Many Nigerians are stuck with zero experience of what it means to live in a decently run society. Laden with a long history of mostly inept, insensitive and less-than patriotic leaders, it seems abnormal to expect any bit of improvement in their daily existence from any government. Massive infrastructural decay due to criminal neglect and regular reports of primitive accumulations of illicit wealth by wayward and light-fingered public officers have since lost their capacities to shock Nigerian masses.
In fact, most people have since adjusted their lives to perennially absorb the vicious impacts of these debilitating vices. They only extract some bit of cold comfort from continually reassuring themselves that they are in such a hopeless and helpless situation where these excruciating fallouts of leadership failure will remain the resilient, inseparable companions they are condemned to perpetually coexist with – which will always be there to severely hurt their country and diminish their joy, peace and fulfillment.
Those who lack personal resources to obtain some form of alleviation for themselves and their families resign themselves to fate hoping that they would be able to sustain the capacity to continue enduring these searing rewards of successive rudderless leaderships – which will remain their perpetual sources of torments.
Even the Nigerians who reside in well-ordered societies, where leaders are accountable and basic amenities are meticulously provided and maintained, once they touch down on Nigerian soil automatically adjust their minds to endure the excruciating realities of life in Nigeria. They only derive some consolation from the fact that they would soon jet out again to where sanity and orderly existence are taken for granted.
And so, when it is election season and this set of disenchanted and disoriented Nigerians are ready to vote, they do not even bother to interrogate the character, antecedents, hollow promises and other antics of the candidates having concluded that they are all the same – members of the same cult of corruption and ineptitude; rather they would seek to extract some ephemeral emotional satiation from lending their support to a candidate who shares the same ethnic or religious identity with them. At least, they can always derive some comfort (or even animation) from the fact that their “brother” or “sister” had also joined the rampaging band of locusts, and that their votes had helped to achieve that “feat” for their own people!
Some others will eagerly accept contaminated crumbs from the tables of these same callous, thieving politicians who have cruelly impoverished them and mortgaged the future of their children and go all out to promote and mobilize voters and even fight for them to ensure they capture elective offices to continue their boundless looting of the public treasury.
Unfortunately, in Nigeria of today, the bad, shattering news is that there is hardly any green vegetation left anywhere again for the locusts to swoop on and devour! What we have all over the place are long stretches of excruciating aridity which only rewards with poverty and hardship all that are unlucky to have Nigeria as their home at this time, except the treasury looters and their accomplices.
A few months before the expiration of the Muhammadu Buhari regime, the London-based Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU), the research and analysis division of the Economist Group, told the world what most people already knew, namely, that Nigeria’s “debt service payments in the first four months of 2022 totalled N1.9trn, which was greater than its total revenue of N1.6trn, according to the 2023‑2025 Medium-Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP) draft presented by the Finance, Budget and National Planning Minister, Zainab Ahmed, on July 21st.”
In plain language, what we were told was that the amount being spent to service the huge debts accumulated by the Buhari regime, as a result of reckless borrowings, including the USD1.96 billion foreign loan for the construction of an undesirable rail line from Nigeria to Niger Republic, had far exceeded our country’s income, forcing Nigeria into the perilous state of compounding its debt burden by borrowing more money to service debts!
Also, the Excess Crude Account (ECA), Nigeria’s savings for the rainy day, which stood at $2.1 billion when Buhari became president, instead of increasing, had by June 2022 been brutally reduced to $35.7 million. By July of the same year, it plunged further down to $376,655. It would be a huge surprise to hear that as much as one cent remained by the time the Buhari regime exited power on May 29, 2023.
And so clearly at sea as to how to get Nigeria out of the sticky pit it was willfully dragged into on his watch, Buhari sought to derive revolting animation from playing the profligate big brother out there, dolling out USD$1 million to Afghanistan and approving N1.14 billion for the purchase of posh SUVs for Niger Republic to “strengthen their security operations” while the country he pretended to be ruling was scarily submerged in worsening insecurity. No wonder he threatened the other day to escape to Niger Republic if anyone disturbed him in his palatial country home in Daura, Katsina State.
