By Ferdinand Adimefe
Nigeria’s problem is not the lack of creativity or the content of our ideas but the corrupt nature of the government shepherding the system.
I can’t deny that I remain very sympathetic towards the President, partly because I supported him and canvassed for him on Channels television during “the show down debate”, engaged friends on Facebook and twitter during the period leading up to the election and in the immediate aftermath of same but also, partly, because I studied the transformation agenda and saw in its intentions of honesty and believed it was the way to go.
This was the first election I voted in and went all the way to vote my support. I did it out of conviction, without knowing or having met the president. Much hasn’t changed about that. When I saw the budget my eyes opened. I still do support him and feel his administration may be one of the best Nigeria will ever have but I must add that the chance dims every passing day, with the failure of the government to listen to genuine concerns of the people.
There was an aspect that was omitted in the transformation agenda which was the transformation of leadership and style of governance. The agenda, solely, focused on the transformation of the economy. It was a good basis but we now know that only transformed leadership can transform the economy, for a man can truly not give what he doesn’t have.
To run government in the same manner as the previous administration and hope to birth a better economy is a new definition of insanity.
Nigeria’s problem is not the lack of creativity or the content of our ideas but the corrupt nature of the government shepherding the system. We may chant empty slogans of change fed us by complicit political elites and dance our limbs sore come another election. The leadership might or mightn’t change but the country will remain the same if we don’t change the structures and the systems.
The deep commitment required for genuine national transformation must start from the top and it must comprehensively address our systemic failings.
Two weeks ago on Ynaija™, I penned an essay: “WHO WILL PAY THE PRICE?” noting that our common fears may snowball into an epic misunderstanding whose proportion we have never seen before. I am sad that all the expressed fears have gained an unalloyed hold on Nigeria.
The last few days have been incrementally disappointing for me. I am depressed to find out that the government seems to be dancing to the beats of a different drum from the very people who they claim to govern.
My concern is their explanation and defences.
The federal government seems detached from reality when they make statements presupposing that Nigerians are ignorant and usually castigate their government for cheap gains. I know this is not true but it wouldn’t solve much now.
I think it is faulty judgement to think that because some of the opposition parties who were defeated in the last elections are cashing on the crisis that a tough glove is needed! No glove from the government is needed, whether tough or soft.
The manipulation is no less obvious but trust me all of such opposing voices, particularly those who have served in previous administrations and benefited from the same system of corruption are also part of the problem and should be equally discarded by the winds of change. The hate in the false guise of patriotism and the hidden disappointments of losing out of the political calculation of the day is always revealed in the fury of their speeches and also registered on their faces in the protest.
We know better their attempt to adulterate the genuine cause of protest with bad blood of acrimony. They are only opportunist using the protest as expedient platforms. But despite the fact that most people are using this as a means for cheap image laundering and for most musicians as a way to stay relevant and hoodlums having a field that extorting money from innocent citizens, there are many genuine voices crying for help on the streets.
It is unanimously agreed (almost?) amongst Nigerians except for the deluded few in power that the removal of subsidy was ill-timed; coupled with the fact that the government had not done a proper communication of the benefit of the removal earlier on, made it all the more resentful.
The government, recently, gave credence to those dissenting voices that are obviously mathematical challenged over the economics of the removal a stouter platform by stating that there is no subsidy.
What a shame.
That is what happens when you sell the right policy in wrong time; it will always meet stiff resistance. No matter how strategic the thinking was to remove it on 1st January. Maybe, it was swiftly done to take the oil marketers and the mysterious subsidy cabal by surprise, but sadly it ended up having more ruinous collateral damage on the suffering masses.
They had little or nothing to shield them from the harsh inflationary fallouts that arose from a country and citizenry primed with greed. Agreeing that only 10% of subsidy benefits the people while 90% is lost to corruption is spot on. But this insignificant 10% may very well be all that the people genuine benefit directly as many government project proffered in the palliative may end up plundered.
We may hate the cabal and call on all to barrack them (if they can only appear from their mysterious and mythical habitation) but their success was not without the collusion of greedy people in past and the present administration.
Reading through the Subsidy Savings Management Scheme and Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE) gives one the courage to hope for a better tomorrow.
I understand that part of the money from subsidy removal is to pay Almajaris to attend school and being fed whilst there. This is a plus as Boko Haram will have nobody to recruit as suicide bombers.
I understand that the plan is for private refineries that will spring up in different parts of the country much earlier than expected. This is a plus as we will export to our immediate neighbours.
I understand the thinking for a better educational experience for all intellectuals. This is a plus as ASUU has been on a long (and seemingly forgotten) strike.
The question is how do we implement it to benefit the people? We agree but we disagree that we can deal with this without uprooting corruption and bringing to justice all those who have inflicted inhumane pains on our lives by stealing our collective wealth.
No doubt, the economic benefit of subsidy removal is enormous but the ginormous and entrenched disease called corruption remain largely our reason for protest.
A persistent fear is that the funds will become largesse for our rapacious politicians; a legitimate concern given our infamous history and very well reflected in a budget that seem to ridicule the governments intentions for austerity measures. Bloated ministries, over-paid but underworked senators and showboating legislators are part of the malaise.
I believe the removal of the subsidy is a necessary step towards repositioning our economy and save it from the brink of ruins but I doubt that it is the first step. I believe the removal might be a futile venture without strengthening the institutions of anti-corruption. And herein lay the Gordian Knot that needs untying.
What the people are clamouring for if the government will listen is not just the removal of subsidy, but to address the root cause that brought about the inefficiency and high consumption that we are now subsidizing. However, the government should understand that removal of subsidy in one swoop without tangible plans to effectively annihilate the monster called corruption and ensure palliatives, is only an exercise that will give a futile result.
The hydra headed monster – after the numbing taste of subsidy removal- will rear its ugly head in another area. And the vicious vortex –our famed corruption- that has held Nigeria and Nigerians in its wicked embrace will continue apace with us.
Irrespective of our party, tribe, religion, age and gender, we as a people are united against a common enemy called systemic corruption which has pervaded our country. The president did not create it but must address it.
Just as the president is desperate to redeem the inherited trust deficit that Nigerians have due to failed promises of previous administrations, he should also be more desperate to redeem the Nigerian people from an inherited culture of waste and corruption that those in power benefit from that has constantly ravaged the country. It takes more than a 25% cut in salary, it takes an independent judiciary and strengthened anti-corruption institution that will send corrupt people where they belong. This is history giving the president the chance to right the wrong and etch his name on Nigeria’s hall of fame. Make hay while the sun shines.