By Okechukwu Udeagwu

Recently, former ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in a fitful display of unmerited credentials as a supposed opposition party taunted its comrade-in-brigandage and the ruling, ruining party, the All Progressive Congress (APC) that Nigeria is racing down the road to Venezuela. Typically, APC kicked and, as usual, accused her fellow evil confederate party as playing politics as they always do to criticisms and opposing viewpoints. 

Indeed, the two of a kind ruiners of Nigeria see party politics – leadership – as a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for grabbing and snatching power, which, to them, only means control of state resources or state capture and never service to the natives of the fatherland. Neither the former nor the current ruiners of the Nigerian nation and the destiny of her peoples could ever rise above deleterious party interests in seeking and using power. This is evident in history and current affairs. Most press statements from the Presidency and all press releases from the party especially come off as ridiculous and puerile, bereft of reason and blaming everyone, but the (s)elected leaders – for instance – APC recently laid the blame on hardship protests in some parts of the country and the  unaffordable food prices everywhere on opposition elements!

Focusing on our theme, to say that Nigeria under APC in the last 105 months is leading Nigeria to Caracas is a sure understatement – we are throttling fullspeed to Port-au-Prince. 

Permit a simple encapsulation of these comparisons that is riling administration officials and party goons. A Google click shows it. As is typical, Venezuela’s started as a political crisis during the presidency of Hugo Chávez and worsened during the presidency of his West-sanctioned successor, Nicolás Maduro – marked by hyperinflation, starvation, disease, escalating crime and mortality rates, resulting in massive emigration from the country.

The situation is believed to be by far worst economic crisis in Venezuela’s history so far, and is also one of the worst facing a country in peacetime since the mid-20th century. The crisis is often considered to be more severe than that of the United States during the Great Depression of 1929-1941, the Brazilian economic crisis of 1985-1994, or the hyperinflation in Zimbabwe of 2008-2009. Observers compare aspects of the Venezuelan crisis, such as unemployment and GDP contraction, to that of Bosnia and Herzegovina after the 1992–1995 Bosnian War, and those in Russia, Cuba and Albania following the collapse of the Eastern Bloc in 1989 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Another view of the Venezuelan crises tended to suggest it all began as an “economic war” on Venezuela by the West led by our much-cherished master-imperialist with overwhelming and overweening soft power – the United States of America, but not helped by falling oil prices – through sanctions. But it isn’t rocket science to know it’s all resultant of years of economic mismanagement and corruption in simple terms. That is, failure of policies and failure of leadership including corruption.

Every aspect of the above must be familiar with Nigeria and Nigerians. Prior to the advent of the All Progressive Congress administration in Nigeria in 2015, the signs were foreboding and the Goodluck Jonathan administration acknowledged as the then Minister of Finance and  Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala warned. A naìve Jonathan listened, but the hawks around him were revelling in postulated 50 years of uninterrupted powerhold by the Peoples Democratic Party. They fiddled while the embers of a coming conflagration was at an incipient stage. The buck stopped at Jonathan’s desk anyway.

The pernicious propagandist All Progressive Congress happened with ferocious social media mobilisation, including and most especially using the ugly side of SM movement – fake news, lies, half-truths and false narratives to gain power. Any wonder APC administration officials as APC aparachiks and their two-a-penny trolls see every criticism in the same light. The rest is current affairs. All the ills they complained about quadrupled in multiple exponents. Alas, either it was all lip-service or they were worst evil in waiting. 

Muhammadu Buhari ruled. Total ruination and affliction followed uninterruptedly for eight solid years. And in 2023, in order to maintain hold on power, the APC incumbency played out. Nigerians voted, ‘Independent’ National Electoral Commission, INEC, declared her winner different from voters’ choice at the polling booths. It was the turn of Alhaji Ahmed Bola Tinubu! A candidate who spoke gibbershly and who never faced a recruitment interview was inaugurated. His predecessor was all too excited to return to his 150 heads of cattle that neither increased nor decreased for as long as his memory could recall. But surely, he decreased Nigeria and Nigerians in every manner –  corruption, terrorism and banditry burgeoned, an usual hyperinflation was warming up waiting to descend from the Sahara Desert. As Muhammadu Buhari’s health got better, Nigeria’s got sicker literally and figuratively.

