• As poverty, crimes, unemployment, suicides rise
• Why APC chieftains, Aisha Buhari, Northern supporters, PMB’s aids are angry
By Sonde Abbah
Hajia Zainab Alheri was one of the happiest mortals alive around this time two years ago. A widow and mother of six, this middle-aged lady had been eking out a living from her petty trading near their two-room residence in Zaria, Kaduna State “Things were not easy for us back then”, recalls the light-skinned indigene of Katsina State. “We were barely surviving, living from hand to mouth. But I had hoped that things would soon change for the better”.
Hajia Zainab’s hope was anchored on the newly- inaugurated administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. For over ten years she, like a legion of fellow Northerners, had single-mindedly supported General Buhari’s presidential aspiration. Having clinched power in the 2015 presidential poll, Hajia Zainab was sure Buhari would soon make a difference in her life. After all, he and his party – All Progressives Congress (APC) – had promised Nigerians heaven and earth during the campaigns. That included three million jobs per year, constant electricity supply within six months, and the naira’s parity with the dollar in the blinked of and eye.
Fast- forward to November 2017. Hajia Zainab’s hope has since turned to ashes-, as before her very eyes “our condition has deteriorated rapidly to the extent that even to feed once a day is a huge challenge now”. In fact, when this correspondent encountered her in Zaria last week, she had emaciated significantly. “Since our home was demolished last year by the government, we have nowhere to stay again”, she lamented. “Two of my children have died while the youngest one, as you can see, is seriously sick. In fact, we are depending on good Samaritans for survival. Conditions are too terrible”.
The long-suffering woman could say that again, for she and her children are certainly not alone. Their abject conditions mirror those of millions upon millions of Nigerians all over the land. From Kaduna, Katsina and Kano through Abuja, Anambra and Akwa Ibom to Bauchi, Benue and Badagry, the story is similar: Suffering, suffering everywhere. Some decade’s age the iconic musician, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, waxed lyrical about how Nigerians were “suffering and smiling”.
That was then. Under the ruling APC government, “suffering and smiling” has degenerated to “suffering and smiling”. Ask Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Over the past two years Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos State and National leader of the APC, has watched with mounting alarm as too many Nigerians become incapacitated by the all –conquering poverty monster. By penultimate Thursday he could no longer conceal his concern. He opened up frankly and fearlessly right there in the presence of President Buhari at a public function in Aso Rock, Abuja.
Here him; “… We must recognize the situation of millions of our people. Wrongfully denied for so long, they suffer still… Through no fault of their own, too many of our people are without (sustenance). Too many parents cannot properly feed and clothe their precious children, and young adults exist on the void of joblessness, and too many of us do not have the resources to care for elderly parents who once cared for us”.
Tinubu, mind you, is not just one of the chieftains of the ruling APC but, in fact, one of the major pillars behind its resounding victory in the 2015 general elections. His well-publicized statement of Thursday November 16, 2017 poignantly periscopes the love-turned-sour relationship between the Buhari government and the electorate, bringing to the fore that famous poem by Yeats: “Turning and turning in the widening gyre/ the falcon cannot hear the falconer/things fall apart; the centre cannot hold/ mere anarchy is loosed upon the world/the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/the ceremony of innocence is drowned/the best lack all conviction, while the worst/are full of passionate intercity”.
For evidence of how truly ‘things have fallen apart’ under Buhari’s watch to the extent that “the worst are full of passionate intensity: ask none other than the First Lady, Aisha Buhari. A few weeks ago Hajia Aisha had gone to the State House Clinic, Abuja for medical attention. Surprise upon surprise confronted her. Despite the hundreds of billions of naira allocated to this medical facility annually for both capital and recurrent expenditure, there were neither basic drugs like Panadol nor equipment like x-ray machines. Yet this was supposed to be Nigeria’s flagship medical centre! A crest – fallen and outraged Hajia Aisha had no choice than to move elsewhere for treatment. She subsequently raised the alarm publicly over the extent to which “the ceremony of innocence is drowned” right under President Buhari’s watch.
In actual fact, the First Lady’s patriotic outcry over themes at the state House Clinic wasn’t the first. About one year ago she had taken up the gauntlet. In that no famous interview, Hajia Aisha Buhari cried out over the manner a cabal had virtually pocketed her husband. What irked her most, she said, was the fact that many of the strategic appointments being made by Buhari had gone to those who never campaigned for his election at the expense of those who whole-hears teddy supported him. Through thick and thin. She added that should this unholy trend continue she would definitely not campaign for Buhari’s re-election in 2019.
While majority of Nigerians praised her for speaking truth to power in the nation’s interest; a handful of critics pilloried her for washing the government’s dirty linen in public. To her eternal credit, however, events have continued to vindicate Hajia Aisha. For instance, barely had she raised the alarm over the grass-cutting contract which the then secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) had illegally awarded to his own company, than the stench from that corruption mess burst, casting a slur on the current administration’s anti-graft campaign. More was, however, afoot. In arguably one of the poorest scripted “abracadabra” of the 21st century, some members of Buhari’s kitchen cabinet brazenly masterminded the return to Nigeria and reinstatement/ promotion of the fugitive ex-Abdurasheed Maina.
