Enyeribe Ejiogu, Bimbola Oyesola Omoniyi Salaudeen, Bimbo Oyesola, James Ojo Adekola (Lagos) and Raphael Ede (Enugu)
Eminent personalities, varsity teachers, labour leaders and other Nigerians have spoken out in condemnation of the war of words between some sections of the northern political elite and their southern counterparts over which part of the country should produce the president in 2023.
Moreover, they strongly criticised returning and newly elected members of the National Assembly, who have been embroiled in open and hidden maneuvers for positions as principal officers and committee chairmen in the 9th Assembly, instead of engaging in robust discourse on how they would tackle the problems confronting Nigerians in security, education, health, unemployment and improvement of the economy through relevant legislative instruments.
Falling back on an analogy, the Archbishop of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Most Reverend, Emmanuel Chukwuma, lambasted the political class for their uncaring attitude towards the well-being of Nigerians, stressing that the socio-economic condition would soon make ordinary Nigerians behave like the once docile goat that suddenly became emboldened to fight back, when left with no escape route.
“If you chase a goat to the point of no exit it will fight you,” said the outspoken ecclesiastical leader, who has never balked at speaking the truth to power. He warned that the political class should have a rethink and put the welfare of Nigerians first. Chukwu said that the level of poverty and frustration in the country could lead to popular revolt against the political class.
“There is already hunger and Nigerians are deprived of basic necessities of life and with N30,000 minimum wage which amounts to N1,000 per day. How would people pay house rent, school fees, medical fees and pay for other utilities, let alone feeding themselves and their family?” he queried. He stressed that it was insulting to the sensibilities of Nigerians to see that politicians are only concerned about who will occupy which position in the Senate and the House of Representatives and not bothered about how to tackle the myriad of problems confronting the populace.
He, however, charged Nigerians to start resisting the payment of estimated billings, which the electricity distribution companies (DISCOs) impose on them, saying that it is not done anywhere in the world.
Retired and respected army general, General Ishola Williams, while denouncing the seeming contest over which geopolitical zone should produce the president of the country in 2023 as ‘crazy’, dismissed the political class as crooks and equally blamed the people for condoning the selfishness shown by the leadership class.
His words: “To me, the scheming for 2023 is crazy. And it is not the fault of the leadership as such, but the followership. If we choose the wrong people amongst us, we suffer for it. The problem we have in Nigeria is not the problem of leadership it is that of followership. Somebody said our mumu don do, but it doesn’t look like our mumu don do at all. We are still mumus; the majority of us are mumu people. The people we have in politics are crooks. During elections, they throw money around and people say they are generous not knowing that it is the money that belongs to all of us that they are throwing around. So, this idea of scheming for 2023 is crazy. But a people deserve the kind of government they get.”
Senator Femi Okorounmu, a leading chieftain of the Yoruba apex social-political organization, Afenifere, who once represented the Ogun Central constituency of Ogun State at the Senate expressed dismay that politics has become an industry and vocation, and no longer service to the people.
He senator who also played a major role at the 2014 Confab and gave ardent support, in 2010, to the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan as the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) said:
“Most people in politics today see politics as an industry. It is now a business for thugs and criminals. They see politics as quick way of making money. So, a lot of people going into politics are going there simply to make money and amass as much of public wealth as they can into their private pockets. And that is why Nigeria is going from bad to worse. All our industries are collapsing, our infrastructure are collapsing, power generation is collapsing – it has collapsed to 2,000 mega watts as we are talking now. School leavers cannot get jobs. Foreign investors are packing up and leaving Nigeria. Security problem is getting worse by the day. Killing and kidnaping have also become a big industry in Nigeria. The Kaduna-Abuja road is now a no-go-area because of the kidnaping going on there.
In spite of all these, people are struggling to have power for self-enrichment.
“We must get on our feet and march to the National Assembly and let those governing us know that what they are doing is wrong.”
Speaking in the vein, Ayo Adebanjo, said: “When the head is rotten, the whole body is rotten. There is no leadership; the man in charge of the country has not been able to protect lives and property. Law and order have broken down in the country. It is an understatement today that there is no government in the country. So, the scheming for 2023 is a consequence of disorderliness in the country. The man at the helm of affairs has shown incompetence and lack of ability to solve the problem. The security situation is getting worse by the day. When he was campaigning in 2015, he said he would deal with Boko Haram in less than six months if elected. Now, even the people in his own state can’t sleep with their eyes closed. The man has failed because you cannot give what you don’t have. The people deserve the kind of government they get.”
From the Department of Banking and Finance, Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Imo State, Prof Linus Akujuobi, expressed dismay over the fixation of the political actors on issues not particularly relevant to the citizenry at this time.
His words: “As a matter of fact that is where I feel really sad, when you take into consideration that 2023 is four years away, and as human beings, who knows who will survive until that time. It is nauseating and annoying for these politicians to be playing God at this time and planning on what political positions they will occupy in the next four years, instead of concentrating on the most important thing today, and the reason we elected them, which is to make sure that the welfare of the people is accorded priority.
