10th November, 2015
Peter Claver Oparah
Without doubt, Nigeria is currently walking on the straight and narrow way. It is being led on this tortuous walk by President Muhammadu Buhari, a leader providentially thrown up to rescue a sinking nation from the atrophy of decay wrought by past corrupt, incompetent and misguided leaders. The straight and narrow way is torn-strewn. It is bumpy. It is uneven. It is arduous! It is laden with grit and stress. It exerts the full manliness in whoever elects to take it. Conversely, the broad way is smooth. It is well paved. It is even. It is well marked. It is stress free. It is so easy. It is alluring. It is attractive. It us sexy and touché.
But the straight and narrow way is the way that leads to salvation, as Jesus admonished his disciples in the Bible. You may wonder why one would choose a thorny and crooked path over a smooth and well paved path but then, the narrow way is straight and the smooth way is not. There is no joy in taking a straight and narrow way. There are no comforts on this road. But as its name suggests, it is straight and provides better access to the promised land. The narrow way leads to salvation while the smooth, broad way leads to perdition. That was what Jesus taught and the Hymnist was to drive this further home in the ageless hymn, Loving Shepherd of The Sheep, when he prayed ‘suffer not my steps to stray, from the straight and narrow way’. So the broad and smooth way is popular but it does not lead to salvation. The straight and narrow way is not quite popular but it is a sure route to salvation.
Oh yes, Nigeria is on that tacky straight and narrow way at present; no thanks to our past prodigal leaders who ensured the country is drained of all resources to make our present smooth. The providential oil bounty has percolated, leaving Nigeria a raped and badly tossed victim of its humongous side effects on our body politic. Just the other day, we were at the peak of the dry season. Oil was gushing and meeting the appetite of a combustible world for oil became a lucrative task which drove oil prices above the ceiling. Petro-dollars flowed ceaselessly. Oil went for as high as $120 per barrel and there were enough to go round the vicious cult of sybaritic buccaneers that people the Nigerian government, their hirelings and fawners and enough handouts for their enablers and procured caterwaullers at every rung of the society. As the dollars poured in, official stealing exacerbated and the tone assumed a geometrical proportion. Money was not the problem for them but curiously, the poor got poorer and increased in wide proportions.
As the oil dollars flowed, our politics became an arcane pastime as it poached the ramparts and all manner of philistines whom it empowered against the increasingly poor majority. Our politics became a deadly fight for advantage where all manner of deadly means were employed to seize power and its many accoutrements. It was an era that was marked by high degree of questionable opulence, high level of nihilism and a pondering degree of prodigality and waste. From nowhere, dubious cronies of those in government invaded the seats of power in Abuja and walked away with fatuous bounties.
Dubious contracts that ended up not being done but enriching fatuously their beneficiaries, became the order of the day. Wild parties dotted the landmark. They became czars of mind boggling properties in choice locations within and without Nigeria. They became proud owners of private jets, state of the art automobiles and several expensive but sometimes useless toys that advertise their arrival in the world monied class. They became proprietors of private universities and dubious companies. They had no known businesses. They had no traceable inheritances and no means to which their wealth could be traced. They became the new celebrities in town and with a president and government that glamourized that rootless access to wealth, the sky became their limit in plundering the resources of the nation. Those in the Jonathan government looked at this scenario, smiled and back slapped themselves that they have created a rich and prosperous nation!
But as these were going on, the citizenry wallowed in unmitigated want as their basic needs became elusive. The middle class withered off thus creating a big economic chasm between the few dubious super rich and the increasing legion of the poor. The haves took the center place and celebrated their good fortune while the poor wallowed and sulked in helpless penury. Meanwhile, the Jonathan government spared nothing to celebrate these suspiciously rich. In fact, it continued to pander to their insatiable crave for more pies as it latched open the country’s treasury for all manner of politically-connected rodents to feed on- to the sorrow of the despairing poor.
The continued inflow was assured as the oil dollars came in torrents; buoyed by increasing global appetite for our oil. Multi-billion dollar scandals became a common trademark to the conduct of governance as more and more ghouls tapped new frontiers from stealing what belongs to all and leaving the poor famished. Hard work and appropriate reward for labour became a story for the gods and the tone for the moral debasement of the nation was cast in gold! To compound issues, Jonathan was to spark off an embarrassing alibi for the unrestrained stealing going on under him when he argued that stealing is not corruption. It was a blank license to steal and his minions ensured they wasted no opportunity to make their kill from the till.
