Matthew Kukah: A new head-gear for Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at 60

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Quite predictably, Ngozi’s recent revelations at the Babcock University lecture where she simply highlighted the allocations to the top 10 have generated some furore. Yet, those assaulting her are not arguing about the figures, they are just wondering why we should be told about them. I consider the release of these figures of the financial allocations one of the most important contributions by any public office holder in Nigeria. It is curious that as soon as she returned to Washington after her first tenure, the figures disappeared from our newspapers and only appeared again after her second coming.

The meaning here is simple: if the door is not at the first knock, keep knocking. It is left for Nigerians to choose what they want to do with this knowledge. The weapons have been presented to us. Imagine what changes would occur if we had the sense of commitment and all professional bodies, faith communities, women groups, youth, ethnic or community associations took these figures and used them across the capitals of the 36(7) states and the headquarters of the 774 local government councils to camp out and ask for an explanation as to where and how these resources are going to be used In a more serious country, this information would be a major game changer. Sadly, the Nigerian state remains the only domain of privilege and access and no one wants to be disconnected from the line. This is why civil society has fallen into a coma since the return to democracy. The struggle for access largely accounts for the violence in our political processes. We need to seize this rope which Ngozi has thrown at us as the best way to liberate ourselves. No matter how long it takes, using these figures offers us the best opportunity for having a voice in how our resources are used.

Sadly, many public officers do not know how much an angry populace despises them. Mallam Adamu Adamu drew attention to this in a recent article in Daily Trust, June 6, when he made these scathing remarks: Even though there are some (governors) who look like exceptions to the rule, in reality, they are not. They have only done what they are supposed to do, and it is almost because almost everyone else is not doing what they are supposed to do that own stands out as a great achievement. Perhaps the country will be better if there are no governors at all. Nigerian governors today are a political epidemic that is not only incurable; it is permanently and chronically untreatable. This may sound a bit over the top, but clearly, there is an urgent need for those entrusted with our commonwealth to appreciate that they are holding it in trust.

Following Ngozi’s disclosure, Nigerians are now being regaled with tales of how much of the resources going to some of those states are being deployed not in the service of the people but to keep some former governors happy. But having put the facts in the public arena, Ngozi has ensured that the governors, especially those of them that feed fat on the misery of the people, will not have the last say on the matter. Nor will they continue to sleep easy. All the intellectuals in government must rise and make a difference and decide whether they are intellectuals who are in politics or they are politicians who just happen to be intellectuals. They must not be weighed down by the lure and lucre of office and power. What our nation needs now is an intellectual-elite strike force which must rally around to imagine a world that is not here yet. They should be made up of a crop of highly motivated and energetic youth moderated by elders, who like good wine, have saturated, matured and are mellowed with age and experience. offices must become the seedbed for nurturing young brilliant minds who can gradually begin to value service and apprenticeship. In this way, we can groom young minds for the future who can come into public life not based on their tribal or ethnic strong men and women but on their intellectual pedigree. I believe that together, we can slay the dragons of that continues to breed inefficiency and lethargy which have weighed us down. Why should Nigerians only excel outside and not in their country? It is time to rouse this giant from sleep. We must re-invent and create new dreams for our nation. Goodluck Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda may have some limited intellectual depth and vision, focusing too much on physical infrastructure, but it is a good place to start. Sadly, the way things are going and with the culture of asset stripping and privatisation being Trojan horses for political patronage, the government may realise that it has merely deepened the roots of and lengthened the shadows of our darkness.