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Monday, 10 December 2012


Emeka, my profoundly gifted younger brother travelled to one of the upwardly mobile Asian Countries for his masters degree in Information Technology after he rounded up his University education in one of the Federal Universities based in the South East Nigeria. He excelled in his Degree examinations whereby he read Philosophy as his first course after much encouragement from me who inspired him to embrace the study of Philosophy because of its inherent intellectual benefits of broadening the thinking faculty of the scholar and readily put the person in the right frame of mind to interrogate issues around his/her environment with a view to finding meaningful and relevant conclusions to such probing questions of existentialism.

In our many conversations in the recent past just before he rounded up his post-graduate studies, Emeka appeared very worried that the crop of political leaders that Nigerians have entrusted our future with are really not committed to transform Nigeria from our current backward status as one of the most dangerous places to live on earth and also one of the most corrupt countries of the World. On several occasions, my sibling has sounded very worried for my safety because of what he called my consistent advocacy campaign to compel the Nigerian political class to respect the basic rule of Law and the fundamental human rights of the citizenry. He, it was who rightly branded the unfortunate scenario going on in Nigeria as "the Nigerian ongoing tragicomedy." I think there is no other appropriate way to describe the Nigerian current situation than to use the word tragicomedy. 

In Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, the writers defined tragicomedy as " a literary genre that blends aspects of both tragic and comic forms. Most often seen in dramatic literature, the term can variously describe either a tragic play which contains enough comic elements to lighten the overall mood or, often, a serious play with a happy ending".

An interesting dimension in all of these sad scenarios playing up themselves in our contemporary times in Nigeria is that there are still many people with good and courageous hearts in Nigeria like my younger brother- Emeka who are truly worried about the fate of Nigeria if at the end of the day, our own kind of tragicomedy does not end up in a happy mood as contemplated by those who propounded the literary theory of tragicomedy.

These set of persons in Nigeria who wish that things turn out differently for the good of all Nigerians are sometimes branded as 'rebels' by the powers- that- be who are so unperturbed by the worries expressed by genuinely committed Nigerians regarding the existential consequences of their corrupt practices on the body polity called Nigeria.

But Mr. Albert Camus, one of the World's best known but departed Philosophers took his time to author a beautiful book he titled "The Rebel" in which he graphically painted a glorious picture of what it takes to consistently preach against these kinds of  corruption, economic crimes and perfidy that the Nigeria's current Political elite are busy perpetrating and perpetuating thereby exposing Nigeria to one of the worst cases of political instability, insecurity and the near- total state of anarchy and impunity that have enveloped the present day Nigeria.

Albert Camus, who was born in Algeria in 1913 and killed after a glorious intellectual life in a car accident in January 1960 had written thus; " There are crimes of passion and crimes of logic. The line that divides them is not clear. But the penal code distinguishes between them by the useful concept of premeditation. We are living in the era of premeditation and perfect crimes. Our criminals are no longer those helpless children who pleaded love as their excuse. On the contrary, they are adults, and they have perfect alibi; philosophy, which can be used for anything, even for transforming murderers into judges".

Put more appropriately, this great philosopher of all times, Mr. Albert Camus seem to have the present day Nigeria in mind while writing the book entitled "The Rebel" when he also stated with regret that; "...On the day when crime puts on the apparel of innocence, through a curious reversal peculiar to our age, it is innocence that is called on to justify itself...."

Still talking about the Nigerian ongoing story which my younger sibling [Emeka] who now resides permanently abroad has rightly branded as 'tragicomedy', there are instances of political and economic development in the polity that calls to question the integrity, credibility and commitment of those who currently presides over our affair as Nigerians and whether they are aware that their collective crime of political crimes have consistently pushed Nigeria to the precipice of destruction.. Few years back, when the current Economic Affairs Minister Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was the Finance Minister under the then Chief Olusegun Obasanjo's administration, she was credited with leading the international advocacy to successfully negotiate Nigeria's exit from the foreign debts trap whereby she was said to have led a team of negotiators that got Nigeria big reprieve so much so that the Country paid off $12 billion in place of the over $35 billion or so foreign debts that past federal and state Governments administrations accumulated dubiously for the corporate entity.

But only on December 6th 2012, the local media are awash with stories that in the year 2013, the Federal Government has completed plans with the 36 states to also approach some creditor agencies and nations such as China, International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to attract a foreign loan of over $9 billion USD payable in forty years time to immediately finance the building of some infrastructure and also facilitate the building of some mass housing projects for the benefits of poor Nigerians. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who briefed the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, on the desirability of this huge foreign loan sounded as if it is being done to satisfy the greatest happiness of the greatest number of Nigerians.

This is a tragicomedy because Nigeria is now being gradually enslaved into another foreign debts trap similar to the situation that we found ourselves when the past federal administrations collected huge but dubious foreign loans which only took the ingenuity of Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and her economic management team under President Obasanjo to exit Nigeria. But the Finance Minister who was the person that actively and vigorously campaigned for the international community and precisely for Nigeria's foreign creditors like Paris Club and other multinationals to forgive part of our total foreign debts overhang, has also begun another campaign but this time around to also drag Nigeria into another foreign debts.  Oh what an unfortunate irony of fate? 

