By Owei Lakemfa
MANY Nigerians want to leave. That is why a citizen would gather a lot of money and pay a human trafficker to be taken through the horrors of the desert with the possibility of dying of thirst, arriving in unfriendly countries where he can be enslaved and then making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea where many have found watery graves. All these just to end up in Europe with no welcome, no shelter, no warm clothes, no job and no guarantee of food or the future.
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Simply put, we have created a generation of desperate people or citizens who have given up. Yet we have some of the most intelligent, resourceful, innovative and hard-working people on earth. I have interacted and worked with various peoples in the world from Europeans to Americans, Arabs to Chinese, Latin Americans to Asians and know this to be a fact.
So, Nigeria is a puzzle, an irony; how such a resourceful people are led by unimaginative persons; hard working people led by parasitic elites; a soulful people led by a soulless ruling class with weak institutions built on weak foundations and run by the incompetent on behalf of the incompetent in the name of a competent people.
Let us take a straight forward case. A Nigerian, Anthony Okolie, in December, 2018 bought a SIM card. He was later arrested by the Department of State Services, DSS, for being in possession of a SIM card belonging to a young lady called Hanan who happens to be a daughter of President Muhammadu Buhari. All that was necessary was to clarify from the seller if Okolie truly bought the SIM and from the cellphone company if it actually released the line for sale.
That, in a serious country, should take just some minutes or at the maximum a day. Rather, Okolie was bundled from Asaba to Abuja through deathly roads which our leaders are incapable of maintaining and detained in a cell. Our Constitution provides in Section 34(5)b that a Nigerian should not be detained for more than 48 hours without being charged to court. Okolie was thrown into a cell without trial for 10 weeks! Our judicial system gives the citizen the right to legal representation; he was not allowed access to his lawyer.
The DSS alleged that Hanan had complained about her phone line being hijacked, but it did not supply Okolie with a copy of the complaint nor did the complainant, Hanan, show up as she was schooling in the United Kingdom. Assuming the DSS thought there was need to wait for the complainant to return to Nigeria, all it needed was grant Okolie bail; it did not. Rather, it simply abandoned him in a cell!
So, a Nigerian who fends for himself, in a country without social security, is deprived of his freedom or income; made to pay lawyers and his family had to make fruitless trips to Abuja without being allowed access to him. All these over an issue that could have been administratively sorted out within hours.
When eventually he was released, the DSS simply threw him out on the streets of Abuja like some trash. Not even the basic gesture of providing him the less than N10,000 road transport fare back to Asaba. Okolie went through this ordeal because he is not the child or relative of any member of the ruling class. Were he the son of a minister, top politician or business mogul, he would not have been so treated.
If the DSS were law-abiding, it would have issued Okolie a public apology and compensated him in accordance with Section 34(6) of the Constitution. It would also have sacked the clearly incompetent officers who needlessly incarcerated a fellow Nigerian and made the agency appear quite incompetent.
If I had any connection to Ms. Hanan Buhari, I would have reminded her that the kind of impunity displayed in this case would not have happened in the United Kingdom where she is studying, and that as a cultured, well-bred young lady, she should apologise to Okolie for causing him so much pain and distress.
It is this type of cases that lead to frustration and the desperation of many to leave the country even if it means embarking on suicidal travels. There is also the unnecessary hardship heaped on Nigerians by a visionless political class whose only motive is to make more money and spend.
In the last one year, I have lost count of the number of additional taxes heaped on us and the policy somersaults we are forced to watch. But one that I cannot get out of my mind is the proposed 59.7 to 78 percent hike in electricity tariff in a country where mainly darkness is supplied, meters not given or read and manufacturing cannot be competitive because the cost of energy and providing alternative power supply is crippling.
I am further irritated by the usual lie production line in the country from government to the private sector. For instance, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, Chairman, Joseph Momoh and Compliance Commissioner, Dafe Akpeneye on December 31, 2019 issued the tariff increase order to all electricity distribution companies. The NERC said its new order which was published on its website, supersedes “other orders issued on the subject matter, and shall take effect from January 1, 2020”.
When Nigerians protested against the stifling and increasing insensitivity of the Buhari administration, the government agency denied there is such an increase. Its Public Affairs General Manager, Usman Arabi, in a public statement claimed that for there to be tariff increase, “the commission will widely consult with stakeholders and a final decision will take due regard off all contributions”. Meanwhile, the distribution companies announced that the new tariffs will be enforced from April 2020. So, who is lying?
The Buhari government had claimed variously that fuel subsidy is a fraud, and announced in August 2016 that it had saved N1.4 trillion by not paying the subsidy. But the truth is that it pays fuel subsidy and that the year it claimed to have saved the N1.4 trillion, it actually spent more than that in subsidy payment.
The falsehood that oozes out is so much that if a government official greets you good morning, you better look outside to confirm that it is morning and not nightfall. It is like the unitary constitution being proclaimed as that of a “Federal Republic”.
All these, including the divisive, sectarian, regional and ethno-religious politics foisted on us, do not mean we should vote with our feet. We do not need another country outside Nigeria, what we need is a different Nigeria; we need to save and repossess our country from the parasitic political class.