By BEN LAWRENCE
Nigerians seem to be waking from their 13-year slumber, one of fake bliss with a so-called constitutional rule. It is only constitutional on paper. In spirit, it is fraudulent and in kind, a rule by a few greedy persons in agbada.
This is not the democracy Nigerians, with blood, wrested from the military. It has been stolen from them by a neo-colonial conspiracy of forces dictated to from abroad. Those who took the reins from the military have reduced Nigerians to serfs and sentenced them to be drawers of water and hewers of wood. They make many mistakes in their propaganda. We may skip the debate of ho President Goodluck Jonathan spent N1.3 trillion to buy fuel against the N251 billion approved by the National Assembly in 2011 budget.
There are other matters arising that should concern Nigerians. General Olusegun Obasanjo, a former president, for example, told the people that he left $60 billion in foreign reserves in 2007 when he handed over to his successor, Umaru Yar’Adua of blessed memory. The departed ruler was not known to be a profligate spender. So, how much in foreign reserves did Jonathan inherit form Yar’Adua and what is the state of our foreign reserves today?
Ibrahim Babangida, military president earned the highest of $16 a barrel except during the three-month Gulf War of 1990 when the price rose to $40 a barrel. He could point to many things he added to the economy and structure of Nigeria in eight years. He built the second Port Harcourt Refinery, the aluminum smelting factory at Ikot Abasi, Akwa Ibom State, the fertilizer plant at Onne, Rivers State, and completed the Third Mainland Bridge. He set up other structures like the People’s Bank, DFFRI and successfully conducted elections he later cancelled. The structures he built for the two political parties he created have now become local government council offices.
One cannot recount what Ernest Shonekan achieved in his three months in charge except to cause the fuel price crisis that still rages in Nigeria; he left office as a very rich man. General Sani Abacha created the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund, PTF, and we saw how that organisation under General Muhammadu Buhari and Chief Osayande Akpata scientifically intervened in many needy areas of Nigerian life to restore them to good health. Pharmaceuticals, roads, water supply and so forth felt the touch of the PTF. Naira parity to other currencies was stable and cost of living did not rocket to unmanageable levels.
The question today that Jonathan must answer is how the $60 billion left by Obasanjo was reduced to $30 billion. Jonathan gives the impression that Nigeria is broke. What do we spend the money we earn, an average of N80 a barrel, at two million barrels from oil everyday on? Nothing has been added to the infrastructure of Nigeria in the last 13 years. Since Jonathan as in Yar’Adua’s government as second-in-command and later the boss, Jonathan’s answer to this almighty question is urgent and necessary.
Nigerians have not benefited from government in the last 13 years. Their economic plight today is dire. It took seven hours by road to travel from Lagos to Abuja 13 years ago. It now takes 16 hours. It took three hours to drive from Lagos to Benin 13 years ago. It takes seven hours now on the average. All the federal infrastructure in Nigeria are dilapidated for lack of maintenance. So, the question Nigerians are desirous of having answers to is how money made every day is utilised. They believe that the performance of government, based on budgetary provisions, has not been up to 25 per cent. Then what happens to the 75 per cent budgeted?
Jonathan must answer these questions relevant to building confidence in the system. The other worrying issue is the revelation by Jonathan that Boko Haram is in his administration, the security forces and the judiciary. Boko Haram’s activities have been limited to the North-eastern state of Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Bauchi and Gombe, the base of the former Borno State Movement opposed to the NPC. It is necessary to highlight here that these states formed the former North-eastern State of the 12 created by General Yakubu Gowon. The Plateau crisis is Hausa-Fulani versus the indigenes of the state. Niger is only affected because of its proximity to the Federal Capital Territory. Is Jonathan trying to imply that the remaining parts of the former Northern Region are under Boko Haram? That is a cheap, divisive ploy for any leader to resort to while he grabs on to a straw for survival.
The youths who drove the sultan and emirs from their palaces after last year’s April polls were not Boko Haram elements. And they came from Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Niger, Kano, Kaduna and Nasarawa states. Their grievances ere ideological, that of a class struggle. They said they were asking for good education, employment, social and economic empowerment. People said they were mainly graduates of polytechnics and universities who desired modernity in the North and an end to class stratification. Jonathan wants to be clever by half. Instead of unifying Nigerians, he creates divisions any time he speaks. There were a few, if any, urchins of Islamic mallams among those protesters. They did not sing religious tunes, though dangerous hijackers, during protests, exploit circumstances for their own gains.
Nigerians would like to know the Boko Haram elements in Jonathan’s administration, in the security forces and in the judiciary. The President deliberately made that statement to distract people and divert attention from the countrywide protests against poor governance. Who are this man’s advisers and minders? He should behave like a statesman. He cuts the picture of a village teacher thrust on an urban school. If he underrates the present wind blowing through Nigeria, he may be singing the nation’s nunc dimitis. Let us hope he is not Nigeria’s pallbearer as the bell tolls.
It is unfortunate that barely four days after Jonathan revealed that Boko Haram had infiltrated all sectors of government, sectarian killings spread to the South, to Benin City, the cradle of Christianity on the Guinea Coast. The first church, no called Aruosa, as opened in Benin City in 1504. The other to churches ere built at Ogbelaka and Erie quarters. Portuguese priests and some Binis ministered at those churches.
Edo State has been in contact with Islam for many centuries. These two faiths never clashed until now when unguarded statements started to be uttered from the lips of the man at the top. The feared mistrust has eventually germinated in Nigeria, thanks to the President. This was what Alex Ekwueme, former vice president cautioned against when he refused to endorse Jonathan at a book launch. He said the President was inexperienced.