By Dele Sobowale
“But far more numerous [is] the herd of such who think too little and who talk too much.” John Dryden, 1631-1700. VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS.
“We are not looking at 2019, but 2023. If we don’t get it now, it may take some time.” Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Palace of Alafin of Oyo.
And there is no herd of people who talk a lot before thinking of all the possible interpretations and repercussions of their utterances than politicians on the campaign trail. Objective observers of the political scene in any country frequently shake their heads in utter disbelief when they listen to the malarkey that politicians vomit. One such announcement was made last week by the man who most of us three years ago would have considered incapable of descending so low to stoke the embers of injustice and hatred in the country for selfish reasons. The last thing the South West should aim for in 2023 is the Presidency. It will not only be unfair to other zones in country, it will elevate the political struggle in some parts of the country to active sabotage. Civil War 2 is right round the corner.
Before he was providentially selected as the Vice Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Professor, Pastor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, had come across as a sound intellectual, man of God and reasonably broad-minded. He would have been one of the last that anybody would suspect of harbouring politically divisive tendencies or one to promote ideas that are capable of heating up the polity to unimaginable levels. But, then, I have since Obasanjo’s days identified a disease named as the Aso Rock Disease, ARD. Its symptoms are very easy to detect. Someone Nigerians thought they had known very well for years, enters Aso Rock on appointment in any capacity, and suddenly a different person shows his/her face to the public.
Dr Reuben Abati, former media guru, now a Deputy Governorship candidate in Ogun State on the ticket of a faction of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was a patient in the Aso Rock clinic. He emerged after his services under President Jonathan, who he served diligently to inform us that Aso Rock is inhabited by demons and wizards who turn around all those who enter the premises. There is no reason to disbelieve him. Apparently those monsters are still very much in control at the Rock given the tragic-comedy concerning the release of unemployment figures by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, and the attempts by “know-nothings” inside the Rock to bully unpleasant reality. Abati is right. Something must be wrong with that place and we should evacuate the present occupants as soon as possible and have the place totally fumigated before introducing new inmates. Otherwise, Nigeria is doomed.
Several reasons render Osinbajo’s 2023 presidency proposal repugnant but just a few will be sufficient for now. The first is geo-political equity. By that I mean that until we agree to adopt meritocracy as the criterion for choosing our presidents, we must recognise the fact that there are six zones in Nigeria – three North and three South. In the event that Buhari is re-elected in 2019, three zones of Nigeria would have produced presidents – Obasanjo (8 years) from South West, YarÁdua (3 years) from North West, Jonathan (5 years) from South South, and now Buhari (8 years) from North West. The idea that the South West should again be reaching for the office is so unjust that it violates the principle laid down by Jesus Christ who we thought Osinbajo worships. It is so selfish that every right thinking Nigerian, including Yoruba must reject it outright.
“Love your neighbour as yourself”. That was the injunction we grew up with and which most of us are still struggling to live up to. What has happened to our love for our “neighbours” in the North Central, the Northeast and especially the South East (when the Presidency swings South) if all we in the South West want to do is to hoard the post for ourselves? The really shocking thing about the selfish pronouncement is the fact that it was made by a Pastor who stands to be the main beneficiary of the absurdity and injustice. Let me quickly explain that.
In the event that Buhari-Osinbajo ticket is re-elected, the VP will simply abandon all his duties as VP and spend the next four years building a political structure to actualise his ambition to succeed Buhari. Anybody who fails to read that into the message must have rocks where brains are supposed to be. Meanwhile, we should not forget that the VP is the Chairman of the Economic Management Team, CEMT, which has performed so woefully that in the last three years Nigeria had collected all the trophies for a failed economy. This country is now the world’s poverty capital and we are adding six poor people every minute under Osinbajo’s economic mismanagement. Last week, the Mr Ben Akabueze, the Director General of the Budget Office alarmed Nigerians by disclosing that the Federal Government faces serious financial challenges. Ministries, Departments and Agencies under the FG had remitted less than forty per cent of the revenue expected with no questions asked by the CEMT or his boss. The 2018 budget is burst; the 2019 is a dead letter. Osinbajo wants Nigerians and Yoruba people to ignore these failures and give him a chance to run for President in 2023. He must think that the people of the South West are not only fools; they want to ruin Nigeria just to further his own personal unjustified ambition.
