By Owei Lakemfa
THE Bring Back Our Girls, BBOG, has been campaigning for some two years for the return of 217 Chibok girls abducted by the Boko Haram terrorist group. They began their campaigns at a time some Nigerians doubted that the girls were abducted or that such adolescents existed in the first place. Whatever people’s views are on this group, an undisputable fact is that they burnt the dilemma of the girls and loved ones into the consciousness of Nigerians and the world.
Their strident campaigns at a point became irritating to some self-appointed supporters of the Jonathan administration and there were physical moves to stop the campaign. But that is now history. The ruling All Progressives Congress, APC party, which was then in opposition, kicked against moves to muscle the BBOG. APC Chairman, Mr. John Oyegun had proclaimed that the BBOG members “remain the only evidence that Nigeria has a conscience.” But times change and opinion can evolve or transform. This is a fundamental right.
Other Nigerians who do not think the BBOG has any business continuing its campaign, at least in its old form of public gatherings , protesting with placards and words, and street marches, also have a right to publicly express their feelings. All these are constitutionally guaranteed rights. However, what is unacceptable is for one group to seek to annul the other’s freedom. That is the point that has to be strongly made to a counter group that styles itself “We Stand With Buhari.” Of course they have a right to stand, sit, walk, talk, run or crawl, but not one to constitute themselves into a danger to public peace.
They did not need to choose the same day, time and venue the BBOG had picked, to organise their counter rally. Doing so as they did on Tuesday September 6, 2016 was an invitation to anarchy. Having followed the civilised protests of the BBOG and the fact that most of their members are women, grieving mothers, relatives and not too young Nigerians, I am sure it would avoid a violent confrontation with the opposing group, but what happens if they are physically attacked? Like all human beings, they have the right and the human instinct to defend themselves. I am convinced that what the opposing side planned was a confrontation so that both sides will be dispersed and the BBOG will find it difficult to continue its campaign. This is a typically fascist tactic.
Also unacceptable are the magisterial declarations of the opposing group; that the BBOG is a scam and that their campaign which they claim is distracting the government, must stop. They should leave it for the government to decide whether the BBOG campaign is interfering with good governance or economic recovery. In any case, to stop the BBOG will require constitutional amendments suspending fundamental human rights.
I know there is hunger in the land, but to constitute an organised strong-arm group and fight imaginary battles against perceived enemies, is not an acceptable coping strategy.
Talking about hard times, it is reassuring that government acknowledges this and has promised Nigerians that that the economic hardship will soon be over. This should shut the trap of idle elite and gluttons who tell Nigerians that the economic problems they are experiencing are imaginary and that they are the creation of an hysterical mass media.
Nigerian elite must always look out for the welfare of the mass and be willing problem solvers not self- serving citizens whose actions or views are conditioned by selfish interests. More importantly, they must resolve issues in the interests of the young who are the future of the country. In this wise, the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to force children in Edo State sitting for the West Africa School Certificate on Saturday September 10, to relocate to neighbouring states shows its world view. The dates for the examination which is held nationwide and across member countries in West Africa is set over a long period and once INEC became aware of the date clashing with the gubernatorial elections in the state, it should have resolved the conflicting events in favour of the children. This is more so when it has it in its powers to postpone the elections – which it has been forced by other circumstances to do now – whereas neither the children nor their parents have the power to postpone the examinations. INEC has postponed elections a couple of times including the 2015 general elections, so why would it jeopardize the future of the children?
With the West African Examination Council (WAEC) deciding to move the students to Delta, Kogi and Ondo States, enormous but avoidable obstacles were placed before the children taking such a fundamental subject like Mathematics. Having to seek funds in these financially hard times to travel on notoriously unsafe roads, secure accommodation in places they might be unfamiliar with in a season of mass kidnappings, and writing examinations in an unfamiliar environment, were unnecessary stress on the children. INEC with its load of educated persons led by a professor, should have been more sensitive.
While Nigerians battle to survive the hard times and government is promising to ease the economic hardship, some well-connected Nigerians are mapping out strategies to increase the suffering of the people. A group of nine former General Managing Directors, GMDs, of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, who are veterans of continuous fuel price hikes, met at a meeting convened by current DMG, Mr. Maikanti Baru. Their verdict is that the May 2016 fuel price increase from N86.5 to N145 is inadequate and should therefore be further jacked up.
If it is true that the N145 per litre of PMS is uneconomical and the sector is no longer being subsidised, why are many fuel stations including the NNPC mega stations and private ones selling below the N145 ceiling? Like a criminally-minded problem child, the biological, surrogate and foster parents of the push for a new fuel price increase have denied it; but that does not mean the child does not exist. Whose idea is this conspiracy? Why is the NNPC GDMs Club pushing this and what is the motive? Do they realise the negate impact of unrestrained rise in prices of petroleum products including its side effects like hyperinflation which has now transformed into a recession?
Nigeria belongs to all of us: plebeian and ruler, educated and unlettered; employer and employee; leaders and followers; rich and poor. The elite and overfed should therefore be cautious not to push the poor fully against the wall because they will refuse to go through it.