by I.K Muo
Lagos is known for its traffic madness, caused by the quantum of human and vehicular traffic, disequilibria with some of the roads and the key one, driver-indiscipline. One day, about 20 years ago, the traffic was so bad that people trying to leave Lagos drove against traffic on the Carter bridge. The traffic officials came around but when they noticed that it was impossible to turn back or arrest the offenders, they concluded that the best thing was to make way for them. In effect, they legalised the illegal driving activities of the renegade drivers. The WHO has just indicated that we may toe a similar path; that since we cannot contain and defeat Coro, we may have to prepare to live with it!
The worrisome declaration was made by Ryan, its Emergencies Director, who told us without any element of diplomacy that “this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and may never go away…HIV has not gone away”. This is not a good one, but life MUST go on and as such I continue with my discuss on the coro-induced political “roforofo” around the country.
Nigerian politicians are as diverse as Nigeria but they have certain common traits. They are incredibly optimistic; they are most likely to steal (stealing, not pick-pocket) from the public purse than not; they are imperial in speech, and actions; they will always go overseas, at least in search of foreign investors (in this teleconferencing and zoom era), they rarely think about tomorrow, they are always on the attack mood against the opposition (even when they don’t know what to attack for) and at times their interpretation of events and situations is against common sense.
These traits have been obvious in the current war against Coro and the consequential political roforo. In the coro dictionary, there is only one epicentre at a given point in time. But in Nigeria coro-politics, there are several epicentres and that is why Nigeria is Nigeria. Unfortunately, I will start from River State, where I stopped last week
On 26/3/20, Federal Government made a grant of N10 billion to Lagos for the war on coro and immediately, Governor Wike, the “akshion” Governor of Rivers fired his first or major political cannon: “It is quite unfortunate that the containment of coronavirus has been politicised by the Federal Governments. While Lagos State received a grant of N10 billion as a commercial hub, Rivers State as the nation’s oil and gas hub that produces a greater percentage of the nation’s wealth has not received any support from the Federal Government, wondering why the FG should single out Lagos.
As at that date, Lagos had 115 cases while Rivers had one. Even as at 19/5/20, Lagos has 2624 while Rivers had 53. (This is not a medals table but that is where we are). When I looked at the statistical differential and shrugged. That is why I don’t understand politicians. He then he reminded Abuja that “Every day, we are inundated with letters from the Federal Government to allow oil companies to fly in expatriates to drill Oil”. Not long after that, Wike personally oversaw the arrest of Calverton Helicopter pilots and 10 Nigerians for Coro contraventions in PH. That was despite the fact that the company obtained all necessary approvals including one from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to continue providing flights for the oil and gas industry for an initial period of three months, dated April 1.
Wike got them arrested, dumped them in cell, got a judge to try them despite the fact that the courts were in suspended animation, arraigned them later and mercifully they were granted bail. The Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mustapha Dandaura who lost his job in the process, join the fray, saying that the mission of the passengers was suspicious, that they might have come to “sabotage the activities of the state and the security agencies.”
The Governor also declared the company a corporate enemy and persona non grata in of Rivers State, declaring with imperial finality that it ‘can only chose to operate in any part of Rivers State at its own risk as Local Government Chairmen have been directed to close their offices and prevent their operations.” Immediately thereafter, the Chairman of Obio-Akpor local government Council, Solomon Eke, sealed the office of Caverton Helicopters in Port Harcourt, Rivers State and made a public show of it
Not long after that, the River state government arrested 22 offshore staff of Exxon Mobil, including the firms CSO who were moving with a police convoy. 21 of the workers are members of the Petroleum & Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, while the other is the firm’s Chief Security Officer, CSO. The governor himself said the arrest was against security advice but that “as a responsive government”, he authorised that they be quarantined in line with the relevant health protocols.
“Nigerian politicians are as diverse as Nigeria but they have certain common traits. They are incredibly optimistic; they are most likely to steal from the public purse than not; they are imperial in speech, and actions; they will always go overseas, at least in search of foreign investors”
When PENGASSAN threatened to show its strike power, Wike backed down. And just the other day Wike whom some people have “appointed” the Commanding Officer, 101 Waterside Brigade, Special Lockdown Forces, also accused the FG of double standards on the Almajiri relocation issue. because When they started relocating the almajiri in the north, the FG said nothing. Immediately they heard that we have relocated some almajiri, they came up with the declaration that it is against the inter-state movement. Why this double standard.
