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Lest we should be the last
To appear before you,
We left our corn in the barn
And unprepared we followed
The winding way to your hut.
Our children begged for water
From the women bearing golden gourds
On their heads,
And laughing on their way from the well;
But we did not stop,
Knowing that in your presence
Our hunger would be banished
And our thirst assuaged
By the flowing milk of your words.
Now we have come to you,
And are amazed to find
Those you have loved and respected mock you in the face.
…..Lest We Should be the Last—Kwesi Brew
His election was heralded with wild ululations of joy, relief, and restoration of hope for a better country. This was across the board. In the expression of such joy, many died as they engaged in unbridled and unconscionable celebrations of the victory. For some others, there was no better way of celebrating the victory of Mohammadu Buhari than to trek hundreds of kilometres. While some were trekking to the south, some others were trekking to the north. The unspoken sigh of relief was something like: now, a redeemer has come and the journey to nationhood and greatness has just commenced.
Such was the enormous goodwill that ushered in the presidency of (then) Gen Mohammadu Buhari. One of his remarkable Unique Selling Points (USP) was his no-nonsense portrait. He was seen as a straight driver, one who will deal rightly, firmly, justly and promptly with every issue, no matter whose ox is gored. His ascetic reputation in the military and his Spartan lifestyle endeared him to Nigerians. And that was his password.
But after two years plus, I keep remembering Kwesi Brew’s poem, Lest We Should Be the Last (cited above). In that poem, written by a Ghanaian, the worshippers who believed in journeying to a salvation place, denied themselves and their suckling of many things; strove to get up the hill, only to find that even their leaders did not know the way to where the redeemer is. Worse still, there was betrayal and utter disappointment of the devotees.
This is almost our experience with the Buhari administration as at today. It is as if Brew was capturing our experience in the last thirty months.
Almost every week, I am in a battle of wits with a group of friends, many of whom have never ceased to taunt me about the shortcomings of this government, knowing that I have been an avid supporter of the Buhari administration. But truth is that despite my belief in his person, he has shown less than requisite grip of the issues of his government.
At 74, President Buhari has betrayed manifest knack for slow-motion style of governance, a malaise made worse by the frequent health challenges he has faced. It is even more noticeable knowing that the mass of issues requiring urgent attention in Nigeria are a legion. To therefore attend to the issues with snail-speed approach bespeaks of a misreading of the situation.
I shall give some examples. Let’s start from the latest: the grudge fight between Ibe Kachikwu and Maikanti Baru, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and the GMD of NNPC respectively.
The minister has complained bitterly of insubordination, humiliation, and brazen breach of due process in the award of contracts to the tune of $24 billion! This letter of complaint to Mr President is dated August 30, 2017. It has thus been with the president for nearly five weeks before it was leaked. Nobody is sure how the letter got leaked. But it may have been leaked as a way of forcing the President to act on it, since the issues thereof are now in the public domain.
So, what has the president done on this crucial matter that has the capacity to further imperil our dandling economy, five weeks after getting the complaint? It is likely that the presidency will act now only because the public has become aware of the issues. The Senate has vowed to investigate it.
Indeed, Dr Maikanti Baru may have acted with such impunity believing that the notorious cabal acting in the stead of Mr President is behind him. Were it not so, it would be preposterous for the head of a parastatal to ignore the Minister (of state) to whom he should report and head over to the President. What else is called the breach of protocol?
Baru may have anchored his defiance on the Paulean logic: if the president be for me, who can be against me? So it is up for the president to prove now that he is not behind the breaches Baru is accused of by acting decisively and promptly too.
On the other hand, Baru could have acted arbitrarily and just claim that he had the nod of the president to do what he did, whereas Mr President is not aware.
Another sorry takeaway from Kachikwu’s letter is the fact that ministers hardly have access to the president. Many of them see him only during the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting (if he attends) and can hardly discuss any other thing than contract awards and staid policies at such meetings. President Buhari, I understand does not attend any other meeting, be it caucus or political or party meeting, save the FEC. So the issue of access to him is of concern as the lack of it could slow down the wheel of governance.
The other subtext from Kachikwu’s letter is that President Buhari who is the substantive minister of Petroleum is not in charge of the ministry. If he is, the number of breaches allegedly committed by Baru would not take place. Those who have known that the president is not minding what is going on have ceased the opportunity to play their own games, all in the name of the president. Little wonder that the latest appointments in the NNPC were so overtly skewed in favour of the north, which ironically does not have a drop of crude oil, the raison d’etre of NNPC.
The other sore example is the issue of the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr David Babachir Lawal, the infamous grass cutter chief. After an initial presidential defence of the sordid deeds of Mr Lawal in January, the presidency turned around in May to suspend him, and ordered an investigation into the allegation as well as that of the National Intelligence Agency ( NIA) boss, Mr Ayodele Oke who was also suspended . The panel headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had finished with the investigation while Buhari was away in London for his medicals. When he returned, Professor Osinbajo presented the report since August 23 to Mr President. Till date, about six weeks after, no action has been taken. Yet this was a scandal that broke since last December.
