UNIFEMGA Luncheon Lecture: Diabolical conspiracy of Nigerian elites in fostering insecurity and poverty on Nigerians – By Prof. Abdul-Lateef Oladimeji,

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DIABOLICAL CONSPIRACY OF NIGERIAN ELITES IN FOSTERING INSECURITY AND POVERTY ON NIGERIANS

 By Prof. Abdul-Lateef Oladimeji, FCIPM

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Dean, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin

 Being a Guest Lecturer at the Luncheon Organized by the University of Ife Muslim Graduates Association (UNIFEMGA) on Saturday 6th March 2021

 

 

 Introduction:

          Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem

In the Name of Allah, The Gracious, The Merciful.

Let me express my deep appreciation to the University of Ife Muslim Graduates Association (UNIFEMGA) for extending this invitation to me to make my humble contribution (through this lecture) to the current issues in our society, our country Nigeria. I must thank this Association for your resilience over the years to bring together Muslim Graduates of that famous University (Ife) in line with that ayah of Glorious Qur’an which says:

“You (Muslims) are the best community ever raised for mankind. You enjoin what is good and forbid what is wrong, and you believe in Allah”.

But first let’s look at the question – who is an Elite? In answering this question, I intend to take a cursory look at various dimensions and definitions of who an elite is. According to Wikipedia, in a political and sociological theory, elites are small group of powerful people who hold disproportionate amount of wealth, privilege, political power, or skill in a society. Further definition by the Cambridge Dictionary says the elite are those people or organizations that are considered the best or most powerful compared to others of a similar type.

 

 

 

According to another American Sociologist, C. Wright Mills, power elite members recognize other members, mutual exalted position in the society. As a rule they accept one another, understand one another, marry one another, work and think, if not together at least alike. The governing elites in the United State primarily draws its members from political leaders including the President and handful of key cabinet members, as well as close advisers, major corporate owners and directors and a high ranking military officer. These groups overlap and elites tend to circulate from one sector to another, consolidating power in the process.

Still on power elite, Mills described this as relatively small, loosely connected group of individuals who dominate American policy making. This group includes bureaucratic, corporate, intellectual, military, media and government elites who control the principal institutions in the United States and whose opinions and actions influence the decisions and policy makers.

From the above analysis of who an elite is, it becomes clear that the elites are the influential members of the society. They are educated, they are learned men and women, they are the skilled and professionals. Without mincing words, they constitute the ‘think tank’ for the society. With the membership of UNIFEMGA, I want to say without fear of contradictions that you all seated here and your members in absentia are elites. Therefore whatever I will be saying about Nigerian elites, you are all involved.

 

 

INSECURITY AND POVERTY IN NIGERIA

There is no gainsaying the fact that the protection of life and property of citizens is the most important function of a responsible government. To this end, security should be the greatest priority. This is because if there is no security, the country would be at a standstill. An atmosphere of peace and tranquility is germane to development just as it is critical to harmonious living, investment flow and good governance. In the same vein, a good government is only measured by the rate of reduction in poverty and creation of enabling environments for economic growth. However, it is unfortunate that the Nigerian situation in terms of poverty alleviation is nothing to smile about. Poverty index has continued to drop, almost to a zero level. As we speak, today in Nigeria, an average citizen still lives below the poverty level as daily income is below one US Dollar.

It is no longer news that for over a decade, the Nigerian government has continued to battle with all sorts of insecurity. The armed forces are battling with terrorism in the North East championed by the Boko Haram and the ISWAP; Banditry has taken over North West and North Central. As I am writing this lecture, the 21 news of release of passengers kidnapped from the Niger State Government awaits the release of the 47 students staff and families kidnapped at Government Science Secondary School Kagoro, Niger State are awaiting to be released by their abductors.

