In the last two weeks during my absence from this beat, a lot of things have happened to prove, if any proof was needed, that these indeed are bad times, instead of good times, for the country.
A time for celebration – anniversary of independence from colonial masters, a time to be in jubilant mood, for some, a time to stage owambe parties at street corners and jammed parks – has turned into acrimonious times when citizens wear mournful looks on account of myriads of things that have gone awfully wrong.
When President Muhammadu Buhari flagged off the celebration, he rightly remarked that it was going to be low key, devoid of the usual pomp and pageantry. One reason the president gave for the scaled down anniversary celebration is the COVID-19 pandemic which has hit the world with a harvest of deaths and unprecedented economic and social destabilisation.
COVID-19 forbids large crowds and it endorses social distancing with face mask covers among other protocols. A perfect excuse not to show off and waste scarce resources.
But we, in Nigeria, are particularly unlucky this year to have had the pandemic added to our home grown calamities of horrendous carnage and bloodletting from Boko Haram, assorted armed bandits without borders and their comrades in arm, the cattle herdsmen armed to the teeth with AK 47, who have dislocated many communities into Internally Displaced Persons camps, IDP. These devils have combined their iniquities with those of local wannabes, the kidnappers, armed robbers, rapists and cultists whose mission is to make life, which is bad at the best of times, a hell on earth for all of us.
Like the coronavirus, the state of insecurity engendered by these evil forces have had a deadly effect on a nation that already has the underlying ailments of disunity, bad leadership, clannishness and nepotism, not to add to it gross incompetence of leadership and the promotion of social injustice where merit is sacrificed on the altar of cronyism.
One of such unwholesome effects is the ceaseless battering of the country by its citizens. No love of country. And we are detested even by fellow African brothers because of our unruly conduct abroad. Yet there are millions of committed citizens who, despite their egregious deprivation caused by bad and visionless leadership and corruption, still want the country to survive.
When these hapless citizens see some glimpses of hope, their faces brighten up, hoping that such hopes don’t turn out, when all is said and done, to be forlorn, like the hope given by the legendary Tantalus.
President Buhari gave hope during the run up to the 2015 presidential election that he would be different, he would be a messenger of hope and change. Yes, hope is not lost. Apparently not yet. When the administration is through with lambasting the past leaders from 1999 to date for allegedly mismanaging resources and enthroning corruption, it is earnestly hoped, that President would settle down and begin to repair the damage he said has been done by Olusegun Obasanjo, he, the chicken farmer who abandoned his chicken to serve some term in one correctional centre before he was plucked from prison to the presidency.
Chief Obasanjo thus became the first military ruler who came from retirement and from dictatorship into democratic leadership of this prosperous nation. But as we have now been told, he made a mess of that prosperity. And then there was Umar Musa Yar’Adua, a decent man from Katsina. Having served his two-term uneventful governorship in Katsina State, he was anointed as successor to Obasanjo. He thus became the second civilian after Shehu Shagari to be democratically elected into office as president. But it came to pass that he, too, failed. Illness did not allow him to shine despite his good intentions. Eventually, he surrendered to death. Another thorough-bred civilian, a lucky Goodluck Jonathan came to the scene. He had a reputation for being one who never completed any assignment – he aborted his deputy governorship position in Bayelsa State, became an emergency governor; left that position to become Vice-President to Yar’Adua. Again, fate did not allow him to complete his apprenticeship. He was catapulted by doctrine of necessity into Yar’Adau’s shoes.
This once shoeless, also reputed to be clueless, lucky man from Otueke served only one term as President, built schools for the Almajiri children to take them off the street, thinking that was a priority in the North. It came to pass that he too failed. According to latter day chroniclers, he presided over the looting bazaar in the years of the locusts. And then finally the new Sheriff arrived in town, the one who, in his earlier life, instilled discipline into the citizens and weaned them off their notoriously corrupt ways by jailing some of their leaders for up to 100 years in Kirikiri Maximum Correctional Centre.
The man Buhari still holds out hope for the country. His promise to take 100 million Nigerians out of poverty into prosperity is on course. But some illiterate or, better still, uneducated economists and the army of Buhari critics are insisting that raising the pump price of petrol and hiking the electricity tariff by 50 per cent would put a wedge to the smooth march of the multitudes of the poor into prosperity.
But the Buharists are quick to ask: how wrong can they be? Have they forgotten that you can’t make omelette without breaking an egg? Similarly, we have been told, and we faithfully believe, that there is no paean without pain. If you must go into prosperity, therefore, it is worth the while to know what poverty is. Poverty, for the benefit of those not initiated into it, is the gut wrenching, stomach rumbling – sleepless night that turns the ceiling into a large television screen which your eyes gaze at without seeing any picture; it is the soaring food prices and your utter inability to get one tuber of yam home for missus who is waiting at the door. You get it?
You can go on and on. But hope lives; hope that getting 100 million Nigerians frog-jumped in the next 10 years from poverty to prosperity is not an empty boast.
But will they allow Buhari the peace of mind and the needed serenity to concentrate on this titanic task as it was done in China, India and even Indonesia? I am referring to those who have doubled down their agitation for a new Nigeria or an entirely new dispensation to be achieved through restructuring or outright secession. Will they allow the president to concentrate so we can get out of poverty?
If we reduce the decibel of the noise for the new political order, perhaps it will create a better atmosphere to jaw-jaw than to war-war. And we may realise at the end of the bellicose posturing that it is all in the interest of one strong and indivisible Nigeria.
From where do I derive this inspiration? The General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye said the country must be restructured, like being born again, to avoid a break-up. That sounded like an advice, a threat or an ominous warning.
But the good thing – and may God be praised – I also read later that God has also spoken to this man of God that He, God, has positioned him as a future president of Nigeria and not of Oduduwa Republic. Hope, therefore, abounds that Nigeria will not break up. And when Vice President Yemi Osinbajo postulated the other day that merit, not federal character or ethnicity, should determine government appointments, you’d wonder if he was preaching to the government as if he was an outsider. On second thought, it was like a true confession that they – he and his boss – were indeed doing the wrong thing all this while enthroning ethnicity and mediocrity at the expense of merit.
We now hope that this administration will turn a new leaf – walk the talk, right all perceived wrongs and put value on merit, social justice and honesty to give everybody a sense of belonging. That looks to me like a sure panacea for peace and unity and a sure banker for a better Nigeria.
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