Many years after Sunny Okosun sang his hit song, ‘I Love My Father Land, Which Way Nigeria’; the country is still wallowing in the dark as a result of avoidable socio-economic and political troubles besetting her.
What the countrymen have seen ever since only amplifies Okosun’s dilemma, because nobody knows or understands where the country is headed.
To many Nigerians, nothing comforts them about their country. On a daily basis, what they see and hear are news about looting, wanton destruction of lives and property, endless probes, epileptic power supply, bad roads, poor infrastructure, among many other ills.
In fact, those born after 1975 may not have experienced good part of Nigeria as according to Philip Asiodu, one time Federal permanent secretary and Chief Economic adviser to Olusegun Obasanjo government in 1999, the performance of the economy started sliding from mid-1970s due to a lot of factors, principally due to abandonment of national development plans, indiscipline in governance, military coups and the ruin of public service structure.
“Unfortunately for Nigeria, after the 1975 military coup that brought to power Murtala Mohammed and Olusegun Obasanjo, the tragic thing that happened to Nigeria was the destruction of the public service particularly the Civil Service which we inherited from the British like every other commonwealth nation inherited. Over 10,000 people were cashiered, sent away, with all the institutional memories, international contacts forgetting that people in the world deal with people they know,” Asiodu said.
According to him, “They did not only send them away, but the other terrible thing that happened was that the 1975-1980 development plan which was meant to lay the basis of a self-sustaining economic development through industrialisation, adding value in the critical sector of agriculture among others was abandoned”. This was the beginning of the economic crisis for Nigeria.
By all standards, Nigeria of today cannot be said to have made any progress since 2015. Fighting against insecurity and corruption, and job creation, the three major planks on which the current administration rode to power in 2015, have unfortunately become worse than they were five years ago. The more worrisome is that it does not seem that there is any thinking going on, on how to remedy the situation.
The level of financial malfeasance perpetrated by principal officers of government and the slap on the wrist treatment given to those found guilty as punishment have eroded the confidence of many who had hoped for a true change.
Sadly, every year, the country slides further on global poverty scale, soaring unemployment rate, as well as, corruption; leaving those hoping for better days as mere dreamers.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), from 3.5 million unemployed in 2010, 21 million in 2018, the number of unemployed persons in Nigeria rose to 23 million in 2019 and is expected to reach over 30 million by the end of 2020, especially because of the persisting impact of coronavirus pandemic, which has resulted in many job losses globally.
Moreover, according to a World Bank’s report titled ‘Nigeria Economic Update’, the number of Nigerians living in extreme poverty, which is currently 82 million people, might increase by more than 30 million in 2030. World Bank cited the current economic situation, and level of unemployment in Nigeria as the key contributors to the increased extreme poverty in 10 years.
World Bank predicts that 42.5percent of Nigerians will be poor – defined as living on less than $2 a day – this year.
Timothy Olawale, director general, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), decried the rising unemployment and its attendant poverty, noting that it could rise to 33.5 percent this year; from the 23.1 percent it was pegged in 2019.
He blamed the sad development on lack of employment opportunities and shutdown of many companies due to high operation cost, and most recently, the impact of coved-19 on the economy.
He noted that past governments have not been able to create policies that would boost the development of the economy and create more jobs, and where there are such policies, implementation and sustainability have been the major issues.
But Nduka Ezimora, a lawyer and one-time legislator, blamed the poverty in the land on bad leadership, selfishness of the political class and corruption.
The lawyer noted that since 1960, Nigerian political leaders have pursued selfish and regional interests, which has beclouded them from seeing development from a national standpoint.
“Since 1960, there are many developmental projects, initiatives and policies that could not fly because they are seen to favour a region or a people, hence they were dead on arrival or abandoned. Imagine when a project with huge revenue and job creation potential cannot fly because some politicians think the region it would be sited is opposition,” Ezimora said.
He thinks that if leaders lead by example, nepotism and corruption would be curtailed.
“We have witnessed how the anti-craft re-looted funds it recovered from corrupt Nigerians; senators go to jail and still retain their seats, mandates given by the electorates upturned in courts among others. There is no way a country will progress with these vices unchecked”, the former legislator warned.
Ferdinand Esoro, an economist and university lecturer, lamented that Nigeria has all it takes to be truly giant of Africa but that corruption and bad leadership have kept the country down since 1960.
