Nigeria @ 59: Nigerians deprived of sovereignty for over 50 years

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By Guy Ikokwu

THE situation in Nigeria today is egregious and monumental that it gives a great majority of our people a feeling of total hopelessness in such a way that the general belief is that there must be a catalyst within the system.

It is now clear to the Nigerian masses that they have been deprived of their sovereignty for more than 50 years by the high ranking military personnel since January 1966, which torpedoed the civilian democratic norms inherited in various discussions with our British colonialists, who had acted equivocally in their own self and economic interest.

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We have had nine constitutions in 25 years to usher in real democracy which our late heroic musician and artiste, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, called “Demon – Crazy.” That was a philosophical thoughtful expose but the perspective of our past decades show that our system of governance has really been demonic till this day.

Faulty constitution

The last 1999 constitution, which Nigeria had, was initiated by General Abudulsalami Abubakar. Today, we know that the 1999 constitution was a fraud as it was not delivered by the people of Nigeria.

A university teacher, Dr. D. Ononogu opined recently that “only a people oriented government that is responsive to the needs of the governed will survive.” Recently, Chief Afe Babalola SAN, in his reflection on the 1999 constitution said that, “the 1999 constitution is the problem with the governance of Nigeria today being an imposition” which has left the regions and states impoverished and unable to carry out their economic and other functions with fiscal responsibility.

Role of Generals

The truth must be told that the Generals of the Nigerian military who had usurped the governance of the country, most of whom are still living today are General Yakubu Gowon, General Olusegun Obasanjo, General Ibrahim Babangida, General Abudulsalami Abubakar, and General Muhammadu Buhari while some of the expired and dead Generals are Muritala Muhammed, and Sani Abacha.

The real issue among the Generals is the number of years each of them will preside over the economic resources and destiny of Nigeria, which no doubt has made all of them to clamour for at least eight years of leadership and have accumulated such domestic and foreign wealth that they cannot exhaust within their living years and cannot repatriate to Nigeria from the banks where they are stashed.

No cause for cheer

The state of the Nigerian nation today as we celebrate our 59th independence anniversary was recently reflected upon by an international scholar, who said that “the issues now raging are corruption, cronyism, poverty, cultism, violent crimes, terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, sectorial violence, Muslim fundamentalism which has polarized the religious sects and the government into bloody clashes and loss of lives and properties.”

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The United Nations rapporteur to Nigeria said recently that the Boko Haram terrorism has accounted for the loss of more than 30,000 lives and several millions of internally and externally displaced refugees in IDP camps.

Schools have been shut down and tertiary institutions have not opened for months since our last anniversary due to the unresolved issues between the government and ASUU. It is the education of our youth that is hindered and drastically lowered.

In the past year, the unemployment of our youths who are out of school or who used to have gainful employment in various institutions has really reached the 20 per cent mark. In 2019, Nigeria was said to have overtaken India with a population of over one billion people as the poverty capital of the world. Surely this has been an agonizing revelation for Nigerians due to the lack of performance of our present governments and particularly due to the unviable governance structure of Nigeria.

Even with the present abject poverty, politics is now the main source of wealth for economic consumption rather than a productive sector.

Ex-Governor Balarabe Musa, as leader of the conference of Nigeria’s Political Parties, said that “now we have leaders who only care about themselves and whose primary objective in life is self.”

But the life expectancy of Nigerians is now an average of about 45 years with a lot of suicides currently, as life is not worth living for many, as the extended family living system has broken down in most rural communities and in the urban areas.

Public officials’ humongous salaries, allowances

If we review and compare the salaries of members of the National Legislature, not to talk of the State Legislature or the Executive, Ministers, Commissioners and their humongous infantile aides, it will be seen why there is in Nigeria such debilitating unrest and impatience in our governance system in the last 20 years.

For example, the salary of a Nigeria Senator is said to be N750,000.00 monthly with a sitting allowance of N13.5million plus other numerous allowances for their wardrobes, vehicles, offices, multiple retirement and pension allowances, etc. It is such an amount when combined with those of the executive that has made our budget in the last four years of Buhari administration to be in deficit. It also resulted in the last recession from which we have not really come out, as Nigeria is still borrowing from the World Bank and the IMF to meet its recurrent expenditure with an economy that is growing at 1.95% per annum only till 2019.

