Why Nigerian Leaders Impoverish the Masses
By Collins Mbakwe
POWER, they say, belongs to the people. This may be true where there is respect for the rule of law, and where equity and justice are in the free association of people and communities. These are inalienable characteristics, which positively impact human capacity development and improved social welfare, in enduring democracies. Indeed, in such a progressive ambiance, political power becomes a motivation for public service rather than the pursuit of self or partisan interest, despite the obvious collateral of social deprivation and oppression.
Nigeria’s political history, after we became self-governing in 1960, has been grotesquely smeared by the usurpation of power, through electoral fraud and the barrel of the gun; consequently, the people’s voice has remained largely mooted, except for a brief flicker, before the result of a free and fair election was brazenly annulled by the army in 1993.
The net product of electoral fraud and military brigandage is mass disenfranchisement, with disastrous consequences for the rule of law, particularly, when equity and justice become the prerogative of the beneficiaries of political power. Regrettably, in place of growing public wealth for the common good, the cancerous seed of corruption is now generously cultivated, nationwide.
Nigerian billionaires (in all currencies) have blossomed without any antecedent in industry, commerce, or family inheritance, while some have also been listed among the world’s richest! Nigeria’s economy has ironically, also become blighted with the gradual erosion of an emerging middle class, such that more Nigerians now, reportedly, live on less than $1 a day! Sadly, high unemployment, armed robbery, insecurity, and general lawlessness have become abiding features, while the judiciary and police have become emasculated by poor remuneration and decayed social infrastructure.
Worse still, there is now blatant disregard of court orders by the governments themselves! Indeed the celebrated independence of the judiciary, as a bastion against tyranny, is, unfortunately, only in the letter of a military constitution, then in the spirit of its application. Over time, our psyche and social values have been turned upside down, and the Nigerian identity now also connotes all that is negative in International social consciousness.
The nature of the 2007 elections campaign leaves little hope that political power will begin to truly flow from the electorate, to make public office holders accountable. The undemocratic twin instruments of intimidation and hot money are usually weaponized to produce pliant electoral candidates, in virtually every political party primary.
The political class has also become estranged from an electorate, reduced to a mere rubber stamp of those candidates directly selected by a party elite, which does not favor genuine ability and desire to serve the people, as a preferred qualification. Furthermore, party primaries also, often favor those who agree to share public funds if elected! However, God helps such victorious candidates, if they failed “to perform” while in office; the big stick of impeachment will be quickly deployed to flatten any ‘traitor’.
The masses are not deceived that a huge electoral campaign is borne out of a desire to serve. They recognize that funds ‘invested’ by sponsors in any election, will have to be recouped, from the public treasury, once the candidate is elected, even if deepening poverty is the product of such greed. But what can the masses do?
The choice they have as an electorate is that between the devil and the deep blue sea! Besides, they are hungry and losing their sanity!
Sadly, despite the abysmal apparent failures to deliver the expected “dividends of democracy”, outgoing Governors, and indeed also the Presidency, have all dug deep into their pockets (some say public treasury) to support their chosen candidates who will protect their interest and sustain their legacy (of profligacy and corrupt governance)! They are sure that a few notes thrown at the masses whom they have intentionally kept hungry, would buy them votes.
There is no way that a candidate with good intentions, can match Naira for Naira the seemingly inexhaustible campaign chest of anointed opponents! Furthermore, the power of incumbency at the highest level of government has often been abused to edge out formidable opposition. Ultimately, the masses are the real losers and their hope of a ‘better tomorrow’ will remain a mirage.
The press, the fourth estate of the realm, true to their calling, continues to report the news; regrettably, however, there is little affinity for investigative analysis, and there is also no sustained attempt to condemn oppressive policies and irregularities in governance.
This is not surprising, as most media houses may not survive without the patronage of political money bags who have cornered all the commanding and most lucrative heights of commerce and industry, with funds looted from the nation’s treasury. It is quite telling on the media alertness, that it required, for example, a fallout between President Obasanjo and his VP to reveal the sordid details of the corrupt application of the PTDF (Petroleum Technology Development Fund).
Notably, billions of dollars will continue to be laundered through our banks; it is also disturbing that, despite the critical revenue generation significance of NNPC and CBN to our economy, these Government Agencies have, not been audited for so long. Notably, also, PHCN, NITEL, NPA, Ministry of Works, and Education respectively, (the list is endless) have received trillions of Naira in subventions, in addition to their individually internally generated revenue, without making any positive social impact; sadly, it is unlikely that media investigations of these pervasive scams will ever be undertaken.
It has become crystal clear that Nigerian politicians do anything possible to impoverish the masses so that they become easy and willing tools to win elections. They make the masses hungry and keep them in abject penury through embezzling public funds, and not making the right policies, with the evil intention of using them as thugs, gifting them cups of rice, few naira notes, etc to sell their conscience during elections. It is not like the Nigerian leaders don’t know the right things to do to better the lots of the citizenry. They do, but in their inordinate quest for power and wealth, they are ready to sacrifice the future of the masses on the altar of their selfish interests.