By ANIEBO NWAMU —
A reliable source has told me what he believes is the reason the National Assembly has yet to pass the 2018 budget. Our lawmakers, he said, have been expecting chunks of money they would use to fight the next election but have been disappointed by a “frugal” presidency.
I don’t believe my friend’s tale because no federal lawmaker should run out of cash. Perhaps they have not been as buoyant as they had been before 2015, but anyone who carries home at least N10million every month (for shouting “aye” and “nay” about twice a month) is privileged in this distressed nation. The minimum wage is still N18, 000 per month – and that’s for the few who work in the federal civil service. A majority of Nigerians can’t eke out an existence and therefore struggle to eat even once a day in order to remain alive. And many have failed to remain alive.
As some lawmakers have assured, the budget will finally be passed this week. Money is expected to start flowing once again. Cash squeeze, I’ve also learned, is the reason the opposition parties have yet to make any headway in their plans. Nine months to the poll, everywhere seems quiet – no sign of politicking.
But the ruling party that some of us were fooled into supporting in 2014 may soon open the floodgates of cash for its members. It has levied its 24 governors N6billion [N250m each] for its national convention now shifted to June, exactly four years after it held the last one. The “progressives” have chosen to look the other way – and the anti-graft czars are in deep slumber – as the governors are encouraged to pinch their state’s treasury.
I’ve yet to obtain a permanent voter card (PVC) because I’ve yet to see a reason to vote in Nigerian elections anymore. And there’s no shortage of Nigerians who reason like me. Those who preach about the benefits of getting a voter card or issue threats do so not for people like me. I’ve got a right to vote or not vote. Until I see change [restructuring] in the way elections are conducted, I won’t seek a PVC.
I refuse to vote for a few reasons: 1. My vote will not matter – kids aged 6 and 7 have been registered in their millions in parts of the country. Palm-kernel and oyster shells have been “captured” as human beings by card readers, as have fishes, trees, cows and foreigners. 2. The APC whose slogan was “Change” has betrayed us by ignoring even its own constitution. What has happened to the el-Rufai-led panel constituted to define “restructuring” for the APC? 3. The monumental failure of the APC government at the federal level and in states like Imo and Kogi. We thought we had seen the worst and the most clueless administration until this ramshackle government came. Petrol “subsidy” has risen along with petrol price; the economy has been going downhill with economists appearing helpless. 4. Widespread insecurity in the land – tens of thousands who voted in 2015 have been murdered for no reason, and all we hear is “accommodate your countrymen” or “the gunmen came from Libya”. It took no less a personality than TY Danjuma to warn us of the collusion between supposed security agents and terrorists. 5. The first piece of advice I gave the APC government (in my column) was that it should quickly restructure the country, but it went ahead to maintain the status quo and even introduce acts of nepotism on a scale never seen before. For instance, it unleashed “Crocodile Dance” on unarmed young men; it called IPOB a terrorist organisation but considered an amnesty programme for Boko Haram that has killed over 30, 000 and made 3million homeless.
Those are enough reasons for anyone to lose faith in his country. I believe the Nigerian state has since failed, and what has been creating a semblance of governance or unity is the oil wealth found in the south-eastern part of the country. For those who still live in denial, here is a definition of a failed state: where government can’t provide power, education and jobs; and where government can’t eradicate poverty. Flawed as it is, the Nigerian constitution itself recognises that government exists to maintain law and order as well as protect life and property.
Nonetheless, it will be interesting to hear what Buhari and his party will campaign on. Rather than create 3million jobs per year as they promised, they have destroyed more than 10million jobs each year for the past three years. Insecurity has worsened. Corruption still walks on four legs, though with its face partly covered. I can’t mention any project this administration has started and completed, not even a culvert.
If the PDP doesn’t merge with other parties under a new name, and present a true revolutionary as presidential candidate, INEC may return APC to power in 2019. I say “INEC” because voting is merely to fulfil all righteousness! But it will be very dangerous for corrupt INEC chieftains either to go “against the run of play” [thanks, Segun Adeniyi] or endorse a rejected candidate at this time. I don’t yet consider Atiku Abubakar as one such revolutionary. He has been preaching restructuring, but what’s the guarantee that he won’t renege on his promise after getting to power? Didn’t Buhari promise much more?
I used to describe my generation as angry, but our children seem to have become angrier. Millennials will be voting for the first time. I see and read their posts every day on the social media. Their anger is hot! And their number is incredible.
So I’ll not vote unless I see the government of the day making efforts to restructure Nigeria. No restructuring, no voting – I chose this title with care. I’m referring to myself alone. Any other person who wants to toe the same line is welcome. If I said “no restructuring, no election”, some overzealous goons in the secret service might insinuate I was encouraging an insurrection – they carefully outlawed every campaign against “election” in the Electoral Act but they’ve never enforced the part prescribing spending limits for political candidates.
The restructuring we seek is one that could improve our people’s wellbeing. Terrorism must be stamped out of the country by any means necessary. If corruption must be fought, there must be no sacred cows. An oil-rich nation must not be importing by-products of oil. All but three states are insolvent – let’s go back to regionalism. A senator shouldn’t be pocketing N15m monthly for doing nothing in a ruined economy – let’s abolish bicameral legislature and maintain a part-time unicameral legislature, so a lawmaker would earn sitting allowances only. Let’s know the naira’s exchange rate – some people are paying N300 for a dollar while many are paying N375. Reform our education system – an education should lead to jobs and instil good character, not just a matter of issuing worthless certificates. And anybody who finds himself or herself in government but doesn’t know what to do should jump or be pushed.
I did promise I would no longer be lamenting over the state of Nigeria in this space. I apologise today. It seems the country is too far gone, and we have a responsibility to explain things to the younger ones once in a while.
*Nwamu is the CEO of Eyeway.ng
+234-8054100220 (SMS/WhatsApp only)