Then came the City Boy with less than salutary past and present, incoherent speech and understanding of the ramifications of his simple courage on the podium. And he declared, subsidy is gone, in a rush of adrenaline on his inauguration podium. He didn’t know and still doesn’t know the colour of the genie he has let out of the bottle. Irinically, many of his hired economists wrote for him his celebrated treatise against subsidy removal 12 years earlier when Jonathan contemplated it. But in fairness to him, he told the nation he would continue in Buhari’s steps – and he’s living up to that promise. He renewed Nigerians’ afflictions as APC renews her governance by propaganda – every resultant ill from her misconceived policies and (in)actions are from opposition elements. 

Typically, the Bretton Woods are nudging their newly-aquired marionette the more as we speak. And why wouldn’t he listen? Beside the leeches feeding fat on Nigeria’s flesh you may liken as the owners of the land, the West are the enablers of the electoral heist and the true friends Alhaji Tinubu  can count on for approval. 

In the ensuing frenzy and aftermath of thoughtless policies and actions including continuing in his predecessor’s borrowing for recurrent expenditures and especially mindless consumption – buying exotic automobiles, repainting/building/furnishing homes with borrowed billions of dollars for officials who aren’t homeless as well as a conniving central bank that prints warehouses of the national currency, the Naira, for distribution to emperors in the 36 states across the Nigerian space and Abuja.

Then, we must note that besides the insecurity across the land with farmers unable to access their farms due mainly to the menace of herders essentially looking for a homeland not just green fodders for their herds and with citizens unable to move freely due to marauding bandits, mostly imported Fulani kinsmen, as well as stealing oil oil – the economic mainstay of the country was bleeding profusely under the watch of state officials and institutions. In fact, the state was hapless and helpless and administration officials literally and figuratively had and still have privately dedicated oil exporting pipelines. They are milking a near-dead cow!

From all the above, it isn’t any prediction or prophecy to know that Nigeria has already raced past Caracas – so, in truth, the PDP weren’t saying anything discerning Nigerians didn’t already know. The poverty level has reached unprecedented heights, prices of food items keep soaring that only administration officials and those ‘blessed’ by the system who have become stupendously wealthy are exceptions to the cry and anguish in the land. If we are to compare apples with apples, Nigeria is arriving Port-au-Prince.

The Republic of Haiti is a Caribbean island 700 miles off the coast of Florida, United States of America. Her issues are centuries old with big brother America and assimilating colonialist Paris at the centre of her stymied destiny. But, let’s make a recent summary. Protests began in cities throughout Haiti in 2018 in response to increased fuel prices. Over time, these protests evolved into demands for the resignation of Jovenel Moïse. Everything spiralled and Moïse was assassinated, allegedly by a foreign mercenaries though some accounts say by local gangs. Ariel Henry assumed the office of acting prime minister and in 2022, further protests erupted in response to rising energy prices, and a federation of gangs created a blockade around Haiti’s largest fuel depot. Diseases as cholera broke out with widespread acute hunger, the ongoing crisis even led to a United Nations Security Council unanimous vote to impose sanctions on the country instead of rallying to help her. Does this ring a bell to some Nigerians believing Washington’s White House or Paris’ Elysee Palace or London’s 10 Downing Street – and the UN – would ever be a solution to their miseries inflicted by their so-called leaders who are marionettes and dare not disobey the West.

Now, we have made a cursory journey to Caracas and Port-au-Prince, how can Nigeria and Nigerians pull back by herself and themselves beyond leadership pontifications; beyond platitudes and precepts from officials feeding fat on the dysfunctions. 

Courage and singularity of purpose are required of both the people and the leaders (president) to stay on the mark of accountable good governance and waddle through the occultic prescriptions from the West respectively. You can only resist the beckoning and attacking occultic covens if you know your onions – and stay on the stronger power of truth.

Sounds kindergarten, but understanding the ramifications of any public policy – weighing the merits and demerits – before mouthing and accepting them and certainly before operationalising them is a desiderata. Without a think through, the best public policies anywhere in the world would fall flat. And here is why a president would need to sometimes argue with his local aides and foreign handlers – be it those in Paris or Washington or London. And, needfully argue out any policy with citizens aside local hangers-on and foreign institutional ‘friends’ – the Bretton Woods.

