Nigeria At 57: The Journey Since Independence

The Federal Republic of Nigeria, commonly referred to as Nigeria is a federal constitutional republic in West Africa, bordering Benin in the West, Chad and Cameroon in the East, and Niger in the North. Its coast in the South lies on the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean. Comprising of 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory which is Abuja, Nigeria is officially a democratic secular country.

Modern-day Nigeria has been the site of numerous kingdoms and tribal states over the millennia. The modern state originated from British colonial rule beginning in the 19th century, and the merging of the southern Nigeria Protectorate and Northern Nigeria Protectorate in 1914. The British set up administrative and legal structures while practising indirect rule through traditional chiefdoms which continued till Nigeria became a formally independent federation on the 1st of October, 1960.

With approximately 184 million inhabitants, over 500 ethnic groups speaking over 500 different languages, to say the least, 57 years have been eventful in all spheres is not an overstatement.

It is an incontrovertible fact that corruption has been the bane of Nigeria’s development. Thus, without mincing words, the phenomenon has ravaged the country and destroyed most of what is held as cherished national values. Most unfortunately, the political class saddled with the responsibility of directing the affairs of the country until recently when the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari that seem to have a clear-cut anti-corruption programme came on board,  have been the major culprit in perpetrating this dastardly act.

Regrettably since independence, a notable surviving legacy of the successive leadership both civilian and military that have managed the affairs of the country at different times has been nothing other than the institutionalisation of corruption in all agencies of the public service, which like a deadly virus, has subsequently spread to the private sector of the country.

It is apposite to state that it is a paradox that Nigeria, the world’s eighth largest exporter of crude oil, a country endowed with many resources still, has not less than 70 per cent of its population living below the poverty line as a result of corruption and economic mismanagement. Pathetically, the logic of the Nigerian political leadership class has been that of self service, as a good percentage of the leaders are mired in the pursuit of selfish and personal goals at the expense of national interests. This is evident in the numerous corruption cases that are being handled by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) among others, a good number of our supposed leaders (former and even present) with no single successful trial or prosecution of any of them since the establishment of the two anti-corruption commissions in years 2003 and 2000 respectively. This is very ridiculous, horrendous and shameful.

Suffice to state that over the years, the basic necessities of life in our dear country such as food, housing, water and power are still being used to canvass for votes by the political class consistently at every electoral season and despite sugar-coated promises and beautiful manifestoes in these regards, the citizenry strive to make adequate provision for the four in their own interests.

I can’t circumvent from the fundamental verity that if we don’t kill corruption as a country, the scourge will kill the largest black nation. This is the more reason why all hands must be on deck to eliminate corruption hook, line and sinker from our land.

While I commend the boldness of the current President Muhammadu Buhari led administration to fight corruption which sadly has percolated into our systemic existence to a standstill, the fight must however not be seen as selective, as anyone found culpable must be made to face the music no matter how highly placed.

The present regime of inconclusiveness of corruption-related cases is not healthy for our system as the current administration in the land will not be seen as serious with the fight against the scourge. Nigeria must be rid of impunity, selective justice and sacred cowism if the fight against corruption must be successful.

Of late, the call for the restructuring of the country has resumed and it is becoming stronger and stronger by the day. While one might agree with the proponents and canvassers of restructuring which borders on devolution of power, true federalism among others, the need for a restructuring of the mind of both the leadership and followership classes in the land cannot be overemphasized. It is only when our minds are restructured from ethno-centric chauvinism, religious bigotry, prebendalism, nepotism and corruption that the restructuring of the country can be meaningful. Putting a restructured set up in the hands of a corruption-stricken mind will only restructure corruption, economic quagmire, social stupor, political phantasmagoria and bad leadership at large, as something cannot be built on nothing.

As Nigeria turns 57, the onus lies on all and sundry to rededicate ourselves to the progress of the country. The leadership class at all levels must embrace unparalleled responsibility, transparency and accountability; the followership class should consistently be on their toes praying and encouraging the leadership knowing well that the citizenry are always at the receiving end of bad leadership.

