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*Happy Valentine!

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By Bisi Lawrence

And so, we are now at cross purposes; it took us a while to arrive where we now find ourselves. It has  been a journey of discontent, aided by promises broken, directed by false faith, driven by the zeal of obsession.

Valentine's Day chocolate treats at the Le Chocolatier fine chocolate store as they prepare for a Valentine's day rush. Chocolate is one of the most popular gift giving traditions during Valentines Day.   AFP
Valentine’s Day chocolate treats at the Le Chocolatier fine chocolate store as they prepare for a Valentine’s day rush. Chocolate is one of the most popular gift giving traditions during Valentines Day.File Photo

All the events swirled around us embodying power outage, poor health delivery, bad roads, dysfunctional so-called amenities, brutal insecurity, stifling corruption and ineffective leadership must strike us as a reflection of our society. They express a sad comment about what we are, and who we are. Even if you are not a participant in any of the events, you still feel ashamed because you cannot totally separate yourself from what Nigerians are, since you are a Nigerian.

Though you may not be directly involved in the events, you still cannot avoid being part of what is going on. Electricity is the blood stream of life in a modern society. So are we not a modern society? We do claim, at the least, a modicum of civilised existence. The whole country yearns today for electricity supply to grant us a satisfactory life. We need it for the kitchen, for the bathroom, for ironing our clothes, and also other household chores—to say little of our industrial life, about which we should sway much really. Though, in fact, we have probably said everything.

But we have done so little. Our individual lives are sustained largely by courtesy of generating plants of all dimensions and capacity, imported from all over the world. We appreciate the fact that Ghana, our fellow West African State and former British colonial territory has put this problem behind her, that the problem has badly affected our industries —several of which have even been relocated to Ghana, though Nigeria had been the first choice of “investment destination” for many foreign economies.

We are losing out, going and coming, to nations that can only be described as puny beside us, not only in size but in current wealth and patent potentials, but we seem incapable of doing something tangible about it. |We wail about it; we make promises about it; then we throw money, good money at it—down the drain. Is it not enough to make one feel really ashamed? Does it not make you want to ask what kind of people we are?

We cannot even look after our own health. We cannot heal ailments in which we have specialists, people who have qualified as experts in treating the diseases and proved their worth overseas. They return home, as they properly should, whilst many of their contemporaries who are also from Nigeria willfully remain abroad. But while those in the Diaspora continue to maintain their high professional practice, those who have returned home somehow inspire no confidence in the populace who continue to send their sick kinsfolk abroad.

A friend was recently fairly elated as he narrated how highly respected his surgeon son was in the United States. With such professional skills, I suggested, he should have tried to come back home where he would be needed more than in the US. “Well, he did”, replied my friend, not too happily. “He did for about two years, but then he knew he simply had to go back. But that is another story.” Yes, and in some ways, a typical Nigerian story.

We do so well elsewhere. We are a loud noise in countries where we have established oil refineries, having somehow turned our back on our own native turf in which the “black gold” flows more abundantly than in most parts of the world. The refineries in our country are mostly owned by the government—and like most government controlled ventures, they do not work. So we mine our oil and export it in the raw to other countries, where it is refined and sent back to us at a price we can hardly afford, so that the government says it has to help out by offsetting part of the cost. Yes, ad that gave rise to the “subsidy” issue that has been tearing us apart. Did you ever hear such a roundelay even from children’s moonlight tales?

But it is happening here, and from this weird scenario has developed ramifications of such a bizarre hue that people are asking, “What next, for goodness’ sake?” The truth is that in such a stifling atmosphere of corruption, anything can happen. Perhaps that is why the President of the nation openly declared that he did not “give a damn” about the issue of the declaration of the personal assets of a high government official, like himself, upon entering office.

We thought that had been settled for all time by the late President Umar Yar’Adua, when he publicly declared both is own and those of his wife. As the Vice President at that time, the procedure was followed by Goodluck Jonathan. His volte-face, and the language of its expression—that language in particular —when it was time to follow suit, fairly threw sand in our face. He went on to dare the nation in a language that showed nothing other than contempt for those whose votes put him where he was. He would have been well advised to re-classify what he meant by that statement. Politicians all over the world do so when it is found necessary. And we are saying that it is still here and now necessary.

Anyway, a sober appraisal of what is now mockingly referred to as Faroukgate” reveals that this type of prank must have been going on for quite a while. In addition to the fiasco at the Stock Exchange hearings, one could sense the emergence of a sordid pattern that may begin to explain some particular events in our legislative procedures—like the proliferation of enquiries initiated by National Assembly committees, for instance. Does it not occur to you that they were simply too many? It is a wonder the honourable members had any space to accommodate the real reason for their existence which is, simply put, to make laws.

Of course, they have sweeping laws to effect their authority, especially when it concerns the summoning of citizens to help with investigations, but it is not likely that they can effectively demand that a witness must speak in camera. It would have been more of our expectations that the insistence should be on a public hearing, rather than the other way around. All in all, “Faroukgate” has dented the shining armour of our knight of the “transformation order”, and it would appear that we can now see more than we were meant to.

We may here touch on the consideration of when to end a “sting” operation. I believe that it is when the arrest is made. A “sting”, of course, takes place only with the knowledge and participation of the police. But a crime has to be committed first before an arrest is made. In the case of a bribe episode, it is now always enough to establish that the gratification has been fulfilled; the favour for which it is paid may also have to have been unaccomplished. So while the question has been asked about why an arrest was not immediately executed at the point of the alleged payment of those mouth-watering sums of dollars in the Faroukgate” saga, one cannot speak for the police but it seems they knew what they were doing. But do we, as a nation, know where we are heading?

In just over 40 days from now, maybe we would have found out. We would probably discover that we have merely been spinning our wheels without covering much ground. The postponement of the national elections by six weeks may have come in just in time to make us pause and re-calibrate our precipitate rush into a momentous decision. There is so much to lose, or gain, individually and as a nation. Caught in the spiral of the headlong approach to what may indeed be a change, we have neglected to take stock of the outcome of the changer we would effect. And our preparations must affect the result of our effort.

But then, what do we really wish to change? Electricity power supply, for one thing. It is not likely to change within the capacity, or capability, of the current dispensation. It is doubtful that the roads will be vastly improved either. The oil distilleries can hardly be quickened or increased and the humongous thefts of petroleum revenues will not stop with the prevailing system in place. Our health delivery facilities will undergo very little improvement, with workers in the health sector stumbling from one industrial action to another.

The six-week pause may indeed achieve a calmer environment for us to take the all-important decisions we have before us, though that may not be precisely why it has been so decreed. The real reason may become more evident in another week.

Oh, I almost forget—Happy Valentine!

Time out.

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