Nigeria’s Split Personality

I spent eight hours on a journey that took three, two decades before the arrival of Nigeria’s pseudo-democracy. When Yakubu Gowon built the Shagamu–Ore dual carriageway within three years of his post-war rule, it was pleasurable to ride to Benin from Lagos. Samuel Ogbemudia introduced those luxury buses with toilet facilities in his Midwest Line. The taxicabs of the same line from Benin to Lagos and up North were driven by ladies. And of course, some of the major streets in Benin then were mechanically swept like in Europe and America. This is no fairy tale. It is about former Nigeria where things worked.

I would not have embarked on the nightmare to Benin but for a compulsory family obligation because my great niece was being given away to the crown prince of the Warri kingdom. Captain Idahosa Okunbo, the business mogul and father of the lady, is my nephew, the mother, Helen Okunbo (née Lawrence) being my immediate younger sister. We descend from Arikolasi, once Osemawe of Ondo and an Ife princess. So it was royalty in display, though in the language of my boss, Abiodun Aloba, the Bini nationalist, “I am a progressive royalist.”

I do not regret the pains of joy on that journey because the wedding was a grand success where one saw APC and PDP stalwarts from the top mixing and sharing pleasantries.

John Odigie-Oyegun, Tony Anenih, Edwin Clarke, Senator Tinubu and some other senators and assemblymen of both major parties were present. Okunbo should be a magician in public relations to have succeeded bringing such diverse groups together to share brotherhood without bitterness.

Be that as it may, I have a word of advice for President Goodluck Jonathan to please jack up the propaganda machine of his Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria, TAN, because the misinformation is bound to backfire. Igbos will soon be going down East from the West and the North and they will gruel through the gullies and ditches that define federal highways in Nigeria. And after spending two days on the road for a journey of eight hours, they will discover that Zebrudayah is a lying machine. And that is where integrity matters like was displayed by Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who detested mendacity, unlike Olusegun Obasanjo. It is one trip to hell on Lagos–Ore route.

In YarAdua’s two-year rule government had shed meanness and speaking from both sides of the mouth. I don’t think that Yar’Adua would have tolerated Maurice Iwu much longer because he had told the world that he conducted a flawed election. How much longer would Attahiru Jega have lasted with Yar’Adua for the blunders that have been the features of his leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC? I had voted a candidate of my choice in the last three presidential elections. The elections had been massively rigged, especially in the eastern region of this country, where results recorded more than the figures of registered voters in many of the states without any query. I lost confidence in INEC when it took it eternity to register voters and though unsuccessfully. And that was why it could not also deliver ballot papers for the first scheduled senatorial poll in 2011. It eventually muddled up the remaining elections, disenfranchising many voters, most of them responsible people who would pull no punches at polling booths.

They have not found my card now at the polling station where I voted in 2011. Jega may disenfranchise me. I have no confidence in INEC. I was close to Humphrey Nwosu and Ephraim Akpata’s NEC and INEC respectively. They led like impartial judges. Perhaps, it was because they were not election consultants before their appointments. The leadership of Jega, to me, is loaded with doubts, and one prays it does not become a harbinger of national upheaval. Should he not throw in the towel now? Nigeria grew at breakneck speed in the 1960s and 1970s because she had solid institutions.

Institutions build structures that are not easily bent to the disadvantage of the people. Institutions obey hierarchy and ensure order in the society. That has been destroyed by Obasanjo and completely sealed by Jonathan. Lawlessness and individualism now have a free rein. When a mad dog is freed from the leash, panic is the immediate result and people take to flight.

One may wonder why Nigeria has developed a split personality. She handled the Ebola scourge efficiently but she cannot handle voters’ registration. This is what should be engaging the Council of State instead of rubber-stamping every action of the President.

What business has the Council of State with the appointment of an inspector general of police? That is the job of the Senate. Why does it undertake odd jobs for the presidency? It is for this reason that it is almost losing the confidence of Nigerians. Its job is advisor and not executive, and so it cannot confirm or reject any appointment listed for the Senate to approve or throw away. What advice has it given to Jonathan on how to revive the intermediate industries in Nigeria? What suggestion has it made to Nigeria on how to curb kidnapping, armed robbery and wilful damage to public property?

Last time, it lied about Sharia at its meeting with Obasanjo and blackmailed Buhari when the subject was not discussed at any meeting attended by that former head of state. So it hanged him with a tag hung on his neck as a Muslim fundamentalist. And this was the same Buhari on whose head Sheikh Gumi put a Fatwa for being anti-Islam. And this was the same Buhari who saw early the danger of half-Islamic education which is mixed with paganism as not part of the Quran. He refused to do Gumi’s bidding to turn Nigeria to an Islamic state, according to that fundamentalist’s self-confession. The Council of State is proving irrelevant. Why must it be concerned with the bad blood between Obasanjo and Jonathan? Obansanjo is a private citizen. In fact, disagreement of opinion is part of the plurality of an active state, the mirth of which checks dictatorship and irresponsibility in high places.

The Council of State has no business with the confirmation of service chiefs: because there is already a judicial pronouncement on these issues.

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