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RIGHTSView: You Be Thief, I No Be Thief: Battle Cry in Agric Ministry

By Emmanuel Onwubiko on 27/12/2014

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Nigeria is indeed an exciting country to live in, particularly because of the diverse shades of characters that populate the top echelon of governments; not just in the current dispensation but even in almost all previous administrations. Ordinarily, Nigeria ought not to be a neighbour of poverty. But due to crass indiscipline and unprecedented, but unpardonable, crime of official graft and bribery, made worse by greed and avarice on the part of the ruling political elite and their acolytes in the so-called private sector, the nation's enormous financial resources have all but disappeared into private offshore accounts of these thieving elite. The nation's foreign reserves are being depleted with the speed of lightening, even with the presence of the so-called Ivy League economic managers.

Governance at the state level has become anything but good, even as nepotism has been elevated to an official modus operandi. In Plateau State, the octogenarian governor has just appointed his son as a commissioner of an influential ministry and in Abia both the governor and his son gave themselves the party tickets to both national and state assemblies in the next dispensation. In most other states the outgoing governors who have served out their tenures, which distributed massive penury to the citizenry, have hand-picked their successors. And the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is in such a messy state that it cannot guarantee free and fair election come February 14, 2015. INEC has failed in the most basic assignment of registering qualified Nigerian voters.

I said, Nigeria ought not to have anything to do, talk less, cohabit with poverty on a very massive and suffocating scale. God has bestowed us with enormous natural solid and liquid mineral resources. But given the primitive acquisitiveness and the evil ghost of corruption that have afflicted the nation, courtesy of the largely morally depraved political and economic elites, most homes are unable to feed their members three square meals per day. Terrorists have severely threatened the territorial integrity of Nigeria and the armed forces have fought for three years, but still hasn't thrashed a largely rag tag bunch of armed Islamists. But today, due to the shaky nature of the global asking price of crude oil, the country is now gripped with anxiety, hysteria and national paralysis.

There is a general climate of fear among the hugely deprived and impoverished majority of the citizenry, because of the devaluation of the national currency vis-à-vis the international currencies of US dollar and the British pounds. The devaluation of the national currency means that inflation would rise, and the cost of living will become or indeed has assumed a disturbing dimension. There is a general atmosphere of cash crunch, coupled with the fact that workers that constitute a tiny minority in the midst of massive unemployment haven't received their wages in over three months. In Abia State, there is even a report that workers haven't been paid a dime since the beginning of this year, but yet the state governors are spending foreign currencies as if these would go out of circulation. 

Well, these ugly scenarios are not the main reason for this piece, but rather the hot verbal exchanges between the former agriculture and rural development minister under the President Olusegun Obasanjo's regime, Alhaji Adamu Bello and his successor, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, over who is lying about corruption in the agricultural sector. This unhealthy debate has rattled quite a lot of feathers in the corridors of power, especially coming at a tensed election period when the current administration has massively advertised lots of revolutionary claims of wiping off corruption in the distribution of fertilisers to farmers, among other landmark achievements in the agriculture ministry. 

The shameless dance of the naked masquerades between these two officials has revealed only but one thing: I have always suspected that all the noise generated by the current Minister of Agriculture, which have won him many alleged phony awards from some foreign quarters in the recent times, may as well be seen from the realm of the saying that the more you hear the less you understand. Some of us have been hoodwinked into believing some of those 'media generated' accomplishments in the agriculture ministry under the current dispensation to such an extent that I have personally penned several articles to appraise them. I must state immediately, that I have always expressed my doubts because, as someone whose mother is a rural farmer with a large expanse of landed assets in Imo State, I know too well that I haven't come across any farmer small or big in my side of Imo State that has benefitted from all the advertised credit facilities made in the many claims by the agriculture ministry officials.

The former agriculture minister – who, unarguably, is the longest-served minister in that capacity in Nigeria's recent history - alleged that the current minister has been clever by half in the way and manner that he has made many claims one of which is that his administration of the agriculture ministry brought to an end the long -lasting regime of corruption in the distribution of fertilisers and its subsidy to farmers. He also denied that the current administration has saved the nation nearly N80 billion from these corruption schemes that have gone on since that ancient ministry was created. The former minister said from 1999  to 2007, total subsidy for fertilisers stood at less than N25 billion. He dismissed the claim that N26 billion was stolen from fertiliser subsidy annually for 40 years.  Sincerely, the former agriculture minister achieved nothing that I can remember, even as a journalist who covered that ministry when he held sway for many years.

This fight of former and current agric ministers reminds me of the legendary Fela Anikulapo Kuti who during his illustrious career as a musician, released an iconic stanza which goes thus; ''You be thief, I no be thief; You be robber, I no be robber; Argument plus argument are arguing...”

If Nigeria is a civilised democracy, what should be happening now is that the independent and incorruptible parliament and the organised Civil Society would have begun independent probe of the claims to verify who is lying and who is telling the truth, since the two ministers seem to be dishing out substantial statistics to back up their bitterly divisive claims. But in Nigeria, most corruption allegations are swept conveniently under the filthy carpets, even as the two anti-graft commissions are busy chasing after petty pick-pockets, while the big fishes stealing Nigeria blind are roaming the corridors of power at every level. So, tell me how we can come out of this vicious circle of high inflation and regime of suffocating mass poverty, when those who should provide good governance and those who should provide checks and balances in the parliament are busy sharing the national cake. The court of law has been completely compromised to such an extent that it can dish out frivolous injunctions to even stop any move to probe, in the national parliament, any allegations of official corruption.

Fellow Nigerians, let us take our destiny in our hands and demand loud and clear transparency and accountability, making use of every tool legally available to us as citizens, otherwise we are doomed. We can no longer afford to be complacent and behave like mere passive participants or ordinary passengers and let politicians and their corrupt tendencies to ruin us completely. We must refuse to accept the negative assessment in some circles, that Nigerians are so resilient that even when they are pushed to the wall, they would dig holes in those walls and run away. On the contrary, we must take it upon ourselves to ensure that there is accountability by all elected and appointed public office holders at all levels.

RIGHTSVIEW appears on Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, popular activist Emmanuel Onwubiko, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).

Source News Express

Posted 28/12/2014 01:15:07 AM


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