By Yemi Adebowale, yemi.adebowale@
The list of problems bedeviling my beloved Nigeria grows per second. It has been lamentations galore over our monstrous unending inept leadership, disunity, nepotism, religious extremism, unemployment, hunger, disease, poverty, insecurity and malnutrition. Suddenly, insecurity now stands atop. The last five years have been horrendous. Abduction has become a big business. A friend of mine arrived his country, Nigeria, last week Tuesday, and did not go beyond his abode at the Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja. He simply invited family and friends to meet with him there. This man was so scared; he thought he could even be abducted in front of his hotel, just as kidnappers strolled into Engravers College, Kaduna on Wednesday and abducted six students and two staff. They want N50 million before releasing them.
The situation is really very bad, with the near collapse of civil authority in our beloved country. Nigerians are living under perpetual fear of being kidnapped. The criminals walk in and abduct people in their homes, on the streets and on the highways, unchallenged, and collect hefty ransoms. Sometimes, they disfigure, rape and molest their victims, before they are released. It is so painful that these felons are roaming freely across a country with a government and they are hardly apprehended. Nigeria is now one of the most dangerous places to live in the world.
In some cases, victims die in their dungeons and they still collect ransom. Sometimes, they deliberately kill the victims. A recent example here is that of late Esther Katung, the wife of Pastor Ishaku Katung of ECWA Church in Bagoma, Kaduna State. She was killed by her abductors after they collected a ransom of N250,000 from her family. The deceased was abducted on September 14 when bandits broke into her home. Esther and two other victims escaped from captivity, but she ran out of luck and was recaptured by the kidnappers, who broke her leg and smashed her head, leading to her death. The bandits dumped her corpse in the bush. Even after killing her, the beasts gave the impression that she was still alive and collected the ransom. Her dead body was later discovered days after the family paid the ransom. Human lives have evidently been reduced to nothing in Nigeria. What a country.
The agony list is unending. Funke Olakunrin, 58, daughter of Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, was murdered by suspected herders early in July. She was travelling from Akure to Ore when her vehicle was attacked alongside others on the highway. Despite all the boasting by security agents, they are yet to bring her killers to justice.
The case of Prof. Gideon Okedayo, a senior lecturer at the Ondo State University, presents another gory tale. Okedayo was abducted on Igara road in Akoko Edo area of Edo State while traveling to his hometown on September 5 and few days later, murdered by his abductors.
The Akure-Ado Ekiti Expressway has also become notorious for kidnapping and killings, with our lackluster security agents standing by. What about the notorious Abuja-Kaduna highway where scores of people are abducted (some killed) almost daily for ransom? This has been on for over a year, yet, the government has woefully failed to nip it in the bud. Kidnappers hibernate in villages along the road. Everybody knows this except our incompetent security agents.
Let’s move over to the North-east where Boko Haram has been killing Nigerians relentlessly. Over 27,000 innocent people have been murdered by the terrorists in the last 10 years. The gruesome stories are never-ending. One of the most traumatic this year was the slaughtering of 65 mourners (on July 28) during a funeral procession in Badu, Nganzai Local Government Area of Borno State. Yes, 65 human beings murdered in one day! No news yet on bringing the killers to justice. We can’t overlook the day Boko Haram suicide bomber killed at least 50 people in a mosque in Mubi. We can’t forget the abduction of Saifura Khorsa and Hauwa Mohammed Liman, both Red Cross workers by Boko Haram in the IDP camp in Rann, Borno State. They were subsequently murdered, despite numerous appeals for their freedom. We can’t forget the day our own military dropped bombs on IDPs in Rann, killing close to 300 people.
Even when terrorists kill soldiers, they are hardly apprehended. Few weeks back, a Colonel and 20 soldiers were killed in an ambush by Boko Haram in Yobe State while another Colonel and six others, including a Captain, were killed in Borno State by the same Boko Haram. The Army has lost hundreds of gallant soldiers to Boko Haram without ferocious retaliation. This country has also witnessed unprecedented killing of officers by Boko Haram. Some of those killed included Lt. Colonel O. Umusu, Lt. Colonel K Yusuf, Lt. Colonel Abu Ali, Lt. Colonel B. U. Umar, Captain Victor Ulasi, Lt Col Yusuf Aminu, Lt. Col. A E Mamudu and Lt. Col. Azubuike.
It did not come as a surprise that my beloved Nigeria was poorly ranked in the 2018 United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report on global life expectancy. Our country has the world’s third lowest life expectancy rate of 55 years. UNFPA said life expectancy of an average Nigerian is only better than those of the people in Sierra Leone, Chad and the Central African Republic. These three countries have 53, 54, 54 years respectively, as their life expectancy rates. Life expectancy rates are even higher in war-torn countries like Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia, with 73 years, 65 years and 58 years respectively.
It is not just about Boko Haram, killer herders and bandits mauling our people. Nigerians are dying in droves because of our shambolic health system and piercing economic problems finagled on the country by a persistent failed leadership. Life expectancy is also on the decline in Nigeria because of hunger, poverty, disease, malnutrition, and unemployment foisted on the citizens by successive failed governments.
Forces of good must continue to put pressure on governments at all levels to perform their constitutional responsibilities of providing security and welfare to the people.