For the avoidance of any doubt, it is my strong belief that if the presidency swings South again, the South East should be its berthing place. In my book PDP: CORRUPTION INCORPORATED, I went into great details to explain how the military’s direct intervention in the 1998-9 election aborted what would have been the emergence of a President from the South East in the person of late Dr Alex Ekwueme, GCON. Money from General Danjuma, representing the military, stuffed into Obasanjo’s pocket altered the course of Nigeria’s history. Our first opportunity to heal the wounds of the Civil War was lost due to short-sightedness of our leaders. The open sore is still there and the sooner we address it and get a President from there the better. Osinbajo’s pronouncement represents the sort of thinking one would expect from people who are intelligent but not wise. MASSOB, IPOB and other activist groups that will spring up in the SE represent the cry for justice to which the rest of us must respond. MASSOB and IPOB might fade away but the agitation will never stop and might become more violent and subversive.
Fortunately for us, some bright young leaders from the zone are now appearing on the national scene. Peter Obi was a decent Governor and he understands how economies work better than his opponent. Senator Ekweremandu had conducted himself well as the Deputy Senate President. Despite being a PDP Senator he had succeeded in not antagonising the APC Senators. Outside the two main political parties individuals like Dr Oby Ezekwesili, Barrister Olisa Agbakoba, SAN and Dr Moghalu have stepped out and each of them deserves our close attention because sooner, not later, we might have to do for the SE what the nation did for the SW by allowing only Yoruba candidates to be fielded in 1999. As most Nigerians would recall, the 1999 Presidential contest was between Obasanjo and Chief Oul Falae. If we can extend that forbearance to the SW there is absolutely no reason why the same cannot be done for the SE – and later any zone of the North which might remain left out after the 2019 elections.
WE ARE POOR NOW; WE WILL BE POORER NEXT YEAR
“Tis strange but true; for truth is always stranger than fiction.”—Lord Byron, 1788-1824, VBQ, p 253.
So you think it is in our collective interest that Nigeria has established the CBN, NNPC, NPA, NIMASA NITDA etc. Think again. Nigerian parastatals have for decades become a massive drain on the resources of Nigeria. We work for them; they don’t work for us. If you also want to know why Nigerians will continue to get poorer under this government, then, remember two facts. First parastatals in other countries, like Singapore and India, generate huge revenue for their countries and remit the funds promptly to the central account. In Nigeria, most of them generate losses or low returns. Then, they keep the money instead of sending it to the Federation Account. We, the people, get nothing.
Mr Akabueze had these to say about how the FG runs its MDAs. First he said: “Despite huge sums the Federal Government has invested (circa N40 trillion) in these agencies, what is usually remitted to the Treasury in terms of dividends or surplus at the end of each operating year is mostly insignificant…The record shows that few of the GOEs [Government Owned Enterprises] declare surpluses. In effect, the Nigerian tax payers/general public have not benefited much from these investments in the agency.” So, the next time you see the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports, Nigerian Railways etc, know that you are looking at one of those impoverishing Nigeria and getting paid to do it. But, there is more.
Even the little they generate is seldom sent to the Treasury for deployment to our most urgent need areas. Despite the much advertised Treasury Single Account, TSA, introduced two years ago making it mandatory for all agencies to remit funds collected to the Federation Account promptly, Akabueze just told us that about fifty agencies were sitting on close to three trillion naira. Leading the pack are the following: Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPRA, (N1.343 trillion), Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, (N801 billion), Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, (N192.102 billion) and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, (N66.081 billion) among others.
Just in case you are missing the point here, let me explain. These four agencies are now sitting on more than five times the funds which would have averted the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU. Instead of roaming the streets, our kids would have been in the classrooms where they belong. Don’t also forget that “the devil finds work for idle hands”. ASUU strike if it persists might even jeopardise the 2019 elections. Hitherto, the FG had been giving the impression that it cannot pay because the funds were not available. We now know that they are in the wrong hands. Buhari and Osinbajo have simply failed to institute the sort of financial discipline which a Lee Kuan Yew introduced in Singapore because he was competent. Obviously, we are not as deficient in revenue as we are in leadership. “A fool if offered eternity will not know what to do with it.” (Epicurus 341-270 BC). Four years from now NPA will still default.
Let me return to where I started before closing this piece and doing the needful. The South West does not need the Presidency in 202 3. We know those who have made a career out of being in government or politics and who don’t want to leave willingly. For selfish reasons they have abandoned the need for restructuring – which is what most people in the South West stand for. Of what use is it for our children and grandchildren if all they are offered is an irredeemably ruined Nigeria with a Yoruba President at the top? The present system is crashing and crushing us. Buhari and Osinbajo cannot understand that. They just want to continue the same old games.
Let me wish all our readers, those who agreed and especially those who disagreed with what was written this year. Rain falls on all of us; sun shines the same way. May the Almighty multiply all your blessings in 2019.