Hilary Clinton’s Tough Love to Yar’adua

I watched and listened to the short speech delivered by Mrs. Clinton and I followed the Q & A questions that came after. Keen listeners would not have missed when the US Secretary of State stated that the Yar’Adua’s government is illegitimate..! ( Clinton presses Nigeria on Corruption, offers help)

My conclusion from watching the session is what I’d always known: nothing positive will happen in Nigerian unless we flush out these bad and corrupt rulers and illegal federal government once and for all. The big question is: how can we achieve this objective?

Just like Mr. Obama’s speech in Ghana there was nothing new about what Mrs. Clinton said. Her speech was titled: Nigeria, towards a new future. She reminded us that we produce 2m barrels of oil a day and that we are the 7th largest producer of crude oil. But she was quick to add that the level of poverty in Nigeria has risen from 46% to 70% over the last 30 years.

Mrs. Clinton blamed Nigeria’s woes on failure of governance at all levels, that is, local, state and federal. According to the US Secretary of States, at all levels of governance in Nigeria, there is corruption and mismanagement. She also mentioned the lack of capacity. I don’t know if I agree with that though. I would rather say the presence of untapped capacity because of one useless federal character that has been used to bring all manners of unknown dudes and nonentities into governance.

She went on to quote the World Bank which had stated that Nigeria has lost over 300 million dollars as a result of corruption over the past 3 decades. But we were once told by Mr. Ribadu that the amount is actually several billions of dollars. Abacha alone stole more than $5 billion and most of that money was re-stolen under Iweala-Obasanjo arrangement. It is unclear how Obasanjo and Iweala could have documented that Abacha’s loots were used for projects that pre-date the recovery of the loot. Who can you trust in Nigeria?

Mrs. Clinton posed a simple question to Nigerian politicians,looters and their agents. These include people like Ibori, Aondoakaa, Yar’ Adua, David Mark, Babangida, Anenih, Igbinedion, Tafa Balogun and Obasanjo just to mention a few looters. Do you know what Nigeria would have done with 300 million dollars? She has some answers: Nigeria could have built hospitals, roads, schools, many children would have attended colleges and several women would not have lost their lives during childbirth.

From my own understanding, Mrs. Clinton mentioned that Yar Adua’s government is illegitimate. She said that the lack of transparency has eroded the legitimacy of the government. It took so long and is almost harmless now but it is better late than never that at least someone is thinking along with me that Nigeria has not legitimate government. She supported her statement by reminding us that Yar Adua admitted that he was fraudulently forced into power.

She urged Nigeria and Nigerians to fix the flawed electoral system and to establish an Independent electoral council. This is an argument that many of us have put forward many times. In one of my article published on the web (as an internet warrior), I mentioned that Iwu is a resident evil in the aisle. If Mr. Iwu stays one week more on his notorious job and as a matter of fact if Nigeria’s INEC is not disbanded to give way to a fresh and independent electoral body Mrs. Clinton would have wasted her time, energy and saliva.

Before 2011 we as Nigerians must join hands as members of the civil societies and groups to demand for the total implementation of the recommendation of the Electoral Committee. Before 2011 we must re-organise our political structures and institutions is such a way that debates, healthy discussions and participation will become the backbones of our political life as it was in the 1920s during the days of Herbert Macaulay. This much was mentioned by one member of the selected audience.

Mrs. Clinton told us something that we already knew was necessary for a free and fair election to hold in Nigeria. She said she learnt from the recommendations of the electoral committee that Nigeria has no Nationwide Voters Registration Process. She is right in a way. Votes are not counted in Nigeria and that is why the mischievous Mr. Iwu can decide the outcomes of elections.

Mrs. Clinton echoed the contents of my first article published in the Nigerian Guardian on September 9 2002 titled: why politicians steal. We must replace officials or politicians if they break the law and if they fail to deliver. She agreed with my opinion that looters, thieves and bad politicians must be brought to courts to face prosecution. She mentioned that that will create a deterrent to prevent future wrong doing. However this is impossible in present day Nigeria. Before we can do this, we must have a true anticorruption fighting organisation, a normal police force and a corruption-free judiciary.

