“I’m not worried about the exchange rate they are pursuing because your salary should be in Naira and you are not an importer or exporter, are you?” 

 – APC National Leader, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu

I am worried. Very worried. It’s long past midnight where I am and I’m unable to sleep. I had been worried about my country long before Monday the 6th of February, 2017 when the National Leader of the APC, Nigeria’s governing party, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT) kindly advised Nigerians to stop worrying, as indicated in the excerpt above. According to media reports, Tinubu was addressing #IstandwithNigeria protesters who had marched to the Bourdillon home of the former senator and former governor of Lagos State.

It is not clear whether there was an opportunity for the protesters to ask him some questions. If there was, I’m pretty sure somebody would have asked a few furious ones. For instance, how do you tell a man working or doing business in Nigeria, who was paying tuition fee of say $4 000 (about seven hundred and sixty thousand naira in early 2015) for his child schooling abroad, not to worry about exchange rate when he now has to cough out two million Naira to pay the same fee? Note that the salary of this father has not been increased by a kobo since May 2015. Note also that if he is a clearing agent, there is no more cargo to clear as his clients can no longer afford the foreign exchange to import their products. I have heard some crass arguments that Nigerian children do not necessarily have to school abroad and I ask, since when? Show me the top party man, in all the political parties, who did not school abroad or whose children did not or are not schooling abroad as we speak, and I will show you a virgin grandmother. Or are we in a new Animal Farm? How do you tell a breadwinner turned into a bread beggar because his car business has closed shop for lack of access to forex to import cars, not to worry? Who does not know that any essential commodity not made in Nigeria, including most medicines, is imported into the country with foreign exchange and that the ultimate price the consumer pays is determined by the exchange rate involved in buying, shipping and other related expenses? With the immunity of most Nigerians already whittled down by unprecedented hunger, how are patients supposed to survive if they can’t afford essential medicines?

Twenty months on, with most campaign promises yet to be kept, isn’t it incredible that the arrowhead of the CHANGE MANTRA that swept the ‘clueless’ government of Dr Goodluck Jonathan out of Aso Rock with magical brooms should still be blaming his party, the PDP, for the woes of today? Hear Tinubu:

“Don’t worry, our money will come back. The damage of 16 years will go through the system. You cannot get water out of a dry land….”

Dear Jagaban, Ethiopia is busy turning wasteland into fertile land by building what they call check-dams. The World Resources Institute estimates that more than 600,000 acres of desert have been reclaimed in Ethiopia’s Tigray province, with farms turning out three crops each year of potatoes, corn and other produce. The country has a goal of reclaiming more than 37 million acres of dry land by 2030. Ethiopia is in Africa. How many dams has the APC government built since 2015 on the dry land it inherited?

Nigeria was on the same development pedestal as Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea in the sixties and seventies. In fact, it is on record that some of these countries came to Nigeria to borrow, and in some cases, to poach our agricultural technology. Today, those countries are all pushing towards First World status while we are stuck in the glory of our past. Somebody should please help ask the Asiwaju and all those blaming the PDP for our degeneration whether those countries achieved their enviable technological advancement between May 1999 and May 2015.

Now, the icing on the blame is that you, who stood in the sun and the rain, to campaign and to vote for the APC, are now being accused of sabotage for not patronizing local products. According to Professor Asiwaju, “Maybe that is teaching us a lesson to be dependent on our domestic products, isn’t it? He asked the dumbfounded protesters.

When I first saw these remarks attributed to a man who once put his life on the line to rescue the masses from the stranglehold of military vampires, I dismissed them as one of those jabs of disgruntled detractors. Then, prompted by my training and practice, I did a web search and lo and behold, there he was, speaking to the people, looking as robust as ever. I played the video clip over and over again and in the process noted that he was wearing a pair of eyeglasses, obviously not made in Nigeria; a shirt that was neither batik nor ankara; a hat that looked imported from Mexico or Brazil; and a pair of trousers that looked Italian.

As I watched BAT address the protesters, my mind roamed to the ironic moment when supporters of US President Donald Trump were cheering him as he made the historic call in his inaugural address to “buy American and hire American.” Trump on that occasion was reportedly wearing a tie made in China and a Rolex watch made in Switzerland while those cheering him at the Washington National Mall were sporting Trump’s trademark red “Make America Great Again” baseball caps that were made in China, Vietnam and Bangladesh!

This is not about Comrade Tinubu. The Jagaban’s gargantuan gaffe is a metaphor for the insular and supercilious grandstanding of the governing elite. In Nigeria, many of them are beneficiaries of running multi-layered pensions and other entitlements from one or more previously held public offices. Some of the business moguls they made billionaires by dispensing special favours while in those offices are still paying homage in foreign currency. If you sincerely expect such people to understand the deep mess the inchoate try-your-luck fiscal policies of this government have plunged you into, then it’s you that needs your head examined.