Given that President Buhari had sailed to power largely on the strength of his zero-tolerance for corruption pledge, such high profile indulgence by his closest aides obviously raise troubling posers. To make a hard case terrible, it later emerged that Mr. president himself had allegedly known all along that the fugitive, Maina, was being egged on by his lieutenants. This fact was crystal clear in the leaked memo which the head of service of the federation, Mrs Ayo Ita, had sent to the president. No less damaging was the yet-to-be-denied fact that the Attorney-General of the Federation and minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, had met with the same Maina in Dubai last year!
Just as such pig-headed indulgences tend to make Buhari’s anti-graft crusade appear like a hollow ritual, the situation on the security front is scarcely heart-warming. Granted, the government has largely dealt with the Boko Haram insurgents. But a myriad of other potent security challenges, including kidnapping, armed robbery, ritual killing, and so forth, not only persist but continue to proliferate all over Nigeria with reckless abandon even as the Police and other security agencies seem too important to do the needful.
Conversely, officialdom seems to have made it a point of duty to play fast- and-loose with the deployment of security officers. For instance, it emerged penultimate week that minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, stormed Rivers State with a battalion of heavily armed Policemen and soldiers for a non-official visit, during which his convoy clashed with that of the state Governor, Wike. Eye-brows were raised over what a mere minister was doing with such an unusually large convoy on the one hand, and with soldiers on the other. Before then the Police high command also stirred the Hornet’s nest by illegally withdrawing the security aides of Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State on the eve of the just-concluded governorship election in that state. Outrage reverberated all over Nigeria over this latest example of what many saw as extreme lawlessness and impunity.
In the same vein not a few compatriots are dumb founded that rather than try to fulfill its vaunted 3-million – jobs –per year promise, the ruling party has found it expedient to do the reverse. For instance, none other than President Buhari himself publicly announced a few weeks ago that he had directed all federal Ministries, Agencies and Departments (MDAs) not to employ any worker in 2018. At about the same time, Mr. President venerated moves by the strongman of Kaduna, Governor Nasir el-Rufai, to sack 22,000 teachers in one fell swoop for supposedly failing a controversy-riddled competency test. At a time when the rates of inflation, joblessness and crimes are all soaring alarmingly coupled with the non-payment of workers’ salaries for many months, concerns are being raised over what will be the implications of such mass sackings, more so as the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has threatened to embark on a nationwide strike if the embattled teachers are sacked.
Even as ordinary Nigerians continue to groan over the unprecedented hardship which seems to have become synonymous with APC’s peculiar brand of “change”, disquiet reign supreme in the party’s top echelon. Recall that the party’s national chairman, John Oyegun, had earlier this year publicly bemoaned the fact that loyal APC officials and members alike were overlooked in the sharing of political appointments. Oyegun, needless to say, was merely echoing what Aisha Buhari had said many months earlier. Significantly, Tinubu, the strongman of Yorubaland, whose influence was crucial to Buhari’s triumph in 2015, is known to be embittered over the manner he and other founding members of the ruling party have been systematically sidelined in the scheme of things.
Not surprisingly, many Northerners who had hitherto blindly supported President Buhari have started beating a hasty retreat. In a random survey conducted by a team of DESERT HERALD correspondents in the Northeast, Northwest, Middlebelt and Abuja, majority of our respondents said considering the grinding poverty that had become their lot under Buhari’s rudderless reign, they regret voting for him in 2015. Their unanimous verdict is that even though Buhari cannot be said to be corrupt as his predecessors, the stench of corruption emanating from the closest aides coupled with their cluelessness in the management of the economy not to mention his chronic health challenge – make him unfit for the throne he occupies. As one of them, Mallam Aliyu Mohammed, bluntly puts it, “We voted for him enmass thinking that he will take us to the Promised Land, but look what he has heaped upon us in return: unprecedented poverty, massive suffering and hopelessness”.
Indeed, for millions of Nigerians in the North, South, East and West alike, things have truly fallen apart. The relationship between them and APC/Buhari has become similar to that highlighted by Rosalind in William Shakespare’s play, AS YOU LIKE IT: “No sooner met but they looked; no sooner looked but they loved; sighed but they asked one another the reason; no sooner knew the reason but they sought the remedy.”
The simmering inter agency war between the anti-graft agency, EFCC, on the one hand and the State Security Service, SSS, and the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, burst into the open early Tuesday morning when a combined team of EFCC officials and police officers attempted to arrest the former heads of the two agencies.
The EFCC officials tried to arrest the former head of the NIA, Ayo Oke, and former head of the SSS, Ita Ekpeyong, from their homes on Mamman Nasir Street in the Asokoro district of Abuja but were resisted by armed security agents of the two agencies.
This has led to a continued standoff between armed security officers from all the four agencies as at the time of this report causing traffic mayhem in the area and an uncertain security outcome from the situation.