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COG As A Crooked Cog In Our Wheel Of Progress

Published by Guardian on Mon, 06 Feb 2012

BECAUSE I erroneously associated the word, 'cog,' with 'bottleneck,' some kind of obstacle, I have always taken the idiomatic expression, 'cog in the wheel of progress,' to mean something negative. But after the acronym, COG, sprouted in my mind about three months ago, something told me to crosscheck the meaning of that idiomatic expression, lest I make a public fool of myself. And thank God I did just that, for I found out that I have been carrying a wrong meaning in my blockhead for decades!It is a gross understatement to say that I was utterly stupefied to find out that the word, 'cog,' is indeed something very positive. According to the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, 'cog' means, 'one of the series of teeth on the edge of the wheel that fit between the teeth on the next wheel and cause it to move.' What this implies, of course, is that we all should be proud to be cogs in the wheel of any entity to which we belong, since, by so being, we cause it to move, forward and positively, that is. Gosh, how could I have carried such an erroneous meaning in my mind for so long'Anyway, as they say, there is always a purpose for everything. But for that semantic aberration which gave birth to COG, it would not be the special offering on the menu of today's philological excursion. All I needed to do to make it the main course for the language train was to qualify the original idea with the adjective, 'crooked,' whose meaning you know too well. The adjective is best defined by its synonyms, which include: dishonest, unscrupulous, unprincipled, untrustworthy, corrupt, corruptible, buyable, venal, criminal, illegal, and unlawful.'Given the meaning of crooked, we can say without any equivocation that, if there is one humongous crooked cog in the wheel of Nigeria's progress today, that crooked cog is COG. Of course, that assertion would not make any sense to you, unless you know what COG means. I don't mean to tease you, but, granted that you are an aficionado of language, allow me to test your acronymic dexterity by presenting you with just three tidbits that should enable you to readily decipher the acronym, COG.The first tidbit is from the Vanguard of January 31, 2012, a headline that reads: 'Aso Rock to spend N18.4bn on fuel, lubricants, telephone this year.' From The Guardian of January 17, 2012 comes the second tidbit, the title of an editorial: 'The N11.25bn budget on foreign trips.' And the third tidbit comes from The Nation of October 17, 2011, a headline that reads: 'Tambuwal sets rules as Reps opt for N2.5 cars.'Come on, you sure can figure it out, now! But if you still cannot tell what COG stands for, then, we need to enroll you in a special language clinic where you can develop your acronymic dexterity with, as Chief Eleyinmi, of the popular Village Headmaster of yore, was wont to say, 'automatic alacrity!'It's rather simple: COG stands for Cost Of Government!For many years, many people, including expert, armchair, and lay economists, have been criticising the huge costs of running Government in Nigeria. But over the last five years, and especially, during Jonathan's administration, the cost seems to have increased geometrically. Correspondingly, the language of the criticism of COG has become very robust, to put it mildly. Nevertheless, before you begin to think that we are derailing into politics, howbeit, wrapped up with economics, let me say straightaway that it is the language of the criticism that is our business on the language train, and certainly not the cost itself, since politics is never our cup of tea on the language train. Search me, therefore, as I search the language of the criticism of COG for you!'Overhead takes 72 per cent as government budgets N.75tr for 2012.' This is the headline of the top news story in The Guardian of December 14, 2011. When you read through the 15 comments that followed the story, you will be astounded by the robust language with which Nigerians criticise COG. The very first writer, by name, Agbobu, comments: 'I am a very bitter and sad person with conscience; tell me how it is fair and just for less than five per cent of the population to consume 78 per cent of our wealth' Why I say this is that 78 per cent or more of our Nation's money is used to pay the salaries and allowances of less than 5 per cent of the population that make up the public servants, including the politicians.'Agbobu continues: 'You are spending almost 25 per cent of the nation's money on what you call security, which will at the end of the day end up in the pockets of the politicians, legislators, friends and cronies as their share of the national cake. This is shocking, baffling and alarming.''We don't have government in Nigeria,' thundered Tunde Ishola. He was reacting to a news story in the Vanguard of January 16, 2012. Headlined 'Armed soldiers take over Gani Fawehinmi Park in Lagos,' the story was totally unrelated to COG, but that was the matter that drew his vehemence. For he continues: 'The government we have is one that makes budget and allocates a billion naira for the feeding of the president and VP. Allocate another 300m naira each for two Mercedes Benz bullet-proof cars, 300 million each for 10 SUV's towards upgrading presidential convoy.' And he goes on and on, tallying other allocations in the budget that make him convinced we have no government in Nigeria.If there is one item of the administration's budget that has drawn out the full length of the tongue of many commentators, it must be the one about the gustatory proclivities of Aso Rock.In the Sunday Vanguard of January 29, 2012, Dele Sobowale's piece in his weekly column, FRANKLY SPEAKING, was titled, 'No, Mr. President, you don't feel the pain - 1.' Responding to the article, the second among eight commentators, Esaulogbon, effuses: 'How would someone who voted a billion for his food claim he feels the pain that someone who cannot afford 150 naira meal a day feels' '. Deceptive people in government!'A regular weekly column in THISDAY on Sunday, January 15, 2012 was titled, 'Jonathan Must Not Waste this Crisis.'In it, the columnist, Simon Kolawole, comments on what he describes as, 'The second message (to the president) ' and the most important one for that matter ' how do we reduce waste and corruption in government' We keep on saying the citizens should sacrifice, but does it make sense for the Federal Government alone to spend N1.3 trillion on personnel costs every year'... As many analysts have pointed out, do we need 43 ministers' Does every minister need four aides' Do we need 409 federal lawmakers, each entitled to aides and what have you''You can see what I mean when I say that the language with which many people today criticise COG has become more robust, as the cost of government has seemingly become a crooked humongous cog in our wheel of progress. We shall continue to track the language which Nigerians use to criticise COG, as long it remains a crooked cog in our wheel of progress.
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