What we are reaping is the harvest of total disregard for the antediluvian axiom “Look before you leap”. In matters of integrity, President Muhammadu Buhari stands head and shoulders above many Nigerian ‘leaders’, some of whom are actually dealers. But then, a single broom cannot sweep as clean as a bunch. However, when the bunch is made up of rotten broomsticks painted in bright colours and tied together, it would not take long before the pack crumbles, leaving behind a bigger mess.  President Buhari still has two years and latent executive powers to search the nation for a new broom. A broom made from young and vibrant palm fronds that adorn the nation from Katsina to Bayelsa and from Abagana to Ibadan. That, I think, is what he needs to sweep away the stinking debris of socio-political garbage that has accumulated in the nation over the past twenty months.

As it is, many Buhari loyalists are already openly questioning their decision to vote for the APC in 2015, albeit they still admire the president’s attitude to corruption.

I was reminiscing last night with my old St. John Bosco’s College friend, Greg Ughele, on the poem, Lest We Should Be the Last by Kwesi Brew, taught us in 1979 by a terrific part time teacher, Mr. Ukegheson, who whipped up our flagging interest in poetry. The poem has these memorable lines:

Lest we should be the last
To appear before you,
We left our corn in the barn
And unprepared we followed
The winding way to your hut.

Our children begged for water
From the women bearing golden gourds
On their heads,
And laughing on their way from the well;
But we did not stop,
Knowing that in your presence
Our hunger would be banished
And our thirst assuaged
By the flowing milk of your words.

Now we have come to you,
And are amazed to find
Those you have loved and respected mock you in the face.

The first and second stanzas of this poem succinctly describe the zeal with which people climbed onto the APC CHANGE train in 2015, and the great expectations inspired by the flowing milk” of the party’s campaign promises, while the last stanza smacks of disillusionment.

A few staunch supporters of the APC have expressed similar disillusionment in the recent past. I read a piece by my kinsman, veteran journalist, author and writer, Sonala (leave this one alone) Olumhense, entitled The fall of Buhari, and the APC in this Sunday’s edition of Daily Trust. In that piece, Olumhense’s disillusionment and bitterness are palpable. Whereas not everyone feels the same way about President Buhari and the APC, the piece underscores the need for a rethink and a re-strategisation to ensure that more loyalists do not decamp to the league of former supporters and admirers.

More importantly, the APC must work harder to steer Nigeria away from the prophetic words of Kwesi Brew in another of his poems, The Sea Eats Our Land, which opens with the following lines:

Here stood our ancestral home:

The crumbling wall marks the spot.

 

Lest I forget

At a time like this, we need some loud Kongi voices as “the man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny”. May our country not die because we choose to be silent in the period of difficulty. Many governments have come and gone. Many more will come and go. But hopefully, the country will remain for generations yet unborn. For those who are suffering and smiling and fighting against the still small voice telling them to ventilate their emotions, may they not be asphyxiated by those bottled-up emotions. Remember the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller, who initially supported Adolf Hitler but later became one of the arrowheads of the opposition to the Nazification of German Protestant churches.

Niemoller said:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

As Christian prayer warriors would say, may that not be our portion in Jesus name.

Finally, “seeing is believing” Follow this link and see for yourself! :

https://ynaija.com/salary-naira-tinubu-responds-protests-says-no-business-exchange-rate/

(From Random Thoughts: A Collection of Essays & Poems by Tony Ekata)

Do you have a literary piece/opinion piece to share? Please send it to editor@newsplus.ng and we’ll publish it in our Artspace or Viewscope section.

 

By Ezeali (Sir) Jonas Udeji. In South Africa, it has become a culture to shift
It is no longer news that President Muhammadu Buhari could not return to the seat
The social media have been awash with hate posts and a lot of people revel
For those too young to remember, and those who have forgotten, this is a recall
My son has just put Matric behind him and I am very happy – perhaps

