By Busuyi Mekusi
Female children are vulnerable all over the world, but their conditions in Africa nay Nigeria are lower than the diminished status found elsewhere. Even though the patriarchal societies decried in pre-colonial, colonial and during the dawn of postcolonial eras are not wholly in existence, the female agency is still held in the contradictions of most endangered species in postcolonial African nations. They, like children that are similarly burdened by vulnerability, are still victims of domestic violence, poverty, drug, human trafficking, wars, and political gang-ups. It is arguable that international and national organisations continue to invest in the pursuits of breaking the shackles off the neck of the female agency, but the many limitations that reinforce existential challenges are for the female folk double jeopardy.
However, while women like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala exemplified the commitments of Nigerian men that treasured and invested in their female children, some others are not so lucky, as they have been turned to pawns by sex mongers like Femi Olaleye, and Olanrewaju James (aka Baba Ijesha), who sexually assaulted and defiled their victims. The case of another randy medical doctor, Ewere Onyekpe, a Nigerian medical doctor suspended in the United Kingdom for having sexual relationship with a patient, including in a hospital’s toilet, illustrates the extent to which an untamed libido could press someone out of sexual discretion. Comparatively, the libido dominandi of Nigeria politicians are playing out by way of procuring power through dubious means, sustaining power at all cost, when they should ordinarily say goodbye, or kill the economy through reckless luxurious lifestyle, as evidenced in the proposed purchase of utility vehicles for members of the National Assembly.
Expensive members of the Nigeria political class now co-exist with poverty-stricken and pauperised Nigerians, side-by-side, just as every South African beautiful city oversees a township, which was the model of the conquered space used to service the racially-secured elitist city. As the Nigeria economy remains troubling to the majority poor, the rich, particularly members of the privileged political class, are not ready to audit their lifestyles to accommodate the sacrifices other Nigerians are being mobilised to make. The Nigeria economy continues to wriggle under the weight of foreign debts, hyper inflation, dollarization leading to burdened naira, high prices of energy products, uncontrolled importation, fuelled by lack of local production, quest for foreign exchange to meet medical, educational and tourist needs, etc.
Since after the end of the regime of Goodluck Jonathan, who was considered inept in governance and frivolous in spending, the naira has continued to tumble, analogous to the symbolism inherent in the lulè (political falling) description that Tinubu used on Buhari, in the build-up to the presidential election in 2023. As things stand, almost all industries in Nigeria have collapsed, due to lack of electricity for production, just as the alternative diesel-powered generators have become unsustainable, because of high cost of the petroleum product.
The appointment of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the Finance Minister by Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003 brought a remarkable dynamism to the economy of Nigeria, particularly the debt forgiveness secured with the Paris Club. Even though some critics were of the opinion that the quantity of foreign exchanges used by Okonjo-Iweala for debt buy-back should have been invested in the economy, others were of the belief that the debt reprieve was a catalyst for the reengineering of the Nigeria economy. Her appointment by Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 was also very critical, as she endeavoured to ‘reform the unreformable’, leading to the kidnapping for ransom or negotiation of her aged mother. With Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala acknowledging the kidnap of her mother then as a highly traumatising experience for her, it has since turned out that the elements that sponsored this dastardly act were economic saboteurs, who were badly affected by the reformative policies championed by her. The saboteurs have since won, pushing the economy into ruins, through inflated contracts, unremitted earnings from oil, crude thefts, and fuel subsidy scams, among others.
Furthermore, the current appointment of Okonjo-Iweala as the Director-General of World Trade Organisation is not just a testimony about her great and lofty attainments in life and career, it is also evidence that the negatively-defined Nigeria climate could produce world-class personalities that would diminish racial prejudices, and blur redundant stereotypes. Good enough, others in her shoes, like Akinwumi Adesina, the President of African Development Bank (AfDB), were exported to the world for the enhancement of humanity, while the homeland remains in ruins.
