Normalization of Nonsense in Nigeria

Pictures of dead bodies in Sokoto being loaded into trucks for mass burial hit a raw nerve within me. Sokoto, seems to me as one of the relatively peaceful States in northern Nigeria. But not anymore. Scores were killed, without any resistance from any kind of security structure, at the national or sub national level. And so, Nigeria seems to be turning into one huge mass grave.

Zamfara has consistently been a war zone for the better part of the last thirty six months. At a point, according to Senator Kabir Marafa, who represents the state at the Senate; Zamfara became an occupied territory, occupied by militias who were as bloodthirsty as they were unrelenting. It is to the eternal shame of its Governor, Abdulaziz Yari, that he is the chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, an ambiguous body that has neither focus, direction, nor relevance. When the killings in Zamfara got quite unbearably high, Yari finally summoned courage to speak out, asking bereaved residents to pray unto God. He didn’t tell residents to hold him accountable for his inaction, partly due to the fact that sparking a debate on the killings may rub off negatively on the President; a man whose second term ambition is the most important project presently which mustn’t be derailed.

Herdsmen, who have always been regarded as the fourth deadliest terror group in the world, are living up to their billing. Almost unhinged, they have carried out mass killings in many parts of Benue, Taraba, Plateau, Nasarawa and Kogi. Thousands have been killed in the so-called “Farmers-Herders clashes”, but which look anything but a “clash”, rather, resembling a premeditated orgy of fatal violence being meted out in pursuance of a land grab agenda and ethnic nationalism drive.

Killings of innocent persons on a large scale didn’t start today. It started with Boko Haram, a bloodthirsty group that sought implementation of strict Shari’a in parts of the North. At least, we knew that was a war. A war on terror that rightly attracted global attention. At some points, a state of emergency was even declared in the most affected States. Death tolls were depressing, but the were sadly expected. And we all looked forward to the end of the crisis. But while Boko Haram attacks have gladly receded, it seemed fatalities have just refused to go. People are still being killed continuously.

The tragic thing about the bloodshed we are grappling with now is that, while it is going on unabated, there is denial at the highest levels of authority on whether it is happening at all in the first place. Just the way Goodluck Jonathan pussyfooted in the moments immediately after the mysterious kidnap of Chibok girls, leading to a heavy cloud of denials and uncertainty hanging over the entire scenario, the Buhari administration has refused to admit that the killings going on in the country is abnormal, and that it requires a tough approach.

The reluctance of the Buhari government in dealing decisively with herdsmen attacks has given oxygen to conspiracy theories that, not only does the President approve of the killings, he is actually vigorously pursuing a Fulani nationalist agenda through herdsmen. The president has done very little to quench the fire of such propaganda. Rather, by his utterances, reactions and body language, President Buhari has given the killers every reason to believe they can go ahead without inhibition, as security forces are rarely deployed against them. As a matter of fact, the president’s security structure often take up the unpaid role of spokespersons for herdsmen.

Perhaps, the greatest tragedy of the Buhari administration is the unfortunate normalization of the gruesome killings going on in parts of the country. During the thick of the Boko Haram crisis, every report of bomblasts or death tolls sent chills down our spine. Protests, both offline, and online, were spontaneous reactions to the killings. We all thought it was abnormal that our country could become a hotbed of terror, a bad advertisement for all citizens. We tried to force the government to do the right thing: end the killings, or step aside. It was an apparent decider in the election of 2015. However, things have changed.

The online protests have ceased. The streets are carrying on as normal. We know people can become protest-weary, but our problem isn’t that we are protest-weary. We are simply told to see the killings as normal. The newspaper headlines are silent on deaths of innocent citizens. There is a quiet normalization of the murders. When we scream about it, we are told to stop heating the polity. When we keep screaming anyway, we are called politicians. What’s worse? The presidency even goes as far as claiming we shouldn’t shed hypocritical tears about the killings by herdsmen as more people died under several tragic circumstances under the previous administration.

So, we are required to sit down, and accept the deaths in good fate. We all would die one day anyway. So, we shouldn’t see the deaths of people in the middle belt, whose time has simply come, as anything unusual. And, as the defence minister also said, if we keep blocking the routes of grazing cattle, do we in our right senses assume we wouldn’t be killed? And, as Femi Adesina brilliantly opined, if we get tired of open grazing, shouldn’t we consider that donating our ancestral lands to herdsmen for ranching is better than allowing them kill us?

So, we know what to do to avoid the swords of the herdsmen. And if we refuse to do it, and they strike, we are to blame. Getting outraged over deaths we caused in the first place then, is sheer hypocrisy.

This is Nigeria. Sadly.

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No, Mr President; IGP Idris Would Never Disregard Your Orders Without Your Consent!

