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No, all is not well

25 July 2017   |   4:16 am
The premise underlying all think-pieces, postulations and reflections on the future of Nigeria and the steps it needs to take towards reforming itself and turning all its little cogs...

Aerial view of buildings and markets on Lagos Island.

The premise underlying all think-pieces, postulations and reflections on the future of Nigeria and the steps it needs to take towards reforming itself and turning all its little cogs of potential into an efficient machine, is that the people in authority actually want this change. Perhaps, they are just a little overwhelmed by the enormity of the task or merely have the misfortune of situating themselves in echo chambers of yes-men, are two of the excuses we make for them. However, looking at the words and actions of those who lead us, it is very difficult to see the evidence of this starting point.

That power is intoxicating is trite and in a society that celebrates ‘bigmanism’ as much as we do, being in power truly has its comforts. There is the bigger question, of course, of the office to which the power is attached and the purpose for which the office is or should be sought. Ordinarily, power should be corollary to office. In Nigeria, it would seem that power is the entire purpose of being in office. The politicians could probably not care less about the people they represent. The evidence of this is the things they say.

It would probably be a hard point for many to concede because admitting it would suggest that a lot of the intellectual discourses are a big waste of time. The loud arguments in beer parlours across the country are a waste of time. Dividing ourselves into rival political camps and warring with each other on account of the politicians is a waste of time. There is very little, however to suggest that this is not the case.

The president has for all intents and purposes been AWOL for about 8 months now. His prolonged absence has resulted in government being in a mere holding pattern but somehow, the ruling elite is happy to carry on as if this is not the most bizarre situation we find ourselves in. They are quick to point out that we have an acting President with the full powers of the office of the President but will quickly gloss over the acting President’s curious inability to swear ministers into office or do anything of real consequence. Legal power and political power are two separate things, we are quickly learning.

Many politicians remain effusive in their praise for the president and insist not only that he remains in office but that he is the only choice for 2019. We are in the middle of various crises and there is absolutely no sense of urgency from those in charge. From being the first African destination of choice for foreign investment only four years ago, we are currently nineteenth. The finance minister says the country is all borrowed out and cannot borrow to fund the budget anymore. This, in the midst of what has been described as our largest budget deficit ever, at any rate. And there is still no sense of urgency from the national assembly or the federal executive council.

The urgency required is not just for the current state of the economy, however, as virtually every sector of the economy is in some sort of crisis or other. Public education needs urgent attention, as do roads, hospitals, electricity, water supply, housing, social welfare and so on. Things are bad but our ministers are effectively on gardening leave (never mind that many of them were hexagonal pegs in round holes to begin with) and our federal legislators are on a perpetual ego trip. We probably need 20 uninterrupted years of things being done correctly to begin to start looking like the country we think we can be. This is of no consequence to the ruling class, however. Their freeloading lives at the taxpayers’ expense are guaranteed.

Nigerians like to say, ‘it is well’ a lot but this is hardly the time for stoicism. If the federal executive will not disclose the nature of the president’s illness and the timeframe for his recovery, then it is time for him to be removed from office. The smiles and suaveness of the acting President cannot paper over the thoroughly pointless press conference he gave upon his return from a purported visit to the President. It is time as well for those who dare to suggest that the president is fit to contest again in 2019 to be told that they are on the opposite side of common sense. For everyone else in public office feeding fat on the public purse, extracting the most from it and making things worse than when they came into office (or power), if they would look up for a minute, they’ll see that the era of the people accepting ‘officeless’ power is coming to an end.

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