The insincerity of our elites
In my last piece I mentioned the insincerity of our political and economic elites and how a change of attitude from them is necessary to move our nation forward. All of these elites travel outside Nigeria regularly for all sorts of reasons. Some of them were born, raised and trained in developed countries. Most if not all of them send their children abroad to study or gain exposure.
These elites have observed with their own eyes what a developed culture, society and country is and should look like. They’ve been on London underground trains, travelled on Japanese bullet trains, driven on Germany’s autobahn, and have houses in the US, UK, Middle East with superb construction and luxurious finishing. They’ve been to world class airports like Heathrow, Dubai, Singapore and have experienced first rate services that should be the norm. These elites have experienced what a proper capital, banking and finance infrastructure should be when they stash some of their (ill-gotten) wealth abroad.
What is befuddling is how these elites see these structures and infrastructures abroad; knowing it was all man made some even within the last 3 decades, yet come back to Nigeria to perpetrate a culture and structure that makes it impossible for Nigeria to rise above a failing or failed state? These elites own banks, yet some of their banking processes, apps and services are 18th century in nature. They just can’t see how development need not be sacrificed for wealth generation.
Issues like bad roads, lack of electricity, lack of proper water or sewage system, fuel queues, lack of train or transport infrastructure, dilapidated airports and such things that are now basic infrastructures in aspiring nations – how can the lack of these things not get on their damn nerves and grate them to their bone marrow? Why in 2016 would they want this type of issues be what is distracting their minds from focussing on more important world problems like eliminating malaria permanently or child poverty globally? I just don’t get it.
The one that is even more perplexing is how young Nigerians below the age of 40 that are either from elitist families or by sheer luck or maybe hard work have plugged themselves in the elitist patronage network, have turned themselves into doormats or enablers of this dysfunctional system. How can you as a young man with a young family not be wound up by the thought of spending what should be the prime of your youth in endless fuel queues or carrying your generators on your head to get fuel to power your “I better pass my neighbour”? Why should your Saturday, better spent with your young family, be spent at a mechanic village? Aren’t we all tired of dealing with poverty type dysfunction? Abi you think because you are not caught by the $2/day metric you are not facing similar challenges to poor people? How can young Nigerian’s explain their short-sightedness and insincerity during the last general election?
President Buhari was elected on three promises – anticorruption, security and economy. Of these three, anticorruption was by far President Buhari’s unique selling point. He self-styled himself as an incorruptible leader particularly playing on the War Against Indiscipline policy he implemented as military head of state. In my opinion, his claim was hollow at best. When President Obasanjo left office as military head of state, he did not disappear into a vacuum. He launched policy groups, was invited to and joined other leadership groups, represented Nigeria in peacekeeping efforts, he wrote books and basically immersed himself in governance and leadership circles communicating his ideas and ideologies whilst allowing himself to be shaped by the ideas of others so much so that he nearly became UN Secretary General. What President Obasanjo was about between 1979 and 1999 wasn’t in doubt. By the time he became President in 1999, he could refer to an established profile within the international community when it was time to beg for debt relief. Those he was begging already knew what he was about. It smoothed the process.
Can we say the same thing about President Buhari? Between 1985 and 2015 that he won the presidential election, corruption became an outsized monster in Nigeria. What did President Buhari do in those years to elevate and progress the anticorruption discussion? What book (ghost writers exists even if he couldn’t write it himself – Dele Momodu would have been too glad to be his ghost writer) did he write to enrich and propose ways that Nigeria can solve its corruption problem? Did he create or sponsor any CSO to pursue the anticorruption agenda? Did he give speeches at conferences to advance the movement? What conferences did he attend – local or international? Did he take his fight to international organisations like the World Bank, IMF or the UN? Did he link corruption to tax haven countries and how they enabled corruption? Did he raise the issue of the difficulty of repatriating proceeds of corruption stashed in tax havens? Did he create any profile of substance for himself beyond shallow rhetoric by referring to a dysfunctional policy he tried to implement in 1984? There’s little to no evidence that President Buhari did any of the above, so why did young people place so much faith in him being able to resolve the nation’s problem with corruption let alone institutionalise it? Now that he has become President and he wants to repatriate stolen funds, he needs to start from scratch what he should have donated his prime years to, yet he is surprised by his slow progress.
President Buhari’s lack of capacity is now being questioned and people are beginning to think ahead to 2019. Of course the elites are intelligent, they too are already thinking ahead and are also beginning to position themselves. One of the people being promoted by the young elites as a potential candidate in 2019 is Mallam El Rufai. This promotion suggests to me that some of our young people haven’t learnt from their 2015 mistake. We are a divided nation, a nation whose elites have used our multi ethnicity as a weapon. One of them, Mallam El Rufai, has been particularly guilty of highlighting our multi ethnicity and uses it against our nation to further his self-interest. His utterances on social media over the years have been truly shocking.
Prior to the general elections, Sheikh El Zakzaky was a good citizen worthy enough for Mallam to visit his home for photo opportunities to further his gubernatorial ambition. After elections, he became a persona non-grata with Kaduna (under Gov El Rufai) and Nigeria’s governments complicit in hiding the murderous rampage of 347 innocent Nigerians committed by the Nigerian army. Think about this, one of Governor El-Rufai’s state resident has been in illegal detention for months by the federal government, what has the governor done to raise this injustice and secure the release of Zakzaky? How will someone that finds it so easy to stoke ethnic sentiments inspire the kind of political and economic inclusion that our nation needs if he becomes President? Has he demonstrated that he has the capacity to inspire this leadership quality? Some will argue that his current cabinet is multi ethnic and say this is evidence enough, but how can this be? Surely we need a longer history that demonstrates this capacity beyond his current cabinet that has been put together mainly for Mallam’s benefit rather than Nigeria’s? Should our bar be so low as they want us to accept?
At the African Pension Summit held in October 2015, Mallam El Rufai said “I am warning the banks to bring down interest rates or we will do it for you”. Does this suggest Mallam understands economics at all? Should someone of his calibre and supposed exposure advocate for interest rates by political fiat – a move that erodes the independence of the Central Bank? It’s one of two things; either he lacks adequate economic understanding or he is pandering to President Buhari knowing fully well it was a wrong economic strategy but one that serves his self-interest of cementing his alleged position as “de facto” Vice President? Either way Nigeria is worse off by Mallam’s positioning and suggests perhaps he may do things that are not in Nigeria’s best interest but furthers his own? We need to shine our eyes.
At Nigeria Summit organised by The Economist in March 2016, Mallam said he was against devaluation as he cannot see the economic benefit for it. He asked “is the market the only way to solve the scarcity problem”? Again, this is something President Buhari will say and something someone of Mallam’s calibre and supposed exposure shouldn’t. In fact he said at the same summit that he’d always been in favour of devaluation and had experienced it thrice but somehow on this occasion, when our finances are in such dire state, he doesn’t think it expedient?
In 2018 when the sound-bites and rhetoric start flying about, I hope we all remember these things so that we don’t repeat the Buhari mistake of blind followership.
In fact what I hope is that a party like Kowa or firm like SBM Intelligence will create a tab on their websites where these shocking statements by elites that should know better will be displayed as a reminder so that when they start spewing their lies in 2019 we will call them out on it and ask the right questions.