So, in the latest episode of Buhari’s blame-show, which is entirely what the President has inundated us with since May 29, 2015, IGP Ibrahim Idris is the protagonist – no, that has always been Buhari -; the antagonist: that person who has always been the clog in the wheel of Buhari’s master plan for developing Nigeria, and delivering simple (and not so simple) campaign promises. IGP Idris should however not be worried, as he is in a very illustrious company: persons, things, situations and deities, that have been blamed by Buhari. In that list, you have Goodluck Jonathan (of course!); 16 years of PDP; corruption, also known as kwarapshin; God, yes God!; Baba’s age; a certain deputy director; Nigerian’s impatience; and so on, and so forth. As you can see, the list is almost inexhaustible.

The problem with the latest scapegoat in Buhari’s blamegame is that the culprit is an unusual one. The chief law enforcement officer! President Buhari had expressed surprise that the inspector general of police, who he sent to maintain law and order in Benue following the gruesome murder of 73 persons by Fulani Herdsmen, had only merely reported to Benue before zooming off to greener pastures in Nasarawa. He only spent a day there. The president claims he was only getting to know that the IGP had entirely flouted his directive.

Now, wait a minute. The IGP, flouting the President’s order! Not in America, or Britain, where every office has its own level of independence attached to it, but Nigeria, where every office holder knows his continued stay in that office depends on how the president feels about him? No. Rather, they will lick the boots of the president, and dance naked if need be, to prove their loyalty to him. They will do everything within their powers, including buying SUVs for the first lady, to remain on seat, and if the president asks that they go a mile, they will go four!

Nigeria is a country where patronage is key to survival. Eye service is the order of the day. Everyone wants the oga at the top to know they are “always loyal”. If you’ve forgotten, I’ll remind you of Suleiman Abba.

He was the IGP that superintended over the 2015 election. He had, by that time, only spent eights months in office. Immediately the election results were declared, and incumbent Goodluck Jonathan lost, IGP Abba switched loyalty almost immediately. He knew Jonathan had become lame duck, and Buhari would likely change all heads of security agencies immediately he assumes power. So, to preserve his reign, he started the bootlicking almost immediately. Sending a high powered unit to protect the president elect, he also made sure he was practically present at all public events involving Buhari, including when INEC presented Buhari his certificate of return. He did his best to worm his way into the heart of the then president elect.

Initially, President Jonathan felt the IGP was merely doing his job, professionally. But when the sycophancy reached apparent levels, he had himself asking: “wait a minute, who’s the president here”? And that very afternoon, Reuben Abati put out a statement, on Twitter, that IGP Abba had been fired, with Solomon Arase, then DIG Operations, replacing him. It caught everyone, including him by surprise.

Of course, no reasons were given for the sudden dismissal. So shocked was Abba, that be started reaching out to everyone that mattered to help him beg the president. There was so much confusion, that, on the handover day, the following day, he was in hiding. He had to be persuaded, hours later to formally hand over, in mufti! That’s Nigeria for you. If you dare the powers that put you on the seat, they will remove you without blinking.

That’s why I find it difficult to imagine a sitting IGP, disregarding the orders of a sitting president! A Nigerian president, one of the most powerful in the world, for that matter.

Crisis breaks out in Benue, Fulani Herdsmen murder 73 indigenes. The people cry out for help. The president asks the top police officer to relocate there. The IGP goes there, spends few hours, and walks away. 72 days later, the president is confronted with this scenario, and he claims he never knew the IGP never obeyed his orders! Believe that at your peril.

First, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders MACBAN, never denied carrying out the attacks. They blamed it on the grazing law enacted by the state. However, the immediate reaction from the police was that the attack was not by MACBAN, but was in fact a mere “communal clash”. That was ever before the president sent the IGP there. Then the minister of Agriculture, a Benue indigene, claimed government had neglected Fulani Herdsmen for too long, proposing cattle colonies for them all over the federation. Then the minister of defence actually wondered why we were surprised the Fulani Herdsmen were killing people, since those people “blocked their cattle routes” in the first place! And on, and on, and on.

The response of the Federal government to the Benue crisis in particular, was that of “that serves you right”. Whenever the government was forced to comment at all, they NEVER blamed the herdsmen. Infact, they often saw the herdsmen rather as the victims. Whether this was because President Buhari is a patron of the Miyetti Allah Breeders, one cannot tell. But, on several occasions, the Benue state governor had called for their arrest, with no one heeding the request. Not only were the herdsmen operating with impunity, their body language, threats and statements showed they were actually above the law. The IGP got the memo. These guys are untouchables.

So when the president gave a half-hearted order for the IGP to relocate to Benue, the IGP knew it was just for the cameras, and for the wailers to stop wailing. So disastrous was his town meeting with Benue citizens that he left with his tail between his legs. He knew he lied when he called the killings a communal clash. He knew herdsmen were killing, and vowed to continue to kill as long as Benue denies their cattle the right to open grazing, destroying farmlands in the process. He knew also, that the herdsmen hoped to kill them into submission, and that Buhari’s government is not bothered about that. So he knew the President’s order to him was not to end the killings, or arrest the killers (not one herder has been nabbed), but to dance to the gallery. His mistake was that he made it quite obvious.

