By Jon West
The 16 “wasted years” of the Government of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) heralded several developments for the sustainability of the Nigerian project,many of which are intangible but so profound that they must be celebrated. The first is the enthronement of real democracy, where votes cast by the electorate actually counted and elections were quite conclusive, even if the incumbent party lost in blatantly rigged elections, but was charitable and patriotic enough to leave well enough alone for reasons of national unity and peace.
On the economic side, the PDP “years of the locust” (apologies to Lai Mohammed) witnessed the greatest advancements in real economic progress , witnessed since the advent of the Nigerian nation in 1960. For the first time since the end of the Biafran War, the country was in tandem with the commanding dogmas of international finance and business, under the safe hands of the chief pilot, the intellectually equipped and experienced economist, Dr Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala, former Managing Director of the World Bank and major player in international finance circles.
Between 1999 and 2011, the country was able to participate , even if belatedly, in the reenactment of the Big Bang process undertaken in the 1980s United Kingdom, Europe, Asia and the United States, when the nations weaned themselves off government control of the commanding heights of business and the economy, allowing private enterprise and competition in the market place of ideas and business, to drive innovation and a new world order that revolutionized telecommunications,providing the world wi†h the incredible spectacle of the Internet, mobile telecommunications and modern banking, ideas that totally revolutionized business and led to a quantum leap, from underdevelopment to developed world status, for the developing countries that were prepared to exploit the opportunities that were presented by these overwhelming developments.
Unfortunately, prior to 1999, while the rest of the world was playing in the new age sports of the new technologies and business processes, Nigeria was firmly under the control of jackboots in military fatigues, who banned the teaching of their country’s history to its youth, in order to hide their crimes against humanity and their own peoples from the inquisitive youth.
While the Asian former peers of Nigeria in the sphere of underdevelopment were able to exploit the new world order to lift hundreds of millions of their people out of poverty, the military adventurers that ruled Nigeria succeeded in reversing decades of continuous intellectual and economic progress, plunging over 70 million former members of the middle class into debilitating poverty.
Fast forward to May 2015 and by a combination of ethno/religious terrorism, fake and spurious promises and political, moral and intellectual revisionism, Nigeria was taken back to a forgettable past through the election of a former military dictator as President, displacing a perceived weak civilian leader , unable to handle the myriad of security, social and economic problems most of which were contrived to achieve a regime change objective. However truth be said, no one can begrudge the Nigerian voting public of their desire for a political and economic change, considering the advent of a debilitating economic environment that foretold greater suffering in the absence of change.
Change came in the name of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and their ascetic and supposedly morally upright Presidential candidate, a perennial Presidential election marathon runner with a great following among the poor and wretched, especially in his blighted region of Northern Nigeria.
The APC came to power, with a promise of change in all its ramifications, including a bouquet of egalitarian actions , including an unrelenting war against corruption and the poverty that it induces; fuel scarcity, power outage and shortage, fiscal problems, especially the exchange rate mechanisms that drive international trade. The loquacious Information Minister , Alhaji Lai Mohamed, in typical Nigerian political double speak and overarching hypocrisy, promised that the party would deliver an economic and social El Dorado within months of coming to power. The incredible promises included a 50% reduction in petrol prices and the payment of a 5000 Naira grant to all unemployed citizens. However promises could be ten a kobo, when politics becomes the underlying reason for the promise of national economic and political Renaissance.
In a seminal scene from Clint Eastwood’s cult western movie, “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”, the Eli Wallach character was cornered by a gangster while having a bath. The gangster taunted him to no end about his coming demise, but the wily Wallach character, had a gun under the bath water, and shot the gangster through the eyes. Looking at the dead gangster with utter contempt, the Wallach character admonished the deceased thus: “If you want to shoot, shoot”.
Since its advent in May 2015, the APC government has engaged in a constant vilification of the previous Government in attempt to cover its own shortcomings and inability to deliver on its promises to the Nigerian people, leading to comparisons with Eli Wallach’s gangster nemesis who spent all his time taunting his enemy instead of delivering the coup de grace, thereby suffering the unintended consequences of inaction and verbal diarrhea.
