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The problem with Nigerian leaders

By Wale Aribatise
25 December 2009   |   12:09 pm
MAY God give us leaders that care, leaders that will serve the people instead of serving themselves; may God in His infinite mercy rescue us from those whose main concern is to better their own lots and that of their immediate families. It is unsettling to read that new residences are to be built for the Vice President, Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker and the Deputy of the House of Representatives. While reasons were averred for the proposed legislators' movement from Apo Quarters to Maitama District extension, no reason was given for constructing a new residence for the Vice President.

It would have been sensitively reasoned to keep silent on why they are relocating the principal officers of the National Assembly – that way; our sensibilities would be less injured. Christopher St. John Spring writing under the name of Christopher Caudwell in his book Illusion and Reality said that, whenever the ruling class becomes more and more careless, they precipitate their own end. This brazen attitude is a precursor to inevitable violent change. How can building of new residences be the most urgent thing to do in their list of priorities when many Nigerians are hungry, homeless and jobless? Many Nigerians are finding lesser crumbs to pick from the dustbin to feed on. Why are they earmarking billions of naira to build new residences for themselves when their spacious and palatial residences in Apo Legislators’ Quarters and Asokoro are (still in good shape?) better and bigger than some African countries’ State House.

Why are our rulers living extravagantly in these times of economic recession? These hard-hearted rulers travel around the world at our expense without any commensurate exposure to civility and high standard of living. A year ago they budgeted N400,000,000.00 for the renovation of the Speaker and his deputy’s residence and more allocation is earmarked in the budget 2010 for the same purpose. And yet new residences are being contemplated for these officials in the same year 2010 budget.

Why do we thrive on waste? The White House in the U.S. is more than 200 years old and it remains the pride of America . When are we going to evolve a value system? I am sure they are trying to siphon money from these phantom projects for the 2011 elections. God will disappoint them as our organisation will resolutely and lawfully take them up on these if it is true that by United Nations 2009 index. Nigeria is the 154th out of 180 poorest countries surveyed in the world. We shall pursue this matter to a logical conclusion if it is true that those new residences will cost Nigerian tax payers billions of naira being inappropriately appropriated while leaving the prisons congested, ill-equipped and under-funded. Ones heart bleeds to learn that the state of Texas spends $2.5 billion on a single prison that accommodates 1,200 inmates per year while this Federal Government has allocated just N2.5 billion for the decongestion of all the prisons in Nigeria – and the rest say categorically that not more than N1 billion will be released and the rest returned as unspent or be diverted into the pockets of our light fingered self-serving leaders. So at the end of the day what is budgeted for the prisons is less than what these officials would get on renovation of their old palaces alone.

There is no gainsaying in reiterating the decadence in the education sector, the neglect of our hospitals because of the good ones available in other countries. If the president of the United States is sick he will be taken to the US Naval Hospital, if the Queen of England is sick, she will be rushed to the Royal Naval Hospital but if our President and other leaders are sick, the next port of call will be countries outside the continent of Africa even for minor ailments. God forbid that a Nigerian president be treated by a Nigerian-based professor or medical personnel. Is it not auspicious to brand (in this season of national rebranding) through hospital treatment abroad? If President Yar’Adua was in Nigeria , the secrets behind his ailment would have been revealed by the Nigerians who cannot keep secrets and are not conversant with Official Secrets Act.

Jetting abroad for medical treatment by our rulers is a tacit admission of their failure to have standard hospitals to cater for the health needs of the population. The cost of treating Nigeria ‘s President since he was a governor is enough to build three standard hospitals that will treat all Nigerians. However, it is an aberration for the Nigerian rulers to attend the same hospital as an ordinary Nigerian. They would demystify their offices and in their own imagination Nigerians will see them as ordinary human beings while they are rulers.

Our leaders are not only short-sighted and selfish, they are wicked and callous. And they should be thankful for the extended family duty of care that is ingrained in our culture and deep-rooted faith in the Almighty God to ultimately do justice. The ever falling standard of living of the masses and the searing agonies of the middle class who spend all they have in buying fuel after wasting precious man hours at fuel pumps may soon bring the inevitable radical alteration of this iniquitous system.