The IGP that will disregard the President of Nigeria has not been born. IGP Idris was actually obeying Buhari by shunning Benue. Moreover, we know those Buhari would have sent to Benue if he truly wanted to end the bloodshed. We know how crocodiles smiled and pythons danced when Nnamdi Kanu got under Buhari’s skin. We know how hate speech is being termed a redline, and how the death penalty is being readied for such crime. The IGP knows the president won’t harm herdsmen. And so the errand to end herdsmen killings is only for pages of the newspaper.

To summarize the utter incompetence of their strategy, the president alleges to not know the operations of his police chief. And he said that before the cameras! And you believed that?

With “First Fruit”, The Church Plumbs New Depths

Early in February, I attended a Church service somewhere in Ibadan. It was one of the major services it holds monthly. As I moved around looking for a seat (I arrived a bit late), I noticed the presence of soldiers in the vicinity. Being a large church, it wasn’t completely unusual to have some sort of security around during special services which obviously attracts huge crowds. And its not totally out of place to see some policemen, or paramilitary agencies like the NSCDC sometimes. But gun-wielding military men? In Church? What could warrant that? Had the church been threatened? Were they anticipating an attack? By the way, the Church is supposed to be one of the safest places around, so what are soldiers looking for? I sat down with these thoughts running through my mind. It was after the service that I discovered answers to my ponderings. That day was the “First Fruit Service”.

According to reports, the church once concluded the first fruit service on a fateful day, harvesting trailer loads of money. Of course, robbers waylaid the harvest on its way to the bank. And so, the congregation’s fruits moved from the pulpit to robbers’ den. Apparently, it was in a bid to prevent such an unfortunate recurrence, that warranted the stuffing of the service with security men. And since most robbers are actually more well armed than police men, the inclusion of some soldiers into the security architecture made perfect sense. I went home a sad man.

The Church of Christ has become, just like Jesus Christ correctly predicted, a den of thieves. It has opened its doors to controversial ideologies manufactured from the corrupt minds of men. By embracing these practices, the church not only drifts away from its primary duty of preaching the gospel of salvation, it further confuses itself by being occupied with what is not its business at all. And at a time when the debate on whether or not Christians should still pay tithe is yet to actually reach any logical conclusion, the spreading of the First Fruit message casts a further suspicious light on the leaders of the Church.

When the loquacious governor of Kogi, Yahaya Bello, a nincompoop who has taken the self-appointed role of President Buhari’s defender of the realm, decided to unadvisedly attack some Catholic bishops who critisised the President’s lacklustre governance style to his face, he revealed what many people opine about the church. Said the governor: ” The priests are angry because corrupt people no longer have the opportunity to steal and pay tithes to them”. It didn’t take long for him to apologize though when the reality of his folly hit him. However, he didn’t stray too much from the truth in claiming that many churches cannot do without the money that role in, from whoever, and however.

Today, a majority of the public see the church as an enabler of corruption because a lot of stolen cash finds its way there, and never come out.

A certain radio presenter, Daddy Freeze, obviously took too much upon himself to prove that the concept of tithe is outdated and should be done away with altogether. However, strange as it may seem, no pastor has been able to absolutely prove the young man wrong. While Freeze’s strategy borders on outright contempt for big pastors, many of them have not been able to actually counter his message, which simply is that tithing is an old testament idea which has been done away with at the cross, the separation between the old testament and the new. He alleges that the new testament, under which the church was established and instituted, mentions absolutely nothing of tithes. He then wonders why the church should still insist on collecting ten percent of income of members, when they are under no obligation to give such. There’s also the argument that the tithes had to do with farm produce, and never cash as is obtainable now. The Church has not been able to explain itself out of that. However, Freeze is not entirely right.

While it is true that the new testament says nothing of tithes, which in itself was a law, (the entirety of which Jesus’ death has nullified); believers are still expected to give, and actually even give more. The only difference is that while the old testament made it a matter of compulsion and was strictly enforced by pronouncing punishment and curses on defaulters, the new testament makes all of our giving a matter of free will, encouraging us to, as it is within our ability. We are also not just to give to our churches, but to also, as is within our ability, give to anyone that is in need. Often, collections are made for the less privileged during church meetings, and they are never compulsory. Till today, offerings are not compulsory in churches. I guess that’s where tithes come in.

It is not clear when the idea of paying ten percent of one’s income was smuggled back into the new testament church, but it certainly wasn’t there at the institution of the church after the death of Christ. The absolute truth is that giving attracts blessings, as Jesus himself stated. So, whether its tithes, or more, or less, whenever we give, we will receive in return. But nowhere is ten percent, or any amount for that matter, mentioned as what must be given.