“Come to think of it, what will save your government is actually the welfare of the people. You should work hard for the common good of the people, not necessarily what you will do for personal benefit.”
A Senior Lecturer at the Department of Mass Communication, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, Dr Luke Anorue, argued that what is responsible for the present situation of things in the country is the fact that the country has lost its value system.
“We used to talk about African philosophy and then we come down to individual nation, but now we can no longer even talk about philosophy. Philosophy is all about wisdom, what are we thinking about as a nation? When you have lost your value system, the core of that value system is that you are existing and you want your fellow human beings to exist. But we have a situation where there are reports on daily basis that between Abuja and Kaduna, there are cases of kidnapping and killings. If it happens in the Northwest and North-central, they call it banditry; if it happens in the Northeast, they call it terrorism and insurgency and nobody is saying anything, nobody is doing anything. Our security agencies appear not to have what it takes to find out what exactly is happening and what it takes to stop it. Everyday we are hearing government and security agency spokesmen saying, ‘we are on top of the situation; but things are getting worse. We have lost our value system, because if we have not, human lives are supposed to be number one thing in terms of our priorities,” he said.
Also Obeta Osita, a teacher, said: “It is unfortunate that this is what we see of our so-called leaders. It only goes to show that they are not there to serve the people rather they are there to serve their personal interest which cannot be far from grabbing power and money. The year 2023 is four years away, but the fact that the tussle for it has already started tells you more. The fight for it cannot be to serve Nigerians. Nigerians need better leaders, not what we have now.”
Joseph Chinagorom, a 400-Level student of one of the universities took the political class to the cleaners, describing them as selfish and dishonest.
“Well, it is tragic that the Nigerian political system is replete with selfish and dishonest politicians who place themselves and their interests above national affairs. I think Nigerian political leaders do not show concern and genuine interest to solve the problems facing the citizenry. Leadership is an opportunity to serve humanity, but in Nigeria, they think it is an opportunity to amass wealth.
“It is too bad that Nigeria is still in coma economically, yet our leaders are only thinking about 2023 and positioning for it. That is the height of insanity. The poverty rate is increasing daily and reports are showing that Nigeria is the most miserable country to live in and instead of our leaders seeking ways to save the country from imminent collapse, they are fixating on 2023 election. This is political madness. We are groping in political darkness and people are busy causing more darkness.”
Mr Ambrose Igboke, a public affairs analyst, opined that the reason sections of the political elite are carrying on with business as usual is because banditry and killings have not touched any of their own.
“When it touched their own recently through the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) Chairman, under 48-hours, they were both released. And we heard that ransom of N50 million was reportedly paid to secure their release. So, when it touches the leadership, they will react. When something happens to one of them, they go all out to ensure that it is resolved. By the time the problems start affecting members of the political class they would react.
“Our leaders will get away with anything as long as we the citizens continue to behave the way we are behaving. Because we are over 200 million people in this country, and our leaders, who are not up to 1,000 are holding us to ransom. People are not reacting, the people are not protesting, the people are keeping quiet. There are killings in Zamfara. Have Zamfara citizens come to block the National Assembly or go to Aso Rock to protest? How many people from the Northwest have come out to protest? How many religious leaders have come out to condemn it in the Northwest? How many Imams have come out to say something? So, the political class and religious leaders form a clique among the elite that kept us quiet. So, if Nigerians are waiting for the elite of the political and religious class to fight for them, then they are in a fool’s paradise. And that is why, immediately after the 2019 elections are over, they are fighting for the Senate and House of Representatives, they have started talking about 2023. This is because they don’t care. People are being slaughtered here and there, but they don’t care. What they care about is their political ambition.”
No less angry with the attitude of the politicians is Mr Emmanuel Ogbaje, who works in the private sector. He said that the killings and kidnapping going on in the country is a reflection of lack of true leadership amongst the political class. “The concern of the average Nigerian politician has always been about what share of the national cake he or she stands to get instead of the welfare of the people. We live in a country where the citizens are killed everyday, foreigners are kidnapped and killed at holiday resorts, Abuja-Kaduna highway has been taken over by kidnappers and the security chiefs have no answer to the problem. If the citizens cannot be safe in their own backyard what then is the need for the existence of a country with overpaid and over-pampered government officials?” he said.
A student union leader and activist, Godwin Obekpa, urged the political class to recognize that the country needs to move away from the divisive effects of the obnoxious campaign for 2023 and shelve their ambitions.
His words: “The picture in the question here has two sides: the ‘ideal’ side and the ‘real’ side. Ideally, the protection of life and property should be on the priority list of every political office holder. Come to think of it, who is going to vote or elect a leader if the country degenerates to chaos before 2023?
“The core of existentialism is ‘existence’ before ‘essence’. One should not juxtapose the indispensability of security in a civil society with a thing of lighter importance as political ambitions. The leadership part of essence will only have a footing when there is existence first. So, as you said, it is a case of gross misplacement of priority, to put it lightly.”