Today’s EFCC is controlled by a very corrupt man called Mr. Ibori and Mrs. Farida Waziri is just a puppet. She is also alleged to be corrupt. In addition, if a Nigerian politician loots 20 million dollars, he can pay EFCC 1 million naira and attend court for 2 months. He is free afterwards. It is called plea-bargaining. EFCC is funny abeg !

With the type of Attorney General that we have, we are in a mess in Nigeria. Mr. Aondoakaa is making a mockery of what is supposed to be another strong arm of democracy-the judiciary. With Mr. Aondoakaa, how can we successfully prosecute the likes of Ibori? With all the corrupt faces scattered across the nation and even at the venue of the meeting, how can we, in the words of Mrs. Clinton, have Trust as the Foundation of our Democracy?

The US secretary of state mentioned that democracy is not perfect anywhere in the world and was quick to mention the stupid excuse that corrupt Nigerians are always ready to refer to in recent years-that even the US has problems with elections. This is connected to the Bush-Al Gore election controversy. She said that democracy is not about elections alone. Any student of politics or political science is aware of the points that would come next. Democracy is also about the judiciary. In Nigeria our judiciary is a cash and carry process. The law is upside down and always in favour of the ruling party and the powerful. It has become a ruse of law.

Democracy is also about the rights of the citizens. Nigerian citizens have no rights! They cannot have the basic things that the state owes them. No light, no water, no good roads, no basic health care and the list go on. Democracy is also about strong democratic institutions. How can we imbibe this in Nigeria where godfathers have already decided the results of the 2011 elections? If only Hilary knew that!

The other day I saw how people were boasting in Anambra State that they will “capture this” “capture that”. The big mouthed local government officials were presented with Mini Buses and probably money with which they will campaign (I hope) and “capture” all the political offices in Anambra. I was worried about the use of the word-capture. So Nigerian public offices are up for capture? Which year are we going to start counting the votes?

Democracy is also about the freedom of the press. In Nigeria today, many opportunists have used The Press to capture government positions and some journalists and media people are also looters today. A lot of misinformation is in the air in Nigeria because of the way politics have been used to manipulate the Nigerian Media. Nowadays many columnists in Nigeria are quick to condemn online analysts and bloggers. It is really a shame what democracy has done to the Nigerian press. Brown envelope syndrome and political jobbing has come to stay.

Democracy, according to Mrs. Clinton, is also about good governance. We knew this already but I guess she is trying to tell Nigerian politicians that they are all bad in terms of governance. Mrs Clinton told the nonentities in Aso rock and elsewhere that oil and aid cannot guarantee success but she was gullible to say that the US supports the (evil and unrealistic) 7 points agenda of an idle mind. Yar Adua is a lazy man who will not deliver one thing in his tenure as illegitimate leader. My bet is on that. How can a man swimming in corruption and surrounded by corrupt people achieve anything? Yar’ Adua lied to Hilary (just the way he lied during his inaugural speech) that he will deliver on roads and electricity. Since when did chicken grow teeth?

The Civil society was challenged to make more use of the political system to encourage a type of politics that will be for common good. With the Nigerian Police that I know, this is an optical mirage. Unless something radical occurs, the civil society and genuine pro-democratic groups will continue to be suppressed.

Mrs. Clinton mentioned some positive things about Nigeria. For example the agency responsible for preventing human trafficking has put Nigeria in a comfortable position among the serious nations fighting the menace. But I wonder how many of our sisters are on their way to Italy and Denmark tonight. Nevertheless we must praise the agency in question because many factors in Nigeria are probably not in favour of the struggle against human trafficking.