The Church absolutely knows that this is true. But the leaders fear that if members are taught to to be independent in how they give, they would certainly give less, and the church’s purse will shrink. That is not true. God himself says He loves a cheerful giver, and that no one is expected to give in compulsion, or grudgingly. That means any offering presented grudgingly is not acceptable. However, the Church seems not to care. By setting a law of ten percent of offerings, the Church has slid back into legalism and religion by works, and not by Faith; the very essence of salvation. If any church discards the idea of tithes, and allows members to give as they are led, moved, or can afford, the church purse would rather bloom and not wither. It’s a principle. And it works. Because God, who owns the church, knows exactly how to meet the needs of the church however way he likes.

So, it is shocking to note that, beyond ten percent of the monthly salaries and profits, many churches are now embracing the “first fruit” phenomenon. By first fruit, they mean the first salary of the year, in its entirety. Or the entire profit made from business in the first month. They call it first fruit, and claim God asks that it be paid annually. As usual, members are threatened with year-round poverty and affliction if they refuse. And mouthwatering testimonies of people that obey are amplified. The problem is that, at no point did God ask for anyone’s January salaries, or profits. The idea of the first fruit, apart from the fact that it is completely an outdated old testament policy, actually refers to fruits on trees that are blooming for the FIRST time! The very first sets of fruits on any tree remain sanctified, and belong to the Levites. Subsequently, all the fruits belong to the farmer forever. So, even if we’re to follow that analogy strictly, then, a person should only assume the very first salary, or income, or profit, as first fruit. Every subsequent one is for the worker. No where, not even in the old testament, is first fruit paid yearly from the same tree!

To make matters worse, January is often a hard and long month for Nigerians. House rents, school fees and Christmas hangovers makes it tough already. To ask people to part with their January earnings in obedience to a law that was revoked two thousand years ago, is tougher.

Its sad that the first-fruit gospel is spreading. You can imagine what it amounts to in cash. When members bring their entire salaries. Its tempting for many churches. It meets lots of their church needs. But it also puts many members into penury. Not that people haven’t offered entire earnings before. The Bible has records of people who sold entire lands and properties to give to the church. But they were led to. Not coerced. They did willingly.

So, robbers are now attracted to Churches. Not because they seek the gospel, but because they would also love some helpings of the “fried plantain”. If ministers who know these criminal acts should be stopped keep quiet, the judgement will consume them too. Because, no matter the amount of crowds at the services Jesus held, he never collected money from them. Not even when he was hungry. Rather, he fed them. How the church can so brazenly collect full salaries and profits of members, without asking how they will subsequently get by, is truly baffling!

Someone said her church allows them to “remove feeding and transport allowances” from their first fruit. I replied. First, that means its no longer first fruit, because nothing should be taken from it. Secondly, for the average Nigerian worker, once you remove transport and feeding allowance from the bulk, almost nothing is left. That’s if it’s not in deficit already by then. Then I asked. “Your church doesn’t prioritize school fees?”

There’s Nothing Peaceful About The Peace Corps Bill

Yes. Rather, it would have created lots of disaffection. Especially with the police which is fighting tooth and nail to prevent its emergence.

President Muhammadu Buhari refused to give assent to the Peace Corps Establishment bill which was passed by both chambers of the National assembly. Citing financial implications, the president thought it wise to not further add to an already weighty monthly wage bill. Almost immediately, the lawmakers have threatened to override whatever authority the president has to reject the bill. But their activism is not without curiosity.

With more than forty thousand youths already signed up with the peace corps, many of them already fleeced of amounts in the north of eighty thousand naira, the peace corps has played its game quite well. It has spent millions lobbying legislators as well as giving them slots in the scheme for their constituents. Obviously, there would be no reasons to reject the bill by our lawmakers. So it had smooth sailing.

Many of the jobless youths, whose dream of bagging Federal Government jobs looked so tantalizing, didn’t mind parting away with more thousands of naira. They were told all they needed more was a presidential assent, which automatically would turn them into salary earners. It was a classic case of extortion a case which the police has already looked into, murkily, nevertheless.

I spoke with many of the participants. Their response remained that they aren’t complaining about extortion. Who would? We live in a country where people pay as much as half a million naira to secure government jobs! And that’s where the real problem is.

It is not the business of government to provide jobs. Government CREATES jobs. Nigeria can never know anything close to development as long as government is the largest employer of labour, or its most pressing burden is payment of salaries. In any developed country, government creates jobs by making the environment conducive, providing power and infrastructure, and easing the tax burden on businesses. Apart from the fact that the civil service is actually a SERVICE, it shouldn’t be over bloated. But our country is ruled by greedy people who spend three times what it uses for capital projects on salaries and allowances.

