By Mike Kebonkwu Esq
A fortnight ago, precisely Saturday, the 1st day of October, 2022, Nigeria celebrated her 62nd Independence anniversary. It was without the usual pomp and pageantry associated with it by ordinary citizens because it has become an entirely urban pastime for political office holders and a select few. The federal government declared Monday, 3rd of October, 2022, two days after the event, as public holiday, undeservedly so if you ask me although I know we like holidays. Citizens are too traumatized to think about holidays in the midst of existential crises. There are some segments of the population who felt there was nothing to celebrate. One does not agree with that view absolutely because there is everything to celebrate in Nigeria if you wake up alive, notwithstanding all the toxic news of abductions and kidnapping etc.
We are thus far from the promise land on security which is the determinant of virtually everything else. We are still living in state of insecurity. The bandits and insurgents still have capacity to launch attacks even on security forces, abduct and kidnap citizens. The last of the hostages from the Abuja-Kaduna train attack have been released. We understand the negotiation for the release of the last 23 hostages of the train attack was anchored by negotiation by the military high command. One is unable to understand the military doctrine and strategy or tactics that says soldiers should negotiate with criminals.
It is not the business of the military to negotiate with criminals. It is none of the business of the military to de-radicalize or rehabilitate criminal insurgents. That is the business of politicians and religious people or at bests some NGOs (Non-governmental Organizations). The only military diplomacy and negotiations that I am familiar with in dealing with criminals and enemies of the state are offensive kinetic negotiation with drawn out full battle scale. The military should only be seen to negotiate with criminals through the prism of the back sight aperture of their assault rifles and the barrels of the gun. We appear to be at the nadir of the glory of our fearsome military that have harvested garlands in the field of operations and peace keeping both home and abroad.
We will continue to remain in state of insecurity for as long as our security forces continue to engage bandits in negotiations rather than application of lethal force for which they are trained and better known. There should be no trade off with criminals. It is wrong and loathsome to negotiate with criminal outlaws with chocolate and ice cream.
Reflecting on our independence, one would want to ask what particular direction or department of our national life we have taken any giant stride. We have since lost the potential for industrialization as the few healthy industries are relocating to Ghana and other African countries because of hostile business climate and insecurity. We are not sufficient in food production and agriculture and people struggle to eke out a living, sometimes going to bed without food. In science and technology, we are still consumers of foreign know-how. We are only able to produce technicians to fix broken parts in the various GSM and Computer villages across our city centres. A few others are adept in software manipulations for cybercrimes and internet frauds.
Even as the 6th world largest producer of crude oil, we are still suffering perennial fuel scarcity with endless fuel queues at petrol filling stations while the government dole out petrol subsidy in trillions of Naira. We are unable to satisfy our domestic need of gasoline to the eternal shame of successive governments since 1999. The obscene cost of subsidy is enough to build brand new refineries in each of the six geopolitical zones of the country. Yet, the staff of NNPC earn jumbo salaries and promotion for sinecure job for working in moribund refineries without production. And the president doubles as the Minister for Petroleum. Yet the federal government cannot pay university teachers who labour and toil with excess workload, just to cite an apt example.
On infrastructure, road, power and electricity, it is monumental disaster. Take Abuja-Kaduna, and Abuja-Lokoja roads, it is nightmare as the roads have virtually broken down in parts with potholes and crevices. The same is true of other major arteries and road networks across the country. For electricity, the constant news is the collapse of national grids. Youths unemployment is becoming a national security problem. Education is in shambles and university teachers have been on strike for upward of eight months while government solution is blackmail and bullying. On the health sector, the ordinary citizens are totally condemned to the trauma of the episodic services available in our hospitals as our leaders all troop to Europe, Asia and America for medical tourism, even for common flu.
On the economy, the country is sinking and suffocating in debt without noticeable evidence on what the monies have been used for; yet the president scored himself a pass mark during his independence broadcast to the nation. Whether it is appropriate for anyone to assess his own personal performance or script it is another kettle of fish. After all, we have an African saying that the agama lizard that fell from an Iroko tree says that it will praise itself if no one else does. What areas are we going to score the Buhari led APC government pass mark? Is it in security, economy, infrastructure, industrialization, employment, education or healthcare?
We celebrate political brigands that live on our national wealth like leeches and vermin fretting away our commonwealth to offshore accounts. Official corruption appears to have become a national policy; whether it is in the form of nepotism or pilfering from public till under official seal. This was what earned us the uncomplimentary diplomatic lampoon and sobriquet as “fantastically corrupt country” by David Cameron, an ex- Prime Minister of United Kingdom in a conversation with the late Queen of England.
Nigerians across board have been virtually driven into a state of insanity. People have difficulty in paying bills; school fees, utility bills. Even to buy basic necessities to stay alive have become an uphill task due to hardship and difficult economic situations. If you want to measure the pulse of an average Nigerian, go into any form of traffic, vehicular or human then you will see the adrenaline in us as we charge at people at the slightest provocation ready to fight. The disorder and chaos on our roads and misdirected anger to fellow citizens is a testimony of the state depression and distress. People will be driving against traffic, including government officials and yet be claiming right of way.
The government used the occasion of the independence to give national honours and award to citizens considered deserving in different fields of endeavour. The Minister of Education, Professor Adamu Adamu made the list. One wonders on what score he got rewarded with national medal and honour, being the minister under whose ministry and watch tertiary institutions have been under lock and key for upward of eight months. The conclusion is that the national honour has been reduced to handout to mediocrity and patronage except for the exemplary few therein.
This is an inescapable conclusion, seeing as the government proceeded to procure some blacklegs in the university community to form a parallel union to break the rank of ASUU in addition to so-called procured Court order against ASUU to go back to class as opposed to showing honesty and resolve. One also wonders the morality in that court order on the part of the government that was in breach of a contractual agreement entered into freely and voluntarily with ASUU. On the part of that Court that issued such facile order, it is hard to find the legal kernel to justify a reward for someone to benefit from his own wrong. We have lost the compass of moral rectitude and integrity in our national institutions. Even though the court does not enforce morality but it would be travesty of justice to allow a serial agreement breaker to benefit from the fruit of its breach.
If we return to adding more items to the harvest of woes, it would stretch to the idea that our Independence has not brought the ethnic nationalities any closer. Rather we are ensconced deeper into our tribe, tongue and regions with religious iron curtain. We cannot be talking about unity in diversity when we still see people first in their ethnic and religious garb than the content of his character? There is no unity in Nigeria if we still believe that the religious leaning of an individual will determine his electoral worth and acceptance. This is the tragedy of President Buhari transition and political legacy; divisive and nepotistic.
However, all hope is not lost as the opportunity now beckons in the forthcoming general elections. As we revel in the carnival and road works on campaign trains, we should not forget to arm ourselves with our PVCs and vote wisely; enough of the distress.
The author wrote his piece from Koyen-Hi Kebonkwu Chambers, Wuse Zone 5 in Abuja