The unvoiced impression is that Babachir Lawal is an untouchable and so must be spared any hammer. Were it not so, what is the excuse for not acting on the report of the investigation, six weeks after? Is it a recast of the Orwellian maxim that all animals are equal, but some are more equal?
It does appear that the ploy is to allow a long period of time to pass, with the belief, that over time, it will all wear out and Nigerians will forget the issues.
Yet another instance is the allegations against the Inspector General of Police, Mr Ibrahim Kpotum Idris, by Senator Isa Misau. He, a former police officer, alleged that the IG gets over 120billion per annum from corporate organisations that pay the police institution to get security. He had also alleged favouritism on the promotion of policemen and women by the IG. These are weighty allegations that should not be swept under the carpet. But are we sure to hear anything? Buhari’s silence on these matters are not only worrisome, they eat away his profile and markedly dirty his credentials.
I do not want to talk about the famed mantra of anti-corruption fight, where I believe the bad guys in the judiciary have not helped matters as they resort to wonky legalese to frustrate prosecution of patent criminals and corrupt persons. No mega suspect has been jailed since the fight against corruption assumed a high keel. It’s been a back-and-fro tussle. The prosecution of the former NSA, Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd), it seems, is endless and bound to last as long as Buhari remains in power. Some persons have argued that the continued detention of Dasuki is to ensure that he is not available to spill any beans on classified issues in the country like Boko Haram sponsors, funders of PDP, APC, etc.
Buhari cannot afford to fail. He must not allow us to conclude that even with him, we did not get it right. He must not make us declare that the beautiful ones may never be born. If salt loses its taste, then it is no longer good for anything…. says the Holy writs.
The buck stops on his table. If the people he appointed are not delivering or are making a mess of the change ideology, as it seems, it is high time he re-jigged his cabinet, and save the nation the leechy hold of the existing, but denied, cabal.
He must double pace the speed of his government. The demands of the nation come with telegraphic urgency. No leader can afford to remain tepid on the slow lane and expect to make any meaningful impact. Time is ticking away irretrievably.
Is Anini’s Ghost Back on Benin Streets?
Beside the 1897 invasion of the Benin empire by the British exploiters, no other event had shaken the ancient Bini kingdom like the terror reign of the twosomeenfant terrible: Lawrence Anini and Monday Osunbor, in the 80’s. They held the then Bendel State, nay Nigeria, captive with their unrivalled skill in robbery and killings. It was like a plague. Their notoriety was legendary. People (especially policemen) were killed most defiantly and easily. The fable about their ability to vanish after every dastardly act, only helped to further mystify them. But one day, their cup became full and they were caught, tried and executed. And the people heaved a sigh of relief.
Ever since then, the people of Edo State have had a long break from the rapacious rave from the men of the underworld. But it looks like the holiday is over.
With four bloody and dastardly incidents in ten days, the people of Edo State are apparently now under a siege.
On September 25, some gunmen stormed, of all places, the Ogba zoo and Natural park, Benin-city. Not only did they abduct the Director and CEO of the Park, Dr Andy Ehanire, they killed three policemen who were guarding the zoo. Till date, there is neither a word on the whereabouts of Dr Ehanire nor a word on the killers of the cops.
Three days after, September 28, a Catholic priest, Rev Fr Lawrence Adoloro attached to St Benedict Catholic Church, Okpella, Edo State was abducted by gunmen. Thankfully he was released some four days after.
And as if that was not ugly enough, last Wednesday, popular highlife musician and social critic, Joseph Osayomore was not only abducted from his Orovie Village, in Ehor Local Government Area of the state, his wife was shot in the head by some assailants. The attack came few hours after he had played to entertain the Oba of Benin in his palace. The wife is receiving treatment, just as his whereabouts remain unknown.
And just as people were digesting the spate of bad news in the state, yet another horrible incident took place on Wednesday night, with the murder of a professor in University of Benin, Prof Paul Otasowie of the Department of Electrical/ Electronics Engineering.
The fear that has gripped the people of the state is best captured in a Facebook post by a female colleague of the murdered Prof Otasowie who lamented, “why do good people die? I have cried and cried ….Hoodlums shot my colleague, a father and humble friend, Prof Paul Otasowie of the Electrical Engineering Department of UNIBEN. I am thinking of relocating from this Benin, everyday it is sad news. I am heartbroken. My heart bleeds…”
So where is Gov Godwin Obaseki? This is a wake-up call. It is not enough wearing fitting suits and playing high-scale golf. The security of the people of Edo State is primarily the raison d’etre of his being in office. He must wake up and rework his security apparatchik.
Of what use will his quest for foreign investors be if there is no security in the state? People cannot be getting killed like that without a trace. He must build on the facilities provided by his predecessor that helped so much in fighting kidnappers. This is not politics. People’s lives are precious and irreplaceable. The ghost of Anini or even its memory must not be allowed to re-enter any corner of Edo State in whatever guise. Let the people sleep with both eyes closed.