  • Fagbohungbe is the Press Officer Of The Bureau Of Social Services, Office Of The Governor Of Osun

My Thoughts On Our Path To Greatness – Aregbesola

The occasion of the 57th anniversary of national independence should give us a cause for deep reflection and critical thinking without necessarily taking anything away from the celebration. I use this occasion to congratulate Nigerians, the good people of Osun in particular. It is a thing of great joy, irrespective of our collective or individual circumstances, to be alive to celebrate the anniversary of our nation’s independence.

For some of us who were born before independence, it was a momentous event for us. Though I was a child at independence in 1960, the ferments of the struggle against colonialism still remained with us in my growing up years while the substitution and replacement of white colonialists with our people that followed was dramatic enough to give us a deeper appreciation of independence. With the benefit of hindsight, some of the hopes and aspirations of the pre and immediate post independence era have been betrayed and this is regrettable.

We dreamt then of Nigeria becoming a superpower in one or two decades after independence. This dream was even shared by some of the great powers of the era who saw us as potential competitors, first for regional hegemony and also on a global scale in economic, social, political, sporting and diplomatic contests. Many of them have since relaxed, feeling their fears then were unfounded. However, the dream of greatness is an undying one. Nigeria can and will still be great.

Though this issue has been over flogged, it still needs reiterating – that our bane since military interregnum has been overt reliance on rent from crude oil. Let us be clear on this, oil is a blessing, not a curse. The problem is what you make of it. Oil has been a blessing in the Scandinavian countries, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Angola, United States, Britain, Norway, Venezuela, Canada, Russia and several other places where it has been well utilized as a catalyst for development and wealth creation. Our own problem, like several oil rich nations, is that we live on its rent and do not build any productive activity around it.

That is why, beyond exportation, oil is practically useless for us. We cannot even refine for local consumption until current efforts by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. Even then, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources told us recently that 92 per cent of local consumption is still being imported at the cost of $28 billion in 2016. We then import every other thing, including food, clothing and most of our building materials. Now, the price of oil has fallen and the portents are still bad. This is in the wake of a tectonic shift in technology from internal combustion engines to electrical engines in automobiles. Nevertheless, a lot of people still believe we are rich with crude oil, only if there is equitable distribution of the resources.

Now, corruption has made the scarcity to be worse. Corruption is evil, it disrupts the development process and should be stamped out. However, without corruption, we are still a poor nation, even with oil. Let us do this simple calculation. Nigeria’s daily production quota from OPEC is put at 2.1 million barrels per day. Let us note that we have never met this production and sales quota in the last 10 years.

Nevertheless, if we multiply this imaginary production quota with 365 days, which make a year, we have 766.5 million barrels of crude oil as our total foreign exchange oil earning resource. This is assuming there is no production disruption from militants’ activities in the Niger Delta and unsold inventory which could be up to half a million barrels sometimes.

Since oil sells for an average of $50 now, this will give us $38.325 billion in total sales per annum. Remember we have not deducted production and associated expenditures; this is the gross income, joint venture partners are assumed volunteers. If we divide this amount by 170 million, which is our conservative population estimate, it goes round to roughly $225.44 per head per annum. This is further reducible to $18.786 in a month. At an exchange rate of N370, it amounts to N7,000.

This calculation simply means that every Nigerian is entitled to N7,000 monthly from oil wealth at best! How about income from other sources? Since oil accounts for 70 per cent of total national revenue, this figure will only rise to N10,000. Let’s say someone wants to experiment with this calculation and give to every Nigerian N10,000 unearned income, it means there will be no government; bureaucracy and associated wages, paying salaries, no executive, legislature and the judiciary, no police, military, public education, roads, airport, international relations, etc. This without a doubt means anarchy. I have gone to this length to demonstrate that we are not rich at all, even with the oil wealth. The per capita income from oil would probably have been better if we have just one tenth of our population.

This makes the issue of diversification of our economy and productivity imperative. Productivity is the ability to alter any state of matter or service, alone or in combinations into a more desirable form – product or service. The process of bringing about that alteration, or the effort we put into achieving this, is called work. The initial condition or base material for these processes is often as freely set by nature, while the derived output or product is as contrived by man in his imagination.

