Monday, August 03, 2009

Hakuna Matata, Oyin ni o, Oyato joo!

IF there is ever a defender of African governance and governments, bad as it may seem, I think I can qualify as one such defender. It may not be in the furious patriotic manner that David Mark or an Akunyili would want all patriots to be. All the same, I am a die-hard Nigerian and I live in the diaspora and I love my country, I no go die. Having travelled extensively in the West, East and the Far East, some Nigerians queuing up at the foreign Embassies may be surprised when I say that home is the best.

Take heed - I am not of the Boka haram neither am I a blind patriot. I just emphatise with governments in Africa, out of the awareness of the human and resource capacity constraints, the debt peonage, widespread poverty , conflicts and disease and other challenges they have to contend with and compared to the rosy situation which western governments take as given. And the more involved I am in university governance, the more I realise that human beings are the most difficult to govern. You can raise a stick to chastise a dog or to herd cattle, but 'the animal called man' is different. He would snatch the stick from you and possibly, hit you. Listen Minister Egwu, governing university staff in particular is like herding cats. Unlike soldiers they tend to go in different formations when you bellow orders. I digress.

Each time I come home to Nigeria - the latest being last fortnight, I see progress when others (mostly home-based Nigerians and a vast majority of Nigerians living abroad) see retrogression. I can see the palpable progress in what used to be chaotic Lagos ! You go around the capital city of Abuja, the Lekki axis or even lowly Nassarawa, visit universities and one sees mainly architectural wonders . Many cynics would say that I am being taken in by the colourful aluminium roof-tops without looking at the empty entrails nor am I am doing a cost-benefit analysis of how much corruption is involved in the construction projects.

Where do people find money to buy plots of land at Snake Island costing 150 million naira a piece in a country where half of its population remains mired in poverty , living on sachets of 'pure water' without electricity or running water and where the best building in most villages is the village Church or the Saudi-donated mosque? You call that progress ? I have been accused of ignorance about conditions in Nigeria because of my defence of poorly performing governments - of seeking political recognition or having received egunje to launder the image of governments. None of such, dear friends.

On the contrary, I have a unique (oyato theory) about governance and corruption in Nigeria. It states that even in the presence of scarce resources, scarce water, bad express roads and poor electricity and other signs of unplanned development, these are paradoxically, signs of 'growth' if not economic development in the country. Imagine the volume of goods trafficked on the Ibadan-Lagos express road or the number of new houses plugged on the national electricity grid annually. This is why one would beg to differ a little bit from the Accra declaration of President Obama on bad governance in Africa (which read somewhat like a purely western script). How would the African politician deliver the 'dividend of democracy' to a hungry populace? Democracy does not go well on an empty stomach. In the context of 'corruption' in Africa, the same 'my people' , will demand their own share of the national cake from an elected official, regardless of the source of the money ! A governor will be threatened with impeachment , if he does not play ball and pay legislators ! How do you get good governance?

Don't get me wrong, while I do not subscribe to nor defend corruption, I can understand the climate which generates it !Let me also point out that I am not a blind patriot. In a poor country, giving disproportionate salaries to parliamentarians, academic staff or soldiers and other elite professional groups can only generate more envy, more crime and more corruption because everyone would like to join the Jones'. When workers play the National Assembly game by comparing their salaries with soldiers, it is likely to generate a vicious cycle of discontent? But listen dear governors, I sympathise with you. Apart from the fact that many of you are recouping your investments, no sane person can rule a complex society as Nigeria and still retain his sanity - apologies to President Obasanjo. But in spite of my patriotism, I seemed to have lost my head particularly on my last visit to Nigeria.

Last fortnight, I got electricity for two hours on two days out of the week. The generator located near my window by my neighbour worked on ceaselessly at night until I lost my sleep. Running water for where? I was my own local government - pumping water, generating electricity and collecting and disposing garbage. Everyone in my neighbourhood was doing the same. Worse, I travelled from Ibadan to my village - Iragberi ( a distance of some 50 kolometres) to see my aged mother, I could count at least 12 road blocks of police in national emblem collecting N50 from each motorist in broad day light in the 21st Century, at a time when former Police Inspector General Mike Okiro was saying that this (the Police) was the best profession ! Is my head still properly screwed on? The quick explanation for that show of shame is that the policemen sometimes have to pay for their uniforms, kits, petrol and allowances and this unreceipted revenue was their way of

compensating themselves!

But I can explain it all...through the inscriptions that I see on the wall of the primary schools in Osun State.. Oyin ni o or hakuna matata (Swahili for 'no problem') which I saw in Ogun State or the oyato.. joo (it is unique) that I saw in Oyo State. Our governors and legislators seem to have lost the script. They have turned to personal aggrandisement at the expense of governance! While they all have the personalised slogans, the roads are crumbling and the hurriedly-built new roads will not last. While they have the new primary schools covered with aluminium roofs, few studies are going on within the schools. While the university staff clubs are full of frolicking lecturers, no learning was going on in the university.
We all are in a jamboree of sort, an orgy of living off Niger Delta's petroleum... Oyin niio!!. Hakuna matata, oyato joo !