Nigeria: Why Politicians Won’t End Poverty, By Emmanuel Onwubiko 

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Emmanuel Onwubiko
 “History is, so to speak, the kingdom where reason rules. Although politics does not bring about the kingdom of God, it must be concerned for the right kingdom of human beings, that is, it must create the preconditions for peace at home and abroad and for a rule of law that will permit everyone to ‘lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.”     Pope Benedict XVI in his book ‘Values in the time of upheaval’.
In what perhaps can go as the best public lecture in a very long time in Nigeria, The Guardian newspaper,  the flagship of the Nigerian media industry, recently organised her 40th anniversary lecture in Lagos and the main speaker was no other African statesman than the Nigerian born Akinwunmi Adesina,  the illustrious president of the African Development Bank (AFDB).
Besides, The Guardian although chose a highly Explosive theme which is on federalism as the panacea to the longstanding developmental paralysis that has paralysed Nigeria from every facets, this gentleman who spoke as the chief guest speaker, uniquely spoke to the most critical issue that confronts the black person globally, which is poverty.
It would seem that Dr. Adesina actually read or got inspiration from the book of the very respected Pope Benedict XVI who characterised the essence of politics as working to attain the public good.
As can be seen from the opening quotation gotten from one of his dozens of books that he wrote before he died, the intellectual colossus of a Pope made it plain that politicians who failed to eradicate poverty will only succeed in stoking up violence and crises that may sweep off that society if caution is continuously thrown to the winds.
As if, guided by this perceptive outlook on politics as contemplated by Pope Benedict XVI,  the President of the African Development Bank made it very categorical that the only way Africa can be respected in the comity of nations, is for African political leaders to pursue policies and agenda that only targets the actualisation of the eradication of poverty afflicting Africans rather than making piecemeal initiatives aimed at alleviation of poverty.
It is not any exaggeration that today, the passports of most African countries, have no respect in some of the advanced societies.
Is it not a shame that whereas a lot of those who have ruled African countries in the past, have shifted billions of stolen dollars to western societies and erected mansions for themselves, yet the West does not respect Africans. The late Sani Abacha of Nigeria stashed $5 billion dollars in the West that have now been repaid to Nigeria but re-looted by present day politicians.
Africans who travel to Europe,  China, America, are not respected as much as citizens of other advanced nations who travelled at the same time and to the same place like other African tourists or travellers.
How can Africa be respected when majority of Africans are fleeing wars, economic deprivation and bad politics in Africa and are even taking risky travelling routes to Europe such as boarding rickety boats that crosses through the Mediterranean Sea off the lawless Libyan coast, into Europe, and hundreds of thousands, of Africans going through this risky route, have perished and those who survived and reached Italy, are living in squalid conditions in camps and tents, because most European nations wouldn’t welcome them.
The UK under Rishik Sunak, the Indian born Prime minister of GB has just tightened her immigration policy and has put a policy in place to deport illegal migrants, back to Rwanda in Africa.
The rest of the developed World, don’t have a single respect for Africa. This is because of political corruption that churns out poverty amongst Africans on a very massive and offensive scale. Beggars after all, have no respect. Even the political leaders of Africa, go cap in hand begging for foreign loans which they collectively squander.
How can anyone with brain, respect people who allowed thieves to govern them as governors, Senators and president? This is exactly why this great mind out of Nigeria, who has headed the African Development Bank for a second term running, is canvassing poverty eradication rather than poverty alleviation.  He is perfectly in order, as we will see as we read further.
The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, has called on African countries to take urgent action to end poverty and mismanagement of natural resources if they want to earn the respect of the global community
Adesina made the remarks while delivering his speech titled “For the world to respect Africa” at the 40th anniversary of the Guardian newspaper in Lagos.
Adesina lamented the fact that Africa, despite its abundant natural resources, remains a continent plagued by poverty.
“Africa will not earn respect globally until we end poverty at scale. We have allowed poverty to linger pervasive, and the major complaints are that our nations are resource-rich, yet the majority of our citizens remain poor,” Adesina stated.
“In most cases, we often tend to accept poverty as normal. Let me be unequivocally clear. Poverty is not normal. It is abnormal, especially when we have so many resources and when it has been pervasive for so long, and that is why I believe Africa shall not become a museum of poverty. “
He criticised the use of the term “poverty alleviation,” arguing that it implies that poverty is an acceptable condition. Instead, he called for the eradication of poverty and the creation of wealth.
“We do not mean the so-called poverty alleviation. Because that is a term that I reject in its entirety. We cannot be comfortable with poverty,” Adesina said.
“If you’re sick from malaria and you visit your doctor, who says, “I will alleviate your malaria,” please get out and look for a better doctor. I do not believe in poverty alleviation. If someone moves from $1.30 per day to $1.50 per day, they move to $1.60 per day. They are still poor.”
Challenging the notion of a “natural resource curse,” Adesina argued that the issue lies in a lack of leadership and governance.