Government service is an avenue for cheap, easy money. There is little accountability. And deep seated corruption. People who attain positions of influence in the civil service immediately become interested in acquiring vehicles, furnishing their offices and apartments, and stealing money. That’s what the civil service is all about in Nigeria. In fact, it is the oil lubricating the engine of corruption in Nigeria. If the civil service is sanitized, corruption would die naturally. However, the current state of things is actually very palatable for those interested in shortsighted pleasure at the expense of their children’s future.

That’s why adding tens of thousands of more workers to an already over bloated federal work force is not only a no brainer, but also hugely counterproductive. It is ridiculous that critical sectors of the government services are ironically understaffed. The health workers, the teachers and lecturers, and police. Yes, police.

The police may have been overzealous in their determination to stop the actualization of the Peace Corps bill, but they are absolutely right in their suspicions. The Peace Corps will only weaken the police, not complement it, like they claim. I have read the objectives of the corps, and I must say, I am absolutely disappointed in their sheer lack of direction. Topping the list is “providing jobs for teeming youths”. That’s ridiculous. Because if that’s the case, then they won’t need the Federal Government to staff (and pay) their members for them. Then they talk about providing security in schools and creating safe neighborhoods, and engendering communal peace. Oh, stop! You could as well have asked to displace the police entirely!

The Federal Road Safety Corp, FRSC, and The Nigeria Security And Civil Defence Corp, NSCDC; both are duplications of the Police. The police meanwhile has been left weakened and even marginalized by the creation of these corps. While some of their workers are actually doing a fine job, majority of them do next to nothing in fulfilling their core mandates. A visit to any NSCDC office, for example, will leave you shocked at the idleness that pervades the vicinity. Very little is done, and that, by very few. Some of these agencies only exist to “provide jobs”, which, sadly, has become government’s priority.

Duplicating the functions of the police at such a critical time will only create disaffections in the polity. We may not agree with President Buhari on many things. However, his decision to reject the Peace Corp bill is spot on. The peace corp would have brought no peace. And its time to put paid to the nonsense of turning personal ideas and projects to government responsibilities.

Northern Nigeria And Underaged Voters Are Siamese Twins. Separating Them Would Be Deadly.

I had one brutal experience as an adhoc staff of INEC. I was a corper serving in Gombe state. The year was 2010. A serving senator from the state had died in April, and INEC needed to conduct a bye election to fill his seat. All corpers were drafted in. I was posted into one of the most exterior- or interior- locations for the election. So far was the village that the motorcycle that transported me there literally crossed three rivers before getting there. After about an hour of a bitter and rough ride, we burst into a small community, without electricity or telecommunications signal.

I was offered a policeman who was as disinterested in the exercise as a monkey in a swimming competition. The officer, with his baton, just sat still at a corner as he wandered far away with his eyes. I motioned for the start of the poll. Armed with my voter’s register and ballot papers, I set up the ballot boxes and polling booth. People had barely started queuing before me when I noticed something obviously wrong.

First, almost all the entire village lined up in front of me. Young and old. Male and female. I assumed it was a case of just being fascinated and wanting to catch a glimpse of what was going on. But I observed they all had the voters card (the Permanent voter card PVC hadn’t been produced at that time). Especially the kids. As they approached me, I motioned on them to get away, as they were obviously too young to vote. Some of them were befuddled, and promptly reported me to the elders. I was asked why I denied their people the right to vote. I was initially surprised at the question, but calmly retorted that the voters were clearly underaged. The man protested bitterly, claiming the children were duly registered. I quickly glanced through the voter’s register, and to my chagrin, found pictures of many, many children therein. In fact, I found pictures of babies on the register; names and addresses duly captured! God is my witness.

I motioned to the policeman on duty to help me tell them I wouldn’t allow the children vote, as the training we underwent with INEC explained it was criminal. The officer played deaf.

I decided to be smart. I collected their cards, glanced through the register, and told them their names were missing. Some of them, on hearing that, ran back home and returned with other cards. A man came with six different cards!

At the end of the sham of the election, only about one-fifth of the ballot papers had been expended. I was bold in preventing many of them from voting. Then the shocker!

The “party agents”, or so they called themselves, approached me and asked that in their meeting, they agreed that all the remaining ballot papers be thumbprinted for PDP (the ruling party at that time). I shuddered! What? I flatly refused. I told them I was already writing my report, which was bad already, and now this? The back and forth lasted all of thirty minutes. Then they threatened me. They reminded me that they were responsible for my transport to and fro, and that I shouldn’t test their resolve. They had earlier presented me barbequed whole Chicken, a bottle of malt and five thousand naira, which I refused. After holding on for so long, with the police officer assigned for my protection quietly drowning his own bottle, I advised myself appropriately. I knew there was NO way I would leave that community in one piece except they had their way. INEC had earlier told us to preserve the integrity of the poll, but NOT at the expense of our lives. They advised us to allow them do whatever they wanted once we were threatened, and only write a detailed report of whatever the atrocities were.

