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OF PROBES, PRESIDENTS AND PYRAMIDS, By Dike Chukwumerije

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OF PROBES, PRESIDENTS AND PYRAMIDS, By Dike Chukwumerije

NEWISSUES, Abuja

I understand. Someone looked into the Treasury, saw masticated bones, and proceeded to swear viciously: “Wallahi! This people will not get away with it! Not this time! They shall vomit it all! Wallahi!” That is very fine. We shall, in fact, not stand in your way. Please, please, catch them all. Only that it can only happen once. Yes. We bring back the money we stole, heap it up in a pile at Eagle Square – there, Mister President, every single kobo back – it cannot happen twice. So, how many budget deficits will the recovered loot fund? One? Two? Three? And, afterwards, tell me, how shall we live?
Because, my brother, this our legendary Federation Account is shrinking at the same rate as oil prices are falling. You get me? For a society like ours – with both lips latched tightly round the engorged nipple of the international oil market – the world at 100 dollars a barrel is very different from the world at 40 dollars a barrel. And snatching back a few billions from yesterday’s thieves in 2015 will not plug the shortfall that will re-appear – so long as government continues to spend like it did 5 years ago – in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019… You get me? So, how shall we inspire it, not fear, but the future?
For the centerpiece of our response strategy cannot be to bring out the little red book and begin to call up our debtors. Yes. It would make sense if we were a civil servant who, a day to pay day, went to the Post Office in Zone 5 to check his box and found a letter informing him that his salary would be three months late. Ah! What we face today is a different crisis. What we face today is for that same civil servant to go to the Post Office and find a cyber café where it used to be. Then to run to the Office and be told that his Department – that, in fact the entire Typing Pool – would, from year end, no longer be required, as the Ministry had just discovered laptops.
Yes. Away from an economy where state governments dangle uselessly from the udders of the federal government, which in turn dangles uselessly from the udders of the international oil market – this is the sort of Change we need. And it is a desperate, desperate one, this need for new businesses. Tell me, is it not hard enough to start one in times of plenty? Talk less of now, when the hen is scratching for corn. But, my brother, let us not worry unduly, for within every crisis is its own opportunity. I tell you, GEJ could have used Boko Haram to decapitate some principalities. PMB can use tumbling oil prices to take out some strongholds. You get me? After we have finished jailing yesterday’s men, if we do not also compel today’s men to move into smaller offices, the money we have will still not stretch.
But, even with this, let us NOT get carried away – that is, catching thieves and cutting costs – for they are, in themselves, meaningless stops on the long road to Freedom. For the final, final bus Home, the one that will deliver us right to the doorsteps of our shining dreams, we will require radically new thinking. Yes. How to bring back the pyramids? For, undoubtedly, it is the leanness – the tightness, the smallness, the narrowness – of this our economy that is mother to them all, this brood of barely employed millions whose restless, roiling existence on the unforgiving fringes of our society makes every attempt at development futile. Yes. It is for them that our government must devote itself, above all else, to cracking this riddle. For God’s sake, how to bring back the days of groundnut pyramids?

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