WEDNESDAY COLUMN by USSIJU MEDANER
The time to be frank and tell the story as it should be is now. We have been hypocrites hiding under the guise of deceitfulness and unspoken pure hatred as a basis for all of our utterances and actions. On the altar of selfishness and lack of true regard for the wellness of the nation, we sacrifice patriotism and genuine love for the nation and its people. Altogether, we romanticise the prospect of a war as if it is a child’s play, singing the rhetoric of divisive hatred and anger that serve as the precursor to war with so much enthusiasm and claim on the other side that we care about a peaceful Nigeria. No subset of our population is left innocent; the politicians mostly become irredeemable to the point that they are willing to sacrifice half of the country’s population to attain a position of power. That much, they did in the pre-2019 election, by orchestrating the ‘popular’ farmers/herders clashes along the Benue trough, which spread into the south eastern Nigeria and some part of the south-south states, killing innocent civilians and leaving families and communities to mourn their dead and suffer the pain of losing their loved ones; all because some of these politicians wanted to make a strong statement that will discredit the sitting government and upturn the decision of voters in certain states. And of course, it did work. They won in Benue and as expected by some of us, the clashes that were already becoming a norm in the state and the nearby states suddenly became a thing of the past, as the nomenclature ‘herders attacks’ was immediately replaced with ‘Tiv/Jukun clashes.’
The youth, became willing tools in the hands of the politicians, willing and ready to sell off their country for peanut to serve the will of the rich and the politicians who have mortgaged the future of the country and taking away the opportunities available for the common men and women of the country to access the privileges of being citizens of their own country. The bunch of hypocrites that we are have repeatedly been the same voices and weapons that enthrone government after government and sing praises of condemned criminals and corrupt politicians for the monies they throw at us. We have been their foot soldiers; their war chest and undaunted supporters. We are the ones that marched the street in favour of corrupt criminals who stole the nation’s commonwealth. We are always keeping quiet at things we ought to talk about because we have no immediate incentive for talking and become hypocritically concerned when we see immediate rewards.
When the predators literally took over the country from the onset, we turned the other eye, tagging along, for the benefits we get – or we anticipate to get – from those who usurp our commonwealth; for those few individuals among us who had the effrontery to confront the unholy system, we never gave our support or arm of comradeship but align with the oppressors to bring them down for peanuts they throw at us. We always know those individuals who are predominantly responsible for the woes of the nation, but we close our eyes and do not see them; they freely walk our streets while we attack others they prescribe to us to attack. The bunch of hypocrites that we are! We attack a sitting president for joblessness of the youth, when we allow the individuals who sold out and force businesses to close shop and jet out of the country in droves, to become our mentors, and financiers.
Over the last 60 years, the country’s institutions and systems have become grossly abused and bastardised; our education system has become a laughing stock; the transportation infrastructure has dilapidated; the energy sector has become moribund; the nation’s oil and gas industry has transformed into individual businesses; the healthcare delivery system is off the grid; and corruption in all its forms has become the celebrated common indices of our common existence. Efficient and regular services provision has become alien to our system. We groan in darkness and pay for darkness; not so long, we patronised black marketers and long day queue in filling stations to access fuel; portable drinking water has gradually become a rare commodity in the country; civil servants do not only had to ask for salary increment without getting it but are concurrently owed months of unpaid salaries as a tradition; our institutions of learning, both secondary and tertiary, as a developed culture spent a minimum of almost six months of every years administering strike actions; among the whole lot of stagnations in the body polity of the country and the social lives of the citizens.