So far, nowhere in Nigeria is safe and the organised muggings and kidnappings and banditry and terrorism boil down to failure of the state to secure her citizens and/or complicity of the security organisations – or both. Either way, wholesome audits and robust rejigging of the existing security architecture are absolute necessities.

As we talk of rejigging the security architecture, let’s undertake a robust interrogation of the appealing idea of State  Police as a cure-all for our overwhelming insecurity malaise in the land today. It shouldn’t be lost on us that the current Nigeria Police is controlled by the President and the party in power at the centre and in the states and explains why it is used to hound real and imagined enemies and the opposition; shouldn’t it also occur to us that a State Police would be at the beck and call of the state governor – a possible publicly-funded personal militia of the governor, his allies and the ruling party. We must remember that in Africa especially Nigeria, we are cursed with strongmen in leadership positions rather than strong state institutions. Kogi’s Yahaya Bello reportedly used the Nigeria Police in his rages as governor, imagine what a Hope Uzodimma would do with such power of life and death.

Related to the above is ensuring the military, paramilitary and the police work in synergy to protect all rather than the current practice of assigning these personnel to protect only the very few in government and other private citizens who can afford the rent.

Cut down the cost of governance! In my village of Umueke in Umueshi Ancient Kingdom of Ideato nation, you do not borrow to impress or ride two or four wheels when you cannot maintain such lifestyle on your own; essentially, we borrow or pledge as our forebears, where there’s a lender, to invest mainly on business ventures, education and agriculture. 

Nigeria’s leadership should take deliberate steps to cancel out cronyism. No need reminding that a president budgeting N126 billion for a less priority sector at the moment as housing this week and by next week appointing his son-in-law to superintend the expenditure (and their are many of such) is inappropriate stealing. There are lots of ‘appropriate stealing’ already going on, y’know. It does seem those appointed to key positions are expected to make returns. This pattern is decidedly crude and one of the many examples of prebendary politics, leadership in our land. 

Does the Federal Government need to keep eight to 12 presidential air fleet where officials and their families make merry on air? Or does the president or governor need to junket around the world seeking for foreign investors when nothing is safe at home? Not every climate change conference or general assembly in Washington or Paris require presidential attendance with attendant huge overheads when there are underutilised diplomatic missions.

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Do we need an overly expensive, corrupt, malleable and totally useless two-tier National Assembly? If we must, can the lawmaking be non-remunerable – neither salary nor allowance – and certainly non-partisan in composition and deliberations. Laying bare the issues in Nigeria’s supposed nationhood, we may want to understand if Nigeria is practising two or more conflicting ideologies such as democracy and islamic theocracy (or sharia). Shouldn’t we revisit the 1999 Constitution that has no input from the Nigerian people?

Isn’t it about time we convened a conference of ethnic nationalities to chisel out terms of nationhood by the disparate nationalities and interests. Among the fears here may be the absence of functional and truly state institutions including military and police to serve as a fair and firm bulwark against violent outcome.

Security vote! Many things in Nigeria defy understanding. One of them is the practice of allocating sizeable percentage of budgets as security votes across the country’s 36 states and Abuja. In simple terms, this is an unaccountable personal pocket money to governors. This practice is even permeating MDAs. Why would a presldent or governor or minister or DG maintain a so-called security vote even if Nigeria is swimming in the ocean of good economic health? Repeated checks show the Nigerian Police, the military and all security agencies and apparatii are on the Exclusive List of the Constitution currently in operation and already funded from the central consolidated account. Are the governors funding militias? 

Perhaps, an attempt to make a suggestive point on how security vote contributes to spiralling currency devaluation would suffice. 

Every month, the head of a government (governor) receives between N500 million and N4 billion unaccounted funds from the treasury. Let’s err on the side of caution – let’s say a governor receives average of N2 billion every month translating to N24 billion every year and this totals N96 billion every tenure. As is customary – two tenures assure N192 billion for a governor. What this implies is that Nigeria’s 36 governors receive N6.912 trillion during their eight years. Calculate the stupendous spends on the remaining 16 years since the Fourth Republic began in 1999. The amounts are child’s play when you realise they still skim (that’s for the God-fearing ones) their respective state’s allocations from the federation account as the funds hit their states’ accounts. They also award contracts with assured percentages accruing to them – oftentimes upfront, and sometimes are the executors of these contracts through their family and phony companies and those of their friends and cronies. Administration officials also make their picks as well – no one around the corridors of power is left from the pillaging of the treasury, and remember that among the Nigerian thieving elite class no one chops alone and, therefore, they observe hallowed table manners of never squealing while on the dining table.