Thus, sound notes put together productively equals music, otherwise it is noise. Rubbles put together constructively is a house, otherwise it is just a dump of rubbles. The challenge before us as a nation is therefore to earn income from productivity, not from rent. On this note, I will like to posit that we should get 50 million of our compatriots to be working i.e. engaged in productive activities that will bring them at least N25,000 a month. From this, N1.25 trillion will be generated in the economy every month from real productive engagement.

These jobs can be created and paid for by ways and means in diverse areas of the economy like agriculture and food production, clothing and footwear, housing, environment, critical public infrastructure like roads, bridges, airports, railways, water resources development etc that will provide basic needs for the people and cut our imports by 90 per cent, reducing foreign goods to critical machineries and raw materials we do not have at home. This will catapult Nigeria into a superpower within two decades.

In Osun we are already working on this. We are striving to put at least one million of our over four million population to work. If they earn a minimum of N25,000 a month, a 10 per cent tax from this will give us revenue of N2.5billion every month. This amount will be sufficient to run the government, pay workers, develop our state and bring prosperity to all. If this is replicated in all the states of the federation, Nigeria will be prosperous without oil money. This is my dream for our country and it is my sincere hope that at this occasion of our independence celebration, leaders in the public and private sectors will critically engage this idea. Once again, I congratulate all Nigerians and wish us all a happy Independence celebration.

57 Years of Drug Addiction, By Ken Tadaferua

President Muhammadu Buhari gave his Independence Day Speech yesterday, the occasion of the 57th year since our country wrestled freedom from British colonialists in 1960. He looked stronger and healthier, even if frail still. We are happy that the resources and prayers of we the people contributed in no small measure to getting our president back on his feet. We also praise God Almighty for His multiple mercies and loving kindness.

However, I write here today, not about Buhari’s health but of the country’s wellbeing in the past 57 years of Independence and to ask the question: What are we celebrating as a country? Buhari gave us some answers in what I distilled as three key parts of his Independence speech which we shall proceed pronto to examine.

Part One: Bellyaching

There were only three references in his speech to some parts of the past 57 years. The first was a terse bellyache: “the country has gone through trials and tribulations.” The second is his persistent wail that he inherited a country whose revenues from 2.1 million barrels a day at a average oil price of $100 per barrel from 1999 was squandered with social and physical infrastructure neglected.

So he says for the umpteenth time and after two years as president that: “We were left with no savings and huge infrastructure deficit.” The third is yet another usual recourse to his civil war experience, an emotional blackmail as is the wont of our ex-military generals, to deter groups seeking to secede from the country. There was no word on achievements, if any, over the past 57 years to celebrate.

Part Two: Aggrandisement

This part took no less than 90 percent of the president’s speech. It was a litany of supposed achievements by his party and government to restore security, re-diversify the economy and fight corruption.

Boko Haram’s terrorism has been reduced, he said, to “cowardly attacks on soft and vulnerable targets.” But not immediately wiped out as the party promised during the presidential campaigns, even with controlled reports on attacks and carnage. He adds that his government supports security agencies to deal with kidnapping, robberies, as well as herdsmen/farmers violence. Despite bloody attacks and killings over the years, not one herdsman or is it farmer is being tried for murder.

It is interesting that in crowing over his government’s fight against corruption, he listed the processes and reforms undertaken in the war but no mention of convictions and nothing about total value of the stolen loot recovered so far. Perhaps those hard facts and core statistics of the fight need to be shrouded in opaque mists.

But in rolling out his administration’s economic scorecard, the president waxed in figures and specifics. His agricultural Anchor Borrowers Programme released N43.92 billion through the central bank to 17 participating institutions, 223,000 hectares of farmland cultivated and it has 200,000 small farm holders in 29 states. Also the price of a 50 kilogramme bag has dropped to N5,500 from N13,000.

A minimum of 10,000 jobs has been created. Inflation has dropped. Electric power has surged to 7000 megawatts. Foreign exchange is down from N525 to N360 per dollar. The government has supported states with N1.641 trillion to pay salaries, among others. But I do recall the government’s wrong headed forex control policy that caused rates to balloon and the buckets of dollars now being thrown at the forex market to keep rates down. I also recall ballooning national debts.