Hypocritical as we are, we are dumb when we needed to rise up and make just demands for actions and reforms that are real time pertinent to the welfare of the country and its citizens. Where were we when the Dasuki corruption case was exposed? Where were we when the Diezani corruption was exposed? What role did we play? We were silent on one part and finding ground to discredit the investigation and its findings on the other. We don’t care if those Nigerians have stolen us dry and created problems for the present and future generations of Nigerians. When the looters were returning their loot, what were our responses? Rather than standing with the government and demanding continuation of the process, did we not become a stumbling block to the fight against graft in the country by the position we took? How many of us got paid to take to the street in solidarity for the corrupt individuals who stole the country dry and abused the government for what we called one sided trials? Did we not come out boldly to suggest we do not care if Atiku Abubakar is corrupt? Despite the revelation of the $21 billion wasted investment by the Obasanjo regime that virtually has kept us in the darkness, are we still not singing his praises or have we ever seen the need to demand for accountability from him or any other known individual who had stolen Nigeria dry in the past? When the P&ID issue broke out, we were all aware of the individuals who connived with foreigners to rob Nigeria, yet we did exactly nothing. We did not rise against them nor did we call them out on social media; we were not concerned. We are nothing but a bunch of hypocrites.
We want restructuring; we barraged the government with the call to restructure the country, as if it is in the power of the president to restructure the nation. We leave our representatives at the National Assembly hypocritically to continue living large on our commonwealth, while we attack the president and his presidency for the jobs of the legislature. And when the president technically begins to free institutions and units of governance in the spirit of restructuring, we withdraw our support from the same president pretending to not see his effort. When the presidency appended the law that granted local government authorities operational and financial autonomy, where were we? Is that not an element of restructuring? Did we see the need to rise against the governors who till today have rejected the law? No. We are okay with that. When the presidency was ready to grant the request for state policing, which we have been asking for ages, and the state governors were not ready to expend their security votes on state policing, where were we? We did not see reason to rise against the state governors. The autonomy of the judiciary was rejected by the governors and we are okay with it. Where were we each of the times the President demanded a special court to handle corruption cases and was rejected by the National Assembly? We saw no reason to rise against the National Assembly; no reason to invite the United Nation, the UK or the USA to force the hands of the lawmakers to get the change we deserve.
At no time, did we see reasons enough to rise against all the aforementioned, rather we occupy social media castigating the very administration that is making the effort to create the possible changes in the midst of the Nigerian factors that make real changes an uphill task. The only thing we see in the nation’s fight against corruption is that it is one sided; we do not care that the individuals who were sentenced to prison terms and individuals who were returning stolen funds are enemies of the country, rather we joined and supported politicians who ganged up to prevent further successes for the government in courts in cases of corruption. We celebrate when some national thieves got judgements against the government, and frown when the government won cases like in the case of Mrs. Jonathan and several others. Suddenly, Nigeria became a nation without railway transportation system after decades of decay of infrastructure that ought to be built on; then suddenly, an administration that becomes serious at revamping the transportation sector, that has started making huge investment in the nation’s railway development, and all we have to say is “is that what we want to eat, is that what we need,” we do not any longer; and in fact, we totally have forgotten how fuel scarcity and long queue at filling station and being at the full mercy of black marketers look like, and all we say to that is the simple “that is the job of the government.” If it is the job of the government, why have the governments after governments before now not done it? Today, civil servants in all the states of Nigeria collect their monthly salaries as at when due because the president did not only bailout the states repeatedly and maintained that owing workers’ salaries would not be permitted during his regime. We forgot the time in the past when they were owed for months running into the year across the country.
We forgot or chose to ignore the realities of those days in the past when many states were unsafe from the Boko Haram insurgent. Those days when we cannot sleep with eyes closed in any part of Abuja and almost all the states of the middle belt; when government function could no longer hold anywhere even in FCT. When the entire North-East was totally overran and annexed by the sect. The horrible days of suicide bombings across the states of Nasarawa, Niger, FCT and the entire axis of the middle belt and the north east. For as long as we can still tell the story of continued killings by the sect, we are careless about the recorded achievements in the fight against the sect, because, in our hypocrisy, we rather would want to see increased operation of the sect and be able to see reason to attack the government.
It is in Nigeria that the rhetoric ‘is it infrastructure we will eat’ is supported massively ringing deeply across the media and in the street. A government is building roads, bridges and other national infrastructural edifices, and our position as youths and citizens is either to deny their existence or rather brush it aside as wasted effort because that is what our handlers, the people who pay our prices and set us on motion on the social media demand of us.
