Saturday, February 27, 2016 2:28 pm
By Bolanle Bolawole
The weather is inclement; searing heat is walloping everyone. It is impossible to sleep at night – day time is none better. The depletion of the ozone layer has brought about this terrible climatic change – and the situation will progressively get worse if the super-power nations fail to agree on drastic measures to save the ozone layer. The much-needed agreement is nowhere in sight as the industrial giants are neither ready to take their foot off the pedal of massive energy consumption for industrial production nor adopt costly safety measures that will better protect the environment. Capitalism thrives on maximum profit, even at the expense of a clean environment and safe health for the people. What we contribute to this endangerment of our world is paltry; with almost all our industries having relocated and yesterday’s factories becoming worship centres in droves: Only the fumes from “I-pass-my-neighbour” generators and the exhaust pipes of vehicles that ought to have long been slammed with the VIO’s “off-the-road” label.
Power supply is at its lowest ebb ever – even after the latest astronomical increase in tariff. The more we pay; the less we receive. Power Minister, Babatunde Raji Fashola, these days keeps a bald head – it may not be for the fun of it but a reflection of how bereft of ideas the authorities are on this score. Those who unbundled PHCN made terrible mistakes or, better still, wallowed in corruption, but it is not a light thing that a CHANGE regime has chosen to perpetuate the gargantuan fraud called privatization. Rather than sell to investors the sellers sold to speculators.
Collusion, collaboration, and corruption combined to strip the nation of its assets without commensurate benefits. Portmanteau and portfolio carriers came here and sweet-tongued corrupt leaders to short-change the nation, leaving us with the short end of the stick. Investors ought to have brought in their own funds for long-term investment; but the speculators mopped up funds locally to buy up our national assets. Short-term loans at prohibitive interest rates is why we are being compelled to pay higher tariff to gift speculators the liquid cash to keep up a semblance of economic activity. It is make-belief and will, before long, crumble on their bald heads. Before long, too, like Bob Marley crooned, we gonna chase those crazy bald heads out of town!
Without electricity, water stations cannot pump water unless they resort to using generators. Fuelling and maintaining generators is expensive. The dry season is not helping matters in many households as many water wells have dried up. In the dry season, water levels usually drop. So, the sun is blistering; there is no electricity to power electric fans or air-conditioners; there is no water to drench the sweat; and no “iced” water to quench the thirst. To make matters worse, money is scarce in circulation these days; scarcer than they were in the Goodluck Jonathan era. I am sufficiently educated to understand that the Muhammadu Buhari administration cannot be held responsible for the years of the locusts that have metamorphosed into the present untold hardship.
But then, for how long will this suffering be? We booted out Jonathan and voted in Buhari to stem the rot and turn the tide. For now, we have had excuses and the blame-game ad nauseam. Again, I ask, for how long? The people’s patience is running thin. I studied History and do know that many revolutions occurred not at the peak of the people’s suffering but at the point that reformers began to tackle the rot. The people’s patience often snap when the pace of reform is not fast enough and its dividends are slow in coming. A man called me last week: He did not receive a salary from his employers in the whole of 2015. A whole year; no salary! Not even half a month! Banks and oil companies are downsizing; thousands are being thrown out of employment. This is in addition to the torrents of school leavers joining the market.
The private sector is shrinking at an alarming rate; the self-employed and small-scale industrialists are going into extinction. There is all-round destitution and the days of the apocalypse may not be far away. Yet, Buhari is working. I for one can see him working; I see him running from pillar to post, which some have uncharitably described as junketing. I also see Vice President Yemi Osinbajo becoming all grey hairs within so short a time. But are they working with the right calibre of people and are they directing their energies in the right direction? Are they getting the level of support required from those around them and from the system?
It bears repeating that the economy should be the focus for now – the Central Bank of Nigeria and the commercial banks especially. Without a stable Naira, the best of efforts will not amount to much. This administration needs a powerful think-thank on the economy; non-partisanship should be the name of the game right now. It bears repeating also that Buhari is fighting too many battles on too many fronts at one and same time. Boko Haram, MASSOB\IPOB, Niger Delta militants, judges\lawyers, corruption; within his own party there are disgruntled elements working to sabotage him as fifth columnists. Ruminating on the country’s parlous state, I came to the conclusion that 10 past leaders should be held responsible for the rain that is beating us right now.
