Like a computer application hung on the hourglass, Nigeria is a country suspended in time, primitive time. The country is stuck between rapacious leaderships on one end, the inappropriate constitution on the other end and millions of confused followership in between.
Regardless of how much self-intimidation we subject ourselves to with ethnic irredentism, every Nigerian desires living in dignity with essentials of life as basic as water, food, and housing. Job, electricity, and access to healthcare would be nice, if available. However, the vacuous political leaderships behave essentially like children, making governance look overly more complicated than it really is. They are typically loud, out of touch and always overdressed for any occasion. They rarely ever prepare adequately on any issue. They are neither impressive in the articulation of a problem nor rich in ideas for a solution. Anytime they talk about an issue; you are likely to scratch your head for want of logic, depth, sincerity or all.
Every constitution, even for a social club, has written and unwritten components to it. The written component constitutes the legal codes, procedures, and caveats. The unwritten component is a body of expectations on human decency, integrity and capacity for feeling shame (i.e. civilized behaviors) for successful implementation of the constitution.
In our own type of 4-tier Executive-Legislative-Judiciary-State Governor system of political administration, all tiers prefer to be run independently of each other. Every tier disdains any form of oversight of its activities. The only thing the tiers want in common is collect monthly cash allocations from the Executive, as of rights. None of the tiers has the power to hold the other accountable. Money collected is pretty much spent anyway the collector wants, appropriated or not. Our country cannot get anywhere far under this kind of foolish arrangement.
The moment the Executive sets up a federal tribunal to look into a case of misappropriation in the bicameral (House of Representatives and Senate) National Assembly (NASS), members of the backward NASS will tout their electoral mandates and legislative functions, intimidate the nation with a cry of perceived violation of separation of powers, instantly summon the tribunal judges to appear before them in sessions and thus bog down a necessary process of corrective action expected by the constitution.
NASS members are mostly absentees at sessions. Full attendance is usually at times of political intrigues, and on such occasions, it is common to see many of them dozing off to lala land in their seats. Last year, the NASS sat for 55 percent of the mandatory annual sitting requirement for full pay, but our system has no means of sanctioning or removing any member.
Judges allow frivolous interlocutory injunctions that perpetuate hearings on corruption cases until justice is delayed and eventually terminated. But the moment a federal anticorruption agency suspects the Judiciary of shady activities or dereliction of duty, the judges will un-gown, claiming persecution and violation of separation of powers by the Executive.
Governance is largely a one-man show at the state level by the absolute governor who collects the money for his state and sits between God and his state local governments, assembly, cabinet and ministries including the state judiciary and auditor. The governor is the only one in the system who will dubiously fritter away his state funds without paying his teachers and civil servants and still have the audacity to harass the Executive that the money given to his state is not enough.
The present crop of Nigerians charged with the duty of running the country according to a constitution are incapable of meeting the demand of the unwritten component of the same constitution because they lack the required civilized conscience, are unaware of the extant social expectations or both.
In a civilized society, Bukola Saraki will have been dropped like a bad habit from his position as Senate president, the moment a case of corruption was filed against him in any court. The US system that we are copying does not even wait to get that far before it invokes the unwritten code and auto-corrects itself for the benefit of the country. The FBI or any US Feds agency would intentionally leak an upcoming indictment of a politician by notifying the individual and his/her leadership group. In most cases, members of the person’s political party are the first to distance themselves from the person and apply the integrity pressure for him/her to stand down. All of this is usually enough for the erring politician to resign from an executive, legislative position or quit politics altogether, without hanging up the system.
Heck, US President Bill Clinton almost lost his beautiful presidency over a case of an unsolicited blow job, a yawn in many other world cultures. The case of mayors and governors doing jail times are as common in the US as ghost workers on the Nigerian government payrolls. Rodney Blagojevich was a sitting governor of the State of Illinois when he was impeached by the Illinois General Assembly, then removed as Governor by the Illinois Senate in January 2009 over corruption charges. He was subsequently found guilty of 17 charges (including wire fraud, attempted extortion, and conspiracy to solicit bribes) and sentenced to 14 years in prison in December 2011, months after the first trial that ended in a mistrial. Tells you how unrelenting the US system can get when prosecuting crimes in high places. Blago is in jail as we speak.
That is how a constitution is run in civilized societies. How about that for you Nigerians who call treasonable activities ‘challenges’ and are quick to argue that there is corruption equally everywhere? How many of your governors, ministers, etc., have you jailed in the last 20 years? Rather, the more evidence a case has, the more complicated it becomes in Nigerian courts.
