By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
WHEN members of the Nigerian Collective issued an open letter at the beginning of this week, I didn’t hesitate to add my name to the long list of signatories. The petition demanded the sack of Nigeria’s Interior Minister, Abba Moro, for his insensitive comments in the wake of the tragic killing of young Nigerian applicants at the weekend.

I was returning home from a trip abroad last Saturday when I ran into a scrum and what I thought was the Nigerian traffic jam; but it was rather different and more anarchic. Sixty-eight thousand applicants had besieged the 60, 000 seat National Stadium, Abuja for placement in the Nigerian Immigration Service.

Immoral content

That was in fact a tip of the iceberg because it turned out that seven million young Nigerians had actually applied for the 4,000 vacancies to be filled. The immoral content of the whole process was located in the fact that those who organised it collected N1, 000 application fee each from these desperate citizens, thus raking in N7billion, most of which would be stolen anyway.

NIGERIA, Abuja : Job-seekers applying for work at the Nigerian immigration department scramble as their exam papers fly in the air, on the pitch of Abuja National Stadium, on March 15, 2014. AFP PHOTO
NIGERIA, Abuja : Job-seekers applying for work at the Nigerian immigration department scramble as their exam papers fly in the air, on the pitch of Abuja National Stadium, on March 15, 2014. AFP PHOTO

In a typical expression of official incompetence, just one gate was left open for this huge multitude.   At the end of the scandalous process, eight of the 68, 000 in Abuja died; three of the 11, 000 in Niger State were killed; five of the 35, 000 that turned out in Port Harcourt lost their lives; of the 15,000 that showed up in Kano, seven were injured; four people slumped in Osun State; 10 of the 30, 000 fainted in Plateau; three of the hopeful 28, 000 in Edo State lost their lives; while one of the 22, 500 in Oyo State and four in Ogun State slumped on that horrible Saturday. In response to the monumental tragedy, the Minister of Interior who calls himself “Comrade”, chose to disrespect the dead and injured and insulted grieving Nigerians: “The applicants”, Abba Moro stated, “lost their lives due to impatience; they did not follow the laid down procedures spelt out to them before the exercise”. The insensitive minister was not done: “Many of them jumped through fences of affected centres and did not conduct themselves in an orderly manner to make the exercise a smooth one. This caused stampede and made the environment insecure”.

The chap who got a
ministerial appointment because of his reationship with Senate president, David Mark, could not find the comportment, composure and culture to show remorse for the loss of lives amongst desperate, young people, many of whom were home years after graduation and national service. It was clear that Abba Moro was far more interested in protecting his job and the so-called “laid down process”, which had been farmed out to a Drexel Nigeria Ltd. It was far more important to protect the lucrative ministerial appointment that transformed the so-called “Comrade”, from a near life long lumpen sojourn on the margins of social existence, to a nouveaux riche, from his ministerial sinecure. Individuals like Abba Moro are too desperately wedded to the lucre of their offices to understand that a human tragedy of the magnitude he presided over last weekend needed the greatest amount of compassion. No!

DAILY TRUST of Monday, March 17, 2014, reported that the seven million applicants had actually been allocated only 240 of the 4, 556 jobs that were advertised. Reason was that most of the jobs had been distributed amongst well-connected politicians such as governors and lawmakers. So the poor Nigerians who lost their lives or were injured or turned out, for the so-called recruitment process; Abba Moro’s irresponsible “laid down process”, had been part of an elaborate charade, a falsity and were duped!

Elaborate charade

The minister was therefore rubbing salt on injury by his very heartless and irresponsible statement. It was the anger and indignation which Nigerians felt at his statement after the sadness of loss of lives and injuries that led to the national outcry for the removal of the minister.

For too long in Nigeria, those occupying positions have become unable to take responsibility for failures under them. They are always desperate to keep obviously lucrative positions which, more often than not, transform near-paupers into stinking rich overnight. The transformation becomes almost total in a very short period, and therefore they would do everything to remain in those positions. The obverse of that position and one that reinforces it is that those occupying those positions never see themselves as serving the Nigerian people. The people do not matter or are expendable! We have seen several examples all through the Nigerian public space. It was such irresponsible arrogance that made Abba Moro spew out some of the most unfortunate statements anyone could, faced with such a monumental tragedy. This is the why the chap must be sacked! If Goodluck Jonathan refuses to bow to the national outcry seeking Abba Moro’s sack, he would have done tremendous damage to his own presidency. So we are on the watch, awaiting President Jonathan’s decision on that tragic event.

