Mr. President, Give Nigerians Real Independence

By Casmir Igbokwe

In three days time, Nigeria will celebrate 60 years of independence which Britain granted her in 1960. The Federal Government has told us that the celebration will last for one year. According to the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Nigeria deserves a befitting celebration because “for a country that has gone through a bitter, internecine civil war, years of political crisis, daunting security challenges, including religious and ethnic crisis, etc, our unity and our resilience are worth celebrating.” As far as Mohammed is concerned, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has offered Nigeria a new beginning.

I am still searching for this unity and new beginning. Could they be in the regular drumbeats of war we hear across the country? Could Lai Mohammed be referring to the intractable battle the Boko Haram terrorists have waged in the North? Or the senseless killings going on in Southern Kaduna? Or the unbearable killings and kidnappings going on in different parts of the country such as Benue, Plateau, Niger, Katsina and so on?

In the 2019 Global Terrorism Index, Nigeria came third. It has retained this position since 2015. Only Iraq and Afghanistan are worse than Nigeria. Such terrorised countries as Syria, Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen are better than our country.

Ethnic and religious divisions have not abated. Now, it is not only in the South-East that you hear of agitations for self determination. In the South-West, certain groups have emerged to champion independence for the Yoruba nation. In the North-Central, the agitation for freedom from the North itself has taken another dimension. Recently, some North-Central leaders pulled out of the Arewa Consultative Forum. They formed a new group called the North-Central Peoples Forum to tackle insecurity and other challenges confronting the region. They said lives within the zone had ceased to be sacred as people were being killed and kidnapped regularly. The line holding this country together now is very thin.

Some of our respected elder statesmen have raised serious alarm. The other day, former President Olusegun Obasanjo warned that we were heading for Golgotha. The government spin doctors called him divider-in-chief. Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, has raised similar concerns. Like Obasanjo, he warned of the dangers ahead. Former Chief of Army Staff, Theophilus Danjuma, had once advised Nigerians to prepare to defend themselves because the country’s security forces as presently constituted would not protect them in the event of looming battles.

Unfortunately, the person we look up to for salvation, President Buhari, has failed us. He keeps mute amid serious complaints against lopsided appointments in the country. He has turned a blind eye to the cry of marginalisation in certain parts of the country. He looks the other way as a section of the country continues to lord it over others with impunity and inexplicable hubris. Hate speech has become a major phrase in our political lexicon. Government has tried to legislate against it. But it is difficult to flog a child mercilessly and still suppress his chilling cry.

Rwanda took this part before.  It paid dearly for it. Today, it has learnt some lessons. Though President Paul Kagame is ruling with iron fist, the country is stronger now than before. The economy is faring better than many of her contemporaries in Africa.

Our own economy is on bended knees. Inflation has hit the rooftops. Many states of the federation cannot survive without federal allocations. Many have not been able to pay the N30, 000 minimum wage. As you read this, the nationwide strike initiated by the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress, and billed to start today, September 28, 2020, may have taken off. Workers are angry over astronomical increase in electricity tariff and fuel price. From N87 a litre in 2015 when this administration assumed office, fuel price has climbed to between N158 and N162 a litre. Those who use prepaid meter will tell you the difference in electricity tariff now. If you were recharging N10, 000 a month before, now that money will not take you beyond two weeks depending on usage. This is happening in a country adjudged the poverty capital of the world. It is akin to pumping carbon dioxide into the oxygen mask of a dying patient.

We started this nationhood journey with some countries. Malaysia, Singapore, India, and even Ghana have overtaken us. Many Nigerians who can afford it prefer to send their children to Ghana for their higher education. There, you are guaranteed quality and uninterrupted study.

The rot in our own system is palpable. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been on strike since early this year. The union has been agitating for better welfare for members and adequate funding of the universities. The state of infrastructure in many of our public schools is horrible. Some lecturers are mediocrities. When you encounter them, you begin to wonder how they got recruited in the first place. You will even be ashamed when you hear some professors speak these days. And I have been wondering if there is some sort of quota system in the award of this professorship. Ironically, some brilliant ones who deserve it don’t have it.

This scenario is replicated in every sector. In the legal and medical professions, in journalism, in governance, there are quacks everywhere. If you doubt, just review some recent court judgements with regard to election cases. Also examine why the rich rush to London to treat common headache. Some of our medical laboratories discover typhoid when it may have been cancer. Some doctors diagnose malaria when it may have been tuberculosis. Some visited the hospital to get healed, but ended up in the mortuary over wrong treatment.

