“People who are truly strong lift others up.
People who are truly powerful bring others together”
Put bluntly, Nigerians are angry because they are hungry. And they have long been hungry as a result of poor leadership. We still rank as the world capital of extreme poverty for obvious reasons.
We parade a leadership that concentrates much of the nation’s enormous wealth in the hands of an irredeemably corrupt, self-serving, greed-driven political elite, irrespective of their party coloration. They promise paradise during campaign rallies but deliver peanuts to the people once they mount the pedestal of conscience-castrating offices.
But now, Nigerians are hungrier and therefore, angrier because of an enforced lockdown they never prepared for. Unfortunately, without an iota of doubt, the coronavirus pandemic has come to put to question, the manner of democracy that we practise here in Nigeria. How do we explain the fact that a lot of government’s policies are anti-people and at variance with the prevailing economic paradigm globally?
While countries such as the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Spain, Germany, and the hard hit Italy have in place sustainable programmes to cater for the vulnerable members of the society, we politicise ours here! Imagine food packages being distributed in areas that have large concentration of the ruling party faithful? Imagine doling out N50 loaves of bread that are branded by the politicians as donors?
If Turkey could provide free accommodation and pay monthly stipends to its senior citizens, why not Nigeria? If Rwanda that overcame the genocide challenge 25 years ago could distribute packages of food and drugs to its citizens from door-to-door, why not Nigeria that obtained political Independence from the British colonialists since 1960?
The answer is found in the prevailing dysfunctional political structure skewed in favour of the political class. Members spend billions of Naira to access political power. Their obscenely high pay packages fuel corruption. The country, Nigeria, remains the only one known, where state governors go cap-in-hand to the all-conquering federal centre, to be given their share of the federation account, every month end.
How can poor, long-suffering Nigerians smile under lockdown without buffers or succour from both the state and Federal Governments? Governments that have consistently run against Section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution to guarantee their security and provide for their welfare.
A woman minister was quoted as saying that because the Southerners are not poor they are not going to receive the palliative. The statement was quickly denied. It was a similar scenario as the Minister of Information, Lai Muhammed debunked the statement earlier credited to him that some billions of our common patrimony had been distributed to Nigerians and that not a single citizen could be termed hungry!
As the enlightened citizens were still debating the suggestion by former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar that the sum of ten thousand naira be given to every household, to cushion the harrowing hunger in the land, our set of billionaires came with their own game plan.
While the likes of Aliko Dangote, Femi Otedola, Jim Ovia, Tony Elumelu and Folorunsho Alakija pledged one billion naira each, Chief Emeka Offor upped the ante with 15 billion naira. Their gestures, noble as they appear, triggered a lot of questions.
Concerned Nigerians wonder why the billionaires gave such huge sums of money to the Federal Government instead of using such to buy food items and needed drugs and distribute directly to the people. Why can’t the President submit a supplementary budget to the National Assembly, primarily to take charge of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic? Why should the federal and state governments not have in place adequate infrastructure, especially in the critical healthcare sector?
How come, that Abba Kyari, the influential Chief of Staff to the president could not be treated in Aso Rock clinic after some billions of Naira had been budgeted for it over the past four years? Is it true that it does not boast of ventilators? Does this not give credence to the earlier claim by the First Lady, Aisha Buhari some two years ago that the clinic had no Panadol and lacked syringes?
It is obvious that the coronavirus pandemic has come like a midnight storm to unveil the secrets of the market stalls and shops. Or, how else do we explain that barely 72 hours after the legislators asked the Minister of Finance to provide the credible data to support the claims of the billions of Naira allegedly claimed to have been spent on the issue at hand that the office of the Accountant General went up in flames?
As iconic Human Rights activist, Joe Okei Odumakin of Women Arise for Change Initiative rightly asked via her Facebook page, the situation throws up more questions than answers. How come the office started burning when civil servants are at home? As expected, public money would be expended to rebuild the burnt parts. So also to set up a panel of enquiry, to pay the members, to come up with a White Paper on the incident, at the end of which this will gather dusts in the cupboard holding old skeletons of enquiries.
The pain in all of these saddening scenarios is the hard times ahead. There will be job losses. Taxes are on the increase. Inflation rate will rise exponentially. Yet, our votes may not count without the Electoral Amendment Bill signed into law. We will still be bogged down with gadflies of hypocrisy, promising one thing but doing the opposite!
So, where are the strong men to lift others up and great patriots as leaders to bring Nigerians together, as Mrs. Obama highlighted? The answer is blowing in the wind.
May God save Nigerians from self-serving leaders!
– Baje is a public analyst and commentator