Another student leader, Okeke Chibueze, agreed with Obekpa’s position and added: “Well, over the years, our leaders have made us to understand what Tuface Idibia said about politicians, ‘they don’t really care about us.’ From the local government to the Federal Government, everyone of them is more interested in holding on to his political ambitions than they are in real governance. For instance, in the last administration, a lot of them would have gone to pay lip service to concerns for the citizens and, of course, condemn the president and his cabinet for not doing enough. But today, because it is obvious their political careers will be threatened if they talk too much, everyone is silent and pretends all is well.”
Expressing the same thoughts, Daniel Ezeigwe, a social critic, said: “It is my considered opinion that discussing the 2023 presidential election when President Buhari’s second term has not even started and ignoring the major domestic challenges confronting the country is the poorest spectacle of national negligence. Though it is quite an unsurprising trend as far as the merry-go-round politics of Nigeria is concerned, but I believe that candid emphasis must be placed on the myriad of problems staring the country in the face. The stark neglect and politicization of the orgies of terrorism, kidnapping, banditry and herdsmen rampages show the extent of Nigerian leaders’ unpatriotic and selfish considerations. We, in fair terms, just wrapped up the 2019 general elections, and those who are over-ambitiously pointing out to 2023 can never be held in high national esteem.”
For the Nigerian workers, from the time the country returned to democratic governance in 1999, members of the political class have recorded an F-score in terms of attending to the very reason the people rose up against the military regime.
Of more concern and nauseating to Nigerians is the bickering over who should be the leaders in 9th National Assembly due to be inaugurated next month.
Incensed by the carryings-on of the incoming legislators, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, said that Nigeria’s democracy is about personal aggrandizement.
“In our own kind of democracy, it’s not about the people’s interest; it’s not usually about the interest of the majority. So one will not be surprised that such bickering is going on. It’s normal in our democracy for people to advance their personal interest over and above the collective interest of the people, even in the interest of the country. I think that is what makes our democracy not to have grown beyond where we are and why many aspects of our policies are still about what people can get.
“If you look at the severance package, very homongous. I have seen even in the budget, whereas the minimum wage is not more than N180 million and these people are talking about N126 billion as severance package. If workers have worked for more than 30 years, how much is even their terminal benefits and gratuity which are not being paid.”
Wabba said that the bottom line for Nigeria’s democracy clearly is about people serving themselves and not serving the interest of the majority. He stated that this has been the reason the issue of social justice has continued to elude the country.
“You can see that in the inequality gap, which is widening by the day, between the poor and the rich. A lot of other social vices are actually playing out and that’s why you can see now even to travel from here (Abuja) to Kaduna, people are now afraid because you don’t know what will happen on the road,” he said.
Wabba, however, was optimistic that all the rumblings would abate immediately the current National Assembly members ended and new Assembly holds its election.
As far as the President of the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), Comrade Biobelemoye Joy Josiah, is concerned, the Nigerian political class has not done well in terms of good governance and absolutely never in terms of giving premium service to the people.
Comrade Goke Olatunji, the President of the National Union of Chemical Footwear Rubber and Non-Mettalic Products Employees (NUCFRLANMPE) could not hide his disappointment at the performance of the 8th National Assembly, which he said is a failure.
According to him, the four years spent could be rated as a waste, coming to terms with the way the NASS is rounding up.
He said: “We are not comfortable about what is going on now, apart from being a union leader, as a Nigerian. I know we are witnessing a very bad economy, which is affecting Nigerians seriously. So, rather than taking care of the masses they are busy struggling for positions. For example, my governor (name withheld) stays two days in the state and three days in Abuja all in a bid to succeed Buhari in 2023. It’s total madness. Our leaders are selfish, they only think about themselves and not how to impact on Nigerians.”
In her own view, Comrade Oyinkan Olasanoye, president of the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), said that the present action of the lawmakers simply portrays them as unpatriotic.
She said: “It shows that they do not have the interest of Nigerians at heart. The legislative body is selfish if not, there should not be so much concern about who will be the leaders. They don’t think about the nation, but their godfathers; that is why we have so much trouble and fighting and tearing at each other’s throats.
For Comrade Josiah, the present fight among the legislators imbroglio in the National Assembly is uncalled for. “Today, we have electricity problem. I bet you before they finish this fight, and a financial audit of the cost is done, if every kobo spent, both individual and public, by the people seeking the offices of Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker, committee chairman, everything including all the press propaganda and articles from one end to the other, all the back door meetings, it would run into huge millions if not billions.
President of the National Union of Shops and Distributive Employees (NUSDE), Comrade Innocent Jaja attributed the crisis to the fact that Nigeria is more disintegrated than united.
He noted that Nigerian leaders only pay lip service to the unity of the country.
“There’s no concerted effort at unification, if not there should not be problem on who must occupy which position.”