Even as the global community basked in the euphoria of President Barack Obama’s electoral victory, it was again reminded of the dangerous and anarchical nature of the international system. In this case, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.This is a conflict that has consumed thousands of lives, and changed the geopolitical dynamics of the Middle East. In human history, there have been thousands of wars, but this is perhaps, the most enduring of all wars — a war with the potential to bring about the rise and fall of nation-states and governments in that part of the world.
There have been several developments at the home front too. For instance, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo labelled President Goodluck Jonathan ‘incompetent’ in his handling of the Boko Haram insurgency. And there was the debate regarding the fuel subsidy and the corruption it engendered. Nigerians were also taken aback by the gift of a private jet given to Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor by his church members. And of course, there was the scandal-stained Nuhu Ribadu Committee Report. In the midst of these and other events, Nigerians apparently overlooked three other issues: Edwin Clark’s advice to Jonathan; Seriake Dickson’s vexing appointments; and the Arewa Consultative Forum’s plea for death penalty for corruption.
On November 16, 2012, The Guardian reported that the “Ijaw national leader, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, Thursday urged President Goodluck Jonathan to probe some former Nigerian leaders for corruption. Clark, apparently reacting to a recent critique of Jonathan’s government by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and others, said virtually all former leaders acquired questionable wealth while in office. The former Minister of Information said former President Obasanjo ‘perpetuated and legalised corruption.’” Chief Clark touched on other issues; nonetheless. I couldn’t help but wonder: Who is going to do the probing, President Jonathan? That’s a long shot!
The fact is that President Jonathan does not have the moral authority, courage, or the prestige to probe anyone in Nigeria or elsewhere. He can’t and he knows it. In fact, I doubt if there is a dozen private and or public citizens in Bayelsa State who can attest to Jonathan’s uprightness insofar as his handling of the state was concerned. As the deputy, and later the substantive governor of the state, there is no known evidence pointing to a clean hand or a clean slate. However, in the unlikely event that he takes up Chief Clark’s advice, my simple admonition to him would be this: “Please start with yourself, your wife, and your inner circle.”
But knowing Jonathan and his strange ways – assuming he has the balls and agrees to it – he may wait three months to set up a committee to look into the viability of such a move. Three months after the initial report, he will then set up another committee to read and translate the findings of the first committee. Five months after the report comes in, he will set up a third committee to endorse the rules and regulations on how to probe the suspects. This may take eight months to finalise. By the time Jonathan reads the report, another five months would have passed. He will then come on TV, several months later to inform the nation and the world about his decision — by which time it would be Summer 2015 and time to vacate Aso Rock and the Presidency.
Bayelsa State was created out of the old Rivers State on October 1, 1996. From the time it was created until May 29, 1999, it had four administrators. Since mid-1999 until the present time, the state has had the following men as governors: Diepreye Alamieyeseigha; Goodluck Jonathan; Timipre Sylva; and Henry Seriake Dickson. Werinipre Seibarugu and Nestor Ibinabo served as acting governors. For 13 years – 13 straight years – Ijaw men have been governors of the state. And in all those years, not much physical and infrastructural development has occurred in the state. Outside Yenagoa (the state capital), not much has changed. In many areas, the state is not different from what it was 40 years earlier.
Of all the states created in 1996, Bayelsa, which derives its name from the acronym of three of its main local government areas – Brass (BALGA), Yenagoa ; (YELGA); and Sagbama (SALGA), is the least developed; and is also one of the smallest in the country (21,100 Sq.Km; population estimated at 2,000,000). Yet, the state has some 27 ministries! Many of the state ministries overlap; while others are simply redundant. And of course, the governor has 158 advisers, assistants, special advisers, honorary advisers, senior special assistants, and special representatives. There is the personal stress therapist; special assistant on new media; and a special assistant on national dailies. Good heavens, what does a Special Assistant on National Dailies do? In addition to the aforementioned, there are hundreds working directly for both the governor and the deputy governor.
To these, you add the bloated Civil Service. The government is the chief employer in the state – a state with a non-existent industrial and manufacturing base. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, 23.9 per cent of the population is unemployed; and 47 per cent live in poverty. Illiteracy, infant mortality, and incidence of water and air-borne diseases are some of the highest in the nation.
How cruel and appalling are the conditions in the state? Here is another illustration: River Nun threads the state. It is the river from which many (especially those in the riverine areas) bathe, drink, and do their laundry. And when they have bowel movement, they go to the same river to defecate. From the same river! Rivers are for swimming, fishing, and for other activities — not for “shitting-shaving-bathing-and-drinking.” Sad, isn’t it? But, that is the stark reality of life in Bayelsa even though billions and billions of naira have been allocated to the state since 1999. (The state government itself admitted in a media report on November 21 that it had received N25bn as federal allocations for September and October only; N2bn from statutory allocation and N12bn from gross, including over N8bn from derivation and N532m from Value Added Tax,; N311m refund from the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation and N768m from augmentation in September alone.
Now that the Arewa Consultative Forum has suggested the death penalty for corruption cases, who is going to bell the cat? Who or what political party has the “tener cojones” — the balls — to introduce such legislation? And who is the president who is going sign it into law? Would there be a grace and or an amnesty period for those who willingly return the money they stole? And assuming the improbable happens, are Nigerians ready to execute 60-90 per cent of its economic and political class?
I believe, and strongly too, that Nigeria would have been a better country if Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the Unity Party of Nigeria had won the 1979 and 1983 elections, or if the Idiagbon/ Buhari military regime had instituted the Jerry Rawlings Remedy in 1983. In the life of a nation, nothing is too late. We may yet get there.