Featured Notes Wole Olaoye

May Luck Find Nigeria

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EditPro | Lagos Metropolitan newspaper By Wole Olaoye

How does one shake off the depressing feeling of déjà vu as one tragedy rolls over another? At times, one feels like an idiot. Wrapping one’s head around the way things have turned out in Nigeria — diminishing security, fuel queues, unprecedented inflation, intractable closure of universities, Naira depreciation etc — is physically exhausting. The exhaustion comes not just from the illogic behind the happenings, but also from their volume. How does one console oneself when a witch guarantees the continuation of her witchery by begetting more daughters?  

The People’s Democratic Party wants the courts to compel both APC’s Bola Tinubu and LP’s Peter Obi to retain Ibrahim Masari and Doyin Okupe respectively as running mates. Both Masari and Okupe had resigned and sworn to affidavits as required by law to pave the way for their replacement. 

But PDP says no, they must run. PDP’s intention is to considerably weaken the presidential tickets of their opponents to enable the former ruling party to coast home to victory. At a time when the party ought to be marshalling its points on how it will dig Nigeria out of the current hole, it is shopping for legal banana peels to make the presidential election a walkover. Many people are laughing at PDP — in vernacular! 

In the run-up to the 2023 general elections, the elephant of corruption sits in the middle of the highway. Our leaders can’t be too bothered about the fuel crisis because they have stashed away enough cash to oil the engine of their campaigns. Our four refineries with a refining capacity of 450,000 barrels per day lie idle. There are hundreds of highly paid employees in those refineries. For the past 10 years (and more), they have been receiving their emoluments without having anything to show for it. We are paying out trillions of Naira as ‘subsidy’ for imported petrol. 

Meanwhile, we have reportedly signed an MOU to pipe crude oil to the neighbouring Niger Republic which has a capacity to refine 20,000 BPD so that Niger can supply us with fuel. How this works out is that Nigerians live by the river bank but are forced to wash their faces with their neighbour’s spittle.

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I must be an idiot not to appreciate the glorious logic of exporting raw yam only to import pounded yam.

Only recently, one Tukur Mamu, described as a media consultant to Sheikh Ahmad Mahmud Gumi and a negotiator between the Federal Government and terrorists who carried out the Abuja-Kaduna train attack, disclosed that he informed the government about a planned attack on Kuje Correctional Centre by Boko Haram terrorists, but his information was ignored.

Expressing his exasperation, he declared: “I can confirm without doubt that the Kuje Correctional Centre attack was executed and coordinated by the same group that attacked the Abuja-Kaduna bound train, because they gave indications of imminent attacks to that effect which I shared.”

How do you wrap your head around that? We are a country of 200 million people. Our armed forces are reputed to be among the best in international operations. Our police officers and men are highly regarded all over the continent and beyond. But we can’t police our borders; neither can we trace and neutralise sundry criminal gangs terrorising all parts of the country. Terrorists and kidnappers are now holding territory while we engage middlemen to negotiate ransom payment for the release of some captives. 

I feel like an idiot.

Last year, Bulama Bukarti, a senior analyst in the Extremism Policy Unit of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, disclosed that bandits extorted about $5 million from ordinary Nigerians within the year. He said that the Boko Haram’s abduction-for-ransom system had been copied by the bandits because there are no reprisals for criminal activities

“Everybody in Nigeria, including the criminal gangs in the Northwest, saw Boko Haram receive a ransom payment of €3 million (about $3.7 million) to free some of the Chibok schoolgirls”, he noted. “In 2018, there was another mass abduction in which 110 girls were taken. Reports surfaced about how the hostages were released, and there were rumours of money being paid, including in a UN report”, he said.

The nation is now at the mercy of unknown armed groups who have smuggled in over six million illegal weapons, primarily AK-47s, into the country. With forests spanning thousands of square miles, a porous border with Niger from which arms from Libya are routinely smuggled in coupled with the availability of opioids, the stage is set for terrorism of all shades to flourish.

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When I learnt that the President had renewed his charge to the Armed Forces to go after the terrorists last week in Jaji, Kaduna State, I had the aforementioned déjà vu feeling all over again. 

The president had ordered the soldiers to wipe the terrorists off the face of the earth and return peace and security to the country. He vowed that the masterminds of the recent Kuje Prison Attack and other attacks across the country would not be allowed to go free and would eventually be brought to justice. I muttered an Amen under my breath. 

It is not prophetic to say that it won’t be the last time I’d be hearing those declarations. Or is it idiotic to imagine that we have seen the last of those terror attacks?

Like the PDP, the ruling party APC has also hugged the front pages since its presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, announced former Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima, as his running mate “after extensive consultations”.

Immediately the announcement was made, many Christians and their sympathisers condemned what they described as the insensitive Muslim/Muslim presidential ticket. They had expected Tinubu being a southern Muslim to pick a Northern Christian considering that both Islam and Christianity are fairly equally represented in the Nigerian population. Their position is reinforced by the latent religious tension simmering in the country on account of the way we have mismanaged our cultural and religious diversity. 

Some Muslims like the activist Aisha Yesufu also felt a Muslim/Muslim presidential ticket was unfair. If the shoe had been on the other foot and APC had presented a Christian/Christian ticket, Muslims would have risen in opposition.

Tinubu’s supporters have been on overdrive trying to push back on the charge of insensitivity and borrowing the voices of notable Christians to support their candidate’s decision. At the initial stage, the impression was given that the Chairman of the Borno State branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) was comfortable with the Muslim/Muslim ticket. A soundbite of an interview where he was praising Shettima made the rounds on social media. It turned out that the commendation was several years old and was made when Shettima was governor. The CAN Chair has therefore had to deny endorsing the Tinubu ticket.

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Also, a song and dance have been made of the fact that Tinubu’s wife, Oluremi, is a pastor in a Pentecostal church. Critics have been quick to remind those who flaunt that argument that the name on the ticket is Bola Tinubu, not Oluremi. The issue, in fairness, is not whether Tinubu is a religious bigot or not. Many people attest to his sense of accommodation and fairness. But that has nothing to do with ensuring equity and fairness in representation.

By contrast, the other major parties have kept faith with tradition. PDP has a Muslim/Christian (Atiku/Okowa) joint ticket; Labour Party has Obi/Baba-Ahmed (Christian/Muslim) while NNPP has Kwankwaso/Idahosa (Muslim/Christian). Only APC is fielding a candidate and running mate of the same religion.

It will be interesting to see how Tinubu’s contention that he chose Shettima because of his competence, plays out. Pastor Sam Aiyedogbon of the Realm of Glory International Churches was like the mother hen in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, which raises so much dust when the kite picks her chick. Aiyedogbon told Tinubu, point blank, that there will be negative consequences.

Other Christians refused to join the debate preferring to play the duck in the Achebe story. When the kite picks up a duckling, the mother duck remains silent. The kite promptly returns the duckling fearing that the mother duck’s silence was ominous.

I wish all the candidates good luck in their never-say-die quest for power. Politics, after all, is a gamble. Scott Adams breaks it down: “The world is like a reverse casino. In a casino, if you gamble long enough, you’re certainly going to lose. But in the real world, where the only thing you’re gambling is, say, your time or your embarrassment, then the more stuff you do, the more you give luck a chance to find you.”

We have gambled enough. May luck find Nigeria.

  • Wole Olaoye is a Public Relations consultant and veteran journalist. He can be reached at wole.olaoye@gmail.com, Twitter: @wole_olaoye; Instagram: woleola2021

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