Afrobeat Culture Federator

NIGERIA’S CORRUPTION CULTURE, A FANTASTIC ANARCHY.

Monday 18 December 2017 by Mabinuori Idowu (aka ID)

Governance in Nigeria in the last five decades; can well be described as nothing but a fantastic anarchy. Anarchy is a situation where nobody seems to be paying any attention to the rules or laws of the land. How else, can one qualify what transpires as government in Africa’s most populated nation? Talking about corruption; former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in an open letter to former President Olusegun Obansanjo stated: “…that corruption is an issue in Nigeria is indisputable. It has been with us for many years. You will recall that your kinsman, the renowned afrobeat maestro, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti famously sang about it during your first stint as Head of State…” Today; everyone agrees that corruption has led Nigeria into a fantastic anarchy be it at the Federal, State, or local government level.

What better way to illustrate this anarchy in Nigeria, other than a 1983 song from Fela Anikulapo-Kuti titled Look & Laugh – here is an extract:

“…Contractor, Minister, and Commissioner make agreement to make road!
All of us know how long it take government to make road for here!
Then the road start, as them don put machine and sandstones!
As the road start Shagari make announcement, Contractor make him own!
Contractor say as the economy don broke things don cost so road must stop!
Government say no more money! Contractor say no more road!
Contractor go! Government Stay!”

Haah shé that one no reach to laugh?
Look & Laugh (chorus)
Which kind wayo be dat?
Look & Laugh (chorus)
Ojukoroju Stealing!
Look & Laugh (chorus)
Original Stealing!
Look & Laugh (chorus)…”

One common trait among our government; be it Federal, State, or Local Government, is that they know too well that the projects will never see the light of the day, yet those in government responsible for the contractual agreement advance what in Nigerian jargon, is known as “mobilization fee” for such projects (mostly between 80% & 90% of the total cost of the project). What a fantastic anarchy?
How did Nigeria get here?

January 15, 1966 saw Nigerians from all works of life, trooping to the streets to welcome the first ever military coup d’état in the country. Their jubilation stemmed from the aspiration that the military will deliver them from the persistent wave of corruption and political gangsters, burning down of homes of those considered as opponent. The climate of insecurity; which was the order of the day in the Nigerian contemporary politics of the early sixties, paved the way for the arrival of the military in the political arena.

Since their arrival in the political scene, the aspiration of Nigerian people has over the years been transformed into nightmare with the military taking the country through a civil war and the spectre of another looming as we see from events in the Northern parts of Nigeria with Boko Haram and the never-ending military uprising in the oil producing region in the South East of Nigeria. There is no doubt that haven tasted power; all the so-called Army Generals are finding it hard to relinquish it. In a Nigeria endowed with so many riches, needless to say that there is mass poverty and unemployment - most Nigerians feel insecure in their homeland and this has been the plight of majority of Nigerians since our so-called Independence, without solutions from either the politicians or successive military regimes.

For generations, most Africans are content to follow in the foot-path of their ancestors even if the labour is not dignifying, all these values are gradually being eroded or lost to an army imposed corrupt culture. With the army in power, dignity of labour which was the bastion of Nigerian traditional values was reduced to “arse licking” - they systematically eroded the pride of the individual contribution to society known in Yoruba as “Owo igbe kii run” meaning “shit money don’t smell”. Today “shit money don’t smell” concept of life, is being replaced by new expressions like “egunje no spoil nothing” meaning, “kickbacks don’t spoil our fraternity”. Traditional African value of service to humanity is systematically replaced by new corrupt ways.

In the last three decades, oil and gas revenues (with a conservative estimate), have contributed more than 500 billion US Dollars into Nigerian coffers. Where has all that money gone? Is this not pure anarchy? How else can one describe a country; where a site designed to house a project worth 18 billion US dollars has never been found and cannot be located despite payment of the total cost as mobilization fees and despite setting-up of commission of enquiry, nobody is held accountable nor held responsible. During President Olusegun Obasanjo’s second rule as a civilian President, at least not less than eighteen projects; worth about 836 million US Dollars, was neither completed nor operational again, no-one was held responsible nor accountable. Millions of Dollars; were spent for paper mills never built talk less of producing any paper, as of date nobody was ever arrested or worried of potentials arrest.

