/Chasing shadows and calling it politics

Chasing shadows and calling it politics

By Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie

Two things happened on Tuesday, March 22, 2022 which show what Nigerians are capable of accomplishing. On that day, President Muhammadu Buhari was in Lagos to open the Dangote Fertilizer Plant. Said to be the largest in Africa, that plant is an example of what we can accomplish in Nigeria. With the right attitude, Nigerians can and have accomplished great things. With a business-friendly environment created and secured by government, there will be investments. With investments, the poverty index in Nigeria will be lower, and the level of insecurity too.

From the fertilizer plant at Ibeju Lekki, the President went to open the new international terminal at the Lagos Airport. Travelling through Nigerian airports has become an embarrassing nightmare. Will this new terminal make a difference? North, south, east and west, Nigeria has potential tourist attractions that can provide millions of jobs for our desperate and disappointed youths. But who wants to visit a country whose dilapidated airports are like ovens, where it takes up to three hours to pass through immigration and retrieve your luggage? Who wants to be tourist in a country whose airports are not user-friendly?

The fact that the airport terminal was constructed by the Chinese is also a point on which to reflect. Why is it that Nigeria cannot construct an airport terminal without the assistance of China? We have architects. We have engineers. What stops us from designing and constructing an airport terminal? We live in a climate of theft of Nigeria’s wealth by some members of the ruling elite who stash the money away in foreign lands, places where the airports alone say positive things about the people.

While the huge fertilizer plant and the new airport terminal were being commissioned by the President, there were and there still are pending matters. We are beginning to feel the effects of months of insecurity in scarcity of foodstuff. For a long time, government simply failed to secure the country. Where farmers can no longer farm because of bandits, insurgents and kidnappers, it is only a matter of time before famine sets in.

At the time a new international airport terminal was being opened, air fares for domestic flights have skyrocketed by over 100%. The aviation sector is badly affected by turbulence in the energy market. Airlines are unable to procure funds to buy aviation fuel. Flights are rescheduled, often cancelled. There are stories of passengers who spent days at the airport without flying, and who, in utter disappointment, had to travel by road. But the roads are bad, they are unsafe. Kidnappers are on the prowl, armed robbers on the rampage.

Electricity supply continues to be a major headache in Nigeria. We thought we could use our standby generators. But now, cost of diesel has gone beyond the capacity of even banks. Banks, radio and television stations have had to reduce the number of hours they operate. Telecom masts are, for the most part, run on diesel. The cost of diesel has affected our ability to make calls. Motorists spend hours queueing for fuel, and there are times they must pay before they are allowed to join the queue.

Education is the engine room of development in any nation. But here, Nigeria’s government-owned universities are on lockdown. Yet, they want to be ranked among the best in the world. To add to this bad news is more bad news in the education sector.

On March 24, 2022, just two days after the commissioning of the fertiliser plant and the international airport terminal, at the launch of the Nigerian Learning Platform in Abuja, the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund announced that 9.7 million Nigerian children run the risk of never returning to school. If the present is distressing, the future seems to be bleak.

While these depressive indices stare us in the face, the eyes of Nigeria’s political elite are turned to the 2023 elections. All manners of meetings, open and clandestine, are being held. Very soo station. But, will our politicians run developmental issues-driven campaigns, or will they indulge in frivolities and character assassination? Their objective is not how to address developmental issues but how to attain power. They want to become President of a country they have helped to destroy. But will they rebuild? To attain their objective, bags of rice will be shared, drums of cooking oil will be poured, bundles of dollar bills will be sprayed at campaign venues, empty promises will be made to presumedly gullible voters, and, at the end of it all, credible and efficient leaders will be scarce.

This country is shutting down fast. This is the fact. Who will bail us out of it? But our politicians are merely obsessed with power. There are very important issues in need of urgent attention. Yet, these are being ignored in the pursuit of power for the sake of power, in politics without morality. The issue of a so-called federal constitution that legitimises the abduction of Nigeria and Nigerians by the political elite is a matter to be urgently addressed. It is a moral obligation to make it an issue in the 2023 elections. To fail to assume this obligation is to expose ourselves and future generations of Nigerians to unending bickering. But rather than face this issue, what matters to our politicians are their party conventions and presidential candidates. My heart bleeds for Nigeria – indeed wither Nigeria?

Our beloved country is bleeding to death. The haemorrhage has been inflicted by Machiavellian politics, the pastime of many members of the elite. This is the time to sit down and be honest with ourselves and with one another. This country is not going to improve with the egotism of our politicians.

The heat is becoming increasingly unbearable, and it would be foolish to run after shadows and call it politics. At the rate we are going, this country may soon become inhabitable for leaders and the led. Our young people are already looking for their escape routes. Those who cannot find an escape route are resorting to crime and violence. Where then will our politicians run when it becomes too hot? And even if they run, will they be able to hide? If they hide from human beings, can they hide from the judgment of the Almighty?

His Eminence, Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie wrote from Lagos.

Source: The Guardian