By Lateef Adewole
It seems we are at the season of lamentation. While many people have been loud in their complaints about the happenings in Nigeria in the last few years, many others were quiet for one reason or the other. There are people who didn’t talk for partisan reasons. They couldn’t imagine being found criticising or complaining about their own government. There are those who couldn’t talk for tribal excuse. They believe their “son” is in power, so, they should not complain to avoid making him look bad. There are those whose reason is religious. Buhari is “our” muslim brother. We should only be praying for him and not complain. This category often use the verses of the Qur’an or the words of the Ha’adith to “blackmail” others into silence. They cut across the country and even more prevalent from the South-West.
There are others who are too “loyal” to President Buhari (not really Nigeria) to contemplate speaking against him. They are often referred to as “Buharists”. These are people who would defend anything the president does no matter how inappropriate. They will always get a justification for such action. From among this group, there are those who, though, have realised their folly, they are too ashamed to make any u-turn and start lamenting. There are blind loyalists too. Many of these never see anything wrong with the country even now. If they are confronted with one problem or another that the government is responsible for, they do not care. They find ways to blame the past administration, even as that is no longer fashionable. They still hold on to it.
There are some whose involvement in government operations in the past compelled them to be discreet in all their utterances even after service. They are people in the armed forces like Police, Military, DSS, NIA and other security agencies. They are sometimes under oath of secrecy. Some others in highly sensitive or diplomatic positions too, belong to this group. So, there are array of people who might not be comfortable with what’s going on in Nigeria but have remained silent for these reasons. However, that seems to be changing now. Like the saying goes; “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.
It is shocking the kind of people who have been coming out in the open to speak up in recent times. The weight of their allegations or revelations, the platforms where such are made or revealed, the depth and coverage of the content of their engagements, and so on, are incredible. What some revealed are mind-boggling.
Last week, Governor Ortom of Benue state opened the week with firecracking vituperations against the federal government under the leadership of President Buhari. His own case is perpetual and understandable. His state has been under siege from the killer fulani herdsmen for many years but became more vicious in the last six years. He himself came under attack once or twice, and only escaped by the whiskers. He often spoke of how the Fulanis are planning to take over the country by overrunning the states and regions, with tacit backing of the establishment. He claimed to have documents from Fulani National Movement (FUNAM), backing his assertion.
Then came the all-revealing bomb-blasting interview of a former senior military personnel, a retired Navy Commodore, Professor Kunle Olawunmi, a professor of Global Security Studies. His interview and that of Governor Ortom the previous day, put Channel Televison and its anchors of the flagship programme, Sunrise Daily, in trouble with government. There was a letter in circulation, supposedly written by the NBC, querying the station management and asking them to give reasons why they should not be sanctioned. Contrary to initial rumours that the duo of Chamberlain Usor and Kayode Okikiolu, who anchored the programmes have been arrested and detained by the DSS, they were still seen on air doing their work. Although, they might have been invited by the DSS because, it was curious to suddenly see the two of them in their Abuja studio at the time the rumour was going on, as against being in Lagos as usual while Maupe anchors from Abuja.
That interview of Professor Kunle Olawunmi has been trending since last week. By all standards, he is eminently qualified to speak on national issues. His credentials are intimidating. His work, experiences and positions held while in service in Nigeria for 35 years, placed him in a vantage position to see, hear and know things, and even actively participated in many “clandestine” operations. These put him in very difficult position to speak in public.
I could imagine the battle he must have fought with his soul to remain silent for this long before he finally came out last week Wednesday on the television. It must have been overwhelming on him, watching how things are fast degenerating in the country, especially as they concerned the insecurities. As a former military person, he must have felt embarrassed with the attack on the NDA. That must have been the last straw that broke the camel’s back for him. He couldn’t hold back any longer. He poured it out, not all, but reasonably substantial. He did this at the risk of his own life. What a sacrifice! Afterall, by all means, he might ordinarily not be seriously affected by all these challenges facing the country. But his patriotism drove him to grant that interview. I don’t have to talk about its content here again. It’s a public knowledge and in public space. That was one interview we have not watched the like for a long time.
A video of the khutbah (sermon) delivered by the Chief Imam of Apo Legislative quarters, Abuja, Sheikh Nuru Khalid, surfaced online. It went viral. The imam didn’t hold back in lamenting the fate that has befallen Nigerians across the country, who are being killed like flies. He chastised the president and told him he has failed Nigerians. He reminded him of how he (Buhari) criticised the last administration concerning insecurity and how he promised to end it in the shortest time possible, one of the reasons he was voted in to defeat a sitting president. But, “kaka k’ewe agbon ro, lile lo n le si” ( rather than things to get better, they got worse).
Such sermon was unexpected. It was unthinkable before now. Even at that, like the imam said that he was speaking out like that knowing the possible personal consequences to him, but he had to, for posterity. He condemned many others for also failing to speak up for the people. The religious leaders, traditional leaders, the elites, and the people themselves, kept quiet in the face of ruinous activities of bandits and the ineptitude of government in dealing with them.
Some weeks ago, the voice note of the APC Caretaker Chairman of Yola South LGA and some other APC bigwigs in Adamawa was seen. The chairman, identified as Sulaiman Adamu, was heard speaking with vigour and complaining bitterly about the bad leadership of President Buhari and mismanagement of the country by him. He even wished the the president would leave and allow Professor Yemi Osinbajo, his vice, to take over. That was shocking. There was a news of his suspension by the APC national body few days ago. I am sure DSS would have invited him too.
One wonders these days, what exactly the work of DSS is. Is it to monitor anybody who criticises the president, invite, arrest and detain them? That seems to be the trend in the past months and years now. That was how we heard that Professor Olawunmi was also declared wanted. DSS denied it. DIA said they only invited him to help them with information that could assist in tackling the security challenges based on his knowledge and experience. What help? Wasn’t it the same government that the man said he had advised their top security chiefs on many occasions on the security challenges in the past? “Yeye dey smell”.
Emir of Muri, Taraba state, Alhaji Abbas Tafida, gave an ultimatum to Fulani herdsmen to vacate forests in his province due to the havocs they are causing. Otherwise, he promised them serious offensive against them if they continue in their nefarious activities of kidnappings, raping their girls and women, killing of his people. This charge was made publicly at the prayer ground on the last Eid day. That was exactly what the like of Sunday Igboho said about the killer fulani herdsmen in south-west forests. Although, nothing happened to the emir, unlike Sunday Igboho.
When prominent people who ordinarily wouldn’t have spoken out began to do so, it shows things have reach a head. Some of us foresaw these things and raised our voices early, but we were castigated. We were called names like “wailers, corrupt, opposition, bad election losers, etc”. How I fell into that category remained a mystery to me. I didn’t contest election or belong to any party. I was not in any past government. But, I understood the desperation to hold on to just about anything.
The Minister of Transport, Rt. Honorable Chibuike Amaechi, was reported to have said that “corruption is going on silently in this government”, unlike the brazen way it was done under the previous administration. I couldn’t agree more with him, though, it was strange and unexpected to hear such from a serving minister. He must have miscalculated the implications his words in his attempt to denigrate Jonathan administration, while unknowingly revealing what many have accused the present government of.
My description of the corruption system now against the past has been that, during Jonathan government, stealing was “democratised”, while in this government, it is “exclusive”. Just as Mr. Amaechi said, people stole during Jonathan with impunity. They even rub it on the faces of the poor, downtrodden, whose money was being plundered while they rot in penury. The subsidy scam was one example. Every Tom, Dick aand Harry became Petroleum importer. They were given import quota which they used to collect subsidies even without importing petrol. They were referred to as “portfolio businessmen”.
Since the coming of this administration, that stopped. Using the same subsidy example. The importation of petrol became an exclusive preserve of NNPC. Marketers and the “paper importers” were schemed out using access to forex. No non-government agent could import because of their inability to get forex at affordable rates. What then happened? NNPC became the sole importer, albeit opaquely. They determine the quantity they import, the landing cost, the daily consumption and the amount of subsidy they pay to themselves. They were the operators, regulators, and auditors at the same time. No worse avenue for corruption than that.
We then saw our daily petrol consumption skyrocketed from 35 million litres per day, which was challenged in 2014/15, to 65 million litres per day now, and even over 100 million a few times. This is criminal. The worst is that, those subsidies paid on the petrol were majorly not appropriated for by the National Assembly. They were extra-budgetary spending by the executive arm. It is an impeachable offence. But which national assembly would do that? This one? Impossible! They wouldn’t even dare ask too many questions, not to talk of challenging the president.
Now, subsidy seriously diminishes remittances from NNPC to FAAC on monthly basis and they had zero remittances in few months. Where is the money? Where is the petrol? Who consumed them? Even when smuggling is being used as excuse, does that mean smuggled products are more than total local consumption within the country? Where are they taking the products to? By who? Whose job is it to curb that? What about the borders that were closed? Of what use is it? Too many unanswered questions. All these are within the purview of NNPC and the Petroleum cabal. It’s exclusive, not all-comers affairs.
The truth about Nigeria is, many people are tired, overwhelmed, frustrated, even depressed. Many, to the extent to even voice out. They would rather keep quiet as it seems that all complaints are falling on deaf ears. Many were driven to start speaking out, against expectations from them based on their positions. They could no longer keep silent. I have only considered insecurities and one corruption case. What about poverty, hunger, unemployment, underemployment, healthcare, education, power, cost of goods and services, inflation, and myraid of other challenges facing Nigerians? They are overwhelming! Efforts made to improve infrastructures, especially transport, are acknowledged and commendable, but people must first be alive before they can use infrastructures.
All these concerns raised by the people are exepected to be looked into by a sensitive, sensible and listening government. And not to send their “attack dogs” against anyone who raises issues about bad governance and the Nigerian state. Agitations are results of challenges facing the people, the root cause of which should be looked into instead of clamping down on the agitators. That’s only temporary solution, it will never make them go away permanently, so long as the basis for them remained unresolved.
We can only hope that the government listens and acts appropriately. We are tired!
May God continue to protect us and guide us aright.
God Bless Nigeria.
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