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Friday Sermon: Anjonu Onigege: Professor Adebayo Williams at 70

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By Babatunde Jose

“A properly educated mind will not accept crude tyranny; for to accept tyranny will be an act of intellectual self-dispossession. Long after the guns have been silenced, the supersonic boom of ideas and thunderous artillery of thinking will continue to echo” – Prof. Adebayo Williams – TEMPO 1996.

Anjonu onigege; the wizard with the pen: That is Professor Adebayo Williams, a wordsmith of no comparison. The unrivalled and indomitable Tatalo Alamu. The fiery columnist and past master in ‘Guerilla journalism’. A fine essayist and arresting columnist. Protest leader and the dreaded Cobra of the 70s at Great Ife. A man of many parts who in the apogee of his university days would out-drink and out-smoke the dreaded ‘agbako’ under the table and in his days, a rascal per excellence.

Those at the receiving end of his vitriolic pen will not forget him in a hurry. With age Bayo has mellowed down, but his pen is still as acerbic as it was decades ago. In the words of a mischievous old mate: “Having cleaned up his act and set aside all the ‘jagidi jagan’ attitude he acquired in his formative years in Itutaba, Ibadan”, Bayo has evolved into the literary colossus he is today.

He grew up in Ibadan where his late father was a good friend of late Adegoge Adelabu (Penkelemesi), the stormy petrel of Ibadan politics, of the Mabolaje Grand Alliance fame. Like Adelabu whom he grew to admire, Bayo was born a Yoruba of the Yorubas, hence his proficiency in proverbs, anecdotes, and folkloric tales of the ancient. His father hailed from Gbongan in present Osun State, not far from Ife, the cradle of the Yorubas. Bayo was born on the 9th of September 1951 and many of his schoolmates in the primary school would remember him as a prodigious and highly talented boy.

Unfortunately, Bayo had to drop out of school as a result of economic adversity and the vicissitudes of the time and he had to resort to self-education, which in the end paid off handsomely for this prodigious man. Bayo is in a good position to regale us with his autobiography, which is a tale of adventure on its own.

The private student later caught-up with his peers and surpassed many in the academic pursuit, bagging a doctorate and spending time lecturing and getting a professorial chair to the bargain.

Variously described by leading authorities as the greatest essayist to have come out of Africa, Nigeria’s five-star writer and a master of arresting and scintillating prose, Bayo is easily one of Nigeria’s most respected and authoritative public intellectuals.

A polyvalent intellectual and multi-disciplinary scholar, his books and scholarly articles span several fields, namely: Theory of Literature, Political Theory, Theory of Governance and Democratization, Cultural Production, Post-Colonial Theory and Creative Writing.

As a journalist, Professor Williams has served as columnist for several national and international magazines and newspapers.

In 1981/ 82 session Bayo was appointed Honorary Visiting Lecturer, Department of English, University of Sheffield, England.

In 1986, barely three years after being awarded a doctorate degree in ‘Theory of African Literature’, Williams became a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Literature in English, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.

During the Abacha clamp down on the opposition of which Bayo had become a stalwart, he bolted away from his University of Ife base through the NADECO route and surfaced in England where the University of Birmingham received the genius with automatic alacrity.

Since returning to Nigeria in 2006 after serving as a professor in various universities in America and Europe, Professor Adebayo Williams has served as Chairman, Lagos State Electoral Reform Panel; member Board of Trustees Obafemi Awolowo Institute for Governance and Public Policy and Chairman, Lagos State Gubernatorial Advisory Committee under Governors Babatunde Fashola and Akinwunmi Ambode.

In 1995, Professor Williams was appointed the Director General of Africa Policy Group, a London based Think-tank which addresses issues of governance crucial to Africa. Earlier in 1991 while still teaching at Ife, Williams was made a Director of the USAID-sponsored project on Governance and Democratization in Africa.

In 1997, Professor Williams returned to the Centre of West African Studies, University of Birmingham as Visiting Lecturer and Honorary Research Fellow, a position he held till 2006. He had earlier served in the same department as Leverhulme Fellow between 1988-1990.