The North Central and the South are confronted by the menace of killer herdsmen, who invade communities on daily basis, rape and kidnap for ransom. Ethnic clashes are now being recorded again, putting national unity and cohesion at edge. Put succinctly, the police is overwhelmed and faced uphill task. The military is inundated. Chieftaincy tussles leading to killings and wonton destruction of lives and property are on the increase while assassinations, armed robbery are daily events in our country. In fact as we speak, Nigeria seems under the siege of insecurity, poverty and hardships. Fuel price and electricity tariff are kept on the increase thereby making life miserable for the common man. The Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker House of Representatives recently accepted the failure of the present administration. He said: “Every time a citizen going about their business is killed or kidnapped, loses their property or livelihood, we have failed our obligation.”

The growing insecurity in Nigeria was destabilized the economic base of the country, particularly food production in the North East, North West and North Central. The price of foodstuffs have increased considerably in recent times owing to the activities of the Boko Haram insurgents, Bandits and Herders. Several Nigeria Communities have been displaced as a result of insecurity to the extent that even most members of the National Assembly, particularly from the North, can no longer travel to their home towns because of the fear of being kidnapped. They live perpetually in Abuja now because insecurity has taken over a large expanse of the land. The Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 further compounded the growth rate of insecurity due to the lockdown by the government.

Incidentally, the views of many Nigerians is that the military knows where the Boko Haram groups are. There are even uninformed opinions that the terrorists and kidnappers take instructions, finance and logistics from certain elites in the society. Questions are being raised as to how the Sambisa forest has been so habitable and conducive for the terrorists to operate unhindered for over a decade? How do they get their regular supply of logistics? In fact the recent intervention of Shaykh Ahmad Gumi and seeking amnesty for the abducted students of Government Science Secondary School, Kagara, Niger State introduced a new twist to the already precarious security situation in Nigeria observers including the National Assembly have been justifiably clamoring for the declaration of state of Emergency on Insecurity in Nigeria.

Although the Agricultural Sector holds the key to Nigeria’s drive for economic diversification, however food production has been undermined by insecurity particularly the activities of the Boko Haram insurgents. Farmers could no longer go to their farms and those who venture to go were either killed or kidnapped by bandits. The result is that today in Nigeria, we cannot feed ourselves not as a result of lack of arable lands (in abundant) but because of insecurity. It is true that the Buhari-led administration has some poverty alleviation programmes for the masses of this country through the various soft loans to traders, farmers and middle level business men. Unfortunately, this programme has achieved very little because of the conspiracy of elites and civil servants who corners the substantial allocation of this grants for personal purposes. The aim is to keep Nigerians in perpetual poverty while they continue to smile to the bank.

 

The Diabolical Conspiracy of the Elites

Devilish, mischief and wickedness are the characteristics of the attitudes of Nigerian elites as against the progressive and dynamic use of the influence of other elites in other elimes over the years, the Nigerian situation has been determined by the actions and inactions of these set of people who spread across all sectors – economy, politics, education, military, bureaucracy, diplomatic, academics and even religious parlance. One is tempted to ask this pertinent question – “What went wrong?” Let me quickly respond by saying many things has gone wrong in our nation, some examples would suffice.

When the Boko Haram was formally launched in Maiduguri, Borno State, the real issue behind their onslaught was that Yusuf the leader of this group was originally a political appointee of the then Governor as special Adviser. He was later removed and later assassinated. The fight back by this movement resulted in their mobilizing arms and ammunition. They got support from other foreign terrorists and began bombing, destructions. Later, they turned to suicide bombing in soft areas such as schools, markets etc. Today this group has become a thorn in the flesh of the country and in spite of our military (Airforce, Solders, Police, Navy etc.) operations, Nigeria on daily basis witness all forms of insecurity. The elites are said to be the forces behind the continued existence.

Importation of arms and ammunition have continued to be the serious national crimes being sponsored by the elites of this country. The Nigerian customs and other security agencies have made several seizures of illegal importation of arms into this country. Arrests have been made, but it ends there while the accused are being investigated by the police, the same elites will use all connections to ensure release and thwarting of such investigations. Many were never prosecuted.

