By Tabia Princewill
IN Nigeria, public lynching is often the consequence of mass frustration at an unjust system. Mobs frequently take the law into their own hands and jungle justice is far too often the only recourse of the poor when the institutions meant to guaranty law and order or fight injustice are themselves compromised.
There have been too many stories published of late to recount them all: the images of children set ablaze for petty theft contrast in the most brutal of ways with the celebration of corrupt men and women guilty of stealing so much more. Indeed, the desperation and dehumanisation caused by abject poverty have enabled a society where it is easier to attack the poor and downtrodden who are of equal status as oneself than face up to the colossuses who have the weapons of the state at hand.
However, the masses whom many politicians view as disposable, in reaction to today’s poor economy seem less amenable to the empty promises or showy lifestyles of those who consider themselves their masters. Once popular politicians are being stoned and heckled and one must wonder why the connection between poverty and violence (if understood or acknowledged by those in power) is yet to be acted upon.
Internet and social media
Why do we believe that unemployed, desperate, angry young people who have access to the rest of the world through the internet and social media, who see their counterparts abroad living fairly decent lives in societies that recognise their humanity and provide adequately for their needs, would continue, for all eternity, to support leaders who live large while they struggle endlessly?
There are some who’ll claim that mob attacks are purely political in nature, that is instigated by jealous, envious political opponents, rivals who are hell-bent on displacing incumbents and upsetting election results or calculations but that is only part of the story.
The real issue is systemic. Contrary to other nations where serious economic plans and measures have succeeded one another, Nigeria is one of those few countries where poverty has been steadily on the rise while at the same time a particular class of political adventurers, both military and civilian, have seen their personal fortunes sky rocket. How long do we think this will continue to be acceptable to the masses?
Every so often in the media, from former governor Peter Obi, to the former Central Bank of Nigeria and now Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido, some current or former government appointee makes would-be revolutionary remarks which are more to do with common sense than anything quite novel or even incendiary. If not for our penchant for “alternative facts” (a tradition in Nigeria which predates Donald Trump’s expression) a lot of the so-called explosive declarations of many of our favourite politicians should be considered as obvious, the same as the solutions to many of the often-stated and re-stated problems.
It is time we began to fear that one day, the masses will want to do away with not only those they see as directly responsible for their condition but also the elite who appeared friendly to their cause but either didn’t try hard enough or care deeply enough to help push for real change.
We don’t seem to realise the danger of our present situation. The people of Mali, currently battling jihadism and religious extremism linked to high levels of poverty, political manipulation and false prophets who seduced the poor into the possibility of an Islamic revolution to cure poverty and injustice, also believed they’d left their military past far behind them. In Nigeria, we love to applaud anyone who comes out to tell us that which we already know, that we are failing as a country, that we are corrupt, backward etc., especially if the speaker is rich or of a certain social standing. But where is the action?
Of course, in the case of the Emir of Kano, he isn’t a governor and has no control over the implementation of state budgets on healthcare, education, infrastructure, etc. So, he does stand out to a certain extent for telling Northern governors and the political establishment some home truths in regards to using religion as an excuse for the blatant refusal to modernise and develop.
After all, countries like Malaysia and Egypt which are Muslim countries have far higher socio-economic development indices than Nigeria. The trouble is that Sanusi won’t be the first or the last to tell Nigerians what they already know about the issues plaguing the North and Nigeria as a whole.
Politicians will grumble in response to the issues raised, seek to discredit him or anyone else who attempts to have a real conversation then continue on their empowerment projects, awarding a few motorcycles and sewing machines here and there, fooling themselves into believing this can make a real difference.
Will we wait till the ranks of the varying mobs across the country swell and consume us all before we do something?
There is hardly anything revolutionary about many of the leaders at the helm of affairs in Nigeria. A pro-people stance in public often hides anti-people activities under the cover of darkness. Now, the Buhari administration is facing perhaps its final public relations and accountability test.
Public relations and accountability test
What will happen once the Osinbajo-led panel finishes its deliberations regarding the fate of the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the DG of the Nigeria Intelligence Agency who’ve been accused of corruption? Will the Buhari administration be truly revolutionary and push for punishment of these former appointees if they are found guilty?
A negative answer to this question could send the country into a frenzy and precipitate further violent action. It could also mark the end of something, the end of all hope in a man many believed would be our saviour. This was supposed to be Nigeria’s last chance at redemption. What the future holds if we don’t seize this chance is too scary to contemplate. The masses will not take disappointment lightly. Not this time.
THE Minister of Finance has attempted to reassure Nigerians by stating that the money recovered by the EFCC will not be re-looted as all funds are kept within one same account and reconciled.
Unfortunately, this does not fully explain what happens to recovered properties nor does it deal with the rumours that individuals either within the EFCC or politically-connected persons are allegedly able to purchase said properties at preferential rates. In all we do in Nigeria we continue to court disaster.
ONE must wonder at the sincerity of the declarations made by many public officials. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, was quoted as saying during an interview: “What is the legacy we are leaving behind? What are we achieving? That’s the thing that gives me nightmares sometimes.”
If the idea of a failed legacy gives him nightmares, why didn’t the House and the Senate confirm Magu?
That could have been the beginning of creating said legacy. The process that led to Dogara’s own emergence as Speaker, which was contrary to party wishes at the time, also seemingly falls short of the idea of “legacy”.
He went on to say: “The only thing that frightens me is if this eighth assembly which, by virtue of the grace of God, I have been called to lead, is unable to leave landmark achievements; that is what bothers me and prevents me from sleeping”.
Reading this is like being in a sort of alternate universe. A House that refuses to publish its budget or account for funds meant for constituency projects, one where its principal leaders were accused of budget padding (without any evidence tendered to prove the contrary), where the Senate President is on trial for false declaration of assets…. What legacy does this involve pray tell?
*Tabia Princewill is a strategic communications consultant and public policy analyst. She is also the co-host and executive producer of a talk show, WALK THE TALK which airs on Channels TV.