There are as many reasons as discussants as to why Nigeria is not moving forward, why it is under-performing in the views of many, and why it is not fulfilling its potential. I will discuss only three of these reasons here today and, to do this, I will draw on three recent examples. The first is that of the suspended Humanitarian Affairs minister, Betta Edu.
Less than one year into her tenure, this woman was caught up in the web of corruption. The funds involved were those earmarked for the poor, the desperately poor and the multidimensionally poor. Due to the outcry that followed the exposure and, I must say, the penchant, so far, of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to listen to and act on public opinion, the minister was suspended from office; she has also been called in by the EFCC. Apart from these, that front is quiet and the suspicion by many is that after some air has blown over this issue, it will be swept under the carpet like many others before it, and the suspended minister would be given a soft landing; that is, if not recalled!
This will not be the hallmark of an administration that has promised to revive and rejuvenate the country. Prompt dispensation of justice, especially in a corruption case, ought to be the signpost that the administration has zero tolerance for corruption. To allow the matter to drag will send wrong signals on two sides. On the side of culprits, it will mean they can cut corners and get around the problem Nigeria-style. They will be encouraged to press buttons and play games, leveraging on the ample time being gifted them.
Specifically on Betta Edu, we have heard that more big fishes are being dragged into the matter. That is a sure recipe that they may eventually die the matter, as they say. On the side of the people, it would be a clear statement of intention by the Tinubu administration that theirs is same-same or even more of the same; that nothing has changed; and that the more you look, the less you see.
The other side of the coin is the curious actions of some members of the public themselves; the very people at the receiving end of the Minister’s action! Are you aware that some crowd, rented I believe, have carried placards pleading that the minister be given a second chance? Second chance to do what? To perfect her act? To scale up the quantum of cash involved? Some women groups have also weighed in on her behalf, pleading for women’s rights! Because she has proven that what men can do (playing monkey games with the public till), women can also do and even do better? Not to be left out, folks from her place of ethnic origin have also joined the queue, threatening that we must leave their “daughter” alone to continue in office! Are we okay as a people? How can a country make progress this way?
By now this woman should be cooling her heels in jail, just like the Dean of one university’s Faculty of Law is doing right now, deservedly so, in Kuje prison. That professor abused his office; the suspended minister did. The professor misplaced the trust and confidence reposed in him; the suspended minister did. The professor abused his oath of office, the suspended minister did. The professor’s alleged crime was limited to a few individuals but the minister’s offence was committed against the entire country. Yet, one is already in custody while the other walks about freely. What country moves forward this way?
The second example is the menace or, better still, nuisance called Miyetti. I have chosen not to dignify them by identifying “Allah” with their name, and I ask other people to follow suit, because they are through and through evil. We are yet to forget the ruins they and their alleged grand patron subjected this country to for eight grueling years. Where people know shame and have a modicum of civilized conduct, neither Miyetti nor its grand patron would be able to walk the street, not to talk of strutting like a peacock and letting their voice be heard again.
But why will Miyetti not grandstand when their grand patron is also all over the place gloating about his time in office and how he did his best for Nigeria? His best was to hold the country down for looters and for Miyetti to skin alive. And how will Miyetti not threaten Nigerians with Armaggedon when one of the spin doctors of the most clueless, most incompetent, most corrupt, and most irresponsible government in the country’s history had the temerity, a while ago, to lauder the image and deodorize the stench still oozing out of the chambers of the Muhammadu Buhari maladministration? All the suffering in the land today can, and must, be traced to the Buhari administration. It will take time and effort to repair and restore the country again to good health.
Miyetti and its likes ignore the bitter truth and will seek every opportunity to pull the government down. The unrestrained access they had to the government and its resources is no longer there. The protection of the State that they used to enjoy is also no longer available. So, their leaders, who used to be above the law, can now, to their utter surprise and consternation, be called in for questioning and be made accountable for their actions. That is how it should be and we must not relent. Their ego trip, bothering on lunacy, that they own this country, has been cut short. Without State protection and patronage, they will soon be cut to size and be weaned of their hallucination that they own Nigeria.
Miyetti’s rag-tag militia cannot overrun the country. Let Miyetti set them up! They will be uprooted in the fullness of time. The other nationalities that make up this country will not let Miyetti have its way. The latest excuse they, and their co-travelers, have latched on to is the relocation of some agencies of the Federal Government from Abuja back to Lagos for ease of operations and to save cost. Reasonable men and women will analyze and interrogate the reasons adduced, and not insist that everything must remain in the North, be it profitable, be it otherwise, because the North wants it so! Baloney!
Towing the same path as many other concerned Nigerians, I have been vociferous in my call for the Tinubu administration to drastically cut down the cost of governance. So, I was one of those who criticized his bloated administration of ministers, advisers and assistants. I spoke out against the car loans and humongous allocation awarded the National Assembly members. I queried the number of delegates the president took along with him to his first UN General Assembly meeting in New York, USA. Of course, I raked against the scandalously-high delegation to this year’s COP28 summit in Dubai.
Therefore, if the government is now doing something to reduce the cost of governance, it must be saluted, not pilloried. Except, of course, we have evidence that this is not so. The everything-for-us and nothing-for-the-others mentality of some Northern leaders will not wash. If they took the other parts of the country for a ride in the past, the chickens have now come home to roost. In fact, the Tinubu administration must continue the further decentralization of government ministries, agencies and parastatals not only to Lagos but to other parts of the country. That is the practice elsewhere. Nigeria belongs to all its people, not to a few arrogant block heads and empty barrels that rejoice in making a lot of noise and setting the country backward. Mercifully, reasonable Northerners have distanced themselves from the maddening crowd of Northern feudal irredentists.
The third example is that of the mint-fresh deputy governor of my state, Ondo, Mr. Olayide Adelami, who was quoted as saying he did not lobby for the post, which some other people almost killed themselves over. Fair enough! And kudos, Gov. Lucky Aiyedatiwa and his recruitment team. But in doing that, Adelami inadvertently let the cat out of the bag when he said he was busy chasing after a Federal appointment when the deputy governor job came! His exact words: “I never contested for deputy governor; I was looking for a federal appointment when I was called to be deputy governor…”
So, people go to look for Federal appointments? How? So, all the rumours we hear of how people do all sorts to get appointments, how appointments are bought and sold, may not be all lies after all! So, what happens to competent people not willing to go look for appointments? They rot away in their little corners? Is there not a system where we can headhunt for the best materials whether or not they go looking for appointments, just as happened with the job of deputy governor that Adelami landed without lobbying?
So, then, is this scripture fulfilled before our very eyes: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7: 7-8).
But how can a country move forward with the “man-know-man” and “highest bidder” kind of recruitment system it is said we operate here?
* Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.