Across the six states of the Niger Delta as in the rest of the country, a feverish pace of politicking opened up as 2022 dawned. In the past few months, political activities have picked momentum, as the political parties held their primaries in May, 2022, producing the fore runners for public office at the various levels, especially the presidential candidates.
Currently, political activities are taking place in cities, towns and communities across the country, with frenzied frequency. As politicians desperate for power and the near unbridled access to public resources and perks fire the ambitions of many in the political class.
Yet, the season of seeming political insanity that comes in a four-year cycle, is not limited to the geographical home base. Outside the country currently, key politicians from across party platforms are meeting in the United Kingdom, US, UAE and European cities, trading influence, monies and positions, building dreams and yet crashing others.
All these developments are characteristic features of how politics is played in Nigeria, following the end of military rule and return to civilian governance in 1999.
However, the character of political activities taking up huge financial resources and time of political office holders is troubling, as its focus does not reside in the prioritisation of the wellbeing of citizens. First of all, huge federal allocation and substantial internally generated revenue, IGR places huge resources in the hands of persons who mostly have never generated or mobilised men and material to create wealth. Among the majority of politicians, sound administrators have rarely emerged. Behind the facade of carefully manicured curriculum vitae, are the carcasses of failed state and federal parastatals, institutions and agencies, where many of these persons tasted public office.
Against the reality of deepening economic woes in the country, including low revenues from oil and gas, recorded even in a period of gains derivable from the Russia/Ukraine war with positive impact on oil and gas revenues for an oil dependent country Nigeria, citizens especially those in the oil rich region have not experienced any relief in their realities of poverty and want in the face of huge oil and gas wealth.
Youth unemployment in many of the oil bearing states remains at a steady high of 40-43 percent. A subsisting high inflationary trend continues on an upward trajectory, throwing more families into distress with inflation at an all time high, of nearly 20 percent reflected in high prices with a standard family loaf of bread which sold for N400 in 2020, now costing N800.
All major food prices are reaching for the skies, while incomes remain stagnant. Many households are held by parents who have lost jobs as more factories and private businesses shut down.
In much of the Niger Delta, apart from Edo State which may be credibly described as a state with a structure building an economic base beyond oil and gas, most of the other states are still dependent solely on revenue from federal allocations. Of these, Rivers State which is host to most of the major oil companies and oil and gas service companies, regularly posts huge receipts from these companies as internally generated revenue, making it the second richest state after Lagos State.
Ironically, Rivers along with most other Niger Delta States, presents as one with huge youth unemployment and burgeoning poverty among the population. The only visible form of employment created by the subsisting political economy in the Niger Delta grounded in violent takeover and sustenance of political power, is through the sustenance and deployment of violent youth reflected in cosy bond between members of violent cult groups and the political elite.
Basic disease and preventable death from malaria, waterborne diseases including typhoid, diarrhoea are the sad realities for millions of indigenes and residents of states like Rivers, whose governor is now a beautiful bride, feted and wooed across political party lines. The eyes of these suitors, are fixed firmly on the huge resources of the state, which are routinely deployed as election war chest by the party in control of power in the state.
Twenty three years of such abuse and looting of the state resources, have left it in a situation of arrested development with frustrated, disillusioned citizens and a massive population of angry youth.
It is time to end this waste of public resources by governors, who are mostly poor administrators. It is truly time citizens deployed the potential power of one man, one vote, encapsulated in the ongoing electoral reform to boot out those at the centre of the mess in the region, in the 2023 elections and use this power to usher in a new way of electing credible leadership, to manage the resources of these states for development.
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