Let’s Go Nigerians, Let’s Vote for Unity, Progress

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Ring True

By Yemi Adebowale; yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 07013940521 (text only)

British political philosopher, John Locke, argues that governments exist by consent of the governed and that people should rebel if their ordinary rights are violated. This is precisely what I am urging voters across our 36 states to do today as they file out to vote in Presidential and National Assembly elections. For me, today’s election is a plebiscite on insecurity, hunger, unemployment, sliding economy, corruption, incompetence and poverty in Nigeria.

This is the day to vote out those pummeling Nigerians with hunger, disease, poverty and unemployment while they and their cronies live big. We must vote out those who have failed to provide security and welfare for Nigerians. This is the day to say enough to blood, tears, pain, ineptitude and corruption in our beloved Nigeria. This is the day to say a big NO to those insisting on holding on to power against the tide, while their people wallow in hunger, poverty, disease, unemployment, insecurity and deep-rooted division.

Just within 45 months, Nigeria surpassed India as the country with the largest number of people living in life-threatening poverty in the world, despite the fact that India’s population is almost four times that of Nigeria’s. Living in extreme poverty, going by the parameters set by the World Bank, means living on less than $1.90 per day, an amount that cannot guarantee even the token needs for existence. This is an insignia of disgrace that should task voters today.  The World Poverty Clock named Nigeria the poverty capital of the world last June when it revealed that Nigeria had 87 million people living in poverty.

The latest statistics from the World Poverty Clock show that the number of extremely poor Nigerians has risen to 91.6 million. Yes! 91.6 million Nigerians are living below a dollar a day as of February 13, 2019. This implies that virtually half of Nigeria’s population now lives in extreme poverty. The latest figure shows that an additional four million Nigerians fell under the poverty line between February 2018 and February 2019. The report adds that six Nigerians now become poor every minute. Households across our nation are evidently struggling to survive the economic crunch amid galloping inflation in the last 45 months.

An unprecedented number of frustrated Nigerians are running abroad through all kinds of dangerous routes in search of better life. Many die while trying to cross to Europe illegally by sea. Many have become slaves in Libya. This is unparalleled. We are now at a level where countries as lowly as Ghana deport Nigerians. The Ghana Immigration Service deported 723 Nigerians between 2018 and 2019.

Let’s talk about our unity as a nation. Our beloved Nigeria has never been this divided and we must stem the tide as we go out to vote today. Hatred and bloodshed across ethnic and religious divides have assumed an unprecedented dimension, with our fault lines persistently stoked. Brothers are killing brothers. This is the day to pull Nigeria from the brinks. 

Nigeria is suddenly at a stage where virtually all military and para-military positions are headed by people from just a section of the country. This is certainly not the Nigeria of our dream. This is the day to vote against lopsided security appointments and other skewed appointments in federal departments and agencies. The warped federal appointments of the last four years are infuriating. This clannishness is legendary.

This is the day to vote for the respect of Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended). As a reminder, this section states: “The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.”

The last 45 months have been horrendous for most Nigerians with unprecedented economic hardship, unemployment, inflation and mass killings. Our fragile unity has been destroyed, forcing former President Obasanjo to declare that Nigeria had never been as divided in history, except for the country’s civil war period between 1967 and 1970. Obasanjo added in his remarks on August 2016:  “At no time in our history, except probably during the civil war, has Nigeria been so fractured in the feeling of oneness by the citizenry.” The ex-Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, concurred in September 2016, saying “Nigeria has never been as divided as presently, since it’s amalgamation over 100 years ago.”

What about Boko Haram’s assaults? As I pen this piece, millions of Nigerians are living in excruciating condition in numerous IDP camps in Borno State. They can’t return home; their towns and villages are still controlled by Boko Haram. Boko Haram has become the deadliest terror group in the world, with thousands of Nigerians killed in the last 45 months. Even in IDP camps, displaced Nigerians are persistently attacked and killed by Boko Haram, as seen in Rann, Muna Garage, Baga Dalore and a number of others. 

The UN Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Yassine Gaba once noted: “Innocent civilians continue to suffer daily from direct and indiscriminate attacks in the North-east of Nigeria. Endless numbers of explosions, brutal killings, abductions and lootings continue to uproot the lives of women, children and men daily. Women, children and men face daily grave human rights violations and sexual and gender-based violence.”

Rampaging herders and bandits have also been killing hundreds in Benue, Taraba, Plateau, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Enugu, Delta, Oyo, Zamfara and so many other states. This spate of killing is unmatched.

Can this set of people running this country in the last 45 months honestly say that they have delivered on their promises to Nigerians, with just about three months left of their tenure? Can they honestly say that Nigerians are better under this government than they were under their predecessor? Can they say that they have positively impacted on the lives of the masses of this country in the last 45 months? The frank answers would be on the negative.

