Friday 13 January 2012

Editorial: #OccupyNigeria for reforming our democracy

Personal Goodluck, Nigeria’s bad luck
Nigeria has been caught in the wave of revolutionary fervour as some might suggest and this has all been triggered by the amazing deftness of President Goodluck Jonathan.
Like King Midas of old his wish to have everything he touched turn to gold had been granted only that what has gained affinity to his touch is the Nigerian coffers. As the proverbial 1st Lord of the Treasury he has presided over a profligate and wasteful consumption of resources all to maintain a life of unseemly opulence along with his cohorts rather than address the matter of progressive leadership of Nigeria - He is both prodigal and a spendthrift.
An overly costly government
The expansion of government that allows for three-quarters of revenue to go into recurrent expenditure is untenable, unsustainable and unconscionable but his government fattened on the largesse of Nigeria’s good have neither the discipline nor restraint for a diet that will cut government excess, government waste and corrupt expense.
For the past few months, they had set their eyes on fuel subsidy with the view to completely removing it and promising to invest those proceeds in public infrastructure, primary health and social development schemes.
The fact is the government has no track record in concluding any of those schemes in Nigeria, in most cases the government has majored in vacuous good intentions offered as promises, none of which ever get to see the light of day. Goodluck Jonathan sadly leads a hopeless and hapless clinging to forlorn hope; there is no reason or basis to find any iota of optimism in anything he has to say to the Nigerian people.
Guessing and paying off the charts
Three months ago, I wrote Editorial: Nigerian Government Dishonesty About Fuel Subsidy in which I noted the discrepancies between the estimated cost of the subsidy and the actual cost that was inflated 5 times more than the budgeted cost.
Besides, it appears no one is sure of what the cost of subsidising fuel is, the Central Bank in its MPC Meeting minutes suggested that the cost was about $6 billion, the on-going debate in the Nigerian Senate suggests the Federal Government budgeted NGN 240 billion ($1.54 billion) for subsidies in 2011 but have found that cost inflated to NGN 1.5 trillion ($9.6 billion) in what is a looking like a typical Nigerian scam. [CBN (PDF) Page 3][All Africa]
What is amazing is how the legislature or any vested party is not in apoplectic rage at this malfeasance in the executive by carpeting those involved and prosecuting the principals for the fraudulent misuse of Nigerian funds – the idea that the executive could overspend by 500% and no one be called to account beggars belief but also shows how complicit the whole democratic system is in the endemic corruption that makes the cost of this Nigerian democracy unsustainable.
Incubating #OccupyNigeria
I feared that the government might expect the so-called “resilience” of Nigerians to allow them implement this blatant corrupt enterprise to feather their over-pampered nests on the premise that they were doing Nigerians some great good that I did suggest that if the people will not take to the streets the army should come out of the barracks and reset this brigandage of wanton debauchery masquerading as the government of the people.
Goodluck Jonathan however forced his hand just like King Midas of old when he touched his beloved daughter and she turned to gold. He announced that he was removing fuel subsidy on New Years Day and that set in motion the movement called #OccupyNigeria.
Nigerians came out to protest against their government that the usually indolent and overpaid legislature came out of recess to discuss the matter.
Meanwhile ministers and stooges of the government took on the airwaves to threaten the people and make pronouncements that could only sound acceptable in Nigeria, because most of those pronouncements if spoken by Western politicians who are regularly our examples of convenience would have those politician blabbermouths out of a job before sundown.
Stop the killing
However, other knowledgeable and articulate Nigerians countered each and every claim the government put forward, as they set their dogs (security personnel) upon the people killing some by reason of the savage and barbaric Force Order 237 which according to the Amnesty International reportinstructs police officers in “riot” situations to “single out” and fire at “ring-leaders in the forefront of the mob” ”and “directs officers to fire “at the knees of the rioters” and explicitly prohibits firing in the air.” [Amnesty]
It makes you wonder how policing has been allowed to thrive in Victorian impunity for the convenience of presumably 21st Century politicians, it is shocking and a shame that we have policing standards that make the Apartheid massacres look tame.
Global Nigerian unrest
With Nigerians in civil unrest that has taken on a global significance with demonstrations in Europe and America as well and the labour unions acquiescing by ordering indefinite strikes one can only hope that the people who matter are not enticed by unscrupulous means that the government has adopted in bribing the hungry and the unprincipled to speak up for the atrociously untenable.
There is no doubt that the fuel subsidy should go but only after we have achieved local sufficiency of the refined product; the government should address the real problem of the corrupt nexus of officials and companies robbing us blind whilst facilitating the development and effective functioning of our local refineries working to capacity.
Beyond fuel subsidies
#OccupyNigeria is however now beyond the matter of fuel subsidies, it has to go the heart of the cost of our democracy that demands swingeing cuts to not just basic salaries but to allowances and perks that are beyond belief. All allowances should be cut to a fraction of the basic salaries of politicians which are in any case already excessively huge.
Going into politics in Nigeria should lose the allure of untold riches paid for sanctioned indolence, politics should be about selfless service with Nigerians only meeting basic middle-class needs of our politicians – if these people need more they should go get a job elsewhere, Nigeria’s udders have been milked to incurable sourness by political jobbers at all levels of government.
Sadly, the government of Goodluck Jonathan with the once excellent but now terribly disappointing Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala are incapable of implementing reform but one hopes that after they have been stunned by the forceful and determined reaction of Nigerians they will move to cut costs, cut waste, prosecute the frauds, restore the subsidy, lay off the majority of advisers, cut unnecessary ministries and ministerial posts, impose economy on the legislature, partner in building working refineries that will obviate the need for the subsidy and dare to earn our trust.
We could not have imagined a Nigerian version of the Arab Spring but today we have a Nigeria of all tribes and persuasion united as one for that entity called Nigeria and the identity that is Nigerian - #OccupyNigeria is our Nigerian Harmattan of Discontent and long may it continue until our democracy begins to represent its people, our aspirations and our hopes and the people we have elected to lead us begin to serve.
Tweets of interest
RT @resourcedat: DOWNLOAD KPMG REPORT ON NNPC: Need to read this - Favourite it. An embarrassing catalogue of corruption, ineptitude and waste that should have had ministers, officials and company executives shot in a former time.
@ElRufai Interview on AIT on Fuel Subsidy – YouTube He takes it all apart and the government has no comeback. Someone to be credited for knowing the workings of the Nigerian government and exposing its failings.
RT @disgeneration: Fuel subsidy removal: Nigeria’s Finance Minister speaks to Al Jazeera I could not help but notice her fluency in the parseltongue.
BBC News - Nigeria fuel protests: Union threatens oil shutdown The government is far from embracing humility.
RT @OKShorty1: @BukkieSho Oil production will be shut in. Nigeria will lose $200m/N33b everyday. < Brought on by government incompetence.
#OccupyNigeria is no more just about reversion of subsidies, it demands a root and branch reform of our government & governance.
Yes, let us end the #OccupyNigeria strikes by getting the government to cut spending, cut waste and restore subsidies.
#OccupyNigeria has gone global - We, the people of Nigeria are out to take our representative democracy back from hoodlums.
…as AGF reads riot act to protesters No, we are reading the Riot Act to the Nigerian Government.
The end of paternalism in Nigeria, we'll not be threatened by the people we have elected to serve us, they're accountable to us.
OPS decries effects of strike, urges NLC, TUC to call it off Address the problem head-on, it's the government.