As this honeymoon was going on, the government played deaf and dumb to the caution to save for the rainy day. All advice to build the country’s reserves were ignored and to even compound issues, the hefty foreign reserve left by the Obasanjo regime at a time oil price was going at a little fraction of the high price it commanded under Jonathan, was raided and plundered. There was no critical investment in the critical sectors that drive the economy. Regenerative capital was a no-go area as recurrent expenditure became a dominant feature of our national budgets in this era. Power blinkered to darkness, the roads decayed, health and educational sectors went down. Security deteriorated and unemployment soared to such deadly height that it became a national embarrassment. Inflation went haywire and the national currency crumbled against other currencies. Curiously, trillions of Naira were voted each year for the sectors but they end up in the pockets of those that laid claim to affinity to the government.
All of a sudden, the oil dollars refused to flow in again as the world seemed to have found a cure for its appetite for oil. Demand for Nigerian oil plummeted and the pangs resonated in the Nigerian polity as soon as this dawned. The rainy day met us stark naked and we were terribly beaten by a rain that was forewarned. There was no shock absorbers to take even the minimum impact of this negative development. It came straight as the funds to play with dried up. States found it hard to even get take-home allocations each month, as their allocations dried up. Because the Nigerian government behaved like the pampered sluggard, there was no fallback to the impact of the fall in oil revenue. The specters of social crisis lit up in states which found it hard to meet even minimum demands for workers’ salaries and contractual agreements. It was a hard bounce to reality!
Every hope that the outgone government will straighten its acts and rescue very little mileage from the rampaging oil price drop was lost as the government spared nothing in the ensuing general elections to unleash unimaginable resources to purchase an added term. The Jonathan government went out of its way to mop up every resources to deploy to its re-election quest and thus ensured that, as at the time President Buhari emerged, the treasury was stark empty, looted to the bones and the price of oil has continued to dip; much lower than even the budget benchmark. It was certain that Nigeria was in serious trouble and needed a person of President Buhari’s demeanor to re-take from looming eclipse.
For the five months he had in power, President Buhari has unleashed a rescue agenda that will take Nigeria through the delicate brinks of collapse. If Nigeria must come round, it must walk frantically away from the smooth paths that is leading it to mayhem and find its way to the straight and narrow way. This, Buhari has done and it is exerting far reaching impacts on Nigerians. Nigerians have no choice than indulge in this critical walk for there are no alternatives to the scars of the wasted years before Buhari’s coming. By far, the greatest impact of this walk is rescuing the moral soul of a nation long stranded in sybaritic prodigality and untamed corruption. This also involves curbing the gargantuan waste that has been cultivated to drain the resources of the country thus capping the wellheads of official graft and corruption. Today, the seat of power has ceased to become the beehive of idle hustlers and hunters of fortune. The dubious rich is lying low, has stripped himself of the trappings of dubious unearned wealth. Those that see politics as means of self enrichment have been put out of business while in each and every sector, the rat holes through which the commonwealth was purloined have been sealed off and the rats chased away. It is an all-encompassing revolution that stands to steer the rescue of Nigeria from a deep moral crevice that has hobbled the country. It is legendary. It is historic. It is remarkable!
There is no doubt that the Buhari reform will inflict temporary strictures on Nigerians across board. The free, stolen cash are no more flying around and Nigerians are learning to live on their just wages. Honesty in conduct of official business is a given in the new social order. Of course, it means that much illicit cash is no longer fuelling what was, to all intents and purposes, a phantom economy that was rooted in mindless consumption and nothing more. President Buhari is cracking the whip on those that raped the country when the going was good to send a message that no one should steal. The cult of rapists that fed fat on all of us has gone to the holes from where they sponsor distractive messages and noisome outcries of how much Nigerians are suffering, so as to get a reprieve from Buhari’s whips but Nigerians are assured that nothing will derail the cleansing going on today. Of course, Nigerians know the straight and narrow way will be initially bumpy when they stood on the unflagging demand for a walk on that lonely road to elect Buhari to power. They know that making an omelet involves the breaking of eggs. They know that the payoff from the present bumpy trek is tremendous when they massively voted Buhari to dethrone the era of rot and graft his regime succeeded.
All said, Nigerians need to firm Buhari’s hands in his present effort to recover the years the locusts that are mounting syndicated distractions today ate. Nigerians must not, for anything, be deceived to wish for a recreation of the present with the rule of vandals and ogres that Buhari replaced just the other day. Sure, there are deft efforts to make Nigerians look like the headless Israelis who would rather they were fee with the meat of slavery and bludgeoned to disgraceful servile death in Egypt than endure the strictures of exodus from slavery. But Nigerians must put down the pedestrian inclination of the displaced locusts to cash in on the aftermath of the present effort to rescue the country from their waste, to sow doubts on our minds. We must show that we have long outgrown their wiles and antics even beyond the post March 28 level when we sent them to the dung heaps despite their wily ways.
—Claver Oparah wrote from Ikeja, Lagos.E-mail: [email protected]