By Sunny Awhefeada
There is something elusive about what happens to people who ordinarily were decent and rational before their ascent to power. It is either, philosophers have not been able to fully come to terms with this oddity or that those who walk the corridors of power remain incorrigible to the lessons of time. So much has been said about power as an aphrodisiac. So much has been written about power as an intoxicant. And the British historian, Lord Acton quipped, and rightly so, that “power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Power also breeds lies and fertilizes hubris. Only a few men and women have been able to handle power in a manner that they emerged not becoming slaves to the nuances just mentioned. Power, yes, political power seems to have become a vocation of lies in Nigeria. It is true that the etymology of the word politics is embedded in duplicity, however it is in Nigeria that its acute form manifests. Nigerian politicians, both the agbada and khaki variants, have come to embrace lies as statecraft without which they cannot navigate the murky waters of politics. Nigerians daily watch and listen helplessly to those who rule and ruin the nation tell lies upon lies and also expose how they hold the people in utter disdain.
Past and recent events in Nigeria point to the lies, hubris and disdain that rule the political space. Those who rule us have lost not just decency, but rationality to the extent that they think that we the people do not think and can therefore be treated disdainfully. When Godwin Emefiele, the servile Governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank crawled into Aso Rock a few weeks ago for whatever reason, he told newsmen that he was having fun and that Nigerians could go and have heart attack! Word was out before Emefiele’s visit to Aso Rock that a section of corporate Nigeria was set to push him into the presidential race on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In no time, a nebulous group that called itself rice farmers claimed to have pooled together one hundred million naira to buy him the APC presidential nomination form. The unknown farmers claimed that they have benefitted a lot from Emefiele’s failed monetary policies.
It was on his way out of Aso Rock that he made the statement about “fun” and “heart attack”. How can a man who has badly managed our economy claim to be having fun if not that something is deeply wrong with him? To make matters worse, he asked the people to have “heart attack”. What insouciance and insensitivity from a man who should be apologizing to Nigerians for his role in plunging them into abject poverty! Emefiele spoke his mind and his words reflect who he is and how he sees Nigerians. Some weeks after Emefiele’s gaffe, came that of agriculture wonder-boy, Akinwumi Adesina who in Accra a few days ago told the world that Africa was not going to experience food crisis. I wondered what Africa Adesina was talking about. The food crisis is already here. Despite accounting for 65 % of the world’s landmass, Africa remains a bad case for food and hunger. In fact, Africa has been home to famine. Nigeria which is Africa’s most populous nation and also emblematic of the African predicament has retained the slot of the poverty capital of the world. And hunger which Adesina says is alien to Africa is a core index of poverty.
Many African technocrats pass for glamorized failures. Nigeria is a hungry nation, so is the mother continent Africa. Adesina as Nigeria’s Minister for Agriculture initiated many programmes and policies which were supposed to ensure food sufficiency and banish hunger from Nigeria. But how did these programmes end up? Instead of giving us food, they took away our food and left us hungrier. The much touted agriculture reforms under Adesina’s watch as Minister were only visible to those “without sins” who could see beyond what the rest of us can apprehend. Rural life around Ogor, Agbarha-Otor, Evwreni, Orogun, Kokori, Uwheru, Abraka, and more are home to me, but I have not seen a single evidence of the effects of Adesina’s agriculture reforms in these places. Our farmers, old and weary, remained trapped as victims of endemic poverty. The youth population of over 65% and largely unemployed do not see farming as an option. So the food barns are empty. Insecurity, climate change and hostile economic policies have also affected agriculture to the extent that the food chain has been broken. Hunger is already here and it might get worse. Adesina’s female alter ego, hoity-toity Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, two days after Adesina’s slip of tongue gave the lie to his perspective when she declared in Davos that Africa was under threat of food crisis. Was Adesina listening?
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been on strike for some months now. What has government done to resolve the issues that led to the impasse? Nothing! The Ministers in charge of resolving the crisis namely, Emeka Ngige, Adamu Adamu and Emeka Nwajiuba, spoke and behaved as if nothing was at stake. Nwajiuba was on television apologizing for the strike. Why was he apologizing? And what will be the effect of the apology after helping to destroy education? Government officials not only talk before thinking, but they do so throwing caution to the wind. Recent revelations have showed that contrary to government’s claim that it had no money to meet ASUU’s legitimate demand, there is truly more than enough money to even do more than what is ASUU is asking for Nigerian universities. The recent heist of 87billion naira involving the apostle of IPPIS in the person of the nation’s accountant-general is a pointer that there was plenty of money only that it is being stolen. It has also been reported that another retired accountant-general has refunded 6 billion naira to avoid being prosecuted. A state accountant-general is on the run for stealing 117 billion naira. The Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is embroiled in a 1.5 trillion naira fraud! Yet, government says there is no money? Our country is bleeding.
Let the present government beam the searchlight on its functionaries and Nigerians will see how they have been taken for a ride without consequences. Our people have been docile for too long. We have left those who torment us to dance free for too long. We must rethink our ways and erase complacency and learn to begin to hold those who rule us accountable for our woes. Then their mindset will change. For now the mind of those who rule over us is very bad. That is why we are suffering. And suffering ought to have an expiry date.