Mr President Steps On The Gas Pedal
Newspaper Column

Mr President Steps On The Gas Pedal

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By M. Babajide-Alabi
If there is one thing Nigerians agree with without any acrimony, it is that we do not do things in half measures. We are committed and passionate about whatever we do. We do not take prisoners in expressing our thoughts on the state of affairs in our country. As a result, every Nigerian is a commentator on the state of affairs in the sleeping giant of Africa as they analyse news and not shy to offer opinions.

We are usually emotional when it comes to expectations from our government as we do not pretend to hide our feelings or emotions. This is why we are fanatical in our support or opposition of leaders in the country. As Nigerians, whatever we put our minds in, we usually do with style and panache, even when sometimes it is not in the best interest of the nation.

The news coming from Nigeria in the past three weeks have been sweet and sour combination. It has been sweet because the government of President Muhammad Buhari has finally taken off. In these three weeks, it has shown it not only have teeth, it is ready to use them. With recent events it has also shown to Nigerians and probably to the world that the government would not only bark but ready to bite, if need be.

Even if you are blind, you can still feel the flurry of activities everywhere. The continuous sack of appointees of the former government who might have been heavily involved in the mess the Buhari government has inherited seems an indication of readiness to break away from the past. The president is very desperate to replace these set of non-performing appointees with trusted and capable hands.

If there is one thing that really gladdens the hearts of Nigerians, it is the sound bite of fighing corruption that has now become the “Songs of Praise” for the government. The improvished Nigerians are able to identify with these moves as they believe their lives are ruined daily by corruption and mismanagement. They feel depressed when they read in the media that so and so amount of money has ben solen by their represemtatives.

The government has signified its intention to treat corruption as the greatest enemy of the state. The activities of the government in the past three weeks have shown that there is not going to be any deviation from the electoral promises made by the President that fighting corruption and mismanagement of the country’s resources shall be his priorities.

Unfortunately, apart from the government’s body language on corruption, and the recent announcement of key appointments, all other plans are still being kept close to the chests of Mr President and his confidants. This little bit of progress is enough to bring hope to Nigerians, especially the fanatical supporters, who have been yearning for something to cheer in this new government.

On the other side of the news coin is the sour bit which has revealed that the beautiful ones are not yet born in Nigeria. As Mr President was busy signing the sack letters of the political appointees, Nigerians also learnt that some highly reverred politicians who we thought were “saints” have actually soiled their hands with “shady and unexplainable” deals. The revelations go beyond unacceptable business practices, but also totally unbelievable payments for jobs that should have cost “peanuts”.

It is no secret that corruption and mismanagement are the major obstacles to development in the country. These did not start yesterday or last year, they have always been the bane of the largest black populated country in the world. There is an adage that says the bigger the head, the bigger the headaches that worry it. This can be said of the country Nigeria. A big country with over 170 million (unofficial) citizens with aspirations to be rich and live a life of affluence.

While these citizens have legitimate rights to aspire to be rich and comfortable, the governmenats that are supposed to lay the foundations for these are unconcerned with the subjects. As a result of the lack of needed infrastructures and platforms for individual developments, the citizens had no choice than to “loot” the governemnt to achieve their dreams.

No one can blame the citizens, since they were taught in Civics (a popular subject in the Primary School curriculum) that the citizens are the government, and governments are made up of citizens. And by extension, they realised so early in life that democracy is actually a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

While since independence, Nigeria has been unfortunate not to have uninterrupted democratic rules, this has not deterred the citizens from putting into practice what they learnt in Civics. Either military or civilian rules, the aim of majority of Nigerians is to be part of the government. In other parts of the world, this will be borne out of love and patriotism for the country, but in Nigeria, the desire to be in government is to have a platform for achieving the aspiration to be rich.

The idea is not far fetched, as the citizens have been taught in kindergaten that a country is a commonwealth where nations and citizens can draw from and be satisfied. This brings confidence and satisfaction to people, rather than remorse, when they dip their hands in government till. They need not feel any guilt, as the money belongs to all and no one in particular.

Stealing from government dates back to so many years ago. The propelling factors for these stealings have not been identified as at yet. But many observers have written on this subject, trying to unravel the mystery. However, not most of these observers have identified a particular binding factor that operates in all Nigerians, no matter what tribe or region, religion or dialect. This is the greed DNA. It runs in most Nigerians, especially those in positions of authorities and who have access to public funds.

No matter how glamorous and well paid a public service job may be, the typical Nigerian is most likely to have itchy fingers and desire to pocket the funds that are not his. Public service, unfortunately is no longer public. It has been redefined to be Self Service.

The ones that do not have direct access to government funds, have devised ways and methods they can milk the state and enrich themselves and their generations. Ask the National Assembly members who earn “obscene” wages to the detriment of the masses they are supposed to serve. Unfortunately, the glamorisation of these political posts is one of the reasons why people aspire to them, and not necessarily to serve.

The President must therefore be commended for the bold steps he has taken in identifying the key areas in our polity where corruption seem to have been institutionalised. He needs, however, to show more than political will as he goes about this task.

Published in the Sunday Vanguard August 30, 2015. CLICK HERE

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