By Tochukwu Ezukanma
As usual, on October 1, 2019, Nigeria held her annual ritual: the commemoration of Nigerian independence.
The day that was celebrated fifty nine years after is October 1, 1960. On that historic day, the Nigerian Prime Minister, Alhaji Tafawa Belewa, concluded his speech with, “I open a new chapter in the history of Nigeria and of the Commonwealth, and indeed, of the world”. Understandably, Nigerians were overjoyed by the new chapter in human history that the prime minister opened on that momentous day. They were proud of their nascent country. They were hopeful and optimistic because with her enormous mineral and agricultural resources, and the most educated work force in sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria was potentially “Africa’s superpower and a stabilizing democratic influence in the region”.
Lamentably, fifty nine years later, our pride in Nigeria has been battered, our hopes dashed and our optimism sullied.
The entire spectrum of the Nigerian society is troubled; every institution is dysfunctional. There is hunger and disease, violence and bloodletting, lawlessness and strife, in the land. The political class is contemptuously indifferent to the plight of the Nigerian masses. Thus, social injustice and inequity thrive; and the economic gulf between the elite and the masses deepens and widens. The level of corruption is terrifying, and threatens to unravel the social fabric of the country. Not surprisingly, despite its historic significant, the independence anniversary lost its luster to many ordinary Nigerians. They find little or nothing worthy of celebration in an oil-rich country, where the generality of the masses are consigned to ignorance, poverty, joblessness and hopelessness.
On the other hand, in their total disconnect from the people they supposedly represent and serve, the power elite were, on that day, in a celebratory mood. Attired in meticulously spruced-up agbadas and sheltered in the VIP dais, they gleefully relished the pomp and spectacle of the occasion. After the event, the Senate President, rhapsodically, declared to the press, “Nigeria at 59 has achieved a lot”. What achievement was he talking about? It must be this false sense of achievement that informed that baffling and disgusting triumphalism that marked the event. And to the press, the Secretary to the Government preached a disingenuous sermon, “The change must begin with each and every one of us. …we must begin to change our attitude, our ways of doing things, become lawful citizen….” His sermon was self-serving sophistry because any realistic moral and ethical change must start from the top and filter down to the bottom. The change he demands must start with the power elite, not the masses.
The Nigerian rulers should change; they must stop behaving like colonial masters or Apartheid elites, totally estranged from the plight and yearnings of the people. They must change the present unconscionable system that relegates Nigerian workers to vegetate on the lowest minimum wages, and makes our legislators the highest paid legislators, in the world. State governors must stop embezzling between five hundred million naira (N500m) and one billion naira (N1, 000m) each, every month, as “security vote”, in a country where 70% of the population live in poverty, and some state government employees labor for months without being paid their salaries.
Nigerians are nostalgic for the 1960s and 1970s, when corruption was an aberration, and our leaders were relatively accountable to the people. Despite the enormous powers of their offices, the likes of the prime minister, Tafawa Belewa, and premier, Michael Okpara, remained relatively impecunious because they were not corrupt. Then, the notoriously, incorrigibly corrupt were accused of misappropriating ten percent of the cost of government projects. “NEPA” “did not take light”. Electricity supply was virtually uninterrupted all year round. Street lights functioned, almost faultlessly. They automatically came up at 6pm and went off at 6am. It was when Nigerians respected the sanctity of human life; and the levels of crime and violence were extremely low. In the days preceding the civil war, the police were not armed with guns; they could maintain law and order with just batons.
Across board, academic standards were very high in Nigerian schools. Admission to the universities was on merit, not through bribe and connections. The lecturers were content with the impecuniosity of their prestigious and venerated profession. Thus, they did not sell hand-outs, sort out, trade good grades for money and sex. Nigerian universities met global standards, and the University of Ibadan, especially, its medical school was world renowned.
Nigerians were not as selfish and insatiable; expectations were modest and reasonable. Money was expected to be earned based on individual abilities and resourcefulness. Illegitimate wealth and unexplainable riches were despised and excoriated.
Unfortunately, over the years, everything changed dramatically for the worse; and at 59 years old, Nigeria is one of the most corrupt countries of the world. Even, ordinarily, strongholds of morality and integrity, like the judiciary, academia and the church are corrupt in Nigeria. Those in power are not accountable to the people, and have no qualms in stealing everything within reach; they steal public funds with the ruthlessness that will flabbergast, even, the most vicious armed robbers.