As for the 10,000 jobs reportedly created, if even true, we must admit that we haven’t gotten started in an economy of millions of unemployeds and corporations still downsizing and offloading employees in their thousands. On the matter of food prices and electric power, I leave that to Nigerians. We know the drill.

It is of great note that the speech makes no mention of the grinding problems of the great majority of citizens 57 years after independence: of harrowing poverty, terrible healthcare and lack of basic social amenities. Over 100 million living below poverty line and not one kind word for them in the speech. There is no mention of industry nor of industrial growth nor the impact of the capital votes of the past two years budgets.

Part Three: Freedoms

It was such an irony that as the military sweeps across the country with armoured tanks and automatic weapons, jackboots, dancing pythons and crocodiles, in a civilian democracy, our president is talking about freedoms. He said: “Nigeria has recorded appreciable gains in political freedom, complete freedom to associate, to hold and disseminate opinions.” Really?

But in the same breath he thunders against “highly irresponsible groups that call for dismemberment of the country”, while curiously declaring that calls for restructuring is proper in a legitimate debate. If folks can call for restructuring, why must calls to secede (read as morbid dismemberment) be highly irresponsible? Is it not even more grossly irresponsible that calls for restructuring by discontented sections of the country has, for decades, been ignored and dismissed with open contempt? When the president declares: “We cannot and we will not allow such advocacy,” are we still talking about democratic freedoms? I doubt.

But then our president also declares that in spite of our trials and tribulations: “October 1st is always a day for celebrations.” I beg to strenuously disagree. I will return shortly to explain why. But first, let us do a brief detour.

I doubt many Nigerians realise the country is on a nonstop psychedelic roller coaster from professionally administered cocktails of hallucinogenic drugs by our leaders. Such is the consistent potency of the drugs that we in our highs, even with our wings brutally ripped off, still touch the sky.

We are so stimulated with opioids of deception, our consciousness is always euphoric like the frog lolling lazily in water heated gently until boiling point when the ecstatic frog is boiled nicely to death.

On October 1, 2017, messages of happy independence, of joy, of hope and even strange words of pride were pouring forth across the media in celebration of 57 years of independence. But here’s the bitter truth and reason why I strenuously disagree agree with the Independence Day fest. The celebration is a huge farce, the produce of mass ecstasy, of ingesting too much magic mushrooms of propaganda and lies.

We ought declare the day, indeed all of October, a month of mourning, of sober reflections and atonement. We ought pour ashes on our heads and wear garments of shame.

For we have forsaken God Almighty to worship a god we made with our own hands: money. We have built massive factories which production lines churn out millions of dirt poor citizens every year. We bellow Allah and Jehovah and go on “holy” pilgrimages but we have no milk of human kindness so that the weak and defenceless are crushed.

Our greed and wickedness has ruined everything: morals, values, education, healthcare, electric power, roads, water supply etc. Our young gambol in crime: kidnapping, robberies, advanced fee fraud, cyber crimes, prostitution. When they protest against the tribalism, hate, joblessness driving them to despair, fear and terror, we send in the army to swipe their noisy, snotty noses of rage in mud and then we hail the new colonialists who still use military force to shut up civil disobedience.

Look at the country. See the stadiums, colleges, universities, roads, ports, factories, businesses, steel complexes, airlines and all that was managed to be built with oil money, everything. All in shameful dilapidation. Most are white dinosaurs leering scornfully at the celebration of 57 putrescent years. Today, bitterness froths at the corners of mouths and unity is frayed like a rag buffeted by Sirocco winds. Yet we celebrate. Indeed we are high on drugs.

Six years after independence in 1960, Nigeria’s social and economic indicators were climbing the charts of growth, besting comparatively, today’s great nations like Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia among others. But our politicians squabbled instead of building shared core values to glue the nation as one. Tribal and regional devils tore up the sinews of nationhood.

Then the army came in with guns and coups. Nigeria stopped growing. It is today a stunted hippopotamus. Since 1967, when soldiers consolidated hold on political power until today, Nigeria has been ravaged, raped and reversed into deep throes of underdevelopment. Hordes of rogue elders and leaders, military and civilian, who pillaged the country and who still steal, taught Nigerians to steal.

