A new leadership cadre for Nigeria

ONCE in a while the unexpected happens in life and there is drama. If it is very unexpected, it can be called high drama. It is too early to say whether the issues surrounding Mr. Ibrahim Magu, until recently acting chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), is just drama or if it qualifies as high drama. An important point – drama may reflect life but it is not reality, nor does it change reality. Drama is (usually) fiction. The Nigerian political establishment is a world of unending drama. Within weeks, historical drama shows debuted. Magu was on centre stage, facing a probe panel on allegations of corruption. The opponents of Magu, who until then had been leading the anti-corruption efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, were overjoyed. They would like to see him in more trouble, perhaps in jail. Magu’s supporting audience hailed him for his good deeds and accused Attorney General Abubakar Malami of being the chief architect of Magu’s predicament. The pro-Magu people hauled loads of accusations of corruption on Malami.

The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) opened its can of worms to the public. An allegation of N40 billion corruption within NDDC was being probed. Former acting MD of NDDC, Dr. Joi Nunieh, exchanged strong accusations with the minister of Niger Delta, Mr. Godswill Akpabio, on the mismanagement of the agency. The public struggled to comprehend how billions of naira were doled out for strange and non-existent projects. The drama took a new turn when NDDC’s acting managing director, Professor Daniel Pondei, fainted during his session with the House Committee, which was questioning him. Since it was established in 2000, NDDC is reported to have created many corrupt billionaires, whilst the development of the poverty-ridden Delta region has stood still. There is more drama still as preparation for elections have shifted into top gear in Edo and Ondo States. The governor of Edo State could not win the nomination of his All Progressives Congress (APC) to run for a second term as governor on the platform of the political party. He left the APC and joined the arch rival Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which immediately made him its gubernatorial candidate. As if in exchange, APC had brought in PDP’s former governorship candidate to take APC’s seat. Overnight, the candidates started to denounce their previous political parties.

In Ondo State, the deputy governor from the ruling APC abandoned his principal and joined arch rival PDP with his eye on being the governorship candidate of the party. He did not get PDP’s nomination. Immediately, he left PDP and joined the Zenith Labour Party. He has belonged to three parties in less than a month. How dramatic! The political campaigns in Edo and Ondo States consume, as usual, all the time, funds and resources of the two states. The campaigns, as usual also, suck in resources from other states and the centre. Many political jobbers, contractors and anyone who is well positioned pushes hard to get contracts on electoral activities. Many ordinary people push hard to get hand-outs and “palliatives” from politicians during campaigns because it will be dry days once the elections are over. In all of the drama of Magu Versus Malami, NDDC’s revelations and political shifting sands in the two states, what is in it for Nigeria? Zero is the answer.

Many years ago, whilst he was former head of state, General Olusegun Obasanjo accused, for the first time, then ruling military President Ibrahim Babangida of running a corrupt government. A friend, on hearing the news, screamed that Nigeria was in somersaults. Nigeria would undergo a turn-around, he chanted. Really, indeed, I screamed back sarcastically. The optimist friend believed the drama but I did not. I could not see what benefits the dramatic spat between the two political friends would bring to Nigeria. Since the time, Obasanjo’s letters to sitting presidents in Nigeria, including the current one, have become regular shows and predictable comedies. The reality has dawned that the letters only draw a lot of attention to the writer and provide him a stepping board onto the next political stage. The list of high and low drama is unending: Top politician, Mr. Abubakar Atiku, left one political party and joined another, and left again, and returned to the original party; former governor Ibori was jailed, Ibori is welcomed home by crowds of supporters and political stalwarts; the probe of fuel subsidies in billions of naira showed how these funds paid for non-existent fuel, and no outcomes; Mr. “Integrity”

Farouk Muhammed Lawan of the House of Representatives was shown on video as he packed wads of alleged bribe US dollar notes into his pockets and cap, and life goes on. PDP wins, APC loses; and vice versa, yet the same names are in charge; Babangida wrote President Goodluck Jonathan on wrongdoings; Babangida denied writing this; the former minister of defence, General Theophilus Danjuma crusades against cattle herders, then he visits Aso Rock and his businesses remain intact. Governor Umar Ganduje of Kano stuffed U.S. dollars, alleged to be bribe money, into his flowing robes, and then wins a second term; then Central Bank Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi alleged that $20 billion was missing, and later on he himself becomes remembered as an emir of opulence; former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu was jailed for corruption, then he is released…. The dramatis personae no longer change much. When their political parties or the names of parties change, the political drama remains constant. All for self and nothing for the country and its people. Or at best, very little service, here and there. The known names appear on stage to feast, pose, stay on, or disappear to the wings until another day.

The drama scenes are characterised by poor governance, use of masses as canon fodder, corruption, continuing insecurity, huge unemployment, low wages, dilapidating infrastructure, weak economy, poor well-being of humans. The sad situation has become etched in the meaning of what is called Nigeria. It is almost wishful thinking, but can there be some “incident” where drama awakens its own actors to a new reality and morphs into nation building? Either by accident or purposefully, can a change of heart or mindset happen within the political kingdom and result in a sense of duty, leading to transformation of the nation? Whilst waiting for water to come out of a rock, a feeling or sense of nation-building should keep right-thinking people awake. Such people should repeat at every opportunity the goals and aspirations that can improve and meaningfully turn Nigeria around, especially to the hearing of the youth and young people in general. As the known names bring their dirty linens into the open, Nigerians should accept the fact that the key characters in the political drama are stained badly and cannot make this land a better place. It is important to think seriously and work strenuously towards a new leadership cadre for the country.

In the ongoing drama of neglect and abandonment of young people to a sordid future, perhaps desperation will lead some people to demand a new compact for the society.

Oladeji writes in from Lagos.

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