It is on record that America owes its greatness to that patriot called Delano Roosevelt. When America was beleaguered with woes, evils and corruption typical of what Nigeria seems to be experiencing today, Roosevelt came on the scene and brought to bear on the travails of his country all his energy and charisma in pulling his country out of the throes of economic strangulation and all forms of tragedies. And for that, his country rewarded him by electing him as president of USA three times. If stroke had not crippled him to death, he might have been elected for as many times as he remained alive. He was God’s great gift to his country, a good leader and indeed a messiah.
While the campaigns get heated, our eyes rove around in vain to behold our own Nigerian Delano Roosevelt. Certainly, the greatest and indeed the singular problem plaguing Nigeria right from her independence is lack of good leadership. The trouble with Nigeria, says Chinua Achebe, the novelist, is lack of leadership. He added that Nigeria is in the habit of picking the fifth eleven to lead it. Others are even less charitable. They say that Nigeria is in the habit of picking the eleventh eleven to lead it. Look around and you will agree to this fact. Why will a nation pass over crops of good men and women and hunt for its worst in peopling its public offices?
The question of choosing the right Leaders has been severally left to the Nigerian electorate and several times they failed the test abysmally. First in 1959, Nigerians missed the chance of electing its best and brightest to lead the country. The country passed over all the choices and elected a man who was so evidently unwilling to rule. This callous mistake seems to have remained with us over the years.
However, in religion, the more you believe in God (without seeing), the more blessed you are but in Nigerian politics, the more you hear, the less you also see on the ground, in the air or on the sky. This is why during electioneering campaigns, politicians ransack all nooks and crannies of their constituencies searching for and bombarding potential electorates with fascinating utopian promises that may never be fulfilled until they vacate offices.
They promise reduction or elimination of poverty, provision of job opportunities (reduction or elimination of unemployment), raising the standard of education and of the living standard of the people, construction or rehabilitation of roads, provision of “potable” water and electricity, improvement of agriculture to provide more food for the teeming population, clearing salary arrears owed to workers, teachers and pensioners, reconstructing schools, building industries, improving transport, health care services, fighting crimes etc.
These are laudable promises and ventures if they are matched with sincerity. But what have we observed over the years? As soon as elections are over and the results are declared, politicians scorn the best degrees by which they did ascend” – the credulous electorate. Some whose consciences remain alive talk of constraints, lean financial resources. They change their slogan. Others who are power drunk are seen to be infinitely “poised”, “determined” “ready” but doing practically nothing on ground but fill every available billboard in the streets, our radios and televisions with idealistic laudable achievements. Some tricksters among them will appeal to the people to be patient and bear or “sympathize” with them. Their routine language is; “Work will begin on the roads as soon as the rains are over and the dry season sets in”. They say this for roads and other developmental projects. Some Hitlers among them as we observe today, will ask the poor masses to go to hell. They may even pull down their existing structures and business ventures as Pharoah did to the people of Israel. Some greedy State Governors and Local Government Chairmen repeatedly tell the people, “the truth and nothing but the truth”, that they inherited “empty treasuries”, huge financial debts”, “numerous abandoned projects” etc. Politicians, legislators and other public office holders also have their own “nice” stories to tell. But what surprises people is that almost all the State Governors, local government Chairmen, legislators and other public office holders often celebrate their even their “one year in office”, with fanfare; sponsoring false radio news-commentaries that orchestrate their imaginary achievements and performances in their areas and constituencies. The sponsored false news- commentaries and jingles credit them with reconstructing or grading all the roads in their states or local government areas, providing electric transformers and cables, buying drugs, building or rehabilitating health centres and schools, repairing or purchasing vehicles, tractors, fertilizers, sinking bore holes to provide “potable water”, distributing books, shoes and sandals, giving free food to school children, building bridges where there are no waters etc.Space is not available here to mention all that are often contained in these sponsored news-commentaries. The sponsored news-commentaries are paid for. The deceitful projects mentioned above cost huge sums of money and they were paid for. The contradicting question arises at this point: where did they get the money they spent on all these since they inherited “empty treasuries?”
Sad still, payment of arrears of teachers’ salaries and allowances, pensioners’ arrears and workers’ salaries, feature prominently in these news- commentaries. Judging from the sponsored news-commentaries and television adverts, it often appears that the state governors, local government chairmen, other politicians have finished in one year, what will take them four years to accomplish, therefore their stay in office for the remaining three years is a mere formality. While the “one year in office” syndrome continues after one year, the president, many governors, senators and even local government chairmen are often accused of financial improprieties.
In retrospect, on 8th day of December 2000, Radio Nigeria Kaduna in her “Mandate” programme, reported that most of the local government chairmen in Kaduna State were in financial mess, one group extolling the other. On the 26th day of December in the same year 2000, FRCN news also reported that “99% of 13 local governments in Ebonyi State had no clean financial records”, as a result of “corruption, over-invoicing and neglect of financial procedures”.
Earlier before these dates some local government chairmen and their deputies had been reported suspended or given votes of no confidence in Imo, Enugu, Ekitti, Niger, Taraba, Delta, Kwara, Nasarawa et al, for the same reasons of financial improprieties, corruption, neglect of the people’s welfare etc.
Unfortunately, sponsored news-commentaries and billboards will never highlight the wrong doings and misdeeds of public office holders in Nigeria. Rather, they will keep describing them as “Able”, “Dynamic”, “Messiah” “Rescuers Missionary” etc. It is sad to note that those of us in Imo state have long forgotten the meaning of local government owing to its near abolition. But it should be recalled that states and local governments were created to bring government and grassroots development nearer to the people. In all, this objective is yet to be realized in our country, because everywhere people are still crying for the good things of life – food, electricity, potable water, good roads, cheap and efficient transport system, free and qualitative education, health-care services, security, employment, industries, shelter etc.
Today, what the people need is politics of development and no longer that of deceit or self-aggrandizement. According to George W. Bush “Democracy requires accountability and service to the people. Sponsored news-commentaries that will never be matched with action bore the people and make their patience grow short. The media (print and electronics) have the responsibility to report the feelings of the people to the government, and sincerely explain government activities to the people, without exaggeration or over-dramatization. As the guardian and conscience of the people and government, the media should tell them the “truth” and nothing but the “truth”.
We regret the fact that following the deceitful sponsored news-commentaries and hypocritical billboards, various self-appointed groups and organizations (or beneficiaries) arrange and award “certificates of merit” or “excellence”) for outstanding performance or achievements to public office holders, whether or not they merit or deserve the honour. Ironically, some of the awardees in the past have been indicted for corruption, mismanagement of public funds and have since been suspended from office.
In the opinion of the generality of Nigerians, and judging from their hues and cries, many public office holders perform below expectations or fail completely in spite of their sponsored news-commentaries and empty shows in the radios and televisions.The “gospel truth” is that our people do not require exaggerated and/or over-orchestrated news-commentaries any longer. Let the candidates seeking for votes learn to be honest. We must also try to “see” or “know” what the present public office holders have done for us before we get into another round of mistake.
Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu
Director of Communications/Media, Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri