“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. Azegbebor, 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.
“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! :
(From Random Thoughts: A Collection of Essays & Poems by Tony Ekata)
Feature photo: Courtesy Nairaland Forum