A person can grow as much as his horizon allows — John Powell
It is only perhaps in Nigeria, that in the midst of hyper-inflation, hyper-unemployment, unbearable hardship, leaders will be fighting over words uttered in the hallowed Chambers of the Senate. By comparison, let us take a look at some really disturbing incidents that occurred during the period: A truck laden with petrol ran into a commercial passenger bus under the bridge at Liverpool Road, Apapa, setting the bus ablaze. Over three persons who got trapped in the bus were killed.
A Catholic priest was kidnapped in Imo State, and there was concern over his life and where about. Oil bearing communities in the Niger Delta area met and complained of increasing military build-up in their place.
Niger Delta Avengers and their likes blew up another gas pipe, bleeding the nation. Fulani herdsmen attacked a quiet village in Benue State, killing over 18 persons. Christians are mourning a female Evangelist who was killed for preaching in some out skirts of Abuja. A Catholic Church was set ablaze in Niger State. In all these, some people are protesting the verbal abuse of the a senator by another senator on the streets of Lagos! It is a game of distraction! Ordinary Nigerians are groaning under unbearable living conditions.
There are no jobs, unemployment rate in the region of 30 percent, banks are firing workers, state governments refuse to pay workers for months; in fact, Oyo and Imo states governments are asking workers to apologise and go back to work or be sacked for protesting non-payment of their salaries. Most state governments continue milking their peoples dry, through increasing drive for IGR, preying on vehicle owners, shop and business owners. In Lagos, the new ban on street trading, is being implemented selectively. While nothing is happening in Lagos Island, Yaba, Apapa, Ketu and Ojota arrears, street traders are hotly hounded at Cele Bus-stop and Oshodi.
Considering that life has become very tough in Lagos presently, here is advocating that government gives a breathing space to those women trading under the bridge at Cele Bus-stop by allowing them times and days to trade to enable them sustain their survival. Governments: Federal, states and local governments, are the biggest employers of labour today and with the late approval of the national padded, then unpadded budget almost one year behind schedule, things are bound to be hard. Life is so unbearable that in villages, some parents deliberately sell or pledge their children for food to eat! People typically are reacting in different ways to the realities of these hard times.
Some, if not most of them, are getting closer to God by attending churches where they expect the Pastor or Priest to give them transport and feeding money from the offering box after every service. Others resort to the crimes of robbery, cultism, prostitution and kidnapping to make money to survive. Networks between these various areas of crime are developing, and who knows what our nation will look like when prostitution networks with cultism and kidnapping, etc. Some people simply move into terrorism, blaming education and humanity for their predicaments in life. Most people, including those driven closer to God by hardship, find corruption the easy way out, causing it to run deep into the Nigerian system due to survival instincts. They cheat, lie, deceive and steal to survive and meet up with life and living, making trust and integrity scarce elements in our society today. This is why the task of fighting corruption cannot be accomplished without a comprehensive plan.
Clamping people into jail, police cells, and rough use of the coercive powers of the state, will not solve the problem as people will only devise more clever and safer means to survival through corruption. Governments need to focus more on employment generation and job creation by attracting investments into the economy at all costs. Investors and businesses in Nigeria need three things to flourish and reduce corruption occasioned by poverty.
First is security and safety of live and property. Boko Haram and Fulani herds men have rendered the North East of Nigeria supine, and no investor will be keen to do business there. The oil rich Niger Delta region is gradually being reduced to a desolate land through the activities of militants. And the wrong ‘ crush this and crush that’ approach of this government to every issue that does not involve the Fulani herdsmen has not helped matters. The South East is ravaged by the menace of kidnapping for money. This is a big disincentive to foreign direct investments. The North Central areas appear to be under permanent siege of Fulani herdsmen. The sooner the Federal Government jettisoned the Grazing Bill idea, distances itself from the marauding Fulani herdsmen and drops the obvious islamisation trends for a while, the better, things will be for Nigeria. The next thing investors and businesses need is electric power.
The power sector is sinking in a deep ocean of fraud connected to estimated bills, poor power generation plans, selective inefficient metering systems and huge economic blackmail of Nigerians. Give Nigerians round the clock electric power and they will by their nature create a robust economy. Provision of affordable round the clock electric power should be the focus for those who want to fight corruption. It will remain more profitable to import than to produce locally with our continued dependence on this environmentally unfriendly power generating sets. The third requirement for a solid foundation appropriate take-off is finance and funding provision. Having in place venture capital funding, foreign direct investment attractions, an enabling environment, coupled with a balanced open and free foreign exchange policy regimes will trigger or stimulate industrial and commercial growth that will help to keep corruption down.
It is time for the FG to commence the cleansing of Nigeria’s image as a corrupt nation. No genuine persons will put their money into a system declared to be dirty and corrupt; only crooks will come to operate in such a compromised environment.
Udegbe writes from Lagos