In November 1998, Professor Williams became a fellow of African Studies Centre, University of Leiden, Holland and Professor of Liberal Arts, Savannah College of Arts and Design, Georgia, USA. In January 2004, Professor Williams assumed duty as the Amy Freeman Lee Distinguished Chair of Humanities and Fine Arts, University of The Incarnate Word, San Antonio, Texas USA. He has also served as jury/professor at the Ecole Normale Superieure in France.

In the course of a distinguished career spanning almost forty years, Professor Williams has won many laurels in scholarship, journalism, and Creative writing.

Said a friend, Omo Ekun: “He writes like a prophet to the nation. He detests reading or writing on personal controversies. At a hang out at the Commonwealth Secretariat London with Kayode Soyinka, Tunde Fagbenle, and other friends, Fagbenle was forced to ask:” Bayo, jewo, se awon iwin ati  ajanaku, lo’n construct awon grammar fun e ni?” Bayo confess, is it the spirits and demons that assist in constructing the grammar you write?

One bullet was reserved for him by Abacha’s hitmen as a result of his underground war cabinet activities against tyranny. He was the brain behind the 1st ever Nigeria Political summit chaired by Pa Adekunle Ajasin at Eko Hotel Lagos. The summit was so successful that Abacha became jittery.”

A day after his piece in NewsWatch magazine, “The Road to Kigali” Abacha gave up the ghost. The writer had become a prophet!

A great satirist, among his published novels include “The Year of The Locust”, “Remains of the Last Emperor” and “Bulletin from Land of The Living Ghosts.”

A famous quote from an essay and tribute to Anthony Enahoro, titled: “An old man in a Hurry”, published in TEMPO in 1996, Bayo wrote: “A properly educated mind will not accept crude tyranny; for to accept tyranny will be an act of intellectual self-dispossession. Long after the guns have been silenced, the supersonic boom of ideas and thunderous artillery of thinking will continue to echo.”

According to Chris Anyokwu, Associate Professor of Literature in the Department of English, University of Lagos (UNILAG) and one of the many he mentored, “Bayo Williams is the best Essayist in Africa.”

An accomplished journalist Mr. Bamidele Temitope Johnson agonized over the dearth of Arts and Literary Review pages in our newspapers. He re-ignited the memory of what one will call Nigeria’s age of enlightenment. Prominent among the literary scholars who dazzled with hot contestation of ideas then was Professor Adebayo Williams, among others.

In his 1994 novel ‘The Remains of the Last Emperor’ Williams created a crazy world, where human life means nothing, where the living cohabits with the dead and the dead with the living; where it is not strange to see a bird-like monster sitting in the middle of the road and pythons mounting a guard of honor. He painted a metaphorical medical ward called “The Ward of the Damned”, where inmates sound more like human rights activists than lunatics with their leader, Oriade a.k.a “Were Pataki”. The country is in the throw of that situation today.

Williams’ messages are clear: Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Another is the futility of absolute power. He also shows that when a people are determined, no tyrant can overpower them. This is inherent in the assertion: “the epoch ends when the slave defeats his master”.

In one of my comments to his column, I wrote inter aliaYour anecdote on the importance and imperative of old ethical order is very instructive of the decadence our society has degenerated into. It is very axiomatic of a society in decline, morally and ethically. All the values and idiosyncrasies that have been evolved to uphold those values have been eroded.

Yet, there are still many good men around, unsung and living incognito. I can cite a good example for you. You are one we all talk about. Despite your dalliance and hobnobbing with the powers that be, you have refused to cash in and take advantage of that association. You have lived your life placidly and unobstructed without any attempt at self-aggrandizement.

We are proud of you and honored to be your friend and associate. We respect your intellectual sagacity and your forthrightness.

There are others like you too, therefore all is not lost. There is an urgent need for moral rebirth and self-restructuring. It is only after that we can face the restructuring of the polity.

Here is wishing a literary genius of our time a happy 70th Birthday.

