Nigeria: Here Anything Goes, Stupid!

October 15, 2008
6 mins read

It was former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who once described Nigeria, as an “anything goes” country! To prove that he knew the people and country so well, the despot took us through the worst leadership ever in its history. Obasanjo ran the country like a bandit sworn to bankrupting the collective, while he and his cronies stripped us of our national assets and became stupendously rich. The country was laid prostrate and its people became worse off in all indices of modern existence. If we look around us today, it is very clear that the Obasanjo method of systematic rape of the nation is the preferred style of the ruling elite. States are run like fiefdoms and governors are petty tyrants who do as they like, as they sit atop resources meant for the uplift of the people. Whatever project, almost always not propely thought through meaningfully, nor being the product of debate, is attributed to the wisdom of “oga”. We therefore live with the incredible irony of having made so much money in the past nine years, while the people have become worse off, in real terms.


It was partly because of this systematic regime of banditry, that the EFCC became quite popular in Nigeria, as the possible nemesis of the bandit political elite. Nuhu Ribadu’s oft-repeated assurance that the EFCC had compiled a dossier on corruption among governors became a long-awaited issue of the nation’s fight against corruption. Well, it looks like that expectation has gone up in smoke. Mrs Farida Waziri, the new anti-corruption czar, was reported this week to have confirmed that files on the alleged misdeeds of former governors were either “missing or distorted”. In real terms, we are being told that the governors can enjoy their loot without worry. Mrs Waziri also said her organization had no case against Obasanjo! So ladies and gentlemen, let’s close the anti-corruption shop because the corrupt one have overthrown the country. Now we know why Nuhu Ribadu had to go; with hindsight, we can now understand why there was the wholesale clearance that tool place in the EFCC; no wonder Ibrahim Magu had to be hounded by the powers-that-be!


It is instructive just how these issues came together to paint a frightening picture of the determination of the forces of corruption to continue to hold Nigeria by the jugular. The meaneuverings to prevent the release of the power section probe before the re-run of the Cross River State governorship election, was done to ensure that Liyel Imoke was protected from possible prosecution; this week, even former president Obasanjo found his voice to describe the power sector probe report as being laced “with wild, wicked, unsubstantiated and unsupported allegation of recklessness in the power sector during his time”! listening to a discredited voice like his, one might even conclude that it was a different country that we are all talking about. But Obasanjo knows far more than all of us, and he is very much aware of the fact that we are entrapped in an elaborate charade, where no member of the ruling elite will actually dare to touch any of the big thieves who rule the roost; afterall, wasn’t one of the biggest thieves of recent time responsible for financing the massively rigged election which brought Malam Umaru Yar’adua to power? And if we are becoming angry, isn’t Obasanjo the patron saint of all the corrupt chaps on the political terrain? How Fela Anikulapo kuti would have enjoyed a laugh at the situation in our country today!


But the, that’s what happens in a country where anything goes; ours is a country where we have refused to build alternative political platforms to mobilize the indignation everbody feels to help win political power to chart a new nation-building course. Instead, every political actor wants to belong in the “main stream”. The people are drunk on the spiritual booze of religion or are available for mobilization around ethno-regional platforms which the ruling elite manipulate, but which deepen the poverty of the people. But the “anything goes” country on an incremental basis betrays frightening signs of failure. It is dogged by tendencies towards anarchic disintegration or anarchic disorder, while the ruling elite continues the delusion that is can continue to steal us all blind to provide security for their own future only. Whoever has leafed through the pages of history knows that life doesn’t evolve in the manner that our bandit elite hoped it would. It is not possible to continue with the reigning impunity forever; something must certainly give!


Minister Aliyu Modibbo and Abuja street names

Two weeks ago, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Doctor Aliy Modibbo launched a new project to rename some of the streets of the FCT, after some Nigerian citizens, who in the words of the newspapers that reported the event are “prominent persons whose contributions to the development of Nigeria and Africa should be acknowledged”. In all, Aliyu Modibbo chose to rename a total of seventy streets in the federal capital. In itself, it could be a laudable objective to name streets in our capital after Nigerian citizens who have contributed to the building our nation. But I found a few of the issues arising from the street naming project disturbing. On the basis of my worry, I sent Modbbo as SMS message raising a few interrogations about the street-naming project. That message was sent just before 11 hours that morning. A few minutes after midnight (fourteen hours after my original message), the minister telephoned my number and since I was already asleep, couldn’t answer him; he left a text message that he telephoned and didn’t get a response. These I saw the following morning and I promptly sent another text, hoping that he would give me the opportunity to ask him a few questions about the exercise; he never got back to me.


I was worried about how widely Aliyu Modibbo consulted with people, before he chose to embark on his project; that worry became even more, when I reflected upon the fact that as the repository of the history of the FCT, the Minister should know a few things about the effort which wentinto the naming of the streets in the first place. However, his assertion that naming of streets after rivers in Europe, in the original effort “ha(s) no relevance or affinity to our existence, history or culture. Neither do they have any bearing to our collective or popular memory”, in my view, betrayed on the part of Aliyu Modibbo, a disturbing lack of appreciation of the history of the FCT itself.


Abuja was not conceptualized as just a provincial capital, but a world capital, which explained why in different districts streets were named after international historical figures such as Josef Broz Tito, Kwame Nkrumah, Mao Tse Tung or Charles DeGaulle; and in other districts (this time his time his much beloved Maitama District),streets were named after the great rivers of the world: Nile, Euphrates, Danube, Mississippi, Amazon, etc. when Aliyu Modibbo described such names as irrelevant, I think that it expresses a very poor understanding of what informed the naming in the first place. It is good to attempt a trite populism with street naming, as he has tried to do, but he must also pull back from wiping away some of our historical memory (neither he nor any member of the regime that he serves has that right anyway!) and the cosmopolitan perspective which informed some of the old names he is now changing.


What Minsiter Aliyu Modibbo should have done was to open new districts of the city, throw up a democratic debate about names and then attempt to convince us that the people he was naming streets for truly deserved them. Or how do we explain that he had proposed to name some of the streets after Malam Umaru Yar’adua and Doctor Jonathan Goodluck, the sitting president and vice president had again shown leadership through humility (really?)”; but what made them eligible in the first place? Did Doctor Aliyu Modibbo remember that Nigeria constructed its federal capital on a cosmopolitan pedestal which explained why a world-renowned architect, Kenzo Tange, was brought in to conceptualize the master plan, rather like Brasilia, the Brazilian capital, was designed by the equally famous Oscar Niemeyer or as the Indian city of Chandigarh was conceptualized by Le Corbusier? It is very good to want to add a domestic spice to a cosmopolitan broth, but it should be done very much within the spirit ot the original vision which took some of our best brains to think up.


Nigeria: Government by gossip?


Daily Trust carried an exclusive report early this week, that President Umaru Yar’adua has restricted access to him by ministers of the regime, on account of the abuse of privilege by many of these ministers. A source in the presidency told our reporter that “some ministers are in the habit of visiting the villa just for gossip and trivial matters”. Henceforth, only six ministers will have direct access to the president, while the remaining 36 would have to channel communication through the SGF.


It is clear that in the past year, Nigeria has been under a regime which seems truly unable to understand exactly why it is there in the first place. That ministers would be accused of visiting the villa in search of “gossip and trivial matters” offers a clue into the disorganized nature of the governemtn inpower today: a reclusive president will naturally stoke the embers of gossip, triviality and rumour, and Umaru Yar’adua is as reclusive as can be! But if ministers cannot reach the president, isn’t the next person the vice-president? Or why is the SGF becoming ever more powerful?

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