By Owei Lakemfa
THERE have been wailings among the Nigerian political class over visa restrictions placed on some of their members by the United States. The Americans say that the visa restrictions were placed on Nigerians who, it alleged, “operated with impunity at the expense of the Nigerian people and undermined democratic principles and human rights”.
Since visa issuance or rejection is usually private, a full list of those affected or who may be affected is not known. However, the American statement mentioned the elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states.
Although the names of those affected were not mentioned, but where bones are mentioned, some toothless elders would think it is an allusion to them. In any case, the guilty are always afraid. So when the visa ban was announced, the Kogi State government wrote a letter to the American ambassador pleading the case of its governor, Yahaya Bello.
In the allocutus, it pleaded that since the Nigerian Supreme Court had confirmed Bello’s elections, he ought not be included in the visa ban list. The state government in a child-like manner told the Americans:
“The inference from your timing is that the judgement is somehow tainted and did not meet the justice of the case, thereby casting aspersions, not only on the Nigerian judiciary but on the second term mandate freely bestowed on Governor Yahaya Bello by the good people of Kogi State.”
The Americans did not say they based their decision on the technicalities of Nigerian courts, including the obviously disgraceful conducts of the Supreme Court which in the case of Imo State, imposed its own unelected governor on the people. That the Yahaya Bello gang carried out atrocities against the electorate is an open secret.
The campaign songs of his supporters which he neither disowned nor distanced himself from, was ‘Ta ta ta ta’, the sound of gunshots which they say will be the fate of those who do not support his re-election. This was enacted in various parts of the state on election day as thugs shot at voters; in some cases, shooting from helicopters.
In my November 25, 2019 column titled: ‘Homage to Emperor Yahaya Bello: Long may you reign,’ I argued that the November 16, 2019 gubernatorial election in Kogi State was unnecessary because all indications showed that:
“Bello would be returned to power with an overwhelming majority irrespective of what the voters decided. This is because what the voters would decide had already been decided for them by the staccato of gun fire, armed rogue policemen, a colluding electoral system and a Federal Government that was at best, indifferent.”
So, arguing that the Supreme Court sanctified the criminality of the election is not an issue. In any case, the Kogi State government ought to be smart enough to realise that America and a number of countries had active electoral observers and groups who covered those elections and that their report is more credible to the Americans than the tonnes of falsehood offloaded on the Electoral tribunals and later blessed by the Supreme Court.
The Kogi State government submitted that rather than the visa ban, the Americans should “create a room, no matter how slim, for a fair hearing”. Is it serious? That the American Embassy should constitute itself into an electoral tribunal and summon Bello and his victims?
In any case, how is it a challenge to the Nigerian people -who are barely surviving- whether America or Europe decides to bar some politicians from their countries? How can it be the headache of the Kogi State people if the Americans do not want Yahaya Bello, the self-acclaimed political son of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Conquering White Lion of Kogi, to visit their country?
I have been quite critical of the American state interfering in the internal affairs of other countries and peoples, including its hundreds of invasions of countries like Nicaragua, Grenada, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. But to challenge its right to issue or deny visas to Nigerian politicians it adjudges to compromise elections is to question its sovereignty.
If a visa is a conditional authorisation granted by a territory to a foreigner, allowing him to enter, remain or to leave within a specific period, then it is at the discretion of the territory. To question that discretion as the Yahaya Bello gang and some politicians are doing, is to question that discretionary power.
If a country says you would pollute its environment by your presence, why not stay in your own country? Political leadership in Nigerian is not by conscription; politicians claim they run for office to serve; so, why won’t they sit at home and serve, why will they wail like babies if a country asks them to sit at home and govern rather than gallivant across the globe?
Also, diplomacy rests a lot on reciprocity. So, if the Nigerian government feels the actions of another country is unfair or challenges its sovereignty, all it needs do, is react likewise, not to wail like an overfed baby denied feeding bottle.
In any case, even if all our politicians are banned from Europe and America, how does that affect the cost of food? These are the issues Nigerians are concerned about. Personally, I am worried by the Buhari government’s level of delusion.
At no other time in our history have Nigerians been subjected to so much deprivation, hunger and hyperinflation. By the end of August, a bag of imported rice had risen to N32,000 from its 2015 price of N8,500 under the previous administration. Local rice which was N6,000 rose to N25,000.
The official National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, reported that the country’s inflation rose to 13.22 per cent in August 2020, while food prices rose by16 per-cent. The NBS said the rise in the food index was caused by increases in prices of bread, cereals, potatoes, yam and other tubers, meat, fish, fruits, oils and fats and vegetables.
But the Buhari government lives in a different world. It says the cost of food is actually coming down! The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said on Channels Television that contrary to the complaints of Nigerians:
“As of yesterday (September 10, 2020), in the morning of the meeting, go and check the index in markets. For instance in Kano, millets that had gone up to N24,000 has now gone down to N12,000, N13,000. Rice that had been N25,000 is now N20,000.
Corn is now N18,000 for the old stock and N14,000, N15,000 for the new stock.” The Buhari government lives in a delusionary world while Nigerians live in the real world. Clearly, the falcon cannot hear the falconer.