Nigeria Hobbles In A Permanent State of Emergency -By Qansy Salako

Filed under: National Issues |

Dr. Qansy Salako


The canyon of social inequality between the elected and the electorate continues to widen due to the ruthless irresponsibility of the Nigerian ruling class. Mass poverty has finally become the norm with youth unemployment over 75 percent and citizen access to food, potable water, health care and security at less than 25 percent.

The country is disoriented and engulfed in a never-ending war of untold savagery decimating the Northeast region, uncontrollable cycles of mass killings by rampaging primitive herdsmen across the entire nation, avowed orgies of violence and destruction that have mired the South-South region for decades, an incessant separatist movement unrepentantly barricading the Southeast, and ever increasing poverty-driven crimes of kidnapping, robbery, ritual killings, etc.

Astonishingly, the Nigerian leadership airheads simplistically reduce this endless state of strife to fighting “hate speeches” for which they are making new laws and ordering the antiquated police to do more than it can. Well, hate speeches may be bad for any society but ignoring the deep discontent that causes hate speeches among the people is the reason the country perpetually limps between crossroads of chaos and distress in the first place.

It gets harder by the day to control Nigeria’s descent into anarchy and avoidable breakup. Only a few options are left. Somehow, Nigeria has got to figure out how to reduce gargantuan waste from its system to free up funds for development projects. It is not as simple as devolving power to the states. State governors already hold enormous powers with criminal impunity that they use to render the state assembly and local government branches subservient and useless.

Being products of the crude political system, a majority of Nigerian public office holders are an egomaniac, vacuous and unfit for their positions. We need a mechanism for preventing a narcissist governor from coming in to squander his state resources on idiotic self-glorification projects that take the people absolutely nowhere for eight years. But I digress, I am ahead of myself.

The Nigerian economic engine keeps chugging on noisily in the vain hope that it can get anywhere growing a national economy with mediocre economic policies that are moored to multiple exchange rates against the American dollar. Not much thought is given to investing in quality education of citizens that will generate mass production of intellectuals, inventors and jobs, real jobs. So we desire to diversify our economy by seeking $41 billion loan to expand our archaic rail systems, even though we are operating on less than 3,000MW of 60,000MW electric energy that the country needs to power its homes and industry.

China released to us $5.9 billion of $20 billion loan needed for two inland new railways but these must be constructed by the China’s Civil Engineering and Construction Co. The US General Electric Co. leads another group on a second set of coastal railways. The group comprising of China’s SinoHydro, South Africa’s Transnet SOC Ltd. and the Netherlands’ APM Terminals BV will fund, revamp and operate the railways. What happens if any of these foreign technologies needs repairs or replacement? When will we ever be in control of our own development? Will we ever be able to pay off the loans?

The overworked engine whirs on nonstop anyway on the full throttle of one man who doubles as both the president and the vice president and who attempts to coordinate the country by legislating competence into broken government institutions via executive orders.

Barely 18 months into his elected 4-year term, Mr. Muhammadu Buhari, the real president, soon entered an exhausted state of rest (aka medical vacation) in faraway London, UK, where they have the technology, accountability and electricity. To date, Buhari has spent 5 embarrassing months of his 26-month presidency in London without much communication with the citizens.

So in just seven years, it is déjà vu again for Nigerians at the intersection of another absentee president in a disabled state at the helms of the country. Buhari’s wife, inner group of political jobbers, party members, state governors, etc., all shuttle first class from Abuja to London for just one hour photo-op breakfast or lunch with Mr. President. Many return without even catching a glimpse of now gaunt Buhari. Last week, Buhari gleefully announced that he was feeling better and wished to return to Nigeria but only awaiting his doctor’s order. We may as well be known as a country of fools.

Nobody knows what ails Buhari, he won’t tell. Not that knowing matters much. Rather, what matters more is Buhari’s competency as the president of the largest African nation in population and economy. A beleaguered small group of citizens are calling for Buhari’s resignation in honor of the Constitution that he swore to protect but which he no longer has the strength to defend. However, the obsolete Nigerian Constitution is open to any interpretations by the confused polity. So it is unlikely that Buhari will ever be found incompetent or impeached as president no matter how long he stays in the UK or even if he returns without a fiber of capability.

Meanwhile, the chicanery of the national leadership continues unabated. The governor of Oyo state, Abiola Ajimobi (aka constituted authority) became an epitome of governance by charity when he commemorated his government sixth year anniversary with the provision of some surgical and internal medicine procedures for two days at each of six centers across his state of about seven million citizens because of his concern for “the well-being of the people” and his commitment “to provide quality healthcare delivery.” Sleazebags!

The cost of government continues to hover in the clouds while government output remains pathetic below the sea level. The majority of the legislators are vagabonds and out of touch. Truancy at sessions is rife. The performance or behavior of the few in attendance is mostly dishonorable. In a batch of the usual shenanigans from out of the Nigerian national assembly (NASS) recently, a crook launched the book written by a scoundrel about how to catch the rogue.

