From looting to sharing the 'national cake'

03Aug 2018
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
From looting to sharing the 'national cake'

NEIGHBOUR! How have you been? You seem a bit reserved these days. I hope there is nothing to worry about?

President Muhammadu Buhari.

Hmm! There is so much to worry about in these perilous times. Even President Muhammadu Buhari is worried about 2019 elections especially with the way APC is metamorphosing. Well, as for me, my pocket is in recession and it is beginning to affect my blood pressure.

Indeed, ignorance is a disease. You are here nursing agonizing distress while a scrum is receiving cash handout in your state from the Abacha's recovered loot.

What are you talking about? That has got nothing to do with me and I feel let down for confiding in you about my discomfort?

Please pardon me jare! But how come you have not heard about the "Social Investment Programme," Buhari's pet project to share the recently repatriated 322 million dollars Abacha loot among the poorest and most vulnerable households within 19 states in the country?

Really! You don't mean it. Wonders shall never end. Is that not another clever way to embezzle the money without any trace? Indeed, this is an "open secret" to stealing.

Of course, that cannot happen under Buhari's watch. You know he likes to boast that he is incorruptible and not like his predecessors who allowed corruption to grip the nation's jugular. Even the APC's faithful usually becloud their thinking that without Buhari's political intervention and the formation of the political coalition Nigeria would not have been rescued from the gloomy grip of an infernal PDP's government.

Nobody can accuse Buhari of being a slave to corruption. But, his government's soft spot in fighting it is alarming. However, sharing the Abacha loot among poor Nigerians is economically illogical and politically wrong. Certainly, there must be a hidden agenda to such a deal that has the "voice of Jacob but bears the skin of Esau." How did they arrive at such as an "effective" way of tackling poverty?

"My countryman! It is neocolonialism at work. The Swiss government and World Bank demanded to know what the Buhari-led government intend to do with the money before they released it."

"Insult of no reputation! What effrontery do they have to demand such an agreement? Beside, why did World Bank approve or settle for sharing the money among poor people as the best remedy to fight poverty? Would they have chosen such as a better way to contend with poverty in their home countries? Indeed, the problem with Africa is Africans themselves. Many African leaders allow selfish interest to over-ride their country's benefit. Hence, more and more people are walloping in abject poverty in a continent that is rich in both human and natural resources."

"My friend! Don't speak as if you are not in this country. Have you forgotten that, when it comes to international politics especially on issues of money, Nigeria's government plays very formidable and skillful tactic to win only for themselves. For instance, former President Olusegun Obasanjo's government craftily dribbled its way with eloquent commentaries and received over 700 million dollars from the Abacha loot and there is nothing to show for it. Again, President Obasanjo's administration played the ostrich and begged its way with facts and figures to earn IMF's pity and subsequently write-off the nation's debts, kudos to Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the then finance minister. Today, it is disheartening to learn that the nation's current debt has doubled. This administration earned the last batch of Abacha's loot because of Buhari's immaculate garment of incorruptibility. But his choice to continue on the culture of waste by sharing the money on the poor is sickening.

"Perhaps, Buhari's intention to allot the money among the poor is to be seen as a "man of the people" or he is trying to "set forth at dawn" in order to "make hay before sunshine" and win the people's heart towards 2019 elections. In that respect, it will not be seen as vote buying like what happened in Ekiti.

"I still don't get it! Is this one of his election promises? Why should Buhari seek to deal with poverty by viewing the solution through the eye of sharing money to the poor? This is indeed one of those best hopeless deals any government would reach for scrupulous reasons. In the long run, it may weaken Buhari's credibility and stoke opposition.

"Without mincing words, there are formidable obstacles to such a plan." The unnecessary risk is far above the gain and it may spook the nation in the near future. Political scientists call such morbid plan "state capture" and the monopolisation of government by corrupt actors. Exposing scandals without fixing it does little good. Likewise, sharing the Abacha loot in just 19 states is discriminatory. Without being told, elements of vulnerability, abuse and corruption could arise as beneficiary state governors may concentrate sharing the loot on areas that they got more votes from.

"Indeed, it seems the All Progressives Congress (APC) is a menacing government that does not have the people's interest at heart. There is no light at the end of the tunnel with this parochial and wonky sharing agenda. The question is, to whom will the happiness befall, the politicians or poor Nigerians? The truth is that the Federal Government is under no obligation to help the poor by handing bundles of cash to them. Although, it might be argued that money in the hands of the poor remains within the economy because the people spend the money on essential consumer goods which has direct bearing on the domestic production sector. Nice point you may say, but does Nigeria produce what it consumes?

"From all indication it seems the APC led-government lacks define agenda and goals. Expectedly, the government ought to know that the consequences of sharing the Abacha's loot among poorest Nigerians will inevitably represent a loss for both sides and a threat to the nation's economy.

"It would have made more sense if government had channeled part of the money to revive a major manufacturing company in the country so that jobs could be created. Better still, it could be used to improve education standard which has fallen drastically over the years. Or give it out as soft loan to entrepreneurs who will also reduce unemployment.

"Suppose the government has a listening ear, it would buy into governor Akinwunmi Ambode's advice. The other day, Ambode called on the federal government to decentralize the seaports by ensuring that ports in other parts of the country function to capacity so as to ease Lagos from the perennial traffic congestion. It is not too late to redirect part of the Abacha's loot to that area.

"Good talk! Don't forget that the federal government listens to only cabals. They play 'God', believing to have the magic wand to turn things around in a flash. And when they fail, the masses bear the blame and brunt.

"One thing is certain, this sharing deal, will not grow the nation's economy nor will it alleviate poverty. But, it could produce a political earthquake in the near future and definitely earn Nigeria ridicule in the international community as a nation that blew its chances to be developed". Let's keep our fingers crossed, anyway.


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