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Abuja: From capital to national darkness!

By Martins Oloja
29 May 2022   |   4:07 am
I was in our nation’s capital, Abuja last week and I wept over that beautiful city because it is fast becoming John Milton’s classic description of another paradise (being) lost.

FCT Minister, Muhammad Bello

I was in our nation’s capital, Abuja last week and I wept over that beautiful city because it is fast becoming John Milton’s classic description of another paradise (being) lost. Our remarkable capital where I have practised journalism for thirty-four years is very dark at the moment. I drove in the night from District to District, from Area to Area, and I was shocked that the capital of the federation where the two major political parties are holding their conventions at the moment has become another Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness.’

Even the Eagles Square precinct where the ruling party, APC convention will be taken place in few days (June 6-8, 2022) in partial darkness. And curiously, no one is raising questions about the strange darkness in Abuja city. All the streetlights all over the place are gone and no one to replace them. Sadly, no one within the three arms of government located in the capital has drawn the attention of the Governor and Deputy Governor of Abuja to the darkness that has entombed Nigeria’s barely 45-year-old capital.

It is sad that no one within the federal bureaucracy in the same capital is confronting the authorities in Abuja to rise up to the challenge of maintaining the capital of our already challenged federation. No one within the security and defence community in Abuja has drawn the attention of the commander-in-chief to the nexus between darkness in Abuja and growing insecurity in and around the capital. It is also shameful that even the two Federal Capital Territory Committees in the National Assembly cannot tour Abuja to ask the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the Executive Secretary of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), the Permanent Secretary of the FCTA why our nation’s capital is in darkness. We need to know why the authorities in Abuja cannot maintain street and sometimes traffic lights in the Federal Capital Territory. 
 
Doubtless, it has never been so bad. There are other infrastructure challenges in the city but when darkness descends on a city, there is a cause for alarm. 

It is important at this time to draw attention to what may be termed an inconvenient truth: Abuja, is one of the most important capitals in Africa and indeed the black race. It is our pearl we should not cast before a swine. What this ancient word implies is that Abuja isn’t a portfolio to be given to anyone who isn’t a competent technocrat. It is like Lagos where you don’t just give to any Dick and Harry. You can see that people who have run Lagos are the ones aspiring to run Nigeria. One of the former Governors of Lagos State, now a front-runner on the ruling party’s platform, is running for president. Two of them who were earlier speculated to be interested chickened out of the tight race.

It is like New York, their New York City. Anyone who can win the NYC Mayoral election can contest to be President of the United States. Michael Bloomberg, a successful businessman, a media entrepreneur and former Mayor of New York City has contested U.S presidential election more than once. Lest we forget, Rudolph William Louis Giuliani, (Rudy Giuliani) 107th Mayor of NYC has aspired to be U.S President more than once too. So, it should be with the Minister of FCT. The current Minister of FCT who has been there for seven years needs to answer some questions about his stewardship. But specifically, he needs to wake up to light up the city. It isn’t about the competence of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company. It isn’t about electricity supply to residents of the city centre and territory. It is about urban renewal and city management.

Illumination is part of security of even the rural areas.  The founding fathers of FCT have tried their best. Controversial as it was in the beginning, the FCT has been accepted nationwide as Nigeria’s capital. Since the constitution provides in Sections 299-304 that the President and the Vice President shall be regarded as the Governor and Deputy Governor of the Federal Capital Territory as a State, it behoves the President the same constitution empowers to appoint a Minister if he so wishes, to consider a person who is as technically competent as Malam Nasir el-Rufai who is still more remembered as FCT Minister than as Governor of Kaduna State. 

This discussion point on our nation’s capital is coming at a time of constitution review and election politics. President Buhari should note in his handover papers that the FCT Minister he appointed in 2015 has been a disservice to the nation. The Minister waited for more than two and half years before he could form his cabinet. The Minister was without a cabinet, (Mandate Secretaries), I complained about for two years. The President approved the cabinet only on November 22, 2021. And no one asked any questions about this kind of docility, nurtured by gross procrastination in public office. Two years wasted in a four year mandate for Mandate Secretaries who should act as Commissioners in Nigeria’s Capital. As I have written several times, the rains of mediocrity will continue to beat us in Abuja as long as the FCT administration remains undemocratic.