Barka Juma’at and happy weekend 

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Friday Sermon: Legacy of Shame: Unfulfilled Promises of Change

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By Babatunde Jose

Verily, what reaches the momin of his good works and good acts, after his death, is the knowledge (benefitted from)… and a righteous child which he has left (behind him), or a book which he has given to inherit, or a place of worship which he has built, or a house for the homeless which he has built, or a canal which he has caused to be dug, or an act of charity which he has done out of his wealth while in his health and life. (The good effects thereof) reach him (even) after his death.” [Bayhaqi, Ibn Majah]

With the current exposure of the true color of our leaders, one is at a loss as to what goes on in their minds. How do they want history to judge them and what legacy do they want to leave behind? Are they really leaders or opportunists, carpetbaggers, or fortune hunters, buccaneers, or freebooters? Are they conscious of the need to put their footprints on the sands of time or do they want to engrave their names in the black book of history?

Since the oldest times known to man, people and communities have been led by efficient leaders. Such men and women have been responsible for ushering their people into a new and more modern world as we know of it now. Although times have changed, the contributions of these great leaders cannot be forgotten and though practices and ways of doing things have changed as well, the ways of these great leaders cannot be overlooked. What made them great might still be applicable today as it was in the past.

Strive to live your life as a mensch, and you’ll have left your greatest legacy for anyone who has met you. Our leaders today do not fit this billing. They are not only selfish, but inordinate in their self-aggrandizement. They are cheats and liars and at other times knaves and scoundrels. They have no sense of history because they lack vision and mission. This being so, they are oblivious to the need to leave a legacy. As far as they are concerned, they live for the moment.

With all the promise of a better Nigeria 8 years ago, what really has changed? The power sector is still in a quagmire. Despite much rhetoric, insecurity still triumphs with its attendant kidnapping, herdsmen invasion, Boko Haram, and other terroristas.

Unlike great men of history, whose characteristics were resilience, knowledge, people-skills, motivational approach and leading by example; foresight, vision, strategic planning, and the ability to lead people to success; determination, persistence, beliefs, and courage. The historical trajectory of post-colonial Nigerian predicament is hinged on the emergence of various corrupt leaders (civilian and military). They have not only found it difficult to institute or run the semblance of a modern state but have also failed to build the country as a nation.

Over the years, the country has seen its wealth withered with little to show in living conditions of the average human being. One Nigerian political leader, late Obafemi Awolowo raised a salient issue when he said, “since independence, our governments have been a matter of few holding the cow for the strongest and most cunning to milk, under those circumstances everybody runs over everybody to make good at the expense of others.” (Awolowo, 1979).

After 8 years of ‘the change mantra’, there has been no review of the contentious revenue allocation formula. Only token attention has been given to the issue of restructuring which was a cardinal promise of the party on its road to power.

Nigeria society is not homogenous; diversity of cultures should be a source of strength due to the different variety of skills, abilities, knowledge, and large human capacity it brings with it. However, it has remained a source of tribal and social conflict. The political elites in Nigeria, since independence, have not managed this social complexity well.  Rather it has been weaponized in their quest for political power.

Under the atmosphere of ethnic struggle for control of the central authority, the quest for good governance is not only jettisoned, but lost altogether.

There exists an uneven wealth distribution in Nigeria, with the wealth residing in the hands of a few who mostly are not engaged in productive ventures. These few have access to government patronage which is consumptive and not productive in nature. That trend has not changed after 24 years of civil rule.

Economic reforms are designed to stimulate the economy and especially help the poor; unfortunately, these reforms have not met the expectations of the populace. For instance, the reforms are supposed to improve basic infrastructure such as electricity generation, potable water, and roads but, unfortunately, these public utilities are still inefficient. While relatively few rich people live in affluence, (most of which were acquired through corrupt means), the poor masses live in squalor and abject poverty.

Weakness of our institutions have continued unabated in the last 8 years especially the judiciary, police, education, and health.

The judiciary in most developed societies is the last hope of the populace for justice and adjudication. A society lacking in good values and an equitable justice system presents an environment for anarchy and socio-economic problems.

The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) is the principal law enforcement agency in Nigeria with 36 State commands grouped into 12 zones and 7 administrative organs. The strength of this force is too small for a country of our size and population. Their crime fighting equipment is obsolete, which compels them to employ antiquated policing methods.

