Farouk Martins Aresa
State your choice between local infrastructure and politicians? The only people benefiting from Federal Character are the well-placed and their cronies. It was a good intention to empower ethnic groups in all regions of the Country. Alas, millionaires and billionaires were intentional created and heads of states bragged about it. By the time we realized that emoluments took most revenues, not even the heads of state could not dislodge meat from the teeth of fat cats.
Most people are naturally resourceful. Given the choice between starting their own businesses to be their own boss or hand-outs, many would love to be their own boss. However, given the choice between looting without consequences in an inhospitable environment and working hard in an enabling environment, the choice is yours. Even professionals abandoned chosen professions for looting because nobody would lynch them like hungry people stealing food.
Infrastructure became secondary on the shelves until the salaries and allowances of politicians were paid. If there is anything left, usually very little, projects are stated but never completed until the next Administration. The fact is, the next Administration has its own agenda and new foreign projects that will bring hard currencies into their foreign accounts. Whatever is left after humongous salaries and emoluments, they share among themselves before next fiscal year.
There was a time when politicians would not dare steal from their villages. Those days are gone, they do not let allocations get to the state or local councils before diverting it to their private accounts. Good intention is not enough, in many African countries, corruption has eaten the lion share of the budget. Asia countries and western countries are as corrupt in many ways but the lion share of the projects and budgets do not go into individual pockets as wild Nigerians.
Nigeria is about the size of California. While the whole of United States has 100 senators Nigeria has 109. The reason is to make sure every area has a voice in the senate even if we have to pay more senators than United States. Nigeria has a population of about 180 million compare to U.S 300 million. There is no need to compare incomes with the richest country, the United States; but the emoluments of our politicians in Nigeria surpass that of any country in the world.
Our politicians claimed their salary is a fraction of all incomes. Everyone knows they relied on oil income that has never been steady and that we may soon run out of. Yet, they have never adjusted their “entitlements” or car allowances to reflect today’s realities. Nigerian politicians are ready to mow down anyone that questions their salary. They even threaten to impeach a seating President once, for attacking their outrageous salary used for aggrandizement.
Contrary to using the greatest amount of money for the majority of the people, Federal Character has encouraged the greatest amount of money for a few politicians, cronies and those at their throats as activists fighting religious, ethnic and propaganda wars. There is not enough money to pay all of them off. Everybody looks up to the Government as their source of income. If they ever penetrate the treasury, they spend unproductively like a drunken sailor.
Recently one of the state Governors decided to create 32 local rulers, Oba, without any idea where their salaries are coming from except poor people’s resources. This is apart from special advisers, commissioners and different envoys at the Federal and state levels. If any of these unproductive cronies were not appointed from any area within a population of 180 million, the rest of the population that think they should have been appointed would match to the state or Federal capitals crying marginalization for over 250 ethnic groups.
We cry to the government to provide enabling environment while a few drained all revenues: killing projects. Enabling environment encourages small and medium businesses to germinate. Those businesses that could not wait provided their own water, electricity, even roads to where their businesses are located. Big business in most African countries already include the cost of establishing in a virgin forest where they provide everything for their business to flourish.
If only the money wasted on Federal Character is invested in enabling environment, more folks would benefit encouraging small and medium business to provide jobs for others, apart from themselves. In other words, Federal Character instead of infrastructures is stifling jobs on merit. We put the cart before the horse. When business booms and people are employed, the taxes and fees collected could be used to diversify, ameliorate and target impoverished areas.
There is no substitute for educated community trained in both academic and technical skills to meet demands of business and industries needed for infrastructure. Inspired women play very crucial roles in economic development. Just build them a “market” place and roads; they would create jobs, a village; and control population instead of rigorous degree of one family one child China was forced to enact in order to feed its people. China is now world’s dependable market.
You would think that by electing and appointing all these jobbers from each area, each ethnic group and religions, Nigeria would be pacified. Indeed, those elected and appointed steal from the rest of the population creating unsustainable pool of poor people agitating for instant stomach infrastructure instead of enabling environment. Playing lottery on hungry folks and for elections they trample on one another for a sachet or half bag of garri or rice. A few have died in the process for a bag of rice that would not last them a month if they have large families.
Even informed women on birth control and men with few children, have other relative they would share a bag of garri or rice with. No matter what, that bag would not last them a year, not to mention the next election. Federal character has benefited and encouraged rogues and desperadoes willing to throw their people under the bus. Politicians marring new wives talk back and claim their people allow them to steal without any consequences or accountability.
Who stopped military, OBJ, Ya’Adua, Ebele Jonathan and Buhari from surrounding themselves with their ethnic kitchen cabinet? Federal Character overstayed its welcome, leaders abused and found their way around it. There is no way we can balance the interest of over 250 ethnic groups at the Federal level. People should be calling for Federal Infrastructure or Presence in their localities so that they can see good roads, water, electricity and enterprises distributed fairly not thieves. Infrastructures are not folks diverting fiscal allocation before they get to you.