For about eight months last year, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) was on strike due to very poor working conditions, and hapless parents were forced to watch the unsightly and devastating spectacle of their children’s future being toyed with by insensitive politicians whose own children were mostly studying in quality schools and colleges in better managed countries of the world.
When will Nigerians realize that each time they are deluded by politicians into allowing primordial sentiments to dictate their choices during elections, that they are only empowering their sworn enemies to continue their perpetual impoverishment and continuous devaluation of their lives and those of even their unborn offspring? Shortly after the elections, the politicians they had naively adopted as their “native idols” will hurriedly converge with their “bitter opponents” of a few days ago to plan how to share the nation’s resources, thumbing their delicate noses at their so-called supporters who had foolishly cultivated lasting enmities with neighbours and friends with whom they had enjoyed many years of cordial, beneficial relationships while campaigning and even fighting to rig in their “brother” or “sister” whom they have never met and might never meet?
Until Nigerians decide that only competent and patriotic managers should be allowed to take over the leadership of Nigeria at the national, state and council levels and steer the country away from its determined path of disaster, Nigeria, already miserably broke and prostrate, will fail beyond what anyone had thought was possible in a country ruled by human beings.
By the way, how do candidates even emerge in Nigeria? Are they chosen on merit? Does anyone among their party delegates bother about their capacity and character? At the national conventions of the two faces Nigeria’s terminal affliction, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the delegates that voted to choose their presidential candidates for the 2023 elections were reportedly bought soul and body with crispy wads of US dollars – an unwholesome indulgence that unleashed further hurt on the economy. This was apart from the hundreds of millions of naira earlier squandered to purchase nomination forms and sort out other logistics.
Now, after investing all these millions of dollars and billions of naira to secure their parties’ tickets alone and then more billions to prosecute the campaigns and buy votes from willfully impoverished Nigerians who are ready and eager to sell their future to assuage their hunger, what would be the first mission of such candidates once any of them captures power? But will Nigerians learn anything from this gloomy reality and apply themselves to wisdom in future elections for their own good?
If Nigerians continue to allow themselves to be deluded every now and again by ethically bankrupt politicians to discard character and competence and vote on the basis of ethnicity or religion or both, they will all be here to continue suffering the consequences of their tragic decisions.
A new government is in town now and the cost of living has gone to the skies as poor Nigerians are asked to make sacrifices while those in power swim in obscene opulence. Since many adult Nigerians were born, every new government has asked them to tighten their belts in order to enjoy a rosy tomorrow; but can anyone point to at least one single benefit that such punitive measures inflicted on the hapless people ever brought? What we usually see is that after sometime, things would get worse and more sacrifices would be demanded. This will continue until the particular regime quits power and the new one will come in with a reworded version of the same deceptive language: suffer today and enjoy tomorrow! A pie in the sky meant to tantalize and delude the unwary and tragically naïve people who have stubbornly refused to learn from their past mistakes!
Each time Nigerians go to the polls with the wrong reasons and vote or rig in mostly corrupt and incompetent candidates, all they have done is to help the perpetuation of the unimaginable suffering they are currently writhing under. Yet, despite this self-hurting preference, many of them still wallow in the grand illusion that a patriotic and competent administration will emerge to lighten their burdens and mitigate their sufferings. But is it not foolish to continue to plant mango trees every season and expect them to produce apples? How can a people persist in the fatal indulgence of stubbornly eating and drinking poison and yet expecting to live and flourish?
Indeed, the excruciating pains of corruption and incompetence in leaders at all levels have no tribal marks. They do not unleash their torments with any discrimination. They viciously attack everyone irrespective of his or her place of origin, voting preference or even the tribal marks of the new misruler they have helped to enthrone.
Nigerians from Katsina, Buhari’s home state, or even the entire North that persistently gave him the loudly trumpeted twelve-million votes, can attest to this. Their region received the lion share of the boundless insecurity and excruciating poverty that distinguished Buhari’s eight-year nightmare.
*Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye, a journalist and writer.