Hence, the country is largely under-policed. A police force that is poorly paid, poorly motivated, poorly trained, poorly equipped, and with meagre retirement benefits cannot be an effective organization. Even then, monies voted for the police still find their way into private pockets. Can we count on the incoming administration to ameliorate this situation?

“No bed space” is a metaphor coined by ThisDay columnist, Simon Kolawole to describe the poor state and gross inadequacy of our healthcare delivery system. This is nothing but a legacy of shame. The healthcare system is terminally sick.

Let it be said that the root cause of our problems is the elite. As for the average citizens of this country, all they ask for is their daily bread. As late Awolowo said: The common man is not concerned with who is in power; he is more particular about food, clothing, and shelter; of a wretched type.

A critical appraisal of the political environment in the country reveals that Nigerians do not have a problem with democracy, or system of government, but are tired of corrupt leadership and poor democratic values.

To maintain a stable and secure environment, the new administration must endeavour to provide an equitable justice system and most of all provide essential services to the populace.

The demands of the various political groups must be addressed within a holistic framework. The context must be inclusive to incorporate all the key political interests, social values, and economic interests of the various regional or ethnic groups.

The ills of the Nigerian economy should be urgently addressed to stem the current over-dependence on oil. Investments should be directed to revamping and expanding the moribund industrial base, especially in the less advantaged parts of the country, to address unemployment. The pay-off of this strategy will not only address the problem of unemployed youth but will substantially increase productivity, reduce importation, and reduce poverty in the country.

The fight against corruption is one that may have a political backlash, since a large majority of the elite groups are involved, but the consequences of not fighting the menace may be more atrocious in the long run.

Undue interference in the operations, processes and decisions of anti-poverty agencies should be avoided. There should be adequate funding of anti-poverty agencies and programs.

Problems in the education and health sectors must be tackled frontally. The rot in these sectors cannot continue. Enough is enough.

No doubt, Nigeria is one big crime scene: “Political actors behave like characters from pulp fiction Gangster Chronicles. . .. They have no political ancestry, being mostly political orphans with no solid convictions or even ethical moorings or moral qualms whatsoever. Most are in politics because there is nothing else to do: businesses have failed, professional practices have collapsed, and unemployment has often driven many to the limits of creative survival. All eyes seem to be fixated on the national treasury, the giant cheque book of oil royalties.” –  Chidi Amuta. These are not the men who would effect change in the structure of our political system.

One cannot see the present crop of political leaders, meeting or exhibiting any exemplary attributes. Singing ‘Ajekun iya’ or coining moribund slogans, ‘jeun soke’, ’emi lokan’, is not what historical legacies are made of. Men of outstanding contributions to society are never remembered for the magnificence of their mansions or the stolen wealth in their ‘bullion vaults’.

The legacy of leaders is measured by the quantum of change they bring to their societies and the index of human development.

An administration that spent billions on moribund refineries and which failed to construct new ones, and which superintended the continued importation of fuel, and which could not effect a transformation in the energy sector, and which continued to leave majority of us in darkness, can only leave a ‘legacy of shame’.

Can the new administration rekindle our hope of a better Nigeria? Can, it set out renewed values and visions for a better Nigeria? Can the new President look us in the eye and answer the question: Are you the ‘Promised Messiah’?

May Allah deliver us from the hands of failed messiahs, Amen.

“Our Lord! Lay not on us that burden which we have not the strength to bear. And pardon us; absolve us; and have mercy on us; You alone are our Friend and Helper; help us to triumph over the unbelieving folk.” (Quran 2:286)

 Barka Juma’at and happy weekend.

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Friday Sermon: The Devil’s Rectangle Revisited

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Narrated Ma’qil; I heard the Prophet (saws) saying“Any man whom Allah has given the authority of ruling some people and he does not look after them in an honest manner, will never feel even the smell of Paradise.” Sahih Muslim

Devil’s Rectangle is an End Time scenario depicting the satanic coalition of political leadership, the gullible followership, the mass media, and the conniving religious institution. It is a very sad and painful situation. When these four forces conspire that society becomes doomed.

In Marxist philosophy, the bourgeoisie is the social class that came to own the means of production during modern industrialization and whose societal concerns are the value of property and the preservation of capital to ensure the perpetuation of their economic supremacy in society. Joseph Schumpeter saw the creation of the bourgeoisie as the driving force behind the capitalist engine, particularly entrepreneurs who took risks to bring innovation to industries and the economy through the process of creative destruction.

Today, in our clime and most African countries that social order is dominated by a new bourgeoisie, made up of political leaders and not captains of industry. They are rent collectors who make huge profits without investments; they have no factories and are neither entrepreneurs nor employers of labor but they own huge amount of money, but they are not investors or creators of wealth; they live a life of opulence like princes but they are not royalty. They are ‘carpetbaggers and scalawags.

Impervious to the suffering and tribulations of the people they are supposed to serve, they are as callous as the proverbial ‘agbalowo meri, Bale Jontolo’. The greedy and avaricious traditional ruler of Jontolo village.

Vexed by their shenanigans, Obi Ezekwesili said: “Our political leaders have turned democracy into a criminal enterprise, breaking all the principles of representative government. They have not illuminated or advanced Nigeria. Under their watch, Nigeria has become the epicentre of human greed, avarice, official impunity and duplicity.”

The leadership failure Nigerians experience is not the fault of their stars but the fault of leaders and the led alike wrote Ochulor, Chinenye Leo in his paper: Failure of leadership in Nigeria, American Journal of Social and Management Sciences. He says   Nigerians should not abandon themselves to fate.

The first step towards changing this attitude, the paper argues, is to carefully identify the causes of misrule in Nigeria. As a nation, the accuracy of Nigerians in identifying the causes of misrule in Nigeria and their sincerity in redressing misrule in Nigeria, have serious implications for the efficient leadership that Nigerians are in dire need of.

Leadership crises coupled with policy inconsistency and summersault are no doubt serious problems confronting Nigeria and Africa.

Despite the socio-economic and political challenges facing Nigeria, the paper posits that Nigeria and Africa can surmount its problems and challenges if political leaders and followers discard all forms of tribal politics and primitive accumulation of wealth. Equitable distribution of resources, a balanced intellectual and social development should also be promoted and accorded top priority in the process of policy formulation and implementation in Nigeria and indeed Africa.

In – Leadership Challenges and Nigerian Development, Onodugo Ifeanyi Chris, of the University of Nigeria, Nsuka, argues that Nigeria’s failures have come about largely as a result of frequent leadership challenges; lack of ideology, policy reversal and weak institutional patterns.

His paper examines the leadership selection process in Nigeria and found that the   process takes the ‘imposition pattern’ and that Nigerian leaders have frequently come to their position with limited experience. Hence, the decline in morale and high level of corruption caused by bad policies, eroded professional standards and ethics and weakened the system of governance.

The paper observes that for Nigeria to overcome the crises of leadership in the country, those on whom the burden of leadership falls must fully comprehend their responsibilities, duties and obligations. They must also be exposed and be prepared to face the challenges of leadership in developing the society.

The socio-economic and political development of any country depends largely on the ability of its leadership to facilitate, entrench, and sustain good governance. Importantly, good governance is a manifestation of committed, patriotic and disciplined leadership.

It is logically unbelievable and appalling that despite the long years of independence, Nigeria the so called “giant” of Africa is still battling with the problem of good governance. The crop of leaders since independence had in one way or the other lacked vision, most of them have been engrossed with corruption and political bickering leading to the enthronement of maladministration and mismanagement of public resources, and consequently economic setback and abject poverty as nation’s heritage.

A major reason that has been responsible for her socioeconomic stagnation is the phenomenon of corruption. This is also the conclusion of Michael M. Ogbeidi, Associate Professor in the Department of History and Strategic Studies, University of Lagos, Nigeria.

Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Once in power, Nigerian leaders at the federal, state and local government levels feel invincible and disregard the rule of law, whenever they can. Leaders bend rules to their wishes and damn the consequences. The judiciary arm of the government has been toothless and only clamp down on the average citizens while top government officials who break the law are left to wander free.

