February 9, 2023

Have Nigerians truly suffered enough?

By Ikechukwu Amaechi

IN the twilight of the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, a drama played out in the Red Chamber of the National Assembly as senators squared up in a crunch tenure elongation. The day was May 16, 2006, one year before the end of Obasanjo’s constitutionally guaranteed maximum eight years of two terms. But Obasanjo didn’t want to leave, hence the need to amend the Constitution with an open ended-tenure.   

As pro-tenure elongation senators plotted their third term agenda, anti-Obasanjo forces also arranged their cards.

On the day of the second reading of the Amendment Bill, the Senate President, Ken Nnamani, called out his colleagues one after the other and his predecessor, Adolphus Wabara, became the starboy. 

Many had expected Wabara, who, fortuitously, was the last to speak before the vote was taken, to kowtow to Obasanjo because the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, was on his contrived budget scandal case. But, perhaps, sure of his innocence in the matter, he rose to the occasion with his “my people speech”, without caring that he was goring Obasanjo’s ox.  

“Ordinarily, I would have considered this bill, but my people, oh my people, have asked me to vote against it,” Wabara quipped. It is doubtful if he conferred with his constituents before that dramatic wisecrack that buried the “Third Term Bill.” 

But the invocation of his people’s name was instructive. Thus Obasanjo’s inordinate ambition was sequestered on the altar of Wabara’s presumed people. It was a cold revenge. As Wabara, who was representing Abia South Senatorial District spoke on that fateful day, his colleagues cheered, Nigerians watching on live television shouted approval and shortly after, the Senate voted to reject the amendment.  

He returned to his constituency a hero and subsequently his “oh my people” jibe began to trend, comparable to this era’s “Balablu-blu blu-bulaba” chant. I don’t know how many Nigerians still remember Wabara’s famous speech, but this piece is not about the man who is now the chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees. But the upcoming elections and the way politicians are trying to wheedle the unwary with their pro-masses, “oh my people” sloganeering is sickening.  

In the wake of the naira redesign policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, politicians who are known not to care a hoot about the suffering masses now profess from the rooftops their undying love for the longsuffering people. Those who are opposed to the monetary policy of the Federal Government headed by President Muhammadu Buhari, elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC, claim they are doing so because it had subjected Nigerians to untold hardship. 

Which is true, of course. There is complete bedlam and at no time in the country’s post-independence history have Nigerians been subjected to such misery as they are going through today. Nigerians are in hell, literally. Which is sad.  

But sadder is the fact that the very people responsible for the anomie are the ones pointing fingers of blame. They are not only busy deflecting all criticisms but also working very hard to profiteer from the people’s misery. A visitor from the moon will be forgiven if he thinks that this is 2015 and the APC is in the opposition. 

Yet the party has been in power now for almost eight years controlling absolutely the three arms of government, including the judiciary that became a mere appendage of the executive arm after Buhari engineered the sack of Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen in early 2019 before the elections.  

Onnoghen’s successor, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, who, for all intents and purposes, became the errand boy of the Presidency was foisted on Nigerians willy-nilly for self-serving, sinister purposes. He left the Supreme Court in its worst state since it was founded on October 1, 1963. 

The three to two split judgement on Tuesday with which the Supreme Court nailed the fate of Bashir Sheriff Machina 18 days to the election by purloining the Yobe North Senatorial District ticket freely given to him by the people and handing same over to the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, a man who never contested the primaries contrary to the dictates of the Electoral Act, the mess left behind by Tanko will take eons, if ever, to clean up.  

That is the legacy of the APC. The party in eight years destroyed the judiciary, National Assembly, institutions of state and all the values that sustain growth of any nation. Nothing was sacred to the party and its chieftains. In any other clime where a ruling party has inflicted as much harm on the citizenry as the APC has done in the last eight years, such a political party would become a pariah, severely punished at the polls for their atrocities. But the APC demagogues want Nigerians to believe it is not their fault. It is the fault of a cabal in Aso Rock Villa, which members belong to the self-same APC. They claim the cabal does not want the party’s presidential candidate to succeed the current president produced from their ranks.  

As I write, Nigeria has descended into absolute chaos because of the sabotage of the APC-led Federal Government’s monetary policy by chieftains of the party who are busy inciting anarchy on the streets in a desperate bid to ensure that the policy doesn’t work. While stoking the embers of chaos on the streets, a revolution they called it, three governors elected on the platform of the ruling APC rushed to the Supreme Court seeking a halt to the full implementation of the policy. Barely one week later, they had their way.  

Now, they would want Nigerians to blame the CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele, who by the way is one of their own, a card carrying member of the party. They want Emefiele roasted and he has been called names. Yet, Buhari, the President signed off on the policy and his brother-in-law, elder brother to his wife, Aisha, Ahmed Halilu, is the Managing Director of Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company, NSPMC, Plc, the very government parastatal responsible for printing the new Naira notes.  

Nigeria right now is experiencing the worst fuel crisis in recent times with people paying as much as N500 for a litre in some parts of Nigeria, including Lagos, and the APC demagogues are blaming an imaginary cabal or even the opposition political parties for the mess. Yet, President Muhammadu Buhari has been the de facto Petroleum Minister since 2015 and is still paying trillions of Naira as subsidy for a product that Nigerians cannot see. 

The Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities, ASUU, was on strike for eight months, and no APC governor went to see Buhari, seeking for a resolution. The country has been grounded, literally, for months and the APC chieftains were inured to the sufferings of the Nigerian people.  

They only remembered that the people are suffering because the Naira redesign policy threatens to deny them slush funds for their business as usual nefarious political activities. All of a sudden, shouts of “my people, oh my people” are coming out from the conspiratorial mouths of the architects of the people’s unmitigated misery. Yet the same people, instead of being sufficiently angry and expressing same at the ballot box, seem not to be aware of what is at stake. Maybe there is wisdom in what someone told me recently: Nigerians have not suffered enough!