In 1975; International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation (ITT), made questionable payments of millions of dollars to Nigerian officials to gain huge telecommunications contracts. Central to the Nigerian payments, was businessman M.K.O. Abiola, who received large payments from the ITT contract and distributed some of the funds to Nigerian government officials to represent ITT interests in Nigeria. The ITT contract; estimated at about 900 million US Dollars was to provide, an effective telephone services for the country. What happened was that Abiola used his connections with friends in government, among them the late General Murtala Muhammed, General Olusegun Obasanjo and later General Ibrahim Babangida, to win key government concessions for ITT.

Till date, one cannot point to any telephone installations across the country. What ITT did in Nigeria with the tele-communication project was a big swindle. ITT representatives and its collaborators pocketed the funds meant for building a reliable telecommunication network for the benefit and well-being of Nigerian people. Thanks to this Government 419; as we say in Nigerian-Street parlance, little or no telephone services were provided for Nigerians. Today, Nigerians have turned to wireless phone industry, all foreign made, while it cannot even manufacture locally, or maintain them. Until his death, Abiola and ITT never delivered the services contracted and paid for, yet no-one was questioned or held responsible.

Between 1985 and 1992, Nigeria government launched twenty other projects with the same fate, non viability in spite of the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Transparency International present in the country. The list is long; of “projects” launched by successive governments that never took-off from the ground while the total costs of the projects were paid in advance - another government 419 as we say in Nigerian-Street parlance. Take for example; the Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill considered as the “bedrock of Nigeria’s industrialization”, a multibillion-dollar steel project meant to be used to generate important upstream and downstream industrial and economic activities that are critical to the diversification of the Nigerian economy into an industrial one. Despite millions of Dollars spent on the project by successive governments, one can ask with all disdain, what state of completion is the so-called bedrock of Nigeria’s industrialization?

The Kainji Dam project; a dam built across the Niger River in Northern Nigeria, with a total cost estimated at 209 million US Dollar (equivalent to about US Dollar 2.9 billion in 2016). Nigerian Federal Government stipulated that one-quarter of this amount, was used to resettle people displaced by the construction of the dam and its reservoir Kainji Lake. Most of the villagers displaced, were never compensated nor rehabilitated. The dam was designed to have a generating capacity of 960 megawatts (1,290,000 hp); however, only 8 of its 12 turbines were installed, reducing the capacity to 760 megawatts (1,020,000 hp). Designed to generate electricity to all the large cities in Nigeria, and giving the state of electric shortages in the country, one can see the project as another fantastic anarchy by Nigerian authorities.

On the State Government level; the Lagos Metro line project, is another good example of fantastic anarchy by Nigerian leadership. The idea of developing, a rapid transit transport services in Lagos dates back to the so-called 2nd Republic. Conceived by Governor Lateef Jakande around 1980, this project was scrapped in 1985 by the military regime of General Muhammadu Buhari at a loss of over 78 million US Dollar to the Lagos State tax payers. Nobody was held responsible or accountable for this huge swindle of the State’s resources.

The same idea of developing a light rail network for Lagos City; was revived by Governor Bola Tinubu in the early 2000. This project; with an estimated cost of 135 million US Dollars, was part of the greater Lagos Urban Transportation Project to be implemented by the newly formed Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA). In April 2008, the Lagos State Government approved 70 billion Naira (equivalent to about 2 billion US Dollar in 2008 exchange rate), for construction of the Okokomaiko-Iddo-Marina line, the estimated completion date was 2011. However, the project suffered many delays due to funding despite “mobilization fee” paid. The opening date was revised to June 2013, then December 2016, then 2017. As of November 2016, only 16 kilometres of the 27 kilometres Blue Line had been completed.

Governor Babatunde Fashola’s Eko Atlantic Project, is another example of government 419 schemes. Under the Governor’s watch, Lagos State proclaimed it is building a new city that will become the new financial centre of Nigeria, and perhaps West Africa. The scale of the project is immense; pitched as Africa’s answer to Dubai, it is a multibillion dollar residential and business development that is located as an appendage to Victoria Island, and along the renown Bar Beach shoreline in Lagos. The planned city consist of ten square kilometres (3.86 square miles) of land reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean, and will be home to quarter of a million people and employ a further 150,000 people who will commute on daily basis. Billed as a 24-hour; green-conscious, world-class city, to attract and retain top multinational corporations.

