January 3, 2018

Here we are 2018!

Here we are 2018!

By Rotimi Fasan

It was like Nigerians were in a hurry to be rid of the year 2017. As the year gradually rolled to an end, it was as if it was longer than normal and people looked expectantly to the last day. If it was possible many would surely skip over the last few months of the past year. This was entirely understandable. For many Nigerians the last one year has been most trying. It may have been the best of times for some, especially those who have found a way around things in a country where your comfort level is determined by who you know, where you are from and what religion you profess. Surely, those in power or close to power had a good time.

But the vast majority of Nigerian had a hard time of it. People have experienced hardship in this country and we do it rather heroically. But the past year tried the souls of many. It took many to the brink of disaster and there was hardly anyone available out there to hold responsible. Not even those whose failures brought about the hardship were ready to take responsibility.

There was no one to turn to. Nor was there anywhere to run to now that our people have tasted what it means to be far from home. Now many are being returned home from slaving ports, Nigerians know there may be no sense running away from home, painful as it might be to admit. Staying home gave no assurance of safety or survival either. Many were being murdered right in their sleep at home. They were being chased from places they had called homes for fear of the unknown or the known that has somehow become unknowable. From Ikorodu to Madagali, from the creeks of the Niger-Delta to the farmlands of Agatu in the Middle Belt of the country, staying home no longer guaranteed safety. We had been shocked beyond words and the grossly abnormal suddenly became normal and acceptable home and abroad.

The past year was like an unwanted weight that many would rather shed off. Hunger stood sentry at many homes and disease was arrogant in its display. Talks of fighting corruption remained just that- mere talks and the scandals were too many to recall. Talks of corruption fighting back have been drowned as prosecutors of corruption suddenly took on the toga of abettors. A trend that started last year continued unabated and loads and housefuls of naira were being discovered in their billions with no one ready to claim them. Alleged criminal fugitives and convicted felons returned home to a hero’s welcome. And amid these discoveries many who slave away at what they call work were owed many months of unpaid or half paid salaries. Lies were peddled by respected representatives of the people without a hint of embarrassment. Not even windfalls from unanticipated sources like the so-called Excess Crude Account could cushion the harshness of poverty. Our trumpeted exit from inflation guaranteed nothing but more pain.

Why would Nigerians not want a quick end to 2017? Why would they not pray that they never again witness the pain of irresponsible leadership? Many are the afflictions of the righteous? But why must the righteous pay for the crime of the wicked? Who but the wicked could have gone on in the manner many public officials went on last year? Who but the wicked could allow the pain of yet another fuel scarcity at the tail end of a year that had worsted the most resilient? But there we were saddled with the trauma of spending days on long queues waiting to get a product we are generously blessed with. And what did an unresponsive leadership do? It gave orders, much in the fashion of a magician, that the long queues be cleared in two days! The days did not last long before the emptiness of those orders was exposed. And we found ourselves where we had long been. Then entered the spin masters. It’s the marketers they said- they are the cause of the scarcity. They have been hoarding the product we were told, and were in the same breath assured the queues would be over in a couple of days. Just in the same words as the head of the manor gave his assurances. But the queues refused to go.

The marketers too refused to be silent. It’s the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation they said- it is the shortfall in their supply to the market that led to the scarcity. And so the blame game continues. But the NNPC threw the mud back in the face of the marketers without failing to add that the ‘landing cost’ of the product is now higher than the pump price. Meaning what really? Subsidy is back- on the orders of the President, Maikanti Baru, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, said! But neither the Presidency nor the NNPC would admit the obvious- that the fuel subsidy Nigerians had been told in May 2016 was gone for good is back. Asked to explain the meaning of the price difference and quickly did they throw up another word from their dictionary of idiocy- ‘under recovery’ it is called. That’s what’s been paying for fuel subsidy, leaving the self-deceived Senate frothing at the mouth, wondering where appropriation for ‘under recovery’ came from and with whose authority!

But still the queues are adamant. They have refused to go and because they would not go NNPC is now assuring Nigerians Lagos and Abuja have been flooded with enough fuel to last denizens of these parts until God-knows-when. Attention can now turn to the ‘outskirt’ states- thank you. Buck passing and lies upon lies by a confused leadership. But that would not do and they decided to treat Nigerians to another spectacle of the absurd, something to distract us from the pain of the times. Abuja released its list of appointments to boards of government establishments. This ought to have happened two and a half years ago. But this government of sleepwalkers released a list of the dead- literally.

At least six of the appointees must have waited in vain to hear their names announced to no avail. And as soon as they were gone with the terrible year of national affliction the quietly departed were offered posthumous appointments. So much for a long awaited list! But rather than cover its face in shame Aso Rock spin masters that bankrolled a foolish documentary to portray the ‘human side’ of their principal could see nothing scandalous in what has happened and they tried to justify the unspeakable with their kind of ‘alternative fact’. Pray, must a man always talk? Whatever happened to decency? Goodbye 2017, welcome 2018! May our land be healed!