In the next 12 days, the first quarter of 2018 will draw to a close. The Federal Government’s spending plans are still being debated at the National Assembly. If you are as concerned as we are, then be rest assured that we are alone in our state of worry.
And this is so because nothing worries government officials, politicians and bureaucrats alike; except it is something closer home and one that hurts directly. We are of the views that were the Nigerian budget to operate in a way that makes non-passage of it before the commencement of the budgeting implementation cycle SHUT DOWN government, then the behaviour would be different.
We think this behaviour is irresponsible. We believe that Nigerians and the rest of the world that keeps an eye on happenings in this country are learning new lessons in governance under this government and the lessons unfold as frequently as we are able to expose ourselves to the lessons being taught by this government.
First, we are being taught that we have no right to have governance expectations from our government. Second, we are being taught governance and expectation, two important words in the social contract between elected officials and electorates, no longer matter.
But we do know, surely, that they matter and that officials are elected to government on the basis of strong expectations by citizens and on the basis that the social contract will be delivered based on sound governance principles.
For government to carry on seemingly unperturbed by the issue of the non-passage of the budget shows that there are things we think should matter, but which this government would rather think should not bother us. Oftentimes, Nigerian officials get so easily carried away due to a total lack of fidelity, which tends to lead to corruptive tendencies that short-change the people in favour of officials.
For whom, indeed, are Nigerian politicians answerable to? Why do they treat citizens with such contempt as if they and electorates do not share equal citizenship? Why do they glory in this behaviour without a care in the world?
We find it awfully amazing the contempt for electorates, the short memory mode that elected officials to get into once victory is attained.
For we believe that it is this contempt that makes government not to bother engaging with citizens over most things relating to their wellbeing, preferring instead to confer with family, friends, and members of their inner caucus.
While we are at a loss over the continuous delay in the passage of the budget and how we think it could drag on until May, we wish to draw attention to another matter of concern. This government came in under a blaze of glory. That blaze of glory has since disappeared.
We feel that the government is still unleashing the psychological hoodwinking that brought it into power on the citizens. The difference is that while before the election it used it to win votes, this time it is using it to torment and harass citizens and business.
There is no government in the history of Nigeria that has ridden on the back of such amazing political goodwill to get into power as the current government has done. Having done so and understanding how disappointed a good number of citizens have become, citizens are now being subject to the torture of harassment brought about by different forms of taxes and charges that are being levied from different fronts.
We think the seed for the licence that is feeding this behaviour have been sown by stories about how broke the country is, and this was well developed and has been orchestrated by the government since it got to power.
We have been told we are broke almost beyond recovery, which should mean that we should have no higher expectations and must think like pauperised citizens.
In our pauperised state of mind, we must see government as broke and we must accept any taxes they unleash on us, even while we are down and in need of a hand to stand on our feet. That hand we must not expect from government because they have been able to sell the dummy that we, not them, are responsible for this so-called predicament that we are in. This false notion of poverty, oil prices were down (they have been in the 50+ dollars range for a long time, but we are still broke) and with revenues being short, this has allowed the government to harass citizens with levies; and verbally threatening citizens with mayhem, imprisonment, as if this behaviour is the New Normal in the relationship between government and the governed.
All of this represents a psychological militarisation of this relationship. The number of threats that one hears from government officials, especially those with pro-Western democracy experiences, makes you wonder if we are not really back to a Gestapo state.
We are of the view that there is a need to tone down the rhetoric of threats and adapt a much better detente with citizens about the obligations expected of them. We also think that as much as government is expecting, it should on its part be delivering, because it has a much higher responsibility to so do.