Political class and the ticking clock

The notoriety of Nigerian leaders for complicating very simple matters with a view to bamboozling the public is legendary. They give every little problem a gargantuan status to beguile the governed. Their stock-in-trade is to approach a problem situation not with the intention of solving it but with the mind of turning same into an avenue for self-enrichment. This is why problems are usually intractable in the country. Most of the problems that Nigeria is currently battling with are as old as the country as a sovereign entity.

Ever since the effort to improve electricity began in this country, there has been a very familiar refrain which is that “You can’t buy power plants off the shelf, you have to build from the scratch and it takes time and costs money.” The people believed the leaders and empowered them to do everything possible to make electricity available. Between 1999 and 2020, over N4trillion has been expended on the power sector. But what is the result? How much megawatt has been added to the grid? How many hours of electricity do Nigerians enjoy daily? They asked for time and money we gave them both but what do we get in return? Gross darkness! If it is that difficult to get electricity, how come other countries have been able to overcome the challenge? There are private organisations in this country that have been able to ensure round the clock electricity supply in their companies, if power generation is such a big problem how did they manage to achieve it? The truth is that the stalemate in the power sector is a deliberate design by some people to get wealthy at the expense of the populace.

Nigerians who are in their 40s grew up to know that fuel scarcity is a recurrent decimal in their country. The talk about the need for the country to increase its crude oil refining capacity has been on for ages but nothing has been done in that regard despite the humongous resources the country has earned over the years. Rather than fix the refineries and build more, those in charge opted for the crude swap arrangement. The leadership of NNPC gives crude oil to some companies to refine and they will in turn supply premium motor spirit (petrol) to the corporation. NNPC also licensed marketers to bring in refined products. Now, if building refineries requires such an outlandish science that is beyond the capacity of Nigerians why is Dangote building what will be the largest refinery in the world? How are countries that are not even producing crude able to build refineries that run for 24 hours all year round unlike ours with output less than 5 per cent of installed capacity? Again, at the foundation of crude oil refining problem in the country is a conspiracy by some people to keep the nation on its knees so that they can perpetually milk it.

I do not know what obtains elsewhere but in the part of the country where I am domiciled, public water does not flow into private homes. Each home owner provides his own source of water. Those who cannot afford that ‘luxury’ depend on those whose business it is to supply water to get by. Yet, there is a water corporation that gets government subvention every year. Yet, there is a ministry in charge of water supply in almost every state of the federation. The same excuse that ‘pipes are old and will need to be replaced’ has been advanced since I was an elementary school pupil yet nothing has changed. Years gone, money spent, the same problem persists. Pray, what does it take to get water from one end of a city to another? We don’t get water from government because some interests owe their affluence to the persistent water scarcity. They will fight tooth and nail to perpetuate the problem because the moment water is available everywhere, they become dispensable.

Public primary education in Nigeria is characterised by roofless buildings and chair-less classrooms. In some extreme cases, pupils learn under trees. Yet, these governors build personal mansions all over the place. If every governor we have had since 1999 made up his mind to add a number of classroom blocks to the existing ones every year or rebuild dilapidated ones, the narrative would have changed. But it is profitable for the governors to leave the schools as they are so that money could be voted to the same project year after year.

Leaders in Nigeria, have over the years, ridden roughshod over the people they are supposed to take out of poverty, penury and deprivation because of their belief that the Nigerian public is too docile to fight maladministration. That is why though he mouths change, the average Nigerian leader does not believe in it. He believes he can get away with anything because of his economic advantage. But by stretching the patience of the Nigerian public to the limit, he is also overstretching his own luck. This resulted in the snap that birthed the #EndSARS protests we had recently. The protest was an eye opener for Nigerians that they can actually stand up to the authorities’ impunity, insensitivity and irresponsibility.

Rather than playing the ostrich and acting tough, the best thing for the nation’s political leadership is to retrace its steps, see where it breached its social contract with the people and begin to make amends, otherwise Arab Spring will be a child’s play compared with what will happen the next time Nigerians are forced to take to the streets. The time for politicians to change is now; tomorrow may be a day after the fair. For the Nigerian politician, the clock keeps ticking.

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