Right from its dopey cover title, the book written by half literate clown, Dino Melaye (a senator), is by no means a work of scholarship. It nonetheless carries a N50,000 price tag for which his rapacious colleagues in the NASS leadership consigned N23.4 million of public money to purchase a copy for each of the 109 senators and 360 house of representatives.

In his book launching speech, Bukola Saraki (senate president), swerved left saying Nigeria should focus more on how to prevent corruption than on punitive actions. Then he swerved right arguing that the determination of which country is corrupt is subjective. Bukola sounds both like the disgusting Goodluck Jonathan (the immediate past president of Nigeria) who continues to live in denial of his bumbling presidency and of epic national corruption under his watch. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and Olusegun Obasanjo, his godfather, and predecessor are two members of the Nigeria Wreckers Inc. who should have quietly walked into the night and never returned to the consciousness of Nigerians.

Saraki himself stands as the accused in a case of corruption that he deftly languished in our odious court system for two years before a rotten judge finally got it dismissed. The inept prosecuting government anti-corruption agency is appealing. Imagine, a citizen under trial for dishonesty and avarice is the country’s head lawmaker and the No. 3 in line to the presidential power, the first in line of who is AWOL. How much lower could a country sink?

Import dependent Nigeria continues to operate helplessly on a one commodity economy based on crude oil that it extracts locally but ships abroad for refining then imports back for local consumption. Government revenues are a miserable 5.3 percent of the GDP compared to 44.5 percent in the developed economies or 25.8 percent across other African countries and the Middle East or even Bangladesh at 10.4 percent.

Correspondingly, Nigeria is up to its eyeballs in debt which is currently at 320 percent of its annual revenue compared to 196 percent for countries in Africa and the Middle East. Suffices to say, bad debts across Nigeria’s banking industry are prevalent with unresolved loans in excess of N4.6 trillion, representing about 75% of the total national budget!

Official economic policies are lazily yoked to thoroughly abused concepts of privatization, foreign direct investment and now business entrepreneurship. The Nigerian leaderships believe they can divest practically all functions of government to business contractors while they continue to waste over 70 percent of the GDP annually on emoluments, travels, food and clothes.

Apapa Wharf Road, a 4-kilometer economic gateway into the country in Nigeria’s main seaport of Lagos which accounts for about 70 percent of the total revenue generation from import duties, has been in a state of abandonment for over 20 years until it degenerated into a N140 billion per week revenue loss. Government eventually “handed over” the road to Aliko Dangote (a government-made billionaire businessman) and other concerned local private business volunteers for its reconstruction, pro bono. Rehabilitating one side of the road will require shutdown for a whole year.

Also recently, Buhari’s government appeared to have given up on its avowed campaign promise to fix the country’s four moribund petroleum refineries which had gulped over $50 billion in the past 20 years alone but without results. The government resorted to “begging” the same Aliko Dangote to keep his 2019 target completion date of his private refinery business project that is aimed at cornering 40 percent of the national refined petroleum demand market.

Feckless political leadership! They desire to constitute governments over the people but have not any clues on how to solve national problems except to wish them away. Their only idea of governance is to abdicate government responsibilities by contracting out state services and functions to unqualified “private investors” who have no expertise, no capability, and no capacity. Then they turn around and bail out their fictitious “investors” with more public funds without either realizing the original “privatization” objectives or reducing the bloated government size. So one after another, they end up confiscating public assets, scuttling national progress and killing citizens’ hopes.

We, the people, have got to find a way to remove impunity from the absolute power that we keep entrusting in the hands of unconscionable citizens who trifle with our affairs, tyrannize our present and impoverish our future.

Apart from picketing every national stupidity that they display or roll out as public policy, it seems we could use the constitutional provisions on “electoral recall” to change our fate.

Nigerians, I say we begin monitoring the stewardships of all elected politicians! Every single one of our political freeloaders – from the councilor to the president – should be adopted and shadowed.

It should no longer be acceptable to have a politician in office while answering to a case of corruption in the courts. It is complete nonsense and national foolishness that we have governors turned senators who are collecting double salaries in millions, thereby starving the neighborhood schools of funds. Communities, cooperatives and ordinary citizens in the districts and wards should not have to tolerate having crooks and charlatans making laws in the land or absentee presidents or truant legislators.

Let a new era of signature hunts and filing hundreds of recalls with the electoral commission begin. Social media and the various NGOs can assist every local group through its recall process.

The new wave of mass recalls by the citizens will take the fight for change to the doorstep of the LG chairman, state and federal legislature, governor, presidency and their collaborating compromised judiciary.

It is bound to shake something down from our rotten national tree.

Time to drain our power corridors of vagabonds!


Dr. Salako writes from Boston, MA. USA. He is a frontline social critic and commentator on Nigeria and Africa. He may be reached by email at [email protected]