Nigeria is a beguiling paradox. A numbing theatre of irksome ironies. Not here this maxim: after the rain comes sun shine. No. Here, after the rain comes more rain. Every dark tunnel ought to lead you to a well-lit end. Never, here the light precedes the journey through the darkling tunnel. And this country has been on an interminable journey through the dark. And hell, it’s really dark here. We live in the umbra of the earth, the darkest part of the global agora.
Sure, in the dark anything goes. Dwarfs prance as giants. Nitwits seize the stage while the brightest and the best morph to spectators. In the dark, right becomes wrong and vice versa. Merit takes the place of the mediocre and everything seems just normal. Nigeria is a dark blob of the earth. And here, we think through our bellies. Religion and ethnic bigotry are stronger than research and development. We fund religion with billions of naira. We fuel ethnic hate and divisions with state funds. Everything is upside down in this dark patch of the earth; yet all things seem just normal.
Just consider the xenophobic attacks and killings of Nigerians in South Africa. At the height of that satanic display by South Africa, some Nigerians went to social media to say ‘serves us right’. Nigerians in South Africa and other places are criminals, they rant. But what do you expect, even President Muhammadu Buhari champions such asinine de-marketing of his countrymen. He has called us names. Corrupt. Criminals. Crooks. And it seems just normal.
We were told by social media activists that Nigerians afflicted by the xenophobia bug in South Africa were from the South East. Some even defended the South African beasts who unleashed their beastly brunt on Nigerians. But now, we know better. Those affected are first and foremost Nigerians. And every part of the country, from North to South, is affected. The ethnic profilers should now create a new job for themselves. They now have their faces draped in shame. Your brother was displaced from South Africa. Your sister lost her shop and goods to Ramaphosa’s vandals. It’s not only the Igboman that was caught in the vicious vortex of the morbid South Africa mob.
And you just wonder, why are we so quick to walk the path of ethnic bigotry? Why do Nigerians openly display their aversion towards other ethnic nationalities? A nation that easily inclines itself to divisive tendencies only prepares itself for grand failure. When we are blurred by ethnic sentiments, we give room for the enthronement of mediocrity over excellence. Worst of all, we trade hate when we should show love. Allen Onyema, the CEO of Air Peace, did not consider the ethnic origins of the stranded Nigerians when he yielded his aircraft to evacuate them. He did not do it because they were Igbo. He did it for humanity. He did it for public good. And as it has now turned out, he did it for all Nigerians irrespective of tribe and tongue. For this, he remains my hero, a sure candidate for national garland. And he has shamed ethnic bigots who seized social media space in frenetic convulsion with the dubious narrative that ‘it was because of his Igbo kinsmen’. Silly thinking of bigoted minds.
And this brings up the case of BudgIT founder, Oluseun Onigbinde, whose appointment as technical adviser to the Minister of Budget, generated force and furore. He became a victim of extreme politics. He was called names for accepting the appointment. His crime? He has been a strident critic of Buhari government hence should never accept to work for the same government. Really? And strangely, some purveyors of this basal argument are men you ascribe so much intellect to. BudgIT is a fiscal transparency group which has consistently raised the bar in civic awareness on budget matters. It has educated Nigerians on how public budgets are being spent and ought to be spent. It has pointed out, most profoundly, the flaws and greys in our public budgets to the admiration of Nigerians and affirmation of global agencies.
For a nation with a history of poor budgeting and budget implementation, BudgIT is apt. In a normal and sane society, an expert of the profile of Onigbinde is highly sought after. You do not redline someone because he is critical of your government especially if that person is an authority in the area you are most deficient and defective. You should engage him effectively. He should show the way. If he is critical of your poor management of the budget, you get him to teach you. And if he fails fire him. That’s what sane societies do. Onigbinde is not a politician. He’s not partisan. What he did to the Buhari government, he did, even more, to the Goodluck Jonathan government.
Onigbinde said the appointment was at the initiative of an international development agency. And that it would last for six months. It’s contractual and advisory.
He explained his appointment thus: “Friends, I have accepted to take up an advisory role underwritten by an international development agency for an initial period of six months. I believe that to guard the reputation of BudgIT, I need to take an operational break and make my new position public. In a technical advisory role, I shall be supporting the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba, along the issues of budget reform, development planning, and revenue growth.
“It is similar to a task Joseph Agunbiade (my BudgIT co- founder) and I worked on in 2013–14, under the DFID-FEPAR program for the National Assembly Budget and Research Office.
“I see this as an adventure considering an accepted steep curve on public sector structure. I wish to state I remain loyal to my values — of appreciating the right of every citizen to ask the hard questions; that public resources must be accounted for; and that civic spaces and individual rights must be keenly protected.
“I have spoken to our partners, advisory board, and mentors, and I believe this is part of multi-pronged approach towards accelerating the long-term objectives of BudgIT and exploring new experiences.”
With such explanation, you would expect the supporters of Buhari to be rational and think with their head not their belly. But it’s obvious they are consumed by their warped notion that public service under Buhari is an invitation to ‘come and chop’. A particular Buharist was flagellating on national TV recently that Onigbinde has no moral right to criticize the government and later accept appointment from the same government to ‘come and enjoy’ (to use his hackneyed phrase. So, working in Buhari government is tantamount to enjoyment?
It is not a debate that Buhari failed woefully in his first term. The impact of his failure stares us in the face. He needs to get it right this term. And he needs the support of good heads like Onigbinde to pull through, not the bovine howling of his rabid supporters. But things are not normal here. We do not expect sun after the rain, we expect more rain. That’s making the abnormal look normal. Only here!