Nigeria's New Billionaires Club...You Too Can Be A Member.
Prince Charles Dickson
Jos, Plateau Nigeria
Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government. THOMAS JEFFERSON
I love this nation of ours, I mean why should I not love Nigeria, after all no place like home they say. No other place can be like Nigeria. The people, the cultures, attitudes, beliefs, religion, and how could I forget our leaders. Interestingly it is the citizens that add to the flavour, I listened the other day as some persons discussed and the sum totality was how does and will asset declaration make PHCN work, allow water run through the taps, provide shelter and good road network.
Over the last three weeks since the declaration of Mr. President of his assets I have laughed myself dry as others have followed suit and as I watched I waited for clear departure from the whole show but to no avail. And I have come to the realization that you too can be a member of the billionaires club.
On the contrary it has been a general trend and that will be the basis of this take. Let me say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with assets declaration. We gladly rush the Forbes list of World Richest each time it is out but sadly there is hardly anything that is done which does not come with the Nigerian variation. An ingredient that makes such an action strictly and sometimes "laughably" Nigerian.
Virtually all the elected officials that have declared their assets have declared few millions short of a billion, excepting the 'abnormal Uba' that declared the equally abnormal trillion figure. The assertion is that one may be safe to conclude that we have 36 Billionaires at State Level at most, those at Ministerial, Senatorial, Local Government levels cannot be ascertained but if the figures so far is to be taken at face level them we have another set of millionaires.
A cursory look at those that have declared their loot, sorry I meant assets, none of them have pointed out in those millions, a productive thousand. The forms include number of cars, bank accounts, home and abroad, properties and buildings, shares and sundry items. None of these men have businesses that provide a livelihood for over a thousand people yet that is the story of Nigeria's Billionaires
It was the late Bala Usman that spoke of Nigeria's capitalism of "acumulation, acumulation and acumulation". This is exactly what all these declarations have revealed, in the light of acute poverty, the unavailability of the basics of life, our leaders live life in the billions, in the comfort of houses worth millions and the masses are left to grapple with several failed urban housing projects.
Imagine if all these "Declaring Governors" gave N2M of those millions, how much would that amount to, building a hospital, a community center in select States would be a sin. But without remorse to the State of things, decline in life expectancy rate, high infant mortality rate, bad roads, lack of infrastructural development, millions are flying around for some select few.
Is it not safe to say that to become a Billionaire become a politician, emphasises become a Nigerian politician, and for good effect become a Nigerian Governor. Of all these declaration, very few of these 'declarers' can really tell the world how these millions have come about.
For another set, properties have simply appreciated with any activity. I have often said that Nigerians are the happiest, most religious, another survey has tagged us, the most sexually active and by my assertion the most docile, we actually do fight but unfortunately we fight for the wrong things. Our politicians keep taking us for a ride, they "bobo" us. And we celebrate them. In few words, in veiled statements, this men and women yet to join have told us "see you money that we stole". In few words they are declaring the truth that they could not tell anyone. And now that we are 'relaxed' they are rubbing it in.
A man that claims he served his State in the last eight years, without conflicting his duties, and still be the proud custodian of millions, not 1, 2, 3 but 700, 800 millions and billions. Just asking, in Nigeria, are the people not fooled all the time. And like a friend put it, all the time all the time. It is in this generation that we have lost regard and respect for millions, with the assets being declared, some of us still remember when the entire Nigeria could hardly budget a million in a fiscal year. Well, I am sure this is progress, even though strange, it is. Because we owed the Paris club for this long and continued to amass millions when a tithe offering from these men could have offset the debt.
One area that may have escaped our thoughts, is with all these millions, how about those by public officials that served in the last dispensation and are not obliged to declare. Better yet, how much does Olusegun Obasanjo own and how much should he declare? From a miserly few thousand to a N30M a month poultry or is it farm now. A university, a library and the list is enviable.
In these declarations, who has verified after investigation that these figures are correct. We have had cases of anticipatory approval, what about 'anticipatory declaration". The act and art of declaring in anticipation of yet to be stolen loot.
These so called declaration rather than the excitements they have generated calls for a sober reflection. We need to ask what the problem is, if we have all these rich dudes and the economy is at a standstill, poverty still roams the streets in broad daylight. Salaries are owed, pensioners grieve and the nation is in its lowest ebb in morals and integrity.
Leadership suffer AIDS Acquired Integrity Deficiency Syndrome and we celebrate them. From these declared loots, they get publicity, University honours, traditional titles, marry our daughters into their harem and the decay continues.
How much do these men earn, how have these millions been acquired. Does it not translate to the fact that a poor man cannot govern, because they all claim they were comfortable before they aspired to leadership. So where are we heading to, where is the light at the end of the tunnel or the fact the tunnel has been closed to Nigerians.
I end by saying that most often like Baltasar Gracia put it "Some marry the first information they receive, and turn what comes later into their concubine. Since deceit is always first to arrive, there is no room left for truth. Have we heard the last of these declaration. Would anyone declared just N1M or will anyone say he is bankrupt. Oh! How sad I must have missed my calling as a pen pusher, in my next world I would be a Politician, a Nigerian Politician and a Governor at least. May the Almighty Allah show us His mercies and forgive us our folly