Nigeria is an amalgam of over 300 ethnic tribes. Tribalism reigns in Nigeria and it plays a great part in the country’s current quagmire.

Things have gotten worse for the Nigerian masses over the decades. The country’s economy has been deteriorating over the years with the hope that things will get better without any result.

Over the years, we have had leaders who, prior to ascending leadership positions, are sold to the masses as beacons of hope amidst the misery viciously staring them in the face, courtesy of previous leaders only to assume leadership positions and become total strangers and despots, insensitive to the plight of the masses. “They go into office as doctors, and leave as patients’’. Valentine Achum

In line with the above assumption, I dare say that the trouble with political leadership in Nigeria is the lack of a fundamental combination of patriotism and conscience.

Where there is no vision, the people perish is an aphorism that has become common knowledge among the Nigerian political leaders, who often articulate visions in colourful and expensive development plans, policies, programmes, etc., but mostly for chanting. They are chicken-hearted in the implementation of these plans, except to enrich cronies, political stooges and royal choristers or sycophants.

Although Nigeria is the second African exporter of crude oil and the sixth in the world, the nation’s underdevelopment is associated with weak management and corruption.

We certainly need leaders who speak ‘‘Nigeria’’ much more than they speak Igbo, Hausa, or Yoruba. We need leaders who can do for the country much more, or at least as much as they can do for themselves. It is important to note that everything in a country is being conceived in the realm of politics (leadership). Politics  is regarded as the super structure, while every other thing such as the economy, security, etc. constitute the sub-structure. If the super-structure is faulty, the sub-structure wallows in decrepitude and cannot correct itself.

It is the super structure (activities of political leaders) that either enriches or impoverishes the sub structure (the economy). Nigeria’s underdevelopment is more of poor implementation than lack of development visions and programmes, “Seek ye first the political kingdom and all else shall be added unto you”. Kwame Nkrumah

In a paper: The Challenges Of Leadership And Governance In NigeriaGodwin Okaneme submitted: “From the time of the nation’s independence up till now, it has seriously grappled with the challenges of poor leadership and governance or what has been popularly referred to as leadership and governance ineptitude. Governance therefore has become an all-comers affair where the qualified and the unqualified, the high and the low as well as the rich and the poor all jostle inordinately for political power.

The paper opines that to solve the nation’s intractable leadership and governance challenges conclusively, the country needs a true and transparent transformational leadership structure which will drive the political and governmental system in the country for effective and efficient political leadership and governance that will ultimately usher in genuine and verifiable development in the country for the overall benefit of the entire citizenry.

“Nigerian political leadership is an entangled, mangled, and cluttered perplexity of subterfuge machinations and deception. They seem divided along ethnic and religious lines but are eternally united in thievery and corruption; enemies by day and gang of marauding highwaymen at night”.

A leadership that spent so much money in putting up the iconic Trade-Fair Complex in Lagos only to abandon it and turn it into a motor spare-part market, can never be a goal oriented leadership. Equally, we cannot vouch for the earnestness of a leadership that allowed the two roads leading into our busiest ports to virtually close down.

Leaders that abandon and allow Ajaokuta Complex to waste away are not progressive leaders; the same goes for the leaders that allowed the Aluminum Smelter Complex at Ikot Abasi or the various Steel Rolling Mills to rot. There are over a thousand abandoned projects in Nigeria ranging from the multibillion dollar to multimillion dollar ones. The iniquities of our leaders are not pleasing to the Almighty. Fortunately, we all know the solutions to these problems. They are characterological and behavioral.

Retired AIG Farida Waziri in a seminal lecture, ‘Leadership and the Challenges of Good Governance in Nigeria said: “Leadership should be born out of understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it.” The world over, it is servant leaders that have made the difference in the lives of their people and advanced their governments over time through vigorous and sacrificial pursuit of positive change with great respect for acceptable societal values.”

“Effective and productive leadership must be seen to be transparent and accountable to the citizenry. This increases goodwill amongst the people and the chances of elected leaders succeeding in their endeavors. This also promotes legitimacy, acceptance and most importantly role modeling. Available resources must be properly harnessed and used based on the principles of equity and equality, so that the impact is felt through the rank and file of society.”  

