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Sunday, February 23, 2014

NIGERIA'S PROBLEM IS ITS ELITE


     The population of the poor in Nigeria has continued to increase, from some 60% in the last few years to around 70% today. So is the number of billionaires, Nigeria's Aliko Dangote has witnessed multiplication in his total wealth to some $20 billions putting him among the 25 top riches individuals in the world. In the last few years the rich class has witnessed an increase in it welfare the result of favourable government policies, while the poor class has seen deterioration in its general standard of living. This is not an accident that happen from nowhere, it was plan from the beginning. What do you expect from a government that is filled to the brink with people sympathetic to neo-liberal economic and political worldview, that see nothing wrong in the poor going to sleep with an empty stomach. In the current arrangement, finance minister, as well as that of commerce and investment, agriculture, and heads of key government institution are die-hard advocate of winner take all capitalism, who belief in the continue economic encroachment (by the wealthy class) into all key spheres of the country's economy at the expense of the majority poor. Take for example, (as i also made mention in my last post on this blog) the so-called revolution that the regime in Abuja is claiming to be taken place in the agricultural sector. It is nothing more than government backing the capitalist class to enter the farming sector which they now view as lucrative for making billions and increasing their wealth. It look no more than government handing over of poor farmers sources of livelihood to a group of few ruthless capitalists in order to make billions.



   Look at the central economic issue of wealth distribution, it is still highly skewed in favour of few million Nigerians at the expense of over hundred millions people who are wallowing in abject poverty. I hope i am not sounding like a Marxist here. But, the truth must be told that poverty remain the major challenge facing this government and all those that came before it. A situation where good jobs are reserve for only those that come from rich families, who have good connections, is disaster waiting to happen and in a country that want to reduce the high level of inequality in its mid.  Despite continue promises to create jobs for the teaming unemployed youth, the government has failed to deliver on this key promise. Hence, the resort to criminal activities by these unemployed graduates, in form of kidnappings, robbery, email scams, petty thievery, and hooliganism. Abuja Nigeria's capital has become a kind of magnet that attract the rich and throw away the poor. Why? Simply because life is so expensive in the capital city that only the super rich can afford it luxury. The poor are literally restricted to rural areas and states capitals, living in overcrowded quarters. For a first time visitor to the country who arrived Abuja and did not go outside of it, that person will wrongly assume that Nigerians are rich. But, go outside the capital to any village in the country and you will see extreme poverty starring at you- welcome to Nigeria the country of rich and poor.



    Corruption was so endemic as habit and way of life of the Nigerian elite that the mere thinking of somebody coming to power with the intention of fighting the menace of corruption made them shiver. With corruption Nigerian elite has found a powerful weapon to maintain the current status quo, the continue suffering of the majority of Nigerian population under government induce poverty. There is no powerful weapon to perpetuate inequality more than corruption.  The numerous efforts in the past by the Nigerian poor to put people with clean record into power was stalled by the corrupt elite by means of election rigging, another form of corruption. With Nigerian democracy as it is now it will require extraordinary effort to bring a government that will fight for the interest of the majority. Globally, education has been recognized as a powerful weapon in reducing inequality and increasing societal welfare; but, one irony here is that Nigerian governments both, at federal and state levels, do not care much about this, since they have all send their children abroad to countries where education is highly valued. Imagine having 70% of Nigerian population as literate, do you foresee this kind of nonsense taking place; the answer is simple No. It is understandable when government is very serious with education to give it some room for excuse on its lapses in other areas of important to the fight against inequality. But, a government that neglect the education of its people has no room for any excuse. Poverty, inequality, and illiteracy,the three evils that have found a sanctuary in Nigeria and a government that loss all clues on how to solve these problems are this country problem.



  An average Nigerian elite do not like the word REVOLUTION, because by revolution it means the majority are, in some way, going to remove the minority from their hold on power. It means the unexpected happening, it means change; and the rich and political class hate change. As i am writing this article election is eminent the two major political parties in the country are putting things in place to see that they win the elections come next year. But, the question remain is INEC ready to provide free and fair election? Looking back and taken the previous elections into consideration the answer is no, but one hope this time around Jega or who ever is at the helm of affairs during that time will do some miraculous things and provide acceptable election to the people of Nigeria. In his book 'Neo-Liberalism or Democracy?', Arthur MacEwan (p. 225)  writes 'the problem of how to achieve democratic economic development is not nearly so simple as the numerous puzzles that Holmes attacked, nor are the problems of development ones that can be settled primarily by the clever reasoning of a sharp intellect. The barriers that block democratic economic development are social and political: they are problems of power.' I guess that explain our problem here - POWER, how could the majority lay their hands on power? I hear somebody mentioning election, but big-time riggers are their to ensure that the poor did not realized his ambition of putting somebody clean into the position of power. With people like Jega, as head of INEC, the dream of bringing intellectual to spearheaded the needed change has been put to rest since. What next for the poor is the question that sometimes give me restless nights.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

FERTILIZER AND THE SO-CALLED AGRICULTURAL REVOLUTION IN NIGERIA


      The hallmark of this regime agricultural transformation is commercialization; though i have nothing against large scale commercial agriculture, i equally doesn't support the current neglect of small scale rural farmers in favour of large scale investors such as Dangote. In all the countries that agriculture have help transformed their economies by providing revenue and the most needed employment, small scale farmers are the center of that transformation. Most of the noise this regime is making about its agricultural transformation is only on paper as the real farmers in various rural locations around the country do not know much about these so called transformations. Fertilizer is still difficult for ordinary farmers to get, farm credit not available, and modern farming equipment obsolete. The much talk about creation of 3.5 million jobs in agriculture and related services is no where near becoming true.



  According to Hussain Abdu (country Director, ActionAid Nigeria), federal government has budgeted only 1.7 percent and 1.3 percent to the agricultural sector in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Looking at the level of noise that is coming out from this regime image makers one would have thought that this government is doing more than enough for the sector. This poor budgetary allocation to agriculture is not only peculiar with the federal government as most states government have continued with their neglect of the sector. In the last four years of this regime, the importation of food stuffs into the country did not change; the country remain as one of the largest importers of rice in the world, among other agricultural products. About 90% of Nigerian farmers still depend on ordinary farm implements such as hoe to produce the food they need to take care of their families. Hence, the predominance of poverty among Nigerian rural dwellers who are mostly farmers. Therefore, agricultural revolution such as the one this regime is claiming to have brought, that focus on Billionaire farmers, will do little to reduce the cycle of poverty that is currently ravaging the rural farmers. Instead, it will pave way for much bigger revolution that would sweep away the political class from their present point of advantage. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

ON THE GROWING CASES OF CORRUPTION ASSOCIATED WITH NIGERIAN WOMEN

      In Nigeria, just like in many parts of the world, corruption is mainly associated with men who for centuries have dominated leadership and professional fields. In the last five decades of Nigeria's independence, all the most notorious cases of corruption were associated with men holding important political and professional positions. The reasons for this include the number of women holding important positions which was insignificant, the long period of military dictatorship, the high percentage of illiterates among women and of course the predominance of poverty within the vast population of Nigerian women. But, the transition to democracy in 1999 seem to have changed things a little bit. Since that time Nigeria has a sizeable number of women in very important positions; both in government and the private sector. We have witnessed two finance ministers who are women, women head of Nigerian stock exchange, petroleum minister, head of security and exchange commission, information minister, chief judge of the federation, deputy governors, ambassadors, award winning authors, chief executive of banks, senators, just to mention a few. Worldwide, there is now some level of agreement that the long held belief that increased participation of women in government reduces corruption is less true; indicating that corruption is gender neutral.


     The issue of corruption among Nigerian women has become more prominent at this period in time, when some notable cases of corruption among Nigerian women have become more apparent. The recent case of the purchase of two luxurious cars worth hundreds of millions of Naira involving the aviation minister Stella Oduah has taken many unaware, that a female (top government official) would have shown this senseless level of corruption that in the past was only associated with her male counterparts. The allegation against the minister did not stop there, there was the issue of tribalistic tendencies and nepotism displayed by the minister in granting international airlines license to operate in the country. Where she openly, without equity or decency, favour her own people to the detriment of others, in locations where commercial operation realities dictate that the airlines should be landing due to size of the market. Then, there is this case of Granting of import waivers worth Trillions of Naira by the supervising minister of economy Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to super rich Nigerians with connections at the top. The other top female minister that is being accused of corruption is the influential minister of petroleum Diezani Allison Madueke. As i am writing this article an agency (NNPC) under her is accused of corruption in the disappearance of some $20 million, by the Central Bank governor. There is also the case of oil theft that is going on under the watch of her ministry everyday.
 

        The lives of many Nigerian women is horrendous, full of risks and ups and downs. I was going through a Premium Times investigative report done by one of their undercover reporters published in the Sunday Trust of January 26, 2014 when it further confirms to me the kind of hardship an average Nigerian woman have been going through to realise her dreams, in a men dominated ruthless Nigeria. Despite all the dangers involve in human trafficking for the purpose of prostitution in Nigeria and abroad, some women involve are happy with the money they are making out of the dirty trade. As the saying goes, the end justify the means, these particular women do not care about the illegality of their business in as much as they realise their worldly ambitions or reach the top of their career. Nigerian women need to act quick to avoid a new corruption stigma from been placed on them by their men counterpart, who after all want the continuation of the status quo. Or it will look like the saying that 'if you can't beat them join them' is playing in this case involving  women folk in Nigeria. It is even more interesting because Nigerian women have been weak and dominated by the men folk all this while.