Of economy, pulpits and Hollywood expectations, by Chinwe Ezejiofor
Sometime in 2016, #bringbackourcorruption began to trend on the social media. Nigerians disenchanted with the dire state of the economy in the midst of a war on corruption launched by the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government, began to wax nostalgic about yesteryears, the glory days of corruption. In their warped view, if the return of corruption is what it will take to put food on their tables, they are all for it. Considering that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari had been in government for barely a year then, the campaign surely did not signify a policy failure on the part of government. Nobody would reasonably expect the government to have resuscitated the then comatose economy within so short a period.
Nor can it be argued that corruption has no direct bearing to the country’s economy slipping into recession. As the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, declared recently: “About 90 per cent of the cause of recession is corruption, because there was fund and people stole the funds and kept them where they cannot be reached. If we can lay hands on this hidden wealth, it will be sufficient for us to get out of recession.”
In other words, the campaign did not arise because corruption is not an issue or that the President has demonstrably failed to tackle our declining productivity as a nation. Rather, the #bringbackourcorruption crusaders are, like us all, victims of the cumulative effect of new fad religion and Nollywood on our collective psyche. Nigerians no longer believe in hard work and sacrifice as a path to success. To many Nigerians, the no pain, no gain mantra is outdated and not fit for the times. The new mantra is instant gratification and miracles. Patience and diligence is no longer a virtue.
New religion has destroyed our work ethics and the Nollywood industry has firmly cemented the connection between the church and instant solution to problems. Religious leaders in the churches and mosques have joined the witch doctors in preaching a gospel of instant prosperity over and above hard work and perseverance. At the expense of logic and wisdom, their adherents follow whatever instructions they are given in order to achieve instant success. The Rev. Fr. Boniface Ezeoke of St. Agnes Catholic Church, Ichida, Anambra State recently encapsulated this in his homily. According to the reverend father: “Our messages of instant gratification have created a generation of people, who only want to see instant results, immediate relief, and a painless profit. This is not the natural course of nature or a normal way of doing things.” Even then, the Nollywood industry has made this belief in instant results and immediate reliefs more popular among Nigerians. In all the home movies, the theme is the same. A visit by a character to the pastor or witch doctor produces instant result with no further contribution from the character.
The damage to our psyche as a nation is in fact what has held us back as a country. Our desire to reap without sowing, eat without working and run without walking is the bane of our economic development. Past administrations deferred the restructuring of our economy because Nigerians were not willing to bear the necessary pain that will accompany such restructuring. Against economic sense, the Nigerian state for decades, subsidized fuel consumption by the populace because the citizens have developed a sense of entitlement. Mounting evidences of sleaze and looting of the treasury by those in the corridors of power were ignored and the looters held up as manifestations of God’s blessings and prosperity. Any government that tried in the past to correct this trend and restore sanity had been harangued out. A new government comes in with instant appeasement and is hailed as a messianic one. And the rot continued.
Today, we are presented with yet another chance to get it right. Yet again, some Nigerians will have none of it and will go to any length to truncate any efforts towards laying a solid foundation for the future. Such people are more interested in sharing the so-called national cake than in creating wealth. For them, consumption comes before production and profits before investment.
Yes, the economy is in dire straits. The citizens are suffering. The government is working very hard to reverse the rot and put the economy back on the path of growth. The citizens must understand however that miracles and instant solutions have no place in nation building. We are where we are today because we had before now not taken the hard decisions to restructure the economy. The government must be supported to do so now if we are going to enjoy the prospect of a long term improvement in quality of life for every Nigerian. According to the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, Nigerians’ tax contribution to GDP is only 6 per cent. That is one of the lowest anywhere in the world and reflects decades of the population’s unwillingness to contribute to government revenue. What economic miracles do we expect from government if, as citizens, we do not pay our fair share of taxes? We are quick at comparing the living standards of Nigerians to those of other nations but forget (conveniently) to point out the disparities in tax compliance.
Years of deterioration in infrastructure and the economy cannot be remedied overnight. Such only happen in Nollywood movies where one’s personal circumstances are reversed instantly on the intervention of a pastor, and that diabolic uncle or step-mother who had been responsible for that person’s woes immediately confesses and dies and all that the person lost over the years is restored to him. Such do not happen in real life. It took a good two years for former president Barack Obama’s policies to impact on the economy of the United States of America on his assumption of office in 2008. Americans kept faith with him, stayed the course and are better for it today.
Rebuilding infrastructure, dealing with corruption, securing lives and properties across the federation, restructuring the economy and fixing Nigeria generally is doable. Patience and sacrifice is required however on the part of Nigerians. The government of the day must be encouraged and supported to see through its various programmes aimed at achieving the listed objectives.
. Dr. Chinwe Ezejiofor is the Executive Director, Green Women for Change and Empowerment Foundation. www.greenwomenforchange.org. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.