The ‘two worlds’ in Nigeria -By Nkemdili Nnonyelu

Filed under: National Issues |

The ‘two worlds’ in Nigeria -By  Nkemdili Nnonyelu

The announcement of a new austerity regime by the finance minister Dr. Mrs. Okonjo Iweala, who also doubles as Coordinating Minister for the Economy, was both depressing and sobering to the majority of Nigerians.

I have always felt, despite pretensions by many to the contrary, and in spite of the bogus claims attending the so called rebasing of Nigerian Economy, that the country for several years now has been headed, definitely so, towards a tragic crash. The Naira, Nigeria’s currency is on a free fall. Nigeria was touted to have the largest economy in Africa, and the 26th largest in the world.

The spurious statistics that indicated growth in some aspects of the economy had not factored in the dwindling living standards of the citizenry and the pauperisation of the masses. The manifest symptoms of impending catastrophe are all too transparent not to be noticed. The currency is devalued, and prices of goods and services have skyrocketed.

The magic we thought that the neo-liberal economists, the agents of International Capital, who are the guardian angels of our economy, would bring to stabilize the ship of state had vanished like quicksilver, leaving Nigerians forlorn and down cast.

The announcement itself, a product of what we have always considered as serial mismanagement of Nigeria’s economy has also generated and strengthened the adversities across the land.

Undoubtedly, what Nigerians have been served by disciples of neo-imperialism as panaceas for our myriad problems are anti-development recipes all aimed at annihilating the masses. Development in Nigeria should be clearly disaggregated between government development and people’s development.

Government development, which is the dominant development paradigm in Nigeria, that is if you permit that usage, refers to the manipulation of national resources for the satisfaction of very highly placed government officials (elected and appointed) and their bureaucratic accomplices. It only caters for the interest of the political and bureaucratic elites, to the utter neglect of the generality of the populace.

In this type of neo-liberal policy, which has been on for too long in Nigeria, the government only remembers the populace in a tokenistic manner, by their disdainful release of crumbs from the masters table as democracy dividends or projects. Government development is about the settlement syndrome where cronies, family members, and other members of the entourage of political office holders eat from the resources of the state.

The political elites suffer from bulimia as they drown themselves and dry the national pot. The few projects that are usually celebrated and commissioned were done at outrageously exorbitant prices, and yet poorly executed.

These projects only serve to line the pockets of the custodians of state power, their spouses and their agents. Nigeria’s ruling class since 1960 survives on corruption, and manipulation of the state for sustenance of class interest. I must say that this propensity to swoon over national resources and consume them from all fronts is not peculiar to the Jonathan Administration.

It has been a basic trait of Nigeria’s national leadership since 1960. 54 years after flag independence in 1960, when the imperialist Union Jack was lowered in preference to the Green White Green national flag, Nigeria continues, though paradoxically, to grapple with challenges of poverty and social inequality, in the midst of plenty.

Today in Nigeria, more than 80 percent of Nigerians are living in poverty, managing to survive with less than 2 dollars a day, about 75 percent of Nigerian youths are unemployed, while many sections of the populace are ravaged by very common ailments that ordinarily should be handled by primary Health Care Centres. The ease with which Nigerians are visited with untimely and avoidable deaths go to show the continued decline of public governance over the years.

The different projects of the governments at national and state levels have all disregarded the people in the development matrix. That is why there is a huge disconnect between what the government is doing and the reality on the ground.

I have said severally that this doctrine of government development is immune to, or unaffected by political complexion and affiliation. Nigeria’s ruling class do not discriminate in their exploitation of the people. The sooner Nigerians realize this, the better.

When the parties criticize themselves, it is, in the opinion of discerning Nigerians, the kettle calling the pot black. Their quarrels usually are not about the people, but rather about which faction or arm of the ruling class will capture political power, pocket and privatise the national wealth, while leaving the people in misery.

All the developmental initiatives including the ruling plans, in the 1960s and 1970s, the different manifestations of the Structural Adjustment Programmes under the military, Obasanjo’s privatization policies till the Transformation Agenda are all one and the same, anti-people.

This is why Olusegun Obasanjo’s latest attempt to rubbish the Jonathan administration must be seen for what it is, simply narcissistic and egotistical. All the sins Obasanjo accused Jonathan of committing, were perfected in his days as president.

Therefore Obasanjo and Jonathan, and other previous Nigerian leaders are culpable of neglecting and abandonment of the people. While Jonathan’s style may be nambypamby, Obasanjo’s imperial, roughneck disposition has no place in a democracy.

Yet, Jonathan needs to apply caution, and listen to the wise counsel by the Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka as scathing and scarifying as it seemed, before the nation experiences even greater turmoil following the incendiary actions of some public officials.

Soyinka has moral authority, and is seen by many perspicacious Nigerians as one of the few with the moral license to speak truth to power. Therein lies the difference between Obasanjo and Soyinka’s comments. Their ancestry is different, one crudely political, the other intellectual.

One represents the very rich, the other the irrepressible mouthpiece of the poor and downtrodden. Now to people’s development, this type of development has been elusive and evasive in all of Nigeria’s troubled history. It is that type of development that recognizes Nigerian people as the reason behind, and the centre of, all developmental programmes and policies.

The human condition, the welfare of the people, their lives and standard of living occupy a pre-eminent position in the checklist of actions taken by any responsible government. The power of the people is recognized in all spheres both in the fact that sovereignty resides with them, and also that the people are the target of developmental drives.

People’s power is used to decide who amongst the people shall be called upon to render national service. Elections and appointments into positions, in such a scenario would no longer be seen as come and chop, but an invitation to serve. People centred development shall start with confronting the challenges of chronic underdevelopment, uprooting the institutional obstacles that have stood in the way of economic and political freedom of Nigerians.

It will start with creating the enabling environment, the building of relevant and necessary infrastructure that will unleash the hitherto imprisoned potentials, talents and creativity of the mass of the populace. This model of development requires a complete severing or delinking of the society from its dependency on western capital solutions to national problems.

In the intricate globalised and capitalist world, it will be foolish to expect that western apologists will lead us out of the woods, when in truth, they, with their internal collaborators are actually the reasons why Nigeria has stagnated and not made any progress, but rather, is on a steep decline.

Pragmatic people development politics demands that the people initiate programmes that are mass oriented with the force of a social movement, take over the driver’s seat of the state vessel, and use it to improve the welfare of the masses from within.

Populist political movement with pan Nigerian outlook, owned by majority of deprived Nigerians, not the parties that have excluded Nigerians by asking poor folks to pay millions of naira to purchase party nomination forms, shall be the vanguard on which the new nation is to be built.

The current primaries of major political parties in Nigeria are to a large extent against the people, and nominees from this process cannot be expected to be, and act as true representative of the people.

At best, they remain emissaries of the Nigerian 1st world – representing the interest of “Government people”. While the people gnash their teeth, groan under the mindless plunder of the common patrimony of the Nigerian people, the Nigerian state continues as a veritable instrument of oppression. The people, inhabitants of Nigeria’s second world must gird their loins and say no to this destruction of their future.

The national vacancy of people’s power is what all Nigerians in the second world must seek to fill as a matter of urgency. After all, ultimate sovereignty rests with the people, and it is through the consent of the people that Government itself obtains legitimacy at least in a democracy (no matter the variant bourgeois or socialist).

Apart from very few episodic, half hearted interventions, people’s power in Nigeria has hibernated for too long. We need it now, as a bulwark to fascism, and as a vehicle for true national emancipation.