One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward

One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward

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By ABBA MAHMOOD

There are recent reverses in the fight against insurgency, with many reported attacks on Nigerian troops by Boko Haram insurgents in the northeast. Soldiers are openly being reported in the media as saying their allowances are not getting to them. The fight against corruption is losing steam. Politically exposed persons who belong or crossed over to the right side of the political divide are walking free.

The gains in the power sector are now being reversed with power outage becoming rampant even during the rainy season. The “inconclusiveness” of the Osun governorship election last Saturday is a shame to this government and a disgrace to Nigeria. With an unpopular candidate presented by the ruling party and the non-payment of salaries by the outgoing governor, how does the ruling party think the people of Osun will be expected to vote for it? Osun will define the progress or otherwise of our democratic march to maturity and the earlier the process is seen as open, transparent, free and fair, the better for all. The Osun issue is being handled miserably so far.

Nothing exemplifies the policy somersault of this government better than the recent suspension of the attempt to re-establish a national carrier by this administration. Eugene Enahoro in his characteristic analytical style put the issue in its proper perspective this week in his article entitled “Nigeria Air fiasco:  Even the Idea couldn’t fly” which I share with you below:

Blaming their failures on past governments has become the stock response of the current administration, but there are some failures they simply can’t blame on others. Recently, so much hype was created over the rebirth of a national carrier to replace the defunct Nigerian Airways. The “powers that be” could have chosen to imitate successful operations in Egypt, Ethiopia or South Africa; instead they decided to do things the Nigerian way. It was a disaster waiting to happen, an absurdity which culminated in the “indefinite suspension” of the stillborn project. Given the nation’s unsolved pressing problems, the idea seemed poorly timed to say the least.

Despite the fact that the proposed ownership structure could never qualify the airline as a “national carrier”, an incredulous sum was spent financing the debacle. Industry experts warned against the move. They said it was an ill-considered approach and the airline wouldn’t get off the ground. They were right. While other nations were unveiling their new aircraft, Nigeria quite comically launched its new national carrier by “unveiling” a name, a logo, and drawings of an aeroplane! To add to the clowning around, senior government officials outlined the imaginary routes of a non-existent fleet! The logo was designed in Bahrain and the launching took place in faraway England.

This was an extraordinary waste of taxpayers’ money, and the implication that no Nigerian is capable of designing a simple airline logo is an unbridled insult. Assuming the motives were genuine in the first place, the whole saga reeks of mental inferiority and emotional immaturity. It’s further evidence that the issue of national planning must be taken far more seriously if there is ever to be an end to the continuing waste of the nation’s time and money. The loss occasioned by the Nigeria Air fiasco is estimated conservatively at N1.2 billion, and authorities appear reticent in disputing this by releasing the exact figure.

In the true Nigerian fashion there is little likelihood that the public will ever know the amount squandered.  The claim by opposition spokespersons that the whole affair was a hoax designed to free funds for the 2019 presidential election campaign seems a bit far-fetched. It’s far more likely that the fiasco was just another in a long line of white elephant projects routinely embarked upon by government.  It’s worthy of note that the only part of the farce which took place in Nigeria was the announcement of its indefinite suspension! The minister of aviation’s explanation that the “difficult decision” was taken in order to “strategize” begs the question; was there no clear strategy in the first place?

What is abundantly clear is that subsequent to the Nigeria Air “launch”, and up until the suspension date, nothing concrete had been done. There was no website, no offices, no recruitment centres and no form of ground activity for an operation which was supposed to commence within months. Waving the whole affair away so easily substantiates the allegation that those holding high office continue to feel that they can do exactly as they please because nothing will happen.

 This latest mess must not be swept under the carpet in the usual manner. If no one is held accountable, then government officials will draw lessons and in future continue to freely squander the nation’s scarce resources without fear of sanction. Experts have long since advised that the only way to put a stop to Nigeria’s never-ending financial scandals is to support an effective anti-corruption war with efficient planning and control systems. There’s a mistaken belief that the main hindrances to national progress in Nigeria are unchecked corruption, nepotism, tribalism, lack of integrity and abuse of power.

 In reality these aren’t the problem, they are merely undesirable traits in leadership. The real hindrance to national progress is unending incompetence and maladministration caused by poor planning and ineffective control systems. The increasing expressions of dejection and despair in the land simply reflect a growing general disappointment. Nigerians were convinced that poor governance was going to end with a new political party in power. They were promised both in writing and orally that change had finally come and the nation would work to a plan. They truly believed it and wholeheartedly bought into the change mantra.

Disappointingly most indices now point to the fact that after the alluring promises and excellent marketing, the product isn’t living up to expectation. Irrespective of political party Nigerian political appointees consistently fail to appreciate that leadership is far more than simply holding high office. True leadership is all about intelligent decision making. Not even the most eloquent and supportive of government spokespersons can make sense of the Nigeria Air saga. Quite simply put it was either a hoax, or an ill-considered pipe dream. Even the idea couldn’t fly let alone aircraft!

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