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Nigerian elite and ‘mess’ of governance

By Matthew Agboma Ozah
09 March 2022   |   1:26 am
To come out and speak truth to power is actually the best way to address the lingering poor leadership that has bedeviled Nigeria at all levels of governance in recent times.

Former INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega

To come out and speak truth to power is actually the best way to address the lingering poor leadership that has bedeviled Nigeria at all levels of governance in recent times. After reading an account of former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Attahiru Jega, at the recent 2022 Workers’ Political Conference, organised by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in Abuja, I came to the conclusion that he is not alone in the bold submission that elite in governance have not only hijack democracy, they have been reckless with the nation’s fortunes and with impunity too. It is hard to determine the exact point in the nation’s history at which it became imperative for a privileged few to seize governance for selfish purposes.

To say the least, the elite’s recklessness has jeopardised the future of the majority of Nigerians, as unemployment has seen many young people delve into nefarious activities. While painting a gloomy picture of the sad situation in the country, Jega noted that Nigeria is at a point in history where the mis-rule by this tiny gang of elite has devastated the country to near collapse. Over the years, political analysts have argued that Nigeria has been quite unlucky with the kind of elite leadership that continues to cross its path. Yet, one cannot take it away from the elite since they championed the ‘bloodless’ fight for the country’s independence. However, it is important to state that, the sad aspect of that generation is that they never had the time to come out of their mis-steps or exorbitance before the military changed the narration and the subsequent anarchy that ensued during the civil war.

Indeed, one notable thing one cannot take away from the elite is that they are highly enlightened and by the virtue of their exposure, are connected to other powerful people globally. For that alone, they have the ability to bring Nigerians, and Nigeria in particular, up to speed in economic growth and development. To contemplate having the elite in the position of political leadership is a great privilege for any country and people. Therefore, to be an electorate lending your vote to bolster the chances of the elite to occupy a seat in political leadership becomes a great pride considering all the wonderful amenities that are supposed to happen when the elite are in positions of authority.
However, it is disheartening to note that some of the elite in political leadership today have chosen to be reckless and selfish. When in other climes the political elite work towards the country’s buoyant economy, ours make sure the economy is grounded from their reckless contract allocations without due process. The elite are less bothered about the devastating and sorry state of the socio-economic conditions under which Nigerians live. The continued reckless misrule and mis-governance by a tiny group in leadership and their collaborators have given the country a bad image. The lifestyle of these political elite has seen the nation’s economy weather several strings of crisis, from economic melt-down, to recession and now the country survives on borrowing with a huge debt burden for future generations to unbundle. It is not an overstatement, therefore, to say that the elite have failed to turn Nigeria and all its natural endowment into the cynosure of all eyes. Prior to the 2015 elections, the majority among Nigerians imagined that Nigeria could become Switzerland within the shortest possible time, if President Muhammadu Buhari is voted into power.  It is sad that the narrative seems different today.
Nigerians have long been tolerating anomalous poor governance. Since 1999, when democracy began, Nigeria’s tiny ruling elite with their opaque governance system has long posed a threat to the country’s economy and development. The daily agony faced by the masses is a sad reminder of how tough it is to survive in Nigeria in recent times. Despite being blessed with abundant mineral resources, or constantly referred to as the giant of Africa, the country is ineffective in providing basic human amenities for its citizens. Nearly everything about governance in Nigeria is rhetoric. Housing for all remains a tall dream as the bureaucracy for the available few government housing estates remains a hectic task for the masses. While electricity and water are never constant or stable, yet the people are made to pay for services not rendered. In all these failures, the ruling elite are blinded in their constant chase for self-comfort. Should anyone say they are wrong? Well, there are reasons to hope so, but also plenty to fear in their continued stay in power. Hence, Jega in his lecture, called for national cohesion and integration to rescue the weeping ‘giant’ of Africa. To achieve national emancipation for a credible national development, the former INEC boss noted that there must be genuine representation from the working class organisation in alliance with other progressives and patriotic Nigerians.
Meanwhile, the list of discomfiture caused by the elite’s reckless mis-governance is long and plain for everyone to see. The education sector remains on standstill as a result of the incessant Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) strike. This is one sad symptom the ruling government has refused to address adequately, despite several calls from stakeholders and well-meaning Nigerians.  Recently, crisis management has become an avenue to enrich governors with humongous security votes.

The political elite are less interested in ideas to tackle the country’s looming insecurity challenges. Insecurity now slows down every aspect of development and growth of the economy. At the moment, the government has become less effective over its failure to look inward. The condition of the economy is beyond explanation as prices of essential commodities continue to skyrocket. The black gold that always saw the country through the worst of times no longer holds sway in the international market. Aside from poor leadership, the criminality of the elite is a big concern today as drug barons have infiltrated all levels of governance. Even election campaigns have become the horse-race often anchored on religious or ethnic sentiments and not on issues to uplift the country. In the face of all these recklessness, to put Nigeria on a path to growth and greatness as earlier noted, a broad alliance of progressive forces is absolutely required to rescue the country.