Nigeria On The Brink

Nigeria On The Brink

Thursday, February 19, 2015 9:53 am

By Adegboyega Ariyo

It behoves on the likes of me and other elders who have put in effort in the service of our dear country, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to speak up as things in the country appear to be going abysmally wrong. To keep silent, I firmly believe, would amount to a repudiation of my belief in the potential of our country and everything I’ve stood for in my representing her.

My concerns are many, and they are indeed grave. The immediate one, however, is in connection with the looming elections. Never before in the history of this nation have political campaigns been so divisive. It would seem that nothing is considered sacred in the inordinate bid to secure votes; not even religion. Even in the halcyon days of the First Republic, there was respect for one’s choice of religion. Now, it appears, everything goes, and no slur is considered too derogatory to cast on a political opponent.

Again, never before was there international involvement in our electoral process beyond foreigners accorded observer status. Now, the country’s elections have become a subject of foreign scrutiny; not as a model to be emulated by others but to forestall anticipated unsavoury occurrences. The threat of violence is palpable. Groups are threatening fire and brimstone against rival parties, even in the event of such rivals winning fair and square, yet leaders of political parties and government look the other way; or, in some cases, even so-called elder statesmen parrot such threats by clandestine groups. Is this the level Nigeria has sunk to? One wonders.

The country is constantly bombarded by threats of secession from disparate groups, as if they are eager to bring to fruition the United States’ prediction more than a decade ago that the country would break up by 2015. Unfortunately, these young Turks were nowhere when we were sweating to put this country on a level of moral authority for the world to respect. God did not put the Federal Republic of Nigeria together for the sake of serving the selfish interest of the Nigerian elite alone. Do we not realise that, as the most populous black country housing many nations with their potentialities, the responsibility of Nigerians is not only to Nigeria but the entire black world? The Federal Republic of Nigeria is the bastion of the power of the black race. Please, don’t destroy her and wreck the hope of the black race to restore their dignity and for peace in the world.

Worse still, our politicians and those in government are not working in the interest of the generality of the populace. They seem only interested in the wealth accruing to them, at the expense of the needy whom they treat with impunity. Comparatively, an average worker in Nigeria will have to work for 1,168 years to earn the annual salary of a Nigerian legislator. Yet they go to the same market to buy food and clothing.

The law makers and elites in Government are not billed for amenities they use. Yet the poor are billed, ever increasingly, for electricity which is not provided them; they are not provided pipe-borne water in this modern age, yet those in government keep mouthing their achievements with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). And they keep appropriating to themselves accolades for work not done. Sadly, most of them are educated – or should I say literate – and know the better situations that obtain in other climes, even in those less endowed with human and economic resources.

Many have read history, even in passing, and know the conditions that precipitate revolutions. Why do they think the long-suffering generality of Nigerians are docile and incapable of revolt. They keep the populace on their leash, throwing them a bone or two in the attempt to keep them mute. But how long can this continue? Are they unaware that the yawning disparity in wealth between the idle rich few and the hardworking but poor multitude is a potent recipe for insecurity. Yet the government does not see it fit to introduce any social security programme to ameliorate the biting poverty. As it is often said in pidgin: One day monkey go go market e no go return.

A recent report by The Economist magazine revealed that Nigerian federal legislators, with a basic salary of $189,500 per annum (N30.6m), and allowances which run even higher, are not only the highest-paid lawmakers in the world but earn 52 per cent higher than what Kenyan legislators, who are the second highest-paid lawmakers, earn. The basic salary (which excludes allowances) of a Nigerian lawmaker is 116 times the country’s GDP per person of $1,600. Yet it is an open secret that these legislators make more on the sly – via oversight functions and outright bribe. Yet, these are people who keep piling the downtrodden with platitudes on forbearance rather than coming up with viable social security programmes.

Though the hardship is biting to intolerable level among the downtrodden, it is not too late for the politicians to save the situation and, consequently, their bloated wealth. The first thing to do to avert an imminent conflagration, I believe, is for government functionaries, both elected and appointed, to reduce the bloated remuneration they now get; reduce the absurdly-high fees demanded from applicants vying for office to enable service-oriented people participate in government and; institute a social security scheme that would take care of the jobless, aged, disabled and indeed, all segments of the populace deserving of aid. Incidentally, doing these would turn out to be cheaper than relying on security outfits to provide protection for our political leaders; in fact, no security apparatus can still the anger of the masses when it boils over.

Creating a bell-shaped society, now, which our founding fathers rejected deducible from their political and social Agenda in the First Republic will not augur well for the elites. The yoke connecting the handle of the bell-shaped society is about to snap because of the uncaring and undisciplined attitude of our political office holders. Reverse yourselves, Nigerian elites! Let us have policy that will lead to a plateau of life for all.

This is my honest recipe for peace and progress in Nigeria. This country was once respected in the international community. We can regain it, but only if Nigerians agree to live harmoniously with one another. Failure to do so portends grievous implications for the black man generally.

– Amb. (Prince) Adegboyega Christopher Ariyo, a retired career diplomat who has served the country in various capacities worldwide, is the Onibala-elect of Ibala, Ijeshaland

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