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Nigerian paradox and disintegration alarm
By Chuma Ifedi
Published: 11-JUL-05

Lagos - Concerned patriots who dismiss the prediction of the USA’s intelligence service report that Nigeria may disintegrate within the next 15 years should critically examine the current parlous state of Nigeria.

Six years of civilian democracy do not seem to have changed anything. We witness several motions at governmental level without any appreciable movements.

Precepts and promises pour from the corridors of power even when leadership by example is grossly lacking. The question everybody has been asking is: Where are the dividends of democracy?

Our president roams the globe at prohibitive cost, more than any other head of state in the world, but we have not seen any results to show for these frequent journeys.

Neither the problem of external debt relief nor the paucity of foreign direct investment has been solved. Nigeria’s poverty rate has become proverbial.

During the last International Day for Eradication of Poverty held in October 2004, the United Nations and its agencies in Nigeria raised alarm at the growing penury in this country: “We see so much wealth and so much poverty.”

To confirm the deplorable situation in the country, the representative of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Cornelius Dzakpasu, recently noted that Nigeria’s phenomenal population growth rate is now severely militating against development.

Rather than adopting pragmatic measures to tackle poverty in Nigeria by caring adequately for the welfare of the people, the federal government follows sheepishly the detrimental prescriptions of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Consequently, over 70 000 employees of the federal public service are scheduled for retrenchment in what our president refers to as “right-sizing".

Retirees of federal parastatals are denied their statutory pensions and many of them die prematurely. Pensioners of the Nigerian Railway Corporation have not been paid for 30 months.

Proponents of reforms

Contrary to the proponents of the ongoing economic reforms, poverty is escalating and mortality rate is rising to an unprecedented level. The crime rate soars with the explosive youth unemployment.

Senior citizens are neglected since no palliative regulations have been enacted to provide succour for elderly people. Businesses are being hampered by many irrelevant import bans.

Most Nigerians adopt the “check-out syndrome” of escaping from the country as the last resort. As a result, the brain drain deprives the country of its talented and skilled youths as well as intellectuals and professionals.

It is difficult to believe that those in power who rigged the last general elections can actually fight corruption.

A million of selective trial of corrupt persons generates cynicism. Why are criminal cases like the Halliburton bribery scandal, National Identity Card scam and the coja contract swindle being swept under the carpet by the presidency?

Similar cases abound in the states where political party faithfuls and heavyweights are shielded from the areas of the law. Why has President Obasanjo refused to release the council funds of Lagos State despite the lucid judgement of the Supreme Court? Why has Dr Chris Ngige not been readmitted to the Peoples Democratic Party in accordance with the ruling of a high court in Anambra?

Chaos is inevitable in a polity in which the presidency and the federal government deliberately flout the judgement of the courts of law.

How can any patriot defend the recent prohibitive allowances approved by the National Assembly for its members in such a depressed economy where many families go to bed hungry and malnourished?

A hungry man is an angry man. The Okigbo and Oputa panels were not implemented because some very big men were adversely affected. As long as sacred cows exist, our national security cannot be guaranteed.

Professor Wole Soyinka aptly reflected the dismal and disquieting reticence in Nigeria in his recent statement: “Nigerians do not take to the streets to demand for their rights and insist on a sustained basis when the ruling elite steal their voices. They are silent mourners.”

An old maxim however warns: “Beware of the anger of a patient man.”

Unless the prevailing wave of crass maladministration, injustices, massive corruption and extreme poverty is redressed, we cannot rule out violent reactions from aggrieved persons who feel maltreated.

Our best bet is to take the American intelligence report as a challenge to transform our society positively, boost the dividends of democracy, invent an egaliterian distributive system and give every Nigerian a sense of belonging and fulfillment. Those at the corridors of power should lead by good examples, not empty precepts. - Daily Champion, Lagos.

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