To cut the long story short. They thumbrinted all the remaining ballot papers. They took me to the collation centre safely where I was glad to see my colleagues again, from whose mouths, I heard worse stories of the charade called election that took place. Oh, the chicken, malt and 5K? Well, the labourer is worthy of his wages. I took the money after they practically put it in my khaki. The chicken, I gave out to my hungry colleagues later that day. I couldn’t be sure of how it was prepared. I opened the bottle of malt myself. And drank to Nigeria’s electoral misfortune…

The recent pictures of underaged voters in Kano have elicited outrage down south. INEC has been forced to deny ownership of the poll. KASIEC also denies responsibility. But INEC has admitted being forced to register underaged voters in the North. Prof Lai Olurode, former INEC Commisioner claimed that so many of the INEC staff were threatened with death if they refused to register children in the North. Professor Attahiru Jega’s insistence on the PVC in 2011 was meant to rid the register of the sort of abnormalities I saw in the Gombe register. However recent revelations suggest many underaged voters still managed to get registered with valid PVCs.

INEC can’t claim not to be culpable. Even if they’re forced to register children, where they also forced to produce the cards eventually? Why didn’t INEC simply register them, to save their lives, and mark those names, while simply deleting their data at point of production? INEC is, has been, and will always be aware of underaged voting in the North. It’s been almost impossible for INEC to stop it simply because in the North, voting at any age is seen as a right. The North has never subscribed to the adulthood-starts-at-eighteen gibberish. That may work in the South though.

In the North, from my experience, everyone is involved in politics. Politics is the major industry in the North. That’s why war-torn Borno has a higher PVC collection rate than Lagos. Everyone has entitlement to a PVC in the North. Perhaps, due to high level illiteracy, many of them are not aware that you need to attain a certain age to vote. But what is true is that, most northerners have been told that voting is a God-given right everyone is entitled to, regardless of age- and they believe it. That message, will of course, be beneficial to the politicians who believe their huge numbers can be put to good use.

Even INEC knows that stopping underaged voting in the North at this time would be very difficult. They know Northerners know nothing of the electoral act. Mass illiteracy and poverty in the north means the populace would only do whatever their leaders tell them to. After all, there was a time northern women could not vote. Until they needed their numbers. The message for now is that EVERYONE should vote, regardless of age. And they believe it. Separating them and that belief would be tantamount to separating adult Siamese twins. Deathly stuff. Reminds one of post election violence of 2011…

The Country That Never Was

Nigerians have been inundated with tales of how “God destined Nigeria’s composition”. How it was our destiny to be a country, despite its glaring unworkability, and how we must choose to live as one, whether its convenient, or not.

The truth is that, despite the fact that our founding fathers had a dream, to lead a nation that will prosper, though tribes and tongues differ. Our founding fathers were aware of the fact that unity is possible in diversity, and that we can make our differences an asset. They were aware of our disagreements, but there was a general desire to make things work, regardless. They were not deluded about the enormity of the tasks ahead, rather, they were willing to ensure that the pitfalls were avoided, and that they never lose sight of the ultimate goal: building a nation that worked for all, whether from the east, west, north or south.

Our founding fathers knew the journey towards the country they dreamed of would be long. But it would be worth it. For their children, and generations unborn. That country, sadly, has not materialized. And, it may never materialize.

Many of those that had dreams of an ideal Nigeria, who breathed and lived for the actualization of a great country, have died with their dream. Some were ironically murdered by the very country they fought their whole lives for- a sad irony. All of Nigeria’s founding fathers have either died in regret of a country that never materialized, or have forgotten about the dream altogether. The project has simply refused to work.

What is the problem with Nigeria? Blessed with abundant human and natural resources, with a rich blend of so many diverse cultures, Nigeria, of all nations is most suited to bloom. Weather? Almost perfect. Rainfall? Moderate. Soil? The best you can find. People? Hardworking. Creative. Accommodating. Add that to the rich resources deposited underneath our grounds, it almost seems God deliberately wanted us to be the envy of all other nations. Nigeria was designed, by all indicators, to be a resounding success. Somehow, rather, we have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Our country, by all indices, today, is a worse place to live in that almost any other nation on earth. Infact, depending on the indices measured, most of the states below us are those practically in full blown wars: Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen and Syria. It is with these failed states that Nigeria shares the same statistics on issues like power supply, quality of roads, healthcare and access to quality, uninterrupted education. And Nigeria is not at war. At least, not officially.

