ANTI-CLIMAX OF A CRESCENDO; NARRATIVES OF 2019 GENERAL ELECTIONS
BEING THE TEXT OF PRESS CONFERENCE ADDRESSED COMRADE DEBO ADENIRAN, EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN, CENTRE FOR ANTI-CORRUPTION AND OPEN LEADERSHIP (CACOL) HELD ON THURSDAY, 8TH MARCH, 2018 AT THE HUMANITY CENTRE, OJOKORO-IJAIYE, LAGOS
“A Man stung by wasp, fears the buzz of a house-fly” – Igbo Proverb
As we welcome you; our friends and compatriots from the media, we must commence this conference with a truism. We are in the hub of sublime maneuvers by political war-horses to position themselves as likely next heir-apparent to deceive unwary electorates and gain the unfettered access to our collective patrimony. A popular saying goes that once bitten, twice shy but Nigeria has been severally bitten, serially raped by public officers of all hues, shapes and gabs that we need to be extremely cautious as we approach the 2019 general elections.
This month’s press conference coincides with the International Women’s Day, consequently CACOL is using this occasion to express our strong solidarity with the women of Nigeria, Africa and the World as the day is being commemorated across the globe. We identify with the struggles and pains of women in this contemporary World dominated by patriarchy and capitalism. We believe the engendering of gender equity, social justice and egalitarianism in society is a precursor to liberation of women and all oppressed strata of the people of the world. We thus remain in solidarity with the struggles of women focused on ensuring equity and social justice until victory forever. In line with theme for this year, ‘Press for Progress’, we call for the intensifying of the efforts of women and men to move the World, Africa and Nigeria toward an egalitarian society where the mode of co-existences amongst different classes, people and gender will be socially, economically and politically harmonious. Freedom cometh only via struggle.
As the 2019 elections approaches, we are most concerned that Nigerians are worn out with forlorn promises and hopes dangled by politicians that democratic rule would bring the country to Eldorado. Our people fought valiantly to overthrow the burden of military dictatorship demanding and rightly so their rights to humanity and democratic governance, the glorious human rights and pro-democracy crusades were littered with a lot of bloodied heads, broken bones and lost souls but the spirits of Nigerians remained high till the return of democracy in May, 1999. Ever since the entire nation watched haplessly as succeeding democratic leadership rule roughshod over the citizens.
We are most concerned that pre-general elections year has assumed a dimension when things that ought not to happen occur. The most damaging reference point is that in 2014 just before the general elections, the Chibok girls were abducted just as similarly now; in 2018 before general elections the Dapchi girls have been abducted. Is it not possible to re-write the plot structure of the tragedy of our history? CACOL mince no words at insisting that as we get nearer to the next year’s elections, we are confident that there would be daring attempts to stampede the nation into precipice by global prophets of doom acclaiming that Nigeria would become a failed State.
The alarming records coming out to the public domain from all corners of the world show a country that is seriously hemorrhaging because of the brazen looting of its treasury by its greedy leadership. The country lie permanently in a state of comatose because of the injurious activities of the past administrations especially since even the return of democracy, Nigerians now feel that there cannot be anyway out to junction out of the vicious cycle of poverty, ignorance and diseases as they even see old notorious looters being re-packaged into new national positions while many serving public officers are paying mere lips service to the present administration’s commitment to change, for economic reconstruction and anti-corruption. If Nigeria must come out of the present economic doldrums, all Nigerians must be totally and irreversibly own the process for programmatic system change.
New generations of Nigerians must arise to truly change the colour, shapes and character of leadership, far away from expired former leaders parading themselves as vanguards of a third force of leadership. If President Muhammadu Buhari really wants to stamp his foot prints in the history of the country’s search for industrial and socio-economic advancement, he must change the narratives and consciously massify his clamour for anti-corruption in the younger generations of Nigeria. This is even much more imperatives when we consider how the following global rankings have revealed that Nigeria is speedily deteriorating:
· Annual Corruption Perception Index: Nigeria’s corruption perception worsened between 2016 and 2017 according to the annual Corruption Perception Index, CPI, by Transparency International. Nigeria slipped by 12 positions in the country rankings, from 136 in 2016 to 148 in 2017. The rankings are from 1 to 180, with 180 indicating the country having the worst perception of corruption.
· International Press Freedom Index: Nigeria’s ranking in the international press freedom index has witnessed steady declined since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office in 2015. The country is currently ranked 122 out of 180 countries according to the 2017 edition of the annual survey. The country fell from 111 in 2015 to 116 in 2016 and has fallen again to 122 in 2017, entering the “red zone” for press freedom.
