“Empowerment” has a strange meaning in the Nigerian context; “the sharing of money by politicians to clients, supporters, the undecided and antagonists”. Empowerment is thus simply the use of state money to buy political support within the polity by numerous means such as rent offerings and prebendalism. Empowerment can wear a ‘something-for-nothing’ shirt since it is often unearned or undeserved. From keen observation and credible sources the “empowerment game” is one that President Muhammadu Buhari, despite the genuine criticisms levelled against him, has apparently refused to play both as military and democratic president. A strong indication of moral uprightness. Does not playing the empowerment game have costs and can Nigeria be peacefully ruled without empowerment?

Buhari may have forfeited the capacity to attract and select the right men / women of ability whom he trusts to do their jobs competently, fairly and trustworthily and to manage their ministries with the right expertise and without his supervision or interference. The decadent legislators are not helping matters. However, it is apparent that the people Buhari selected as his ministers are individuals he does not trust much and has to watch meticulously. As a result, the business of government is stalled. The proper channels by which money legitimately reach the people have not been implemented or activated by this government; the budget has not been passed and no “empowerment” is flowing through the back door. Empowerment used to work a bit when the proper economic machinery failed.

General Yakubu Gowon understood what Gerald Celente, an international political economy trends analyst, often proves through his work “when money stops flowing in the streets, blood starts to flow in the streets [because the people have nothing left to lose]”. Such is a terrible situation. It is unclear if Buhari appreciates that. Why should he? But this is where Nigeria is or is near to at the moment. Money is not flowing in the streets of Nigeria, not even as a trickle.

Salaries are yet to be paid regularly, credit facilitates are much harder to access, jobs are not being created, inflation is having a good run, the black market rates for foreign exchange are jumping acrobatically, the budget has not been implemented etc. The “Average Family”, the “Middle-Class Woman”, the “Common Man” and “[declasse] Elite Nigerians”, are cut off from the flow of money. As Gowon and Celente understood ‘discontent’ (and its consequences) is the most natural reaction of citizens to money shortages in society. Hunger has no taboos.

Gowon started the “empowerment game” as an instrument to secure peace, law and order in a nation recovering from a cataclysmic civil war. It was the bequeath of shares in “indigenised corporations” for a few “New Nigerian Elite” who supported the “One Nigeria” doctrine, the explosion in the creation of jobs /ghost jobs, and the introduction of heavily subsidised essential commodities into the market that the New Nigerian Elite profiteered from. People remember that era with great nostalgia and fondness though because the game was all-inclusive.

General Ibrahim Babangida changed the rules of the “empowerment game” by enriching targeted groups / individuals of influence who could secure the support of “the rest” for him rather than focusing on satisfying the needs of the most number of people possible like Gowon did. It is the “Babangida approach” that has endured. Every president from Gowon to Goodluck Jonathan has played the empowerment game with the exception of Buhari; this should be good news for Nigeria.

If we give Buhari the benefit of the doubt, the question should arise, are seriously Nigerians ready to bear the cost of enforcing anticorruption or terminating profligacy and at the same time embrace prudent fiscal policies and the necessary sacrifices required? One of the biggest syndromes that actually perpetuates corruption in Nigeria is that most people do not want to “miss” their turn to “chop”, they diligently wait for it. The current All Peoples Congress (APC) government’s bigwigs will not allow Buhari to deprive them of “chopping their own” especially after all they invested to win the elections.

Boko Haram attacks, Fulani herdsmen violence, numerous ethnic clashes, instances of political / election clashes, increased violent crimes like robbery, kidnapping and machete assaults, rumours of war, increased ethnic tensions, all can be reasonably and empirically traced to the stopping money flowing in the streets. It is hard at this stage to tell if the most deprived groups are the ones doing the most violence or if it is the groups that have recently seen the most drastic falls in the flows of cash. It would be disturbing to find that absence of cash is making many varied groups restive and even violent.

Positive propaganda which the Buhari government is very skilled at using usually works well on a full stomach and when money is flowing in the streets. Conversely, rumours and negative propaganda work very well on an empty stomach. This renders Buhari’s “blamocracy” of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)  weak, diminishing, and unpersuasive; people need “bread” in their pockets and on their tables. If Buhari wants his blamocracy to work successfully he must establish a team of experts that can accurately and sincerely, forecast how much money is flowing to people in the streets and how many calories they have in the stomachs by bedtime.

Unfortunately, if money does not start flowing in the streets to people, blood will not stop flowing in the streets of Nigeria and may even get much worse. Although Nigeria can be successfully ruled without empowerment, Buhari has to sort out the economic machinery first.

Grimot Nane

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