Nigeria has failed at almost everything. Its huge population should have been an asset (one in ever four African is a Nigerian), but its not. It’s rather reasons for government to claim goodies can’t go round. The abundantly massive hydrocarbons inside beneath our lands has rightly been termed a curse. We import all of our fuel, and our crude in itself has led to uncountable deaths, both by the effect of the degradation of the environment, and the violence attached to oil politics. Nigeria still cannot provide enough electricity to drive any industrial motion, no matter how slow. Nay, even domestic needs like watching of television and refrigeration of water and food can’t even met by government power. At an abysmal four thousand megawatts being generated, and much less being eventually transmitted and distributed, Nigerians have to provide almost all of their power needs by themselves.

Perhaps the greatest problem with Nigeria has been its ridiculous imbalance. Nigeria is such an imperfect union. There is no equity, nor fairness in dealing with all tribes. Some regions simply assume superiority, and demand obeisance from the others. What is worse? The regions that put most food on the table are the most impoverished. The most educated is the most shortchanged. The most ingenious is the most marginalized. And the most vulnerable, is the most oppressed. The “Federal Character”, a devilish sharing formula, devised to ensure equity and balance, only comes into question when the ruling regions likes. At every other time, all Nigerians are equal, but some Nigerians are more equal than others.

So, millions of skilled Nigerians are leaving the country in droves. Because the country is now designed to only work for few. The few who belong to the tribes that matter, or know those that matter. Nigeria has been turned into a country that will not work for you simply because you are a Nigerian, but because you know the right people.

In that case, let every one return to their tents. Let us stop pretending we are a country if the system is made only to favour a few. It is this truth we have refused to tell ourselves. Because we know this truth will set us free. Free from the lazy access to the Commonwealth a very few enjoy. And, that, they don’t want…

So, we’re still stuck. Stuck in a country, that isn’t going anywhere. This is not what our founding fathers died for.

Why Are Our “Statesmen” Scared Of Buhari?

“The demystification continues”, goes the saying on social media. Men, who once would never allow the opportunity to speak truth to power slip by, have been often very quiet of late. Some have almost been goaded to issuing tepid statements, neither hitting the nail here or there, just to satisfy their accusers. Others have simply ignored the insults, and carried on in their retirement from public discourse altogether.

It is in moments like this that we ponder on what could have been, had Gani Fawehinmi not been snatched from us nine years ago. He was 71. Gani was seen as the conscience of the nation. Maybe age would have limited his public outbursts, but many believe Gani wouldn’t have been silent, were he to be alive today.

Nigerians are used to allowing ‘martyrs’ bear their burdens. Years of military rule has ingrained a culture of suffering-and-smiling into us. So, men in uniform see themselves as infinitely over and above any bloody civilian, despite the fact that we pay their salaries, and they are actually supposed to protect and defend us. But they rather see us as nuisances that are only tolerated, and should we dare cross their paths, they won’t hesitate to beat the hell out of us.

Along Iwo road in Ibadan, two weeks ago, a taxi driver decided to quickly pick up two passengers, stopping quite abruptly. He inadvertently caused a mini obstruction. Just two vehicles behind his unfortunate Micra was an “Operation Burst” (Oyo state Security Joint Task Force) truck, with four or five soldiers. It was late in the evening. Promptly, two of the officers jumped down, invaded the taxi as though the driver had affiliations with Abubakar Shekau, and dragged the man from his seat. Of course the passengers scampered for safety in all ensuing directions. The officers then dealt a sumptuous beating on the hapless man, using horse whips an his frail flesh. I watched in trepidation as the man screamed and begged, too schocked to let tears fall freely. When they were satisfied, oblivious of the long traffic they had themselves caused, the boys hopped into their truck, and drove off, happy to have taught the rascal a lesson. As they drove off, light shined on their faces, guns brandished menacingly beside them. They barely looked twenty-five!. But here they were, dealing whip blows on a man, old enough to sire them, not because he obstructed traffic, but because he obstructed THEM! That was the mistake of a country years of military rule bequeathed on us.

So, we have chosen to accept whatever our Lords foist on us. And, silence was the norm. Except for people like Gani Fawehinmi, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Wole Soyinka, Femi Falana, and bodies like NADECO, ASUU, NLC and many other civil groups. We left our fates in their hands. They obviously suffered for it, many tortured and imprisoned for their anti-government stance. However, it paid off in the long run, birthing the democracy we now enjoy.

Of course, men who faced soldiers eye to eye, wouldn’t have had any problems calling out democratic leaders. Obasanjo wasn’t spared. Neither were Yar’Adua nor Jonathan. Even Tinubu, who was in their camp prior to 1999 was taken to the cleaners by Gani when it was discovered he had fraudulently obtained one of his certificates. 1999 to 2015 witnessed the golden age of civil society pressure groups in Nigeria. In 2012, when Goodluck Jonathan removed the fuel subsidy regime, almost all civil groups coalesced into one, in a bold statement, that, never again can any leader so brazenly have his way in Nigeria. The country was practically shut down. So also in 2010, when a certain “cabal” held the country to ransom following the illness of Umaru Yar’Adua, various groups, including the now silent “Save Nigeria group” rose up to demand action. They pressured the national assembly to do the needful. However, it seemed all our right activists suddenly retired in 2015. It seemed fighting for Nigerians’ rights lost its appeal all of a sudden.

