By Sunny Awhefeada
Nigeria has taken a pride of unenviable place as a country of one day one trouble. Nigeria relishes trouble and it is being sustained by trouble. There probably will be no Nigeria if there was no trouble. Nigeria has become home to trouble. This is why everyday brings its own share of trouble that the ones of yesterday and the day before yesterday not only become inconsequential, but takes a dim location in our collective memory. Nigerians wake up expecting trouble and ask “wetin dey happen?” If the news about trouble wasn’t forthcoming early enough the question will be “nothing happen today?” Then tune the television or radio or check the many social media platforms that now struggle for our attention and you will see the news of trouble, trouble, trouble and trouble. Nigeria is besotted with trouble and this has manifested in variegated ways in the last twelve years or so. And it is needless to say that at the core of our trouble is the unmitigated failure of leadership as Chinua Achebe pointed out in his 1983 monograph The Trouble with Nigeria. We are thus stranded on an island of trouble.
Trouble engenders news and creates a boom for journalism. Yet, the proliferation of trouble creates for the public commentator a dilemma of not knowing what to focus on.
He or she is bound to get torn among many contending issues. The commentator is faced with the question of choice. This is followed by the thought of how the public will receive the commentary. This is the bane of newspaper column writing as the writer is confronted by a bedlam. Our reality has become rather surreal and most of the time almost imperceptible. The things that confront and assail us appear unreal, yet they are real. Everyday has its own share of the oddities and it appears that Nigerians are no longer fazed. Life goes on and some will tell you that there is nothing they haven’t seen and that what was not seen was not meant to be seen. So life goes on!
Many think that it is plausible to argue that Nigerians instinctively relegated the dread of COVID-19 to the rear as a result of the plethora of troubles assailing the nation. Their position is that we are already used to too many life-threatening tendencies, so why fear COVID-19. Deaths occasioned by police brutality when SARS held sway used to be almost on a daily basis. The fatalities arising from the carnage on our roadless roads remain uncountable. What about death arising from militancy, terrorism, armed robbery, kidnapping, banditry, herdsmen menace, cultism, rituals and other life-taking endeavours? What about deaths as a result of disease, poverty, hunger and other existential factors on the prowl across Nigeria? These phenomena separated into different components have taken more lives than COVID-19. There is already a rupture that has not only rattled lives in Nigeria, but which has also sent an unknown number to unwarranted and untimely deaths.
We are just in the second month of 2021, yet Nigeria has recorded an unsettling number of seismic incidents that would have left many a nation prostrate. The number of abduction cases is best left to an exaggerated imagination. The terrorists in the North-East continue to pound the region making soft targets out of the populace. The number of displaced persons continues to soar. The bandits are also inflicting heavy attacks on the whole of the North-West. Herdsmen are ravaging North-Central and South-West. The South-East and South-South have been laid waste by armed robbery and kidnapping. These happen daily unabated. The populace now lives at the mercy of marauders.
There have been loud rumblings and fatal clashes in Ondo, Imo, Ibadan and many other places. The new star of the moment is Sunday Igboho who has come out to defend the children of Oduduwa against the sons of Usman dan Fodio. Before Igboho’s emergence was the expulsion of criminal Fulani elements from Ondo State. The patrons of the criminals protested, but Ondo’s Governor Akeredolu stood his ground and insisted that they remain expelled. Then came the clash at Shasha in Ibadan, a skirmish that was sparked off by an argument over where to dump bad tomatoes or refuse. A death was recorded.
Somewhere in Uwheru, a woman fleeing from armed herdsmen met an untimely death. It was also there that over ten indigenes were massacred by the same herdsmen last year. Igboho took his anti-killer-herdsmen campaign around Oyo and Ogun States. Reports of how soldiers attacked indigenes of communities in Ogun State because they resisted herdsmen also made news. A Divisional Police Officer also shot at an Amotekun operative who arrested a herdsman. Feeling the heat of the brewing crises, four northern states governors visited the South-West to sue for peace.
As these were going on words came that Alhaji Lateef Jakande, former Governor of Lagos State, passed away at over 90. Eulogies came his way even from President Buhari who, as a ruthless dictator, sent him to jail in 1984. The Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and other non-teaching associations also embarked on an indefinite strike thus shutting the universities again. As usual, the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige, made some incomprehensible noise saying that the strike will be called off the next day. The strike is about entering its third week. The news of the emergence of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the first woman and African Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) came in and stole national attention. People were still smiling over the news when another abduction of school boys in Kagara in Niger State was reported. This is coming after a more massive abduction of school boys in Kankara in Kastina State. We can establish a trajectory of school boys abduction from Kankara to Kagara.
A week ago teachers of secondary schools run by tertiary institutions in Rivers State cried out over non-payment of salaries for five year now. Their members are dying and those alive have become destitute. Yet, Governor Nyesom Wicked Wike of Rivers State doled our hundreds of millions to Benue and Sokoto States. The serene home of Wole Soyinka, the Nobel laureate, was also violated by herdsmen and their cattle. The nation’s police ever so adept at twisting facts lied about the incident and Soyinka told them off. A proposed protest to occupy the Lekki tollgate where Nigerian youths were massacred by soldiers last October saw the police flooding the scene with more personnel that could police an entire state. Showing off weapons and brutal presence the police made some arrests and threw the victims into a Black Maria that refused to move. It was then pushed. If the police was truly a combat ready force why has it not taken on the terrorists in Sambisa? The defence Minister also talked tough on the possibility of deploying the military to the tollgate if the need arose forgetting that he was yet to clear the nation of bandits and terrorists.
The matters arising constitute a catalogue of some of the things that are wrong with Nigeria and they are not new. They have always been with us. The refusal of the ruling class to birth a national consensus has created a gap that is ever widening and accommodating of many more matters arising. They are becoming more inveterate problems by the day. Without doubt, the ruling class has failed at the three tiers of government. It is time for the people to begin to build a consensus that will birth a national ideal and chart a path of hope and a new dawn for Nigeria. Then our matters arising, no matter how many they are, will be those of restitution, revival and hope.