Let’s even stop attempting to name the leakages through which Nigerian officials enrich themselves at the detriment of the state and the citizens. Let’s reflect how these funds are laundered and funelled and how they make a living hell of the Nigerian space in many respects including dearth of foreign currencies and occasioning lost of value of the local currency and resultant devaluation.

Anyone unaware should know now that every month governors and officials get their aides to call in their trusted bureaux de change operators, change their billions and trillions of Naira to USD, GBP, Deutsche Marks and Francs. Others deal directly with GMDs and CEOs and top executives of banks – the Nigerian banking sector isn’t structured and monitored to grow the economy! The funds are stored in relatively stable currencies, and some funnelled to buying properties abroad and getting their families to live in stupendous opulence at home and in foreign lands. Why wouldn’t Naira bundles chase one dollar? And by the way, most Nigerian leaders and other wealthy men and women acquire citizenship of other nations for ease of movements and escape when there are threats in their local environments and/or when this Nigerian house eventually collapses as the signs currently show.

Rule of law or ignoble rule of men – the worst among us are ruling us. Add on inconsistency of policies, our judicial system (administration of justice) has become compromised. Cash-and-carry judicial system is thriving. When you know who is seeking justice you would most likely know whether he or she would get justice. As for election litigations, when you know how appointments of judicial officers are eroded by politicians you would know how any election petition would eventually pan out. In the 2023 presidential elections petition, the bench practically made the best arguement on behalf of the defendants – the APC and ‘Independent’ National Electoral Commission, INEC. 

Tax environment. Does anyone have any slightest idea of the myriad, oftentimes ridiculous taxes on businesses in Nigeria? Sometimes to get along, businesses would have to cultivate the powers that be and play ball – euphemism for shortchanging the system and/or shortcuts to get things done and moving. If you know how waivers are secured you would likely know how Nigeria Customs Service only concentrate on petty importers of 30-year-old cars applying known and unknown charges. As the individual with proclivity of going on overdrive to tax vulcanisers, a ‘track record’ at ‘improving’ IGR of his fiefdom is at the helm, be ready to pay more so there would be enough to fund the large appetites of members of the board and trustees of the Nigerian enterprise. 

Infrastructure – what infrastructure? Nigerian rulers deliberately perpetuate the charade of junketing around the globe pretending to be looking for investors. How would Mr. Smith of Aberdeen or Mr. Spriggs from New York agree to bring in and invest their hard-earned dollars and pounds sterling in an economy with acute and chronic infrastructure deficits where they exist at all. If they know as they are likely to know that Nigeria’s enormous wealth is stored abroad would you expect them to look in the direction of Nigeria? Any trickle of foreign investment other than mining with local collaborators with ‘access’, if at all, must be a repatriation of stolen treasury by a past or present ‘big men’ through frontmen.

Labour practices and payouts are ancient and peanuts respectively. Labour unions grandstand and their leaders mislead. Nigeria’s labour laws are anachronistic even as the labour market require alignment to achieve optimal productivity. And yes, while lowly-placed workforce are shortchanged, the noise from labour leadership is, oftentimes, a call for settlement. The public sector remuneration is a cry for help and certainly lends credence to time-honoured saying that whoever pays peanuts reaps monkeys. 

Any talk about unwholesome practices in MDAs would take volumes. Governments at all levels know what their personnel do and don’t do. It would be boring and incensing at the same time making a roll-call of the unwholesome practices of so-called leaders and their workforce expected to make life better for the greatest number of the citizens. Any one who believes the Nigerian system is wired for public officials to serve the public – that is, the citizens – should wake up. And waking up, hopefully they would join in the rescue mission rather than join the status quo bandwagon of brigandage. Yet many would rather endure and await their time to cut and eat from the pie. 