Under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, we have seen some of the worst actions ever taken by any leader since 1999. Some of the things that would have spontaneously thrown activists into the streets, with others using their pens and voices to sustain the momentum, are now suddenly passively glossed over. Never has the majority of the country contrived to make excuses for a leader’s failures and shortcomings like has been done for Buhari.

Buhari practically spent half of 2017 on the sick bed outside Nigeria. The excuse was that he duly handed over to his deputy.
Buhari doubled fuel pump price from N87 to N145. The excuse was that he had finally rid Nigeria of the corrupt subsidy regime. It turned out to be a lie. Subsidy is not only still being paid, it is not even appropriated for.
Buhari did not appoint ministers for six full months, leaving the nation’s economy on autopilot. Our activists claimed Baba was taking his time to study the ministries well enough. Turned out it was the foundation for recession.
Buhari was severally admonished to devalue the Naira when inflation started setting in. He didn’t. When dollar price skyrocketed out of control, the excuse was that the PDP government of Goodluck Jonathan was actually responsible.
Buhari has shunned any kind of media chat since it will make him give account of his stewardship, something he loathes. The excuse was that we shouldn’t force him to do what he’s not comfortable with.

Bola Tinubu, one of the leaders of the coalition that produced Buhari actually claimed he deserved a honey moon period. The honeymoon, according to him implied that he should never be critized. Unfortunately, he didn’t tell us how long the honeymoon should last, because, it still seems Buhari is still on honeymoon. Even a marriage of a lifetime doesn’t experience this long a honeymoon. How much less a four year journey?

That Buhari has turned out a less than average leader is not the issue. Because he isn’t doing anything new, as 1984-1985 history explains. What is strange is how easily our human rights activists allow his incompetence go unchallenged. Even when forced to eventually speak out, some of them speak so apologetically, as though they were forced to disturb the sleep of a charming prince. Just recently, Wole Soyinka was quoted as saying Buhari “is in a trance”, otherwise, he wouldn’t be acting so detached from reality.

Wole Soyinka, an emeritus professor and Nobel laureate, knows quite well that the Buhari is in no trance, he is simply incompetent, nonchalant and nepotistic. The minister of health who suspended the NHIS executive secretary, a northerner, due to corruption allegation, was made to see Buhari’s clannishness first hand. With a wave of the hand the NHIS boss was reinstated by Buhari. Just the way he appointed an equally incompetent NIA DG simply because he’s a northerner, despite protestations by those who should know. The same way he reinstated Abdulrasheed Maina, a man fired for embezzlement. And the country’s chief law officer was scrambling to prevent the investigation. The same way he dismissed his SGF with a slap on the wrist despite mounting corruption allegations, and replaced him with a cousin. The same way he stuffed the DSS with recruits from his home state, shattering the nonsensical federal character, until its needed again when admissions are sought into Federal Government Schools.

What more can I say about his complicit silence over the herdsmen crisis, stabbing a fellow APC governor of Benue in the back, all in the bid to protect Fulanis? Or the way and manner in which the IGP and defense minister turned into spokespersons of Fulanis, as against defending innocent civilians? Or the mounting allegations of corruption, sexual impropriety and looting, against IGP Idris, a lameduck officer for whom 32 AIGs were retired? Or the utter incompetence of the mannequins he calls ministers, or the way he condones corruption as long as the perpetrator is in his party? Or how he openly claimed women belonged to the kitchen? Or how he divided Nigeria based on how people voted for him (97%, or 5%). The 97% are having a field day. The 5% have operation Python dance I, II and III. I can go on and on.

The trouble is that we have normalized Buhari’s failures. And those who have always made it a duty to speak out against bad leadership have kept quiet. Maybe its because they all chose to support Buhari’s enthronement. And are too ashamed to eat their words. Or, they are just tired of the whole business of opposing brutal dictators. But if that is the case, the timing is disastrous. Because if more people speak out as truthfully as is required, without sugarcoating the message, maybe many more disasters Buhari’s inactions are causing would be altogether prevented.

It is in Buhari’s constitutional right to seek a second term. But to allow him continue in this journey of directionless directionlessness, would be a disservice to generations unborn. Its alright to make the mistake of allowing him into that saddle once. To make that mistake again would be being complicit in destroying all we once stood for. To send Buhari safely to Daura in 2019 is a task all statesmen must be proud to embark on. And there should be no shame, or guilt, in doing that. After all, Nigeria is blessed with millions of people who can lead our country, and rescue this ship from the wreck Buhari’s 97% vs 5% policy has caused.