By Bolanle Bolawole
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Except for the calendar which says this is Easter and the Federal Government which declared Friday the 7th and Monday the 10th of April as Easter holiday, there are no celebrations in the air in the real sense of the word. Not many people are celebrating not because they do not want to but because they cannot. As they say, money has decreed that whenever it is not available, no one should make any plan whatsoever. Poverty ravages the land; the majority of the people can barely eke out a living. It is not for fun that Nigeria is today the poverty capital of the world. And poverty in Nigeria is no longer limited to the traditionally poor; poverty has climbed the ladder and now embraces even the hitherto comfortable middle class which, to all intents and purposes, has been virtually wiped out. So, the Nigerian society is today stratified into two broad classes of the rich and the poor. The once thriving middle class now perches gingerly atop the poor, either struggling to break into the class of the rich upstairs or keep its head above the shark-infested waters of the desperately poor below. With inflation running at 22 percent, those who earn wages earn them to put them in leaking baskets. You would think Prophet Haggai had the poor people of Nigeria in mind when he prophesied thousands of years ago in Haggai 1: 5 – 6: “You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes” This is not a question of people being lazy or of lazy youths a la Muhammadu Buhari but of people working like elephants but eating like ants. Even the diligent, conscientious worker now looks like an indolent. The cause of the suffering and misery in the land is poor management of our bountiful resources by clueless, incompetent, corrupt, inept and insensitive leaders. Leadership is at the base of the poverty ravaging the land. With good leadership, there is no reason why Nigerians should suffer what they have been put through since the rains started beating the country in January 1960. I used to think that Shehu Shagari was the worst government this country ever had but with Muhammadu Buhari’s inept, nepotistic and corrupt government, I changed my mind! Shagari did not afflict us half as much as Buhari has done. What with the blood-letting under Buhari’s very nose! That alone will in perpetuity stand against him and whatever his spin doctors may chronicle his “achievements” to be.
Easter is here but it is devoid of the usual celebrations. Cost of living has shot through the roof and only a few can, these days, afford to eat what they like or want. The vast majority, if they eat at all, eat what they find. As they say, “I have eaten” does not differentiate between those who ate fried rice and those who soaked garri. This is one reason why the next dispensation is very important; nay, critical, for the survival of this country on two critical levels. The first is whether the in-coming government has a sufficient understanding of the problems and a blueprint to tackle them. Can the government tackle corruption? Buhari pledged to tackle corruption – and everyone thought he could and would – but, in the end, it was corruption that tackled and floored Buhari, such that his government has now gone down in history as the most corrupt that this country has ever had. As I put this piece to bed, a post on social media raised an alarm about the frenetic pace at which agencies headed by people from a section of the country were pulling through last-minute billion-Naira contracts for this and that project in what looks like parting gifts or last minute looting to further complicate problems for the in-coming administration. Will the in-coming government look into this? Will it stop oil theft? Will it remove fuel subsidies? I read a post in which someone called out the NLC bureaucrats for its duplicitous position on the issue of removal of fuel subsidies. When the Labour bourgeoisie creaming off the check-offs of workers were rooting for the Labour Party candidate, Peter Obi, they kept mute when Obi said he would remove fuel subsidies if elected president; but the moment he lost the election, the Labour aristocrats returned to their usual but hypocritical and unhelpful battle cry of “No to subsidy removal”! Will the in-coming government call their bluff and do the needful ? Tons and lorry-loads of hard decisions await the in-coming administration if it must take the Nigerian economy out of the doldrums but will it muster the needed courage to act decisively and stay the course?
Next, and perhaps even more critical than the first, is whether the Nigerian people will be supportive as well as be patient enough as the in-coming government tries its hands at solving the myriad of problems that confront the country today. It appears to me that Nigerians lack the understanding that to destroy is faster and easier than to repair or build. That is why we hardly raise an eyebrow when things are being destroyed. We appear to think we can as quickly and rapidly and effortlessly put things back again. Nigerians also like the fire-brigade approach and hate to take their time to plan and strenuously and methodically execute things. We love magic or miracles, if I may put it that way. We love to cut corners. Therefore, expect Nigerians to begin to expect a dramatic change the moment Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is sworn in as president. If people do not see results as quickly as they may irrationally (?) expect, there could be problems. History teaches that in societies that have experienced the kind of difficulties that Nigerians have been put through down the ages, with Buhari capping it all, it is the reformer intent on saving the situation that usually bears the brunt. That was the unfortunate experience of the Bourbon King Louis the XVI in France. The antidote: Right policies and speed handled by competent and committed hands.
