Nigeria – a snake without head
Most of the time, one cannot but wonder if something is uniquely wrong with Nigeria’s destiny, considering that any forward step she takes is immediately followed by a thousand ones backward. We are one of the few countries whose leaders unashamedly and openly display their complete lack of trust in their system and in the country that they purport to lead; we are one of the few countries in the world whose healthcare infrastructure is fitting only for their unlucky, impoverished and forgotten citizens, and not their ruling class.
When would folks ruling us realise that the healthcare systems they admire and run to each time they are ill are made possible by fellow humans in positions of public trust, just like them? When would our clueless and hypocritical ruling class realise that Nigeria is blessed with top talents capable of replicating same medical feats available in these foreign lands that they constantly run to? When would the ruling class come to its senses, think right and do right? Are these folks so clueless as to not know that some of the top talents in these foreign lands – doctors, PhD-level scientists and engineers – are Nigerian-born and Nigerian-educated? As such, the problem is not the ruled, but the rulers.
The doctors in these foreign hospitals do not have higher IQs than most of the doctors in Nigeria; the doctors in the U.K for example, are able to provide better care and cure more diseases simply because they have access to more advanced medical facilities at their hospitals. Period.
We are probably the only country on earth, whose number one public figure could just leave the citizens guessing and wondering, even in the midst of what I consider the worst economic recession of the country’s life time. Our currency has plummeted by more than 150 percent in the last sixteen months with no halt in sight and with no coherent explanations from people in-charge.
Nigeria, right now, could be compared to a snake with no head. Everything, especially, the economy and the Naira, is in a very sorry state. What is wrong and where are the vice-president and the Finance Minister? Please, could someone tell us what is happening? What is happening to the Naira? The Nigerian people are in awe as they watch the naira disappear so quickly right in their presence. It’s simply incredible that a country whose citizens are among the brightest in the world, a country that has its citizens in some of the world’s most prominent financial and technology hubs – is just unable to figure out how to, at the minimum, put a halt to its bleeding economy and currency. Please, can someone swallow his/her pride and seek the right help in halting this national predicament of an economy and currency tumble?
While I would’ve loved to spend no time on this piece on our national bane – corruption in our public service – because it’s now almost a cliché, it’s difficult for anyone with the least ounce of conscience to ignore the unimaginable revelations out of Southern Kaduna. I am referring to the recent report of the conversion of a shack in a Kaduna slum into a personal foreign currency reserve by one Andrew Yakubu – a former NNPC chief executive. Such a revelation would have been shocking and incredible if it were not true. Aside a grotesque abuse of his exulted position(s) in NNPC, I’m highly curious to hear how a public servant like Mr. Yakubu could have saved all these millions of dollars from his salaries and allowances. He will surely be a top contender for the 2017 Nobel Prize in economics if he is able to pull off a convincing explanation.
Honestly, such extraordinary kleptomania and primitive accumulation of wealth are only possible in our country – where fat-cheeked and pot-bellied folks in well-furnished and air-conditioned public buildings rob the country with impunity using their public pens and privileged positions as their only weapons. One would expect that the suffering and jobless Nigerian youth, whose future is continuously mortgaged by acts like these, would be very outraged by this and would be demanding for justice and an end to this type of national robbery.
Yakubu and his ilk are the simple reason NNPC has yet to live up to expectation and why it can pass as the most corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy in the world. Over the years, NNPC has remained a well-oiled corruption conduit that has been so successfully exploited by successive regimes.
I’m hoping that maybe, just maybe, Mr. Yakubu and his ilk can pause for a second from their expensive wine sipping in their tastefully furnished and expensive mansions and think about the incalculable damage that their unconscionable acts have unleashed on their country and on their fellow citizens – millions of ready-to-work, but jobless youth roaming the streets, fathers and mothers watching their children go to bed hungry each night, mothers watching their children die in their laps due to poverty and non-existent healthcare, darkness across the land at nights and artisans out of work due to no electric power supply, children out of school due to poverty, no access to portable water, dilapidated school buildings and sub-standard education, run-away inflation and tumbling Naira. The list of damages is endless.
The opportunity cost of corruption in our public service is humongous; as such, it will be quite difficult for any country to survive with such unfathomable level of stealing and breach of public trust.
Today, people freely and proudly enjoy their loot in public glare with no shame and consequence whatsoever. As is well-known, impunity is the biggest driver of lawlessness. The difference between Nigeria and any other serious nation is that in Nigeria, laws are obeyed strictly out of fear of God, in contrast with serious nations, where laws are obeyed out of fear of the consequences of breaking the law. Nigeria needs the latter to survive.
At some point, we have to begin to get serious about fighting corruption in our country. And this begins with setting up systems that stop corruption in its tracks as well as ensuring that treasury looters are held accountable and maximally punished.
Dr. Ukah lives in the United States.