One week of unprintable happenstance in Nigeria

Eze Jude Ogechukwu

Eze Jude Ogechukwu

The past one week proved the most uneventful so far this year with sequence of unpalatable news around the country. Professional commentators on current affairs will definitely find it hard to make choices of which one to discuss. Same goes to editors and publishers. Newsrooms must have buzzled with priority dilemma, as to which news goes first, and in what order. And that was one week in a nutshell, promising us that 2022 won’t be any different from past re-election years.

While Nigerians were waiting to see what becomes of Rochas Okorocha, the third Igbo man to formally declare to run for president in 2023, (trailing Gov. Dave Umahi and former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim), NNPC muttered the guts to admit that premium motor spirit (PMS) imported into the country was adulterated. Everyone abandoned the news about Rochas and his EFCC imbroglio to rue the hardship being visited upon the masses by the man-made disasters of petroleum products regulators authorizing the importation and sale of besmirched fuel to Nigerians.

It felt like a wrong time to be a Nigerian. In a rare investigative journalism as far back as 2011, US-based Nigerian veteran journalist, Prof Farook Kperoogi had alerted Nigerians on inveterate importation of foul fuel into the country thus: “the cabal of rapacious oil importers mollycoddle with ‘subsidies’ by Nigerian government, actually import toxic, low-quality oil that is not fit for consumption in Europe or North America—or in any society that cares for the welfare of its citizens…”

This toxic petrol, which Nigerians have been consuming for years and which our governments ‘subsidize,’ according to the Afrol News report, ‘is highly unstable, not enduring sunlight exposure, and will cause damage to vehicles. It will also cause environmental damages due to high sulphur (which in the present case, is methanol) values, and can therefore cause human health damages. The product is strictly illegal in Europe and the US, but may in some cases be within legal quality and environment standards in some West African countries.

Nigerian Senate of the time promised to probe it, but that was the last we heard of it. And the brazen negligence of duties by NNPC and its subsidiaries continued till this current dead end arrived.

As the present situation was going south, NNPC Boss, Mallam Melee Kyari did the honourable thing and apologized to Nigerians.

However, in panic effort to quarantine the products as authorities concerned scamper to effect a post-mortem remediation to the teeth-gnashing adversity, they inadvertently caused artificial fuel scarcity across major cities. Transport fares were hiked, and everyday life was going out-of-reach.

This was yet to resolve when National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) released one of the most crippling evidence that Nigerian Police Force may be hosting within its enclaves, a demonstrably criminal network of unprofessional officers. An audacious footage of DCP Abba Kyari (who was already mired in Hushpuppi fraud scandal), barefacedly presiding over the merchandise of heavy kilograms of drugs of abuse surfaced. And Nigeria nighted!

Attentions temporarily shifted from NNPC flaws that enthroned crisis in fuel acquisition to the NDLEA alarm. As usual, the untimely pulling off of the lid on such high crime is inevitably an invitation to media trial which the case faced (and/or still faces) over one week now. The court of public opinion thus adjudicated it and DCP Kyari is inescapably ‘guilty’ as charged.

This had been the bane of justice administration in Nigeria. Law enforcement agencies are always too quick to the microphone in a matter that requires dispassionate level-headed investigations. This gives the culprit the space to re-adjust himself/herself to a more convenient frontier towards evading the long arm of justice. The case of Miss Chidimma Ojukwu who allegedly murdered the CEO of Super TV,  Mr. Michael Usifo in cold blood and which we discussed in this space last year is still fresh in the mind.

Discourses on Mr. Kyari’s indictment displaced other news since pressmen assumed the position of adjudicators, thanks to NDLEA and Nigerian Police’s emotional approach to criminal cases of this magnitude.

Otherwise, considering the sensitivity of the case, it should not have been subjected to public discourse until police investigations are concluded and competent court rules on it. But no, that is not Nigeria of the current dispensation. We prefer media trial to the legitimate court processes while police drag its feet. It is not only absurd, but prejudicial as well. In saner climes you hear suspects with the help of police, say: “I prefer to speak through my lawyer only.” But here, emergency social media ‘lawyers’ and press urchins speak through the suspect(s).

So, let’s allow relevant agencies and authorities do their job, while we muse on the intricacies of Rochas’ declaration.

EFCC hounding him a day before his formal declaration to vie for the office of President sparked off another round of allegations of tribal inquisition against Ndigbo by the Nigerian state.

With heightened Igbophobic utterances in the air, Ndigbo were getting incensed by every slight punch thrown from suspected bigotous standpoint.

Few months ago, at his annual birthday colloquium, media mogul, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi made known his disavowal of a President of Igbo extraction. His position corroborated an already jargoned stereotype that Igbos still have the scars of their 1966 ‘rebellion’ and will never lead Nigeria as president.

It reminisces what Sen. Shehu Sani once chronicled in a tweet. And it forms the denouement of this piece.

“Since the restoration of democratic rule, no major political party has fielded an Igbo man. Late VP Alex Ekwueme tried unsuccessfully and gave up. There were other state Governors from the South East like Orji Uzo Kalu, Sam Egwu, Chimaroke Nnamani who tried and failed or gave up. It’s a fact that since the return of democracy, the only regions that have neither produced a president or a VP are the North Central and the South East.

Who becomes the Presidential candidate is a decision of the party.The parties can decide to address the imbalance or maintain the status quo.The South East has a valid and legitimate reason to demand for an opportunity to produce a president.

The emergence of President Jonathan significantly quenched the hitherto raging fire in the Niger Delta; and the relative peace in that region can majorly be attributed to that. It’s left for the major political parties to look at the larger picture and the historical context of Nigeria and ensure that this time around, justice and fairness should be the compass.

However, party decisions are elites resolve. It requires a lot of consultations and sacrifice of personal ambitions. The primary focus of 2023 should be a consensus and a leadership that will unite the country.The cards are in the hands of decision makers of the main parties. A tragic mistake can plunge this country into deeper crisis and abyss. Let’s prove those who want a united Nigeria right.”

God bless Nigeria and may daylight spare us!

 

✍ Jude Eze

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