By Dele Sobowale
NOTE: Now that presidential campaigns have started, I need to remind humane adults in Nigeria about one unfinished business by republishing an article on this vital matter. I am a father of six girls; no boys and I am passionate about this issue. Forgive me but please read on.
“Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide; in the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side.” James Russell Lowell, 1819-1891.—(VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, P 254).
The Federal Government of Nigeria, either by paying ransom or not got all the girls who were all abducted at the same time out – except Leah Sharibu. Since then, promises have been made but not kept. Excuses have been offered which are no longer acceptable. That she was left behind was discriminatory enough; that she had remained in captivity for much longer than her colleagues is now the issue which Buhari and the All Progressives Congress, APC, must be forced to face otherwise they have no right to expect our votes. This is a non-partisan issue. Every parent in Nigeria, male or female, must put himself or herself in the shoes of that girl’s parents. Every woman eligible to vote must put herself in the mother’s place and imagine what she is still going through today. Every fair-minded Nigerian irrespective of age, gender, ethnic group or religion must ask if he/she would vote for any government which had first of all exposed the girl to the danger she is in and who had abandoned her to her fate. The fairest thing and the only thing that will guarantee that more effort is made to free the girl is to all withhold our votes from Buhari and the APC which will most definitely field the President as their flag-bearer once again. From all available evidence Leah will never be released as long as APC is in government because they no longer think about her. Even the “Men of God” in that so-called party no longer think about Leah. We must force them to pay attention to her plight and get her out. The only way to do it is to vote them out and let somebody else try their hands at the task. Similarly, herdsmen will continue to kill fellow Nigerians with impunity as long as we have a President who provides a new excuse for their atrocities each and every time he speaks about them. The latest fallacy about the Lake Chad drying up contributing to herdsmen pogroms in every part of Nigeria is so pathetic one must wonder about the mind which produced it.
To begin with, Lake Chad is not the only body of water in the world shrinking in size on account of global warming. In no other country in the world has government allowed a band of murderers to run rampage all over the country because of that phenomenon. What makes the situation in Nigeria so special? Furthermore, the reduction in the size of Lake Chad affects many other groups of people – farmers, fishermen, transporters to mention a few. None of the others adversely impacted by this development had resorted to arms to seek redress against people who were not responsible for their plight. The only reason herdsmen have resorted to violence is because they have powerful people in the corridors of Nigerian power as their Life Patrons. Obviously, the best way to clip their wings is to remove their supporters from Abuja. Otherwise we will have them invading our farms and homes for another four years – starting May 29, 2019.
Don’t be deceived; they will allow or even induce other candidates to contest against him just to present the facade of a democratic political party. But, APC, now the party of “Hitler and Warsaw”, can never be anything but despotic. They have started to make their moves. Just four years ago, the Presidential nomination papers were available for N5 million. They were not in power then and had not got the chance to spend trillions of naira without accountability. Three years in power, trillions of naira spent without accountability, defined as audited accounts, they have become so rich the presidential candidate must fork out N45 million or nine times the amount in 2015. That is one hell of a change which inflation in the last three years cannot even excuse. Now, we know better what sort of change they were talking about in 2015. It meant a change in their bank accounts.
“It was beautiful and simple as all truly great swindles are.” O. Henry, 1862-1910.
Other presidential candidates of the APC had been swindled and they don’t even know it. Mr Adams Oshiomole, the new Chairman, who rose from the ranks of the masses had just pulled the rug from under the feet of labourers – none of them can contest for the presidency on the ticket of the party headed by their former Comrade. Where you stand determines what you see. The masses can go and hang or “go and die” – as he told the woman in Benin years ago. Few aspirants for any office will be able to pay for forms – leaving mostly the incumbents or money-bags to go unopposed at every level. That is another change coming from the leaders of APC who we thought were for the poor people three years ago.
Every economist knows that price is an instrument for crowd control. By pitching the form for presidential candidates at N45 million, APC had already slammed the door in the face of poor or even middle class contestants. There was no doubt in their minds that Buhari, who four years ago had to sell property to pay N5 million, would not need to sweat. Favour-seekers were already on hand to help him pay for it. Nigerians should get ready to be told that “it was donation made for a good cause”. That was Obasanjo’s explanation after receiving money in 1998-9 from people who later got multi-billion naira contracts and Duty Waivers. The major problem with APC in government is the collective lack of originality or creativity. They have only exceeded the records established by their predecessors in the frequency of falsehood they release to the public and their ridiculous excuses for failures and disasters. That too will continue if we don’t vote wisely in 2019. Buhari has nothing to offer; not even the tattered image of incorruptibility and integrity.