Still on economic sabotage, the Nigerian elites uses their couriers to export all sort of drugs such as cocaine, heroine, sativer. Arrests have been made in the past and recently there was arrest of over 30 billion Naira worth of drugs seized at the Murtala Muhammad Airport, Lagos. The Nigeria Drug Law Enforcements Agency Continues to fight drug-related war in Nigeria. They have succeeded to some extent but the elites keep working against these fights.

Cross border illegal businesses is another crime that Nigerian elites enjoy with all impunities just to remain in business, acquire more wealth and buy their way through from the arms of the law thereby making our borders insecure. These elites have their vendors and agents in all borders and efforts of Government are perpetually subverted. Again there are human traffickers who exploit the poverty of innocent Nigerians. Many are lured and transported to dangerous routes outside Nigeria with a promise of greener pastures abroad. Many Nigerians have lost lives in this dangerous journeys.

The elites have chosen to place their personal and parochial interest over and above the national interest. This is why they are always ready to sabotage any government effort aimed at making life easy for the common man. This fact becomes clear now that we are witnessing unprecedented wake of crimes in Nigeria. Armed banditry has assumed a new dimension with the abduction of school boys and girls at Kankara in Katsina State, Kagara in Niger State and Jangebe in Zamfara State and the negotiation of ransom by governments with these bandits. Kidnapping has today in Nigeria become the most lucrative business. All you need to do is to kidnap and ask for heavy ransom. What a shameful business.

It has been discovered that these crimes and the perpetrators have men and women behind them who sponsors and finance their nefarious operations. These are elites who have the money to flaunt around to make the country unsafe and impoverish the citizens. There are instances of the EFCC cases that have been abandoned due to the influence of the elites in the society. Many are the ICPC cases that ends up in the dust bins just because of the influence of some influential Nigerians who, out of selfish motives quash the course of justice.

But it would be wrong to think that the diabolic conspiracy of the Nigerian elites are limited only to the matters of insecurity and poverty. The falling educational standard in Nigeria today can be traced partly to the government neglect and partly to the conspiracy of the elites. We have seen how many private institutions spring up on daily basis with well-equipped and standard status. The purpose is to serve the elites who chooses to retain their children here in Nigeria rather than US, UK, Ukraine and other foreign nations. The school fees are not within the reach of the common man. But as if that was not enough, these elites deliberately run down the public institutions that are funded from the tax payer’s purse. They allow unpopular policies and non-conducive environment to stifle our public schools so that they would have a free ride at their private ones.

There are cases of educational and institutional equipment worth millions of naira being diverted to other private establishments in Nigeria. The aim is to kill the government-owned institutions and allow their private ones to survive. Admission racketeering are being spearheaded by elitist parents who are ready to spend their fortunes to secured undeserved admission. Thanks to Allah that we now have a reformer in person of our teacher Prof. Ishaq Oloyede as the Registrar of Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, JAMB. The ongoing reforms in that Board in the last four years is not only unprecedented in the history of the agency but will go a long way to sanitize the examination body. But that is only one out of many other bodies charged with the regulations of examinations such as the WAEC, NECO.

Tax evasion is another area by which Nigerian elites gradually but systematically kill Nigerian economy and thereby creating poverty among the citizens. Recently, the Federal Inland Revenue Service Chairman declared that the Agency discovered that 6,722 companies with Turnover of One Billion Naira not paying taxes as of May 2018. The implication is that these elites makes huge profits from the masses but refuses to remit to the coffer of government. The lives of the common Nigerians seem meaningless to an average elite today. Day in day out we hear of news of seizure of adulterated and fake drugs and other products including electrical cables. These elites would go to any length to ensure that those apprehended get off the hook. The result is making the poor poorer and the rich richer in Nigeria by whatever means possible.