In the case of the $2.1 billion allegedly spirited out of our central bank as security funds by Sambo Dasuki, the so-called National Security Adviser, we have truckloads of evidence and a king size motive. We have signed and dated documents permitting Dasuki to truck out the money in the middle of the night from our national vaults, name of the armored truck driver, names of those who collected cash distributions from Dasuki and for what purpose, details of their bank accounts, etc.
Same thing with Saraki’s case – we have his carbon print of cash flow against dates of when he acquired his assets, Societe Generale bank collapse, and when he was governor in Kwara.
James Ibori looted his Delta state for all to see. The UK found him guilty and jailed him for the exact same crimes that Nigeria found him not guilty before the UK did. The UK just released Ibori after serving 5 years of his sentence, and now we know, his Delta state has been paying him N50 million per year pension, making a total of N250 million (minus allowances) paid to Ibori while he was sitting in jail. This is the same Delta state that is owing salaries of its active teachers and civil servants who are not in jail. Nigerians from this same state will turn around and claim marginalization against Nigeria! Talking about a stuck nation.
Every crime of corruption in Nigeria always has its dusty trail of surplus evidence. It is like that because the Nigerian politicians hide under their superfluous robes, a juvenile mind that is oxygenated in vanities. They are not afraid of the country’s laws and therefore not shy of sabotaging it in the open. Yet, we are never able to try 99 percent of the crimes and successfully conclude them with justice to the citizenry.
These self-destruct shenanigans point to a hanging state of affairs in our country, and they define our state of evolution yet as a nation and as a people. Nigeria remains the ultimate loser because whatever administrative system it tries always advances to a hanging state where nothing moves or works. It is practically impossible for Nigeria to advance anywhere under a constitution that makes impoverishing the people possible but adjudicating punishment impossible. We are just deceiving ourselves; no country can make it like this.
Some Nigerians may see signs of progress in our charade; I don’t. I don’t see a platform on which a genuine progress may be founded yet. I see us shamelessly announcing the repeated killings of Boko Haram Shekau who remains alive. I see us brandishing as government achievements (from Finance ministers Okonjo Iweala to Kemi Adeosun), the discovery of thousands of ghost workers drawing paychecks from our GDP, even though thousands of people are not in jail over it. I see the minister of health insincerely tooting “we will begin to deal effectively with cancer beginning from 2017.” What nonsense! What standpoint is he talking from – drug development, oncology, radiology or nuclear medicine research? Do we currently have any of such intricate science know-how that is required in-house for such a feat? What is the current status of our quality of education in the country to achieve this in 2017?
I read how El Rufai tried to solve the Fulani herdsmen killings of citizens in the southern part of his Kaduna state by tracking and sending an emissary to the herdsmen in Cameroon and Niger Republic with the message that “there is a new governor who is Fulani like them and has no problem paying compensations for lives lost and he is begging them to stop killing.” As if government solution by begging and payment of ransom money is not ridiculous enough, what happens if Rufai leaves his seemingly eternal governorship post and a non-Fulani governor succeeds him? This is not the kind of governance that we deserve.
I see a country that has no electricity generating capability to power its homes, no in-house raw materials or control over crimes against its statehood, no good exchange currency and no master plan for technology transfer, but which goes around the world on its knees begging investors to come and do business! Then we wonder why investors are not showing up?
No country can make progress spending over 80 percent of its revenue on salaries and travels. Our political system is incapable of giving us candidates with the right character fiber that we need at this time.
We cannot afford to get stuck as a nation.
We need money pumped into our education sector to enable us to grow thinkers rather than readers. Thinkers are the ones who will receive and fabricate foreign technologies for home grown use, create real jobs, prosper and modernize Nigeria.
We need to drop down the cost of governance to the bare bone, cut down waste and banish thieves and vagabonds from our public life. There is got to be an oversight of how our money is spent, who earns how much and what public policy is being funded.
We need to render the constitution more understandable for the kind of characters we are electing as lawmakers. No more expectations, we need to code and number out all required civilized behaviors in the constitution. We need to be able to independently prosecute and jail the Executive when he/she is violating our laws, and the legislators, and the judiciary and the governors, etc, all the way down the totem pole.
They won’t reform themselves.
The job belongs to the people. We elected them into positions in the first place.
Time to march on Abuja!
Out of 180 million of us, we can get 50 million to march out, can’t we?
We probably have 80 million jobless youths who already have a lot of questions to ask them.
Everyone from their hut, hamlet, village, town or city, it is time for a 50 million man/woman march on Abuja.
Time to take back Nigeria!
Dr. Salako writes from Boston, MA. USA. He is a frontline social critic and commentator on Nigeria and Africa. He may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.