It is supposedly peacetime in Nigeria but avoidable deaths through death-traps as roads, inhospitable hospitals and death rather than health centres, terror and death from kidnappers, bandits and the terrorists themselves. And truth be told, Nigeria’s rulers are the worst kind of kidnapers, bandits and terrorists literally and figuratively. No Nigerian public official with access undergo medical check up in Nigeria.

Prior to the 2023 ‘elections’, Nigerians were warned that their fatherland is tottering and tethering at a precipitous edge. Did they listen? Many think most citizens listened and acted rightly, but the board and trustees of Nigeria would not have a change of mantle, a rent-seeking and prebendary system of leadership and public service. And the ignorant and bigoted clapped deliriously. Today, Nigeria is happening to all of us.

While my religious conviction tells me that to those leaning on the sustaining infinite, today is big with blessings, one must acknowledge that the infinite has given us the capacity to act aright and it’s self-deception, mere religious ecstasy expecting the infinite, the good God to do the work He has granted us the capacity to handle. Since we make God manlike instead of striving to be Godlike, prayers from Nigeria must have become great evil to the Great Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Omniscient, but, indeed, He is divine love oblivious of our sensual evil! We must never mind most of our church and political leaders (they are two sides of the same coin) who ask us to make endless sacrifices while they ride on our backs to live the good life – sadly, material opulence – like the ice which melts away at the prevalent heat thus confirming mortality of all flesh.

Nigeria is a land where the unscrupulous in any field prosper and the righteous suffer. There are no consequences for bad behaviours – from the cobbler to the president. Unfortunately, it is the leader and those (s)he appoints to superintend over institutions that ensure consequences for bad behaviours. No one gives what (s)he doesn’t have. The simplest understanding of political economy suggests everything rises and falls with leadership!

Whilst conscience and nonpartisanship are in very short supply among the ruling elite and conniving private sector captains of industry including the clergy at this moment in history, every disinherited Nigerian ought to have surfeit of those virtues now more than ever before. And every citizen must develop outspoken inveterate dislike for the chronic bad leadership and governance in Nigeria – and hold Nigeria’s managers accountable, from local government councillors to the president.

Many years ago, this writer posited that the torrential downpour of bad leadership and the ones to come would keep battering the rooftops of all, hailers and wailers alike. It was neither prescience nor prophecy because the handwriting on the wall was all too clear in so many years running.

The current hardship protests in parts of the country are self-inflicted and pointedly show the chickens have come home to roost. As erstwhile supporters of APC and the double Alhajis are realising, it is sadly too late for all, they betted on the wrong horses just as triumphalist patriots (you may call them anti-Tinubu folks) aren’t taking prisoners as they go down memory lane to see who’s talking – unfortunately and helpfully, the Internet never forgets even as erstwhile BATists and JAGABANdits are deleting their chat histories to avoid ignominous references and mockery. Not a few BATified elements are crawling out now in pretentious righteous and redemptive anger in clips as some are tongue-tied while secretly wishing to recant their noisy “On Your Mandate We Shall Stand” chants. It’s never too late to cast our nets on the right side of history – on the side of the continually traumatised and disinherited Nigerian citizens.

Perhaps belated, we could hearken to the lingo of our youth to – receive sense – jettison our enlightened selfish interests for enlightened citizenship obligations including holding all culpable and so-called leaders to account. Every Nigerian resident  in varying degrees are already perishing with hunger as lost hope and depression form lethal bonds even before citizens fall on the knives and bullets and landmines strewn everywhere by non-state actors (kidnappers, bandits and terrorists) as with their state-actor counterparts masquerading as leaders. 

Now, Nigerian patriots are asking, after grabbing and snatching and running with power, can APC’s Tinubu administration provide leadership, selfless and accountable leadership?

Nigerians have options. We could keep getting won over by the meaningless precepts and platitudes from the accursed leaders thus perpetuate our legendary Stockholm syndrome, explain away their failings and keep waiting on Godot. We could wallow in self-pity and fatalistic resignation to fate condemned like Sissyphus. Cargo cult mentality is another option – suffering and smiling anticipating the day the Supreme being would take pity and rescue Her/His helpless pawns with all earthly goodies owing to our surfeit of fervent prayers and vigils – our usual resort and safety valve against misrule. These are our choices!

We cannot safely build on faulty foundations. When the object of our enterprise is desirable expectation speeds our progress.

*Udeagwu, a global affairs commentator, writes from Abuja