NIGERIA: A nation stretched at both ends

Eze Jude Ogechukwu

Eze Jude Ogechukwu

On Tuesday last week two markedly oxymoronic events, occasioned by still two contrasting personalities, took place in the capital city of Abuja, with far-reaching consequences across the country.

By midmorning, of that day, these two opposing figures were preparing for separate outings. In the exquisite apartments of Aso Villa, President Muhammad Buhari (PMB) adorning his babaringa and hųlá (native skull cap), was preparing for about 15 minutes drive to Airport road Lugbe, for the commissioning of 1million bags of rice pyramid. While, at the recess of DSS cell, Maazi Nnamdi Kanu (MNK) of IPOB was in his solitary confinement, getting ready to be conveyed via an eight minutes drive to FCT High Court for hearing of his case with federal republic of Nigeria bothering on alleged treason and terrorism.

Both were having a date with history. One is a state actor, the other is not. At one end, PMB was penciling his name in the archive of history as the man who presided over a lachrymosely forlorn economy but supported the building of a rice pyramid, amidst bewildering famine, in 21st century Nigeria. The world saw a nation dietarily malnutritioned, hoisting her flag at the pinnacle of pyramid of cereals.

Between 1919 and 1940, there existed groundnut pyramids across northern region. It was popularized by Late Alhassan Dantata who was one of the first successful nut farmers of the time. That was when Agriculture was the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy. It disappeared in the ’60s and ’70s after oil was discovered in commercial quantity at Oloibiri, a small community in Ogbia LGA, in present day Bayelsa state.

The people had subsistent foods on table for consumption, and heavy reserve for export. So back then, display of food pyramids was a symbol of buoyancy in wealth and sites for tourism. They were cited at centres proximate to farm settlements. For instance, the Kofar Nasarawa pyramidal structures of about 15,000 bags of groundnut was located in farming sites of the area.

Can we say that the choreographed launching last week met this philosophy? Did the colourful addresses from CBN governor and Mr. President at the occasion actually represent the reality on the street?

While the event lasted, National Bureau of statistics (NBS) released frightening data showing that unemployment rate has maintained slight increase to peak at 33.8% (month-on-month) with corresponding increase in staple food inflation at 17.37% This is a reality found in a country whose everyday people, the government claims are well fed enough to store leftovers in siloes.

The man on the street cannot comprehend how a 50Kg bag of rice goes for as high as 25,000 naira, yet the central bank governor mounted the rostrum like biblical John the Baptist to preach the gospel of prosperity, which prepared ground for PMB to proclaim a year of unbounded food supply (LK. 4:18-19).

Meanwhile, in the Maitama neighbourhood, which is about 10 kilometers away from the venue of this window-dressing event, MNK was introducing his new legal team led by Chief Mike Ozhekhome (SAN) to the high court Judge. He was seen gleefully hugging his admirers as he emerged from the court room. This is a man whose charges have been amended 16 record times as FG struggles almost through its nose to nail him.

In Kanu’s case, one can see a clear evidence of drudgery judicial process in deliberate plan to keep him in private DSS custody in perpetuity. FG as the prosecutor has refused all orders from the court to hand him over to Nigeria Correctional Services as stipulated by law. His continued incarceration remains another credential of despotism in the baggage of this regime. Let’s not forget that Kanu and his army of insurrectionary organization — IPOB were creations of this administration’s unpretentious disavowal of Ndigbo.

Nonetheless, Kanu’s followers have kept the south east uninhabitable with brazen episodes of predatory trepidation in the name of enforcing sit-at-home, in protest against their ‘supreme’ leader’s detention.

On May 30, last year, (Biafra remembrance day 2021) highbrowed journalist, Fredrick Nwabufo authored an article titled: “What is happening in South east terrorism.”

He lamented: “A great pestilence is scourging the south-east. The land is crimson from the blood of innocents. There is fear, anxiety and confusion. A region that was once the safest place in Nigeria is in the throes of anarchy. What makes these tragedies more devastating is the open support by some citizens of the south-east. Some of them, particularly those who take residence on social media spreading poison, have rationalised the killings and destruction of public property in the region. They describe the killers and arsonists as ‘’our people’’ and ‘’freedom fighters’’.

Amidst all these breakdown of law and order, the silence of the south east governors remains detestable. From Ebonyi to Imo, from Enugu to Abia and the borders of Anambra, people are killed, properties destroyed yet the governors kept mum. As it stands now, no one knows who owns the south east. Igbo land is becoming “terra nullus” (no man’s land). The level of fear that currently envelop the land is palpitating. The economy of the zone is undergoing postmortem embalment. And in their hallucinations, Kanu’s foot soldiers keep unleashing havoc that cripple commercial activities the more, thus exacerbating hunger across the zone.

This made Ezugwu Okike, a lawyer and social critic write: “…the nagging question again remains, who is in charge in the southeast? Certainly not IPOB, as much as they would want us to believe. The five leprous hands in the government houses have since abdicated that responsibility. The saddest part is that they have even stopped pretending to. In the ensuring chaos, a litany of non-state actors have taken over.”

In the popular 2009 Bollywood movie, “3 Idiots” directed by Rajkumar Hirani, the central character in the film, Aamir Khan advised his friends who were always scared of impending existential doom thus: “the heart is the most scary organ in the body, so the only way to soothe it and get going is by tricking it into believing that all is well.” So he encouraged them that whenever they are faced with insoluble situation, they should tap their heart and mutter the words: “All is well.” He knew it doesn’t solve the problem, but it gets them going.

This represents painkiller approach to problem-solving.

To get the country going, the two figures (PMB and MNK) in this story, are administering placebo to their followers. PMB at the pyramid launch gaslights Nigerian to disbelieve their hunger and acclaim that “All is well.” And MNK is on other side gaslighting Igbos to disbelieve the hardships visited upon them by his foot soldiers and accept that they meant good for them. In Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu’s Biafra, Nigerian troops killed the Igbos, and the people’s General rose in defense of his people, but in Kanu’s version, Igbos are incited to kill themselves by themselves, and he cheered them on. A practical case of autoimmune disease.

 

May daylight spare us!.

✍Jude Eze.

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