When you are born, bred and have lived all your life in this country called Nigeria, there’s always a tendency to assume or even believe beyond any reasonable doubt that you have seen it all – the good, the bad and the ugly. And one can hardly blame you. In a country where we have seen all sorts, especially among the political class; ranging from a former military Head of State who allegedly died in the hands of prostitutes to a former civilian Governor disguising himself as a woman in order to flee from the long arms of the law in the United Kingdom to another former Governor and Senator who staunchly defended his decision to find marital bliss in the arms of a yet-to-be-fully-physically-developed 13 year old to an entire Senate that makes a show of suggestion boxes in the 21st century and appears to be in love with setting up committees for the flimsiest of reasons. Yes, it is difficult to argue with the one who believes they have seen it all in Nigeria.
But, I love my country. You see, the entity called Nigeria will always find ingenious ways to not only confound, but also astound the cocksure citizen who has the temerity to even conceive the notion that nothing can surprise him anymore. Nigeria will ensure that you are constantly dazed and your jaws drop even further at the absurdities that it can conjure each day. And that is what it has succeeded in doing yet again with the missing budget saga and the $2.1bn arms deal scandal which erupted a few weeks ago. In all my years of existence, I have never heard of a missing budget or a country where the National Security Adviser adorns the toga of a modern day Santa Claus and begins to dole of huge sums of cash to different people. But, this is no on ordinary nation; it is Nigeria. And here, anything can happen. It is more heart rending to realise that all the while our soldiers were being killed daily and the ones who were lucky to be alive complained about the lack of arms to adequately prosecute the war against Boko Haram, it was no foul cry, and they were actually being falsely accused of mutiny, while a thieving government had a field day dolling out tax payers hard earned cash to their cronies!
Every other day the poor Nigerian has the misfortune of attempting to grasp the magnitude of looting that has been going on in the last decade, particularly with the latest news about 55 former government functionaries and business men allegedly stealing a head spinning N1.34tn (more than a quarter of last year’s national budget) from the coffers of the nation. These are funds that could have been expended improving the lot of citizens. In a country where security, power, healthcare, education, and general infrastructure are nothing to write home about after 55 years of independence, it is unbelievable that a few people would be able to deaden their conscience enough to amass such ill-gotten wealth to the detriment of millions of Nigerians who live on less than one dollar a day. To think that there are over 1.5 million people who have been forced to flee their homes as a result of Boko Haram terrorism in the North-Eastern part of the country, and are currently living in dire conditions in the internally displaced peoples camps who could have benefited from such monies.
While the Buhari-led government can be commended for its efforts in ensuring that all the proverbial goats who have eaten our yams “regurgitate” them either by way of returning stolen loot or doing time for their misadventures, other aspects of the economy which urgently need attention should not be sacrificed on the altar of the fight against corruption. Day after day, the value of the naira continues to depreciate against the dollar. For all we know, we may just wake up tomorrow to find that the naira now exchanges at N500 to a dollar! Our currency has been on a free fall for some time now, and there are no indications that anything tangible is being done to stop this trend or cushion its effect on the populace. As a matter of fact, many Nigerians have lost faith in the Emefiele led CBN, which has been coming up with anti-people policies since he became the CBN Governor.
The truth is that Nigeria is in a precarious situation at the moment and there really is no sense of urgency in tackling the myriads of problems plaguing her by the new administration. Unemployment is on the increase as companies downsize daily. The power sector is still comatose. Infrastructure hasn’t improved. One may argue that the war against corruption is as important as any other issue affecting the country, but government has to realise that beyond EFCC inviting and prosecuting suspected corrupt officials, people want see real convictions by the courts and not just a wild goose chase which yields little or nothing at the end of the day. A situation that translates to merely blowing hot air, but painfully lacking the corresponding bite to accompany a bark.
Nigeria is a shadow of what it used to be in the fifties and early sixties when it was truly regarded as the giant of Africa. Today, it is a jungle that houses individuals and in particular a ruling class that is self-serving; largely made up of rogues who are only interested in lining their pockets with enough cash to secure the financial future of their fourth generation. When oil prices were high, there was no investment or judicious use of the revenue it generated to drive industrialization. Sometimes, one wonders when Nigerians are going to get angry enough to demand justice for the incessant rape their country has been subjected to in the hands of successive administrations.
Even in times when it feels like things are beginning to look up, for some inexplicable reason we take several steps back again- case in point – the relatively stable power supply many parts of the country enjoyed in the early days of the present administration which has since become a thing of the past as power supply has become virtually non- existent again. The truth is, we have never really gotten our priorities right as a nation, especially since the discovery of oil. And the dwindling oil fortune the world is currently experiencing might just be a blessing in disguise as we will be forced to look to develop other areas of the economy.
It really is frustrating being a Nigerian. Now I understand why Andrew (of the popular television commercial of the eighties) wanted to check out.