On 21 February 2013, a ground-breaking ceremony of the project was held at the reclaimed land of Eko Atlantic, with former President Goodluck Jonathan, former US President Bill Clinton, and Governor Babatunde Fashola attending. In March 2014; David Frame, Managing Director of South Energyx Nigeria Limited, the firm responsible for the development, confirmed that "the first residential tower will open in 2016," we are at the end of 2017 with no residential tower in view. Criticised by residents living nearby, the Eko Atlantic project has caused coastal erosion and ocean surges flooding living areas, access roads, and taking down electricity poles thus forcing residents of the area to relocate to other parts of Lagos without any compensation.

In August 2012 the Atlantic Ocean surged and overflowed its banks, sweeping 16 people into the Atlantic Ocean, killing several others and flooding Kuramo Beach, Victoria Island and other areas near the project location. If we take into consideration the view of environmental experts, the ocean surge occurred as a result of the failure of the contractors handling the sand filling activities of the proposed Eko Atlantic City, to put in place measure that would reduce the effect of the surge on the environment. Since his departure as Governor of Lagos State, and his subsequent appointment as a Federal Government Minister, little is heard of the project talk less of rendering account for the money spent without results.

Succeeding Governor Babatunde Fashola; as head of Lagos State administration in May 2015, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, like those before him declared that a fresh attempt is being made to resurrect, an ambitious development effort in the heart of Lagos under moves by the authorities in the state to meet growing demands of its mega city status. At the centre of the new effort is the redevelopment of Oshodi into a transport interchange and create a world -class central business district, which will gulp US Dollar 70 million. The concept is not new as the Babatunde Fashola administration had launched a major urban renewal of the area, demolished markets and built bus parks without paying any compensation or providing alternative homes to those displaced.

As we can see be it Federal, State or local governments in Nigeria, there are no shortages of gigantic projects, with the same result that never see the light of the day. Do we need to look far, where all the (with a conservative estimate) 500 billion US Dollars oil and gas revenues in the last three decades gone? Nobody is asking these Army Generals for an account of our oil revenue from the end of the Biafra war in 1970? With such daily income from oil and gas revenues, there is no justified reason for the millions of unemployed Nigerians milling around our urban centres hustling for a living. Judiciously managed, Nigeria could feed her millions of population and sister countries. Corruption is the only reason.

In order to enrich them, the military regime of Gen. Yakubu Gowon for example, embarked on prestigious ventures as solution to solve the mounting economic problems of the nation. Building suspended highway networks to “decongest” the Lagos traffic, constructing a national theatre, importation of food, and subsequent regimes building a new capital city in Abuja, all in order to take the ten percent cut. Scandals and accusation of corruption has become the hall mark of all the regimes - be it military or civilian. This corrupt practice was epitomized by the placement of an order worth 20 million United States dollars, for the importation of cement from Europe. Paying two-way transport charges to the shipping companies, who were not attracted to bring the cement to Nigerian shores only to return empty because the country was not exporting anything of interest to the shipping lines apart from oil.

The cost of this senseless importation of cement was more than enough to develop the Nigerian cement industry, which would in turn provide jobs for the unemployed. The external debt of Nigeria is estimated 32 billion dollars, if we take into account the amount of money recovered from Abacha’s family after his death, five of Nigeria’s ex-Generals could conveniently pay back this debt. Commissions of enquiry were set-up regime after regime to investigate what has become the hall mark of every successive regime like Fela sang in Army Arrangement: “…2.8 Billion Naira oil money is missing, them set-up enquiry, supervisor Obasanjo, Yar’adua road manager. Money no lost them shout again!”

Like many Nigerians, I don’t posses a PhD degree in economics or urban development but I like the majority, have what we call in Street-parlance Sense Wise-ness. For more than five decades in Africa, we are witnessing a migratory flow of citizens from villages to towns. It does not take a PhD degree to understand the reasons behind this phenomenon. For example; the oil boom in Nigeria in the 70’s created a massive migration of Nigeria’s young working force from the villages, thus forcing an erstwhile nation that fed her population to look outside her frontiers for means to feed her citizens. The abandon of farms by the energetic young generation, for the old and retired in search of the “golden fleece” in the cities changed the way of life of the people. Before, people who paid visits to their folks in the villages returned to the cities with food, this time around it is the city folks who take food to the villages.

