A case for intense citizens budget monitoring and strict Evaluation.
by Emeka Ononamadu
I will like to state that neither Nigeria’s economy nor its will be unable to positively change in favour of the citizens because politicians only embark on development palliatives instead of real and sustainable development. All the three tiers of government and the three organs that form each tier of government are guilty of this crime, which in deed can be classified as crime against Nigeria society. Development palliatives are projects and programs that are aimed at being deployed to deceive the people to believing that something like development is taking place, when in actual sense, nothing is happening, rather than what it is – deceit. This ugly situation, which has created a state of development inertia or rather stunted growth, is a carryover from the military, with some un-cleaned stains from the post-colonial politicians who are today fallaciously referred to as Nigeria’s founding fathers which invariably means that our problems started from their era.
This argument runs in consonance to my cherished position expounded by Walter Rodney who concluded that every society witnesses growth, but the type of growth they experience depends on the leadership that pioneered such development. While he referred to it as a form of development, I simply dismiss such development as a deceit, doubt or double standard. The only error that can lead to development is an error aimed at producing one type of development which ends up generating a different one. If any development action is aimed at deceiving people, it can never produce any form of development that may be beneficial to the society. The situation has not changed till date. This is the main reason why development palliative is a strong tool used by politicians and technocrats to hold the country down so that they can be up. Since 1999, Nigeria has spent over 20 trillion, in a country of not more than 170 million, yet, over 70% of the population, which amounts to 119million people are extremely poor. This extreme case of poverty is the worse form of adversity, which takes more than a political will to reverse.
As a growing boy, the repeated news from the radio, as television was a luxury at that time, was that government was building road, schools, hospitals and markets etc. That government was planting water pipes, building recreation centers etc. As an adolescent in school, I attended a missionary primary school which was taken over midway from the missionaries. Since that takeover, it was only a half walled block of two classrooms, built under General Obanajo’s Universal Primary Education project that has remained the only government presence in that school till today. Other than this, I would have finished my primary education in a poultry block converted to a classroom. I was born in a missionary hospital and attended a community built secondary school acquired by the government. With these experiences, I turned around before my tertiary education, to ask where those projects being built by government are. It was at that point that I started to build this theory of development palliatives because I grew to see no school, hospitals, roads, markets or pipe borne water. So the projects I heard of which gave me hopes, were actually development palliatives.
Between 1999 and 2007, when Chief Obasanjo led Nigeria, I am yet to point at a specific development standpoint that was truly implemented and aimed at changing the economic situation of every Nigerian and resident. The closest, which is more or less the sales of license, is the liberalization of the communication sector, whose supposedly economic gains got wiped out with incessant increases in the pump price of petroleum products and the introduction of regressive and multiple taxation. Every other development attempts were mere palliatives, ranging from the scandalous independent power projects, CHOGM, national stadium, sales of government properties and refineries to demolitions in Abuja and so many road projects that cannot be pointed at after mere 7 years after office. After his era, it became obvious, through series of probes and scandals that most of those projects are simply development palliatives.
Although the era of Late Alhaji Musa Yar’ Adua was short-lived, between 2007 and 2009, few of the attempts at arresting certain ugly trends clearly turned to be development palliatives. From his recovery of refineries to reversal of petroleum pump price as well as the amnesty programs. That era, which was concluded by the current president, had nothing but promises to show for it. Although it was an era of hot and distractive politicking, the people waited only to be given development palliatives to cool down the pressure on cabals, who wanted power at all costs.
Between 2010 till date is usually referred to as work in progress because of the numerous transformative agenda of Dr. Jonathan’s administration, from election system to agriculture, power and aviation. however nothing much has shown that they will not turn to be development palliatives the way the way his predecessors projects turned out to be. This is because of the notable corruption scandals that have not abated during this era rather it appears to be on a steady rise. That is the reason why over 10 trillion could not have any marginal impact on citizens rather it produced more poor people than Nigeria ever had. This is the tragedy of our time and simply a clear testimony of regressive democracy and weak leadership.
To exemplify development palliatives is to compare the achievement of two past southeastern governors (Chief Jim Nwobodo and Chief Sam Onunaka Mbakwe) of old Anambra and Imo states to the collective development projects completed by the all the southeast governors between 1999 and 2012. Without sounding exaggerative, the development projects of these two governors still stand tall among what the five governors have done with unimaginable quantity of funds in their disposals. Rather, the successive governments in the southeast have done more work only in using much money than was used to build those projects, to maintain them since 1999. The reason for this clear difference is that while the pre 1999 governors were implementing real and sustainable projects the modern governors are implementing development palliatives. After all, the modern governors must use something to justify the huge public funds being “spent”.
The danger of allowing politicians and technocrats to hoodwink Nigerians with development palliatives can be located in the kind of suffering that Nigerians are facing today. The pains range from insecurity, unemployment and poverty at its peak as well as the clear signs showing Nigeria’s incapability of meeting any of the 8 MDG goals even in 2020, is suggestive. Increasingly, citizens are coming to the final conclusion that Nigeria is not working and politicians as well as technocrats have constituted themselves as the greatest danger to Nigeria democracy and development. This conclusion as well as the testimony of the proposed confab, which shows that everything is wrong with Nigeria, is a clear signal for a looming anarchy which might redefine or destroy Nigeria’s development and democracy. In a resource rich country like Nigeria, some kind of growth must take place. Yes, such growth is only being located within the ruling politicians and technocrats who cannot show evidence of legitimate earning of huge resources and investment they parade. No matter how correct the budget and procurement processes are made to be, if there is no end to the development palliatives, which politicians are in love with, politicians will continue to witness the economic growth the nation would have experienced.
Every Nigerian should wake up from any form of slumber and interrogate every project to see whether it is a development palliative or for real development. History is beckoning on all of us to take our destiny in our hands by saving the drifting ship called Nigeria. This ship is drifting because of corruption and impunity tied around development palliatives. The first cut should be for citizens to increase their interest in monitoring the budget selection process particularly the real need basis of selected projects and conduct a dispassionate 360 degrees evaluation of the completed ones. This is because time has come when someone will be made to pay for the wrong project which was initiated for the sole reason of deceiving the people.