Close-up of the flag of Nigeria on satin texture.


NEWSDAILYNIGERIA: Those who trumpet change as an inevitable phenomenon need to be reminded that there are different types of change. There is the type that can be described as circumlocutory change prevalent in countries with stunted growth such as Nigeria. It is a type of change in which things change from one form to another, only to return to their original form before changing again forward and backwards until it becomes certain that nothing really changed. One subject which experiences such inexplicable recurrent changes in Nigeria is road construction. Today, the country has only two federal roads, the Lagos-Ibadan and Abuja-Kaduna Express Ways that have been under construction without end. For longer than makes sense, every government is always working on the two roads. The form the construction takes is that a completed phase suddenly goes bad as soon as another phase is done making it necessary for work to resume in the previous phase that looked beautifully made less than a year before.

The likelihood of the emergence of a third special road came to light last week when a delegation of 62 members made up of multi-party political leaders and other elite groups of Rivers state extraction visited president Bola Tinubu in Abuja. The delegation got the president’s firm assurance that the popular elementary junction–Onne axis of the east west road linking the Port Harcourt refinery will be fixed. An elated host governor Siminalayi Fubara said on the occasion that it was the first time River state was “truly feeling the impact of the federal government since the inception of democracy in 1999.” The presence of Nyesom Wike (Mr. Project) during the visit was significant because Tinubu reminded the delegation that Wike, his strong adviser and current minister of the FCT would have the task of ensuring prompt action on the promised project.

It looks like the East-West road may soon join the Lagos-Ibadan and Abuja-Kaduna special roads. One reason why the newly identified road may also change intermittently is that the elementary junction-Onne axis is only one segment of the East-West road. There is no guarantee that it will not return to its original state when other segments before and after it are worked upon to make the entire road passable. This is because, government is likely to as usual merely add the road to others already in the budget without increasing the available funding. Some years back, Adeseye Ogunlewe, one-time minister of works told the nation on national television that the practice of earmarking the construction of several roads within a small budget thereby spreading the inadequate funding to many roads accounts for why several federal road projects are never completed.

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A related subject that does not change in Nigeria is the idea of bloated government. In the last two decades, analysts have been pleading in vain with government to down-size its political appointees. In other climes where government listens to the people, the constitution would have been amended to reduce the numerical strength of the federal executive council to less than 20 ministers like that of the US which is larger and wealthier than Nigeria. Since this was not done and with the current economic shortfalls, one would have expected the government to restrict itself to 37 ministers only. Why does Nigeria need 45 ministers plus 3 others yet be cleared by the Senate? The only reason governor Sanwo-Olu of Lagos state has 37 commissioners in a state of 20 local government areas is because bloated government is one of the things that may never change in Nigeria.

We are also not likely to change our culture of failed elections. With governorship elections coming up shortly in Imo, Bayelsa and Kogi states, signs that the old challenges will persist are already clear. We can hardly avoid failed elections even in less volatile states at a time like this when election processes and procedures have become indeterminable. Which issues are pre-election matters and in which courts will they be heard? The mode of election is now guess work because the electoral body in the exercise of its unfettered discretion may change the goal-post as soon as a penalty is awarded to a particular team. Of course, former Head of State, Abdulsaam Abubakar, Bishop Hassan Mathew Kukah and members of their Peace Commission will move around to preach peace, but to the contestants, everything is fair in an election which in Nigeria is a war instead of a game.

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No one is likely to arrest the culprits because they are usually never apprehended or prosecuted. The unchanging role of the law enforcement agencies is to assemble thousands of personnel to monitor polling booths. A few years ago, voters in a popular one-party state, were not as many as the security personnel who reportedly looked the other way when ballot boxes were snatched from voting centres. It does not therefore appear rational to arrest persons who at the end of the day will not be prosecuted. The call for the establishment of an election offences tribunal may not see the light of the day because those who can let it happen are the principals of the offenders. If so, why bother the police who are anxious to return to their lucrative check-points which successive Inspectors-General of Police have always banned? No one should expect a change to police check-points.

It would indeed be extremely difficult to dissuade politicians from electoral mal-practices in a country where the gains of political offices are exceedingly inelastic. Against public disapproval, many states are not only still buying for former governors, houses of their choice in their state capitals and Abuja, full time salaries are still being paid to them plus additional amounts earned by those who are now senators. Federal legislators who would have joined the poor to stop the anomaly are themselves too comfortable with exorbitant but illegal take home pay. Indeed, the current legislators are even luckier because in addition to several inherited allowances, they now get two million token for transportation after clearance of ministerial nominees plus solemn recess prayers from their presiding officer. How can the exploitation of a captured polity by the political class change?

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Similarly, those expecting that education, the bedrock of every nation will soon be prioritized in Nigeria are gambling with miracle workers. It is only when making education our priority is suggested that our political leaders remember that our economy is not strong. In any case, they already have a template for dealing with the only strong advocates of quality education – the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). In the past, the strategy for dealing with ASUU and their incessant strikes was blackmail. Chris Ngige, Nigeria’s strongest minister of labour so far, successfully consolidated the matter before he left office. First, he got the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between ASUU and government revised. Then, he introduced memorandum of action (MOA) before licensing more academic unions to water-down ASUU’s strength thereby sending our university teachers to limbo. Feeble strikes will remain along with windy long sessions while those who eventually graduate will be unemployed

ASUU is not the only foremost societal institution that has become weak, all others have continued to get strong leaders posted to them to get them weaker. In the past, technocrats with cognate management experience in the running of our societal bodies were usually promoted to Chief Executive Officers while political appointees were appointed into boards and governing councils. It is no longer so, the change now is that politicians are appointed to run organizations which they know nothing about. In addition, young campaign stalwarts are posted as staff to middle-level management positions in organizations to supersede technocrats on ground. The posture now encourages politics within organizations to the detriment of best practices and global realities.

Nigeria wants to be like the US where societal institutions are strong and viable and thus well-positioned to resist strongmen like Donald Trump from derailing society. But Nigerian leaders are daily weakening our societal bodies by using lucrative offices to compensate partisanship at the expense of national growth and development. Consequently, the only change in Nigeria is the unchanging appetite for politicisation of public policies. What a change?


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