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In This Time Of Hunger And Problems…

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BettaGate: Can Tinubu Bell The Cat?

By Bola BOLAWOLE

[email protected] 0807 552 5533

Described as “prominent Opposition spokesman” (for the 2023 PDP/Atiku Abubakar presidential campaign), Daniel Bwala hugged the limelight early in the week when he was not only sighted at the seat of power, Aso or Presidential villa, but was also captured posing for a snapshot with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress. During the last presidential campaign, Bwala, like many other anti-Tinubu politicians, said unprintable things about the APC and Tinubu and swore by thunder that it was Atiku/PDP or nothing!

Now, has he eaten his vomit? Is he defecting? Is this an act of disloyalty and has he, in so doing, stabbed both Atiku and PDP in the back? Rather than his act – which is commonplace anyway and which is to be expected from our bread-and-butter politicians devoid of principles, character and ideology – it was the reason he gave that resonated with me: “In this time of hunger and problems…” he was quoted as saying! Is it not said that when hunger enters the belly, nothing else finds its way there? Has hunger entered Bwala’s belly?

Bwala was more forthright than Dr. Doyin Okupe who resigned from the Labour Party citing “ideological differences” Okupe, who was for a brief period the Director-General of the Peter Obi/Labour Party presidential campaign, did not, however, state the direction in which he was heading. Can he return to PDP? Or is he joining APC, the winning team? If talks of a grand alliance between PDP, Labour Party and NNPP materialize in future, what happens? It has been said that success (APC) has many fathers – and attracts many defectors! – but failure (PDP/Labour Party) is an orphan!

Okupe, however, made a profound disclosure, which should sadden every lover of democracy, when he referred to political parties as Special Purpose Vehicles (SPV) for the purpose of contesting elections. No considerations for party ideology or manifesto. Assuming the Labour Party had won the last presidential election, would Okupe have still resigned from the party because of ideological differences?

Judging by the use to which SPV and shell companies have been put to undermine this country, it is sad when our leaders treat an important pillar of the democratic system as political parties as mere SPV. A shell company is defined as “essentially a corporation without any active business operations or assets. These entities often mask the true ownership from law enforcement, other businesses, and the public, facilitating the concealment of illegal funds and evading anti-money laundering regulations and taxes” while SPV is defined as “a legal entity created to fulfill narrow, specific or temporary objectives. Special Purpose Entities are typically used by companies to isolate the firm from financial risk” The mentality of buccaneers that our politicians exhibit about politics and governance is the reason why nothing is working in this country.

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Back to Bwala. There is no denying the fact that a majority of Nigerians today live in a time of hunger and problems. All available economic indexes say so from the rooftop. Inflation rate roars at 28.2%. Food prices; transportation costs; cost of living generally, cost of drugs and medicaments, Naira depreciation, cost of utilities are beyond the reach of many while high unemployment rate rose to 4.2% in the second quarter of 2023. Keeping children in school is no longer possible for many parents.

Many Nigerians now resort to self-medication or traditional medicine. People eat what they find – when they find it at all – and not what they want or like to eat. No more balanced diet. Lagosians, who can be said to be representative of Nigerians generally, chanted that unfortunate reality to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on December 30 last year in Lagos with choruses of “We are hungry” Yes, people are hungry! And angry as well – justifiably so!

In different times and climes, people have reacted in different ways to “times of hunger and problems” The scriptures record in Genesis 12: 10 – 20 that when there was famine in the land, Abraham “japa” to Egypt in search of greener pasture but disaster nearly befell him there, if not for God who intervened and reclaimed his wife, Sarai (as she then was), for him.

Again, in the time of his son, Isaac, another famine visited the land and Isaac, forgetting the nasty experience of his father, also chose to “japa” to Egypt but God restrained him, leading him instead to Abimelech, king of the Philistines at Gerar. What befell his mother (Sarai) in Egypt almost befell his own wife, Rebecca, at Gerar but God also saved the day for him.

So, “japa” is not a new phenomenon and some problems can pass from generation to generation. In the time of Jacob, the son of Isaac, there also was famine in the land and Jacob had to send his children to Egypt in search of food. (Genesis 42, 43 and 44).

It is instructive for Christians to note what Isaac did at Gerar in the time of hunger and problems, such as we have today in Nigeria. The Bible records: “Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the Lord blessed him. And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great” (Genesis 26: 12 & 13). Isaac might have prayed; he might also have fasted a hundred days; he might have done a countless number of days of vigil – but in addition to all of that, he sowed in the land. He toiled.

Isaac did not wait only for miracles, signs and wonders. He did not wait for manna to fall from heaven. He did not wait for palliatives from the government. Isaac sowed in the land. We have thousands of miles of arable land lying fallow. Many are not ready to work but all the same want to live life to the hilt. They go from one prayer place to another shouting “I receive” to prophesies that are not backed up with work!

At another time there was famine in the land and a certain man of Bethlehem called Elimelech and his wife, Naomi, and their two sons “japa” to the country of Moab. There, however, disaster struck as the man and his two sons died. The only saving grace left to Naomi was Ruth, wife of one of the dead sons, who insisted on following her back to her country. So devastated was Naomi that, when her kinsmen came to welcome her back home, she told them: “Call me not Naomi (Pleasant) but call me Mara (Bitter)” because she said she went out full but came back empty. Through Ruth, however, God changed her story.

Be careful before you join the Joneses. Abroad is not for everyone a bed of roses. Defection or political prostitution, though may accord you temporary respite in the short run, may inflict permanent damage on your political career in the long run.

Back, again, to Bwala. He said he was invited by the President; it was not him that initiated the visit to the seat of power. He said he had been a Tinubu man in the past. He said he told his erstwhile (?) principal, Atiku Abubakar, that Tinubu had sent for him and he was going to answer the presidential summons. Like they do say that there must be an end to litigation, he said there must also be an end to politicking. Patriotism, he said, dictates that the man declared by INEC and the courts to have won an election should be allowed – in fact, assisted – to govern. If I am permitted to quote the late Ooni Olubuse, I will say Bwala made some sense to me, but…!

Those who are used to being in the corridors of power, enjoying government largesse, cannot do without it for long. Politicians generally gravitate towards the winning side. Four years is too long a time to stay in the political wilderness. What will they eat “in this time of hunger’? How will they grapple with the many problems popping up here and there, one of which is that their followers will scatter in no time if they no longer can afford the means to retain their loyalty. Before the next election, another politician in power would have wormed his way into the hearts of the electorate in Bwala’s locality and our man would no longer be politically relevant. No politician wants that. Years and decades of toil in politics must not be allowed to go down the drain just like that.

So, when they move the cheese, move with the cheese! That is the wisdom in “Who moved my cheese?” by Spencer Johnson. If Bwala and Okupe decide, “in this time of hunger and problems”, to move where the cheese is, don’t blame them! Corruption and politics are the two thriving “business” in this time of hunger and problems!

Politicians are masters of use-and-dump; they are fair-weather friends. For them, there are no permanent friends but permanent interests. And the interests that matter to them are their own selfish interests. Trample principles! Eat your vomit to feed your stomach! If you can’t beat them, join them!

* Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.

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