Shameless men who dumped values and compassion and fed citizens with the bile of religious, tribal, regional hatred. They raid the treasuries and like foolish slaves expend their national wealth on luxury splurging: private luxury jets and yachts. They transfer billions of the nation’s money into their personal offshore bank accounts, into real estates in their former colonial master’s country. They live criminal lifestyles of the idle rich. Such idiocy.

This country is riotously managed mostly by the same group of ex-military generals. The men who continue to force their failed perception of governance down our throats, their jaundiced view of civil liberties, democratic freedoms and national unity as murderous burdens on us. They define their destruction of mores and values as basis for communal coexistence. They continue to rule directly or by proxy but their produce is corrosive and corrupting.

They have perfected the art of deception and vile propaganda, such as large numbers of Nigerians love to hear in their ignorance, lack of attention to details, unquestioning partisanship and mob thirst for blood. These vile propaganda, untruths, manipulation of the facts and fake promises, from coup plotting days, to deal with institutionalised corruption over the decades are the cocktails of hallucinogenic drugs that keeps us on a psychedelic roller coaster through the past decades.

We are consistently fed these drugs of James Bond style stories of arrested corrupt elites to seized stolen loot to claims of huge jobs creation and poverty alleviation, and boy, do we sniff the drugs. We get so high that even in our poverty, we hail our oppressors for giving us hope which never comes. Hope has not come in 50 years and is not likely to come.

Poverty will continue to mushroom, health, power, water, roads will remain jokes. Corruption will remain unabated. The socioeconomic structure mocking equity and allowing rogue leadership will be in place. But the common peoples, addicts of their drugs, will continue to die unsong and in penury.

All the same, if in spite of all of the above, you still wish to be high on the psychedelic drugs, then do take this one: HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY.

Ken Tadaferua is a media and marketing communications consultant. Twitter: @ktadaferua

I See A Prosperous Nigeria In Coming Years – Osinbajo

Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo on Sunday reassured that Nigeria will be prosperous in the coming years.

Osinbajo who spoke at the 2017 Independence Day Interdenominational Church Service at the National Christian Centre in Abuja said that Nigeria will overcome all challenges facing it..

The service was themed “National Unity in the Bond of Peace and Love.”

The Vice President said that the  greatest commandment in the scripture is “love the Lord your God with all your strength and love your Neigbour as yourself.”

He also reminded the congregation that the Bible also encourages us to love our enemies.

To those who sought revenge, Osinbajo reminded them that the Lord says vengeance is His.

“I was very inspired by the words spoken by Professor Turaki a few minutes ago very challenging words that he spoke and I think that in some senses it led to the question who does God hold responsible for the destiny of nations.  There is a people of whom  Jesus said that you are the salt of the earth and the light of the world, a people who are charged with sweet name but bitterness of hate of selfishness and pride.

“There is a people described by scripture in 1st Peter 2:9 and the words of the scripture says but you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation that you may proclaim the praises of him who called you out of darkness and to his marvelous light.

“It is this same people whom Jesus Christ empowered and commandedth in the following words, he said all authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth and to these people he said go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptising them in the name of the father and of the son and holy spirit.

“Teaching to observe all the things that I have commandeth you and low am with you always until the end of the world.

“It is this same people that God has commandeth to teach the world all that he has commandeth the greatest of those commandment is love the lord your God with all your strength and love your neigbour as yourself.

“Our nation is at a point where we should teach the people the virtue of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Osinbajo prayed that the nation will blossom and overcome challenges and that the glory of the former days will be nothing to be compared to the glory of the latter days.

He declared that the nation will be joyful and prosperous.

Speaking during the service, former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, said that Nigeria’s unity has already been fought for.

He said: “Continue to pray for the peace and unity of Nigeria. Do not fear, Nigeria has fought for its unity and the unity will continue with your prayer.”

As soon as Gowon finished his remarks, former President, Olusegun Obasanjo and former Head of Interim National Government, Ernest Shonekan, who came with him to the podium to make their own remarks, immediately shouted “We concur.” and left the stage with him.

Delivering the message, Rev. Prof. Aminu Turaki (TEKAN/ECWA) called on the Federal Government to urgently convene a National Conference to resolve the divisive challenges facing the nation.

He titled his message as “Godly Leadership” and cited Jeremiah 9: 23-24, Isaiah 11: 1-5.

