Monday, 26 July 2010

Nigeria: Utter unpreparedness for the golden jubilee


Oblivious of the masses
If there is need for a clear indication of the disconnect between the ruling classes of Nigeria and its citizenry, it has become evident in the preparations for the 50th independence anniversary of the country.
The Presidency has first earmarked NGN 16.7 billion with a detailed prospectus of spending allocations and that drew criticism from all sensible quarters of reason that they did well to trim that budget down to NGN 9.48 billion and presented it to the National Assembly that has now approved a NGN 17.195 billion allocation [1] for the same event without any of the detail that first accompanied the request from the executive.
There is no doubt that the Nigerian democratic experiment is expensive and probably the most lucrative job prospect for anyone who deigns to be a politician, over 2 years ago, I analysed the list of allowances [2] on offer to our legislators and found they enjoyed in addition to their huge salaries perks coming to 1,260% of their basic salaries; all that has been improved upon.
I would contend there is no other job in the world that offers this level of emoluments, but these people sitting cosy and well pampered are so removed from their electorate that they must have been completely deaf and inured to the common-sense arguments that were made against that egregious extravagance.
The unpreparedness defies explanation
The last year has been a difficult one for Nigeria with the uncertainties in government due to the illness and subsequent death of President Yar’Adua but it should not have impacted on our ability to prepare for the celebrations if there were anything to celebrate – everyone knew 2010 would mark the 50th year.
What beggars belief that it would be celebrated on the 1st of October and the budget for the celebrations have only been approved in the 3rd week of July.
I doubt any well-to-do Nigerian would leave the full planning and budgeting for a 50th birthday to within just 9 weeks to the celebration.
Can this be done?
However, in that time, the carpets at the International Conference Centre need to be replaced (considered the tendering, selection, bidding, approval, award process and then the execution of the contract).
The Abuja international airport will be renovated with the provision of additional parking, (one wonders if the invitations have yet been sent and if there is any clue of who will be attending or an estimate of the expected or unexpected guests).
The Nigeria @ 50 logo [3] was only launched in June, less than 4 months to the event and the website which should already be live with information about the celebrations is still being built, I believe because I can find no reference to a government supported website.
Everything but the people
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will get an allocation to distribute to the Nigerian missions abroad if they already have advanced plans for those celebrations and the Information & Communication Ministry will publish special reports in national and international media, there is no assuming those have already been done and dusted with someone having proofread the copy.
Somehow, in all this the people themselves seem to have been forgotten because none of this spend is for anything other than window-dressing for visitors, photo opportunities for contrived compassion to deprived children and a jamboree to burnish vacuous successes of the few as the general lot of the country.
Other countries at 50
If I remember correctly, Malaysia celebrated its 50th independence anniversary in August 2007 and from January they had already launched a government sponsored EXPO: “Malaysia's 50 Years Achievement” [4] and international media agencies had notices and advertisements for the event, for business opportunities, for tourism and more for months before and a whole year after.
Ghana that celebrated its own 50th independence anniversary on the 6th of March 2007 had a whole year of events from January through to December indicating a lot of planning had gone into celebrating the event and it goes without saying that Ghana does leave Nigeria in the shade.
With the Link Diagnosis 2.0 toolkit [5], the What is Ghana at 50 webpage [6] was published as early as the 20th of November 2007, almost 4 months before the anniversary.
Sadly, we have the technocrat Finance Minister defend this splurge with the statement, “Rather than fault the budget, people should ask, what is the money being spent on?” I think we are mostly agreed that it is being spent on the wrong things, but woe betide a Nigerian politician that dares to do the rightful thing when there is money to burn.
Sources

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