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Is this a country or a game?

In no particular order, here are a few thoughts to consider, if you are still trying to decide whether Nigeria is a country or a…

In no particular order, here are a few thoughts to consider, if you are still trying to decide whether Nigeria is a country or a game. 

In September 2023, four months after Mr. Bola Tinubu assumed the presidency, he undertook the unprecedented step of recalling the nation’s ambassadors abroad, effectively decapitating its 109 diplomatic missions worldwide.  Only Nigeria’s United Nations missions in New York and Geneva were left intact, on account of the General Assembly scheduled for later that month, which the president intended to attend.

Spokesman Ajuri Ngelale explained: “The president is determined to ensure that world-class efficiency and quality, will henceforth, characterize foreign and domestic service delivery to citizens, residents and prospective visitors alike.”

That was 10 months ago.  World-class efficiency and quality being apparently still being manufactured in the bowels of Aso Rock, Nigeria has not replaced those diplomats, leaving their families and dependents trapped around the world.

Are we a country, or a game?

In May 2019, the then-President, Muhammadu Buhari government began the prosecution in London of his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan and his oil minister Diezani Alison-Madueke, for accepting bribes and breaking our laws, citing them in a $1.3 billion oil deal eight years earlier.

Court papers said the two officials conspired to “receive bribes and make a secret profit,” keeping the government from getting what it was owed from the deal.

The Buhari government said it had only received a $209 million signature bonus in relation to the deal, but that it estimated the value of the oilfield involved to have been “at least $3.5 billion” and that it would seek to calculate damages on that basis.

Again, that was in 2019.  Buhari went on to serve out his second term, completing his tenure last year.  He never spoke about the matter in Nigeria, and neither Jonathan nor Madueke, who lives in London, ever had to answer questions let alone testify in court.

Are we a country, or a game?

As early as October 2016, it had become clear that in his hunger for power, Buhari had all along lied about his anti-corruption profile.  Biographer John Paden, author of “Muhammadu Buhari: The Challenges of Leadership in Nigeria,” wrote that Buhari’s anti-corruption objective was not justice, such as apprehending and jailing those who had looted Nigeria blind, but only to retrieve such funds.

Buhari told Paden that Mr. Jonathan had obtained “off-budget funds” during his tenure and that he had in his possession letters implicating the former president in that regard.

Remember that it was in the same year that the then-British Prime Minister David Cameron, with Buhari on his way to a so-called anti-corruption conference in London, described Buhari’s Nigeria as “fantastically corrupt.”

Buhari was not angry. He did not challenge Cameron.  He said what he wanted was not an apology but all the Nigerian loot in Britain.  That was always Buhari’s safe zone as he sought to avoid having to embarrass his corrupt friends and supporters.  And so, he never made any specific demands on the British government, never named anyone, and never advanced Nigeria beyond his own limitations.

Wrote Paden, falsely: “The fact that Buhari was enlisting the help of the international community in the probes lent weight to the seriousness of his effort – and also meant that alleged offenders had nowhere to hide.”

“Would the trail lead to former President Jonathan himself? As of the early months of 2016, it appeared that the EFCC was not going after Jonathan. Nor was it going after former President Obasanjo…”

Was there ever a “trail”?  No: Buhari left office with corruption far more Nigerian and far more ‘honourable’ than before he arrived.  With days left of his tenure, he finally explained the joke: it was ego—not the patriotism he had marketed—which really pushed him: “I got what I wanted,” he said.  He wanted power.

Whom do we ask as to why a self-proclaimed anti-corruption hunter spent eight years enriching corruption, including lying for months at a time in its beds?  Did Buhari take his case out of British courts, for instance?  Did he burn Jonathan’s letters, or did he hand them over to Jagaban Tinubu, who has said he will continue the work of his predecessor?

Is this a country, or a game?

In April 2019, Bolaji Owasanoye, chairing the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, shook Nigeria when he asserted that corruption in the executive arm of government was more than the legislature and judiciary combined.

“This is because the executive spends a far bigger chunk of the money appropriated,” he explained.  “This gives room for allegations of abuse and misappropriation of the funds.”

This year, thanks to BudgIt’s GovSpend, Nigerians are finally getting to see for themselves just how unconscionable and reckless the federal executive is.  You don’t have to believe anyone: search the database for yourself.

I number among those who have, lately, reporting last week several curious patterns and expenditures.

In the past week, SaharaReporters has also reported how the government, inexplicably spent:

  • N244 million, in different payments, on motor vehicle tires, just a few days before Tinubu’s first anniversary;
  • N473 million in February and March on trips of First Lady Oluremi Tinubu to the United Kingdom, Mozambique and Ethiopia;
  • 77 billion for the repair and maintenance of Nigeria’s presidential air fleet over an 11-month period;
  • Over $4.4 million and over one million Euros within four months in 2023 for foreign trips for the President and Vice President.

In January 2024, The Punch reported had reported that Tinubu spent no less than N3.4bn—36 per cent more than the N2.49bn available to him in the 2023 budget—on local and foreign travel within six months.  Although Tinubu inherited the budget halfway, the report said, “he spent more than what was apportioned for the whole year” in those six months.

Note that together, according to The Punch last Friday, Tinubu, Mr Shettima, and Mrs. Tinubu spent not less than N5.24bn on local and foreign travel in just three months this year.

In other words, in addition to Professor Owasanoye’s explanation of the depth of the decay in the executive, it seems also to have taken to heart Tinubu’s scorched-earth power philosophy, in which you “grab-it, snatch it, run with it.”  There is no other explanation of why it is squandering so much on excess and luxury in the middle of so much suffering nationwide.

Is ours a game, or a country?  If it is a country, have we told the children of Nigerian diplomats pulled out of school in countries near and far because their parent was retrenched overnight?

If it is a game, have we told our victims, the walking dead?  Or do we unwisely imagine that—armed with their hunger, their disillusionment and their anger—they will not one day be waiting for us and our fancy jets, our SUVs and our soldiers?  What happens when the farmers we refused to protect bring to our doors their empty farms?

If this is a game, are you not going to need far more bullets?

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