“It is a shame that Nigeria is top on global poverty scale with 82 million people, about 40 percent of our population, living on less than $2 a day. Instead of investing wealth from oil windfall, and boom days, the military looted the money, the governors insisted on sharing the excess crude oil account, several government agencies exist including local governments that are just conduit for siphoning public fund meant for development,” Esoro said.
He noted that the present administrative system of the country is not working and has become a major challenge to development as well.
“I think it is time to restructure the country, give people a little autonomy to decide their destiny, create their own wealth, and develop at their own pace. This will engender competition across the country as regions strive to adopt best practices,” Esoro suggested.
Going by the level of corruption, insincerity of government, nepotism and desperation for power, most Nigerians think that the country may not smell meaningful development in a longtime unless bad leadership is addressed.
The Pan Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, and the Yoruba Patriotic Movement (YPM) have spat at the accusations and counter accusations going over corruption at the Niger-Delta Development Commission (NDDC), saying it was a huge indictment on the Muhammadu Buhari administration and the anti-graft war.
Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, and former Acting Managing Director, NDDC, Joi Nunieh, have been embroiled in war of words over what transpired between them when Nunieh was the acting MD of the Commission.
But reacting in separate interviews with BDSUNDAY, the groups said the revelation in the NDDC was a true reflection of the shady deals being perpetrated by officials in the current administration without checks.
Yinka Odumakin, spokesman for Afenifere, lambasted the current administration, saying that impunity in the system had encouraged the act.
“The NDDC has now become a picture of this administration and what is going on in it. The administration said it would fight corruption when in office and bring change but look at what is happening, it is not so. It is frustrating.
“The NDDC is the worse under this administration; it is a shame, it shows the level of corruption that has characterised this administration. They think Nigerians are fools,” Odumakin said.
Soji Adejumo, national leader of the YPM and a professor at the University of Ibadan (UI), said the revelation was an indictment on the officials heading the Commission and a setback for the administration and the All Progressives Congress (APC), while calling for an immediate investigation into the affairs of the Commission.
“What is happening in NDDC is laughable to me, it is difficult to comprehend people who lack morals are put in public offices, and they them are misfits to the system.
“This is an administration that promised to tackle corruption, but it appears it is more embedded into it. The character of the personalities involved in all this is questionable, this must be investigated,” Adejumo said.
Abimbola Ogunkelu, a former minister of Cooperation and Integration in Africa, told BDSUNDAY that corruption has become endemic in Nigeria and has perverted all systems in the country.
“The fight against corruption should be a holistic fight, it should not be selective. The only way to fight corruption is when people commit a criminal act and if it is sure that they would face the law; that is the greatest deterrence to fight corruption.
“Selectively fighting corruption cannot work; there must be reforms in the judiciary, reform in the security and police system; it must be clear if people commit crime they get punished for it, but if not it would be business as usual,” he said.
Ogunkelu further said: “Look at other countries; they appear to have less corruption because the system is well built; if you commit a crime you would be caught no matter where you are. But our own systems are practically destroyed, nothing is working here and until we put in the system to work we would not make any tangible progress.”
Remi Sonaiya, a former presidential candidate, said that corruption seems to be deepening under the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
“What we are seeing is like an unprecedented level of corruption in the country. But what I would like us to point attention to is the quality of people who have been appointed because if the President does not care to appoint people with tested integrity into positions this is what we are going to be witnessing.
“The system that we are running; the system that is only after people just to occupy a position rather than the calibre of the people or the values they are known to uphold, is what we are seeing now,” she said.
According to the university professor, “It must be evident to Nigerians that the fight is not just to say that there must be somebody from my state in government, or we are being marginalised if there is nobody from my state. The question should be, what is the quality of the individual? What are his skills and competencies? What are the values they are known for?”
“We must bring people who are tested and trusted into public office. I am amazed by some of the money that is disappearing under this administration, it is mind-boggling, we are putting in place a system that allows people to have access to public funds. We are not running an efficient system. What we have now allows an individual to easily divert money even in cash.
“Look at the former head of the NNPC with so much money found in his house and he said it was given to him; such is totally unattainable. We are running a system that can make people easily deep their hand into the public treasury. Things have to change,” Sonaiya said.
To move Nigeria forward, many stakeholders have called for restructuring of the country, which is decentralisation of government. Other suggestions that have been made include altering the Federal Allocation in favour of local governments.
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