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                                                                                                  THE MASSES AS VICTIMS OF GOVERNMENT
                                                                                  By: Sir Henry Olujimi Boyo (Les Leba) first published in April 2007

Last week, this column republished “Where Are the Oil Dollars?” The article discussed the issue of poor monetary policies and practices, corruption, and the ever-degrading quality of life for the everyday Nigerian. All republications can be found in the archives using the below link.

(See for this series and more articles by the Late Sir Henry Boyo)

Today’s republication discusses the struggle to survive in a system with a wealth divide so large that while most Nigerians live on less than $1 a day, others flaunt lavish lifestyles which often cannot be accounted for. It discusses the unreliable electoral system, and the government’s disregard for ensuring that the economy is functional to the point where the basic needs of Nigerians can be met.

As you read through the below article taking note of previous events and rates, keep in mind its initial publication (2007).

Power, they say, belongs to the people. This may ultimately be true where there is respect for the rule of law, and equity and justice prevail in the free association of people and communities. These features are characteristics of enduring democracies, and impact positively on development of the human capacity and the improved welfare of their citizens. In such ambience, political power is a motivation to serve the people rather than enrichment of self or partisan interest with the unjust deprivation and oppression of the masses.

Our own history as a nation, since we became self-governing in 1960, has been grotesquely smeared by the usurpation of power through electoral fraud and the barrel of the gun; the voice of the people has remained largely unheard except for a brief flicker in 1993 when a free and fair election was annulled by the army.  The net result of electoral fraud and military brigandage is the disenfranchisement of the masses with disastrous consequences for the rule of law as equity and justice become the prerogative of the beneficiaries of political power.  This subsisting obtuse culture permits unfettered access to the public treasury for the holders of power and the cancerous seed of corruption is generously cultivated all over the landscape and personal illegal wealth acquisition takes the place of creation and enhancement of public wealth for the common good.
Nigerian millionaires (in all currencies) have emerged without any antecedent in industry, commerce or family inheritance and have been listed among the world’s richest!
Meanwhile, the Nigerian economy has become blighted and an emerging middle class wiped out, while most Nigerians live on less than $1 a day.  Our infrastructural base in all aspects has fallen into gradual decay with merely cosmetic efforts at sustenance and rehabilitation.  Mass unemployment, armed robbery, general lawlessness and insecurity envelope our country, while the judiciary and police have been emasculated by inadequate remuneration and infrastructure, and the blatant disregard of court orders by governments. Indeed, the independence of the judiciary as a bastion against tyranny is only in the letter of a military imposed constitution than in the spirit of its application.  Over time, our psyche and social values have been turned upside down and a label as a Nigerian has come to connote all that is negative in international social consciousness.

The candidature and the campaign mode of the 2007 elections leave little hope that political power will begin to truly flow from the electorate so that public office holders will become accountable to the people.  The undemocratic twin instruments of intimidation and money played an ignominious role in producing the candidates in virtually all the political party primaries, and the political class are obviously estranged from the masses, such that the electorate are reduced to mere rubber stamping of the candidates selected by a party elite or kitchen cabinet who may not countenance genuine ability and desire to serve the people as a preferred quality. Indeed, an honest candidate would have failed in the party primaries, while those who have agreed to the sharing of public funds would be given an easy passage! God help such candidates if they failed “to perform” after ascension to office; the big stick of impeachment will soon flatten them out while a more co-operative candidate will be raised up by a rapacious party-caucus irrespective of constitutional provisions for such impeachment exercise.

The masses are not deceived that the huge campaign spending is borne out of the desire to serve. They are aware that the monies, whether they are own funds, borrowed or provided by sponsors, will have to be recouped, once the candidate gets into power, from the public treasury, even if this would mean the diversion of funds which could alleviate their distressed conditions.  But what can they do?  The choice they have as the electorate is that between the devil and the deep blue sea!  They are resigned to the fact that their votes may not count as the party cabals have their own agendas other than electoral votes for securing victory at the polls; so, they reason, “Why not join the political campaigns and collect mobilization fees, which could provide a meal for the day and possibly a free campaign vest and cap and a temporary opportunity to take their minds off their misery in a jamboree or carnival atmosphere?” In any event, there are no significant differences between the various political parties, as manifestoes –where they exist– all make the same promises without any explanation of how these promises will be realized with the limited budgets at their disposals.

Outgoing governors, and indeed the presidency, in spite of the apparent abysmal failures to deliver the expected “dividends of democracy” to the people, have all dug deep into their pockets (some say public treasury) to support their chosen candidates so that their legacy (some say of profligacy and corrupt governance) can be sustained!  
There is no way that a candidate with good intensions for the common good can match Naira for Naira the seemingly inexhaustible campaign chest of anointed opponents! The power of incumbency at the highest level of government has also been used to edge out other formidable opposition from the contest.  In such a macabre scenario, the masses are the ultimate losers and the hope of a better tomorrow will remain a mirage.
The press, the fourth estate of the realm, have true to their calling reported the News; regrettably there has been little investigative analysis or any attempt to condemn irregularities or the enlightenment of the masses on the chequered background of political candidates.  This is really not surprising as most organs of the media may be unable to survive without the patronage of political money bags who have cornered all the commanding and most lucrative heights of commerce and industry, allegedly with funds looted or siphoned from the nation’s treasury under various guises. It is telling on the performance of the media that it took a fall out between the President and his VP to reveal the sordid details of the wrong application of PTDF.

Billions of dollars have been and continue to be laundered through the banks; the NNPC, and the CBN, in spite of their significance to our economy, remain unaudited for so long; PHCN, NITEL, NPA, Ministry of Works, the Ministry of Education (the list is endless), have received subventions of several trillions apart from their individually internally generated revenue without any positive impact, but it is unlikely that media investigations of these scams will ever be undertaken.
The Okigbo report on the oil windfall of the 1990s has brazenly disappeared and in spite of constitutional limitations, our president doubled as Petroleum Minister for eight years, yet the performance of this ministry has brought so much pain to the masses.

In these circumstances, the press cannot save the masses; journalists and other media practitioners are also inadvertent victims of the subjugation of the system to corruption, but most media owners for their own survival dare not cross the path of the oppressors or firmly take a stand on the side of the people! Lord help us as the charade of opportunism continues.

Save the Naira, Save Nigerians!


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