Midnight in Nigeria


First, let me apologise to my readers for the irregularity of this column. Like almost everyone else living in a failed state, I’ve been overwhelmed by tragedies of different kinds. At a time I chose to share only ideas that would enable those who lead to lead better – issues that would halt Nigeria’s march to a failed state status — but I’ve been handicapped by scarcity of fresh material. Now I can confirm that Nigeria is in its darkest hours.

When, in the 1980s and ‘90s, I used to read columns that preceded Nigeria’s “independence” in the libraries of, notably, the Daily Times and the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs in Lagos, I always wondered why problems identified before I was born were the same problems I could see clearly in Nigeria. My 34years in journalism have been devoted to generating ideas for righting the wrongs of this same country. You can therefore imagine my frustration as I’m forced to keep moaning in articles read by my children and their age mates. “The more things change, the more they remain the same”?

You need not look far behind to see all the proofs that Nigeria has failed. In the last fortnight alone we’ve seen how warlords have taken over: undefeated Boko Haram in the north, Amotekun in the west, ESN in the east, and the re-emergence of militant activities in the Niger Delta. These militias have been emboldened because governance has collapsed: I can’t see a president in Aso Rock; only statements attributed to him. Governors like the Supreme Court-made governor of Imo said he had invited federal troops to flush out “criminals” in Orlu forests. A few days later, other criminals reportedly killed four policemen, razed three police stations and carted away arms and ammunition in Abia. A loony in Zamfara called governor Bello Mutawalle said bandits were not criminals. Another, Bauchi governor Bala Mohammed, said cattle herders were right to carry AK-47 rifles to defend their cattle from thieves. When you hear such statements, know that the end is near.

No leader with conscience can permit the strange happenings of the past five years. The least qualified and experienced have been appointed heads of most federal agencies. Cronyism or nepotism or tribalism used to be a crime under Nigerian law. Not anymore. Even underperforming service chiefs were retained at all costs and by all means. After playing deaf to years of calls for their replacement, the authorities yielded a few weeks ago. But not before the former security chiefs were all made ambassadors! Some people’s belief in a rumour — that the former service chiefs knew a state secret and therefore had to be placated and protected — has received a boost.  A rubber-stamp Senate has quickly approved the appointments, ignoring more protests from the public. Yet, the same Senate last week asked the president to declare a state of emergency on security “to stem the slide into anarchy, unbridled violence and bloodshed across the land”.

Gripped by fear and anxiety, I no longer listen to the news about the country. Newspaper headlines alone could give one a heart attack. It would be nice to protect your sanity by ignoring Nigeria events. But for how long? Life in a failed state is truly unbearable.

The economy is not what one could ignore, even in the midst of this war-like situation. N10trillion and still counting, the federal government’s debt is mortgaging the future of unborn Nigerians. But that doesn’t even worry the ordinary Nigerian most. Costs are increasing at the same pace as liabilities. No jobs, no power, no water or other social amenities. Businesses have failed. At the same time food prices have doubled. Fuel prices are no longer affordable. School fees have become unpayable. There is no money to carry out the funeral rites of the dead – and many are dying from malnutrition, hopelessness and diseases. Religious houses are fighting a lost battle to give people hope – there is no hope to be given anymore.

Some former leaders whose poor governance gave rise to the current situation have been speaking up. Their warnings have not been addressed to any person in particular. Or have they been talking to President Buhari? Wonders shall never end!

The thieving politicians in our midst are the only people who have amassed wealth for, they believe, their progeny. But how short-sighted they are! The #EndSARS protests of October 2020 ought to have offered them a glimpse of the future. Their children overseas might never come back or might get killed if they dared come back. Their assets in Nigeria may be seized or wasted. Their looted funds in the banks or in bunkers may not be safe. They may lose their own lives. History ought to have taught them that the future is unpredictable, that kingdoms rise and fall, and that the only permanent thing in life is change.

It’s midnight in Nigeria. “Come now, let’s reason together” while we’re still here. The “change” that APC promised – and what many of us expected – has yet to manifest. To begin the change, the presidency or whoever is in charge should ensure that no politician or public servant earns more than N500,000 per month. Security votes must be abolished; they’re no more than sources of theft of public funds.

Open grazing is a sign of abject poverty – let it stop. Forests are not meant to be inhabited by humans but by rodents, reptiles and birds. Allow people to farm on fertile soil and produce food. Nobody hates the Fulani; only politicians are using their divide-and-rule tactics.

Public servants should be made productive. Direct labour should be used to execute most projects. There are small private investors who can provide clean water and electricity in all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria; let them take over the water and electricity projects and create jobs along the line. Let small refineries be: destruction of “illegal” refineries in the Niger Delta should cease.

Any semblance of government that exists should concentrate efforts in seizing looted funds at home and retrieving those stashed abroad. Any property whose source can’t be shown by its owner should be seized. Jails should be thrown wide open for looters. Then, the government should begin to build a rail system across Nigeria, if possible with direct labour. None of these is rocket science. And they are the precursors to the ultimate security, which is stomach security. You can’t have security in a lawless state or where the majority are hungry, jobless and hopeless.

I agree with my friend who said that 2023 seems too far ahead. Unless we start walking back from the precipice now, the general election will be too hot to handle. Would these lying politicians be allowed to address crowds of hungry Nigerians? What if bombs exploded on campaign grounds as they did in Maiduguri this Tuesday? Any political candidate who campaigns on things like water, jobs or stable power in 2023 may be stoned. They’re promises politicians have made since 1960.

Let me stop here today. They could charge me with coup plotting! Anything is possible in Nigeria these days.

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