He cited examples of resource-rich nations like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Norway that have successfully managed their natural resources, highlighting the importance of governance, transparency, accountability, and sound resource management.
Adesina also questioned the accountability of African leaders who claim public good by showcasing modest achievements, such as installing boreholes, on national television.
He argued that such actions are indicative of government failure, especially in the twenty-first century, and that leaders should be held accountable for effectively managing the people’s resources.
“I wonder sometimes when people go around and say, Well, I’ve actually helped we put a borehole in our state on national television. The very fact that you’re actually installing a borehole is an indication of government failure because in this 21st century, every single house must have pipe-borne water and we should get away from this feeling of leaders feeling that our leaders are doing public good. No. leaders should be held accountable for the resources of the people.”
He also urged African governments to stop taking loans backed by their natural resources, calling these loans “expensive” and “not transparent.” and called for increased transparency and accountability in the management of natural resources.
Adesina also addressed the issue of food security, noting that Africa will play a critical role in feeding the world’s growing population, pointing to Africa’s vast uncultivated arable land but lamenting the continent’s inability to feed itself.
He, however, asserted that Africa will gain global respect when it can feed itself and no longer depends on others for sustenance and urged a shift in mindset, stressing the need for responsible resource management, transparency, and accountability to ensure the resources benefit the entire population rather than a privileged few.
“Africa will gain respect when it is able to feed it. Any nation or region that begs for food is free only in words.”
However, this African statesman, who once served in Nigeria as minister of Agriculture and rural development, may have to be told that a clear majority of African politicians, especially in Africa’s largest democracy which is Nigeria,  will not initiate policies or carry out projects that will adequately empower Nigerians to an extent that poverty is eradicated from the face of Nigeria.
Nigerian political class, believe that the only way to dominate politics in Nigeria, is by spreading poverty to the greatest number of citizens, just so they can be in the best position to line their pockets with filthy lucre, and to go on occupying public offices which they usually obtain by fraudulent means of bribing voters, recruiting and arming youngsters to work as political thugs and executioners and the officials of both the electoral management body: INEC and judges of the courts of Nigeria are often heavily financially induced and purchased because these judges, have lately become those who ultimately decide outcomes of contested election results that are taken before them by the losers of the badly mismanaged and compromised elections.
I know as a fact that most politicians in Nigeria are so desperate to win election to an extent some do borrow funds from commercial banks at extremely high interest rates, just to run for offices and when they win, their primary focus is to repay the huge credits they borrowed for the election.  I have also often observed elections under the auspices of my Non-profit group and I have seen many politicians and their agents bribe voters, security operatives and INEC officials to help them manipulate the outcomes of such elections.
Aljazeera has captured some of these bad political practices of Nigerian politicians in a report they aired just before the 2023 presidential poll.
Aljazeera started by recalling that when veteran politician Ayo Fayose contested — and won — the June 2014 gubernatorial elections in the southwestern Nigeria state of Ekiti, he mocked Kayode Fayemi, the incumbent who had lost. “People don’t want road infrastructure; they want stomach infrastructure,” Fayose said.
Overnight, he introduced a new lexicon for a decades-old practice and triggered an outsized focus on the sale of votes, or vote trading, as a critical challenge to election integrity in Nigeria.
Indeed, elections in the country have repeatedly been marred by allegations of votes being bought and sold. If the rate was allegedly between $8 and $13 a vote when Fayemi came back to power in 2018 in Ekiti, the stakes are even higher nationally.
As Nigerians prepare for one of the country’s most decisive and divisive elections since 1999 to pick their president, vice president and members of parliament on February 25, many believe that vote trading will play a determining role.
After all, the primaries of the two main parties, the governing All Progressives Congress and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, were particularly contentious in 2022, with allegations of delegates receiving as much as $25,000 each to vote in favour of those paying them.
Yet the focus on vote trading obfuscates far deeper problems with Nigeria’s electoral democracy, and risks covering up for those flaws, Aljazeera reported.
Aside the flawed elections, most politicians who win offices, don’t abide by the tenets of accountability and transparency which are key requirements towards realising good governance and the eradication of poverty amongst the citizens.
The politicians in public offices do engage in all kinds of malpractices such as procurement corruption and inflation of contracts. I will just narrate a story of how the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission took over property worth billions of dollars from corruptly enriched politicians.
On 27th December 2022, one of Nigeria’s respected newspapers, carried an exclusive story that  the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission listed for auction 144 luxury houses and lands seized from convicted politicians, public servants, business moguls and internet fraudsters as proceeds of their corrupt practices ranging from money laundering and fraud to misappropriation of funds and fraudulent diversion, among others.

