From time immemorial, every reigning President in Nigeria is treated as a villain. In that regard, the immediate predecessor, hitherto roundly condemned, always enjoyed a high rating. Very strange!
This explains why a category of Nigerians still looks towards the past regime of former President Goodluck Jonathan with fond memories, proudly pronouncing him a hero, all the same. Most interestingly, supporters of the past President never considered the alleged infamies, misdemeanours and in general, the phenomenal squandering of national resources under him as anything close to a sin. They wantonly refrain from agreeing that the seed of economic recession currently bedevilling Nigeria tapped its roots from the lack of focus, recklessness and the very robust kleptomania that underpinned operations of the government.
On the other hand, this category of Nigerians still do not see anything good in the current efforts by the current government to clip the wings of past and present officials who subverted and abused the Nigerian system for their own benefits. Before now, those in the echelon of power over exerted their influences for self-aggrandisement. They suddenly ballooned in stature at the expense of the Nigerian commonwealth, constituting themselves into institutions while attenuating governance in all departments. Nigeria was running on a befuddled economic and political culture that allowed a few to control humongous resources which enabled them develop the capacity to lord it on the rest of us. All the same, Nigerians have not learnt to rise in unison to condemn this very odd and tragic culture!
While Nigeria continues to groan under the pang of gripping economic recession, and amid efforts to block avenues for further looting and drive towards recovery of looted funds, it is no surprise that a category of Nigerians still find breath to put up arguments in defence of looters of their commonwealth. This presupposes that it is not all Nigerians who are at peace with the on-going efforts by the government to fight and contain corruption. Some are simply content with the status quo ante and had preferred to have the business run in the country ‘as usual’. It is unthinkable that in Nigeria today, a group of citizens will conclude that corruption is good for Nigeria, just as they trenchantly canvass a return to the era of corruption as a quick way to escape recession. Incidentally, these are set of people who cannot take three square meals daily, effectively maintain their cars, adequately pay the school fees of their children, suffer miscarriage of justice arising from alleged corruption in the Judiciary, among others.
Those who constitute a virulent opposition to the present government with sworn intent to chant down every good move made towards ensuring the revival of Nigeria, are no doubt in the league of enemies who do not want Nigeria’s progress. Against this background, Nigerians in this league must be fought to stand still as long they will continue to hold the country down.
Before this fight, Nigerians must learn to appreciate and embrace the government of President Muhammadu Buhari for the value it represents in the fight against corruption. Nigeria was at the edge of a cliff-hanger when his government took off by a popular support. Therefore, it amounts to mischief to start casting aspersion on the government that has been fighting tooth and nail to pull the country back on track. Nigeria has never been alone on this journey occasioning hardship. Somehow, the country will overcome recession and bounce back into prosperity. This is just a matter of time, anyway.
From the memory lane, Nigeria’s situation is akin to that of Ghana before the advent of former President John Jerry Rawlings. Ghana faced more gripping recession most especially in the 80s. The situation forced Ghanaians to scamper for survival in neighbouring countries with Nigeria playing the big host.
Rawlings showed uncanny impatience with corruption. He tackled the menace with unflagging resilience. In the process, his government put three generations of leaders adjudged as utterly corrupt on the guillotine. Ghanaians were petrified and in no time realised that Jerry Rawlings meant business. The story of Ghana changed dramatically. Today, Nigerians migrate to Ghana in droves believing that the country tends a good climate that makes business and lives run without much hassles.
Some 50 decades ago, China was reeling in acute problem of corruption and hopelessness before Deng Xiaoping entered into the corridors of power. Deng Xiaoping pulled China together, first by exorcising instinct for corruption from the psyche of the people. Death penalty was adopted as an instant measure for containing corruption. Then China sat tight, knowing that the leader would not condone business as usual. In all, Deng Xiaoping held the credit for developing China into one of the fastest-growing economies in the world for over 35 years. He raised the standard of living of millions of the Chinese citizens. China tends the most developed economy in the world today, because the culture of discipline, prudent management of resources and hard work infused into an average Chinese since the days of Deng Xiaoping remains till date.
From observation, the strong passion being demonstrated by President Buhari for reviving Nigeria can be helpful if citizens join hands with him in the task. The good thing is that his government is not on a drive to take draconian measures including death penalties to sell his agenda for rebuilding Nigeria. With a sense of parsimony, Buhari has rather been subtle and progressive in approach with intent to set time tested measures for turning around Nigeria’s prostrate economy.
So far, the government has laid bare its plans to put agriculture, solid minerals, and expansion of the energy sector with renewable energy as a peg, development of infrastructures and promotion of tourism, among others on the front burner in its economic diversification agenda. It has also imposed on itself some cost cutting measures meant to discourage waste on its drive for economic growth. From the efforts came the idea of Treasury Single Account (TSA) as a good tool for blocking leakages of funds and other forms of economic sabotage within government circles. Before now, the more than N3 trillion so far captured by the TSA in the federation account would by now have substantially dissolved into private pockets of officials who are adept in the art of stealing and plundering of national resources.
Agriculture is already taking the lead on the diversification agenda with veritable evidence in mass production of rice and wheat for local consumption and export. On power sector, there has been a noticeable improvement in the supply of electricity amid the government’s ambition to surpass the current 4,000 megawatts it currently generates for wider and stable distribution. Emphasis on renewable energy with attention on development of coal is parts of efforts to ensure improvement in electricity generation.
As proposed, solid minerals is being programmed by the Federal Government to earn scare and much-needed foreign exchange for Nigeria. That sounds like a hope for the Nigerian naira to regain strength in the foreseeable future. Development of road infrastructure is also a means to economic diversification. Unlike past governments, the Buhari administration has opened space for infrastructural development in the area of road construction. With presidential directive, the abandoned Lagos-Ibadan dual carriage way, the Ogbomoso-Oyo dual carriage way, the Ilorin-Jebba highway, the Enugu-Port Harcourt, the East-West Read, Port Harcourt-Calabar roads and others, long abandoned are currently undergoing rehabilitation with short dates of completion set. This is not to leave out efforts by the government on development of railway projects.
In a nut shell, to live in the past is to think that corruption can return to Nigeria in the magnitude it ravaged the country in the past dispensation. Corruption should be history, at least substantially in the country. By now, concerned Nigerians should begin to imagine what their country would be when ministers, heads of agencies, police, judges, teachers, doctors, engineers, market men and women and others operate with mega sense of decency that leaves out corruption from their daily engagements.
Idowu Samuel, journalist and public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja