Christmas In A Troubled Nation

Casmir Igbokwe

This year, I didn’t hear much of “Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle all the way…” The reason is not hard to guess. Nigerians have gone through a lot in recent times. People can’t sing “jingle bells” on empty stomach. They can’t chorus “Feliz Navidad” when there is no hope of a good job; when they are not sure when the next meal will come from. How can they sing, “I wanna wish you a merry Christmas” when they have not seen any hamper or gift or even a one-legged chicken from anywhere?

Every year, most people, especially of South-East extraction, troop to their ancestral homes for Yuletide. From about December 24, no time is too early to hit the roads. As early as 2am, traffic has started building up in certain places. It is also a busy period for police as they line the road to ensure adequate security and also to collect their usual ‘toll’. This year, fear and uncertainty took greater hold of people. The question on the lips of many was, “will you travel?”

Yes, a lot of people eventually travelled. A lot more people will still travel by New Year. But, it is with their hearts in their mouths. There is a great apprehension in the land. And it is understandable. Almost on a daily basis, stories of the exploits of kidnappers, terrorists, bandits, armed robbers or whatever name you call them disturb the ears and trouble the hearts. No zone in Nigeria is free.

In the North, terrorists still hold sway. In Kaduna, Zamfara, Katsina and many other areas, they have killed many innocent citizens. In a bid to engage these bandits, the Nigerian Air Force bombed some places in Kaduna and Zamfara recently. They killed scores of terrorists, arrested some of them and rescued some kidnap victims. Mistakenly, they also allegedly killed some of the citizens they came to protect at Mutumji community in Maru Local Government Area of Zamfara. Some soldiers also died.

The South-East is no exception. Last year, for instance, scores of policemen were killed. Their stations and operational vehicles were not spared. In Imo State, echoes of these killings were heard at Umulowo, Aboh Mbaise, Isiala Mbano and many others. In Anambra, we heard of similar actions in places like Isuofia, Nkpologwu, Neni, Ekwulobia, Awkuzu and many others. Abia, Ebonyi and Enugu were not spared.

This year, sounds of gunshots have continued to boom. Bullets have continued to fly. Many innocent people have died. They committed no sin. Only that they were unlucky to be at the danger zone at the wrong time.

These days, the killings have become more brutal. I watched with horror the female soldier and her partner who they decapitated in Imo State a few months ago. To show how beastly they have become, they also cut off the private part of the dead woman and made a public show of it. My compatriot and member of the Anambra State House of Assembly, Hon. Okechukwu Okoye and his aide, Cyril Chiegboka Jnr, suffered the same fate. Hon. Okoye was running for his re-election in the state Assembly in the upcoming election. He went for a meeting in his native home, Isuofia. On his way back to his base in Awka after the meeting, some gunmen kidnapped him. Some days after, they slaughtered him and his aide despite collecting huge ransom.

A few months after these killings, the military mounted a roadblock with an armoured tank at Isuofia, the home town of the state governor, Professor Chukwuma Soludo. Despite this, some gunmen attacked these soldiers recently. One of the fleeing soldiers reportedly accosted a young man on bike inside the village and shot him dead instantly. A lad in his house also sustained bullet wounds. Thank God he survived after a surgery. We also saw four other dead bodies on display. We were told they were the gunmen gunned down by security agents.

We have continued to hear stories of this nature on a regular basis. This has cowed people such that those who summon courage to travel now move like weather-beaten vultures. Some discard their cars and move around in tricycles. Some have avoided the hinterlands. Even traditional marriages are celebrated outside the ancestral homes these days. The other day, Senator Andy Uba reportedly performed the traditional marriage of his daughter in Abuja instead of his hometown as tradition demands. The rich also cry!

It is only the spirit of Christmas that has made some people to travel this year. That spirit is propelled by the end-of-the-year activities. Such activities include family meetings, village and town union conventions, traditional and white weddings, chieftaincy titles, marriage anniversaries and funerals.

State governments, Police and Civil Defence Corps have assured of adequate security. Anambra State Government, for instance, has urged people to come home without fear; that the hoodlums terrorizing people have been neutralized. In a recent statement, the Anambra State Commissioner of Police, Echeng Eworo Echeng, urged people to move with caution. He assured of adequate security during the festive season.

Already, Nigerians now move with caution. You don’t blame anybody. People never had it so bad. The state of the economy has helped to subdue people. Or how do you explain that a bag of 50Kg of rice that used to go for about N10, 000 a few years ago now goes for over N40, 000 in some parts of the country? A tuber of yam that was sold for about N1, 000 now goes for about N2, 500 or more. The same thing goes for other Nigerian staples. The increase is over 100 per cent.

It is possible that things will get better next year. That is if we play our cards very well. February 25, 2023 is the date for Nigeria’s presidential election. Three major characters are among those who have applied to serve Nigeria as President. They are Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Mr. Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP). Among these characters, who can we trust more considering their pedigree and past records?

Mr. Peter Obi of course! He may not be a saint in the mould of Mother Theresa, but he clearly stands out among his competitors. He is the one destined to transform this country. That is why the youths and all the oppressed people of Nigeria are rooting for him. So far, he tops almost in all the opinion polls conducted to test the waters in the forthcoming election. He remains the hope of millions of Nigerians. With him, next year’s Christmas may not come with songs of lamentation anymore. Then, “Jingle Bells” will be chorused in louder voices and the chant of Hallelujah will be deafening!

Merry Christmas my compatriots and do have a prosperous New Year!

 

Re: Corruption as greatest threat to 2023 elections

I never voted Buhari in all presidential elections because contrary to the false belief of most Nigerians, I do not believe in the so-called incorruptibility or integrity of the man. The truth is that he didn’t last long in office in his first coming as military head of state to steal as much as his then predecessors and successors. Now that he has stayed longer as a civilian ruler, is corruption not in its worst form since independence? Those elites whom the courts sentenced to a long term imprisonment after a rigorous trial, didn’t he set them free by granting them presidential pardon?

-Ifeanyi Maduako, Owerri, +234 806 156 2735

 

You have rightly hit the nail on the head in your submission that ”if Perez(the former Guatemalan president) were to be a Nigerian, he would have completed his terms of office and retired with huge life pension and choice property in major cities in Nigeria”. But what you forgot to add is that the EFCC, ICPC, DSS etc would certainly mark them and their personal mansions as a no-go area and untouchables. Nigeria is yet to properly evolve for its people to be the true determinants of those who assume political power. Nigeria’s presidential pedestal is usually seized in a commando style and grabbed with a vice-like grip by the rich and powerful, and who are jealously protected by a fraudulent constitution. And no matter how dummy the president may be, he still remains more powerful than the United States’ president who actually works ceaselessly and restlessly for an enduring Global order. Corruption is not just a threat to the 2023 elections! The very ugly head of electoral corruption had overwhelmingly threatened the recent presidential primaries of the frontline parties to the extent that one didn’t need any interpreter to know that the main elections would witness the murder of all electoral robberies.

-Edet Essien Esq. Cal. South, +234 810 809 5633

 

Dear Casy, corruption in Nigeria has become a behemoth and, therefore, intractable for some reasons, to wit: (1) our dealers, sorry, so-called leaders are the moulders of corruption, especially, when they enter into the political power-sanctuary and taste the ‘forbidden fruit’. (2) The taste of the ‘forbidden fruit’ creates and elevates a lifestyle that normally shall be sustained while in and out of public office. (3)It is said that when the mother of a goat is chewing grass, her child acquires experience by looking at her. The ripple effect is that those close to or around our so-called leaders begin to do what they learnt from their masters, thereby, spreading corruption. (4) Selectivity in the application of sanctions by Government, also, livens up corruption as villains usually run to the ruling party, as Government of the day, for cover. Going by the aforesaid, discussing remedies to corruption as a topic in any event in Nigeria is merely an academic exercise.

-Steve Okoye, Awka, 08036630731.

 

Casmir, any ‘corruption driven’ or inspired electoral processes involving 1, the candidates 2, the electoral body 3, the various security personnel and 4, the voting public, is unsatisfactory and inimical to our development! The consequence is far reaching and counter-productive to the wishes and prayers of the larger segment of the country. The ideal thing is to vote into office – at the national level in particular – a highly rational candidate who is competent and a ‘solution provider’ to our numerous challenges. But, corruption can derail this goal; if and while men with ‘good conscience’ slept! Electoral offences – in which corruption is the catalyst – is established where the majority of the citizenry suffers from a chronic situation of ‘poverty of the mind’. This makes such voters susceptible to accepting ‘peanuts’ in exchange for their votes! Poverty of the mind leads to ‘poverty of the pocket’ which the candidates exploit to great effect.

-Mike, Mushin, Lagos, +234 816 111 4572

 

Dear Casmir, it will be excellent if by 2023 we remove immunity clause from the Constitution. Leaders should be made answerable for corruption, state killings, reckless shooting and inhuman treatment even while in power. With this justice shall prevail.

-Cletus Frenchman Enugu, +234 909 538 5215

 

Corruption is part of governance in Nigeria. What Nigeria needs is prayers to overcome corruption in governance.

-Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +234 807 316 5732

  • Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, December 26, 2022

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