While appealing to all Nigerians to stop attacking one another either because of religious or ethnic differences, he called on them to embrace values that unite the nation and resist divisive tendencies.

Stressing that God holds all leaders accountable to the ordinary people, he said that Godliness is the moral character of God.

“Having power over the people are not good enough, the leaders must be rooted in Godly character.” he said

Noting that the Book of Jeremiah in the Holy Bible described the soul of Nigeria,  he said that selfishness and lack of knowing God are among the factors responsible for the challenges facing Nigeria.

He said “Too much religion without ethics is useless. Religion without ethics and morality is dead.”

Stressing that immorality and violence is everywhere in the world, he said that the Nigerian society is in dire need of prophets that preache peace and not violence.

Scripture reading I was taken from Ephesians 4:1-16 by Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen

The Scripture reading II was taken by Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, from 1st Corinthians 13: 1-13.

Beside the prayer of thanksgiving, intercessory prayers were also offered for the Nigerian nation, Security and economic challenges, the Nigerian Leadership.

Other intercessory prayers were for political stability, Nigerian families, peace and development in the country and the unity of the Church.

There was also praises and worship by Hallelujah Nigeria 400hours Praise Team and special song by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Mass Choir.

Others dignitaries and clergies at the service were the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, John Odigie-Oyegun, the Wife of the Vice President, Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, was represented by Prof. Olusola Adeyeye.

Also at the service were the CAN President, Rev. Dr. Samson Ayokunle, Nicholas Okoh, Bishop Peter Ogunmuyiwa and top government officials and security personnel

Nigeria @57: Nigeria Cannot Give Up Its Unity – Tinubu

Senator Oluremi Tinubu has asked Nigerians to continue on the path of unity and eschew all tendencies to break up the country.

She said the country had set its hands on the plough and cannot give up now.

In a statement to commemorate Nigeria’s 57th independence, the Senator representing Lagos Central Senatorial District said in spite of the conflicts and rifts, including a 30-month civil war that had plagued Nigeria, the country elected to remain as one.

“We must continue on the path of oneness, putting national interests above ethnicity and self. We have set our hands on the plough; we cannot at this moment, give up. Thus, we must shun all attempts to cause disunity amongst us.

“Never again should we as a nation go through conflict like we did with the civil war. For us, the odds are too huge,” she added.

In the statement entitled “Nigeria @57: One People”, Senator Tinubu said: “I celebrate with Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora on the occasion of our Great Nation’s fifty seventh (57th) independence anniversary. This day fifty seven (57) years ago, we received liberation from colonial rule, deciding like other Nations that self-governance is the way forward.

“In the years since then, we have dabbled in military rule, unitary system and now, democratic governance. We have had seasons of plenty as marked by the oil boom, and we have experienced lean years. We have also been besieged with a civil war, ethnic conflicts, and rifts; and we have enjoyed relative peace as a nation.

“Through it all and in spite of these, we have remained united and indivisible, pressing on to the Nigeria of our dreams. And for this, I must commend every Nigerian.

We must however continue on the path of oneness, putting national interests above ethnicity and self. We have set our hands on the plough; we cannot at this moment, give up. Thus, we must shun all attempts to cause disunity amongst us. Never again should we as a nation go through conflict like we did with the civil war. For us, the odds are too huge.

“Thus, I wish all the good people of Lagos Central Senatorial District, Lagos State and all Nigerians a happy celebration”.

 

Nigeria @57: Poverty As Threat To Democracy, By Olawale Rasheed

Public discourse on state of the nation appears to concentrate more on national structure as the real danger facing the republic and democracy. The nation focuses on nature of our federalism and why adjustment is the route to survival. I think we are missing the main threat today-grinding poverty among the citizenry.

The best national structure can be compromised; the best constitution can be subverted when the populace is hungry with no hope of sustainable survival. Operators of democratic machine from top to bottom of national ladder will cut corners for many reasons. While we expect the leaders and public servants to be above board, they are faced with army of desperate and poverty stricken citizens, whose language is survival irrespective of the source of poverty alleviating largesse. The officials and the citizens are married in unholy game of survival with poverty becoming a preferred weapon of choice in some depraved settings.