“The government must be service oriented and promote effective delivery of public services so as to enhance local and small-scale economic development aimed at improving the lot of the youth and the poor. Information must be made available to the people especially to non-state actors for enhanced purposeful engagement with leadership”.

Can we expect these and more from the incoming administration come May 29? We hope the answer is not ‘blowing in the wind.’

Show us the straight way, The way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, Those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray. (Quran 1:6-7)

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend

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Friday Sermon: Rhapsody of Corruption: Eight Years of ‘Change’ and Impoverishment

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By Babatunde Jose

And We made them leaders, guiding (men) by Our Command, and We sent them inspiration to do good deeds, to establish regular prayers, and to practice regular charity; and they constantly served Us (and Us only). (Quran 21: 73)

 After eight years of supposedly relentless war against corruption and waste in government, one is saddened to come to the realization that nothing has changed. What will be bequeathed to the incoming administration is anybody’s guess, especially bearing in mind that it will be peopled by the same party and dramatis personae of the current administration. Woe betides the man who thinks that change would come easy to this forsaken neo-colonial state.

Taking stock of our situation in the last eight years, facts are clear to us that our ‘great’ expectations and anticipation turned out to be a ‘hopeless hope’ and our rising expectations at the inception of the regime became a revolution of rising frustration, now turning to despondency. We waited in vain for the promised change, but it never came. We were forced to sit by the river of Babylon singing the Lord’s song in a strange land.

Looking at the whole matter of corruption and unfulfilled promises in retrospect, one is bound to come to the inescapable conclusion that there is no hope for the most populous Black nation on mother earth.

It is neither for lack of intention, nor of laws, and policies. The regime inherited a country mired in what The Economist of London described as “industrial scale corruption”, which others describe as ‘corruption of Biblical proportion’.

Yet, despite the intentions to do good and the needful, ‘water pass gari’ as the saying goes and the people have been worse of for it. Traumatized and pauperized, many have been reduced to begging for their daily bread. Even the rich have been crying. It has been 8 years of roads going nowhere. It has never been so bad for an economy that promised great things at independence, reduced to rubble.

Our patrimony continues to be stolen by those we elected and appointed as custodian. Monies are now brazenly stolen in the denominations which not so long ago were unbelievable. I never contemplated the day a man will be accused of stealing 100 billion. Yet, it has happened without remorse. Women too have invoked  gender equality and joined the fray, embezzling with careless abandon.

Everything the administration has done in terms of infrastructure has been at hyperbolic costs. Our roads are the most expensive per kilometer anywhere in the world.

Our economy is in tatters while the stealing of our single resource by oil thieves has constituted the greatest drain on our revenue.

Now we are hearing that they are thinking of dolling out humongous severance pay to the architects of our predicament and misfortune. It is hoped they realize that they would be collecting ‘blood money’. Not only has our economic welfare suffered a battering, our security has also never been so bad. We have literally been sentenced to Thomas Hobbes ‘state of nature’, a condition which he describes with the Latin phrase ‘bellum omnium contra omnes’. Meaning, ‘war of all against all’, in which life is ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’.

The administration claims to have spent over N2 trillion on Social Investment Programs, SIP, yet the state of the poor Nigerian has become worse. According to the World Bank, in its ‘Poverty and Prosperity Report’ 2022, it stated that Nigeria contributed three million people to global extreme poverty, and that every minute, over six Nigerians enter the extreme poverty bracket.

After eight years, the government has been unable to deliver on its promises to provide basic electricity; in fact, it is incapable of even distributing 4000MW, which was what the last administration was delivering eight years ago.  Consequently, we are still in the ‘dark ages’.

It is ironic that in its eight years this Administration did not build a single new refinery nor fully repaired any of the existing ones. Rather it continued the ruinous subsidy regime brought about by the odious policy of fuel importation by the largest oil producer in Africa. A country without shame!