Mrs. Clinton said that US can partner Nigeria in many ways citing that she met with Mr. Ojo Maduekwe to discuss a certain bi-national commission, technical assistance and supports in various areas. Is this the US visit Maduekwe bragged about? But I hope Maduekwe was listening when Hilary mentioned India and Indonesia as countries that we can learn from. Is it true that Indonesia had a successful election and that democracy there is about 10 years old? What is our excuse when India can organise a successful election?

Obasanjo reminded us in 2007 that we have always had elections with complains and violence since 1959. So I guess he was pleased that he championed the evil that was perpetrated in 1978, 1999, 2003 and 2007. He must be our National Record Holder.

How can Nigeria have free and fair elections in 2011 when we don’t have an Independent Electoral Commission? Mrs. Clinton said the US can work with Nigeria depending on the way we approach the voter registration process (and of course the intra-party politics). I understood that if we want to computerise the process, the US can assist Nigeria to an extent that will even allow disable people to vote. But if we want to persist with our crude methods, then according to her, the future of Nigeria is in the hands of Nigeria.

Mrs. Clinton said she told Yar Adua why Nigeria is not in the G-20. She said it is because of the impact of corruption on our system and economy. She said it was also because in Nigeria, wealth is concentrated at the top. What she meant was that Nigerian politicians are thieves, that they are stealing money instead of spreading wealth and helping to build the nation. She said Nigeria is not in the G20 because we have a system where there is no accountability.

Mrs. Clinton expressed her dismay that Nigeria is not electrified despite her oil wealth. “When you think of Nigeria, the oil and the gas, you think it (Nigeria) will be electrified”. Truly corruption has destroyed this country. In Nigeria today Electric Power Supply is not available. I wonder if Nigeria generates up to 100MW as I write this. NEPA gives you a blink-blink at the end of the month and then brings you a monthly bill. By so doing, NEPA is a looting agent. It is pure robbery to do that!

The most positive thing that came with hope from the session was when Mrs. Clinton said that there are loads of Intelligent and hardworking people in Nigeria who are capable of producing good results. She said for 2011, the opportunities and the responsibilities lie in our hands. For me the task is for the intelligent and hardworking people to accept the new opportunities ahead and to face the challenges that will come with the responsibilities on our shoulders.

The time is now to build good foundations for our democratic institutions. Whether we like it or not we must start to construct and build strong democratic institutions. It is the normal or usual way to eliminate strong men or godfathers who have used violence and force to intimidate and relegate us.

Mrs. Clinton’s speech was good but not perfect. We knew all/most of it before. She probably deliberately avoided the Niger Delta debate and her response to a question on the peace process aka fake amnesty does not come across as convincing. Some commentators have condemned the role of the US in the Niger Delta crisis. It is likely that the US along with the UK, is supporting the illegitimate government in Nigeria through arms deal. It is also a common knowledge that the US is more interested in the oil that goes from the Niger Delta to USA than at the nature of governance in Nigeria.

But in a diplomatic world the US as a super power must appear like a good partner and a global lover of the poor masses even if she is doing nothing about the helpless masses as we have seen in recent events across the world. But the deals with the government behind closed doors usually betray the open speeches. Yet several aspects of what Hilary talked about regarding our politics are unfortunately real and true.

Our politicians are wicked and deaf. They may be mentally deranged considering their insatiable lust for wealth acquisition. The saddest thing is that when they wake up the next day after Hilary’s visit is over; it is back to business as usual. Yar Adua will travel to Saudia Arabia because 8 years as governor and 2 years as illegal president were not enough to build one hospital to tackle his ailments.

Maduekwe will ignore Hilary and throw away the notes he made. Ibori will get a contract to import election machines that will be manipulated and pre-programmed by Iwu. By 2011 all the governors (except Fashola perhaps because he said he doesn’t want a 2nd term) will be in PDP and the looting will continue. Head or tail, the Nigerian masses lose. A revolution might be inevitable to achieve some of the dreams of Hilary. Afterall JFK told us many years ago that “Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable”

Adeola Aderounmu