So long as we cannot get past this primitive acquisition stage, where we all move around starry eyed everyday looking for how to gyp the system, where we are not ready to take a little breather, shift some space so that society may advance a little, we have no country here… Now, I can tell, that the country is not meant to work. It is a free for all. How it shall culminate, nobody knows.
Yes. Be alarmed. That is the whole idea. I have many cogent reasons for thinking this way but the most prominent is that there is no elite consensus to make the painful sacrifices that will lunge project Nigeria forward. Every group and every individual is holding on to their own advantages and in fact looking for more. As I type this, the unity and cohesion of this nation is broken, dangerously splintered and at the risk of melting down at any moment. If it does, we will all have ourselves to blame for it. But I know we are used to regrets. The history of the black man, especially in Nigeria, is a history of negligence to do the right thing, and regrets afterwards. Nobody is speaking to the unity of Nigeria, and the sacrifices we will have to make in order to survive as a nation, not to talk of actually achieving something tangible with our times. When last did any of our big politicians talk of the unity and cohesion of Nigeria? The other day, the supreme court gave its judgment in the case of Atiku vs Buhari on the 2019 election. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) issued a statement attacking the judiciary, while all the All Progressives Congress (APC) could do was to mock the PDP and its candidate. The average age of the men involved in this nonsensical charade, with no thoughts for the future of this country, is at least 65.
Who is speaking to the unity of Nigeria? Who cares at all? Who is sacrificing anything, any convenience for Nigeria? Who is even willing to pull their paws from the cookie jar? Those are the questions. The nation has made a new budget for the year 2020. It isn’t very different from the one for 2019, which will not be implemented at more than 20 per cent. At N10.3 trillion, it is almost exactly what we have this year, if we back out inflation at 11.4 per cent and also discount for population growth at 3 per cent. Nigeria is on a treadmill to nowhere. We are only waiting to be buffeted backwards or in any direction but progress, because none of us is giving a thought to the future.
I am compelled to write on this due to my disappointment with a section of Nigeria, which should be our very last refuge. No, it is not the judiciary. Those ones had since become irredeemable, their souls sold to the devil. There are a few good policemen and prison warders but the majority have become rotten and that is the way the ‘system’ wants it. Bankers visit our judges in court on a daily basis to pick up ‘daily sales’ in dollars. Ask Justice Rita Ajumogobia, whose case is still on. Forget the judiciary. I am speaking about academia. We know that, just like the police, many of our lecturers are rotten. Thankfully we haven’t seen a lot of our female lecturers being accused of harassing young boys for sex, but many of the men are addicted to that practice. But both male and female lecturers and other workers in the academia are involved in other practices such as the selling of handouts, leaking of examination papers for money, and so on.
Just as we were trying to get our heads around the moral rottenness of the academia, what with the BBC sting report wherein a number of elderly lecturers were filmed soliciting sex and harassing young students some of whom couldn’t be more than 17 years old; just as we were trying to process how some of these lecturers could claim to be professors and pastors/reverends, the latest news from those quarters is how the umbrella body of Nigerian university teachers, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is vehemently resisting the integration of their salary payment system into a transparent structure called the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS). There is nothing we have not heard from Professor Ogunyemi, the ASUU president. While growing up and passing through the Nigerian university system, the ASUU used to take on the government on macro issues of how the economy was run. It was not just about their salaries. Those were the military days but unfortunately everything has devalued in Nigeria today in a civilian era! ASUU has now reduced itself to no more than another whining trade union seeking more money by any means. They had been threatening the government with strikes because some certain trillions of naira promised them have not been paid. On no occasion have they looked inwards to reform themselves from their ways. If not for technology, even the push backs that we are seeing from students will not be there. Now ASUU is threatening strike because of the call for transparency.
Or how else can we explain the vehemence behind refusing to join the IPPIS, a platform that at least attempts transparency and accountability in a country where we get ripped off of trillions yearly by executives and big men who collect the salaries of ghost workers? What are the lecturers who teach in our universities teaching our children if they so abhor transparency? Is accountability not synonymous with transparency, which is synonymous with honesty, which is synonymous with integrity? What is intellectualism without honesty and integrity? Is this attitude not at the bottom of our core problem in this country? Have we been running our universities on the basis of fraud? Are there lecturers working as full time staff in multiple federal universities, as alleged by no less than Dr. Goke Adegoroye, a former super permanent secretary, who should know?
ASUU says IPPIS is a scam. A scam? Is IPPIS trying to steal their salaries? Such use of careless language betrays desperation. Then they went ideological and said it is something introduced by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or the World Bank or is an imperialist policy. Where has ASUU be all this while when we were looking for big hitters like them to speak up on economic matters?
The reasons advanced by ASUU gives further cause for concern. ASUU says IPPIS is a scam. A scam? Is IPPIS trying to steal their salaries? Such use of careless language betrays desperation. Then they went ideological and said it is something introduced by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or the World Bank or is an imperialist policy. Where has ASUU be all this while when we were looking for big hitters like them to speak up on economic matters? Should ASUU only speak up when it seems like some undue advantage its members enjoy is about to be eroded? Then ASUU said IPPIS is a security risk? Haba! Well, let us be fair to ourselves in this country. How is technology deployed to shed light on a grey area – national security? I feel that ASUU’s leadership still exists in the opaque realm where Nigeria is run by cults and shady fraternities. Given that that may be true in many spheres, however technology is one phenomenon that denudes all the shadiness that has held us ransom for way too long.
The talk of IPPIS not capturing allowances, or sabbatical and so on, is therefore cheap. If claims are legitimate, IPPIS can be made to capture these. But if it is about the ease with which vice chancellors are able to access slush funds in the name of independence, let ASUU be assured that we the people will fight then to a standstill. We criticised Buhari for not declaring his asset openly like Yar’Adua did. We criticised Jonathan too. ASUU members would have joined us in lampooning these leaders. They criticise even those of us who went and sacrificed in politics. They often sound puritan and sanctimonious. Therefore, they should know that Nigeria is not joking with this attempt to banish ghost workers. 80,000 of them exist in the police and I have it on good authority that the Nigerian Army harbours 60,000 ghost soldiers, whose salaries accrue to some big men within this country on a monthly basis. It is a shame that ASUU is trying to compare itself to the police, or even rushing to the Senate because they know those ones think in a funny manner once money is involved. ASUU has sunk too low.
Let us leave ASUU for now. They have backed down from their strike threat. I hope they get all they legitimately deserve. I learnt from someone high up, who should know, that some professors hold down jobs in ten universities. They don’t even have to show up more than twice. The get fully paid because their friends are the ones taking the decisions. This paddy-paddy arrangement is what has laid Nigeria bare today. We could do with a lot of transparency and accountability.
The circle of hypocrisy continues. I read somewhere last week that Ebonyi State government bought SUVs worth N1.6 billion for their lawmakers and other big men. 68 in number. This happened just as the governor had complained about resources to take care of the millions of needy people there. Some years back it was board members of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC, whom the president has now asked to be audited), who went on a luxury car binge, purchasing 70 cars, including 7 luxury SUVs for N87 million each, even when they owed contractors for years, and complained about no funding. Professor Sagay was the one who shouted out in 2017. The obsession with cars made me write articles about this addiction in major newspapers. Nothing has changed. Nigerian people care more about ego, status, outward appearances, and it doesn’t matter if the nation is dying – they get whatever is their full benefits.
I should have known this will happen. In President Buhari’s first and probably only multimedia national chat, a certain Dr. Mrs. Ngozi Anyanegbunam asked him how he planned to infect the civil service with his anti-corruption fervour. I remember the look of disdain in the president’s eyes that day, even as some of my Buharist friends mocked the lady for fawning over Buhari. I wrote a whole article in defence of that lady, for the president had said in reply to her question: ‘the civil servants will be attending their normal promotion training’ and I felt we had already missed our way. The president himself had been a letdown because he refused to declare his asset openly, contrary to expectations about his integrity. Those interested in getting the information were told to head to the Code of Conduct Bureau where they were promptly stonewalled. For me it wasn’t about how much he is worth but the need to keep one’s words. What happened next was that the APC governors met in 2015 and actually gave a statement never to declare their asset. The link is there on the internet. The corruption war was dead. The fear of a Buhari, who was a scourge of corrupt people, started evaporating. Even Buhari’s ministers, appointed seven months into his tenure, hit the ground demanding for their houses in Abuja – even those who owned mansions here. We had been fully scammed and the rest is history. Mind you, before Buhari, there was a certain Goodluck Jonathan who said he warned Yar’Adua not to declare asset because ‘we should not play into the hands of some people’. I am still trying to figure out what he meant by that. Thankfully, Yar’Adua refused to listen to him, and actually compelled him to declare openly, a feat he dared not repeat once Yar’Adua was gone. We almost had a country.
