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Why I was not at Independence Day

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By Owei Lakemfa

I WAS not at last Thursday’s 49th Independence celebrations held by our leaders. I know I was not missed. Almost all of us ordinary citizens were not there, either physically or in spirit. We were not missed. The important thing was that our leaders had fun, congratulated themselves and remembered to thank us for being such a wonderful citizenry because only a docile or conquered people will keep up with this charade.

By Independence Day, we were officially producing almost two million barrels of crude oil daily, it was selling above $65 per barrel yet our people are so poor. Months ago, we produced 2.6 million barrels daily, yet more of our people were pushed below poverty line. We cannot even begin a journey towards basic millennium goals without relying on handouts from international organisations and donors.

Sadly during this Independence Day, our leaders were quite busy plotting how to deepen poverty and punish the people by significantly increasing the prices of  kerosene, petrol and diesel. They cloak their conspiracy against the populace under the guise of ‘deregulation’. But the truth is that they need more money to share and maintain their life style.

Of course, we should remember that with the approach of 2011, they need a lot of money to store away. That is why irrespective of political affiliation, they are all agreed; the AC governor and his PDP counterpart, the grassroots governor and the elitist one who ironically is more transparent politically.

There is no logic in their thought process or argument. When prices of crude oil rise astronomically and the Nigerian people as oil producers should be elated, the elites argue that this raises the level of subsidy for petroleum products, the people therefore have to pay more for the products.

On the other hand, when prices fall like they have in recent months, the same leaders argue that with the nation earning less income from oil, there is every need to increase the prices of petroleum products. Either way, we the people lose; but for the Presidency, governors, local government leaders and legislators; tail, they win, head, they win.

A few weeks before, Propagandist-In-Chief, Prof Dora Akunyili had taken over the airwaves about an insult on the nation in an advert by  Sony. At the ceremony where Sony presented an apology, she repeated like a broken record the song  “only Nigerians can tell the Nigerian story”. But days later when the  United Nations  General Assembly provided our leaders the world stage to tell the Nigerian story, neither our President nor his Vice was present.

While world leaders, including America’s Barack Obama, Africa’s Mouamar Ghadaffi and Asia’s Hua Jintau headed to New York to present their country’s story, our President faced Saudi Arabia to participate in the opening of a university.

This was at a time when all  our country’s public universities had been shut down for months due to his administration’s intransigence. I had reflected that such visit is illogical except the nation was not told the full story.

The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in its independence message told the world  that Nigerians have a reason to celebrate because according to its Chairman, Vincent Ogbulafor, there is rule of law and security of lives and property. How far can organisations and individuals descend in self deceit? Even in Ogbulafor’s part of the country, banks are forced to close down due to brazen and frequent daylight attacks by armed robbers.

While the PDP was making its false claims, many Nigerians were in the hands of kidnappers, including the  Secretary to the Kaduna State Government, M. Waje Yayok who on release said that his captors held 30 other victims in a house in Warri.  Yayok, according to the state government, was kidnapped near his house and his car was added to a convoy of four other cars which drove with their victims for over nine hours across the country to Warri without any security agency accosting them.

When his family on September 22, 2009 alerted the nation that Yayok had been kidnapped, the Kaduna State Government countered that he was on official assignment to southern Kaduna. When a day later it admitted Yayok had been kidnapped, the Police was busy boasting it would soon free him.

It later went to the ridiculous extent of announcing the date it would free Yayok as if he were in their custody. Yayok was not freed by the boastful Police or any agency of government; his kidnappers decided to free him in a brazen manner. They took him to a public motor park, placed him in a government- run transport bus, paid his fare, waited for the bus to take off and waved him goodbye. What security is the PDP talking about?

Take another incident. The former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC),  Nuhu Ribadu is supposed to be a fugitive taking shelter abroad. Last month he came into the country, paid an open and well publicised condolence visit to the family of late legal icon, Gani Fawehinmi before leaving the country.

The government’s first reaction was to deny that Ribadu came into the country and accused the press of fabrications.
When the media published photographs of the visit, government did not have the humility to apologise for falsely accusing the press. So if we should celebrate our security as PDP argues, how come  no security arm detected Ribadu’s entrance, stay and exit from the country?

I identify with President Yar’ Adua’s confession that “the promise of independence is yet to be realised”. But he should have admitted that the elites in power are utterly incapable of realising the promise.

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