Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

2019 Nigerian Presidential Election: The Agony of Choice

Every four years the presidential election confronts Nigerians like a table set with unsavory dishes and citizens must hold their noses to partake. This year’s presidential election is no different. Most Nigerians are anguished at the choice before them: Should they choose a candidate under whom nepotism, corruption and herdsmen killings have blossomed over one whose candidacy is rife with seemingly tenacious accusations of stealing and who may steal with fresh vigor or should they take a chance on one of the several unknowns? Oh the agony of choice!

Looking at the different candidates—the anguish is real. 

On the one hand President Buhari received the people’s mandate four years ago because he promised to fight corruption and improve the lives of Nigerians, but his general attitude towards corruption among his close associates has been anything but encouraging. Many of his appointees have shown uncommon avarice. But even as Nigerians waited with bated breath to see the president wage a just war against this blatant corruption under his watch, he met their expectations with an odd tepidity and indolence. Add to that the unsettling fact that in a country with so many qualified candidates he has chosen most of his appointees from his hometown and friends, with some of them evidently lacking the requisite qualification. But the worst part of the last four years, in addition to worsening poverty and non-payment of salaries, is the massive loss of life from the herdsmen killing which has received a perturbing silence from the president.

And then there is the candidacy of Atiku. It is only in Nigeria, or at least the rest of Africa, that a government official will be found with riches beyond what they could have justly earned in their government post and they expect people to accept it as legitimate. Do the citizens not realize that such money was taken illicitly from the country, from them the citizens? In Nigeria, past presidents start multi-million dollar businesses after their tenure, without other obvious source of income, and no one seems to question where they got such massive wealth from. Does the cart go before the horse? Does the accumulation of wealth occur before enterprise or does wealth accumulate from enterprise? In the developed countries the former would be called money laundering which is actually a crime. That correct assessment of wealth and proper terminology in referring to it is why the developed countries are developed: They use the money that belongs to their country to develop their country. So, with this candidacy, unfortunately, it is unclear what the situation is. We Nigerians must use our brains!

And then, enter the numerous candidates most of whom do not have name recognition or a record to run on. Are they a safe haven? A nail biting decision indeed!

But above all, what we as Nigerians do not seem to realize is that the governance does not end with the election. Governance starts after the elections and—to be successful—consists of two parties: the governing and the governed—each with their responsibility. As long as Nigerians are still expecting a savior that will come in and do them good of his own accord, then they have not yet understood the insatiable greed of the typical Nigerian public office aspirant nor learned the necessary lesson from our 58 years of stunted growth.  

And so? What is the governed to do in the face of the governing who wields power as a lethal weapon?

Some of us are old enough to remember the struggle of the black South Africans against apartheid. It was not easy but today apartheid is no more. When it became obvious the black South Africans would not give up the right to be treated as the equal human beings they are, the world finally joined them. What is going on in Nigeria (and most African countries) today defies nomenclature: it is not apartheid neither is it slavery yet it has possibly cost more lives than either of those—through insecurity, non-payment of salaries, dangerous roads, curable disease. And when the presidents and other government officials can go to Europe, U.S, Saudi Arabia, or elsewhere for their healthcare but ask their fellow countrymen to die in poorly equipped hospitals—the situation cries out for a new name.

In the past few weeks we have seen the French citizens demand their right, demand livable conditions—the yellow jacket protest is now in its 11th consecutive week (even after their initial demands have been met). Good governance must be demanded to be obtained! Nigerians both at home and abroad, let’s stop letting the political elite loot the land. In whatever foreign country you are, when your president visits that country for medical care, organize, and carry placards to the front of the hospital to demand he build hospitals back home that both he and others can use. When they buy mansions in the foreign land where you are, organize and march to the city hall of that town with placard and demand that the source of the money be ascertained. And also on Nigerian soil, protest peacefully until your voice is heard! Let us demand accountability and hold thieves in government accountable. Let us demand that incoming officials declare their assets before and after their tenure as stipulated in the constitution. And that includes the judiciary! When they refuse to listen, let us continue to raise our voices until we achieve a government that works for the benefit of one and all.

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A State Of Insecurity

Image credit: https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/09/30-nigerian-soldiers-killed-in-boko-haram-raid/

When criminals and terrorists can outgun an army or any law enforcement agency, attack and overpower an army base: there is no security. Over the past six weeks on multiple and with an ever increasing frequency, Boko Haram operatives have attacked, subdued and massacred Nigerian soldiers. Last month, the soldiers while mourning the needless demise of 100 of their comrades lamented that the military tanks on their bases were non-functional. They were left defenseless by the country’s leaders, only to be massacred by attackers. Again within the last twenty-four hours a naval base close to Doro-Baga near Borno State was attacked and sacked by suspected Boko Haram insurgents with officer fatality, forcing the overpowered Nigerian troops to withdraw from their own base.