KAA said...

Thanks Akin for an interesting summary analysis and as usual with key references. 

Codliveroil said...

Akin, thank you for your comments.
I'm beginning to wonder what Nigeria's problem is. No democracy is perfect, this is true.

I believe that, you looked on the last elections as relatively "free and fair". Yet Nigeria has come to this pitiful stage. People would agree that President Jonathan didn't shoot his way into power. The present situation the government is in didn't merely come about as a result of him (President Jonathan) being in power, these are inherited problems which previous administrations either ignored or paid no attention to. He is dealing with an accumulation of bad decisions by former leaderships. It has just come to a head under his administration.

I don't think democracy is the problem (it has been seen to work better in many other countries).  I think Nigerians are their own worst enemies. The people that make up government are typical of Nigerians as a whole. We can remove them, you will just get another group of people with different faces and names "carrying on" as their predecessors or trying to get away with even more. This has been the case since independence, governments and succeeding generations have become progressively more corrupt.

I fail to see how a nation of over 100 million people after 50 years of oil production, can't even meet the needs of supplying petroleum products to it's own domestic market. It doesn't just end there, other resources and opportunities that have the potential to transform the economy have been subverted for narrow financial gain for a few individuals (and their associated parasites). Consequently the society witnesses no progress, in many cases regression.

Until this widespread corruption and appetite for self-destruction is checked, many of these placard waivers and protestors are hypocrits. I say this because if they were plucked from the streets and placed in office, they would be involved in massive fraud and disappear overseas with their loot.

Failure to address society's widespread embrace of corruption and the liking for shortcuts (no matter how unsound they appear on closer inspection), will result in a nation that continues to sink.  Anything else is simply a waste of time. We have to change our way of thinking and doing things, to me it is very obvious.

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