Someone was talking to me about how hard things have been lately, and she said “it’s like they poured something all over the place”. That, loosely translated, means “it’s like there’s a ‘pandemic of lack’ in the society”. Everyone now has at least a faint idea of what a pandemic is, after the world’s experience in the last two years.
Using her words, did they truly pour something all over the place? No, nothing was poured anywhere. The country/economy has always been bad, but the country made its worst mistake (genuinely or otherwise) ever with its electoral choice in 2015, triggering a destructive decline at an unimaginable pace.
The only thing that acted (by accident/fate) as a relative-shock absorber was COVID-19, which necessitated the US government’s “Pandemic Unemployment” spending, a significant part of which was taken by fraud (both from within the United States and abroad, including by Nigerian scammers). We would get to that subject later. Looking at issues, it is quite important to consider some things that the last two years have made more glaring than ever.
First is the huge impact of governance (positive/negative) on society, and how every other thing in the existence of a society literally responds to and depends on the actions/inactions of actors in the society’s government – irrespective of the society’s form of government. This has been so since, at least, after Thomas Hobbes’ state of nature when society had no central authority governing it. Subjects like democracy, capitalism, socialism, communism, etc are secondary to the actions/inactions of the governing actors in these systems. America as it is today is a product of the actions/inactions of the actors [past and present] of its government(s). The same thing applies to every other country on earth, and the earth as it is today is a sum of these.
The US government could embark on the “pandemic unemployment” spending because the country’s founding fathers and their successors recognized this governance impact and consciously engineered a society that is the envy of others today. This is not to ignore the fact that there’s no perfect society and that the U.S. also has its own many flaws. The U.S. did not build wealth by accident, it did by paying attention to science.
An important part of science is data, and the U.S. cares so much about it. The U.S. is so serious about this that it knows when life comes into existence within its borders, and follows the life till it leaves this realm. That data is what enabled the U.S. to even think of supporting its people, whom it stopped from moving around – in order to curb the spread of COVID-19. Without a good record of its people, and social engineering that ensures that every American within the country’s borders can be reached directly, the pandemic unemployment support would have been a mere imagination or a joke in a country like Nigeria where even if the government talks about such, only a few of its citizens would believe it, for many obvious reasons.
This actually happened. The Nigerian government also said it gave out support to Nigerians during the pandemic, some people confirmed getting such funds, while many never got a dime. Some never even knew that such support was being given by the government. How do you apply for something you didn’t know existed? Even if Nigeria had enough resources/funds to give everyone (it doesn’t), and it was willing to do so, it cannot do it, at least it cannot reach everyone, because it has no way of knowing how to reach its citizens, most of whom it doesn’t even know to exist.
Besides not having a record of its citizens, Nigeria has remained cursed with the affliction of always having clowns as government actors. This is a country with a federal minister who claims that they gave handouts to the poorest of the poor in the country, but while being asked about accounting for the said handouts, shamelessly said they couldn’t because the recipients didn’t want their identities revealed. It’s been quite difficult to comprehend how a beneficiary will be dictating the terms of engagement with its benefactor, especially in a situation where there is a legal obligation of accountability on the part of the giver.
Because of these clowns, and unlike the United States, Nigeria does not know when any child is born within its borders and does not care what happens to the child in its time in this realm, unless the child is able to navigate its way to some form of prominence, through whatever means. These clowns are the reason Nigeria has been what it’s been since independence, less than impressive. If the impact of governance on society was not recognized by anyone before, the President Buhari administration, in a relatively short time (8 years), has made it clear. This is not to put the whole blame on the Buhari government, that [ir]responsibility is shared with its predecessors since 1960.
In just 7-8 years, Nigeria has seen economic recession twice, insecurity got to its worst ever in the country’s history, ethnic distrust and secession agitation became widespread, and the Naira saw its greatest loss of value ever, with its impact on the Nigerian’s purchasing power, state actors publicly surrendered to the stranglehold of violent non-state actors (explaining the latter’s criminal activities away with disgraceful nonchalance), and then COVID-19 also happened. Can a country be more unfortunate?
In political theory, John Locke emphasized his “social contract theory” and refuted the theory of the divine right of kings, arguing that all persons are endowed with natural rights to life, liberty, and property and that rulers who fail to protect those rights may be removed by the people, by force if necessary. Perhaps America and other developed countries are populated by the disciples/students of John Locke. In the case of Nigeria, Africa, and other ‘undeveloped’ places, John Locke may have to do greater work in explaining his theory. How else can you imagine the sad realities of these places and their obsession with upholding the status quo, out of fear, shallowness of thought, and destructive naivety?
The foregoing leads to the next factor to consider, fraud. Fraud is a global phenomenon and has always been. While every society frowns on fraud or pretends to frown on it by putting in place legal frameworks to control fraud, the phenomenon has endured. There are frauds going on everywhere, by both state actors and non-state actors, and to varying degrees. A recent report talked about state-sanctioned fraud activities in North Korea which moved millions of dollars into the country from abroad. North Korea is not alone in this, and even the world’s superpowers are not exonerated.