It is a tragedy when the defenders of the security of the country are left defenseless and insecure. All over the world, the quality, training and performance of law enforcement officials reflects on the quality of their government. The recent and ongoing aggression and attacks against the Nigerian army by the Boko haram insurgents should be great cause for concern and cause for immediate action by the Nigerian government. But, it would seem that to the leaders, the current dire state of insecurity is business as usual. If the soldiers whose job it is to protect the citizens are themselves vulnerable, what about the citizens?

But, where is the equipment for the army to perform their job? What has been happening to the funds budgeted for the military/defense? Is there no budget for the country’s defense? Is our military equipment supposed to continue to deteriorate? Is Nigeria too poor to equip its security forces?

At a time when Nigeria should be a beacon of hope to the rest of Africa, it finds itself wallowing in the mud of corruption and its horrible consequences, on the verge of being a failed state. And yet the politicians, who should run the affairs of the country to the benefit of all, regime after regime, seem blissfully ignorant of their abysmal failure. No country can make progress when corruption blossoms. President Buhari’s attitude to corruption since taking office has been disappointing. The tepid attempts at fighting corruption seems directed only towards his opponents. For anti-corruption efforts to succeed there must be no friend or foe attitude.

We as Nigerians need to wake up to the truth about corrupt politicians. Corrupt politicians are the greatest threat to the peace and security of a nation. We need to use every avenue open to us to hold our leaders accountable. As long as tens of millions of US dollars in cash keep showing up in people’s wardrobes, fireproof safes and behind-the-house-shipping-containers, there will no progress or security. Corruption has consequences. If money is stolen it will not do what it is supposed to do and the citizens suffer. So, fellow Nigerians, when next you see a politician known to be wealthy from his political office, look at him as you would at any armed robber: no R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

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Forever Captive?

When will Nigeria stop groaning under the thumb of her colonial master? Yes, yes, Nigeria got her independence from Britain in 1960. Or so we thought. One aspect of colonialism was difficult for the masters to give up. Why? Consider the reasons for colonialism. The primary motivation for colonization was economic, although there were also political and social benefits. So when Nigeria was given her independence, her wealth was not something the colonial master could easily turn their back on. All that cocoa and rubber and palm oil, and best of all, the newly discovered crude oil tugged at the heart of the colonial masters. But then their regret turned to joy. Slowly but surely they will get the money after all. For, it became obvious with time, the Nigeria heads of state and politicians were like cats left in charge of mice. It turned out for the British much better than they could have expected. The boundless greed of Nigerian politicians became Britain’s windfall.

This week we welcome the Prince of Wales and his wife Princess Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. They will be in Nigeria from November 6th to the 8th as part of their tour of Africa. Mr. Arkwright, the British high commissioner to Nigeria, talking to the News Agency of Nigeria in preparation for the visit, laid out an agenda that includes finding workable solutions to the problem of the herdsmen who have been slaughtering Nigerian farmers and others. According to Mr. Arkwright, “Some of the issues like the farmers/herders crises are deep-rooted and are about the economy, land resource, climate change and cultural issues.” He also said that addressing the root of the problems would lead to a peaceful and more prosperous Nigeria.  But what Mr. Arkwright, and likely, the visiting royals hesitate to acknowledge is the prominent part Britain is playing in the corruption that keeps that “economy” backwards and prevents a “more prosperous Nigeria.”

We have watched Nigerian heads of state and then politicians over the years drain the country of its wealth leaving their fellow countrymen in abject poverty. And who is the recipient and guardian of their loot? Look no further than Britain and Switzerland, and lately the U.S. A good part of the multi-million dollar homes in London are owned by Nigerian officials whose sole source of wealth is the loot from their positions as public servants. Britain knows it, the U.S. knows it and the world knows it. Yet, all we hear about is the aid they give us. According to Global Financial Integrity (GFI), financial outflows from developing economies through trade misinvoicing and other corrupt practices perpetrated through shell companies, tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions far exceed the aid and other assistance from developed countries. The illicit financial outflow from developing countries in 2013 alone was $1.1 trillion (with sub-Saharan Africa suffering the biggest loss—about 6.1% of GDP) while the combined total of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and net Official Development Assistance (ODA) from the developed countries to the developing economies for that year was $957.3 billion: a net loss of $42.7billion by the developing economies.

