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Climbing a tree from the top

By Josef Omorotionmwan

NIGERIA reminds us of the case of the smart messenger with a short memory. This messenger soon turned his mother into a money spinning machine of sorts. One morning, he came to the office to announce that his mother was critically ill and he needed money to procure her medication. Out of genuine sympathy, we obliged him and also gave him time off to go and take care of the mother.

A few weeks later, he returned to announce that the mother could not pull through. She passed on. The messenger wept profusely and narrated how dear the mother was to him. Usually, when people weep like that, it is not so much about their closeness to the departed one but more of how to get the money for burial. We consoled him and assured him of sufficient assistance with the burial. We gave him N100,000 and wished him well since we were too busy at the time to attend the funeral.

About seven years later, our friend came to announce that his mother had been involved in a terrible accident and that he needed N50,000 for her blood transfusion at the hospital. Was this not the same mother that we helped to bury some time ago? Well, there was sufficient reason to give him the benefit of doubt. After all, in the African context, father or mother is a generic term that could apply to any older member of the extended family.

We made N50,000 available to him but this time around, the money was handed over to my Personal Assistant, PA, with instruction to accompany our friend to the hospital; pay for the blood transfusion; and assess the situation appropriately. On the way, he cornered my PA and suggested that they should share the money because his mother was not involved in any accident.

The early indications are that 2015 is a ticket to the past. We just refuse to be guided by the lessons of history. As a result, we keep doing the same things, the same old way and we keep expecting different results. How else does anyone explain the fact that, 30 years after the demise of the Second Republic, we are still returning to the age of “Tako-Tako Mentality” in which old wines simply appear in new kegs? The NPN of 1983 believed on the band-wagon effect, which requires that you place the presidential election first and the party of whoever emerges President will sweep all the elections, even down to the local government level.

This has been widely criticised because of its propensity to aid rigging at the lower levels. In the elegant phraseology of Governor Adams Oshiomhole, this is like climbing the tree from the top. The ideal thing is to start the elections from the lowest rungs of the ladder.

In its memory loss, the NPN (oops, the PDP) of 2014 relies on the same old methods, thinking that if it worked then, it must also work now. But did it really work then? Their memory fails them in the obvious fact that the old methods only succeeded in bringing us to the sorry state in which we find ourselves today. They are even unable to realise that the political configuration has totally changed:  in 1983, people moved from the smaller parties to the NPN but in 2014, the centre can no longer hold and the movement is from the big party to the smaller parties that were once in the opposition. So the band-wagon pendulum can also swing either way.

Rivers State has had a raw deal in seen and unseen ways. At the height of the terrorism threats facing the State, the Government devoted substantial budgetary outlays, sending men of the Nigeria Police Force in the State to Israel and other places for training  in group anti- and counter-­terrorism tactics. No sooner did they return to the State than Police Commissioner Joseph Mbu scattered them to various obscure positions where their training became useless and the equipment procured for their work made redundant. This was money flushed down the toilet! However, Mbu’s malfeasance is not totally useless. At least, it provides the best reference point in support of the State police.

The use of force is temporary. Mbu’s reign of impunity in Rivers State was a passing phase. We have been through this rough route before, no thanks to the same gang of people.  In the Second Republic, we witnessed a reign of terror under a Gestapo, IGP Sunday Adewusi. Under his reign of terror, Armored Personnel Carriers were first introduced into the Nigeria Police Force. They were instruments for cowing the opposition to submission. It was a wicked regime and so wickedly did it also end! In just the same way that there is no killing the beetle, you cannot destroy an idea whose time has come. Such is the fate of the All Progressives Congress, APC.

Finally, people are now celebrating the removal of Police Commissioner Mbu from the Rivers State police command. Even in his departure, he carries on with his impunity. In a country that is supposedly under the rule of law, he is alleged to have released suspected PDP thugs who were earlier caught with large cache of arms and ammunition. He has introduced a new dimension to criminality. A pro-government prison warden who is deployed to a new location can now throw the prison gates open for inmates to flee to freedom. What a parting gift!

In its proactive stance, the APC has, for the first time in the politics of Nigeria, taken the registration of members to the grassroots, the unit level. The PDP feels threatened by this novel idea. Rather than stoop to be taught this new order, the PDP must resort to its evil machinations. They have invaded registration centres; killed and maimed some APC members; and carted away registration materials, apparently for destruction.

In all this, the change we need simply dictates that it is not always smart to be smart!

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