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By Oseloka H. Obaze

A recent trending photo of the leaders of the BRICS nations hobnobbing and holding hands across-the-chest spoke eloquently to the group’s vital missing link and presumptive member. That photo brought to mind missed opportunities and lessons learned. It also brought to the fore, the fate of Nigeria: a country that is prima facie qualified to be the sixth member of that intergovernmental organization, but is not. Nigeria’s membership would have expanded the name of the group to BRINCS, expanded her sphere of global influence, market, acceptability and balance. Her exclusion from the BRICS expansion coincides with the imminent implosion of ECOWAS under her chairmanship.

That countries like Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran and Saudi Arabia are set to join BRICS ahead of Nigeria speaks volumes. Both the challenge and limitations are self-inflicted. Nigeria dribbled herself out of the BRICS orbit. By its insalubrious leadership conduct, it recused itself from membership of that body. Her bona fides and qualifiers were also sacrificed on the Tripodal Syndrome of Malgovernance, Misgovernance and Bad Governance (MMB).

Nigeria’s governance deficit and optics remain bad

Nigeria’s governance deficit and optics remain exceedingly bad. In the past eight years plus, her international credibility has deteriorated discernibly under the watch of the ruling All Progressives Congress government. That situation has worsened further in the past eight months that the Tinubu-Shettima administration now represents a new visible low for Nigeria. Both the leadership personalities and entire governmental structures lack legerity. There is also an acute national sense of lack of governmental legality and legitimacy. This is a fact, an indubitable fact. The reasons are obvious and require no further adumbration.

As a democracy, Nigeria is struggling. Nigeria has suffered a severe reverse in governance, development and global influence. The causes are elemental. It is axiomatic that “The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.” So her domestic weaknesses and dissonances translate to her external limitations. Failure of government to fulfill her responsibility to protect has polarized the nation and created an unjust society. Nigeria has thus become nearly ungovernable with the expanding visceral violence and sectarian and ethnically-motivated massacre of people in indigenous communities in the North Central zone and the incessant kidnappings nationwide.

Clearly, Nigeria’s present leadership cannot forge good governance credentials the way it has successfully forged faux electoral outcomes. The problem is that the incumbent leadership does not seem to have the vaguest idea of how to get the nation out of the present rot and rut. The national elite, who invariably created the present leadership conundrum, are indifferent and resigned to the unfolding national quandary, yet unwilling to publicly take ownership of the monster they contrived.

Nigeria is mired deeply in national denial. Nigeria is strapped and trapped in a debt peonage and inextricably embedded in poverty, corruption and primeval insecurity. Hence Nigeria is bad news. When others say so, some opportunistic Nigerians push back. When Nigerians say so, the official response is that such views are opposition-induced. But her long ensconced national delusion is now full-frontal with her dissembling realities. There are no external takers: no one will save Nigeria but Nigerians. Her erstwhile resilient corporate collaborators, those multinationals that stayed on despite the debilitating cost of doing business in Nigeria, are now exiting in droves. Capital flight is the norm as foreign investors watch the Nigeria dashboard with grave trepidation. Very limited redemptive options exist against broadly dashed national aspirations.

Three negative variables predominate

If Nigeria’s bane was simply bad leadership, it would be easier to grapple with. If the subset of such ill-adjusted leadership was just misgovernance or bad governance, then tackling the challenges would be less arduous. Unfortunately, Nigeria under the present leadership suffers from a combination of three negative and dissembling variables: Malgovernance, Misgovernance and Bad Governance. There seems to be no way out. Malgovernance is exactly what it sounds like, the insinuation of insidious malware of rogue individuals, and non-quotidian applications into governance institutions and processes, with the intent to wittingly corrupt and debase the system, making it operationally dysfunctional and, thus, beneficial only to certain entitled operators.