4 COMMENTS

  1. Very well written, you are not far from the truth but I feel you didn’t do good justice by pointing out the whole facts. I will analyse your piece from start and make my observations, note that I am note any political party loyalist; Good you said last government was clueless because it was. The 600,000 acres of land that Ethopia is transforming when did it’s start and good you mentioned that turnaround period is till 2030. APC lead government has just been in power since 2015, Euthopia’s current achievement surely didn’t start 2years ago or did it? To do an unbiased justice you could have mentioned when Ethopia started their dry land transformation. Thank God you mentioned Nigeria degeneration state that Asiwaju is blaming on PDP or supposedly, and all the problems you stated, clearly you know Nigeria is in a mess and am sure you agree it wasn’t until May 2015 that we started having these problem and the last administration was clueless now we have a government waging war against the godfathers who are sabotaging Nigeria, for me what is happening is a case of two elephants fighting and we both know what/who suffers, it’s a tough call. Because he was wearing Gucci or Prada when addressing the protesters those not mean he does not have made in Nigeria, or are his native wears made in Madagascar? We all make choices to have varieties regardless of where it comes from.Your profession and experience should do justice to that. I don’t like trump a bit because of his hate speech, but because you want to promote locally made goods those not mean you do naked at once and start looking for made local goods. I came across a picture of a calculator claimed to be made in Aba which I doubt because no micro chip manufacturing company in Nigeria to my knowing, the calculator had no minus but it threw a light on a fact, if it were actually made in Aba, would you advise users to throw away there Versace calculator and jump on the local one which clearly is lacking standard “yet”? Nigeria made shoes (Bars) has a long way to go in producing good soles like Italian shoes but I won’t bruse my feet because I want to wear MAIN. Get it right first, or do you throw away your current item before looking for a replacement? You use what you have while pursuing another preferred choice. Clearly the current government did otherwise in policy making and that’s why there is an elephant fight going on now. I agree with paragraph 8 and 9 but the part of 20 months is a clear indication that you are avoiding to state the root of Nigeria problem which we both know didn’t start 20 months ago and definitely not since 1999 but we had a somewhat like revolution since 1999 to transform things. In all I am not so impressed with current state of Nigeria which I believe the problem was a land-mine buried for years waiting to explode and Buhari just made Nigerians to step on it to activate all the mines so we know what we are in and start working on getting out, to be fare Nigeria’s problem are from the moguls and business men who want things to be status quo but are not getting it from the current government that has the balls to face them head long, so they are using there corrupt system to frustrate all effort to kick them out of corrupt business “quo”. – In all, like the Ethiopians who are wise to know that transformation takes time to peg 2030 as there timeframe we need to state our own timeframe and look for a government, not a party, that will start ‘taking the bull by the horn’ and get us there. I wait for the end of his administration to analyse what meaningful progress has been made. What I see is a man who is wise enough to know that Nigeria is so corrupt to deal with it’s problems with a light heart. Peace

    • Thanks, Pius for your informed and constructive engagement. I’ll respond to just a few of the issues you raised to put things in perspective.
      • Ethiopia at least started the dam project with relative success. I thought you would mention how many dams Nigeria has constructed since 2015 or does it take 4 years to construct one dam? Two years gone, next year campaign for 2019 begins. Time is running out.
      • Is it fair to say the APC inherited a dry land? As clueless as the PDP government was, as at May 2015, Nigeria was on the verge of food sufficiency with the innovative policies of the former Agric Minister who was immediately made the President of the African Development Bank. You know how much basic foodstuff was then. How much now?
      • Where is the wisdom in blaming the problems of the country on 16 years of the PDP when more than half of the important members of the APC now were principal officers of the same PDP during that period?
      • Why do people forget about the 39 wasted years from Independence to 1999 when no serious development plan was made to take care of the future and oil money was squandered by leaders who behaved like kids with free money in a candy shop?
      • What moral authority had the Asiwaju to be telling people wearing Made in Nigeria to patronize Nigerian goods when everything he was wearing was imported? Before the APC, the PDP government introduced policies to boost local production and encouraged ministries and government departments to buy cars assembled in Nigeria. SUVs were bought from INNOSON Motors. The APC came and introduced fiscal policies that left not only local manufacturers incapacitated but also made foreign investors to run away.
      • As to your question of whether people should throw away what they have now in order to use only local stuff, I think that question is better addressed to Senator Tinubu. However, recall that when India was in a similar situation, the minister said if Indians could not manufacture local textiles then they should go naked. He banned all foreign textiles and Indians were forced to manufacture not only their own textiles but their own cars. Here, we only pay lip service. The president says no medical tourism but every now and again he flies abroad for treatment. He spends his vacation abroad, yet we are asking foreigners to come and patronize our hotels and resorts. They say Nigerian children schooling abroad should come back home if there is no forex to pay their fees yet their children schooled abroad.
      • We are on the same page on the point of the problems of Nigeria not beginning yesterday. But from all indications, APC had no idea how heavy the problem was before promising heaven on earth. Besides, the party was voted in to CHANGE the situation and not to BLAME those who caused it. When you employ a doctor to treat your relation because the current doctor is not effective you don’t want to hear him blaming the previous doctor but you expect him to make your patient healthy again. You don’t keep quiet when the treatment he is giving the patient is making him worse instead of recovering. How many of the utopian promises have been fulfilled so far? Is electricity better and cheaper in your area? Is food cheaper? Are petrol and kerosene cheaper? Is school fee cheaper? Are school children eating free meals? Have salaries been increased? Are more people employed? Is house rent cheaper? How many more roads and bridges have been constructed? These are just basic things, not to ask whether foreign direct investment is higher. By the way, do you know Nigeria is earning more money today from oil than ever before if you multiply the cost of crude per barrel by the exchange rate of over 400 naira to one dollar?
      • I could go on and on but let me stop on the note that I have enormous respect for the Asiwaju for the role he played in the restoration of democracy in Nigeria. He is only human and human beings must make mistakes. He made a huge one this time with that foreign exchange remark and that is the truth. A leader who does not accept the truth is not a true leader. I’m sure if he had time to prepare that speech, he would have deleted that portion before reading it.
      • Please, keep engaging this platform in the constructive way you did. All that some other people can do is name-calling and sycophantic hailing. God bless you.

  2. Comment: Your observations and comments are very profound pleasant and welcome. He is a politician; what would you have expected him to say?

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