This rain started beating us from the doorsteps of corruption and selfishness. Only few people have the interest of the country at heart. The majority only think about their personal pockets. That is why someone will collect mobilisation fee for a contract and zoom off without doing the work. Some float fake companies, collect contracts worth millions of naira without even buying one bag of cement. You can check out the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), you will see some of these things. Buhari promised to tackle corruption. But corruption is the one dealing with his administration now.

It is not all gloom though. Infrastructure wise, we have made some progress. The Third Mainland Bridge may soon give birth to Fourth Mainland Bridge. The Niger Bridge will soon have a replica in Second Niger Bridge. The Kano to Niger Republic railway line is in the pipeline. Airports are springing up in different states of the federation. Though maintenance is not part of our culture, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is gradually wearing a new look. Shagamu-Ore-Benin Expressway was once a death trap. It is far better now.

We are also better off now in terms of transition from one civilian government to another. Before, it used to be from one military dictatorship to another. Our wobbling democracy is still bedevilled by serious imperfections. But one day, a leader will emerge to right the wrongs in the system. I am hopeful. The last governorship election in Edo State has strengthened that hope. Be hopeful too because if we don’t get it right in the next few years, there may not be any Nigeria again.

The so-called Independence Britain granted us 60 years ago is a ruse. What many Nigerians want now is restructuring of the federation. They want equity entrenched in the affairs of the nation. They want freedom to air their views and to protest against some anomalies if need be. In the absence of these, some of them want to go their separate ways peacefully. These form the cornerstone of the real independence many Nigerians want. Can President Buhari grant their requests? We keep our fingers crossed.

Anyway, happy Independence in advance!

 

Re: Edo, visa ban and demystification of a godfather

Sir, APC problem is spiritual. It’s in their logo. How can you put broom in your logo? The broom is working against them. You use broom to sweep away. The broom is now sweeping Nigeria away. APC is a failed party. Some years ago, Tinubu quoted Isaiah 14.22. Tinubu is too unholy to quote the bible. The verse is working against them.

  • Prophet Israel, +2348074348429

Dear Casmir, we have to keep pressing for electronic voting system. No one should vote in 2023 if the electoral act is not amended. Above all, failure to transmit result into server should attract life imprisonment.

– Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +2349095385215

Dear Casy, the Edo guber election and the USA visa ban on Nigeria’s election riggers were a masterstroke. The ban has helped the Edo electorate and to a large extent Nigerian electorate to have a say in who emerges as their leaders in future elections.

  • Eze Chima, +2347036225495

I have a strong feeling that President Muhammadu Buhari himself is aware that Oshiomhole is the undertaker-in-chief to APC; the APC governors are also aware of this very albatross on the party’s neck, so also are members of the APC caretaker committee solely put up to manage the party’s fast eroding fortunes.  The threat of visa ban forced the abandonment of federal might. For sacrificing a winning candidate on the altar of his unbridled haughtiness and visionless opportunism, Oshiomhole has finally met his political Waterloo. The good people of Edo state have firmly demonstrated that ‘Edo no bi Lagos’.

Edet Essien Esq., Cal. South, +2348037952470

Casmir, experience has shown that results of elections in Nigeria should be celebrated with ‘cautious optimism’, because, the victory dance could still be terminated via the election tribunal. However, I hope we have come to the end of this most exciting, pulsating and memorable Edo state ‘soap opera’.

Mike, Mushin, +2348161114572

Casmir, Edo election has once again proved that power belongs to the people. The failure of our officers today is collective failure to fight for our rights. The success of godfatherism in Nigeria politics is because of our gullibility to mundane things.

-Pharm. Okwuchukwu Njike, +234 803 885 4922

Obaseki’s historic second coming has climaxed the two consecutive beatings of Ize-Iyamu on two different platforms with his estranged godfather as the centre referee.

-Ediye, Calabar, +2348056615168

Governor Obaseki of Edo state should forgive former APC chairman despite his evil plan to stop him for second term in office. When God is with you, no one can stop you to achieve your success.

Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

I salute you sir for your beautiful piece in last Monday’s Sun. You are one of the best. Please keep it up & keep the flag flying.

  • Anonymous, +2348033371152
  • Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, September 28, 2020.

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