Nigeria: Where Looters Are Still Relevant In Politics
“Nigeria shall be great.” This sounds utopian to many. The growing pessimism among Nigerians makes anyone who says Nigeria shall be great look stupid. The most charitable pessimist will discard such utterance as wishful thinking—that is, to believe in a future that can never be. Therefore, believing Nigeria shall be great is, to some, a silly optimism. It is difficult to convince these pessimists to think otherwise. One cannot blame them, for they have their strong points.
Anyway, it is true that the trajectory to Nigeria’s greatness, if at all, is a very long one and thorny. One needs to be an unrepentant optimist to believe that any trajectory can be trodden to the desired destination. I am one of those optimists. However, recent events in Nigeria are not only demoralizing, they are capable of diluting one’s optimism. Many are hopeless, hapless, and helpless. You cannot just help it. Corruption has not only eaten deep into the fabric of Nigeria, it has eaten up the whole fabric.
Nigeria’s resources have been stolen, looted, and mercilessly milked. Its resources now contributed nothing but woes. Natural resources are used as raw materials for the production of food, goods, and accumulation of wealth for further production. In Nigeria, it is used for the production of poverty and accumulation of debts. With all our naturally endowed resources in Nigeria, our debt profile keeps skyrocketing. Arguably, virtually all countries are somehow indebted, Nigeria’s debt is unique in the sense that its revenue can neither pay its debt nor fund its debt service obligations. It presently spends 118 percent of its revenue on debt service.
Plus, no infrastructure or any capital project to show for these debts. The few that can be counted like Abuja-Kaduna train, re-construction of some major high ways, purchase of military hardware etc. are counterproductive. They yield nothing. It seems Nigeria takes loan not to create wealth but for the fun of it or to be looted. Some will even argue that it shows the country is credit worthy under the leadership of its savvy president who works round the clock to turn things around.
To put it clearer, Abuja-Kaduna train is running at loss. It is more of a liability, not an asset. Some high ways that are claimed to have been constructed or under construction are not safe—travelers are serially attacked and kidnapped on them. The more the country takes loan to equip or re-equip its military the more its citizens and denizens are kidnapped. The more money is piped to our refineries to make them work, the more it is difficult to refine a drop of oil. Only Nigerians can understand these ironies. If Nigeria were a private enterprise, by now, it should have been shut out of business. No wonder some are suggesting a re-colonization of the country as nothing works in it. It has tanked.
Be that as it may, there is nothing wrong with Nigeria which is just a geographical expression and location. We can make it work if we chose to. All we need do is to anathemize corruption, confront it frontally, and address it as a cancer which it truly is. If we do this, we will realize that thinking about Nigeria’s greatness is not utopian. It is achievable.
It is now glaring to many, unlike before, that the present government which claims fighting corruption is one of its main objectives is, surprisingly, an enabler of corruption. Indeed, its will power to fight corruption is questionable. I questioned it five years ago in a journal article published at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) titled “War against Corruption and the Political Will to Wage It: A Case Study of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Two Years in Office.” This is a period when the President has millions of idolaters who can maim (and probably kill) for his sake. But some of us, very early, realized that the claim to fight corruption by this regime is phony. I wrote: “With all the ecstasy and euphoria that greeted the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari as the messiah that has come to deal corruption a deadly blow; corruption is said to be fighting back. Why? Because rule of law has become rule of men in Nigeria. The rule of law in Nigeria is best thought in school and agreed to in principle with no practical significance.”
Then I mistook corruption to be fighting back; but now we realize it was not fought in the first place—and probably not intended to be fought. For instance, just few days ago, it was reported that Nigeria is currently losing about $2 billion monthly to vandals despite billions of naira spent on surveillance. Up to this moment, Nigeria does not have any authentic data on its petrol consumption. Subsidy is said to have been removed to justify hike in pump price, yet we continue to budget trillions of Naira for subsidy annually. Nevertheless, no one is bold enough to call anyone to account since the President himself is the Minister of Petroleum. Therefore, corruption in this sector enjoys IMMUNITY by default.
In the present day Nigeria, one needs to have stinking records of corruption to be relevant in its politics. The current Chairman of APC, Abdullahi Adamu, is yet to clear himself the charges of stealing public funds estimated at N15 billion. This, perhaps, qualified him for the position.
Many of those who were considered looters and enemies of the country under previous PDP’s government are the major drivers in the present regime. Hasn’t it been said that when you join the ruling party all your sins are forgiven? The previous and the current government are only different in name.
The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, is always fingered in corruption cases that border on fraud. But that only makes him stronger and more relevant in this government. He is undoubtedly one of the most powerful in this regime. Now that he is an in-law to the President, perhaps presidential immunity can be extended to him. Does one even need be president’s in-law to enjoy immunity? The President can choose to pardon any criminal no matter how hardened they are.
Recently, former governors of Plateau and Taraba State—court-confirmed-big-thieves—were granted presidential pardon. Many were shocked; I was not. (After all, it is not strange to win elections in Nigeria even while in prison.) As I pointed above, I do not see this government fighting corruption right from its inception in 2015. What shocked me was the widely held jubilation after their release in their respective State—which they looted and left in chaos.Then I concluded one needs to have mercilessly milked Nigeria and be a big looter to be relevant in politics and loved by his people.
As for Rev. Jolly Nyame of Taraba State, he should go back, of course, to the Church and maintain a very low profile. But if his release would truly change the political atmosphere in Taraba State—as claimed by some Tarabians—and make some politicians jittery, I have no admonition for anyone who loses faith in Nigeria. I hope we get it right one day.