By Muyiwa Adetiba
The Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, uncharacteristically tongue-lashed the security chiefs in public last week after another spate of killings in Plateau State. He was blistering in his comments about the manifest incompetence of our security chiefs who neither saw the urgency of a looming catastrophe in the country nor felt any need to take personal responsibility. Coming from the nation’s number three man, the outburst raised a few eye brows.
Could it be an indication of his next political move? Or was it the spilling out of weeks and months of bottled-up frustration— and humiliation—at the hands of security agents? Whatever the motive, he was spot on this time. What is happening in the Benue trough is a failure of intelligence, a failure of professionalism, a failure of leadership. I would, in his shoes, distance myself from such a failure as well. My comment to those who say that by criticising the security chiefs so publicly when he has a more direct access than most, he was washing his party’s dirty clothes in public and thus giving powder to the ammunition of opposition, is that APC itself had chosen by its handling of the situation, the very public Benue river to wash its considerably soiled garments.
He was not the only one. Dogara, his counterpart in the House of Rep, has also spoken out though with less vitriol. Tanbuwal, a former Speaker has recently spoken out with, again less vitriol. They are all ABC top shots. They are all nPDP stalwarts, the vocally disgruntled faction of APC. Are they exploiting the chink in the armour of their party to send a political message? I still wouldn’t blame them for that. That’s what politicians do. Especially the Machiavellian ones.
They might have the constitutional right to express their opinion; they might have the political right but do they have the moral right? This is one instance when I will look at the message as well as the messenger. The three of them have watched the increasingly disproportionate allocation of the nation’s resources to the National Assembly. They have passed budgets that are increasingly skewed towards recurrent expenditure.
They have presided over the fraud called constituency projects. They have dined and wined with the executive to impoverish the country. They have, with the exception of Dogara, been executive governors and therefore in the position to directly affect poverty and unemployment. But they entrench poverty so that the unemployed can be used as cannon fodders; as foot soldiers.
Rather than use politics to serve the people, they have used politics to promote their burning personal ambitions. If they leave ABC tomorrow, it is because they want more and not because of any ideological difference. These lot will be just as comfortable on the white side of the chess board as on the black side. Politics to them is a power game. The nation is the board and the people the pawns to be manipulated at will.
In the 20 odd years of this republic, we have seen youth unemployment rise. We have watched rural poverty rise. We have watched as civil unrest increases annually. We have seen the dislocation of family units. We have seen the flight of skilled professionals rise to an unprecedented level. We have watched migration of the desperate increase and have been helpless at xenophobic attacks of our citizens in different parts of the world.
We have watched as the country and her citizens are diminished around the world and described as ‘fantastically corrupt.’ We have, at the same time, also seen the affluence of our politicians. We have seen a man come from prison to become a billionaire financing multi-billion naira projects including a university. We have seen a tout become a Senator flaunting cars and wealth. We have witnessed an assurance of marital love through a public presentation of a G Wagon. We have witnessed multi-million naira weddings of governors and senators. We have witnessed treasury lootings that make you feel dizzy. We have read of those who kept their wealth in tax havens and in choice properties in Europe. We have read of one who virtually controls the resources of a state and employs pliant politicians to tend ‘his estate.’ We have, in these 20 years, witnessed across states and across parties, an unconscionable abuse of state funds.
You can’t but wonder how such an excruciating poverty where people die because they can’t afford simple drugs can be in bed so comfortably with the opulence of our public officers. Our leaders must know that this kind of an arrangement cannot be sustained but are too selfish and too blinded by greed and self-glorification to worry about the consequences of this social dislocation. Even when the rooster, as it does occasionally, comes home to roost. The militancy in the Niger-Delta is as a result of injustice fuelled by poverty. The Boko Haram in the North-East is as a result of ideology fuelled by poverty.
The Herdsmen menace in the North-Central is as a result of ethno/religious conflict fuelled by poverty. The flash points will increase across the country as the economic situation worsens. Those who are manipulating these fragile situations for their selfish advantages are riding the tiger’s back. Those who are supplying logistics either in form of money or ammunition to these groups are riding the tiger’s back.
Those politicians who arm unemployed youths and use them as foot soldiers for political intimidation are riding the tiger’s back. Those at the customs who look away for pecuniary reasons as these arms are brought into the country are riding the tiger’s back. The religious leaders who are exaggerating the religious aspect of the conflicts are riding the tiger’s back. Those who are feeding the whole situation through toxic tweets and poisonous comments on WhatsApp are riding the tiger’s back. They may not disembark alive when the consequences of their actions dawn.
One of the off-springs of poverty is a breakdown of law and order which easily translates into violence. Those who are manipulating the restless and impoverished youths for selfish needs are feeding a blind monster that could one day devour them.