Brooking Institute report and eye-witness accounts of poverty in Nigeria (2)

May 12th, 2019

BY ABUCHI OBIORA

THE TROUBLE WITH NIGERIA

The renowned novelist and elder statesman, Late Professor Chinua Achebe took a literary stroll along the path of examination of the vicissitudes of Nigeria in a small book he titled “The Trouble With Nigeria,” he opined that the major trouble with Nigeria was (and still is) corruption.

The malignant disease called corruption, he believed, wastes away much of the wealth of the nation than is available for investment in developmental purposes. I concur with him.

A few people at the helm of affairs relieve this country of our common wealth and divert same into their private bank accounts.

Not until Nigeria finds a way to step her government officials and their proxies from dipping hands freely in the national coffers, the issue of eradicating poverty from Nigeria will continue to be a mirage, and the less privileged Nigerians will continue to be made poor and hopeless till the country explodes with popular, people – driven revolutionary antics.

Apart from death, disease and disability, poverty is the next great waster of a country’s manpower resources, so the government must be able to check mass poverty to be able to optimize the country’s manpower resources.

Several government agencies have been set up to fight corruption in Nigeria, including Code of Conduct Bureau, the EFCC, etc, etc.

The government introduced the BVN and the Single Treasury Account to checkmate corruption. It is unfortunate, with what we still hear of stolen billions of naira by government officials that none of these institutions have been able to do enough in fighting official corruption, safe in the direction of tracking down the wealth of people in the opposing political camp and chasing them to submission and defection.

Like in the defunct United Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) the “Big Eye” (there is an eagle eye in Nigeria!) is watching, hunting for incriminating information about the perceived enemy, and ever ready to devour a prey. Story mills in the grapevine are awash with scandals of selective fight against corruption and this is alienating the government from the people.

But not to worry because the irony of any organization fashioned after the “Big Eye” concept is that selectivity in its choice of preys usually becomes its anathema. No wonder, the Socialist camp in the old Russia plummeted and crashed in the trash bin of the corruption it claimed to be fighting. It was swallowed, together with the people who established it, in the heap of the dung of corruption.

MY RECOMMENDATION

Benjamin Franklin said that “They that cannot be counseled cannot be helped”.

The government must listen to the opinions of people in order to achieve the best for all of us. The truth is that the government has not got any defence to the contrary – the economy of Nigeria is fast collapsing and more people are getting extremely poorer by the day.

The issue of governance is all about people. A government is deemed to have succeeded when majority of the people fare well. No government will sensibly claim success with mass failure amongst the citizens. The two simplest tests of success of any government is popularity and a good measure of collective well being of the citizens. The questions therefore arise: Is our government popular? Are the people faring better?

This is one reason the era of General Yakubu Gowon (Rtd) is etched with gold in the annals of Nigerian history.

Showing serious signs of disconnection with the realities on ground, the government is holding talks with the IMF (International Monetary Fund) to do what they call systematic withdrawal of the subsidy on petroleum products.

This is dangerous and it is capable of letting “all of us to jump inside the sea”

The government should be weary of the recommendations of the IMF. It should remember that mass poverty gained ground in Nigeria with the introduction of SAP (Structural Adjustment Programme) of IBB, as directed by the IMF.

Not forgetting that the APC had claimed that the petroleum subsidy was a PDP hoax before they took over the central government from the PDP, this writer warns that the government must be careful with prices of petroleum products wherein is hidden the banana peel that crashes unpopular governments in Nigeria.

The intentions of the IMF may be right, but the implementation of the programme may turn out to be faulty as a result of the Nigerian factor. The Nigerian factor in this case is government insincerity and the middlemen syndrome. These two factors rendered the expected gains of the introduction of Import License in the economy still-born during the Import license regime of Buhari/Idiagbon Military Presidency. The same factors destroyed the positive expectations from the IBB – introduced SAP.

There is no reason to believe that these two factors will not ruin the one being contemplated by government. Besides, the government has done nothing visible to Nigerians to justify the former increase, may be, also, as a result of government – sponsored meddlesome middlemen and insincerity.

Nigeria should look within for solutions to her problems. One sure way of doing this is by broadening the structural base of the economy. It is an irony that there is a persistent rise in the index of economic misery in Nigeria despite the annual increase in the size of national budget. Several factors are implicated in this Irony. Some of these factors have been pointed out in my write-ups. I am sure Nigeria has development economists, who can solve this riddle, without going to the IMF.

The simplest way to achieve this in our present circumstance, I suggest, is through a serious and sustainable investment in power supply. The second is to formulate an attractive policy framework for mass investment by Nigerians in the agricultural sector. Nigerians are hard-working. From here, they will pick up and we will all watch the economy grow in leaps and bounds.

LAST LINE

A problem already identified is half solved. The government should acknowledge the fact that the economy is down. It is down and no amount of white-washing can change the truth. Look around you, you will find out that many people (if not you!) are getting poorer everyday and very few Nigerians are getting stupendously wealthy by accessing public fund.

Something is wrong with a collapsing economy that is churning out mega rich people who derive their wealth in filthy ways from our common patrimony. Something is wrong with an economy that is producing six extremely poor people every minute and some of her citizens – sleeping in extreme wealth – are openly known to be either government officials or they are agents, proxies, cronies, family and friends of the government officials.

Nigerian government should stop playing with the life of Nigerians and address the issue of extreme poverty in Nigeria before it is too late. The combined consequences of mass sabotage masterminded by a disgruntled poor and hungry population are not funny experiences for any country and her people.

The experience of popular disgust of people driven by hunger and extreme poverty can never be a good one for any country, her government and her people.

A stitch in time saves nine.

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