Electric supply collapsed and darkness holds sway over the country. We lost our sense of outrage, and Nigeria degenerated to a bastion of moral squalor honeycombed with bandits, kidnappers, killer herdsmen, armed robbers, con artists, ritual killers, etc. An exhaustive catalog of the woes of Nigeria is beyond the scope of this article. The point however is that without being figurative or hyperbolic, Nigeria is totally “jaga jaga” and everything about her, totally “skata skata”. Therefore, October 1, 2019 should not have been a day of celebration, but lamentation.
We should have lamented the unfulfilled potentials of Nigeria and the indescribable rot and wretchedness that engulfed our beloved country.
A onetime American Secretary of State, Mrs. Hilary Clinton, once summed it up, “They (the Nigerian ruling elite) have squandered their oil wealth, they have allowed corruption to fester and now they are losing control of parts of their territory because they won’t make hard choices”.
It is the refusal to make hard choices by a series of irresponsible and corrupt governments that explains our seemingly intractable multi-facet problems. With the much-hyped selflessness, incorruptibility and gutsiness of Mohammadu Buhari, Nigerians justifiably expected his presidency to be a watershed: a break from the past.
This did not happen because he refused to make hard choices. He cannot make hard choices because President Buhari and his entourage, and the shady and self-seeking cabal that pulls the oligarchic strings from behind the façade of democracy are benefiting from the anarchy and corruption that suffuse the land.
Tochukwu Ezukanma writes from Lagos, Nigeria.
An Open Letter To Senator T.A Orji
By Kalu Nwokoro Idika
I am writing this letter to you with so much grieve and disappointment after reading the report of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on how you, your son and other crooks who could be at large fleeced Abia State treasury and left the entire State in total ruins. Considering the magnitude of your financial banditry as a former Governor, I contemplated throwing caution to the wind in this letter but however, I considered how parochial such approach could be looking at the level of premium placed on the issue at hand.
Since the return of the much touted democracy in 1999, Gods Own State has had it so bad when it comes to good governance. The narrative has been very unfavourable. It has been a reign of economic vandals and petty thieves who know next to nothing about leadership. When other federating units are working assiduously with the scarce resources at their disposal just to better the wellbeing of their people, the sermon seems to be the otherwise in Abia State as political demagogues are rather engrossed in a marathon of looting and political vendetta
In 2007, when Mr Orji Uzor Kalu handpicked and made you his successor, many of us knew that you were not different from him; an old wine was simply changed into a new wine skin. He conscripted you into the government house with the false believe that you shall assist to shield his financial malfeasance from the public. But unfortunately, his instinct dribbled him when he suddenly became aware that you were nothing but a dubious and peckish lion panting for the slightest opportunity to devour and unleash mayhem. The recent revelation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on how you and your son who is now the speaker of Abia State House of Assembly plundered the common wealth of the State calls for an urgent action.
Mr Orji, your era as the former Governor of Abia State was characterised by elaborate fraud. Abia never witnessed any iota of development. It was all about the usual sharing of money to political contractors and thugs who assisted in maintaining the political abracadabra that sustained your inept and clueless administration. Under your supervision, Abia State became the most dirtiest place in Nigeria, insecurity was at the peak and there was high level of infrastructural decay. Your government did practically nothing in order to ensure that Abia metamorphosed from the threshold of peripheralism. Little did we know that you were busy looting and mortgaging the future of the State for personal aggrandizement.
The terrible tale of how you and your fickle son embezzled over five hundred billion naira meant for a State that is on the brink of economic collapse calls for a state of emergency. Very catastrophic for Gods Own State that hardly pays its workers and pensioners. When we thought the enemy was far from us little did we know that the killer was within. Five hundred billion naira which would have changed the entire economic landscape of Abia State was diverted and pocketed by a heartless fellow like you without any sign of remorse. You bastardised the entire political process in Abia State and also recruited a wimp as a successor whom the political baton of cleaning up the mess you created was given. Know wonder you ran like a kleptomaniac toad to the senate to hibernate.