The quagmire of this situation led to the devaluation of Nigeria’s currency which is now N360 to $1 whereas after independence, the Nigerian Naira was stronger than the US Dollar.

Just last week, Nigeria approached the World Bank for a $2.5billion loan which will help us meet our deficit budgetary provisions in which capital expenditure amounts to not more than 15 per cent. Nigeria has failed to meet its own responsibilities as espoused by the United Nations and the World Financial Communities unlike some other countries are doing in Africa.

Back into debt trap

We are incapable of meeting the expectations prescribed due to our reliance on external loans for the execution of recurrent expenditure rather than the productive sectors of our economy with the capacity to pay back the foreign debt. Nigeria’s foreign debt rose to $25,609.63 billion compared to the figure in 2016 of President Jonathan’s administration which was $9.760billion.

It would be remembered that Obasanjo and Okonjo Iweala were able to get our external debtors to cancel a large chunk of our foreign debt due to the World Bank and IMF. Nigeria’s DMO office has again reminded the administration that most of the external borrowings are used for recurrent expenditures, like salaries and allowances and also to refinance maturing obligations which will not grow our economy.

The United Nations listed the Millennium Developmental Projects which Nigeria and other developing nations should urgently focus on. These are: No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Good Health and Well-being, Quality Education, Gender Equality, Clean Water and Sanitation, Affordable and Clean Energy, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, Reduced Inequality Sustainable Cities and Communities, Responsible Consumption and Production Climate Action, Life below Water, Life on Land, Peace and Justice, Strong Institutions, Partnerships to achieve the Goal.

Holding leaders accountable

An analytical fact check by Nigerian experts maintained that for democracy to work properly, public figures need to be held accountable for what they say or do. Their claims should be publicly assessed with skills and evidence from institutions in economic, finance, technology, science, banking, universities, corporate institutions, media and industries in order to distill or sort out facts from fiction.

The performances of Nigerian institutions in the past three years and particularly in 2019 are bedevilled by fiction and propaganda in the statistical realm and non-patrician analytical domain. As Nigerians, we cannot appreciate where we are in order to improve on governance situations in the interest of our own well being. It is known that at the moment, Nigeria depends on a mono economic structure which is crude oil to the extent of about 80 per cent.

The non-oil sector has not yet achieved its optimal capacity hence the current deficit budgeting.

In fact the present administration in which the President is also the Petroleum Minister and in which the NNPC controls the production, the refining and the sale of our crude, has been financially worrisome in respect of its very poor accountability.

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Nigerians are surprised to learn this year that we spent more money importing refined petroleum products from abroad than the amount for which our crude oil is sold to foreign entities. Nigeria’s NNPC is still employing the crude oil swap for imported petroleum products due to the inabilities of our own refineries. Indeed, the NNPC is spending trillions of naira on oil subsidy, a situation that is fuelling monumental corruption and unaccountable financial applications. Informed experts and IMF have urged the Federal Government to scrap the colossal funds involved in the corrupt subsidies payments so that Nigeria’s economy can urgently be rejuvenated and our system of governance should be constitutionally restructured through the urgent devolution of powers to the states or federating units where sovereignty lies.

The Nigerian-Benin border was recently sealed leading to very high rise in commodity prices yet there is still a clandestine smuggling through the borders at night and with motor cycles in Northern borders. All these are in breach of the Agencies Free Trade Agreement just signed. It is hurting our economy.

In the last two months, President Buhari’s government in a bid to start his first year of the second tenure, made two proposals to the National Assembly. One was for the control of the river sides and water ways in the country and the other was for the 774 local governments to be made autonomous financially and other wise and removed from the control of state governments.

These proposals are unconstitutional for a set up of true federalism, which enunciates the truism that sovereignty belongs to the people at the grass roots and therefore the residual and main constitutional powers should belong to the states, which will cede some limited powers to the central government, to be able to execute some overall Nigerian factors such as immigration, defence, foreign affairs, and some infrastructure, etc.