The truth is that in 45 months, they have squandered virtually all the economic gains of their predecessors. Thousands of businesses and manufacturers are gasping for breath; many have closed, while millions of Nigerians have lost jobs. At a point, inflation was almost at an unparalleled 18%.The refineries are still not working. That was why the NNPC spent a monstrous $5.8 billion on the importation of 9.8 million metric tons of petrol in four months – October 2017 to January 2018.

Corruption has become more frightening. It was no surprise when the 2017 Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International revealed that sleaze in Nigeria was now severe. Contracts running into billions of USD were allegedly awarded exclusively by the NNPC without due process.

Which corruption is bigger than plunging Nigeria into unprecedented foreign debt within 45 months?  What do we have to show for all these borrowings? 

Evidently, our traumatised, bereaved, hungry and jobless citizens can no longer endure another four years. I believe they all know what to do this morning. Though, tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we must stand.

The Courage of Maryam Awaisu 

For those not following the story, Maryam Awaisu is a women rights activists and writer based in Kaduna. She has of recent been championing the cause of women, detailing their experience on sexual assault in the North through the Twitter hashtag, #ArewaMeToo. Such female activists are few in this part of our country. Awaisu stands out with her thought-provoking crusade. She was however arrested in her office in Kaduna State on Tuesday by officers from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad for inexplicable reasons. They drove her all the way to their Abuja office. Awaisu was released late on the same day, following pressure from rights groups, Amnesty International inclusive.

While in custody, the police allegedly gained access to her laptop and mobile phone by force to access the sensitive evidence she and other human rights defenders have been gathering to seek justice for victims of sexual violence in the North. Her cause is just. I believe she has nothing to hide.

Though, Awaisu is now free, her arrest and detention were evidently aimed at intimidating women rights activists pursuing justice for victims of sexual violence in the North. Amnesty International was apropos when it remarked: “Brave women leading #ArewaMeToo movement, to bring to justice sexual violators have been receiving threats, bullying online and other forms of intimidation. The arrest of Maryam Awaisu @Ice131Queen by a Special Anti-Robbery Squad of @PoliceNG is part of wider intimidation.

“Maryam and the other brave human rights defenders working with the #ArewaMeToo movement must not be silenced or punished for the vital work they do. For too long, Nigeria’s women have been facing various kinds of sexual violence that seldom receives proper attention from the country’s law enforcement agencies. It is unacceptable that women working on behalf of these victims are subjected to such arrest and intimidation, and we fear that these actions may prevent victims of sexual violence from pursuing justice.” 

No doubt, Awaisu is pursuing a just cause – justice for victims of sexual violence in Northern Nigeria. She has been speaking up for women’s rights. Her arrest is aimed at intimidating and harassing her and other women supporting #ArewaMeToo. All forces of good must rally round this courageous woman.

El-Rufai and the Kajuru Killings

Governor Nasir El-rufai’s response to the killings in Kajuru Local Government Area of Kaduna State is most disheartening. I am not sorry to say that this governor has not shown leadership in the unending killings in this state. El-rufai has suddenly become the spokesman of one of the warring factions. This governor was even all over the place, dishing out casualty figures. I have never seen this kind of a thing in my life. The Commissioner of Police, Kaduna State command, Ahmad Abdulrahman, had clearly advised El-Rufai against quoting any particular figure. 

The Kaduna police boss was quoted as saying: “I told the governor that figures in a crisis of this magnitude should be left (unquoted) until all investigations have been concluded in all the areas where information is coming from, are covered. You cannot come up with a figure; otherwise you will quote a particular figure now and quote another later. This is what is happening now. As far as the police are concerned, we are still investigating and the investigation is ongoing.”

Abdulrahman also said both the Fulani and the Adara natives recorded casualties contrary to the position of El-Rufai, who claimed that all the people who were killed and buried in shallow graves were mainly Fulani.

The truth that must be told is that there have been many heartless and unnecessary bloodshed on both sides of the divide. The killings and retaliatory killings have persisted because El-rufai and security agencies in this state have failed the people. They have compromised. Gunmen successfully invaded Ungwar Barde, in Kajuru LG and killed 11 people because security agencies and this governor failed to do the needful. The reprisal attacks, which claimed scores of lives, also happened because El-rufai and security agents failed the people. My heart bleeds each time blood flows in Kaduna State.

I fully concur that El-rufai has been inflaming ethnic and religious sentiments in this state. I am shocked that he did not say anything about the gruesome attack in Ungwan Barde. This governor must amend his ways for peace to reign in Kaduna State.

It is heartwarming to note that the Gan Allah Fulani Development Association of Nigeria (GAFDAN) has urged its members not to take laws into their hands over the killings in Kajuru. The National Secretary of GAFDAN, Ibrahim Abdullahi urged its members to allow government and security agencies to deal with the issue. God bless these peace makers. Southern Kaduna Peoples Union must engage GAFDAN leaders for lasting peace in this area. This is good news. Brothers must stop killing brothers.