No Change, Just Exchange, By Kole Omotoso
After sixteen months, the flagship agenda of this change government has achieved nothing. The prosecution, trial and judgement of corrupt persons has reached no conclusion. Corruption is in charge in the country no matter what party is in power.
At the end of Just Before Dawn, first published in May 1988, the following statement occurs:
“Twenty-two minutes into the year of George Orwell, a picture came on the screen of the Nigerian Television Authority. The voice of the picture intoned: In pursuance of the primary objectives of saving our great country from total collapse, I, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari…
Sam Ikoku turned to his wife chuckling. His mind had already taken leave of the present. He said simply: There is no coup. Let’s go and sleep, my dear.”
Like the Arab comedian of long ago, we can now list the heads of states that followed Muhammadu Buhari: Babangida, Shonekan, Abacha, Abubakar, Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, Jonathan and once more Buhari. And the great nation is still needs being saved from ‘total collapse’.
During the research for the book mentioned above, a pamphlet was published entitled FELLOW NIGERIANS – the First Speeches of Coup Makers. In that pamphlet Sani Abacha made three such speeches, with each criticising the corruption, the drift, the graft of the previous coup makers. The absurdity of one person introducing and closing three coup d’etats has not registered powerfully enough on our historical consciousness as to make us hesitate and ask what happened to the last set of ‘fellow Nigerians.’ There are other absurdities of our Nigerian history but today is not the day for listing them. But let us just mention another one absurdity: successful politicians in an unsuccessful country! Only parasites are successful while their host fails to survive.
Can you imagine a successful British politician in a failing Britain? Try to picture a successful Chinese politician in a failing China. Or a successful Japanese politician in a failing Japan. Or South Korea? Or United States of America? Or Botswana, one of the smallest states in Africa, which has maintained the value of its currency against the dollar for more than fifty years? All we have had in Nigeria is exchange, not change. Exchange of Obasanjo for Shagari for Buhari for Babangida for Shonekan for Abacha for Abubakar for Obasanjo for Yar’Adua for Jonathan for Buhari.
After sixteen months of this present government, are there serious infrastructural institutions that guarantee change from corruption, from graft, from drift and dysfunction and failure? TSA and BVN? Perhaps. But in the same breath, we have a dual exchange system which in practice is the opening door to massive corruption! Has anything been done about the justice system from arrest, to investigation, to trial, to judgement, to punishment? Has the physical living conditions of the police improved? Has there been any attempt to re-habilitate the roads, the railway lines, the bridges and the culverts, the water gutters and collective waste treatment? What about our educational institutions – the programmes of learning, the teaching of teachers who can teach students and inspire them to greater heights? Our universities, the frequent closures of which has turned them to printers of useless certificates and diplomas?
…And the exchange is so pronounced that a former PDP governor becomes a present APC minister. What change can demonstrate a better exchange?
Any three kobo academic knows that the knowledge industry to power the future of the world does not only depend on hard powered courses like medicine, engineering, architecture and nuclear physics. That knowledge industry also includes soft powered courses like history, literature, physical education and entertainment. Has there been any attempt to revise and re-orient our programmes?
We have been unwilling or incapable of building on the abundant chest of world knowledge through borrowing, imitation and our own creation. This is mainly because we refuse to domesticate knowledge in our own languages. We watch our languages die in front of our eyes and do not rebuke mothers who insist that their children will not speak their mother tongues. We still complain that the British colonisers are still forcing their language on us and our children, just as they ARE NOT forcing it on the Japanese, the Chinese and the East Africans.
Today, the greatest investment of our universities goes into something called entrepreneurship. This great enterprise gives birth to events management graduates, barring salon openers and flower arrangers. What has brought this ‘entreprething’ into being? Is it not the changing knowledge industry that tells us that our programmes at tertiary institutions have failed to produce the required graduates for the industries of the 21st century? In a university that holds no regular weekly or monthly intellectual meetings of lecturers, readings and inaugural presentations, but in which there are regular prayer meetings, monthly no less, where the university is asked to bring its problems to God. It could be the enmity of witches, the ill-feelings of rivals, the bad wishes of neighbours, all things and bodies and organisations working for your failure; bring them to God and go home free! It is a sad state we are in.
What about hospitals and fake drugs? It is well-known that Ondo State operates a process that eliminates fake drugs from its purchasing process of drugs. How many other states do this? What has the federal ministry of health done about fake drugs and those who sell them? How many fake drug sellers are serving jail sentences in our miserable prisons?
There are new awe-inspiring crimes. Doctors breeding babies for sale. Do we know the implications of selling a human being at birth? What kind of society tolerates such a heinous crime? Kidnapping is a short cut to raising funds to bury some parent. Ghost working increases one’s earning, in fact multiplies one’s earning so many times. And begging. How much can we give to so many beggars? It is possible to re-state the famous saying that never have there been so many beggars to so few givers!
After sixteen months, the flagship agenda of this change government has achieved nothing. The prosecution, trial and judgement of corrupt persons has reached no conclusion. Corruption is in charge in the country no matter what party is in power. And the exchange is so pronounced that a former PDP governor becomes a present APC minister. What change can demonstrate a better exchange?
Kole Omotoso writes from Akure.