Number one is Yakubu Gowon. His regime started the sensationalizing of corruption. Remember the Godwin Daboh versus Joseph Tarka bribe scandal. Gowon also laid the foundation of wastage of national resources: Read about his extravagant State wedding in Prof. Wole Soyinka’s “The Man Died”. He is also credited with the statement “money is not our problem but how to spend it”. Had he spent wisely, we would have started the elusive diversification of our mono-cultural economy during his time. Today, Gowon gallivants all over the place purporting to pray for Nigeria. He should instead pray for himself!
Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo is the Number two. Corruption was still tolerable during Obasanjo’s first coming, although there were innuendoes surrounding his Operation Feed the Nation\Operation Fool the Nation.
Handing over power to the National Party of Nigeria, with Alhaji Shehu Shagari as president, was an unpardonable crime committed against this country by Obasanjo, who pretended not to know that the process of national development is a deliberate process of picking and choosing the leaders with the right competencies for the task at hand. NPN was a party of predators and the impunity everywhere seen today started with them. Remember NPN National Chairman Adisa Akinloye’s special champagne and Umaru Dikko’s rice armada? Shagari was noted only for his high-rise cap. Were Alhaj Lai Mohamed in politics during this period, he would have described Shagari as “clueless and incompetent”.
So Shehu Shagari is Number three.
Ibrahim Babangida, the self-styled evil genius, the one who marvelled that this country’s economy “defies logic” institutionalised the “settlement” syndrome, transformed corruption into high art and began the systematic ruination of the economy and the mindless devaluation of the Naira. He is Number four.
Chief Ernest Shonekan, as Interim National Government Chairman, ruled for less than three months; I cannot remember him for anything but because he was so spineless as to have allowed Sani Anbacha to become Head of State, he did this country great disservice. If he had been man enough to retire Abacha and the other goons who later laid siege to this country, he would have been a hero. Reports said a gun was put to his head as he was forced to write\read his resignation letter; I think a mere kitchen knife would have done the job! These days when I see him parade as an also-ran, I mutter to myself, what a mockery! He is Number Five.
Number Six is the dark-goggled one, Sani Abacha. Who will ever forget the State-orchestrated bombings and murders undertaken by Jabilla, aka Sergeant Rogers, for Abacha? Till tomorrow, humongous amounts in hard currencies stolen by Abacha continued to be discovered in all corners of the world. Sadly, however, the recovered loot has, in turn, been looted as the ongoing probe of the ONSA has revealed.
After Abacha came Abdulsalami Abubakar, who spent less than two years in office. The palatial building he built within this short time on Minna Hilltop, rivalling IBB’s, and the depletion of the country’s foreign reserves during his time, detracts from whatever credit his handing over power in 1999 might have attracted unto him. In addition, MKO Abiola, winner of the June 12, 1993 election, was murdered during Abdulsalami’s watch. He is Number Seven.
Obasanjo made a return to power on May 29th, 1999 as an elected president. His coming held so much promise but he bungled it. Corruption signposted his second coming, so much so that himself and his deputy publicly traded tackles, with Atiku Abubakar insisting that his boss was more corrupt than himself. The abortive third term plot, during which bribe money was openly displayed on the floor of the National Assembly, was sublime. He is Number Eight.
Umaru Yar’Adua died in office in circumstances that almost scattered the country. While he was on the sick bed, a Cabal mercilessly plundered the country and a man said to be on life-support supposedly “signed” the nation’s budget in far-away Saudi Arabia. Only providence saved Nigeria under Yar’Adua. He is Number Nine.
The Number ten, of course, is Ijaw man, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Nigerians fought for him to become acting President and later President but he proved a complete let-down. He was through and through clueless and incompetent, as Lai Mohamed had depicted him. Worse, his government may as well go down into the records as the most corrupt in Nigeria’s annals.
Buhari is back in the saddle as an elected president, carrying the shit of all 10 leaders before him. He escaped censure at his first coming; it remains to be seen whether he will come clean on his second. On his first as well as second, Obasanjo received the knock. Atonement for sin is sine qua non for the healing process; carrying on as if nothing sordid happened is an aberration.
Bola Bolawole, former deputy editor-in-chief of PUNCH, can be reached at [email protected] 0705 263 1058