Mid February, 2021, it was reported that a full container load of Tramadol was seized at the Lagos Port. Eighty-nine Nigerians and an Indian were arrested in connection with the seizure by the Nigerian Drug Law and Enforcement Agency. According to reports a total of 614,396kg of various hard drugs were seized in those raids. They included 1,994,400 capsule of Tramadol packets in 554 cartons in a container, which was falsely declared to contain ceramic tiles (See the Nation 25th February, 2021). Behind these huge crimes are the elites who believes in business as usual in endangering the lives of millions of innocent Nigerians most especially the youths who will consume these drugs. The drug barons are not the poor masses, they are affluent elitist members of our society. They have hawkers and carriers who deliver these drugs at various destinations for them, of course for prices. But the overall effects of these on the society call for serious attention. Our psychiatric hospitals are today full of young men and women who have become addicted and are entangled in the drug crisis. Many have died premature death while those still alive had been disconnected from the useful life. The elites feed fat on the misfortune of these young men and women by riding flashy cars, building mansions within few weeks and unfortunately they found their way to the political office since they have the money to prosecute their electioneering ambitions. Do we say Nigeria is doomed by these elites?

According to Paramole (2016 : 102) matters of Safety and Security in Contemporary Nigeria and Tropical Issues. In the past, Nigerians used  to fear for the security of property from armed robbers, but today, in addition to armed robbery, Nigerians are on daily basis gripped with the fear of kidnappers (of adult, mothers school, school children etc.) political and economic related assassinations and extra judicial killings. All these have rapidly become familiar features of our landscape.

That insecurity is already a norm in Nigeria is an understatements. It is now on top of the myriads of problems confronting us as a nation. Many notable Nigerians such as the former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Chief Bola Ige, Lagos Politician Funsho Williams, Ogun State Governorship Candidate of Action Congress in 2007 election Dipo Dina, Alfred Rewane, Dikibo, Suliat Adedeji, Marshall Harry among many others too numerous to be mentioned. Till date their killers have neither been arrested nor brought to book (Ibid).

Islam attaches great importance to security of not only lives and properties but even of animals and other creatures of Allah. This underlines the essence of the Islamic Law (Maqasidu Shari’ah). Thus Islam prohibits any act that threatens the security of any of the enumerated endowments. As far as Islam is concerned, security goes beyond protection of the physique and wealth. Thus whoever is necessary to enhance peaceful and meaningful existence of any given community is considered a security measure for which every conscious Muslims must be proud of.

Suggestions and Recommendations

  1. Government should address more holistically the issue of poverty alleviation as well as economic empowerment in the country so that idle hands are not used for creating violence and insecurity in the country.
  2. The Federal Government of Nigeria should address more sincerely the problems of the Al-majiris with the view to properly engaging them in meaningful skills so that mischief makers do not employ this innocent youths for criminal activities.
  3. Nigeria should be properly overhauled in order to meet the requirements of Nigerians on democratization. The present political office holders creates more problems than solutions by their flagrant promotion of corruption at all levels of governance.
  4. Nigerian leaders should exhibit honesty, transparency and the fear of God in their activities so that Nigeria shall continue to enjoy the spirit of true multi ethnic and multi religious society.
  5. Policy makers should be sincere, realistic, practical and pragmatic in their approach to policy making. Hope only comes to a people when policy directions are driven by the real needs of the people and in their best interests.
  6. For Nigeria to hold her head high within the global community of nations, her people must enjoy enduring peace, security and stability within their national borders, and this must in turn bring about developmental dividends, that will improve the lives of generations of Nigerians to come.
  7. Muslim elites should form a group such as UNIFEMGA that will work in tandem with the Qur’anic position on being a vanguard for peace, progress and properity.

A look at the Islamic Solution:-

Islam being a perfect religion has made provision to solving all human problems including leadership and followership. The elites in Nigeria have constituted a strong power block. A quick reminder for us all to reflect on the Islamic solutions.

