By Sunny Awhefeada,
Those familiar with modern Nigerian Literature would observe that the title of today’s intervention reminisces Ifeoma Okoye’s, 1984 novel, Men without Ears. Okoye’s powerful novel focuses on the social malaise buffeting Nigeria at the time it was set. The story would have been grim were Okoye to rewrite the novel today. Our present ordeal has surpassed that which was unleashed by “men without ears”. Our nation’s predicament today is the product of a “government without ears”. And I must duly acknowledge an older friend who used the phrase “government without ears” during an argument over the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). My friend’s position, which I strongly opposed, was that ASUU should call off the ongoing strike because we have become a nation with a “government without ears”.
The concept and experience of a “government without ears” is real and painfully so for Nigeria. Those running and ruining Nigeria have developed acute disdain for the yearnings and aspirations of the citizenry. Thus what the citizens have to contend with are impediments without hope. From the president, to the ministers, governors and senior civil servants who evolve policies and implement same, the level of disdain in which the citizens are held has become alarming and dangerously so. Those perceptive enough to see and know should tell that it is near endgame for Nigeria. But the fat cats occupying privileged positions remain deaf and adamantly so to the frightening realities. They are unable to see the gathering whirlwind!
The present government has chosen to embrace a destructive strategy of “seeing no evil and hearing no evil”. Listen to government officials talk and you will be convinced how deliberately far removed they are from reality. Government officials see a cobra and call it an earthworm. They see the poor drinking muddy water and call it chocolate. They see citizens wailing and they said they are chuckling satisfactorily. It was this frame of mind that made the minister of education, Adamu Adamu and his labour and employment counterpart, Chris Ngige, to say that they were surprised that ASUU went on strike. Both men went on air to say that government had met all of ASUU’s demands. They said so with straight faces! Yet, not one, yes not one of ASUU’s demand had been met. As if both men forgot the lie they told some days before, they went on to announce a committee to renegotiate an agreement that was renegotiated as recent as 2020. Now, the question, what agreement was being renegotiated if government had met all of ASUU’s demand? The bitter truth is that none of the demands or agreements entered into by government has been met.
Neither Adamu nor Ngige can even remember the terms contained in the agreement because they are part of a “government without ears”. What is, ironically, even making matters worse is the din of electioneering activities that has thrown Nigeria into a bedlam. Ordinarily, the party in power should have done its best to honour the agreement with ASUU and end the strike in order to pave the way for electoral victory next year. This is even more compelling when an overwhelming 65% of registered voters are youths many of whom are in tertiary institutions across Nigeria. A sensitive government would have risen to the occasion, listen to the yearnings of the people, live up the code of honour and do what it should do to revive the universities. Knowing that the strike could rob them of electoral victory, leading party and government officials would have ranged on the side of the people by resolving the crisis. But, no, this is Nigeria where electoral victory doesn’t come by performance, but vote heist in broad daylight. After all, Olusegun Obasanjo as president provoked ASUU into a strike during the election year of 2003 and still successfully went on to rig himself into a second term in office.
It is not only the government’s inability to resolve the ASUU crisis that portrays it as a “government without ears”. There are too many indices which point to that conclusion. The ravaging corruption in the land aided by government’s pretensions and seeming connivance, worsening insecurity, failed economy, collapsed infrastructure, eroded education and health systems and too many other indices of a failing state starring us in the face attest to the grim reality that we are under a “government without ears”. Despite the harrowing experience to which we are subjected, government officials continue to spin fake reports indicating that all was well with Nigeria. They point at failed or half measures and call them successes. As painfully crushing as the ongoing fuel crisis has been, government continues to promise that it will end next week and next week and next week. This promise has run the cause of a full month yet fuel scarcity still torment us.
Stomachs are empty and mouths are howling with hunger, but government officials point at unreachable “Abuja rice pyramid” as evidence of food sufficiency. Our doctors daily flee Nigeria, but government officials mouth the inanity that the health sector was in good health, no pun intended! The same goes for education. Nigeria and Nigerians know no respite and the government cannot hear their cries no matter how loud. The insularity of Abuja and especially Aso Rock make it impossible for those in government to know that Nigeria is experiencing a near national blackout. They also have not heard that policemen are threatening to go on strike. They do not hear about spiraling inflation, unemployment, poverty, hunger and the daily deaths harvested as a result of insurgency and banditry nationwide. Government is truly without ears.
A country whose education minister would fly to London, for photo-ops with a president who refused to be treated in Nigeria, when her universities are on strike is really doomed. Well-fed and smooth-faced governors’ wives also flew to Dubai to sing happy birthday for the president’s wife, while back home the citizens have become scavengers. Ha…who did this to us?
But we must not continue to allow government to remain without ears. We must make the ears of government useful. We must make government hear with its ears. The ongoing ASUU strike is one of such antidotes to government’s deafness. Nigerians must also join in the clamour to make government hear with its ears. Nigerians must holla and holla and holla so that government can hear and do what is necessary for our country to make progress and not be left behind by the rest of the world.