I make bold to say that poverty will compromise any referendum or plebiscite that may be held in case of a new constitution.

The situation is becoming increasingly unsustainable as the rich are targets of criminal offensive even as the armies of criminals grow by the day. Major junctions in our towns are now controlled by gangs to whom the leaders pay protection fees. The grassroots is deeply challenged as economic machine of the local level has been largely destroyed due to the paralysis of the local government. Purchasing g power of the people is decimated as many states owe salaries and pensions even after billions of naira of bailout funds. The central government is overwhelmed as state governments have successfully lured the public to blame Abuja rather than their governors.

The consequence is that there is an increasing elite migration to Abuja. In a bid to escape pressure at home, top leaders have switched to staying more in their Abuja residences than ever before. Interestingly, the masses are also migrating to Abuja to have a taste of commonwealth cake. The satellite towns are now homes to thousands of new arrival with Abuja population now estimated to be close to six million. Thousands storm the municipal every morning seeking jobs and support. Around Maitama and Asokoro are emerging fresh slum populations. Street boys are popping up in various corners and criminal attacks within the capital are increasing with alarming proportion. The poor are taken the battle to the abode of the elites.

Thus when the debate about restructuring takes the center stage, I wonder what we are thinking about human misery that is gradually enveloping us. If you restructure –which is a difficult task-what do you do to the troubling question of mass poverty? The best of constitution to emerge from that federal reform is sure to fail as no one –not the millions struggling to survive-will obey it. It will be subverted even more easily at the state level where Governors are tin gods. Expecting reform to aid poverty solution is a false hope as electoral inducement will stop genuine patriots from getting elected.

First, genuine patriotic leaders can rarely emerge under a poverty ridden democracy. Yes. Real leaders with patriotic desire to serve the people can hardly make it at election because of poverty crisis. Voters who are hungry and bedeviled with multiple survival questions can hardly make right decision. He wants to survive first before thinking of what happens tomorrow. He has issues he wants to address now and he is ready to collect money from the devil to survive. His vision of the ideal leader is blurred by survivalist rationalization. So he may vote for the armed robber who appears on the ballot if that is the highest bidder. There was a time in India when close to half of
the legislature were confirmed criminals. Until recently many state governors in that big democracy are leaders of criminals organizations.

In society where poverty crisis is substantially addressed, voters’ judgment is influenced by patriotic evaluation of the antecedent and integrity of the candidates. In fact, western democracy survives and blossoms for that long because voters across western world are not within poverty trap. Offering inducements as the sole basis for getting elected is a failed strategy in North America and Western Europe. Nigeria and other African countries can hardly compare with such settled societies because the voters here operate within poverty cage, a condition that negatively affects electoral judgments.

It is also a fact that as the poverty level decreases, citizens’ challenge to the leaders and rulers increases. In Uganda, President Yuweri Museveni has succeeded in reducing poverty level to less than 30 percent of the population. Interestingly, resistance to his rule is growing on daily basis. Why? The voters are released from state of perpetual want. They are empowered to rightly exercise their democratic rights to vote and be voted for. The same scenario is playing out in Rwanda.

Poverty is an existential threat to democracy for many reasons. Democratic rights cannot be judiciously exercised in a state of fear of tomorrow occasioned by survival demand. Two, Poverty enables the criminal world by supplying needed manpower. Hence the wrongly elected have armies of militant to suppress the needy and the hungry. Three, citizen docility is encouraged as majority of the citizens are worried more about what to eat than how the state is governed. Four, the leaders are complacent as they have adopted poverty as an electoral weapon to be deployed at each election circle.

But is it possible for poverty crisis to work the other way? Can it make the populace to rise against their oppressors? Can the citizens sacrifice to liberate themselves from clutches of oppressors? Can they reject inducement and vote for the right leaders? Nothing is impossible. People of Osun state did just that in 2003.This may however be an exception to the rule.

I maintain that poverty may not just kill democracy but may even enthrone a dictatorship. I restate that our challenge now is not the structure of government; it is about the conditions of the citizenry and the leaders. Poverty stricken population cannot hold their leaders accountable. If leaders are not accountable, democracy is imperiled.

*Olawale Rasheed is an Abuja based media entrepreneur.