Only recently, the Finance Minister asked the National Assembly to quickly approve the Federal Government's external borrowing plan of N1.8Trillion. Nigeria is seeking the loan facility from World Bank , Africa Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank, Exim Bank of China and India's lines of Credit. Okonjo-Iweala said the loans were required to complete some ongoing projects captured in the year 2012 budget. This line of reasoning is absurd because what immediately comes to mind is to ask the Finance minister why Nigeria had to use the scarce fund to finance the last line of foreign debts which were mostly dubiously obtained and only to return few years now to seek another huge foreign loans. Where are the huge revenue accruable to Nigeria from the crude oil exports in the last twelve months? Have they all being stolen by Government officials?

Again, some of the Nigerian States that would benefit from these loans are also some of those unfortunate states in the federation in which their state Governors who behave like emperors have acquired for themselves state- of- the art private jets using the scarce fund available in the treasury of their state Governments to finance their high taste and profligate lifestyle.

In River state for instance, Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is in the news for the wrong reason of seeking to justify the fact that he diverted $30 million USD to buy private jet [chopper]. This is River State whereby basic infrastructure are lacking in much of the rural areas and even in the state capital there are evidence of abandoned and uncompleted projects that are littered all over the place. Taraba state has had the singular misfortune of producing a state Governor who not only bought private jets but flew himself into mishap with the same private jet that he allegedly diverted public money to purchase and worst still, the poor rural state of Taraba is being compelled to shoulder the financial burden of bearing the huge cost of foreign hospital treatment of the ill-fated Governor Danfulani Suntai who flew himself into this misfortune using the state scarce fund to fund his extraordinary high lifestyle of flying in private jets of different variety, shapes and sizes. Reports have emerged to show that the accidented Governor Danfulani Suntai for two weeks running is still in a life support machine in an expensive German hospital at the cost payable from Taraba state public fund.

At the last count, over five serving Governors are said to have purchased private jets. The other day, I read in the press that the Niger State Governor Aliyu Babangida who branded himself as the 'Chief Servant' was said to have celebrated his birthday anniversary inside exotic private jet. What a tragicomedy in Niger state whereby students of public schools practically take lectures under trees and much of the primary and secondary schools have leaking roofs even as teachers are paid like modern day slaves.

The Nigerian story of tragicomedy came to an international climax with the recent scorecard released by Transparency International [TI of Germany]and the Economist Intelligence Magazine [of the United Kingdom] with varying degrees of international opprobrium for Nigeria. Transparency International, a non-governmental organization with global repute, said Nigeria ranked the thirty fifth most corrupt country in the World. Economist Magazine released a report saying that in the year 2013, Nigeria will rank as the Worst place for 'newborns' meaning that infant mortality will be at its worst peak due to collapse of health infrastructure across Nigeria.

These are basic facts that are so notorious so much so that even Presidential spokesman on public affairs Dr. Doyin Okupe never dismissed the bad record in the area of transparency achieved for Nigeria by the current crop of political elite. He was reported to have stated that the Transparency International report on Nigeria is a wakeup call. The federal minister of Health Dr. Onyebuchi Chukwu, a gentleman of the finest dimension is helpless because Nigeria operates a system whereby budgets are not adequate and the components so approved by the National Assembly and awarded financial backups by the federal ministry of Finance end up not being completely financed and the oversight agencies in the National legislature is also heavily compromised to monitor to ensure that projects to consolidate public health infrastructure are implemented transparently. Most of our Federal and state legislators are commercial contractors who fight with other contractors for government patronage. So can a kettle call pot black?

On the issue of corruption and economic crimes, the Nigeria's ongoing story is indeed a huge tragicomedy because several tons of public fund have disappeared into private pockets of some influential individuals with close ties to the Federal Government officials and especially the Federal Ministry of Petroleum under the President Jonathan administration. At the last count over N5 trillion was reportedly missing from the public treasury since the current Federal administration emerged, according to report in one of Nigeria's respected print media. The Finance Minister said over N400 billion was stolen by thieves who presented fake companies as fuel importers to collect fuel import subsidy from the Federal Government in the last twelve months.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is currently prosecuting some of these subsidy fund thieves who are connected to some powerful government officials. It is uncertain how successful the anti-graft commission will achieve in the ongoing prosecution given that these fuel subsidy thieves have stolen enough cash that they have gone to town to hire Senior Advocates of Nigeria who charge big handling charges including slush funds to allegedly compromise the judicial proceedings.

 The Labour Minister Chief Emeka Wogu was alleged to have links to one of the indicted companies that allegedly stole N2 billion of the fuel subsidy money but he vowed publicly with document to show that he indeed sold out the said company long before he assumed public office. I personally led my team of private investigators to interact with him and some other officials at the corporate affairs commission and we came up with some findings to justify his defence based on available material evidence within our reach so far. But by and large, corruption is indeed threatening the fabrics of our body polity and if nothing revolutionary is done to check this evil trend then sooner rather than later we may be forced to sing nunct dimities for Nigeria as a sovereign entity because no sovereign nation can survive with the scale of massive fraud and corruption that have enveloped our nation. There is a general climate of fear and instability because the resources meant to develop security infrastructure and architecture have all been stolen and no genuine effort is ongoing to retrieve these funds and prosecute the thieves who presided over the various security outfits at the highest levels including the Nigeria Police Force and the office of the National Security Adviser in the past few years. The Presidency has recently earmarked N16 Billion to complete an edifice being built for the holder of the office of Vice President of Nigeria just as N2 billion has also being voted to build new Presidential banquet hall only few years after the huge edifice was erected by the then General Ibrahim Babangida military junta. President Jonathan's Government is so insensitive that it is going about borrowing money to finance high lifestyle even when all the basic public infrastructure have collapsed. We must reverse this tragicomedy immediately.

+ Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head, Human Rights Writers' Association of Nigeria, blogs  


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