By Josef Omorotionmwan
WHEN the price of a bag of cement pointed to the direction of N15.00 in 1985, this writer addressed what looked like a world press conference, which touched principally on the outrage. I was the Chairman of the then Bendel Development and Property Authority (BDPA) and as the guest speaker of that year’s annual dinner of the Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, Bendel State Chapter, my stand was that, that “bagged dust” had no right to go beyond N5.00 per bag. It was the first time I hit the major headlines in most Nigerian newspapers.
My sister was perhaps the only one who saw tomorrow. She felt I was addressing the wrong side of the issue. For her, Nigeria’s problems had long defied the laws of economics. She said I should pray to God to give me the wherewithal to buy cement even if it gets to N1,000 per bag. Today, a bag of cement already dominates the region of N3,000 and nobody is complaining anymore.
Contrary to the popular view that Nigerians do not read and that perhaps the easiest way of hiding any information from them is to put it in print, we have just discovered that Nigerians could be very avid readers if they choose to. In every direction, our piece, “Drivers wanted: Minimum Qualification, PhD” has gone burst.
It has been over-subscribed. Reactions range from the absurd to the sublime; and from such mild side as “That’s not our type of PhD. Ours were conferred after we were found worthy in character and learning. The PhD drivers got theirs after they were found wanting in character and learning”; to the wild side of outright heaving of abuses on Dangote, for an obnoxious programme that is aimed at holding down Southerners.
There is a consensus in many areas; the measure kills initiative. Very soon, it will become extremely difficult, getting our children to go to school, particularly when they see their uncles who had reached the zenith of their education now driving trucks. Again, readers feel that two steps need to be taken urgently: While we check out the post graduate programmes that issued those PhD, we must quickly arrange to examine the heads of the holders.
The emerging trend portends danger. Like what happened with the cement price, the PhD drivers’ scheme may as well be pointing to the direction of things to come.
We are giving up on the fight against terror. The penultimate week, we saw the king running away from battle leaving his subjects at the battle field in total disarray. The Chambers of the National Assembly and members’ official quarters must now be completely deserted.
Our leaders are scared stiff that Boko Haram can descend on them any time. Members have cried out that the National Assembly is no longer safe. After the escapade of the past three weeks, it is clear that the merchants of death have now carried their battle to the enemy’s territory.
First, gunmen successfully bombed the church at the Command and Staff College, Jaji, Kaduna State, in which 17 people were reportedly killed and several others injured. Less than 24 hours after, gunmen sacked the headquarters of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Abuja. And in quick succession, gunmen virtually sacked Auchi Town in Edo State.
In a three-hour daylight operation on all Banks and the Command Headquarters of the Nigeria Police, – and in all this, the army cantonment was their next door neighbour. The soldiers only came to occupy the town after robbers had left safely! Worse still, the gunmen are on rampage in most cities across the country.
For all we know, in other climes, frightened leaders don’t easily cry out. Even at the edge of doom, they would keep assuring and reassuring the citizens that all is well. In any case, they keep planning and fighting.
Eight more years of Boko Haram! One can hardly fault the excellent submission of President Goodluck Jonathan that the Odi Massacre was a fiasco, which means that the use of such brute force on Boko Haram is ruled out as something that will not work. We now know enough of what will not work.
But the buck stops with the President. He must quickly do what will work! If he must be reminded, there is this hypothesis that the Boko Haram affair could also be about him and his desire to cling to power. This hypothesis is built around the fact that Boko Haram is a fulfillment of the naked threat to make Nigeria ungovernable under Jonathan. It goes further to say that the moment Jonathan relinquishes the presidency, Boko Haram would cease hostility.
Meanwhile, the bag won’t contain it but the native doctor won’t leave it behind. We hear that Jonathan may already be warming up for another tenure and he looks unstoppable, which simply means that Nigeria is about to be sentenced to yet another four or five years of Boko Haram, without any option of fine. Who will save us from this bleak future? Jonathan cannot feign ignorance of what will work here. Can he? Will he?
Election rigging has just been legalised in Nigeria! INEC has released its prosecution index for electoral offenders. INEC is beating its chest that out of 870,000 offenders, 200 have been successfully prosecuted, which represents a prosecution rate of 0.02 percent! Bravo!
Put simply, out of every 4,350 offenders (ballot box snatchers, ballot stuffers, election riggers, shooters and killers at polling centres, etc.) only one person is prosecuted – a prosecution ratio of 4,350 : 1! Here, we are looking at the rate of prosecution, not conviction. The 200 may have been set free. In a more serious polity, this could engage our collective energies for the rest of this decade.
There is no greater license to kill than this! It provides a frightening glimpse into our future. What noise, then, are we making about electoral reforms?