“The king himself ought not to be subject to man but subject to God and to the law because the law makes him king.” Bractor 13th century. VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ p 120.
Money defines honesty; power is the measure of integrity. Corruption is not only a matter of not stealing money. Abuse of Executive power to subvert the nation’s constitution is an even greater form of corruption than grand larceny. And, Buhari has already told us that he intends to continue to disrespect the constitution which made him president by being the sole determinant of what is in the national interest. When the issue was raised in 2013 and again in 2014, candidate Buhari had promised to govern within the ambits of the rule of law – without qualifications about national interest. If he had many people remembering his dictatorship would not have voted for him. I certainly would not; because I know how terrible the government he ran in 1984-5 was with respect to disregard for fundamental human rights. Now, we all know that a leopard never changes its spots – even if some political adventurers white-washed it for the 2015 elections!! Buhari simply does not believe in democracy. Incidentally, Buhari continues to complain about being put in detention by Babangida even when it was done in the national interest. That exposes the man’s hypocrisy. He should have sent a Thank you card to IBB for acting in the national interest. No integrity there, is there?
“There are only two families in the world, my old grandmother used to say, the haves and have-nots.” Miguel de Cervantes, 1547-1616. P 87.
Funny, my old grandmother, Onikepo Olukolu, used to tell me the same thing as she rocked me to sleep in the 1950s. Every nation on earth has its own have-nots. But, while other countries have been working hard to reduce the number, Nigerian governments ignored the problem. Poverty, meanwhile, is a monster problem because it is invariably associated with many other social maladies – prostitution, robbery, violence, disease, children out of school, unwanted pregnancies and thuggery among others. Lately, in Nigeria it has taken new dimensions including child and women trafficking, “baby factories”, illegal immigrants, cultism and pervasive drug abuse. Granted, Buhari did not start it. The situation in which we find ourselves had been building up for over forty years mostly under military regimes – some of which included him.
But, today, Nigeria has risen to the top in virtually all aspects of manifestations of poverty in any country. A few will be sufficient to illustrate the point. Our country now has the largest number of people living in abject poverty – an estimated 87 million of them and by 2019 there will be 92 million. We are also the parents of the largest number of kids out of school – almost 12 million of them and by 2019 that figure will rise to 13.5 million. At the moment, according to the European Union, 800,000 Nigerians in the Northeast are at risk of starvation because they are completely cut off from help by the Boko Haram conflict. Youth unemployment is over 40 million and some of the kids are fleeing to Libya to board boats for Europe only to be fed to fishes in the Mediterranean Sea.
What has been the response of the Buhari/APC government to all these and other disasters waiting to ruin us? The first approach is denial. Each time an unfavourable report is released government spokesmen reject it without providing their own data. If not 87 million, then how many does the FG reckon are in dire need of rescue from the scourges of destitution? If not 10 million children, how many should we be searching for to help gain some education? Ultimately, nothing happens because the Buhari government has no idea how to run a normal programme; it is absolutely at a loss regarding tackling disasters. That is why IDPs already rendered homeless and hopeless by terrorists are further exploited by government officials. Education Emergency was pronounced last year. That was the last anybody heard of it. Meanwhile, the kids in schools fall farther behind global standards.
The second approach is lying. Invariably, someone will start by asserting that the FG had embarked on a project which is still only on paper or that so much had been spent when the Ministry of Finance has not released the funds. For instance N1.35 trillion was budgeted for Social Intervention Programme, SIP. But, so far only about N300 billion had been released and close to seventy per cent was spent on administration and only thirty per cent reached the poor who are the intended beneficiaries of the scheme. The poor are getting poorer; FG staffs are feeding fat. If Nigeria is ever going to reverse the trend towards hopelessness and despair, Osinbajo must stop being the head of the Economic Management Team. Which also means Buhari must go.
However, I have developed a short-hand for all the shortcomings of the APC government which is symptomatic of the rest – getting Leah back. This is one matter that cannot be denied if achieved or not achieved. At any rate it is only just to ask for it. That is why all well-meaning Nigerians must issue an ultimatum to Buhari/APC – no Leah; no vote in 2019. And, it is not only in the Presidential elections that we must insist on having her back. Governors, Senators, Representatives should also be told the same thing – no Leah; no vote.