The national clamour and the resulting protest for the scrapping of the SARS unit of the police force, as welcomed as it is by all Nigerians across borders, the inherent political manipulation of every issue in the country has made a caricature of the entire outing. A summary timeline of the SARS atrocities since the establishment of the unit in 1992, show a record unlawful cases of torture, ill treatment and extrajudicial executions and killing of as much as 100 persons according to the Amnesty International. Of this number, less than just about 10 percent took place in the last five years; it has been a recurring event spanning over 20 years and six administrations. In fact, some administration, inclusive of state government in the past went overboard to use the same unit to intimidate their enemies and to quell uprising as was the case in Anambra state some years back, Kogi state and the order of shoot at sight against the OPC protest by a former president. The uprising against the brutality of the Unit, or the excesses of the nation’s lawmaker, as much as any other feasible anomalies in the operation of the nation, ought to have been objective and targeted at issues and not individuals. The emerging scenario where the president becomes the object of the attack for institutions that have collapsed long before he becomes the president, and the institutions that are beyond his power to reform, like the national assembly, is an aberration and an evidence of underlying political control of the uprising.
We wanted an end to SARS and three days into the protest, the government did not only granted an end to SARS, but went ahead to set in motion, processes to both bring to justice, officers of the unit who had been involved in illegal intimidation and killing of Nigerians as well as compensate victims and families of victims. We wanted more, the government said they are willing to go all the way, and then set an all-inclusive committee to look into all the demand. But we said because we do not trust the government from the past, we cannot trust this government, and what next did we do, we turned violent. We destroyed peoples’ properties, government properties, set free criminals serving terms and claimed to have been infiltrated by hoodlums sent by the government without proof. We waited for days, prompting and earnestly waiting for a show of force from the government because it was part of the organisers’ plan for the protest.
We are eager to instigate the worst behaviour that will force the United Nation and other international institutions and nations to intervene. Do we expect the UN to help us unseat a legitimate government? Do we have a record of the veracity of police brutality in the nations that mostly control the narratives in the UN? Do we know how long the USA citizens have been on the street protesting police brutality and have gotten nothing but show of force and disdain from their president?
And we surely got what we wanted or at the worst were able to create the ends we always wanted; the Ikoyi toll gate massacre. It is unfortunate and wrong, even if one man got wounded because there was a show of force from the nation’s military or civil security forces, more less the loss of life of any citizens; but it possesses even more disheartening consequences for the country’s security, integrity and safety for some individuals to present Photoshop contents to deceive and mislead the citizenry and global community into accepting and reacting to fake exposures of events as they did not happened.
I felt totally hurt at the onset of the Ikoyi purported massacre. This could not be my country as I was aware of the fact that the president has cautioned the use of force by the military in dealing with the protest, so how did this happen? I waited for answers and evidence of the killings and was ready to engage the authority on the needless killings and the damages it had done to the fabrics of a peaceful Nigeria, but I could not see any veritable evidence beyond the fabricated online images and videos.
I followed the killing at the palace of the Ogbomoso monarch; the burial of the innocent man killed; I saw the family mourning. I followed the killing of another young man by the name Oke; I heard the narrative of the killing by stray bullet from security forces, but I also heard the true version of his death from his family, how he was stabbed in the neck by protesting hoodlums who broke into their home in the police barrack after destroying the police station. In all these events, there were evidence of deaths, bereaved families and corpses of victims; but the global news of over 67 killed by the bullets of the Nigerian Army at the Ikoyi Toll Gate was different, barely days after the incident, we have not been able to attach names to the victims, except for those that are already coming out to tell us they are alive and kicking, despite photos and videos of their corpses and broken bodies ravaging the social media. We have not identify and see families mourning their loved ones, we have not seen real pictures of the dead or of their corpses in any mortuary or plans for burials, all because the story is a fiction meant to be believed by the gullible citizens who have the reputation of going with the social media reporting.
Bunch of hypocrites. They are breaking down prison gates and freeing criminals; overrunning police stations and carting away guns, and we are rejoicing, praising them and urging them on, but starting from tomorrow, when robbery increases on the streets and kidnapping skyrocket, we will turn to blame the government for not providing security.