The APC had promised to hit the ground running, but is instead caught in a web of prevarication and excruciating incompetence, showing to all and sundry, that it was not prepared for power at the center. This unpreparedness is quite astonishing, considering that it’s Presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari, had been running for the Presidency for 16 years. The question is what then was his real agenda for the Nigerian people , apart from a parochial power grab, in the service of ethnic/religious tendencies?
The unraveling of the APC agenda, if ever there was one, is one the greatest tragedies of modern Nigerian politics. A Government predicated on change, took six months to constitute a cabinet of intellectual and political lightweights and then proceeded to govern by innuendo and propaganda as the new normal in Nigerian politics.
Obviously out of ideas on the way forward for the country it fought so hard to capture, the APC has resorted to name calling, political doublespeak, economic apostasy and sheer lies to conceal its apparent dilemma. From the botched loan deal turned currency swap with China to stories of humongous corrupt funds recoveries, including $200 billion from the United Arab Emirates, which is a considerable portion of the GDP of that country, to misappropriation of arms purchase funds initially put at $2.1 billion but now revised to a humongous $15 billion; the perception goalpost keeps shifting as the party becomes embroiled in a never ending saga of lies , innuendo and debilitating economic incompetence.
As the one year anniversary of this government beckons, the ugly side of the party that spawned it is glaringly obvious to a befuddled and famished populace. With food,petrol and other fuels, forex for trade and just about anything that is needed to drive a modern society, out of reach of even the well-off in society, due primarily to the incompetence of an unprepared and intellectually challenged Government,the people have their backs against an economic and social wall that threatens their very existence.
And what does the President and presumed father of the nation do while the people reel in avoidable pains? He is perpetually airborne to all corners of the world, de-marketing his country and bad mouthing his people as the most corrupt on this God’s earth, an assertion that flies in the face of evidence from international anti-corruption monitoring organizations such as Transparency International.
The nadir of this self-immolation mind-set of the supposed leader of Nigeria was reached in London, United Kingdom on Wednesday 11th May 2016, during an anti-corruption conference, hosted by the British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Cameron, himself under scrutiny , for involvement in an offshore tax-avoidance shell company exposed by the Panama Papers/Mossack&Fonseca saga, described Nigeria as a fantastically corrupt country , in the same league as war weary Afghanistan; this while briefing the Queen on her 90th birthday celebrations. After the unmitigated insult, the travelbug inflicted President nonchalantly stated that he would accept the return of stolen Nigerian assets in the UK in lieu of an apology for the insult on Nigeria. However, the reality is that the billions of dollars stolen by Buhari’s hero, Sanni Abacha, are still cooling off in UK and tax haven bank vaults, while Cameron and his ilk stonewall the funds recovery and transfer process, to the benefit of the recipient economies.
The ugliness of the APC government was further exacerbated by the wicked 65% increase in the price of petrol while the President was in the UK with Cameron, and the Nigerian people were already reeling from the breakdown of the economy and infrastructure, the consequence of a totally visionless political and economic project. This apparent deregulation of the petroleum products business in Nigeria, was the major plank of the opposition of the APC to the previous PDP Government in 2012.
The APC had then stated that there were no subsidies on petroleum products, even while the crude oil price was over $100 per barrel. Now, with oil prices crashing to less than $40 per barrel, the APC asserts that there is a 12 Naira subsidy on products imports. Really?
To add salt to the already festering economic sores of the totally devastated citizenry, the loquacious Information Minister,promised that the increase in the price of petrol, with its attendant inflationary consequences, would actually achieve the creation of over 200,000 new jobs in the economy, without stating how this reality-defying economic wonder will be realized.
It is the defining nonchalance and contempt that the APC Government holds the Nigerian people, that Lai Mohammed could figuratively spit in the faces of the Nigerian people with these constant and tactless actions that has defined its first year, a nightmarish year that the vast majority of Nigerians would prefer to forget.
––Jon West, Daura, Katsina State.