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As Batons Change Hands: Can We Forget Lest We Forgive?
Author: Abdulaziz Ahmad Abdulaziz Fagge | May 23, 2007

“History is indeed little more than the register Of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind” Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) It says that everything that has a beginning must have an end. It is yet another end of four year tenure, the second since the return of democratic dispensation in the country. This time around, unlike in 2003, will saw the exit of many executives (otherwise known as execu-THIEVES) forcefully by the power of the supreme doctrine –the constitution. It is forceful in the sense that it will occur because they have no any means to twist and manipulate the majestic constitution. When they tried it the other time it proved unyielding (Remember the “SAD” term saga?). There is this wise saying that says “The ripest fruit is the saddest” this period will witness the quitting of the president and his vice after cooling their heels for eight good years in the Aso Villa. Likewise, some state governors that have been on the saddle of power for the past eight years will also go inevitably. Thus, soon their term of office as president or governors will be history like the reign of King James of England or George Washington of the USA. Those that sow bountifully will their names written in gold in the annals of history hence their achievements remain indelible from the sand of time. However, those that did contrary will only be remembered when it comes to naming the past leaders or perhaps in history, government or political science classes. I need not to go the far of recounting every bit of the deeds of the present set of political leaders for I believe despite forgetfulness of Nigerians, the (mis)deeds of this time will be hard if not impossible to forget. It will function as nothing but a tautology to recollect everything (in fact difficult to remember all), however, I will just mention some so as to refresh the memory. The essence here is whether all what happened under this dispensation are forgivable and forgettable. When we take it generally, we will always remember the eight-year mandate of Chief Mathew Olusegun Akikola Aremu Obasanjo, a pardoned prisoner charged with treasonable offences, living miserably and hopelessly behind the bars, but was freed and injected into the then leading political party among the three military-formed transitional political parties, made to won the presidential primaries by hook or crook against the leading contenders and bountifully hopeful Nigerians elected him to preside over them. This is Obasanjo of latter years, a born again Christian. The reign is of course not without its unique perfections. Those at the helm are so bragging with the kind of changes and ‘development’ they brought to the country. The examples of such so call ‘achievements’ include the installation of Global System of mobile Communication (GSM) which is affordable at least if not to common man but to the middle class. They also succeeded in uncovering the imaginary anchor that burdened the neck of our dear country in the name of foreign debt, which often a time it is collected in the name of the country but at the end slipping to the pouches of few. The relief granted to the country by its creditors –the Paris and London Clubs is unfortunately channelled to another private compartment thus at the end the common man has nothing to enjoy from this ‘mercy’, since nothing positive came as the result. As the president set aside six months to bring the electricity supply to the status quo way back in 1999, trillions of naira have been flourished to into the NEPA ( reads: Never Expect Power Always) in order to end the problem of erratic power supply but ironically the problem keep on skyrocketing from bad to worse in geometric progression. The only visible impact is perhaps how those assigned to look after the Power and Steel ministry, the ministry in charge of NEPA left with fatter accounts through dubious and the presidency left it unchecked. Another economic achievement of the outgoing administration is the feudalistic privatization of public assets. This saw the transfer of cardinal government properties to the hands of few individuals and to cap it all those in the government and their allies. Despite several calls against the whole idea and lambastes of the programme from citizens including respected statesmen and economists notably, Prof. Sam Aluko, Late Dr. Yusufu Bala Usman and host of others, the government turned a dumping ear. And above all against the dictates of the constitution, (Section 16 (2) c). The ill-informed privatization lead to the lost of properties such as NEPA now PHCN (reads Problem Has Change Name), NITEL now Mtel (perhaps Mad tells), Nicon Hilton Hotel now Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Nigerian Airways to Virgin Nigeria (or perhaps disvirgined Nigeria) and many others. Another sector in which the outgoing Federal Government invested much is the Reform Programme which cut across vital sectors. It includes the Economic Reform (Privatization included), Public Service Reform, Police Reform, Education Reform etc. Some key aspects in the Economic Reform apart from the ill-advised privatization, is banning of importation of some goods, it is not the ban on importation per see that is bad but how it is accomplish. Because as the ban is imposed, ironically the local industries are not mobilise to cater for the demand instead they are only being helped with inconsistent power supply, excessive taxation and other financially deforming processes. This led to the inevitable shutting of about one thousand (1000) industries, 500 in Kano alone! Statistically, if each of the thousand industries has only one hundred workers, through the shutting of those one thousand industries, one hundred thousands Nigerians have lost their jobs! And if each of those workers have a wife and six children to take care of (eight persons including him), by loosing his job, eight hundred thousands Nigerians are then thrown to abject poverty and uncertainty. What a catastrophe! In the public sector reform, the Government believed that it would only reform the sector by carting away over thirty five thousand (35,000) workers from the service, which