There is a far more fundamental matter arising from the tragedy last weekend. About seven million young Nigerians had applied for about 4, 500 jobs. Now that expresses the seriousness of the unemployment situation in our country. The Nigerian economy has been touted as growing very rapidly and as part of the worldwide delusions being bandied by the high priests of neo-liberal capitalism, Nigeria is now being described as part of a new MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey) countries that will allegedly become the next economic giants. Those who live their economic lives by the propaganda of imperialist institutions and countries are naturally delighted.

But in truth, these are elaborate delusions. The Nigerian economy is not creating the jobs that millions and millions of young people need in the world of the 21Century. Ours is a young country, with 75% of the population under the age of 35. It is this broad category of citizens that mainly trooped out for those Immigration jobs last weekend. Nigeria is sitting on a powder keg of unemployed, desperate young citizens. The useless propaganda of MINT has not and cannot work for them. It might allow Aliko Dangote to make $10 billion in just one year, as the 2013 FORBES magazine reported, but it is not working for Nigeria’s poor and the young.

This is what should scare the ruling elite stiff! Boko Haram insurgency, kidnappings, low level warfare in many parts of the country, internet scams, ritual killings; prostitution abroad; desperately seeking greener pastures abroad and the anger all over the place, are symptoms of the injustice, inequality and hopelessness accompanying the choices the ruling class made for Nigeria. These choices are killing our country!

National confab and its rainbow colours

THE much-vaunted National Conference was finally inaugurated by President
Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja, Monday. I returned home on Saturday from my week’s trip to Dubai, for the registration process commenced on Sunday afternoon.

It was clear to me, that we will go through some very interesting debates and duels in the next ninety days of the Conference.

I have had the privilege in these two days to see some of the old, almost fossilized fighters for various ethno-regional agendas that have overtaken the Nigerian public space in the past couple of decades. This seems their last chance to push passionately canvassed ideas that will most certainly take the dead-on-arrival trip to the mortuary of Nigerian politics.

But old men must not be denied chances in the sun of the National Conference, even when their “tribal warfare” mindsets from the 1940s/1950s, are so far from the realities of 21Century Nigeria and the contemporary world.

Demographic realities

I wonder if these old people understand the demographic realities of the country/African continent today. 75% of African population is under the age of 25 but the average age of Africa’s leadership is 65. So there is a very strong disconnect!

The prominent old men at the National Conference often idealise the past; hack back to an idyllic past when “everything worked”, from their standpoint, and as part of their confrontation with mortality, hanker to take us all back to that idyllic past of ethnic and regional bliss, most of which in truth, existed only in their minds.

When I see Chiefs Olu Adebanjo and Olanihun Ajayi, minding their businesses and alone in a corner of the   auditorium; or the expansively attired Sarakuna (traditional rulers) from the North and South, heirs to grand old state building processes which colonialism arrested and distorted for new roles and whose positions have become increasingly tenuous, in the post-colonial order of things, I wonder, just what their place will look like, in the new nation Nigerians yearn for.

Today, majority of Nigerians are under the age of 35. They are here alright, but will advocates of “restructuring” along ethnic lines, be open minded enough to accept that their ideas are passé and are not what the young worry about? We will see in the next ninety days how these things will pan out or blow over!

What I feel certain about though, is that there are very entrenched positions that will be canvassed here, because people have lived with crippling prejudices about themselves and the “other” (whether the other religion or the other ethnic group), to dispassionately keep in check some of their anger. The debate about procedural issues dominated our second day of proceedings; it already gave indications of the rumbling approaches of monsters over the next couple of weeks.

People can often be inevitable prisoners of their prejudices; or in a different way of putting it, humans can often be imprisoned in their readings of their historical conditions. And the more intractable problems of the present seem to be, the more the tendency to retreat into ethno-religious laagers. A lot of time, they don’t know better.

When I saw the OPC leader Gani Adam inside the hall, as a member of the Southwest delegation; and I remember how members of the political elite in the South-south actively funded the Niger Delta militants; plus the sweetheart romance between MASSOB lumpens and leading lights of the Southeast elite; it became clearer to me why leading members of the Southern Nigeria elite strongly believe their Northern counterparts had also deliberately created Boko Haram as a weapon of politics. People judge you by what they do, as the saying goes. This National Conference will see the beautiful and the ugly! Stay tuned.

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