It will be recalled that a former Minister of FCT, Senator Bala Mohammed (now Governor of Bauchi State) was appointed FCT Minister by the then President Jonathan because he (Bala) pushed the registration paper of Senators who then supported a strange ‘Doctrine of Necessity,’ which paved the way for the then Vice President Jonathan to act as President while his principal, President Umaru Yar’Adua was on medical vacation in Saudi Arabia. When Jonathan assumed office as President, he rewarded Senator Bala Mohammed with the FCT portfolio – for the way he diligently manipulated the Senate Paper on ‘Doctrine of Necessity’ at the Senate. Here is the thing, the President in any dispensation can always appoint anyone he likes (even if incompetent) as FCT Minister. What is worse, the Federal Capital Territory has no legislature.

The Constitution empowers the National Assembly to assume that responsibility. That is why the Constitution should be amended to ensure that a Mayor of Abuja is elected during a general election.

Let’s return to the brass tacks, darkness should not be tolerated in any discussions. Darkness connotes danger, evil and whatever is negative. That is why evil people such as terrorists choose forest darkness to perpetrate evil. 

That is also why even Joseph Conrad’s novel, ‘Heart of Darkness’ is overtly metaphorical and political, demonstrating how colonialism destroys the hearts and souls of all human beings.

Here, “heart of darkness” is a short-hand for European stereotypes of Africa, which Conrad’s novel did its part to reinforce. There is a review of it, which plays on racist anxieties about immigration: the idea that certain places and peoples are primitive, exotic and dangerous. 

Darkness has, therefore, become a symbol of hatred, fear and symbol of the power of evil. A reviewer of Conrad’s classic begins his story believing that these elements exist within the jungle, then with the natives and finally makes the realisation that ‘darkness’ lives within the heart of each man. 

Mita Ramani, a young writer in Chicago, while dissecting the struggle between darkness and light notes that the universal struggle between darkness and light, good and evil, is one that has plagued mankind for ages. The human race seeks daylight and yet paradoxically cannot survive without the night. 

Traditionally, darkness is associated with emptiness, ignorance, and evil. Shadows hide in the darkness, but without a black night one would never be able to see the stars that light up the sky. Light is often a symbol of knowledge and truth, values that will never disappear from humanity. Humans are seekers of light, as they are drawn towards trying to learn what lies beyond our basic understanding of the world.

Literature and art typically portray darkness as an absence of morality and truth, and ‘The Name of the Rose’ by Umberto Eco follows the common interpretation perfectly. In the novel, ‘Jorge de Burgos,’ the elderly blind monk of the abbey, embodies the qualities of darkness ranging from wickedness to ignorance. His physical disability leaves him to live without light, which compels him to perform drastic measures in order to ensure the other monks live in intellectual darkness or ignorance. The fear of widespread knowledge drives Jorge to commit the grave sin of murder at night and hide in the shadows of darkness. His character and actions are a reflection that ignorance and evil fester in darkness. The obscurity or absence of knowledge is the epitome of darkness in the novel. Ultimately, Jorge’s crimes are only revealed with the light of understanding, knowledge, and religion, just as light is the only quality that can combat blindness and ignorance in the material world.

The darkness over the city of power and Nigeria’s capital should not be taken for granted. It is both physical and spiritual. There has been too much darkness over so many fundamental issues in our country. There is darkness over even the status of the Federal Capital Territory 45 years after. There is still darkness over the terminal date of the Buhari administration. It isn’t clear whether insecurity will end for elections to hold so that we have a president-elect next year. It wasn’t clear at press time whether the APC primary will be peacefully held, after all. There is also strange darkness over why a former President Goodluck Jonathan would like to return to Aso Presidential Villa on the platform of the party that disgraced him out of office in 2015. There is so much darkness in Abuja over why so many presidential candidates have curiously emerged from the South West where there has always been a major candidate is generally believed to have capacity and war chest to prosecute the #project-2023 (presidential election). It is indeed dark over why Governor Yahaya Bello’s presidential election campaign has suddenly become the most remarkable so far in a survey by our own Channels Television. In the same vein, there is still darkness over the reasons zoning arrangement and policy of the two political parties suddenly collapsed like a pack of cards before the primaries. 

In the main, the darkness in Nigeria’s capital may have symbolised darkness over the future of democracy in Nigeria, our Nigeria. It wasn’t clear yet at press time despite declarations of assurances whether some light will drive away darkness over the 2023 hand-over that a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Robert Clark has declared could be affected by consequences of insecurity that isn’t abating. Oh darkness, why is thy sting resident in Nigeria’s Capital?