Are you not ashamed of yourself Mr T. A Orji? Where is your conscience? With five hundred billion naira, Abia State would have been on the page of economic prosperity. There will be state of the art hospitals, schools, roads, factories and viable transport system. Thousands of jobs will be created with such money but you never thought it wise, now Abia State is dying because of your selfishness. The pathetic side of the whole charade is that you are presently in the senate as a law maker. I wonder the kind of law an economic saboteur will be making in the parliament. No doubt, only a nation without a defined priority would allow a distinguished enemy of democracy like you to be in their legislative chamber. If there is any atom of shame in you Mr T. A Orji, by now you should have vacated your seat in the senate and surrendered yourself to the anti graft agency for onward prosecution.
You pocketed N383 billion, revenue from federal account, N55 billion from excess crude revenue, N2.3 billion Sure-P, N1.8 billion ecological funds, N10.5 billion loan from First Bank of Nigeria through the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Local Government Affairs, N4 billion loan from Diamond Bank, N12 billion Paris Club refund, N2 billion agricultural loan for farmers, N55 billion ASOPADEC fund and N500 million purported to be security vote, which were being converted for eight years according to Economic and Financial Crimes Commission
Mr Orji, history will be unkind to you and other scoundrels that perpetuated this ominous crime which has left Abia State in tatters. But one thing is paramount, there won’t be any hiding rendezvous for you and others as the long arm of the law is bound to catch all of you. Many workers and pensioners died out of frustration due to your greed and their blood will be on your head. The good people of God’s Own State won’t rest until justice is served. You are wicked and very ungodly.
In conclusion, late Anini would have been more preferable in the Senate than you. You constitute a threat to democracy and economic prosperity. As the anti graft agency is thorougly digging into your case, I will suggest you start preparing yourself for what is to come because out of greed you decided to eat alone at the expense of the poor masses. There won’t be peace for the wicked.
Kalu Nwokoro Idika is a political analyst, investigative and freelance journalist.
He can be reached via email: Kalunwokoroidika@yahoo.com
Disclaimer: Opinion articles are solely the responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official standpoint of Oriental Times or any of its editors thereof.
Breakdown Of Igbo Marginalization In Nigeria
By Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba
“I sincerely believe that the incessant cries about Igbo marginalization in Nigeria is unfounded”
Mr. Kassim in a well written article (On Feb 17, 2020, at 3:43 PM,) wrote the above. He went to try to prove the impossible, that the Igbo is not marginalized except for the period 1967-1970 (the war period). He cited examples: The Igbo are doing just as well as other ethnic groups; The Igbo are found in almost every village, town and city outside of the SE where they ply their trades; work in all professions for which they are qualified, live and raise their children; have been in every government since the war; have a small percentage of their mega rich, the ordinarily rich and the comfortable ones among them who breathe the same air as the ever dwindling and struggling no of the middle class and a mass of poor people; thanks to their hard work, the Igbo own more than 2/3 of the privately owned properties in Abuja; The Igbo also own residential and commercial real estate properties in Lagos, Port Harcourt, and many other major cities in Nigeria; etc.
Mr. Kassim concluded by stating that “Marginalized and oppressed peoples throughout the world are usually not granted free access to live anywhere they want in their countries.”
The examples cited by Mr. Kassim would look like true. When the Igbo cry about marginalization what they actually mean is marginalization by the federal government. Let’s see how:
The SE zone has only 5 states as compared to 6 and 7 states in other zones; has just 15 senators as compared with 18-21 in other zones out of 106 members; has 43 representatives out of 360; has 5 governors out of 36; the lowest number by dollars and by counts of all federal infrastructure development programs including road mileage and bridges; zero police and military colleges and infrastructure; little refineries and electricity grids and pay the highest for electricity; etc.
The federal government borrows money for its development programs but invests the least in SE even though we collectively pay for the loans. 50 years after the war, the war damages have not been repaired despite the fact that billions of dollars were donated by foreign government to repair the damages. The money went to other Nigerian states that had no war damages; some state governments seized Igbo assets and did not release them and did not develop them and they went to blazes. Etc.
These are the reasons for the incessant cries about Igbo marginalization. Nigerians when they sit in a conference like in the House or the Senate agree on the marginalization principles.
