By Jaye Gaskia
This nation has been ‘independent’ for more than 52 years (some will say ‘gained flag independence’), yet as of today the promise of independence has become a mirage and the immense potential at the ‘birth’ of our independent nation recklessly frittered away. The focus and pre-occupation of the ruling elites throughout these 52 years has been largely around the organised, conscious, systematic and unrestrained looting of the national treasury and pillage of our collective wealth!
From these concerted gang rape of our country’s resources have emerged stupendous concentration of ill-gotten wealth in a few hands, and the mass impoverisation of the overwhelming majority of our peoples. A situation that is manifested in the immense gap between the rich and the poor, with the top 10% richest Nigerians owning 41% of national wealth, while the bottom 20% of poorest Nigerians own a mere 4.1% of national wealth! A staggering scale of injustice indeed!
To understand and underscore the scale, as well as the impact of this rot let us take a cursory look at what can only be the tip of the iceberg!
In the period between July 2010 and June 2012, a period of 2 years, according to investigations by a team at Punch Newspapers, this country lost over 5 trillion naira to budgetary and extra-budgetary fraud and corruption, an amount roughly equivalent to the size of the 2013 appropriation bill/federal budget!
Through the petroleum subsidy regime alone, between 1.7 Trillion (more than the capital vote proposed in the 2013 appropriation bill) and 3 trillion naira (more than half the 2013 appropriation bill) has been lost to fraud and corruption since 2010!
Similarly in the 10 years between 2001 and 2010 (a period spanning the regimes of both ‘yesterday’s and today’s men and women of power), according to investigations of the Senate committee, the country is littered with approximately 12,000 abandoned infrastructural projects, costing 7.7 Trillion Naira, and for which 2.2 trillion naira had already been paid in mobilisation fees!
And as if this is not enough from the Fika committee set up by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), we now know that this nation expends 1.3 trillion naira annually on the salaries and allowances of just 18,000 top federal functionaries and senior civil servants alone! 18,000 public servants gulping away 1.3 trillion naira annually, an amount more than the annual capital vote for any year since the return to civil rule in 1999.
Yet this grand piracy is compounded by the inhumane treatment that is meted out to the poor, whose poverty is a direct result of the light fingered treasury looting greed and gross incompetence of this shameless ruling elite! The poor are condemned to live in slums, which these brigands then turn around to demolish without remorse, forcefully evicting millions of citizens across the country and rendering homeless. A ruling elite that will not facilitate access to affordable housing for the poor turns round to contemptuously demolish the homes they have provided for themselves!
It is not just the dwelling places of the poor that this elite attacks, it is also their means of livelihoods! The poor forced to erk out meager existence on the fringe of the economy are then attacked at the source of their income! Okada riders are banned and harassed; bus drivers are chased out of city centers to make way for elite owned and operated subsidised luxury buses; street vendors and small kiosk operators are harassed, brutalized, their wares seized and small structures destroyed as illegal structures, all over the country! And all of these is done without provision of any alternatives accessible to the poor in the process of their being dispossessed of their meager properties!
And in this race of primitive accumulation through treasury looting, unmerited state patronage and the dispossession of the poor, it does not matter what wing of the ruling elite is in and exercising power! So-called progresthieves and Conservathieves alike have been involved in this audacious mis-governance and atrocious pillage and looting of the treasury!
The result of the callous rule of these thieving elite over the past 52 years is very glaringly displayed for all to see! The parlous and prostrate nature of basic infrastructures and services: impassable trunk roads and un-motorable rural feeder roads (despite the investment of more than 500 billion naira since 1999 alone – take for instance the East-West road under construction for more than 20 years, with tens, if not hundreds of billions of naira already spent; only for the sitting Niger Delta Minister to inform us that we require additional 189 Billion naira to complete the road, an amount that is more than the annual budgets of at 18 of the 36 states of the federation).
What about electricity? Generation (not distribution) capacity still hovers around 4,300 MWs after 52 years of independence, and after more than $27bn investment since 1999 alone! And Education and health? The mere fact that these shameless elite cannot dare treat themselves for even the most basic of ailments in our hospitals, nor will trust the education of their children to our public education system speaks volume for the current state of the provision of these basic services.
They then aggravate the consequences of their ineptitude and thievery with their inability to combat crime and insecurity. Under their thieving and callous watch, our nation has been wracked by various types and levels of armed insurgencies across almost every corner of the country. The waterways and coastlines are infested by pirates and oil thieves! In-land, the highways and bush paths, include neighbourhoods are overrun by armed robbers and kidnappers!
It seems like unlike the fabled Midas, everything these thieving elites touch is converted to their personal use, appropriated for themselves; while every life of citizens they are supposed to touch is consequently devastated!
This is why the euphoria greeting the announcement of the merger of the opposition parties among sections of particularly the newly active youth is perplexing and misplaced! These ruling elites have been tested over the past 52 years and they have failed!
No amount of remixing or rejigging of their platforms can represent any hope for our country; for the liberation of our nation and the social emancipation of her peoples! Amongst them are tired and recycled hands in the ruling and opposition parties! What manner of hope can be put in this lot?
What manner of miracle can they wrought? What are they doing with the power entrusted to them now? What did they do with the power entrusted to them previously? What have they done with the power they hijacked and have monopolised in their many incarnations in the corridors of power as well as in its inner chambers?
Across the world today, in many climes, a younger generation [young not only in age but also in the freshness of their ideas and approaches to governance] are coming forth to the center of politics, and even taking over the governance of their countries! Men and women in their 30s and 40s, who were born in the turbulence of the 60s and 70s of the last century, have moved or are moving to the fore.
However here, concerned Nigerian citizens, the age mates of those now governing across Europe, America, and other parts, are still looking up to spent and tired hands, who have spent a life time trudging the corridors and inner chambers of power, to help us organise and lead the process of emancipating ourselves and our country from their own death grip! How can this be possible?
There is surely a different path that can be taken towards achieving our freedom, redeeming our society and transforming our country to the benefit of the overwhelming majority of her citizens now locked out.
This is a challenge to all of us who are the victims of the misrule and grand theft of this inept treasury looting ruling elite; this is a challenge and a clarion call for us to work together to organise the political platform and party, independent of these treacherous ruling elites, with which to battle with and wrest political power from them.
I am part of such a process, one of several, all of which must at some point merge their different tributaries into a mighty stream, whose tidal waves alone can be strong enough to precipitate the deluge that will flush out these looters.
Come join with us as we build an alternative platform: the Democratic Party for Socialist Reconstruction (DPSR) to take back Nigeria.