In the last two years, the Southern and Middle Belt leaders have been proposing a restructured polity since President Buhari rejected the implementation of the detailed resolutions of the 2014 National Conference convened by President Goodluck Jonathan, by consigning the reports to the archives and turning Nigeria into a so called ‘unitary federalism’ which is an unknown contraption in legal jurisprudence.

With the state of the Nation today in such a deplorable situation, the Southern and Middle Belt and the Sahelian Upper Northern areas of Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones should wake up from their slumber and make a final push for the realization of a new governance structure for Nigeria to move to greater heights.

An analytical and unapologetic observer in the social media last week said “All the Southern but accused slaves and other useful idiots in their regions should be recalled and placed on cognitive psychotherapy for total emancipation, freedom and redemption despite their height of delusion and narcissism.” The above may not be very far-fetched from our present almost delusional situation, when as a matter of fact the end is very much at sight for Nigeria to end our current deplorable situation.

A former USA Ambassador to Nigeria, Princeton Lyman, said a month ago during a Brown University Colloquium of Prof Chinua Achebe that “Nigeria is becoming a strategic failure to the world and Africa.”

A recent United States department analysis on our economic transparency submitted that “the defining moments of a clueless, despotic amalgam called Nigeria or Nigger-area has by its leadership truncated any definite movement of proper governance devoid of corruption, lack of transparency and accountability and normal developmental strides as a replica of its movement of growth from its self governance system to independence”. Such truths are of course, hurtful even though they can be remedies in our own interest.

It is known that demographically, the youths comprise about 50 per cent of Nigeria’s population which is increasing at the rate of 3.5 per cent per annum in such a way that in the next 20years Nigeria will be more populated than the USA and will be next to only China and India. Is the Nigerian government thoughtfully working on this project which will have a highly debilitating effect knowing that presently we are the capital poverty of the world?

Clear conscience which fears no accusation, dictates that we have a monumental task ahead of us in such a way that we must introduce an egalitarian system of governance which will eliminate the colossal waste which is in built in our present governance retardation. There are countries like Sweden, Denmark, Singapore, China and a few others for us to emulate in such ways as they did to reduce the adverse effects of their so called elite and upper class which had caused the economic retardation of the other classes.

If we imagine that a small country in Scandinavia, exports more agricultural products than the totality of the oil proceeds Nigeria gets at the moment with its land space which is less than one state in Nigeria, then we can imagine the economic loss factor that we have today.

Criminalising graft, abuse of office

If Nigeria establishes a code of conduct which criminalizes corruption and abuse of offices with a strict system of enforcement as some nation have, we will surely put an end or reduce drastically the current system of plutocracy and abuse of public and developmental institutions in the country.

If Nigeria recognizes a system where developmental strategies are decentralized to the local and state authorities it will certainly enable our energy sector from the sun (solar), wind, water and bio energy to assist and reduce our current dependence on fossil energy.

The Head of IMF, Ms Christine Lagarde, just said that the lack of adequate electricity is costing Nigeria $26 bilion for lack of adequate megawatts.

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In the next decade, Nigeria will become a dumping ground for cars and vehicles based on diesel and petrol engines as other countries are already moving into vehicles with electronic batteries.

Uganda and South African entrepreneurs are currently converting thousands of their old salon cars and transport vehicles into electric vehicles with batteries. A Nigerian university department has already demonstrated their capacity to produce an electric power operated vehicle, which our governments are doing nothing about until Nigeria becomes a dumping ground for diesel and petrol vehicle from Europe, America and Asia. What an anathema!

The solution for Nigeria as in other countries is leadership, ICT capabilities, technical and scientific education to elevate our capacities in the productive sectors for the sake of our present children and children unborn.

It is time for Nigerians to wake. Let’s ensure that henceforth we all abide by the fundamental objectives and directives principles of state policy in our constitutions.

That the Federal Government Nigeria shall be a state based on the principles of democracy and social justice. That sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government derives all its powers and authority.

That security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government and that accordingly, national integration shall be actively encouraged while discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited.

Let it be said again that we, Nigerians, know what is the right prescriptions for our national ailment but lack the will to implement them just as we are not doing much about the ill effects of current climate change. We all must wake up to our current debilitating challenges.

  • Chief Guy Ike Ikokwu, senior citizen of the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, and second Republic politician, wrote from Lagos.
  • Vanguard

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