Are We Cursed or Are We The Cause? - THE BUSINESS PACKAGE


Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Are We Cursed or Are We The Cause?

By: Waheed Ogunjobi

For a long period of time, I have been ruminating and soliloquizing about the rot in the Nigerian system. Seeing the degree of glowing decadence, I was   compelled to throw a disturbing poser; Are we cursed or are we the cause? And,  Just like the great poet,  Ola Rotimi  rightly observed in its celebrated work, “ The gods are not to blame”,  I also have the inkling to ask, are we to be blamed or are the gods to be blamed for the lopsided nature of the nation’s system?  I  know truly the gods are not to blame!

At times, when people express the optimism that Nigeria will be better, I find it difficult to believe knowing the extent of the rot that pervades the system and how individually or collectively we all contributed to the decadence, couple with the fact that majority of our compatriots who complain about the situation with the country at will are those found culpable of other shady things. But, whatever the case, we just have to keep the hope alive, abi?.  For instance , it has been said that corruption is a common denominator among the political class and some people have mooted the idea of consideration of   death penalty for looters of the treasury or not. But, knowing the rate of similar theft going on across the strata of the society in public offices, both government and the private sector, one is afraid as to the number of people that may be asked to face the firing squad, should the matter be investigated to the root. After serious thought on the question of bad leadership in Nigeria, I seems to have  come to term with the reality that the quality of followership a nation has actually determines the type of leaders it get.

Is it not ironical therefore to find out that instead of taking a serious look at the issue of corruption, what excites our handlers is the consideration of death penalty for hate speech and the desire to regulate the social media at all cost. Whereas, hate speech and corruption is more like  the tale of chicken and the egg, one is as a result of the other. If corruption is tackle headlong, hate speech will surely die a natural death. Are these people not seeing what we see ,or are they so much blinded by their greed that they feel shutting the mouth of the people is the best way to govern the nation. Still, are we cursed or are we the cause ?

Everything is surely wrong with the system we run in this country and all of us seems to look the other way as if nothing was amiss. I have cast a look at the rot in the Nigerian system and I’m sick and worried about the level of decadence without any hope of remedying the situation. That is how it is done!, You cannot do anything about it!. Are you new in the system?  Are you a stranger in this clime? These are some of the posers thrown at you, each time you express disgust about the lawlessness that pervades the society. I ask again, are we going to continue like this  ?  Shall we continue to patch it?

I had jokingly told an elderly person who acted as an accomplice to a fraud  committed by some public officials,  that this is the system we inherited from them and wonder if we are  going to pass the same system of rot and the culture of impunity to our children?.  The elderly person swiftly chose to be on the defensive by saying that the rot in the   system was not their making and that it is the youth, known for the saying “ It is time of the youths” that  infuse all these bad practices into the system. Who takes the blame here, the older or the younger generation? But, come to think of it, can we really do things according to the laid down procedure in this country? Can public officials really perform their civic duties without any form of gratification?

For instance I have had to worry about the rot in the nation’s electricity sector. I recalled that while   we were young, we used to make   the statement “Up NEPA”, each time  there were restoration of electricity. Ironically,   my two year old son, back then , now  thirteen years of age , had also uttered the same statement “Up Yepa” while he was much younger. The question that readily comes to mind is , is my son who is gradually coming of age going to pass the same embarrassing statement to  his offspring? Should this happen, it means such in-efficiency in the system has turned to a generational curse.  The matter is now so compounded, if one can easily recall the shuddy deal that went into the privatization of the power sector. Instead of selling the nation’s electricity stake to foreign investors with technical know-how who  have the  wherewithal to transform the system, our handlers have chosen to  recycle the sales among themselves, hence decades after its purported privatization, we are back to square one, if not worse ? Then , one should ask again, are we cursed or are we the cause?

Still  talking about the problem in the electricity  sector, one may ask, why would the Power Holding Company of  Nigeria (PHCN)  or whatever  name they chose to call themselves refuse to issue meters to those who willingly pay for it and even prevent those who are ready to make fresh  payment from buying it, in the guise of giving them such meter free of charge. In the long run, officials will come with outrageous bills for consumers who are not issued with the meter, asking them to pay through their noses and probably pay for the in-efficiency and lopsidedness in the system with relish. Those who can play the game, I think you understand ?, will surely have their ways, while the adamant ones like myself will know how   truly powerful such officials are. What kind  of system runs like this if not the madness that is the Nigerian system? We have heard of moves by the authorities to criminalize estimated billing system which is a tactic being advanced to milk electricity consumers dry, but only God knows if such policies  of curbing the criminal act will take off beyond the debate , giving the reality that those who sold the electricity sector to themselves are the same set of people who are masquerading as the regulator.

