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Masses' Worsening Poverty

By Ebere Wagbara

Since the beginning of this year—and for the first time in my more than three decades' fulfilled residence in Lagos—I have a record of families in my church, business and home neighbourhoods who have left Lagos for the South East permanently due to existential challenges that are beyond them! The latest victim (and her three children) whose subsistent kiosk is adjacent to my house will leave on Sunday, September 1, 2019, to join her husband who left last month for Nsukka, Enugu State, to begin a new life.

By Ebere Wagbara

Since the beginning of this year—and for the first time in my more than three decades' fulfilled residence in Lagos—I have a record of families in my church, business and home neighbourhoods who have left Lagos for the South East permanently due to existential challenges that are beyond them! The latest victim (and her three children) whose subsistent kiosk is adjacent to my house will leave on Sunday, September 1, 2019, to join her husband who left last month for Nsukka, Enugu State, to begin a new life.

It is obvious from all indications that the All Progressives Congress (APC) may end up being worse than the hounded People's Democratic Party (PDP) and the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN). And to compound matters, the profiles of most of the newly-appointed ministers and tribe of presidential assistants do not give any ray of hope, by my own personal and public perceptive inclinations. I have the conviction that only divine intervention can remedy us, the masses.

So far, it has been one step forward and nine steps backwards. The party, as represented by President Muhammadu Buhari, seems unprepared for the country's leadership, overwhelmed by challenges of governance and uncoordinated—almost confused and clueless! This administration needs to get its act together.

My earlier position that our tale of woe should be blamed on former president Goodluck Jonathan—and not Buhari—has not changed. Issuing from that standpoint, the next submission would be this: what is this government doing to right the wrongs of the past and move us away from stagnancy? There is nothing to suggest whatsoever that this government has the capacity and competency to re-engineer this country. Power was divinely thrust on those in its corridors without leadership empowerment and navigational architecture. I have the strong conviction that the APC bigwigs never knew reins would come to them on an ill-prepared platter hence the growing and scandalous bewilderment in their mismanagement of the ordained victory.

In his eid-el-fitr message, President Buhari declared that he appreciates Nigerians' sacrifices. The hardship and excruciating times in the country do not call for prosaic addresses. What the people need is the mitigation of their circumstances and not sweet nuggets and etymological compass of promises that will be unfulfilled—not being  the first time. The way we are going, most of us will die before the anticipated/promised El Dorado. As bad as it was, the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) of ex-president Ibrahim Babangida's regime was not as asphyxiating as this visionless and despondent time.

There is nothing that suggests a better tomorrow. The whole environment is gloomy, catastrophic and frightfully irredeemable, almost. The level of poverty, want and hopelessness-cum-haplessness of the “average” (the middle class if it still exists) Nigerian is atrociously unprecedented, unimaginable and unconscionable. It has transcended official callousness.

And to compound matters, the Presidency and other departments of the Executive in their public communications seem to be working at cross-purposes. Statements are thoughtlessly issued followed by retractions or elucidations. In most cases, the wrong officials make pronouncements that are secondary to their portfolios or assignations.

I keep asking like many other Nigerians: why is it that only members of the PDP are being probed and prosecuted? All the reassurances that the sluggish wheel will get to the APC chieftains do not make any difference. If there are 12 fraudsters in the PDP, there is an equal or more number in the APC. This selective approach to anti-corruption battle is itself a form of endemic corruption. The irrefutable impression being created is that most of the trials are mere victimization, settling of scores and outright witch-hunt. The Federal Government and The Presidency and their pliable/willing/dependent/biased agencies have not hidden their confirmatory proclivity for the current executive power drunkenness and fatalistic descent to anarchical autocracy that will ultimately end up in implosive self-destruction! Who in this country does not know that one of the most corrupt politicians in this country today is one of the prime leaders of the APC?

Still on corruptive tendencies, this phantom idea of plea bargaining should be discarded with immediately if we are serious with combating corruption. If a man admits to misappropriation and returns the loot or more, should he just walk away free? It is like catching a bandit and allows him to go free after returning what he stole and probably killed some people in the process! This obtuse celebration of corruption through the instrumentality of plea bargaining and other indulgent travesties must end if we are serious in confronting the monstrous ogre of corruption. Such established looters should be jailed to serve as a deterrent to their prospective ilk.

I do not buy the logic that the names of those who return their loot should be shrouded in secrecy in order to “encourage” other looters to return theirs. This is juvenility of the worst order. If the government knows those who had stolen money, it is either they are directed to return the loot amid prosecution or just clamped into maximum detention until they do the needful. Our situation requires some measure of official extra-judicial interventions otherwise we will not advance. Our own democracy must be tailored to be peculiar because of our distinctive characterization.

If we must investigate our past leaders, let it start from Alhaji Shehu Shagari down to Jonathan (who should not be made a scapegoat). If as a sitting South African President Jacob Zuma could be probed, why should we hesitate with our past leaders?

Before the regime change, former APC spokesperson and Information Minister Lai Mohammed used to be loquacious in his oppositional communication. Now, nothing is being heard anymore in re-affirmative demonstration of how we are as a people!

This government will remain unserious about corruption and every other thing until it shows that charity begins at home by investigating and prosecuting some of the APC topmost members and sponsors. Demonising and criminalising the PDP ragtag leadership cannot institutionalise good governance hinged on transparency, forensic accountability, fairness and the fear of our Creator.

FEEDBACK

YOUR copious and encyclopedic recall of our departed colleagues shows a truly caring, humane and compassionate heart. Above all, it was a subtle but highly effective way to remind us all of the ephemerality of life and the imperative of living wisely. Thanks.

Ebere Wagbara write from The Daily Sun in Lagos