Nigeria’s present fraudulent governance mosaic also depict “how decisions are made in government and business” and “systemic corruption and a lack of openness and accountability, arbitrary policymaking, and the deception of those who are ruled.” The country is so badly governed that it is morally, fiscally and physically bankrupt. The malgovernance component speaks to the intrinsic attitude of groupthink, doublethink, doublespeak and precepts and, ultimately, the lack of consequences for profligacy and grand larceny within the government.

It is such malgovernace that resulted in almost N14 billion of public funds being paid into private accounts in 2023 in direct contradiction of extant financial regulations, which states that “personal money shall in no circumstances be paid into a government bank account nor shall any public money be paid into a private account.” The policing institutions of government are all too complicit, so much so that, as clichés go, one begins to ask: “who will police the police?” Checks and balances as well as regulatory ethos of ways and means all stand bastardized.

Nigeria also suffers from global deficit. Her political and fiscal currencies are in tatters. She has leveraged out her goodwill and assets. Oil revenue generation are at best halting. Her national savings are vastly depleted. Her contingent liabilities and debt exposure stand at an undisclosed sum of N100 trillion. Nigeria is currently ranked fifth, globally, with her highest ever inflation rate at 90% up from 28.9% in December 2023. Her currency, the naira, is vastly devalued; having lost 98% of its value in eight months. She has consistently grappled with budgetary deficit overhang resulting from over-padding and related sharp practices. A case in point: budgetary earmarks are now not only outsourced but traded off or sold to the highest bidders. Earmarked in-state and in-zone constituency projects are being executed out-of-state, out-of-zone and out-of-jurisdiction. The three arms of government are incestuously and criminally intertwined.

Under the present dispensation, Nigeria has been profligate with her public expenditure, mismanaged her limited resources, allowed grand larceny among public officials and borrowed recklessly. Resort to fuzzy math and perceptible quick-win policy solutions hardly pan out. Some policy options are so hare-brained that they are denied or withdrawn as soon as they are made public. Shock-laden monetary and food inflation continue to spiral upwards posing the ultimate tripwire for an unfolding national crisis. Food inflation stands at 34%, five percentage points shy of the national all-time high of 39.54% during the draconian Abacha years. Pockets for food protests are unfolding and might soon turn into full-fledged national food riots.

There is hardly a solution in sight.

The temptation to characterize Nigeria as a failed state is compelling. But she is not quite there yet, even as the pertinent indices point to that possibility within a short span. The ultimate tenet of democracy is the freedom to choose; so Nigeria’s present realities are resultant from leadership, policy and governance choices made by Nigerians directly or vicariously.

Nowhere to hide, as anarchy looms….

A core danger facing Nigeria is that state capture, hinged on primordial interests continues to foreclose the nation’s ability to rally to collective, strategic and bi-partisan solutions to the prevailing challenges. Already, insecurity and the role of non-state actors are making pockets of the nation ungovernable. Such vagaries are spreading cancerously, even to perceived safe havens like Abuja. Resultantly, Nigerians are opting to fly more, despite the huge financial implications, because travel by road nationwide is now fraught with kidnapping and other forms of security challenges.

Perhaps the greatest danger is that Nigerians are helplessly watching their country slide towards perdition, while the incumbent leadership fiddles carelessly. Prospects of an unscripted and indeterminate outcome are deeply troubling. Monarchs, clergy, clerics and gated estates are now common targets for those in the criminal fringe. The upshot is that the poor and the rich now share a common fate: looming anarchy arising from pervasive insecurity; that is a product of the prevailing MMB syndrome. There is no place to hide as anarchy looms. What happens next in Nigeria and the inherent dangers are too dire to contemplate. The centre cannot hold much longer; of that, most Nigerians are certain, even if they fear voicing such apprehensive sentiments publicly.

Mr. Obaze is MD/CEO, Selonnes Consult – a policy, governance and management consulting firm in Awka.

Culled from Daily Sun Newspaper’s Public Forum

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