The minister of Finance is telling us daily that we have a revenue problem. But when big people like her were asked to pay property taxes in Akwa Ibom State, they shut down the motion with vehemence. In Abuja, similar ideas never see the light of day. Okonjo-Iweala once spoke of the need for a luxury tax. The idea flatlined before she finished speaking.
So it is no wonder that the National Assembly engages in yearly purchase of SUVs, or that a large chunk of our yearly budget is deployed towards inanities. Being in government is like being in a different world. The complaints and wailings of the populace are a distant, irritating din. It is none of your concern. Those who still try to take our budgets apart have a strong heart. There is nothing in those budgets for the people of Nigeria. Most line items are fully owned, or heavily padded by strong men from not only the legislature, but the executive, judiciary, the bureaucracy, and even if a cleaner or clerk could get favour in the eyes of some big man, he gets something inserted for himself in the budget. Almost everything is being conducted in the country with a fraternal, cultish frame of mind. No one cares about standards, or professionalism, or the delivery of good outcomes from projects.
The other day the debate raged about whether Nigeria should set up a Charity Commission. I supported the idea, much to the chagrin of some of the chief proponents. The Charity Commission would have ensured that new religious places were duly registered and also monitored to ensure that they were not conduits for the perpetration of fraud by fake religious scammers. But it would also have exerted some control over NGOs, some of whose missions are clandestine and evil. They would have none of it. They refused to see the bigger picture. Even the well-established ones who could have used the opportunity to consolidated their positions and helped to maintain sanity in the space, would have none of it. We hear some of them are controlling huge funds, whose ambitions are not altruistic. The violent reaction from some of them was shocking. Anyway, Buba Jubril, the House of Representatives member who was sponsoring the bill, died, and with him died the initiative. Not even the fact that such a bill would have helped to curb things like violent religious sects early could have convinced our people. No, Nigeria is finished. But did it ever start? A situation where people are at daggers drawn to protect undue advantage is one that holds a nation back in primitive captivity.
You want more examples? What about owners of property? The minister of Finance is telling us daily that we have a revenue problem. But when big people like her were asked to pay property taxes in Akwa Ibom State, they shut down the motion with vehemence. In Abuja, similar ideas never see the light of day. Okonjo-Iweala once spoke of the need for a luxury tax. The idea flatlined before she finished speaking. Even she had no intention of seeing through the idea, neither did fast-talking Britisher Kemi Adeosun. All of them have lined up to fork this country over to whoever their masters are. Almost 80 per cent of pension funds in Nigeria have been borrowed by government to build infrastructure that we cannot see. The fact that such infrastructure don’t generate cash flow and repayment may be an eventual problem does not matter. N5 trillion of taxpayers money sits in the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), already shared by our banks to people of no character who call themselves big men in Nigeria. The government is still mulling how they want to stop AMCON debtors from benefiting from government contracts. If they were common men, they probably will be in kirikiri.
So long as we cannot get past this primitive acquisition stage, where we all move around starry eyed everyday looking for how to gyp the system, where we are not ready to take a little breather, shift some space so that society may advance a little, we have no country here. I say this, because at least I tried. I put my life on hold hoping Buhari was real. He wasn’t. I did again when I ran for president. I know it has implication and many opportunities have I lost. But I believe it was worth the sacrifice. Now, I can tell, that the country is not meant to work. It is a free for all. How it shall culminate, nobody knows.