Instead of building prestigious projects, like the new capital in Abuja, Eko Atlantic City -billed as a 24-hour; green-conscious, world-class city, to attract and retain top multinational corporations, Nigerian Government could invest the oil and gas income in building infrastructures necessary to ameliorate the living conditions in the villages: roads, hospitals, dispensaries, schools, electricity, Internet, and pipe-born water. Successive governments have, neglected these social infrastructures that could entice the younger generation to stay in the villages. With a population in economic distress, flocking to the cities, they discover that the cities are oversaturated by migrants like them, to fulfil their desires of finding job opportunities and happiness; our young folks take to the sea for Europe and America in search of greener pastures.

It does not require a PhD degree holder in urban development to reverse this trend. What it requires is dedication! As I often underline on this page, the energy of our young people cannot be mobilized by examples of decadence and corruptions, but inevitably of a dialectical necessity; by concrete examples of patriotism, dedication, without compromise. Those in power and their associates profiting from these anarchy, when confronted with all said above reply: “… the sort of changes that you desire in our system will come even if gradual. You know that Lagos for example, is just a state out of 36 other States. We practise Federalism, and the Federal Government still determines quite a lot here. So don’t let us despair...” How can we not despair, as we on a daily bases, see our desperate, hopeless, youths taking to see, and being sold as slaves in their search for greener pastures? To say the changes are gradually on the way, for me this is repeating the mistake of the past.

Agreed that our Federal Government determines quite a lot in the way the system works, I believe the States have the power to make the necessary changes if there is the will. If we are serious about making the necessary changes, we cannot continue to do things in reverse manner. We all are aware that one cannot wear a jacket inside-out, the same for trousers – they cannot be worn in reverse. We have to make the necessary decision like they did for United States of America. “Whether right or wrong”, “Whether it was the right time or not”, they made the decision necessary.

“Changes are gradually on the way?” For me this is repeating the mistake of the past, and to avoid this, we need about 2 progressive States to come together, to start the changes necessary in the federation and with time others will follow. That was the way it was done with the United States of America, it the same with Europe – they started with 7 countries at first, they were even three countries at the start of European Union if we take into consideration the BENELUX countries. They started out with 7 countries at first and now they are 27 countries in less than a period of 50 years.

Finally like I posted on the issue of Africans perishing at sea to get to Europe, instead of being sold as slaves and ultimately dieing at sea, why our African Youths don’t get organised and fight the demon sending them to die at sea! We all are aware that those Africans sold on the auction block in Libya, were held in the country by the decision of the European Union – a practice put in place since the times of the former Libyan dictator Mouammar Kadhafi. No African leader spoke then so how do we expect them to talk now? Professor Theophile Obenga said in his book titled: ‘Clarion Call To African Youths’ (Appel A La Jeunesse Africaine) “For all conscious Africans on the Continent and in the Diaspora, the juvenile African imagination must be animated by great emotions, great ideas, and noble aspirations, powerful solidarities for possible and liberating human tasks. The detail and fear of daring must not block the African Youth.”

Open your eyes my people! Time come for change! PDP, APC, or Alabukun Powder, are all creations of our Army Arrangement – piece of the same coin (SOLDIER GO! SOLDIER COME!) Instead of perishing at sea, all we need to do is start working; we must now create a movement that will eventually transform into a political party with branches all over Nigerian villages, towns, cities, and states - with a final objective of creating branches of the movement through-out the African continent and Diaspora African. Like Fela sang in ‘I Go Shout Plenty Oh’

“We Go Shout Oh, We Go Shout Plenty Oh!
We Go Shout Oh, We Go Shout Plenty Oh (Chorus)
Many things dey happen for life wey no good oh!
Tell Am, Brother Tell Am (Chorus)
When I Know The Thing Wey I Dey See!
Somebody Want Cover My Face With Clothe!
I Go Shout Oh!
We Go Shout Oh! We Go Shout Plenty Oh (Chorus)

I Know The Road Wey I Dey Go!
Somebody Tell Me Say No Be The Road! I Go Shout Oh!
We Go Shout Oh! We Go Shout Plenty Oh (Chorus)
I Know The Kind Person I Be!
Somebody Tell Me Say No Be So I Be! I Go Shout Oh!
We Go Shout Oh! We Go Shout Plenty Oh (Chorus)

Because I No Speak Big Oyinbo!
You Dey Tell Me Say I No Civilize! I Go Shout Oh!
We Go Shout Oh! We Go Shout Plenty Oh (Chorus)

I No Go Gree Make You Cover My Face With Clothe
I Go Shout! We Go Shout Oh! We Go Shout Plenty Oh…” (Chorus)


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