An examination of other unkept promises of the administration is tantamount to a litany of betrayal: Air Nigeria did not materialize, Abuja Light Rail missed its way, Kaduna/ Abuja Road, failed, Abuja/Kaduna/Kano Gas pipeline too was a failed promise, including the promise to decimate and crush insurgency. Kidnapping on an industrial scale continued and there has been no regression to the menace of Fulani herdsmen.

However, undaunted by institutional constraints, the EFCC and ICPC struggled bravely to fulfil their mandate. The increasing number of prosecutions and convictions, with associated refunds of large sums of money, is still ongoing.” But that is far as the story goes. Corruption was not forced into hibernation or retreat.

We even hear that the ‘Lady with the diamond bra’ has been saying that she is in the UK for treatment of aggressive breast cancer and not a fugitive from justice. Ogaju!

A close inventory of high-octane corruption cases at the inception of the administration unfortunately returns F9 result. All are still walking free and enjoying their loot. Some, as the case may be, have lavished theirs and are back on the political corridor begging for crumps.

Many politically exposed men under the radar of the EFCC and sundry agencies were quick to jump ship and cross to the ruling party. Pronto, their cases were swept under the APC rug. With another APC administration, fear is that these cases will forever remain cold. What a country and what a party that rode to power with the promise of change.

According to a Punch Editorial: “As he leaves office, corruption is ascendant.”  And the country is “sinking deeper into the mire of corruption.”

“What went wrong? The reasons are varied. One is that corruption will always fight back. But decisively, the regime’s anti-corruption war was defeated by its own internal contradictions, and self-subversion, and by lack of firm leadership.”

Overwhelmingly, institutional weakness enables most politically exposed persons to walk free. In 2022, Buhari granted pardon to two convicted politically exposed persons, Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame, ex-governors of Plateau and Taraba states respectively.

A suspended Accountant-General of the Federation allegedly was able to steal N109 billion out of which he has returned N30 billion, according to the EFCC. What happened to the huge balance from the heist? And he is not yet in jail! Financial analysis indicated that if 1million naira was being spent every day, it would amount to 365 million naira in a year. It would therefore take 10 years to spend about 3.6 billion. And 100 years to spend 36 billion naira. Haba!

Many of the corruption cases, particularly the high-profile ones, remained pending before the courts due to administrative or procedural delays.

Buhari’s promise to sanitize the budgeting system that facilitates massive looting by public servants and federal legislators did not materialize. Budget padding has continued without any publicly known consequences for the complicit lawmakers and civil servants.

In 2021, an NGO compiled a list of 25 top corruption cases linked with stolen or mismanaged funds worth N900 billion, which the government was investigating but were left dormant.

According to the Punch, in years to come, when the history of failed war against corruption is written, analysts will cite Buhari’s customary inattentiveness, his lack of hands-on supervision, other leadership lapses, cronyism, and failure to rein in members of his inner circle and heads of key agencies, and the influence of the corrupt political elite among others.

The Punch Editorial concluded: All these and institutional weakness played their part. But perhaps the most decisive is this:  Buhari did not realize that in a diverse, polarized polity like Nigeria, sectionalism in appointments and policies, nepotism and exclusionary practices are also enablers of corruption that were bound eventually to weaken and subvert the war. From the start, therefore, the war was doomed.

Let them not forget Quran Chapter 101 promises a reckoning:

The (Day) of Noise and Clamor: What is the (Day) of Noise and Clamor? And what will explain to thee what the (Day) of Noise and Clamor is?  (It is) a Day whereon men will be like moths scattered about, and the mountains will be like carded wool. Then, he whose balance (of good deeds) will be (found) heavy, Will be in a Life of good pleasure and satisfaction. But he whose balance (of good deed) will be (found) light, Will have his home in a (bottomless) Pit. And what will explain to thee what this is?  (It is) A Fire blazing fiercely!  (Quran 101:1-11)

Their preoccupation with aggrandizement is condemned in the Quran: See (Quran 102:1-8) (Quran 103:1-3)

In the end nothing counts. The only tragedy is that the rest of us are unwilling collateral damage. But Allah knows best, and He is the best Judge of the matter.

We pray that change will come soon and someone will start restoring this country to its glory.

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend.

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