But the political ballistic missiles flying in and around PH are not just unidirectional. Earlier this week, an APCian, Chief Chukwuemeka Eze accused Wike of not cooperating with UniPort Teaching Hospital and its CMD, thereby working against COVID-19 testing and containment. He also accused the governor of undertaking a sudden lockdown-easing in PH to enable the PDP to inaugurate its state executive followed by a thanksgiving. The PDP stalwarts allegedly violated NCDC & RVSG physical distancing and crowd limit (<20) protocols and wondered who will quarantine the disobedient party members and auction their vehicles and when the Obi Wali Cultural Centre venue of the event will be demolished (an allusion to the two hotels demolished earlier). He also stylishly reminded him that the venue was built by Amaechi, who was driven into politics by unemployment.
When you examine these developments with the proverbial eye of an elder, it becomes obvious that it is all about politics. I doubt if they are in the interest of Rivers State, the Riverians, or the war against coro. It is all about politics!
Other Matters: I remember General Abacha
We all know him. Even those who were not here then know about Abacch, our most reviled Head of State. Nigerians, or rather most Nigerians, spoke and still speak ill of him. I say most Nigerians because at least our president believed and believes that he was a good man. But today, I remember Abacha in a special way… and for two reasons. Just the other day, $311 million was received from the inexhaustible Abacha-loot, making it about $5 billion recovered by 5 different Nigerian Governments in the past 22 years. Luckily, part of the funds will be deployed to the 2nd Niger Bridge, which some fellows informed us had been completed in the run-up to the last election. Corolary to the above is the brazen attempt by Buba galadima to rewrite recent history and dramatically alter the established and disenabling narratives in our very before. The self-acclaimed Abacha Boy and a gerontocrat has disclosed his “completely different idea” about the Abacha loot.
He has CONVINCINGLY explained that Abacha, with the advice of his reliable and noble friends like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi and knowledge of his inner circle, decided to save the money, away from the clutches of the US and for the benefit of Nigeria and Nigerians. Galadima has thus been able to convince us and not to confuse us that the late dictator had benevolently kept something aside for the rainy day. The fund is Abacha Private Wealth Fund, with irrevocable power of attorney in favour of Nigeria!
The second reason why I remember him has to do with a book I am currently savouring. (Siollun, M (2019) Nigeria’s Soldiers of Fortune: The Abacha and Obasanjo Years. London, Hurst & Co). The book was bought by my daughter, who felt it would interest me and asked me to take the first turn at reading it. I have just finished reading Chapter 4 (The Khalifa). The author said that Abacha had “Pinochet’s ruthlessness, Mobutus kleptocratic streak and the mystique of Putin” (p35). But what drew my attention was the makeup of his key appointments: Gen Abacha (HOS, Kano State, Kanuri, Muslim); Lt Gen Diya (CGS, Yoruba, Ogun State Xtian); Maj-Gen Abdulsalam Abubakar (Gwari, Niger, Muslim) Maj-Gen Cris Alli (COAS, Kogi Ebira Christian); Rear Adm Maduake (CNS,Anambra, Igbo, Christian); AVM Femi (CAS: Kogi, Yoruba, Christian) Ibrahim Komasie, (IGP Kastina, Fulani Muslim) Ismail Gwarzo (NSO; Kano, Hausa Muslim); Olu Onagoruwa (AG Ogun, Yoruba, Xtian) Babagana Kingibe (External Affairs, Borno, Kanuri Muslim) & Alexander Ibru (Internal affairs, Delta Urhobo Christian).
Now, the author described Abacha as somebody who was so powerful and even above the law when he was an “ordinary” minister. For instance, he refused to move to Abuja when government moved and also refused to vacate Flagstaff House when he was redeployed as Chief of Army Staff. This gives a glimpse of how powerful he was as the C-in-C. And yet, his key appointments epitomised inclusiveness! Today, we have a democratically elected government, headed by a converted democrat who is ready to operate under democratic norms and an independent Legislature with confirming and oversight responsibilities. Check out for yourself the current structure of these and similar appointments. Who did this to us? Are we cursed or are we the cause? Meanwhile, let’s remember that nobody is so bad that there is nothing good about him and none is so good that there is nothing bad about him.