So when David Cameron said that Nigeria was fantastically corrupt he had firsthand knowledge of the evidence of that corruption. Nigerian money has been flowing boundlessly into the U.K and its overseas territories without restraint. True, they see the dilapidation of Nigeria. They hear the groans of her people. But, they know the benefit to their own economy. And greed, that eternal enemy of all good intentions, has not allowed them to truly free the captive. Corruption, the bane of Nigeria, is a boom to its former colonial master. Hence, they hesitate to do what is in their power to stop it.

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The Chinese Invasion of Africa

Is China the new face of colonialism in Africa?

I have watched the China’s invasion of Africa with great concern. It reminds me of a story I once heard about a certain traveler and his horse. A traveler on horse-back was caught up in the rain. He stopped and set up a tent. As he snuggled in the tent, the horse peeked through the door. “Please could I put one of my paws in the tent, the rain is too much for me.” The traveler thought for a moment. “Okay.” Shortly after the horse said, “it’s too strenuous to have only one paw in. May I bring in the other?” Again the traveler agreed. Yet again the horse requested and finally wanted to bring the second rear paw in. The permission was barely out of the traveler’s mouth before the horse’s large form dragged the tent upon itself and the traveler was left in the rain.

The eagerness of the African leaders to line up and accept billions of US dollar loans from China is disturbing. I am even more disturbed to see the Nigerian president among them. We should be in a position to be lending to our African neighbors.

It is obvious that China is trying to position itself strategically in the world. The greed of the African heads of state has made them an easy prey and before they know it China will become the landlord and no more the tenant. Contrary to the expectation of the African leaders, China is not offering them a bonanza but bait. If we have any doubt, all we need to do is to consider what has happened to Sri Lanka which accepted more than US$8 billion dollar loan from China at high interest rate. When they could no longer afford to repay the loan China took over the seaport they built. China now has 70% stake in the port under a 99-year lease. In Africa, Zambia and Djibouti are now highly indebted to China and are on the verge of losing key infrastructure.

The embezzlement by Nigerian politicians runs into tens of billions of US dollars. That much money would have gone a long way in favorably positioning the country in the world. We could have had security, good roads, hospitals and other infrastructure. We could have attracted tourism and foreign investment. The status of every Nigerian child would have been elevated. Instead our president and our neighbors borrow from China. When China becomes in charge of most of the major infrastructure in Africa will we still be a free people? Who will be running Africa then?

But the leaders of Africa blinded by greed ignore reality and are selling their land one future at a time. Our statesmen that fought for independence must be turning in their graves. Their struggle and their hard-earned freedom are on the verge of being sacrificed. I doubt that China will be an easy master. China is not like the British, the French or the Portuguese. No. We only need to look at the record of human rights in China.

China’s loans to Africa are bait. Their interest policy and their aggressive way of getting back their money is very dangerous.  We Africans need to wake up before we pass the point of no return. This is our time to stand our ground, to pursue our future. It is our time to say no to the sly approach of neocolonialism lest we resemble the insults we have been given.

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Nigerian Independence Day

Another year, another birthday and Nigeria is 58. Hooray for our beloved homeland! But wait. On looking back over the past 58 years how much have we achieved? What do we have to celebrate?

While one must not focus only on keeping up with the Jones, sometimes though, one has to check one’s self. It is not about unhealthy competition, it is about self-evaluation.

Some comparisons may be enlightening. Consider just two other countries similar to Nigeria in preexisting poverty, age since independence, and possession of crude oil.

Singapore gained independence from Great Britain in 1963 and was expelled from Malaysia in 1965. A small country one may say, but still. Singapore had oil but it took time to develop the country in order to attract foreign investors. It is now a highly developed free-market economy, and has taken its people from abject poverty to good living or at least middle class. Is it any wonder when Singapore is the 7th least corrupt countries in the world?

Then there is the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—it gained independence from Great Britain in 1971. Crude oil was discovered in the early 1960s before its independence. As of today, the UAE has judiciously managed its oil wealth and become a top tourist destination. They diversified their revenue source and built infrastructure which is now among the wonders of the world. They have wiped out poverty for their people.

Nigeria’s crude oil was first discovered in 1956 in Oloibiri in Niger delta. Nigeria gained independence from Great Britain in 1960. Today, hunger is more than it has ever been in Nigerian history.

So as we leave our 58 years behind and embark on the journey to our 59th, let us take stock and ask ourselves: are our leaders leading us up into a good place of prosperity or down into a dungeonof poverty, in the path of betterment for all or in the path of depravity and perpetual lack? Our politicians live in wanton wealth and the governed in abject poverty.

Arise O compatriots, make your voices heard!

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