· Rule of Law Index: Nigeria was downgraded by the World Justice Project (WJP) 2017/2018 Rule of Law Index. The country currently ranks 97 out of 113 countries, dropping one position from the previous ranking. The index measures the adherence to rule of law across 113 countries worldwide.
· RMB’s Africa Investment Attractiveness Index: Nigeria has fallen from the top 10 in the ‘where to Invest in Africa 2018’, Rand Merchant Bank’s (RMB) Investment Attractiveness Index. Nigeria fell from No 6 on the list to number 13. The Investment Attractiveness Index balances economic activity against the relative ease of doing business.
· Global Retail Development Index: Nigeria’s global ranking in retail development dropped from the 19th position recorded in 2016 to 27 out of 30 countries surveyed in 2017. Nigeria’s total sales from the retail sector dropped from $125bn in 2016 to $109bn in 2017. The Global Retail Development Index measures retail investments based on all relevant macroeconomic and retail-specific variables in developing countries.
· World Economic Forum Networked Readiness Index: Nigeria dropped seven places to rank 119 in the Networked Readiness Index ranking conducted by the World Economic Forum. The NRI is an indicator that measures a country’s ICT development by its ability to implement and take full advantage of ICTs.
· Nigeria’s ranking dropped to 127th in 2016 GCI analysis: Nigeria deteriorated by 3 places from 124th in 2015-2016 to 127th in 2016-2017 ranking released by the World Economic Forum (WEF). The GCI index measures the set of institutions, policies, and factors that set the sustainable current and medium-term levels of economic prosperity. The drop in ranking is attributed to two core pillars, the macroeconomic and financial market efficiency.
· Ernst and Young’s Africa Attractiveness Index: Nigeria declined to the 17th position on Ernst and Young’s Africa Attractiveness Index (AAI) 2017. This is a two-step decline from the AAI 2016 ranking. The 2017 report revealed that the number of new FDI projects in Nigeria declined to 51 in 2016 from 53 in 2015.
· World Internal Security and Police Index: Nigeria Police ranked bottom in Africa and 127th in the world, making the country, one with the worst police in the world according to the 2016 World Internal Security and Police Index (WISPI) released by the International Police Science Association (IPSA) and the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). Nigeria was followed by countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Uganda, and Pakistan and the report attributed Nigeria’s low rank to the rising cases of terrorism, corruption and low number of police personnel.The WISPI ranks the police based on 16 indicators around their ability to address internal security issues in their countries across four domains – capacity, process, legitimacy and outcomes.
· Worst Electricity Supply: Nigeria was ranked the second worst nation in electricity supply according to a World Economic Forum report released by The Spectator Index on the 15th of January, 2018. Nigeria suffered a power decline to 3,851 megawatts according to the ranking which puts only Yemen ahead of other countries like Nigeria, Haiti, Lebanon and Malawi.
WAKE UP CALL: These rankings were not fabricated but a sincere, statistical presentation of the continuous slide of the country, no matter the fact that officials have been accepting these only by denials. It would be recalled that the Minister of Agriculture recently claimed that Nigeria’s growth in rice production has led to decline in the export of rice in a certain Asian country which the nation immediately debunked just as the triple Minister of Housing, Power and Works claim of improved power generation is belied by the deteriorating supply of electricity situation in the country. CACOL consider this global rankings as a clarion call for Government and Nigerians to tighten up our girdle if are serious about taking Nigeria to greater heights. A cursory examination of number of contemporary social developments in the country will also validate these data.
Herdsmen Carnages and Terrorism: The nation is grappling with the orgies of violent attacks and bloodletting of herdsmen carnages and farmers clashes in several States of the Federation while government seems either incapable or without requisite political will to stem the tides. Many villages have been sacked in Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa and Plateau States with many people displaced from their homes, farmlands and workplaces. The grave implications of these ravages are very grave as the country risk high possibility of experiencing famine and outbreak of diseases from where these heinous carnages take place. Government must put in place security measures to stop these carnages and bring culprits to book.
Porous Borders, National Security Threats: Our territorial borders particularly with Chad, Niger, Sudan and Cameroun have become virile markets for smuggling of arms and ammunitions into the country. The borders are also routes for terrorists from other parts of the continent and elsewhere that daily infiltrates the country and perpetuates violent crimes. We consider this as manifest threat to our national security which relevant government’s security agencies must tackle headlong.
