Posts Tagged ‘Buhari’

Too Big For Jail Time?

 The dust has all but settled on the re-election of President Buhari for his second term in office and the work before him and Nigerians in setting the country on the road to success is great indeed. A major point in his manifesto, both in the 2015 and again in 2019, was to fight the crippling corruption in the Nigerian government. Now that he has received the people’s mandate, it is the turn of Nigerians to see if he will provide the good governance he promised. This is his chance to leave a legacy. Will Nigerians remember him for establishing a precedent on how to robustly tackle corruption and win, for establishing a standard for the country on how to successfully conquer corruption moving forward, or will he be remembered for nepotism, herdsmen killing and maintaining the status quo of corruption?

It is unfortunate that corruption has become an accepted way of life in Nigeria—a trend which has turned a country with great potential into one that is becoming a failed state. Yet, Nigerians fail to see—it would seem— that no definite progress can be made by the country until corruption is conquered. Corruption, an enemy that has killed more Nigerians than any war, should not be handled lightly. 

While not advocating the death penalty for kleptocracy as is the case in China, Nigeria needs to do more than recover the stolen money from corrupt officials. Long prison terms, if not life in jail, after the recovery of the stolen money, is the only thing that will be punishment enough to deter the deep-seated kleptocracy in Nigeria. 

The main perpetuating cause of kleptocracy in Nigeria is the impunity which thieves in government enjoy; there is also the ignorance among the larger proportion of Nigerians who believe that the mere fact that you held a high level political office for 5 or 10 years implies that you can parade tens of millions of dollars and the position you have held merits such wealth.  Add to these the vast amounts of money available to be stolen (public office is by far the most lucrative career in Nigeria) and it becomes clear why being elected into public office is a do or die venture.    

No nation can achieve its objective of infrastructure development, successful nation building or sustained advancement in the face of deep-seated corruption. There are few places on earth where corruption is more deep seated than in Nigeria—as evidenced not only by its ranking of 144 out of 188 in Transparency International latest worldwide corruption perception index but also by the evident insecurity, unemployment and decay of infrastructure.

President Buhari speaks a lot against corruption and his words kindle hope. But one wonders: Is it going to be all talk and no action? Moreover, in the fight against corruption in Nigeria there must be no friend or foe. There must be no respect of persons or personalities. The practice whereby some of the politicians when caught, return the stolen money and then go scot free, which is prevalent currently in Nigeria, only promotes impunity. Returning the stolen money is not punishment; jail time after returning the money is punishment. As long as corrupt officials are allowed to use their loot to defend themselves, as long as they can make a pretense of returning part of the money and continue to come and go as free men, as long as thieves in government are celebrated as wealthy people rather than censored as criminals, corruption will not cease in Nigeria, neither will Nigeria be able to develop or take a respectable position in the world.                          

Clearly, the only government that will propel the country forward is one that institutionalizes the fight against corruption and institutionalizes dire consequences for the corrupt. If by the end of his second term in office, Buhari has not only waged the war against corruption but also fully conquered it, he would have left his mark on Nigeria as a veritable statesman, perhaps the first Nigeria has known after the fathers of Nigerian independence. And he would have turned Nigeria from the path to a failed state to that of success.

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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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The Elusive Minimum Wage

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President Buhari of Nigeria is grossly mistaken when he says that Nigeria cannot afford to pay its workers the minimum wage of 18,000Naira (equivalent to USD 50) a month. During his interview with Arise news (recorded for them by ThisDay Newspapers), the Nigerian president compared the demands of the Nigerian labor union for an increase in the minimum wage to the behavior of a mad woman. In response to the issue he said that he had to “relapse into his culture.” The Hausa culture, he said, has a story about a mad woman who went to make firewood; she gathered and tied it up. When she couldn’t take the firewood because it was too heavy for her: “she increased instead of reducing it.” He then said that when the states in Nigeria can’t pay the basic salary of 18,000Naira, the labor union is requesting for the minimum wage to go to 30,000Naira. He asked, “Where do we get the money from? Do we print more money?”

And this he said after he had previously agreed to their demand only to renege on his promise. In the same interview with Arise news he admitted that some states in the federation currently owe their workers six months of salary. For a worker to be owed six months of salary boggles the mind. The president, himself, admitted to this non-payment of salary that plagues the country. Now when you talk to fellow Nigerians you will find that some are actually owed up to even a year of unpaid salary! How are people expected to live, to survive? People work to make a living and take care of their families. They need a place to live, school resources for their children, food and healthcare for their families and transportation to get to work. How are the masses to survive?

In this same Nigeria, much as the President says that there is no money to pay the minimum wage, some politicians are receiving double salaries without so much as a skip of one month. Nigerian senators, who were former governors or deputy governors while receiving their salaries as senators now, are also receiving pension payment to the tune of the full salary for that former position they held. The same holds for former state governors now serving as ministers. And yet, the president says that there is no money to pay the minimum wage to desperate Nigerians. There is no money to pay those who receive the barest minimum, but those who are paid grossly exaggerated incomes do not skip a month in their salaries. And some of them are receiving double: salary and inflated pensions!

Nigerian politicians are paid higher than their counterparts in most of the developed countries. The publication of their budget through the advocacy of #OpenNASS confirmed what has been common knowledge. Our legislators are paid US$170,000 annually (wardrobe allowance included) before all other additional benefits are fully counted. Meanwhile, the minimum wage in Nigeria is under US$650 per annum, meaning our legislators earn almost three hundred times the minimum wage. Compare that to the U.S. where the average legislator is paid US$174,080 annually and the minimum wage is US$15,080 and so a legislator in the U.S. earns less than twelve times the minimum wage. Three hundred times to only twelve times! Add to that the fact that many Nigerian workers have not been paid their salary in months while the legislators do not skip a month of their own pay.

So, the response from the government, from President Buhari, to the strike and demonstrations of the Nigerian Labor Congress for a just cause is regrettable. That some states have not complied with the current minimum wage of 18,000Naira without consequence is an abysmal failure of leadership. The insensitivity of the ruling class to the plight of the masses of Nigeria is disturbing. The abject poverty in which the masses live is a distressful sight to behold. Is it not a lack of basic human decency for Nigerian politicians to keep themselves in opulence while denying those under them their basic earned sustenance?

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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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