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1/18/2018

THE TEMPTATION SURROUNDING NIGERIA

THE TEMPTATION SURROUNDING NIGERIA
I left Nigeria in the early morning of December 26, 2017, with some compatriots on a short four-nation pilgrimage to
Greece, Italy, Israel and Palestine, amidst the fuel scarcity brouhaha. The trip itself was an escape of sorts from the agonising pain of the fuel scarcity and traffic chaos occasioned by long queues for petrol. I had thought by the time I returned to the country sanity would have prevailed. But like Bob Manley’s popular admonition to all fighters: He who fights and runs away lives to fight another day; I still met a semblance of the malady on my return on January 3.  Fuel is not still widely in circulation today, while some stations sell above the approved pump price of N145 per litre, even in Lagos. And like some citizens, I have been living with it, though the situation is far better now.
Among the places we visited is the Mt of Temptation, in Jericho, Palestine. According to Bible historians, this is the place Satan took Jesus Christ to be tempted, after our Saviour had fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. But the beauty of it all, we are told, is that Jesus overcame. And He gave us the victory. Nigerians may not have fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, but the events of the last few weeks beginning from the fuel crisis in December to the recent bloodletting by Fulani herdsmen in some states have taxed them beyond what 40 days and 40 nights fast could do. Literally, we are all now in the Mt of Temptation. What do we do now? Do we resort to self-help, or fold our arms and expect help from Heaven? What should we do to this government that seems incapable of keeping its promises and delivering us from incessant temptation? Do we continue to suffer in silence till another election? A lot of ifs and buts, if you ask me.
Fulani herdsmen have been a menace in the country for some time now. They kill or maim people on a daily basis, without any clue from the government on how to check their excesses. In July 2017, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State said over 1,878 people had been killed while 750 others were critically injured over a three-year period. In September of the same year, herdsmen killed a father of 12 in Edo State. Another report on October 16 said six people were killed and houses burnt by the rampaging herders in the Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau State. A day after, another report said 27 people lost their lives in an attack carried out by herdsmen in Nkiedonwhro community in the same Bassa council area. They were murdered in their sleep. In another report on January 10, 2018, Nasarawa State, however, recorded no fewer than 25 deaths when herdsmen swooped on Awe, Keana and Doma council areas in the state. The attack reached an all-time high in January when herdsmen unleashed terror on Benue State again, killing over 70 people.

The agony of the last fuel crisis that coincided with the Yuletide was particularly terrible. It was double pain for many people. There was no petrol, there was also no kerosene. Many people abandoned their travels. Homes that rely on kerosene could not cook. A friend of mine, the publisher of the Church Times, Gbenga Osinaike, almost lost his life after inhaling unpleasant petrol fumes. He had driven round the city looking for the product. Unfortunately, after queuing for hours at one petrol station, he would be told the product was finished. He would move to another station and start the queue afresh, until he started vomiting blood.   In some cases, vehicles got burnt at filling stations in the struggle for petrol.    How do you explain this that Nigeria, the sixth largest producer of petroleum in the world, does not have any functional refinery? The country spends an average of $28bn of her foreign exchange earnings on importation of about 92 per cent of the fuel we consume yearly. What a shame of a “shithole” nation! About 180 million of us sleep with our heads facing the same direction? Does it mean there are no thinkers among us? No visionary? No dreamer? No wise man or woman?  Of course, there are thinkers, dreamers, visionaries, wise men and women aplenty in Nigeria. But the parochial and dangerous politics we play will not allow such people to get to power.


President Muhammadu Buhari should realise that he is in a political quagmire. He should roll up his sleeves and get down to serious rescue mission. His response to issues is always too little, too late. His style of administration is too lethargic and unimpressive.  Look at the case of the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, who was indicted by the Senate in 2016, and cleared by Buhari in January 2017; it was not until October last year that public outcry forced Buhari to sack Lawal and the former National Intelligence Agency boss, Ambassador Ayo Oke, another indicted official. His response to the various humanitarian crises in the country has not been impressive. A presidential system of government where the buck stops with the president should have a sense of urgency, unlike a parliamentary system. There are many things to be done, and little time left to do them. This is not the time to talk of re-election. Though many sycophants are luring him already, he should not fall into that temptation. He should also resist the temptation of creating cattle colonies in the states for his kinsmen. I would have titled this piece, Buhari in the valley of indecision, but for fear of being misunderstood. I am not a politician. If Buhari will not create a colony in Kano, Kaduna or Katsina for Ndigbo to trade or do the same for the Yoruba traders in the North, he should not create cattle colony anywhere for his Fulani kinsmen. Ranching is the in-thing in civilised nations, though I saw some herd of lambs in the wilderness of Israel. Cattle rearers should embrace it or go to the Sambisa Forest, where they will not constitute any nuisance to the majority of the citizens.

There is a fresh bid by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to spend $1.8bn on the turnaround maintenance of the moribund refineries. This is another temptation this administration should not lead us into. Already, the National Assembly has expressed its frustration with this. But like a deaf child, the Buhari administration is bent on the project. The refineries, according to the House of Representatives, have already gulped more than $20bn on turnaround maintenance, with no visible improvement. A Daily Trust investigation quotes N264bn as money spent on the maintenance of the four refineries since 1999.  None of these figures is a small amount for a serious nation to waste on unproductive venture. Whatever reason that will not make the NNPC to set up a new refinery all these years of our agony should also stop it from spending further on the turnaround maintenance of the moribund utilities. The refineries should be sold as they are now. And genuine private initiative embarked upon to build new ones.

My prayer is similar to that of Josiah Gilbert Holland (July 24, 1819 – October 12, 1881), an American novelist and poet, who also wrote under the pseudonym Timothy Titcomb:

 God, give us men!

 A time like this demands

Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands;



Men whom the lust of office cannot buy

Men who have honour; men who will not lie


Men who can stand before a demagogue
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