if it would be estimated erupts thousands to miserable life. While on the other hand the pensioners sleep under bridges in Abuja and dying in queues in order to have their entitled pensions and gratuities. Whilst the Police Reform is still on implementation, uptill now policemen did not stop killing innocent citizenry for refusing to offer the usual twenty naira ‘kola’. There are still cases where people in police uniform take over our highways for robbery in broad day light, or to hear armed robbers boasting that they have ‘bought’ a particular area or highway so they will get no interruption while discharging their duty. Privatization of federal government colleges under the slogan of “public private partnership” is, perhaps, the most discussed among the government’s agenda of ‘reforming’ (perchance Deforming) educational sector. With all the ‘energy’ channelled toward ‘developing’ the education sector for the past eight years, as I am composing this piece the academic staffs of our varsities are on indefinite strike. Horrifyingly however, is the facts that over five (5) million primary schools aged Nigerians are out of school! And only God knows how many millions of Nigerians who cannot further their studies to tertiary or even secondary level are left roaming the cities. Before the recent exacerbation of the oil-rich Niger Delta crisis, which reduces the oil exploration by 25 per cent, it was not small fortune that Nigeria acquires daily from the oil related income. Thanks to the war in Iraq which further give way for massive selling of Nigerian oil popularly called ‘sweet’ in the oil market cycle. However, as Nigeria contributes immensely to the development of global economy through the exportation of petroleum resources, here in the country the situation is uncall for. As a result we are left with recurrent oil shortage with the like of the price hike almost biannually. This makes Nigeria a unique nation the world over, for as it gets richer its citizens get poorer. Just like a graphical representation of dependant and independent variables. To talk of insecurity as another legacy of Obasanjo’s eight year administration is to waste several pages of newspaper without adequately addressed how awful the term has being in terms of dreadful security lapses. It was unprecedented, before this administration broke the record, whereby esteemed personalities including the minister of justice are killed but the government nonchalantly refused to bring those behind the murder to book. Nigerians are not secure now. Everywhere you are and everywhere you go, one is not self-assured that he is secured. No one is certain and comfortable in time of travelling or surviving the night over the bed. Uncountable people were killed in broad daylight; several others were assassinated right in their bedroom mostly for political reasons; the likes of Marshal Harry, Dikibo and host of others. These entire barbaric feats took place unhindered as if there is no government to take care of the people. Again it was under the ‘democratic’ administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo that genocide is carried out on civilians at Zaki Biam and Odi. In both cases several people were gunned down by the military including innocent women, elderly and children. To recollect the outrageous deeds of armed robbers that run unabated like the flow of blood in veins is for one to weep to one’s last tear. Likewise, Obasanjo administration recorded the highest number of ethno-religious crises ever in the history of Nigeria. The Yoruba/Hausa conflicts, the Tiv/Jikun warfare, the Shagamu/Kano violence, The Kaduna unending conflicts, the Yelwan Shendam genocides and several others in the past eight years under review. These crises have claim overestimated lives, billions worth of properties and rendered thousands homeless. The tenure as a whole analytically is a failure and disaster, a kind of tsunami or hurricane Katrina. It is just like a mythical Pandora’s Box, which when opened all the disasters flew to the world. However, Pandora was merciful enough to re-open her box of destinies for the cures and relieves of the earlier calamities. But in Aremu’s case the nastiness, the mishaps, the catastrophes are set out with little or no sugary additives to remedy the bitterness. Coming down to the states level, where most of the state governors are also leaving their offices come next week (May 29), in so many states the situation is akin to the one in federal government. In many states the governors did nothing to write home about. As some are busy swindling others are fed up channelling the state resources to the hands of few individuals, squandering the resources on useless projects. Some of these governors are either being controlled by some forces aside (the Adedebus) or being dictatorial and assuming (like the Ma’azus). On the other hand, many state governors have only made blunders having taken wrong track in administrating their respective states thereby making matters worse. If one look at these eight years of democracy in Nigeria in to’ to, it only amount to failed and well wasted years. Because the whole democratization process is manoeuvred to suit a kind of mafian philosophy in which the citizens and their views amounts to nothing. Therefore democracy is reverted to autocracy or feudalism where only the few can decide the fate of greater part of the people. These coupled with injustice and dishonesty, especially as portrayed in the 2003 and the erstwhile 2007 general elections; make people lose confidence in democracy. This resulted in growing suspicion and scepticism by which people think that democracy is not for us. However, to some Nigeria is more than trying as a toddler on the trail. Whatever it is we look forward to see changes from this oncoming (s)elected administration. Despite the fact that Nigerians easily forgive things and quickly forget them, I don’t think if the blunders, the draconic, the malicious and the inept activities of this era of ‘democracy’ under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo are forgivable and forgettable. Even if we forgive them we must not forget what they perpetuated. The new baptism into democracy which Nigeria undergoes under the apt title of ‘Babarism’ is indeed unforgettable!

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