Politicians Of Fortune In Nigeria

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By Emmanuel Onwubiko –

Reading through a large volume of political history of Nigeria, a persistent theme present is the disturbing dimension that political corruption has stunted the progress and advancements of Nigeria since over half a century.

Nigeria is a laughing stock in the international community because whereas the Country is enormously endowed with natural resources but also endowed with thieving leadership, the mass of the people are deprived, absolutely poor and hungry.

The irony of starving in the midst of plenty is like someone who is swimming in the pool of water and yet the soap hurts the eyes of such a swimmer.

It is for the colossal mismanagement of resources of the country by political office holders in all administrations that some writers concluded that indeed the massive natural resources that Nigeria are endowed with have become a collective resource curse.

Take for example the case of crude oil resources in which Nigeria is heavily endowed with and for which tons of cash in foreign denominations ought to have accrued from the exportation and marketing internationally of these resources but sadly, very little revenues have actually ended up in the public till whilst a bulk of the cash are stolen. By some estimates from the United Nations office on Drugs and Crimes over $400 billion USD have disappeared into private pockets of politicians over the past four decades.

A cursory analysis of the consequences of the heist of public fund by officials will reveal that the entire society is grossly underdeveloped and the situation of basic infrastructures have become gravely dysfunctional.

In the crude oil rich communities, the environments are devastated by the unorthodox fashions of exploration of these resources and the communities are grossly underdeveloped. The 13 % allocations that the distorted 1999 Constitution concedes to crude oil rich states are substantially pocketed by the state governors.

Let us even begin by taking a look at just the road infrastructure in the South East and the reality that steers us in the face is that of criminal neglect going by the collapsed state of the Federal and state roads.

The other day the zonal office of the anti-graft panel known as Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in the South East briefed the media in Enugu and disclosed that it was beginning the investigation of the massive scale of theft of public fund meant for the road infrastructures in the South East.

By the public admission of this agency of law enforcement, the South East of Nigeria has the worst road infrastructures in the whole of Nigeria.

Infrastructure deficit has always been a major stumbling block to the economic development of the South East of Nigeria which suffered bombardments during a 30-months civil war but wasn’t rebuilt.

Besides this politics of fortune in Nigeria is another underlying fact that although Nigeria is one of the few nations in sub-Saharan Africa with the freedom of information Act, the presidency has consistently undermined the enforcement of the provisions of this act.

The freedom of information Act is a legal tool meant to liberalize the methods of obtaining information from public offices so as to safeguard the principles of transparency and accountability but since its enactment by the National Assembly, government offices are still administered in strict secrecy even as monumental heists of public fund has increased.

The sad thing about the deliberate refusal of politicians in government to operate open government is that even the National and State Assemblies that should serve as the mechanisms for checking the excesses of the executive arm of government is also deeply entrenched and drenched by corruption.

Not too long ago, indeed only yesterday, a former president who had ruled Nigeria as both Military and civilian head of state for over a decade was quoted in the media as characterizing members of the National Assembly as “a bunch of unarmed robbers”.

The statement by the former president Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was countered by the spokespersons of the two chambers of the national assembly who accused him of being corrupt. Obasanjo was accused of bribing the National legislators so they can change the constitutional provisions on term limits to give him a third term but the National Assembly members reportedly collected larger bribes from forces opposed to the sinister agenda.

The political trajectories of Nigeria reveals that most heads of state or presidents have skeletons in their cupboard going by the fact that most of them assume offices as wretched Nigerians but retire into stupendous wealth.

With the possible exception of General Yakubu Gowon and President Shehu Shagari who still live practically on their generous state pensions, all other former military rulers and retired civilian presidents are living lives of amazing luxuries off the funds of the public.

On the last count, virtually all the past governors are accused of diverting huge sums or the other belonging to their people.

Nigerians must wake up from slumber and play their part to truly bring about a change of political fortune for the citizens by rejecting the politicians of fortune.

 Onwubiko is Head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA). Excerpts culled from THEWILL