By Tabia Princewill
THIS must not be misconstrued as a blind attempt to defend or excuse President Muhammadu Buhari. However, as a critical thinker, which is what every one of us should be, faced with the barrage of misinformation and fake news which every election cycle brings, I think it is necessary to ask ourselves certain questions. The true political history of Nigeria, outside of sentiment and manipulation to suit the egos of our leaders and those courting them, is yet to be told.
There is no universal agreement of who has wronged us, given that no major national figure has ever been sent to jail for corruption, or any other form of treason and economic sabotage. Even those sentenced abroad come back to Nigeria to re-write history, pretending nothing ever happened.
We are always unwilling to ostracise those who have been caught committing crimes: we continuously make excuses for them, we are yet to show that we have the courage of our convictions.
We want a changed society yet we are unwilling to change the very behaviours at the root of our country’s dysfunction. In the US some time ago, high profile Trump administration officials (a director of communications and a cabinet minister) were barred entry from Mexican restaurants in protest of President Trump’s inhuman stance towards migrants.
The officials, despite what we in Nigeria would call their “pedigree” (as if public office somehow conferred a special status on people making them untouchable or uncriticisable) were booed and asked to leave. Imagine if we asked those guilty of corruption, of sponsoring armed thugs against their communities etc., to leave our clubs, hotels, etc.?
Imagine if we stopped treating the people who have destroyed our country like gods and had the courage to state their offences to their face with the support of the rest of society? Of course, the issue in Nigeria is always the loss of income which comes from criticising government officials.
Corporate Nigeria is but another name for government. Every major politician has stooges protecting their interests on the boards of major banks, etc. Most big businesses are owned or co-owned by politicians who appoint representatives to claim to be the owners: from the petroleum industry to the power sector, privatisation in Nigeria has always been replete with corruption.
So, the Nigerian elite cannot but hate Buhari and work very hard to get the rest of society to see things their way. Nigerians must remain vigilant, especially now that the killings of our countrymen and women are intensified by the reported desperation of some people to either regain or retain their financial and political advantages.
The open secret of Nigerian politics, particularly outside the major metropolises, is politically sponsored terror. The interplay between politics, poverty and the outright use of religion and ethnicity to cause chaos, manipulate people and votes, therefore, keeping what can only be described as war lords, in power, isn’t new to Africa, nor is the fact that such efforts always seem to intensify as we draw closer to elections.
Different camps have different understandings of who exactly sponsors terror and organised crime and those who voted for President Buhari had hoped that under his administration the money trail which reportedly leads from certain ousted politicians (and even some who still hold sway), to guns, violence and kidnappings in many communities would finally be not just investigated but checked once and for all. The issue, as always, is the huge amount of money and other resources at the hands of those who sponsor terror attacks, and a section of the public’s unwillingness to accept that these killings don’t happen in a vacuum.
These almost incessant attacks and counter-attacks are the result of decades of state failure for which nobody has been asked to pay. Not only that, we the Nigerian people have often protected and even questioned the investigation of many of those who are alleged to be responsible; we must decide once and for all what we want from government and stand against corruption, the fundamental issue behind violence in Nigeria.
Nigeria has no business with either poverty, violence or ethno-religious killings, if not for the selfishness and greed of its leaders at all levels, which many of us have encouraged and excused for our own purposes.
The elite have a different understanding of Nigeria’s problems: many women involved in NGOs and anti-poverty initiatives (curiously tagged “women’s work”) interestingly eulogise Maryam Babangida as a champion of the poor and women’s rights.
In fact, many criticise Aisha Buhari for not continuing what her predecessors, many former first ladies, institutionalised which is the sponsorship of elite women’s so-called anti-poverty programmes which nearly 40 years later have yielded little to no fruit. The heavy criticism of the Buhari administration is in many ways a result of the President’s refusal to “support” private sector initiatives: many can’t survive without government sponsorship. Nigerians should be wary of misdirected anger. The APC did promise us change but have we the people joined the fight against corruption? Without winning this war, violence and underdevelopment are sure to continue.
Corruption is fighting back, make no mistake. Many simplistic analyses and misleading criticisms from a number of opinion leaders are simply the product of elite resentment.
Product of elite resentment
Corruption has made a lot of people stupendously rich; they’re not about to let go of their advantages, they would rather destroy this country than do so. When former President Goodluck Jonathan said some people had sworn to make the country ungovernable, there was probably some truth to this.
There is a clique of monsters in this country who continuously hold the rest of us to ransom. No progress can come to Nigeria unless we decisively fight corruption. This isn’t about political parties but about Nigeria’s survival. Nigerians should also be wary given the budget cuts to major development projects by the National Assembly.
We must begin to realise who the saboteurs in this country are: they cut across ethno-religious groups and political parties. We must begin to recognise those standing in the way of national progress.
We need to be both cautious and inquisitive and watch those the elite showers with accolades and interrogate the reasons for their demonisation of others: we must question the die-hard propaganda on social media. Nigeria has been sabotaged by its leaders both in and outside of government: when will the rest of us wake up and see we are being manipulated yet again?
HIS lawyer reportedly confirmed his client was arrested by the Department of State Service, DSS, for allegedly “supporting, aiding and sponsoring a proscribed body, the Indigenous People of Biafra”.
One must also recall that Senator Abaribe provided surety to Nnamdi Kanu, the IPOB leader, who later disappeared.
His arrest, therefore, shouldn’t come as much of a surprise: when a person on bail disappears, the “surety” takes responsibility. What is surprising, is that a Senator of the Federal Republic could find himself connected to an organisation which has been accused of promoting violence and unrest.
Until investigations can reveal the sponsors of violence, until the corrupt are systematically punished, until we decisively tackle poverty so that frustration doesn’t become a grievance cloaked in ethnic resentment, peace will be difficult.
Nigeria overtakes India as world’s poverty capital
ACCORDING to the Brookings Institution, Nigeria has 87 million poor citizens and “six Nigerians become poor every minute”.
These dramatic statistics are in correlation with the increase in violent crime and terror across the country. This should be a wake-up call for the elite who believe they are isolated from violence.
Many people never question how exactly the “rich” in Nigeria make their money or the cost to the rest of our society in a country where doing business means that one must lobby corrupt persons and institutions, so very few come out clean or untainted by corruption.
We all justify our actions, ignoring the breakdown of the state’s capacity to do right for all. Where it ends, only time will tell.