By Obi Nwakanma
Last week, dear reader, I felt too overwhelmed to write this column. It seemed pointless. Nigeria does this to you, yes. Events of such significance happen far too rapidly these days that it is no longer easy to respond to any without feeling a sense of despair.
Just like last week, there are too many things this week that dog our steps: the Tinubu choice of a Muslim-Muslim ticket certainly requires urgent interrogation; the spittle had not dried from the mouth of Nigerians when again from the Tinubu camp, in utter disregard of the feelings of the Christian community, the Tinubu-Shettima campaign caused another outrage: they went all out to hire all kinds of characters – mechanics, carpenters, a few others whom they found on the streets, gathered them, offered them cash, put cassocks on them, and declared them “Christian Bishops” at the ceremony “unveiling” of Mr. Bola Tinubu’s APC running mate, Kashim Shettima.
It was a most insensitive disrespect of Christians, already feeling utterly dissed by the APC candidate. But there was also the inauguration, this week, of the new NNPC Ltd by President Buhari. Nothing good will come out of this. It is startling that the National Assembly brazenly passed a law that steals the Nigerian commonwealth from the Nigerian people.
I watched a Channels TV interview of Mr. Akpan Bassey, Chair of the Petroleum Committee in the Senate, and Mr. Yabangi Sani, a petroleum sector player, and a current presidential candidate, dispute the benefits of this transition from a public corporation to a private limited liability company operating now under the Allied Companies Act; and an Arise TV interviews of Mr. Mele Kyari, the current CEO of the new NNPC Ltd.
He basically skirted Charles Aniagolu’s question on who the current shareholders of this new NNPC are. And that is the real question. I will, at some point, address this issue in this column, because it is at the crux of our national economic life and survival as a nation.
It does seem to me that this is a brazen transfer of the public property of Nigeria – the most consequential of Nigeria’s commonwealth – to a few, faceless hands. This is robbery and Nigerians must rise to stop this stealing. There is also a terrible irony to this, that this robbery is happening under the watch of Mr. Timipreye Sylva, Minister of State for Oil, and a son of the so-called “Niger Delta.”
I bat on the same side of Sani who said, on this new NNPC that “Nigeria was swindled” by this law that has privatized the NNPC. It no longer belongs to Nigerians. And even more startling is the news this week by the Minister of Finance that the Federal Government of Nigeria recorded a N3.09 trillion deficit in the first quarter performance of its 2022 Budget, and will spend N6.2 Trillion as subsidy for oil in the year.
This is clearly unsustainable. Nigeria is not just broke, but its economic foundations as a nation has collapsed. I dare not even in this column begin to analyze the implications of this news. It is imperative, even incumbent on the media, to begin to prepare Nigerians, beyond glib headlines, for what we are about to experience.
By the end of this year, the Naira will be no better than toilet paper. It would become clear when you go to buy a loaf of bread with N10, 000. Welcome to the world that Buhari and the APC have created. Public services have all but collapsed. States are in a free fall as they can no longer function as federating units even at the most basic levels.
Insecurity is writ large. Soon, these states are going to exist merely on paper, and no one can be in charge, because there will be hardly any subventions to run them. We are actually in that moment, akin to just before the collapse of Yugoslavia, and I’m still shocked that someone is campaigning to be President of Nigeria.
Again, let me emphasize this, we are in a Yugoslavia moment. The factors are all lining up. But even as all these are important, and require great interrogation and elaboration, the massacre at Awomama, Imo State, just this past week takes the cake. Everything wrong with this country, and instigated by this APC government, converged in this dastardly event.
According to reports, 14 people, who had gone to a traditional wedding as guests, had been killed in a very gruesome way by state actors. The outcry has been loud but ineffectual. The Attorney-General of Imo State has not moved a muscle. Yes, women, youth, and men of surrounding communities rose up and blocked streets in protest.
The chilling voice of a woman in a very viral video in terrible lament cried to the heavens: “Otulu has no more boys!” Two of her neighbors sons from the same mother were said to be among the boys killed allegedly by Ebubeagu – the armed vigilante group established by the governors of the South-East as a counter to the Eastern Security Network (ESN), the so-called military arm of the IPOB.
Imo State governor, Mr. Hope Uzodinma, tried to cover up the killings by declaring that these young men killed were members of the ESN and not wedding guests. But emerging evidence has since put a lie to that assertion. The killings were done by a joint action of the Ebubeagu/DSS. It was a dastardly operation and those who did this killing must be arrested and tried for murder.
This killing spree has gone on for too long in Imo, and much of the South-East. It is violence conducted by government agents killing innocent citizens. It should finally bring out the beast in all of us comatose citizens of Nigeria and of the South-East particularly. This has to stop. Mr. Hope Uzodinma must be made to answer to these killings.
He has been asked by Imo youth to resign. That is not going to happen, clearly. The likes of Hope Uzodinma think themselves emperors. They think themselves higher than the people who elected them, and who can be killed, tortured, raped, and thrown into the ditch without consequence.
The point, however, is, the killings in Awomama are the result of a federal policy of attrition under the Buhari administration using his local satrap to accomplish what he could not legally, directly accomplish. The Supreme Court under Buhari committed legal and institutional thuggery by imposing Hope Uzodinma, who did not win an election, on Imo people.
Since this event, Imo State, particularly the Orlu Zone, has since become violent and militarized. The daily reports from that part of Igbo land indicate that what is going on is a proxy war. The people suffer. Young men are killed. Property invaded and destroyed. And the law remains an ass.
Peace fled Imo from the day Hope Uzodinma was imposed as governor of Imo to further the aims of the APC-led federal administration whose policy from 2015 saw the state and all of the South-East in violent and adversarial terms. Uzodinma knows how unpopular he is, and how vulnerable he is, so much that residents of Imo say he has moved to Abuja permanently.
He is hardly in Owerri. Indications are that he “governs” Imo from Abuja where he spends 90% of his time as governor. Ironically, I do not blame Hope Uzodinma alone. I mostly blame members of the Imo State House of Assembly. Since the establishment of this 4th Republic, it has remained largely a rubber stamp Assembly. I
t has neither bite nor bite. The worst of these rubber stamp parliaments is the current legislative delegation. Because they have refused to use their power of investigation and sanction, and have let successive governors of the state, particularly Hope Uzodinma, misgovern Imo with little sanction or oversight, the state is in dire straits. Just as an example, Governor Uzodinma was reported to have also disbanded the Interim Management Committee of the Local Councils.
There is no law in the Nigerian Constitution that gives him that power to either constitute or disband Interim Management Committees of Local Governments. It is a breach of the Constitution. But because the Assembly has refused to pass the election laws of the state, the local governments have no elected governments.
It should be law established by the Assembly that, at the end of the term of a local government, elections must be automatically conducted. Where that is not possible, and an election does not immediately take place, the Secretary to the Local Government and head of its Civil Administration ought to administer the local government on an interim basis, no more than six months before an election must be conducted to the local government.
This should ensure independence of the local administration, and accountability. The state House of Assembly has fiduciary powers over the state. Not the Governor. Governors like Uzodinma however act with little oversight. They use the security votes, illegal by all definitions, to destroy rather than protect the lives of citizens.
In this particular incident at Awomama, given the recumbence of the Imo State House of Assembly, indigenes have no hope of investigating Uzodinma to get any answers to his complicity in the killings at Awomama. I do not blame the Assembly altogether alone. I blame Imo citizens too who have failed to rise, organize, and use the only power they have in the Constitution – the power to recall their reps in the Assembly, or stir them to act with sustained picketing.