As tough as winning an election is, running an efficient and effective government is tougher. We have seen a tough Tinubu surmount all manner of obstacles to win the presidential election; it remains to be seen if he is tough enough to exorcise the ghosts that have tormented Nigeria down the ages. Will he succeed where others have failed? Time, as they say, will tell! My prayer is for him to succeed so that celebrations during festive periods can return to this land again! Happy Easter celebrations!
Oyedepo, Obi telephone saga
A telephone conversation could not have been as embarrassing, scandalous and controversial as the one that was reportedly said to have taken place between Bishop David Oyedepo of the Winners’ Chapel and Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the recently-concluded presidential election. The Church as a whole has been diminished and brought to ridicule and opprobrium once again! And it reminded me of a similar incident some 10 or so years ago when the aircraft of a leading Pentecostal pastor was fingered in a botched plan to buy arms from South Africa during the Goodluck Jonathan administration. Remember? I saw an embarrassing situation loading and I warned that vocal PFN leader to reduce his frequent visits to the Presidential Villa but he would not take heed until he was caught in that quagmire – and he took the Church down with him. Rather than take heed when I advised him months before the unfortunate incident, he reported me to Mummy and Daddy and both of them called me in. I explained to them the danger to the man himself and the Church as a whole if the PFN leader did not limit his frequent visits to the Presidential Villa. Where is the man today? That scandal silenced him and tarnished the image of the Church.
Many Church leaders did not appear to have learnt anything from that very sad episode. In all their undertakings, the image of the Church as a whole ought to loom larger than personal interests. Many threw caution to the wind as far as the last election was concerned. All their prophecies, what became of them? One said one of his arms should be cut off if his prophecy did not come to pass. His prophecy flew over the bar like a misfired penalty kick! Has he surrendered his arm to be cut off? After the election, another one was decreeing and declaring an annulment of the Tinubu presidency! Nigeria is an “anything goes” country! The gullibility of the people apart, the lethargy and carefree attitude of the government is another. Such so-called pastors ought to be cooling their heels in prison! Faith-based organisations should be compelled to behave responsibly. The people they have enslaved must be liberated. Religion is now much more than the opium that the Marxists said it was; these days, many so-called faith organizations are nothing short of concentration camps of slaves. This is modern-day slavery that should be dismantled.
But I digress! The questions that interest me in the Oyedepo/Obi telephone conversion saga are these: Did the conversion take place? Yes, it appears so; for none of the two has said it didn’t. The voices that we heard in the conversion, were they of the two personalities mentioned? Yes, it appears so, since none of the two has disowned the voices. What was said to have been said; was that exactly what was said? That is where I think the problem lies. Obi and his people are saying that the tape of the conversation making the rounds was faked; fine, it could be, there is hardly anything that cannot be faked these days. Even the new Naira notes are said to have been faked. But the solution does not lie in beating about the bush: If what is in circulation is faked, release the original! Fortunately, Oyedepo and Obi are Christians: In Egypt when Moses performed his own original miracle and Pharaoh’s magicians also performed their own fake miracle, the original miracle of Moses swallowed the fake miracle of Pharaoh. So, release the original tape of the telephone conversation and lay the controversy to rest. The answer does not lie in finding out or running after who released the so-called faked tape. Until the original tape is released, you cannot call what is in the public domain faked and expect to be taken seriously. The solution does not also lie in rushing to court. Nigerians know that rushing to court is a smart way of sweeping matters under the carpet.
The mere fact that two top Obi aides issued contradicting statements on the same issue clearly shows that the Obi camp is in disarray on this matter. It is like the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, going to the United States to offer a different reason from the one INEC had offered for its inability to upload results of the last elections real time as earlier promised! People who try, like grasshoppers, to hide behind one finger, na dem sabi!
LAST WORD: Richard Akinnola and Abimbola Adelakun should take it easy with Bayo Onanuga; Bayo has done nothing deserving of the scathing rebuke and scotching upbraiding he has suffered lately in the hands of the duo.
- Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.