Tribute: Pini Jason: One year after

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It is one year exactly today since  ace columnist, Pni Jason Onyegbado, passed on. In his memory, we present extracts from the book he was working on at the time death came entitled, ‘Nigeria-The Years of Impunity’.
The book, now ready, will soon be out.

…when I am dead
Everyday I write, I am conscious that I am crafting my own elegy for all these will form my book of tearful song when I am dead. The funeral orchestra will plunk its rhythm from the score-sheet I have written. Someday, when death silences this space, I will be too dead to fill it with words, but the silence will provoke a vigorous noise, the void will generate its own words in celebration of what we said here. And the power of the word will leap the dead back into life.

National Conference is the answer
To launch Nigeria into the orbit of a modern, efficient, progressive and stable nation, Nigeria must be returned to a true federation. This will require a far-reaching reform of the constitution through a pro-people, process led participatory mechanism. Such reform must resolve finally the secularity of the nation and deal with the modus vivendi between the federating units and the central government and the power relationship among all tiers of government. The reform must also address the revenue allocation collection, management, and fiscal responsibilities. The reform must enthrone a electoral process that is credible so that only the people chosen by the electorate must occupy our public offices, not charlatans who rig their way into power. But above all, the restructuring must aim at setting a common value or objective on which the modem Nigerian nation will be founded. I believe a National Conference is the best mechanism to reach consensus on these issues.

Stop the panic, give us petrol
For excuses, the Petroleum Ministry and NNPC officials have only NEPA as competitors. Ten government officials speaking on the petrol matter at the same time are bound to give us ten different excuses. But the one I find very amusing is that refrain that the long queues at the petrol stations are due to panic buying!
Whenever officials come out with this statement, I always wonder why they believe they have made such a profound revelation or why they think they are telling us what we don’t know.

We panicked all right. Why not?
If petrol is available who would panic? Who in his right mind will choose to go and sleep at the petrol station?

There is panic my friends. And we panic because we can’t find petrol! What do you mean panic buying? Do you guys think we are all masochists?

Once we can’t find petrol we are bound to panic! We panic because we can’t go to our offices. We panic because it means the children can’t go to school. We panic because our lives are disrupted. We panic, panic, panic.
Stop the panic, give us petrol.

The National Question
There are two components of the National Question. One relates to the relationship between the various tiers of government – the federal, state and local governments, what should be the responsibility of the federal government vis-a-vis the state governments, how strong should the federal government be and other questions.

It is just a few free loaders and their toadying accomplices East and West who are holding the rest of us to ransom. I have seen ordinary Nigerians from all over the country under one roof and all pulling in one direction to make Nigeria better. The National Question is also not a question of conceding power or giving the presidency to the South as some people condescendingly imply. I don’t think any section needs any concession in that regard once the parameters are collectively set and respected.

The minorities’ question
If we think the problem of the oil-bearing minorities will simply go away, we are mistaken. What Ken Saro-Wiwa set in motion is irreversible. Nigeria has to come to terms with the grievances of the minorities.

If, on the other hand, we are waiting for the minorities to kill off themselves to remove any resistance to an unrestricted exploitation of oil, we are equally mistaken. Instead, we will all roast in the Niger Delta oil.
The multinational oil companies know that they cannot do business in their home countries the way they are doing it in Nigeria. Yesterday, the whole of Nigeria pretended as if the plight of the Igbos didn’t matter because Biafra was far away, as far away as Vietnam!

Today Ogidigben, Ogbe-Ijoh, Jesse, Modakeke are also far away places and don’t matter. But who knows where else Nigeria’s next faraway place will emerge? We must learn to share the pains of other communities that make up this unstable project called Nigeria.

Who’s conceding to whom?

Why does the North conveniently forget that it is really the South that has been making concessions to the North? It was a great concession to have allowed the 1914 amalgamation. That the North ever got to rule this country was due to the concession of the South. But for NCNC in 1959, Nigeria’s political history would have taken a different trajectory.

All over the country, all I see is Southern concession. The South conceded quota, federal character, cut-off marks and all such administrative hurdles that keep Southerners down today. Nobody in the South is asking for concession in the matter of power shift to the South. Abiola did not win his election as a concession. All concessions, like the rotation of the presidency, which were coined since the criminal annulment of the 12 June, 1993 presidential election won by Chief M.K.O. Abiola, were really meant to reassure the North.

I expect Afenifere to reappraise its perception of other Nigerians, its manner of addressing other
Nigerians and its manner of relating to other Nigerians. The Afenifere should work the AD into a truly national party.

It has the potentials, but the Afenifere membersof AD must learn to respect those who disagree with them. For example, a case where the former Chairman of AD, Ambassador Jolly Yusuf was called a saboteur simply because he resigned, leaves a sour taste in the mouth. I used to think that there is a clear distinction between democracy and dictatorship.

The leadership Nigerians want
What the political parties must appreciate is that Nigerians are not likely to take kindly to politics of business as usual after the years of trauma they’ve been through. Some of the sentiments on which the parties and the politicians are basing their calculations count for nothing now. More than anything else, Nigerians want an honest dedicated, credible, articulate and intelligent leadership that has the mind for details to prudently manage our economy, and the heart to do justice to ALL Nigerians, not a leadership that offers nothing but the ability to balance the interests of those with their sticky fingers permanently poised at our national treasury.
Murtala Mohammed in his brief shining reign, exemplified what a unifying leader ought to be. He was not sectional. He was not petty. He was not a prisoner of any cabal. He was fair to all Nigerians. You know, his ADC who died with him was a Yoruba!

Just one great mind…
It is Nigerians that have created the self-cannibalising environment that wastes our talents, our youths and our best. It is Nigerians that enthroned mediocrity and banished merit thus declaring a never-ending season of everyman-to-himself. It is Nigerians who created a nation where nothing works except the perverse. So running away from comparison of how a Nigerian mind works and how other minds work is not an attempt at solution but a convenient looking away from the reddened boil full of pus. I strongly believe that one great mind, just one great mind combining the palpable patriotism of a Kennedy, the selflessness of a Grandhi and the oratorical power of an Ojukwu can pull this nation out of its present rot.

Selflessness and greatness
Perhaps Nigeria’s problem is really that she is not lacking in patriots! But I doubt if a lot of us know the attributes of greatness. If we do, we seem not to care.
Selflessness is one single attribute of greatnes that is lacking in Nigeria.

Overwhelmed by our problems
Why is it that all our problems, even the most elementary ones, seem to defy us as a nation? What is it that makes our problems intractable? What manner of people do we put in charge to solve our national problems? If they are the best, why are they not solving our problems? If they are not the best, why do we have them there? What kind of a nation just sits unconcerned while every little problem becomes a major one that overwhelms it?

To be continued.

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