While we were busy blaming the government for hijacking the protest wrongly, the IPOB unsung leader from the hole where he was hiding sent in a video with a claim that he was responsible for the violent destruction of properties, but we do not want to hear it; we are satisfied with the rhetoric that the present government is responsible. The hypocrites that we are.
And when we take stock of individuals who contributed immensely to the destruction of this country, the likes of Reno Omokiri, Fani-Kayode and co will receive due praises for their effort in setting Nigerians at war with their own nation with the incessant proliferation of the nation’s social media with fake information, videos and rhetoric that inflames the streets. From the United State, Remo Omokiri sees firsthand what is happening in Nigeria and provides video evidence to spurn the youths to more actions against their own nation.
Just like him and others in his shoes, leaders of thoughts went emotional without objective analysis of the events of the past days to sieve out realities and be able to constructively engage the situation in the interest of the country – and will can only hope that they have their consciences to battle with. Those ‘men of God,’ who ride on the back of sworn hatred to hail on the protest and encourage the violence that engulf the nation and still claim to pray for the country will have to answer to the God that calls them.
We sit at homes, deciding what to believe and reject according to our biased emotion; leading thugs and hooligans on to fight for our unborn generations by the fake and doctored photos and videos we post online. So, the destruction of infrastructure and properties are the demonstration of what translates to better life for future Nigerians? We sit at home using social media to perpetrate the greatest crime against the country we claim we love and want to save. Or how do we classify fake news, fake photos and videos that are capable of arousing tension, national unrest and violence as we have witnessed in the last few days. I wonder what the likes of Reno Omokiri and Fani-Kayode will represent henceforth in the reckoning of this country, having seen their effort in setting the social media aflame to achieve their devilish political objectives. They have one more time shown us all, what matters to them: it is not Nigeria or Nigerians, neither is it our peace but their access to power and control and if inciting the youth to destroy will deliver that for them, then so be it.
After pushing the protest to destructive mode by the message they concocted, they suddenly started to realise their errors and some of them have started apologising after the deeds has been done. It was a reputable NGO that mostly fed the international organisation with fake eye witness view of the Lekki toll gate incident; claiming it was premeditated, that the state government ordered the removal of the CCTV to conceal the killing, when no such thing happened. The UN has heard them and responded as such. It was the same NGO that carried the fake news of the death of actress Eniola Badmus when she was in her house watching the news of her own death! Thankfully, there have now been numerous fact-checking of the fake news that fuel the massive destruction we saw in the last few days.
If we allowed this protest to pass uninvestigated, we would be setting yet another time bomb for this country, because they will come again and again for as long as it works and delivers to them the end they want. The predators, politicians, who either were the sponsors or the hijackers of the national embarrassment that the protest metamorphosis into, must be fished out and exposed for who they are. The youth of this country deserve a genuine chance at engaging their leaders for what they want. It is tantamount to double insult to take opportunity of the youth, particularly their anger, to achieve political gains.
We must tell the story of Nigeria from all perspectives. It will be an error to judge the current Administration from a single source without a holistic consideration of efforts and commitments in scores of sectors, including the all participants. We may choose to reject the unprecedented infrastructure development in roads, bridges, railways and housing, perhaps because it offends our biases, but it remains a national priority and prelude to greater development. Of note is that this Administration’s social investment programs are not just only the magnitude and the reach but also the sincerity that it shows by the elimination of middlemen in its distribution to beneficiaries; this must be reckoned with while judging this government. We must eschew sentiment when we place government effort in securing the country on the table and then we will be able to realise the gains we have recorded in the last five years even though the forces are not willing to give up. The youth investment programs must be put on the tale as well including the N-Power program; N75 Billion youth investment fund; the palliatives in the form of help to businesses and individuals; the N50 Billion revolving palliative through the NIRSAL Microfinance Bank; and the Survival Fund that has helped millions of businesses to pay their staff salaries for three months. Also, the end of fuel scarcity and black marketing in the country, the end of the era of non-payment of workers’ salaries as at when due, among so many others. All these must be placed on the table while judging the Muhammadu Buhari-led government.
GOD BLESS THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA