Is The Nigerian State Idle?

Posted: June 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

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By Pius Adesanmi

(this was written and sent to my editor before the Dana plane crash.)

A friend once defined Nigeria as a way of doing things wrongly or leaving things undone. Nothing buttresses this assertion more than the sorry institution we call the Presidency. The condition of Nigeria today is ample evidence of so many things done wrongly or left undone by Aso Rock. The trouble, however, is that your criticism of the way Nigeria is run by her leadership and followership is only valid for a few fleeting seconds. Worse news is always hanging around the corner. Hence, there is something worse than a state whose very existence is evidence of how to do things wrongly or how to leave things undone. Beyond this level, such a state has also become the definition of how to cure a benign ringworm infection while leprosy festers on the skin of the patient. Only idleness pushes a modern state to this point.

I have long harboured the suspicion that the Nigerian state, defined by her institutions and officials, is an idle political contraption. I have resisted pursuing this line of reflection deeper until now, largely because the idea of an idle state – in the modern sense of statehood – would appear on the surface a contradiction in terms. States are always busy doing things domestically and internationally. The very “being-ness” of a modern state is uninterrupted activity. These truisms, it appears, do not apply to the Nigerian state, at least not to her officials, institutions, and instances of governance.

Beyond corruption and inefficiency, my first suspicion that the Nigerian state is idle came several months ago when newspapers reported with glee that the Federal Executive Council – known to the Constitution as the Executive Council of the Federation – had approved the citizenship applications of 82 aliens. Now, it is one thing for the FEC to be what my friend, Sonala Olumhense, calls a “contract bazaar” where the President and his cabinet meet once a week just to approve the billion and trillion-dollar contracts awarded to their cronies and front men and women. But you know that idleness has become a disease when the highest instance of statehood, the President’s cabinet meeting in Council Chambers, becomes a forum for granting citizenship applications. Can you imagine President Obama and his cabinet huddled up in the White House to approve green card and citizenship applications?

At first, I didn’t know which was stupider: that the FEC did that or that newspapers considered such idleness worthy of their front pages. Mind you, they weren’t criticising such brazen irresponsibility by the FEC. They just reported it like normal news. Then came Aso Rock’s icing on the cake; the news made it to the official website of the Presidency! Click on this link and you’ll still see it there. Hurry up and read it. They’ll take it down once this article goes public.

Sadly, as already stated, there is always a worse scenario in Nigeria. Last week, this trend in state idleness took on new dimensions. You will have to listen to President Jonathan to believe this one: “Only yesterday (Tuesday), we had a meeting with the Minister of Education. We were looking into the situation at the University of Abuja because of their crisis. The Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission revealed that one thing about UNIABUJA’s case is that there are students there who do not even have the basic qualification to be admitted but they are there as undergraduates. And I said that those must be political students. They must be students that we politicians pushed in and I told the Minister that they must set up a committee to send the political students back to us.”

How did this agenda get onto the President’s plate? Is the Nigerian state being governed at all? How idle is President Jonathan that it is now within his remit – visitor or no visitor – to nitpick about admission problems in one of many Federal Universities, ordering committees to be set up along the way? If the Minister of Education, the Executive Secretary of the NUC, the Vice Chancellor of UNIABUJA, and the Senate of that University need presidential babysitting to handle faulty admission, what on earth are they doing in office? What next? President Jonathan will go to Oyingbo market and set up a committee to determine which traders come late habitually to the market?

Again, there are worse stories of presidential idleness. Mr. Jonathan, I hear, is now into the business of launching power-saving light bulbs. At this rate, the President will run Basketmouth, I Go Die, Pastor LauLau, Buchi, and other comedians out of business. The president now wants his people to start conserving energy that they don’t have. Abeg, I no fit laff o.

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