 Many of us have formed the habit of turning the heat on men of the Police force . The Police are always the bad or the fall guys when it comes to petty corruption. But, come to think of it, is there an agency of the government, Local, State or Federal  in this country where sharp practices is not the order of the day. I recalled the last time I was at the licensing office to get a vehicle license.  I had thought that , part of the prerequisite of getting a vehicle license is to conduct a thorough inspection of the vehicle in question and determine if it is real or genuine. But, alas!, provided you can part with a sum of N35, 000  or probably more these days,  no one cares to know what the vehicle looks like or whether it was stolen or genuinely purchased. This in essence means that anyone with the cash, whether parading a stolen vehicle or otherwise could  get the  vehicle license at will.  Is this the type of system we run in this country?

If  that surprises or infuriates you then you have to pay  a visit to the passport office.  I have heard the noise about the new e-passport and how it eliminates fraud in the payment and issuance of international passport, but I bet you  , it is the system that encourages fraud the most going by the reality on ground. Ordinarily, the official price for  the new international ECOWAS passport is between N9,000- N10,000 . If you are the rigid and protocol type, you may spend eternity processing the passport. Should you be ready to jump on the bandwagon and play the Nigerian game, I bet you in less than two hours, pronto you will get the passport out with less hassle. This back door method will cost you between N30,000  to N40,000 naira instead of the official price of N10,000 or thereabout.  The irony  of the whole system is the fact that the same officials  who will get the job out for you at a contractual price are those employed by the government to do the same job which they are receiving monthly salary for. The question is, can’t this people apply the same zeal and commitment which they used in getting the passport out at contractual cost in doing the job as a public servant?  Where is the spirit  of patriotism and what has gone wrong with our value system?

The situation at the government hospitals is another sorry state that one would be forced to ask the simple question, is this happening in this modern age? How can you describe a situation where pregnant women coming to the hospital for child delivery were asked to bring gallons of water all in the name of lack of water in government hospitals. So, the next time you are going for maternity, don’t forget to go with your jerry can filled with water , else you will not get the desired treatment.

As a matter of  fact, if you have a delicate case that requires urgent attention, the place to go is surely not government hospital. I once had an encounter with a Doctor  on call . A close friend of mine had a snake bite and was rushed to the hospital. At the hospital,  they had no anti –snake venom and we had to go the whole hog of sourcing the drug at a private store, leaving the snake victim to groan for hours. By the time we eventually got the venom , a curious me , aware of the danger in snake bite approached the Doctor to at least help apply it, in order to be at peace. Alas!,  the Doctor on call charged back and said, the man with the snake bite can  wait, because he has another patient who cannot urinate. Looking at the whole scenario, I found out that the said Doctor may actually not carry all the blames, he was the only Doctor on call, despite the numerous  emergency cases he has to attend to. How can a  whole General hospital has a single Doctor on call, weekend or no weekend?

As I was about rounding off this piece, the drama of the land border closure crept into my mind. For about five months running, the  Federal government has initiated a policy to strictly police the nations land borders. As laudable as this policy seems to be, one wonders if the borders are truly shut in the real sense of the word. This is because although, the policy has thrown up a lot of positive vibes with  different local rice brands  having a swell time in the market. But, come to think of it, as things are today, the foreign rice are still very much in the market, yet the land borders are closed. Even, the skyrocketing price of the foreign rice had recently beat a retreat as the price at  some point was nearing stability . What this means is that, the so called border closure has only reduced the number of people who engage in the business, while the big players who can  probably pay through the customs services may be having a field day. Come to think of it, we have watched videoa and footages of Customs Officers, harassing a woman who pretended to be pregnant and yet carrying rice in her belly. For crying out loud, what business do Customs Officials have apprehending such suspects , when the big thieves are allowed to pass. Without being told, such person that hid grains of rice in his or her stomach pretending to be pregnant is probably hungry and needed help order than sanction.

Waheed Ogunjobi  writes from Abeokuta and can be reached on  08035004741 , or
Posted 3rd December 2012 by THE BUSINESS PACKAGE

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