Two long-lost friends accidentally met recently; after throwing banters they decided to fill each other in over a bottle of beer. As they enjoyed their steaming pot of pepper-soup and chilled beer, the topic soon drifted to the state of the nation.
“I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard the NNPC, the country’s goose that lays the golden egg, announce recently that it is broke. If the NNPC says it is broke, what do you expect Nigeria to say?”
“Reminds me of the proverb: The man is on fire; yet, you are asking after his lofty beards! And didn't they say what ails Aboyade aileth everyone related to “Oya?” What aileth the NNPC surely must ail Nigeria”
“That is a serious matter. The 36 beggarly bowls called state governments must be fidgeting right now. How do they get the allocations that they survive on? The internally generated revenue of many of them is nothing to write home about. How do they pay salaries, provide services...?”
“The first question you should ask, and which must be uppermost in their heart, is how do they get their security vote, which many of them treat and use as slush funds? The story is told of a governor who, once the federal allocation surfaces from Abuja, first removes his security vote and ‘chop’ money before leaving whatever remains for the committee he had set up for the purpose, to share”
“He must be better than many others. Civilian governors are not the only one guilty of this. The story is also told of a military administrator in one of the South-west states who was accused by Labour leaders of mismanaging tax-payers’ money. Rather than defend himself, he simply directed the State’s Accountant-General to henceforth give IGR collected in the state to the state chapter of the NLC to administer while he (the governor) would preside over Federal allocations coming from Abuja!
“Smart rogue! I, too, heard the story. He must be a retired Army officer who hailed from somewhere in the North; he died recently”
“Correct! Nigeria has been unfortunate with her leaders, be they military or civilian. The rains started beating us a long time ago. If you imagine all the resources wasted and the opportunities lost, you will cry for the beloved country, like the South African author, Alan Parton, did for his native South Africa”
“Crying alone is not enough for Nigeria. Weeping and wailing and mourning and gnashing of teeth, like the Mighty Diamonds crooned, will not be out of place if we consider not just the total collapse of security, the decrepit state of infrastructure, the collapsing economy but also the falling apart of the entire country while our own King Nero fiddles”
“Nero is Nero and cannot behave differently. How dare you entrust your fate in the hands of Nero and expect the performance of a philosopher-king? No one gives what he does not have. Only a good tree bears good fruits...”
“You are right. But my hunch is that the way things have got so terribly bad, it cannot be due only to incompetence. I bet it is deliberate. The insecurity in the land and the cannibalisation of the economy appear to me as deliberate state policies to achieve preconceived ends”
“I don't understand! They have started printing the Naira. That is the road to Zimbabwe. The Naira is rapidly going down the hill. Stagflation has set in already. Cost of living is hitting the roof. Insecurity has spread to every part of the country. Dare you say this is deliberate? To achieve what ends?”
“Trace a problem to its very roots. The people who claim to be fighting Boko Haram today were defenders and supporters of the same Boko Haram six, seven years back. The people who claim to be fighting insurgency today defended insurgency six, seven years ago and railed against the then government that was fighting insurgency”
“Of course, that is correct but what are you driving at?”
“The collective wisdom of our people is that you begin to trim the branches of an ‘iroko’ tree in its infancy when it is still amenable to control. Insurgency has already become an ‘iroko’ tree grown wild. It has become like the okro fruit left unharvested in its youth when the knife could still cut through it”
“I remember Ebenezer Obe’s ‘Eko ila, o gba’ra re l’owo obe,werepe gba’ra re gba igi oko’! So those who defended and protected Boko Haram six, seven years ago must be held accountable for the monster it has now become?”
“Besides, those who created Boko Haram itself; the politicians who assembled and used the boys as political thugs only to abandon them afterwards must also share in the blame. So, Boko Haram did not creep upon us accidentally, it was a Frankenstein monster deliberately created for political reasons. It started in Borno and Yobe states, which remains its epicentre, but has spread to other parts of the country”
“Why, then, are they saying that Boko Haram is a religious uprising? The narrative is that they are fighting a jihad or religious war and that they want to force their fundamentalist religious bent on Nigerians”
“Religion is a weapon or tool to achieve the political goal of subjugation and control. Islamic ideology has not yet developed to the stage where religion and politics are separated one from the other. Both are still one and the same. So, their form of government is still theocracy like in the days of biblical Moses or Samuel and not democracy. Fundamentalist Muslims subscribe to theocracy and not democracy”
“But Nigeria is a democracy! How can democracy and theocracy exist side-by-side? Nigeria is equally a secular state. How, then, can anyone expect to impose his or her religion on others? There is religious freedom as enshrined in the Constitution”
“That is what you think or believe. The other side may not agree with you that Nigeria is a secular state. The liberals among them may concede that the country is a multi-religious and multi-ethnic state. Until they develop to the stage where religion and politics are separated, you will continue to have conflicts and disagreements that will snowball into conflagrations again and again”
“I should have known that! Since 2015 religion, region, and politics have converged and the same people have been in ascendancy. The same people have cornered all the top positions available and have established a vice-like grip on all the resources of the Nigerian state. They have made appointments, pursued policies, made statements, acted and behaved in a way suitable only to themselves to the total consternation and chagrin of the rest of us. For how long do you think this will continue?”
“For as long as it takes for the rest of us to resist them and throw off their yoke. Their religion, which they seek to impose by all means, is a yoke. Religion is by choice and not by the force of arms. Their political control, which is not equitable, just, and fair, is oppression, a modern-day slavery that must not be allowed to stand”
“I agree with you. Slavery was abolished in the 19th Century; so, why should anyone be slaves in the 21st century? Denmark-Norway abolished slavery in 1803; Britain followed suit in 1807 while the 13th Amendment, adopted on December 18, 1865, officially abolished slavery in the United States of America. Nothing, therefore, justifies slavery in any form in these modern times”
“Even colonialism is repugnant as we speak; yet, Nigeria’s is a clear case of internal colonialism where a minority ethnic group corners every apparatus of government and imposes its whims and caprices with impunity. Their audacity rankles”
“I agree but don't you think this is the case of a drum that is sounding at its crescendo? When that is the case, our elders say it is an indication that the drum will soon go burst. And the words of our elders are the words of wisdom! When someone adept at climbing trees gets so confident that he begins to climb beyond the leaves, what happens?”
“That is food for thought! Before we call it a day, what do you think of our governments in the South-west? They do not all appear to me to be pulling their weight. Governance appears to have suffered abandonment in the region that Awo and his lieutenants made proud in the 1950s and 1960s. They have let Awo’s legacies go rot. If only the dead could look back!"
“That is a topic for another day! These days, the South-west lives on past glory. Take for example education where we once excelled, where is the South-west today? The South-east and South-south take the shine off the South-west almost in every WAEC, JAMB and other examinations. Why has the South-west fallen on hard times so badly?”
“We are to blame! We have not been holding the feet of our leaders to the fire. Fixated on the enemy buffeting us from outside, we have let the enemy within escape with blue murder. That has got to stop!”
Published in the "Treasures" column, New Telegraph newspaper of Wednesday, 5 May, 2021 (Back page).
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