Lt-Gen. Danjuma, purges, probes and economy (2)
Continued from yesterday
IF Governors could not pay salaries, then they forfeit the right to be addressed as such: but the President not only allowed them to take money which they had been so profligate in spending hitherto, but to bask in the glory that having no savings is in itself an admirable feat because they could lay their hands on money from the so called Excess Crude Account and profits from LNG Operations.
President Buhari should have tongued-whipped the irresponsible Governors and send them back to look for money to meet their obligations. The debts were owed despite massive borrowing from banks, large scale sale of Government property, wasteful purchase of jets and other rich men’s toys, etc. Yet the Government could not pay salaries.
Does Nigeria now have within its leadership core – an irreconcilable political world view: 1. a President who wants to abolish corruption and 2.a political class in the National Assembly and Local Governments and political parties who sought power only for the purpose of personal aggrandizement? President Buhari should hold a retreat to resolve these themes before venturing a step forward. Excess crude account is a chimera, a mere political construct to ensure continued dependence on oil producing areas for the maintenance of all of Nigeria. Oil amounts to 10.2% of the GDP.
Yet accounts for over 80% of the revenue that goes to sustain all the states and Local Governments. Did we have excess cocoa account, excess palm produce account, excess groundnut account, hide and skin account – why oil? A state that cannot sustain itself from its own resources does not have the right to be a state: inviability cannot be a prerequisite of a state: in future, Nigeria’s states should be able to balance their budgets; Keynesian monetary policies of deficit financing are not open to states within a country. Nor is selling Government property, and other national assets, and an alternative to good money husbandry in the states.
Those countries in the West where privatization have succeeded, at least have accumulated assets worth selling. During the accumulation of these assets, a number of social needs were met – laying down infrastructure, including education, national health scheme, etc.
Today, Nigeria with no assets worth talking about wants to introduce national health schemes based on private insurance. Is this possible? We have had since 2008 Quantitative Easing; in other words, Government printing electronic money to buy its own bonds, keeping wages low, unemployment low. I see that we have no post offices, having allowed our postal services to die, yet the buildings and valuable post office sites and assets have been privatised: giving way to gleaming high rise office buildings.
This mentality – that Government assets are available for plunder has led various ministers to use their ministries and parastatals under them as launching pads for a rapacious attack on Government Property and the suborning of Government assets for private use. What happens when all these assets have been taken up by the politicians and their elite political partners in crime?
The magnitude of Buhari’s fight against corruption cannot be over emphasised; if the President means to do this he must be aware of certain facts. Nigerians are easily satiated or satisfied soon enough as he found out in 1983 when he rolled out War Against Indiscipline (WAI) and jailed nearly all the politicians, some for 200 years or more. The result was a coup against him; which freed all the politicians, including the truly guilty ones.
The President must collate all the probes hitherto and see what happened to these inquiries and reports. He must speak to the paramount secretaries now doing ministerial work to be careful and remain straight. He must popularize the campaign against corruption by speaking to religious and youth leaders, campaign in social media, amongst the trades union and market women, traders and business men, spelling out what corruption does to the society; he must let the people own the campaign. He must realise that APC and PDP are cut from the same corrupt cloth; and must be scrupulously fair – no favouritism.
The President must realise that there are other problems in Nigeria apart from corruption: how to revive the economy, how to cut the cost of Government and yet lay foundation for rapid development. How can Nigeria revive on oil price that is U.S. 40 per day?
Many politicians and Government officials see the campaign against corruption in personal terms – especially those who just won the election. Why all the clamour against corruption when it is now their turn to make good out of a Government position? The fight against corruption cannot be isolated to one or two regimes. If you start, then all must be probed. I do not see a corresponding zeal to stop corruption among the state governments – both APC and PDP, and definitely not among local governments; chairmen and councillors. The reforms must reach all tiers of government.
Nigeria would know no peace, certainly no justice if the issue of oil in the South South and the disposal of these assets be so manifestly unfairly distributed. It is vital for the President, as he had ordered his military headquarters to move to the North East, so he and his Ministers must move to South South for some time to truly appreciate the problems of the oil producing communities – the environmental degradation, the poverty, the lack of development of the area whose oil sustains the nation.
The ignorance of the political class and those who decide the nation’s fate about the Niger Delta is truly appalling. The easy answer which outsiders through out the Niger Delta – how well have you managed what we gave you – merely upsets the people to the point of incandescent anger, and to the trenches.
• Dr. (Ambassador) Cole (OFR), a Consultant to The Guardian Editorial Board, wrote from Lagos.