The cotemporary Nigerian elites should mirror their lives in accordance to how the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and his rightly guided caliphs lead their people. They should initiate programmes that would bring about meaningful development in the areas of socioeconomic and politico-educational spheres of Nigeria. The leaders should see their positions as amanah (trust) and that they would be accountable on the day of Judgement for how they had used or abused the grace of authority given to them by Allah. The Nigerian leaders should endeavor to promote peaceful coexistence among the various ethnic and religious groups in the country. Prophet Muhammad and many other notable Islamic rulers after him demonstrated how best to relate with non-Muslims in a multi-religious community like Nigeria (Paramole, 2016).

Furthermore, access to the corridors of power should not be seen as an avenue to enrich one’s pocket as obtained today in many leaders. For the lives and leadership styles of the rightly guided caliphs, a demonstration of such a privilege position is better utilized to better the lot of the common man rather than to impoverish them and make the environment insecure for them. These are the leaders who will not eat until their followers had eaten to their fill. Islam expects leaders to always be the first to fight against corruption. They should be role models who do not appreciate lethargy, apathy, distrust and bad governance as a way of life. Through exemplary leadership, Nigerian elites should participate actively in efforts aimed at eradicating corruption and establishing good governance. They are expected to play the God-determined roles of “enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong” (Q3: 104).

Again, Islam enjoins every leader to imbibe the spirit of probity, transparency and accountability, both in their public and private lives. This is due to the fact that, eradicating of corruption and prevention of stealing of public money are in line with the teachings of Islam. Allah says in Qur’an 2 Verse 188 thus:

“And do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly or send it (via bribery) to the rulers in order that (they might aid) you (to) consume a portion of the wealth of the people in sin while you know (it is unlawful)”

Furthermore, Nigerian elites should avoid parochialism in their sociopolitical and economic interactions. They should see beyond their tribal affiliation and take Nigeria as a unified entity. Finally, Nigerian elites should fear Allah in all actions and positions they found themselves. They should reflect on the Qur’anic verse which says:

“O ye who believe, fear Allah as He should be feared and let not death take your life except as a Muslim”. Qur’an 3:102.

Conclusion

Distinguished brothers and sisters, we have tried in this short lecture to reflect on the diabolical conspiracy of Nigerian elites in fostering insecurity and poverty on Nigerians. We can conclude by saying that the aims of elites to hold on to power and the economy of the nation is only to sustain their personal interests. Incidentally these elites have every opportunity to travel round the world and see how elites in other places assist their country to grow and develop. Most of these selfish Nigerians even studied abroad and had a feel of what education is all about. Unfortunately they come back to Nigeria to do exactly opposite.

Our contention is to remind ourselves as Muslims that Allah has said He will not change the condition of any nation for better unless they are determined to change it by their actions. May Allah Subhana wa ta’llah grant us the opportunity to touch (positively) the lives of fellow human beings and be part of their success story.

I thank the UNIFEMGA for this opportunity given me to share my thoughts with brothers and sisters.

References

  1. Abdal’Ali, A. (1982), The Family Structure in Islam, Lagos, Islamic Publications Bureau.
  2. Ahmmuda, A. (1997), Islam in Focus, 2nd ed, New York, Macmillan,
  3. Ali, M. M. (1949), The Religion of Islam, New Delhi, Taj Printers.
  4. Bello-Imam, I. B. (ed) (2014) National Security and Development in contemporary Nigeria Vol 1, College Press, Ibadan.
  5. Dopamu, A. et al (2004), Religion, Leadership and Society: Focus on Nigeria, Ikeja, Free Enterprise Publishers.
  6. Lawal, M. F. & others, Islamic perspectives on contemporary issues, Lagos, Arimus Int. Ltd.
  7. Maududi A. A. (1976) Human Right in Islam. London, Islamic Foundation.
  8. Olagoke, S. A. (2017), Religion, Beyond the Opium, Ibadan, SAO Multiventures.
  9. Paramole, K. O. (2016), Scholarly Insights on Islamic Ethics, Lagos, Free Enterprise Publishers.
  10. Wikipaedia, visited on 28/02/2020.
  11. Yusu Ali, Qur’an, Arabic, Translation and Commentary (2007), Taj Company India.
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