Each people’s reputation now depends on how well they carry themselves in other important areas, including in politics, economy, international relations, image management, etc. In this area, just like in other areas, Nigeria and Nigerians have been less than impressive. Evidence of this is the reputation prevalence of internet-based fraud widely referred to as “yahoo yahoo”. Sadly, Nigerians are one of the most self-deceiving people on earth. They are people who don’t really care about how you made your money, just make it and you can even be rewarded with public office. Pay no attention to their usual pretentious uproar online and offline, they are so clownish that if “their person” gets into public office and leaves without enriching himself or herself, s/he will be regarded as a self-hating idiot who didn’t use his opportunity well.
People’s socialization says a lot about them and defines their ways and cultures significantly. While Nigerians constantly pretend to frown on fraud, what a significant percentage of them do or are willing to do behind closed doors is unimaginable. Sadly, the people are even gradually losing that pretense. A country where public servants explain their irresponsibility by saying that monkeys and snakes stole public funds that were kept in their care. A country that sentences a phone thief to 50 years in jail, but sentences a crook that stole billions of Naira to 2 years with an option of an N750,000 fine. A country whose financial crimes prosecuting agencies are as criminal as the criminals they go about intimidating. Cases like those of Magu, Maina, Oduah, Lawal, Lawan, Kyari, Diezani, etc give a clear picture of the kind of society Nigerians have engineered for themselves.
While there are those who argue, rightly so, that some are relatively thriving despite the huge mess and so there’s no excuse for fraud, the “yahoo yahoo” scam is a direct result of the many instances of negative social engineering mentioned above. This is no moralistic piece, it is strictly one whose only objective is a thorough observation/analysis of issues. As stated in the early parts of this piece, a significant percentage of the U.S. government’s pandemic unemployment support was taken by fraud. And while the fraud took place both within the U.S. and abroad, Nigerian scammers played a major role in it. This role moved several million, if not billions, of dollars into the Nigerian economy, from which largely all sectors “benefitted”, including; banking, oil and gas, imports, transport, catering and hospitality, retail, manufacturing, construction, real estate, etc.
While it is relatively impossible to value the real volume of this scam(since the larger percentage didn’t move through the conventional means of financial flow), its impact cannot be overemphasized. It is this volume and its impact that glossed over the real effects of the actions/inactions of the actors in Nigeria’s current leadership. This then says a lot about the socialization and consumption orientation of Nigerians, a problem that continues to affect the country negatively. It is why public office holders steal all they can and keep it somewhere (locally and internationally) just to feed on for as long as possible. It is why a former governor can pocket the state after leaving office and have so much later (through no known genuine business means) that he could tell residents of another state, which had the misfortune of having one of his proteges as governor, that they as a state don’t have his money, literally.
As beneficial to Nigeria’s economy as the “yahoo boys” loot of the U.S. pandemic unemployment funds was, it was a bubble and a very short-lived one. And as usual with a bubble, there’s been a bust, and its evidence is being seen everywhere, from the increasing groaning of many in the hands of worsening poverty to worsening bloodshed, ritual killings, and other violent crimes. Gradually, the scale of Buhari’s and his administration’s impact on the country is becoming more obvious. Yet, many mischievously still regard him as the best thing to have happened to the country after crude oil. While other oil exporters are having their purses lined with increasing foreign exchange as the crude prices rose beyond the $100 per barrel mark, Nigeria’s finance minister lamented the country’s misfortune of not benefiting from the rise in price.
Buhari, his administration, and his party are the first to successfully ensure that increasing crude oil prices is bad for the country, after blaming their less than poor performance on the low crude oil prices for years. The rising oil price is truly not benefiting the country, and its reasons are obvious. A continuously dwindling revenue, a petrol subsidy that they said was fictional but which they’ve been removing since taking power, yet it continues to eat all the remaining resources after servicing a worsening debt portfolio, a more than 100% decline in the currency’s value since they took power, the worst inflation in a long while, as well as other unpleasant things.
Adeshina, Onochie, Shehu, and millions of other willing accomplices (many of whom are direct victims of these runners of the country) will be wondering how it’s already 7 years out of their god’s constitutional 8. But that’s what time does, and is why the Yorubas say “Ten kings, Ten periods [in history]”. In a year from now, the country will go back to the polls to choose who takes over from the man that enjoys picking his teeth. Aspirants have begun declaring their intentions to contest for the top job, and a lot lies ahead before electorates go to the polls. Can any of these aspirants set the country on a path to thrive so well that citizens would recognize and appreciate wealth creation through little, consistent efforts? Considering the country’s history, especially in the last 7 years, as well as those that are coming out to run for election in 2023, what chances do you think Nigeria has for redemption?