 years. The people have nothing to show for it. Education is in tartars; Health and health facilities are in shambles; Roads are dead traps as thousands of Nigerians are killed and maimed yearly in road traffic accidents occasioned by lack of road maintenance. Yet a tiny minority of its political elite, current and recent past wallows in shameless stolen riches and flaunts extravagance to the very face of the Nigerian people they have stolen blind.

So in a sense all the conditions that should trigger a very violent revolution persist in Nigeria, indeed over the past twenty years or more, a revolution had been overdue. But yet, I am afraid to sound contrary to the distinguished law professor, that there will not be any violent revolution in Nigeria! Why won’t there be one? Because of multi-ethnic greed! Nigerians even those dying of the mass poverty and hellish conditions Nigeria has become- and these mass of deprived and impoverished Nigerians cut across all ethnic, religious and geographical zones- feel their chance or turn will come for the selfish “chop-I-chop” that turn-by turn “rulership” (for what we have in Nigeria is not leadership) of looting otherwise referred to as Zoning of political offices. The political elites across the country have so manipulated the minds of the ignorant Nigerian into believing that retreating into their ethnic cocoons and shouting “marginalization” of my zone or ethnic group would ensure their salvation. They convenientlyforget or refuse to understand that their state governors and local government chairmen and legislative bodies are stealing all the allocations meant for them, and that their enemies are more within than outside their ethnic zones!

You can see the hue and cry of a segment of Nigeria- the northern elite and their handymen thugs whipping war drums that “zoning” must be respected out of fear that the circumstantial president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan may contest the 2011 election and “win” it whether by hook or by crook. For them Jonathan should not throw his hat in the ring to contest the election in the banner of PDP- where “election” win is guaranteed or any other party for that matter as he could use the power of incumbency to snatch a “presidential election win.” Why would a political party zone a political position to an ethnic group or geographical zone for two terms of election? Whilst a zoning arrangement for a disjointed federation like Nigeria may serve some purpose in ensuring unity and bottled-up peaceful co-existence, it is an affront on Nigerians for a cabal in one political party- the PDP- to insist on one zone having two terms at a stretch. Implicit in this arrangement is the disrespect the ruling cabal has for the Nigerian voter who should decide who rules them; they are saying that the Nigerian people’s vote will never count, and that rigging and fraudulent imposition of their “chosen” ones will continue without let. Put this way, they argue, Obasanjo ruled for eight years, through two term of elections (1999 and 2003) largely via rigged elections and late president Yar’ Adua should have two terms of rigged election? What right has any group of persons, in whatever party, to inflict one incompetent, inept and corrupt leader over the people of Nigeria or a state for that matter because of a convoluted arrangement of zoning by a few equally corrupt and greedy party cabals?

I disagree with the views of former NBA president Olisa Agbakoba in the Guardian opinion column of 28th July, 2010 that “Federal character” requirement in public institutions to avoid cronyism and nepotism equates with “Zoning” of Presidency, or Governorship in the case of State governments. The essence of the quota system (Federal character) is to ensure that no one tribe or geographical zone predominate any public institution so that we do not have President, the Vice President and possibly the Senate president from the same geographical zone at any one time.  Section 14, subsection 3 of the Nigerian constitution both in letter and in spirit was never about zoning of political offices to any particular zone at any point in time. Zoning is undemocratic and is part of the corruption deal that the ruling Nigerian elite have adopted to cheat the ordinary long suffering Nigerians from getting credible, competent and honest leadership.

Yes there cannot be a revolution in Nigeria so long as the monies to be stolen by the political class and their private sector collaborators continue to flow in by the pumping of oil from the Niger delta and the petro dollars goes into the federation account for sharing among the indolent, inefficient and corruption ridden three-tiers of government- Federal, State and local government councils; and also as long as multi-ethnic corruption is allowed to thrive and things like zoning of political offices are endorsed by the ruling elites.
A transformation of Nigeria where the people get justice and a fair deal is still possible, without recourse to a violent revolution. I have changed my mind that we need a violent revolution, even though I would have welcomed one- (see my writing over a year ago, where I said a Revolution was inevitable for Nigeria: What I think may eventually change Nigeria for the good is pressure from both Nigerians and the international community, where the later are doing a good job of insisting on good governance and transparency and accountability in government. They have not just been talking but also acting in helping arrest irresponsibly greedy Nigerian rulers like Ibori, Alameasiegha, Dariye and their associates in looting state treasury. Also Information and Communication Technology would play its part in ensuring that there is nowhere to hide by rogue leaders that currently predominates Nigerian leadership.

Eventually a credible election where the people of Nigeria, through one-person-one-vote that counts, decides who their leaders become at all levels of governance will ensure that competent people with ability and integrity gets into government and will put the people first- ordinary Nigerians- before their wallets and those of their god-fathers and cronies, as has been the case in the past 50 years of independent Nigeria. Nothing lasts forever and the current field day the political elites are having will soon come to an end. It will not be by a bloodletting violent revolution however, it will be by a blood-less, quite revolution of ideas, innovative thinking and brain power!