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All those who ruined my Christmas



In the spirit of this season of goodwill, I am willing to forgive all those who did their most damnable best to ruin my Christmas. And the list is long. It includes those who, individually or in concert with others, through acts of omissions or commissions, deliberately or inadvertently, did or fail to do that which would have put a shine on the Christmas celebrations.

First on the list is Donald Trump, the president of the United States of America.  I know you would be wondering what he’s got to do with me and the Christmas festivity. My sense of patriotic felt diminished when I read that, for no just cause, this one man against the world, decided to take Nigeria through the sewers. Frustrated by the failure of his new immigration laws, he told his officials in an Oval Office meeting that when Nigerians come and see the glittering life of the U.S., they refuse to go back home to their huts.
Certainly, we may be living an uncomfortable life with all the privations numerous to count, but we no longer live in huts. What we live in may not compare with the Trump Towers and our Aso Rock may not look like the White House, but it is not the place of Trump the Terrible to draw our attention to our station in life.

Blackmail is one of the ugly faces of international aid. Those who go out with begging bowls, my dear country inclusive, sometimes come back, not only frustrated but utterly humiliated.

President Trump is yet to decide what punishment to mete out to Nigeria for voting in support of the United Nations resolution against his country’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Nigeria is one of the countries getting aids from the United States of America. And the aids come with embarrassing strings.

President Trump is not encumbered by the niceties of diplomacy or political correctness. He can therefore, in a freewheeling manner, say anything and do anything, any time, to hurt any country especially those who line up for U.S. handouts and its green cards.

As if the insults from the foreign shores were not sufficient enough to spoil my appetite for the yuletide rice and chicken sans the usual turkey, the domestic conspirators were also at work.

Fuel marketers, the oligopolies who control the flow of fuel into the Nigerian market, switched off their pumping machines so that, in the words of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, they could create artificial scarcity and make profit.

Movement of travellers was inevitably crippled. Many of those who had planned to travel home to celebrate Christmas with loved ones were forced to stay indoors.

I did not go out. But I did not regret it because for some strange reasons Ikeja Disco refused to switch off the light. With this unusual benevolence, we could watch how the rest of the world celebrated the Christmas. The only regret was the absence of Santa Clause on my street. I have had this sneaky feeling that even these hallowed men of God can be hypocritical. This Christmas was the climax. It provided me the opportunity to confirm that those who cluster your houses with hampers and other gifts do so not because they love you to death. They are by no means altruistic. They do so for business purposes, to reap the rewards abundantly when the rains come.  Those who are in a position to advance their business get ample supply of the goodies of the season. If you are not, you are out in the lurch.  

Lesson: It is not because they love you that these fellows swarm around you even trying to choke you to death with their good heartedness. It is the position you hold that attracts them as the light would attract the moths in the wet season. Don’t allow any temporary advantage to enter your head. When you are in no position to pay back, they scamper to the man next door.

Now, seriously speaking, I don’t see any reason why any governor whose real mandate in office is the welfare of his people frustrate the same people especially in this holy season. I recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had said he would cause to be released to the governors the balance of the Paris Club refund with the express purpose of clearing the arrears of salaries and pension so that no civil servant and his family would spend a dry Christmas.

Accordingly, the last tranch was released. But many governors failed to do the bidding of the president, even if out of respect.  But as usual they have excuses. According to some media reports, many of the affected governors had promised to alleviate the suffering of their workers by paying some per cent of their salaries. Half a loaf of bread during this season, their excellencies must have reasoned, is better than none at all.

The Kogi State Commissioner of Finance, Idris Asiru, for example, confirmed that workers who are being owed between six and 20- month salary had been paid 60 per cent of one of their outstanding arrears to enable them to celebrate the Christmas with a full stomach.

Before I could say Mr. Commissioner you have done well, somebody drew my attention to the Kogi State conundrum that seems to have defied solution up to date. When the commissioner alluded to those being owed six and 20 months, you get the feeling that figures have developed a nasty habit of not adding up. Why would anybody be owed up to 20 months in salary arrears anyway? It looks like the more they pay, the more the salary piles up.
James Faleke, the House of Representatives member of Kogi State origin, who ran with Prince Abubakar Audu for governor before the demise of the APC candidate, has thrown in a poser: why should the state’s wage bill go up when the workforce had been reduced by about 5000 through the series of screening to fish out and expunge ghost workers?  In particular, he wants the state government to answer the following question: Why should the wage bill of the state shoot up after the discovery and delisting 5000 names from the payroll as ghost workers? Why should 21 council areas have nothing to show for the N44.7 billion they shared in two years? Why should a state with monthly wage bill of N3.5 billion be shopping for N30 billion to clear two-month salary arrears?

According to Faleke, the state wage bill was N2.6 billion before the commencement of the verification exercises and before the discovery of many ghosts parading as workers.  After throwing out about 5000 ghosts, the bill should come down, but by the strange ways of mathematics, the figure has gone up to N3.5 billion. There must be an explanation and the state government, I bet you, is capable of giving a reasonable explanation.

I am not sure that Faleke is accusing the governor and his team of being economical with the truth. If, indeed, he did, that would be sad because Faleke is an honourable man.  I don’t know about the governor’s team, but I want to believe that the governor, himself, universally acknowledged to be the godson of President Muhammadu Buhari, and who has personally and publicly admitted that he learns a lot from the president – lessons in prudent management, lessons in accountability, lessons in integrity and frugality – cannot allow himself to be accused of engaging below the counter practice. 

Like Caesar’s wife, Governor Yahaya Bello, an apostle of Buhari’s scrupulous adherence to the highest form of probity, must see himself to be above board, beyond suspicion and beyond reproach.  

Governor Bello, who has also been accused by INEC of the criminal practice of double registration, must do everything not to allow INEC to ruin what is left of my Christmas celebration by telling blatant lies against him, an anointed governor of the people.  One urgent way he can do that is to go to court, sue INEC and reclaim his fast diminishing reputation.

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