According to documents exclusively obtained by the said reputable  media, 58 of the houses and lands are in Lagos State; 39 in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; 19 in Rivers State; seven in Kwara State; six in Anambra State; four in Oyo State; three in Edo; two in Kaduna; two in Cross River, and one each in Ebonyi, Gombe, Delta, and Osun States.

Tiamiyu Adio Ismail writing a piece on June 30th 2013, correctly diagnosed the largest percentage of politicians in public offices as follows: “There is a clear indication that politics in Nigeria has been the opposite of what it is in developed countries. Nigerian politicians are still backwards in terms of their values such as unfulfilled promises, political corruption,  greed, violence,  tribalism and intimidation. Corruption is said to manifest through fraud, embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds, inflation of contracts, sexual harassment,  bribery and so on.”

These moral issues are made worse by the fact that these same politicians who got to public office through corruption,  are the appointing authority of the heads of police who enforce the law, the EFCC and ICPC that ought to combat corruption and economic crimes. So these heads of key law enforcement institutions,  usually do the budding of those politicians who appointed them in the first place.

Little wonder then that Nigeria’s landscapes are dotted with failed projects awarded and paid for running into trillions of Naira. This is because, politicians in government offices collude with crooked contractors to carry out shoddy jobs.

Radio Nigeria has in December 7th 2023 reported about a job of rehabilitation of road in Anambra that purportedly cost the government N404 million but the road has failed after just one year. That Federal road is the Amawbia-Nibo-Nise-Umuawulu Road in Anambra State awarded to a company with no clear records in the corporate affairs commission.

The only time that politicians will begin to become responsible and use resources belonging to Nigerians properly and by so doing  eradicate the pervasive poverty amongst Nigerians, is when such institutions like the police, INEC, the courts, are properly governed to do their legal duties to enforce relevant laws against political corruption.

Only then, can we begin to see that politicians are willing to eradicate poverty.

For now, these politicians will just play around the gallery with their dubious programmes promising poverty alleviation and not poverty eradication.

If politicians in Nigeria eradicate poverty, there will be no gullible voters to buy, there will be no corrupt police operatives or election organisers, or judges to bribe, so they continue to remain in office.

Achieving this lofty dream may demand a revolution.

But until poverty is eradicated, Nigeria and so much of Africa, will remain in political tumoils,  insecurity and instability will continue to pose existential threats to Africans.

Emmanuel Writes From Abuja. 

 

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