The concept of democracy, apart from the most acceptable definition as propounded by Abraham Lincoln, is simply a system of governance where the majority carries the day by having their way into government, with the interest of the minority captured.
In Nigeria, the most populous black nation in the world, it is neither of the aforementioned. Ours is a gross deviation from the norm. A system where the elites who rule, pander to their interests alone. Better put, a government of the elites, by the elites, and for the elites. Whatever will further their benefits is accelerated to achieving same while that of the people could wait forever or simply snailed up to benefit them. The situation has degenerated over the years. The masses have resigned to fate. They have surrendered to God.
One wonders why those who swore to uphold the spirits and letters of the constitution would blazingly trample on same and feel no guilt. The Constitution unambiguously states that the PRiMaRY AIM of government SHALL be the sECURITY and WELFARE of the people. This implies that doing the opposite is an aberration. Why is that in Nigeria, it has always been the welfare and security of the elites? Those who should serve are being served.
Across the country, abandoned projects dot the landscape; hospital projects, rural and urban roads, local markets, dams, power and many more. The costs of such projects are humongous. Trillions are involved. Trillions were given as taking off grants, while in some sites, nothing was done beyond the groundbreaking ceremonies. Some are at various levels, contractors bolted with what they got and no one is on their neck to either return to the site or make a refund. No! They are left alone.
In most scenarios, it was(is) a quid pro quo agreement between them and those public servants who awarded the contracts. These contractors and those who gave the contracts see such moments as some opportunities to take a huge chunk from the huge national cake. While they celebrate their gains, the citizens groan in pains. The masses are the victims who use the roads on a daily basis. They patronize the local hospitals. The dearth of these important infrastructures is a quick passport to their deaths.
Little wonder that we are still leading the country with the highest number of road crashes, infant mortality and women who die at childbirth. What about the casualties when simple ailments are involved? We sit pretty coolly at the top. Malaria, cholera and simple headache still send poor Nigerians to their early graves.
The so-called leaders and the fortunate fly on high, while the people ought to be served are down below walking or driving on the death traps. Even when they have any reason to use the roads or the waterways, they harass the masses off the roads with their loud sirens and overzealous escorts.
Take a census across the country. You are going to confirm that the finest roads are the ones that lead to the airports and the one that dots the posh areas where they live.
Take for instance the East-west road that cuts across the entire South-South states. The contract for that all important road project has been there for donkey years. Every year, huge sums are allocated to it. Why is the project still in limbo? Blame corruption. It has become a drain pipe for those who ought to ensure its completion.
Only a few days ago the minister of Niger Delta shocked the entire world that the project was originally designed to fail. What should then happen to those who designed it to fail? What about the huge sum sunk into it so far? No one will be sanctioned. It’s within the elites cycle. They know how to play the “rub my back, I rub your back game,” While the people die daily or being kidnapped on that same road, the elites sit and safely wine in their palaces. The same day, the sum of N60 billion was approved to build the headquarters of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). Of course, the towering edifice will house the elites and their bureaucracy. The road can remain as a death trap.
The Abuja /Lokoja road was awarded over ten yes ago by the Obasanjo administration. Billions have been sunk into the project, it is still far from completion.
In fact, the finished parts have gone bad again. The contractors and the elites in power are perpetually in cahoots to dupe the people and move on.
Earlier this year, a N6 billion was awarded to renovate the Abuja Airport runway. There was uproar. Some came up to protest the contract sum that in many countries outside of ours, that huge sum would build a new one. That is what they earmarked for renovation. The job was rushed! Within 6 weeks, it was over! Yes! So so because it involved the elites. Any delay would rock their boat. That is not all. While the contract lasted, Kaduna airport became an alternative. Within few days, the airport in Kaduna was transformed to suit the taste of the elites. The Abuja-Kaduna road that was hitherto a death trap was renovated and the nightmare caused by kidnappers and armed robbers became a thing of the past. There was a patrol van with highly kitted cops and soldiers at every meter. The elites needed to be protected. During the period, the city of Abuja and Kaduna ran short of policemen. What mattered then was the interest of the elites. The masses were left at the mercy of intracity criminals. The Abuja airport has since been ready, the massive security that was in the axis has been relaxed. Kidnapping and robbery are back. The masses who ply the road daily are back, facing the pangs and bullets of the marauders.
As the Yuletide comes upon us, the ramshackle road network will play host to millions of vehicles. In this part of the world, countrymen and women see it as a call to duty to visit their kits and kin. They will all face the death traps. Wait a minute! Can you imagine how splendid how great the infrastructures across Nigeria would have been by now if every contract was patriotically executed? Can you imagine how pleasurable it would have been to travel by road and how many deaths of Nigerians Nigeria would have avoided? Alas, it is never their priority. When the contracts are awarded and re-awarded, they are rewarded in the process. Same as when the jobs are crudely done. This is a cycle we have endured for decades.
The majority who carries the day and form the government would also work for the interest of the minority” Democracy is designed to capture the interest of everyone.
Over the years, the situation has degenerate and the people have simply resigned to fate and surrendered to God. I think this is also because they know that getting them out via the ballot is like getting the head of a Carmel through the eye of a needle.
Until we take control of this ugly situation of commotion, we are going to swim forever in it. We must demand an equitable electoral body. When the wishes of the people would echo through the ballot. When the elites in power know that the people who enthrone them can also dethrone them, they will sit up and work for the security and welfare of the people.
Its high time Nigerians woke from slumber. We must discard the yoke of fear and docility. We must demand good service and accountability. Those who should serve us should not be served. Until we summon the courage to turn this stinking table, the pains of the people will continue to be their gains and our pressure their pleasure. This should not continue beyond now! Let every contract be reevaluated as those who conned us face the music.
May the season bring us good tidings. May God take every traveller to and from his destination.
Okhifo Oscar is a freelancer, public and social commentator based in Abuja.