But individual Nigerians once out of group welcome the Igbo in their communities. The quick recovery of the Igbo is due to individual efforts of Nigerians. The Yoruba, Hausa/Fulani, Edo, Ijaw, Efik, etc. each as individual made tremendous sacrifices to see the survival of the Igbo. My uncle had a couple of houses in Kafanchan. During the war, the tenants collected the rent from his property and after the war they handed the rents to him. He was instantly rehabilitated and he sent my cousins to America where they now are thriving. The suppliers to Igbo traders refurnished their customers with inventory without demanding credit worthiness or security deposits. My former students came looking for me and one who was in a secondary school in 1970 gave me one pound from his pocket money. The former military governor of Midwestern Nigeria, Col Ogbemudia, gave a grant to University of Nigeria. There were many benevolent acts like these.
But the Military Governor of Rivers State, Diette Spiff, seized Igbo properties in Port Harcourt and disposed them to his cronies. No compensation. And he put a Rivers’ government stamp on the act. Mr. Kassim’s treatise on the Igbo discrimination/marginalization may look good to a casual reader but there was/is structural marginalization embedded in Nigeria governance that calls for incessant marginalization calls. Until we listen to the cries and do something about them, they will be incessant.
Restructuring is possibly the only solution and many other Nigerian ethnic groups seem to be coming around to the idea.
Nigeria putting her head in the sand like the ostrich, and ignoring the reasons for the cries is not the answer.
~ Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba writes from Boston, Massachusetts, United States.
The North And Vanity Of Power
By Charles Ogbu
Northern Nigeria is a tragic paradox. A walking contradiction, I mean.
For over 40 years, the North has ruled Nigeria and controlled every aspect of her national life. The current President of Nigeria is from the North and virtually every security agencies in Nigeria including the paramilitary ones are in the hands of Northerners. Yet, almost half of the North is firmly in the hands of terrorists, bandits and other criminal elements operating under different names. Both our Army Chief, Defence minister and even the Commander-In-Chief now need to be escorted by almost the entire Nigerian armed forces before they visit their home towns all in the North. As I type, some of the bodies of dozenS of people butchered by bandits Friday evening in President Buhari’s own home state of Katsina are yet to be interred.
All the revenue generating agencies in the country from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) etc are manned by Northerners. The richest man in Africa is from the North. Yet, according to a recent report released by World Bank, 87% of Nigerians living in poverty are in the North.
Beyond poverty and insecurity, the North boasts of having the highest number of out-of-school children estimated at 12 million by a UN report. The worst case of infant and maternal mortality in Nigeria is in the North. The worst case of illiteracy and drug abuse is in the North. It is also in the North that the highest number of unemployed and unemployable youths are found.
This raises the question: What exactly has the Northern elites done for the North with all the long years they’ve controlled political power in the country? Of what use is power if you cannot use it to change the fortune of your people?
In the midst of all these internal contradictions, why do Northern youths still seem to worship their political elites as some god instead of seeing and treating them as the real authors of their misfortune? Why do Northern youths only care about helping their elites acquire political power without deploying that same energy towards making sure they use that power in a way it will benefit the average Northerner?
Funny enough, despite the consensus on the nothingness that is the Buhari regime and the entire North becoming a hotbed of terrorism and banditry under a Northern Commander-In-Chief, if elections were to be held today between President Buhari who has failed beyond every doubt and a Southern candidate with excellent record and a credible chance of transforming Nigeria, chances are the average Northern youth will vote Buhari even if doing so will conclusively put the country on the way to golgotha. He will, because all that matters to him is having a fellow Northern Muslim at the helm of affairs. Mind you, if the North were to be a separate Nation, Northerners would never elect someone of Buhari’s intellect and competence to head even a hamlet because they know he has nothing to offer. The only reason they support Buhari is because they care more about dominating others than they do about performance.
It is a cultural thing. It has a name: Feudalism.
And this is exactly why the North and the South can never coexist happily because the two regions have a world view and value system that contrasts sharply with each other. One wants to explore the world and her full potentials while the other simply wants to dominate everyone and force others to go back to the dark ages with her.
I understand that we are in a time when truth sounds like hate to those who hate it but it must be stated in an unmistakable term that the Northern part of Nigeria is a huge liability to the rest of the country. If the region fails to take immediate steps to address her issues, the North risks collapsing under the weight of her internal contradictions. And when it happens, it will drag the rest of the country along as we are already witnessing.
Southern leaders must start making preparations for the day-after-tomorrow because if a man cannot stop a bad rain from falling, wisdom demands he should at least take measures to protect himself from being beaten by the rain.
Ogbu is a socio-political analyst and good governance advocate. He tweets from @RealCharlesOgbu