People continue to wonder while Nigerians would easily succeed elsewhere, than when at home, without giving consideration to the fact that the notion of an enabling environment is not mere semantics. Good enough, most successful international Nigerians are global in their leaning, thinking local, while acting global. It remains at the level of conjectures that the present drains of resourceful Nigerians into developed nations would be gains in future. While this possibility exists, I have argued in the past that the problematic in the idea of home would play a major factor in what becomes of these disenchanted exiles that simply escaped the intolerable socio-economic and political annihilation in Nigeria.
Amidst the battered image of Nigeria and Nigerians, the huge economic and knowledge investments and transfers that their migrations into developed nations come with make them a ‘necessary evil’ that is needed to balance certain equations. The recent public engagement between Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Joe Biden, the President of the United States of America, reminded one of the proverbs that suggests that it is from the black earthen pot that the whitish pap comes from. Nobody would have thought that an Okonjo-Iweala, from a socio-cultural space that was circumscribing to the conditions of women, would one day turn the number one citizen of the most powerful nation to an amateur ‘phonographer’.
On the sideline of the September 2023 G20 Leaders Summit in New Delhi, India, Okonjo-Iweala and Biden were said to have taken a self-inclined photograph, using a phone, that is popularly called selfie in contemporary rendition. The selfie had Okonjo-Iweala standing closely by Biden, with the towering stature of the latter dwarfing the average height of the former. It was not just a moment of joy and satisfaction for Okonjo-Iweala, but a moment of disruptive and interruptive interrogation of certain past divisive tendencies in racialised global dealings. Yes, Joe Biden ‘misappropriated Okonjo-Iweala!
To misappropriate simply means taking something for wrong or illegal purposes, and it is used to describe so many economic behaviours that are commonly found in Nigeria public life. The misappropriation of Okonjo-Iweala by Biden, with the latter depicting the global advantageous North and the former representing the global South, is a great irony of who needs Okonjo-Iweala, and who has taken her over. The economy of Nigeria continues to bleed, close to anaemia, as the political class, yet still, act as if nothing is amiss. The ongoing debate and disenchantment expressed by Nigerians about the proposed purchase of utility vehicles for members of the National Assembly, put at N140/N160 million for each of them, may be misplaced, when considered against the background of official requirement, but sounds patently logical, when viewed against the abject poverty strangulating majority of Nigerians.
It would be unfair to scapegoat members of the National Assembly, as other public officers in other tiers and levels of government, institutions and departments, are also guilty of the expensive lifestyle that members of the National Assembly have been accused of. Rather than grandstanding, therefore, what we need PBAT to do is to declare a state of emergency in the Nigeria economy. The declaration should then mark the initiation of sweeping reforms that will lead to the cutting of cost in governance. Constitutional reforms should also be done to cut off excess attachments, as seen in the duplicitous National Assembly, to birth a unification found in a unicameral system of government.
Total ban must be placed on the importation of some materials and items, like automobiles, to allow for the setting up of new vehicle assembling plants, and grow existing ones. Shoes, clothing materials and household items that could be alternated locally, should also be prohibited. Massive agricultural revolutions should be ignited, to put an end to the importation of certain agricultural items, and help shore up the production of some others for export. The oil industry should be recalibrated for efficiency and productivity, with thefts tamed and operations reshaped for accountability and national economic growth. All desirable steps must be taken to stem the ‘misappropriation’ of productive Nigerians by other developed nations, with the resolutions of the conditions precedent on such forced migrations.
It is pathetically worrisome that the selfie that the younger generation of Nigerians are trivialising for personal aggrandisement is the same model that Joe Biden used to achieve personal and collective possession of a product wilfully willed to the global market, just like the many others that are lost to compulsory departure, due to excruciating socio-economic and political conditions in the country, as we hope public officials in Nigeria would end their self-serving misappropriation of the commonwealth as well.