Creating an Online Community of Change Agents
2012 was a special year in Nigeria. The reasons however, were not so special. For instance, we were robbed of the joy that accompanies the festive season as Christmas rolls into a new year when the GEJ* administration announced a 117% increase in the pump price of petroleum. Our anger led us to the streets in a protest championed by labour. The zest of many ordinary Nigerians for the New Year, converted to disappointment at an unfeeling government. At the end of the Occupy Nigeria protests, (and something tells me the guys in Abuja were laughing at us throughout) the result achieved was a compromise between labour leaders and the government that reduced the price increase from #141 to #97/litre. Some people argue that this was the government’s plan all along and that labour had been compromised once again.
Images from the Occupy Nigeria Protests at King’s Square, Benin City
The compromise allowed the country to resume normal activities with many ordinary Nigerians hoping the president would deliver on the promises he made in his address at the end of the protest. Shortly after the protests, we learnt that the nation’s oil business was being run by a handful of individuals called a cabal. In fact, the faceless group seemed to control all of government and there appeared to be a fear of naming its members. In what seemed like an attempt to take the bull by the horn, the lower legislative chamber instituted a panel to investigate the matter and sanitize the industry. The probe was aired live on TV and people watched it daily, hoping that perhaps, the much desired change would follow. As the probe neared a peak, it turned a sad twist as the lead investigator was allegedly involved in bribery scandal with one of the people who had been indicted. All the recommendations of the panel were classed as tainted and useless and the villains got away. So who lost that battle? You and I did.
Farouk Lawan – Chairman, House Ad-Hoc Committee on Subsidy Regime Management
The only achievement of all that effort is the clear message that the government of GEJ, like the others before it, is unwilling to fight the rot in the system. With nearly one year gone by, nobody has been prosecuted; talk more of punished for daylight robbery of our commonwealth. The reason is simple, everybody was involved; NNPC and its subsidiaries, the CBN, the oil marketers, government functionaries etc, etc. O Farouk! Did you really think you could fight all these people? Your foolishness knew no bounds. In the end, they made you one of them.
The same can be said of other panels and committees that sought clarification on the mismanagement of resources by government officials. The first step was to taint the investigators and subsequently discard their findings as unreliable. A similar occurrence was in the Securities and Exchange Commission Inquiry. Nuhu Ribadu’s Committee report met with so much controversy and is now being reviewed by a White Paper Committee.
Arunma Oteh – DG SEC
2012 was also the year in which Mr Jonathan earned the tag of most cursed president in the world. This was the direct fall-out of the removal of fuel subsidy. I was completely unaware of it until a friend used the line, ‘Google most cursed president’ as his status on Blackberry Messenger. I did and was truly shocked to find out that our president’s name came up in the results. Immediately, I understood the short cartoon I had once seen in which a military aide hands a call from Mark Zuckerberg to Jonathan. If you haven’t seen the clip, you can find it here. I also came to understand some online adverts I had seen, proclaiming that Jonathan would be the most loved president by the end of his tenure. Only time can tell.
Goodluck Jonathan – President and C-in-C of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
2012 was a year of many deaths in Nigeria. In actual fact, the lives lost were probably not any more than in previous years but the reality is that many of these deaths were needless and could have been prevented. Numerous bombings targeted at Christian faithful widened the already existing rift between the Christian South and the Muslim North. Politicians like Senator Ali Ndume have been accused of promoting the criminal activities of Boko Haram but the process of exacting the truth and obtaining justice has been politicized.
In 2012, faulty aircraft flew and crashed, bad roads claimed lives, the police killed newlyweds and even assisted in the brutal lynching to death of four young male students of the University of Port-Harcourt. Kidnap rings thrived and robbers reigned supreme. People died in horrifying manners and each time the government calmly promised to make change happen. All that really changed though, was the deepening of the corruption.
That corruption is at the root of many of our problems is a fact that many of our leaders have sought to deny for as long as I remember. When Transparency International TI, published the Corruption Perceptions Index 2012, Nigeria ranked 35th. GEJs Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs condemned the ranking, claiming it was faulty and more importantly, a mere perception not hard fact. I am convinced he was wrong because corruption obviously has a strange-hold on Nigeria. Some people I engaged in a conversation also denounced the report from TI but for different reasons. According to them, Nigeria should have ranked 1st on that index and not 35th because any act of corruption you can find in other countries is practised here as well as some unique ones you cannot find elsewhere.
Not long after that, The Institute for Economics & Peace published the Global Terrorism Index and Nigeria ranked 7th out of 158 countries analyzed over a period of 10 years. Ah! My Nigeria, now considered a terrorist nation? I mourned. GEJ’s predecessor managed to make peace with the MEND terrorists while in office but today, the Boko Haram menace seems to have overwhelmed the President and there is simply no end in sight of the bombings. Things are really bad now.
Then in its annual tradition, The Economist of London published The World in 2013. In my own tradition, I purchased a copy and found an interesting article called The Lottery of Life. The article discussed an index called Best Place to be Born conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, EIU. The index is a rating of 80 countries across the world that fuses surveys of individuals with 11 key socio-political and economic indicators to determine the best place for a baby to be born such that they will eventually be successful in life. Nigeria came last on that list, essentially making it the worst place for a baby to be born in 2013. If the presidency chooses to dismiss the rating, it’s fine, but the myriad of problems that make living in Nigeria a struggle are definitely real and GEJ has to solve them.
In the face of all this, we are thankful for a new year. 2013, like every year before it will have its defining moments. Perhaps the Super Eagles would bring the trophy home from South Africa. Hopefully, the bombings and shootings would end. Maybe the Lagos – Benin, Lagos – Ibadan, as well as the roads leading into Enugu from Onitsha and Port – Harcourt would be tarred. Maybe power generation would reach the magical number 6,000MW. Maybe institutions like hospitals and universities would become world-class. Maybe GEJ would become the leader we desperately need in Nigeria. Maybe the babies of 2013 would be better off than The Economist predicts, maybe just maybe. And maybe I should stop dreaming right now.
*GEJ – Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the current President and Commander – In – Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.