Greek Gift Called Minimum Wage: It is interesting to get news reports of the plans of the Federal Government to pay a new minimum wage in September this year. It is trite to state that there are statutory mechanisms for negotiation of minimum wage and it is not the business of Government to dangle the promises of a fantastic minimum wage especially when such promise is expected to come just a few months to general elections. Many patriotic observers have noted that there may be hidden agenda to this promise of Eldorado for workers. This is even more curious when most States are unable to pay the last minimum wage while many owe workers arrears of their monthly salaries. In most advanced industrial economies of the world, there is no periodic rituals of minimum wage as the priorities are always to fix and stabilize the economy so that inflationary indices does not make nonsense of the value of workers’ wages. We call on the labour sector and informal unions to think out of the box and task Government to address the ailing economy, reverse its negative downward slides so as to make the value of labour wages meaningful.
The Bulls in the China-wares Shop: Virtually all State Governors in the country can be effectively described as rampaging bulls in a China-wares’ shop except perhaps for Lagos and Ogun when it comes to the treatment of workers and retirees. The most notorious even go to the extent of not only bullying workers but sacking or threats of mass sacks and wanton terrorization of civil populace. The most notorious are Governors of Kaduna, Bayelsa, Oyo, Ekiti, Kogi and Ondo States. The Governor of Ondo State even has the brazen effrontery to contemplate privatizing and commercializing the educational sector in a State that its major vocation is education! Paradoxically, these Governors and other elected public officers smile home every month with their jumbo pay and unaccounted security votes. Nigerians should note these bullish leaders and exercise their franchise rights to take ownership of their States to secure their future.
The Outrageous Price of Development in Lagos: As much as this State has the envious record of almost been self-sustaining courtesy of its aggressive revenue drive, yet, the poor and toiling populace have no resting place as they are heavily taxed and brutally displaced from their homes and place of work. The general cry is for the State to put a human face to its developmental plans. It is demographically wrong to build a city only for the rich. CACOL has raised it at every opportunity that class is of essence in societal and city development. A mega city cannot exist without the masses. This is why CACOL joins all conscientious voices to call for the reversal of the Increment in the Land Use charge, and the re-introduction of the Tenement Rate. The economic sensitivity of the effect of the recent recession is to deliver a good level of welfarism to the people who are the worst hit and depressed so far.
Stem the De-industrialisation Slides of the Country: The major historic task before President Muhammadu Buhari is to shift decidedly from the socio-economic developmental paradigm of neo-liberalism imposed on the country by the Brettonwood global financial institutions’ hawks which has effectively turned the country into a veritable dumping ground for consumeric industrial goods of the advanced western world. Many industries in the country have winded down and the nation is presently de-industrialised by the economic policies imposed on us by the quisling ruling elites that are ever ready to be errand boys of western world in our corridors of power. These dangerous neo-liberal economic pills and those who prescribed them must be fumigated out of the Nigerian system. We must consciously embrace system change and a paradigm shift to alternative socio-economic order.
Shut Up. Make Atonement and Retire to Old Peoples’ Home: A couple of former Heads of States and their hordes have been befouling the country’s political space with their odious pronouncements in recent times. These are elements that when they were in power have boggling records of looting the country treasury dry. If they are genuine elder statesmen and men of conscience, what they should do is to beg the entire nation and public to make atonement by returning all their ill-gotten wealth into the coffers of the country. Nigerians should rise up and tell these types of bad experiment in our national leadership to atone for the lootings and mis-governance of the past because most of them apparently deserve to be behind bars.
Quintessentially, it is significant to point out that routine election as a democratic practice does not necessarily translate to collective control of the socio-economic existence of the people. Even though our constitution provides for government to ensure the socio-economic rights of the people whereby their security and social wellbeing is prioritized in a way that the wealth of the people is not concentrated in a few hands as required of a democracy, the aberration of this reality is what obtains in Nigeria.
Consequently, as the 2018 – 2019 elections approach and with the excruciating conditions of living of the majority, Nigerians must rise in unison to struggle for the assertion of their socio-economic rights as dialectically required components of a democracy under best practices. Chapter 2 of the Nigerian constitution should be the guide of the choices we make in the elections by ensuring that the governments at all levels commit to the security and social welfare of the populace before earning their votes.
The economic practice of neo-liberalism that has continued to be imposed on the country by successive governments is antithetical to democracy given that it has only succeeded in widening the gap between the rich and the poor. The Bretton Woods institution dictated neo-liberal policies which have failed almost in every country it had been imbibed must be abandoned to achieve a socio-economically harmonious existence of the people.
Beyond elections, Nigerians must invigorate the struggles for social emancipation holistically because the present status quo will perpetually ensure penury in their lives if the system is not overhauled and replaced with a more humane one that would guarantee the social welfare and security of life and property.
We thank you for listening
Executive Chairman, CACOL