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Yar’Adua: The hole in the zero of nothing

By Rotimi Fasan
NIGERIA is terribly sick. Of this much Nigerians are sure. A random survey of comments either on the streets or the media brings the fact home clearer. What may be disputable is the seriousness of our ailment: Is it curable or, God forbid, a terminal case beyond the powers of the best physicians?

Our rulers, particularly the present government, are killing us by instalment. Nigeria may not have fallen apart, gone the way of Somalia, Liberia or Sierra Leone a few years back, mere booty in the hands of warlords. We may not have lost it all, but we are certainly without leaders.

That there is a semblance of governance and order in the face of the mounting chaos in the land is one of the more enigmatic imponderables of our freakish trajectory to nation-being.

If Nigeria still stands as a polity under law and order, if it hasn’t buckled under, if people haven’t yet begun to walk into their neighbours’ homes with arms to dislodge the owners, it is a consequence more of civilised habit and the resilience of the polity than design by the men and women who presently pretend to rule from Abuja. No, the present administration has neither goal nor direction, properly defined.

It looks empty, bereft of purpose and is best represented by that ultimate symbol of cipherhood, the Big Zero. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the darkness, literal absence of light or any form of illumination that has engulfed many, maybe most parts of this country, in the wake of the unending energy crisis that has defied every proclaimed remedy of the Yar’Adua government.

My belief is that the disease presently ravaging Nigeria can be arrested if urgent steps are taken to lobotomise the offending parts of our body politic. Such surgical operation must, unfortunately, start from the top- the very part that is most resistant to and unprepared for any form of transformation, social or political. Like the monkey that cannot see its bald posterior, the rulers in Abuja cannot see why they are the very problems they seek to cure in Nigeria.

Of these many problems one stands out to even the most stone-blind of us, and that is the lack of electricity. Walking out in the night a couple of days back, I was struck by how vast communities in Lagos were enveloped in almost total darkness.

It is the same story all over the country, a matter which according to foreign media reports has been generating reactions among Nigerians on internet networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and co.

Tired of spending money they do not have on fuelling the ubiquitous pollutants that go by the name generators, while power from PHCN is kept on standby, Nigerians are resigning to fate, going back to life as it was before the discovery of electricity. The thick folds of darkness which spelt danger makes movement in our towns and cities at any point in the night now a truly heroic or foolhardy venture.

If there is yet any doubt that the people in Abuja were unprepared even if not unwilling rulers, such doubts should be dispelled from now on. It is becoming clearer that while President Yar’Adua might have been foisted on Nigerians, he does not lack the capacity to enjoy power without responsibility.

Indeed, despite the clear failures of the last two and half years, this President does not seem averse to more years in office.

It was the point forcefully made by activist Najatu Muhammed in last week’s edition of The News. President Yar’Adua may not be as innocent or as impervious to the selfish use of power as he looks. Which makes his hanging on to power and endangerment of the destinies of millions of Nigerians, including his own (considering his own personal issues) a matter not to be taken lightly.

His policy of appeasement to Niger-Delta militants, including the wrongheaded trick to pay daily stipends to the rank and file, lacks evidence of proper consideration, begins to look like loot-sharing, bribery and an ad hoc attempt to address the needs of a dangerous enemy capable of rocking the gravy train of the power profiteers with eyes set on 2011.

Various sectors of the economy are on strike or about to start one; people are hungry and angry. How does this government propose to lead Nigeria out of this state of unrelieving pain? It says one thing today and another tomorrow, ambles forward an inch and engages the reverse gear for a mile, almost in the same breath.

This was the government that rants about a Seven-Point Agenda while it is yet to define them meaningfully, to say nothing of fulfilling just one of them. On coming into office Yar’Adua spoke of declaring an emergency to address the problem of the power sector, repeated the claim in a recent interview with The Guardian and even went ahead to fix a December date for increasing power generation from whatever it is now to 6,000 megawatts. Although the problem worsens daily, no emergency has been declared

Worse yet, the government is  already indicating that 6,000 megawatts of power may no longer be possible, blaming pipeline vandalisation in the Niger-Delta for the volte-face.

The government pretends it doesn’t like to lie to Nigerians but it does not seem to be telling the truth to Nigerians either. How do we advance, with this gaping abyss before us?


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