It is heart-wrenching that the leaders we entrusted this country to, evidently lack ideas on how to end these killings. It was the usual rhetoric, razzmatazz and showboating by President Muhammadu Buhari while delivering his 59th independence anniversary speech. Our President is always giving the populace false assurance that all is well. Just rhetoric. The truth that must be told is that security in Nigeria is in a deep mess. This country’s security architecture needs to be urgently overhauled. Those sitting atop our security agencies must give way to result-oriented officers. Patriots must put all those in charge of our security under pressure until the needful is done.
Unparalleled Treachery of Nigerian Politicians
The famed Mama Taraba and former women affairs minister Aisha Alhassan is back in the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Alhassan has returned to the party under which she contested and won the senatorial seat of Taraba North in 2011. In my beloved Nigeria, there is nothing like ideological beliefs or principles when it comes to party politics. It’s usually about desire for power, bread and butter. This is why a Mama Taraba, who in 2014 dumped the PDP, with her hitherto Godfather, Atiku Abubakar, for the APC, after stacking heaps of rubbish on the PDP, has now rejoined this same “rubbish” party. After she failed to get the APC gubernatorial ticket for the 2019 elections, Alhassan picked that of the United Democratic Party (UDP). Mama Taraba subsequently suffered massive defeat in the election.
Alhassan, after a UDP stakeholders meeting in Jalingo, said majority of her supporters in the 168 wards of Taraba had encouraged her to shift base to the PDP. She said: “I cannot go against the decision of the popular opinions of my supporters. I was glad that the committee did not suggest the APC as an option.” Yes, the same APC Mama Taraba told us was the only way forward for Nigeria in 2014 is now a beast. The PDP she told us was bosh few years back is now the messiah. Anybody that believes her would believe anything.
Let’s flip to another comedian called Nyesome Wike, governor of Rivers State. While his party is in the Supreme Court challenging the verdict of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, which affirmed the victory of President Buhari, Wike was all over congratulating Buhari for his victory at the tribunal. There is nothing like party discipline in his dictionary. This man was even threatening his own party because he was rebuked for his incongruous congratulatory message to Buhari. Wike did not in the real sense of it support Atiku Abubakar, his party’s Presidential candidate, because his preferred candidate, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal did not get the ticket. For Wike, it’s better to do business with his party’s opponent, because his candidate did not get the ticket. This is the usual treachery by Nigerian politicians for personal goals. I won’t be surprised to find Wike in the same party with his sworn enemy, Rotimi Amaechi in no distant future. It’s all about bread and butter.
FG Should Perish Plan to Return Toll Gates
More than a decade after it was phased out, the federal government has announced plans to reintroduce toll gates on federal roads. This same threat was made last year, but was abandoned due to pressure from traumatised Nigerians. Works and Housing Minister, Babatunde Fashola, who announced the plan, declared: “There is no reason why we can’t toll; there was a policy of government to abolish tolls or as it were, dismantle toll plaza but there is no law that prohibits tolling in Nigeria today. We expect to return toll plazas; we have concluded their designs of what they will look like, what materials they will be rebuilt with, what new considerations must go into them.”
I can safely tell Fashola today that this plan will fail. Any weapon fashioned against the people shall not prosper. There is so much suffering, so much pain, so much hunger in the land, and all they talk about is inflicting more pain on the people. Toll gates also mean creating scores of crisis points across our troubled federal highways. It would also amount to double taxation. I hope Fashola has not forgotten that the Obasanjo administration increased the cost of fuel and promised that part of the new money would be channeled to the Federal Road Maintenance Agency to effectively perform its duties? One of the palliatives Obasanjo promised and subsequently implemented after his fuel price increase was the demolition of the toll gates. The Buhari administration further increased the cost of petrol to N145 per litre. I hope Fashola is also aware that there is an existing petroleum tax of N1.50 per litre, set aside for the maintenance of federal roads. Where are these funds saved for this special purpose? Assuming the previous administration stole the money, what has been happening to it under the APC administration? Fashola has to respond because Nigerians are yearning for answers.
This country is clearly not in a mood for the reintroduction of toll gates. The cost of goods and services are galloping. So many Nigerians have also been thrown out of jobs. Nigerians are bleeding and cannot afford extra burden of paying at toll gates. Why make life more difficult for Nigerians in order to generate funds that will most likely be shared by a few privileged individuals?
I am also worried about the exasperating traffic gridlock associated with toll gates, leading to loss of productive man-hour. The persistent congestion on the Lekki-Ajah toll gate at peak period is a good example of what I am talking about. Tragic accidents are often experienced at toll gates. One heartbreaking scene that has remained indelible in my mind was the sight of a truck laden with petrol, ramming into a long queue of vehicles at the toll gate in Ibadan during those dark days. We can’t afford a recurrence, which the return of toll gates would clearly provoke.
The federal government must first drag out the dedicated funds I listed above and use them for the maintenance of federal roads. If after doing this, the money is found to be inadequate, then, they should sit down with the representatives of traumatised Nigerians to fashion out alternative sources of funding for road maintenance. This talk about returning toll gates is clearly eccentric.
As for our federal legislators, if indeed, they are the true representatives of Nigerians, I expect them to halt this impending ignominy called toll gate reintroduction. This country can’t continue taking one step forward and 100 steps backward.