In every respect, 2012 could be described as a very eventful year. I doubt if there is a better word to capture the dramas and vicissitudes that characterised the outgoing year. From January 1 to date, the year has lived up to its billing of what I have chosen to ascribe to it: ‘notorious’. I used the word ‘notorious’ in the sense that 2012 has produced the good, the bad and the ugly, and left many people traumatized. In fact, I have heard some persons pray that the year should pass away as fast as it can, just as it came. I recall, with nostalgia, the prediction I made about 2012 in this column in 2011.
In it, I stated categorically that it was going to be a year of mixed feeling for many Nigerians and we should pray against disasters and sudden deaths. I also warned against laxity on the part of security agencies, admonishing Nigerians to be at the alert at all times, to ward off the machinations of the evil people. I remember also warning against heightening poverty and economic downturn. What then has happened? Almost, if not all, that I predicted have come to pass.
With just 2 days to the end of the year, one can safely assume that the worst had happened. I wonder what else will happen now that will be worse than what we had seen so far. Is it in the areas of insecurity, unemployment, political instability, hunger, poverty, unstable physical policy, decay of social system, corruption, natural disasters, death of important personalities, social upheaval, etc? Nigeria has had a good dose of each? It got to a stage people started wondering if all was well with Nigeria. We will look briefly at some of these occurrences to see where we probably got it wrong as a nation. But let me quickly point out that most of the unfortunate incidents we recorded this year were caused by human error and lack of proactive planning.
Take for instance, the plane crashes that occurred this year, beginning with the fatal crash of a Dana airplane on June 3 that killed prominent Nigerians, including Prof. Celestine Onwuliri, former Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Livi Ajuonuma, former NNPC spokesman, Ehimen Aikhomu, son of former Chief of General Staff, Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja, and DIG John Ahmadu; to the explosion mid-air of a Naval helicopter carrying Patrick Yakowa (then Governor of Kaduna State) and General Andrew Owoye Azazi (former National Security Adviser) and their aides. All the occupants in both aircraft perished.
Even though no official statement has been issued by the federal authorities as to the cause(s) of the plane accidents, one can say, with some level of surety, that mechanical malfunction played a major part, going by allusions made by some aviation experts. Let us assume mechanical failure contributed to both crashes, why should the supervising authorities allow them to embark on their ill-fated trips ab initio? Has it become part of our national policy to toy with the citizens’ lives? It is the practice the worldover for airlines to operate at the highest level of security and safety. But it is a different ballgame in Nigeria, where life has become brutish and cheap. Innocent citizens are mauled like chickens either through extra-judicial killings or simply by a fully-loaded passenger-aircraft tumbling from the sky. I will always refer to the Dana crash, because those that died in it would have been spared if the regulatory authorities had been a little more thorough.
Would Sonny Ehioghae and his team from the National Universities Commission have died on the plane if they had not boarded the air ‘coffin’? Look at how Patrick Yakowa and Andrew Aziza – two fine gentlemen and administrators – died suddenly, leaving behind heart-wrecked wife and aged mother, respectively. Amina Yakowa has become a wretch since her loving husband transmuted into our eternal resting home, without a word. I have constantly ruminated over what might have happened – their last moments before the final crash, their unfulfilled dreams, etc. For me, Yakowa was too good to die. The beautiful things people have said about him since his demise attest to this fact. My greatest worry now is how the family will cope with the loss of their father. By loss I did not mean they would not be able to survive materially, but emotionally. What about other dependants of the former governor whose lives revolved around his? The burden will be too much for them to bear.
By Yakowa’s death, a generation is gravely affected – disoriented. What I believe will come out of the death of Yakowa and Aziza is that the authorities will become more cautious of their security for a little while. I do not know how they can avert such disasters in future if they failed to sanitize our air transport system. Is it not sheer wickedness that the regulatory authorities still allow moribund and outdated aircraft to operate in our airspace, when we are fully aware of the consequences? This is what I choose to describe as ‘executive negligence’. All about leadership is empathy. No leader can succeed if he is not urbane, kind-hearted and honest. Our aviation industry should be subjected to proper scrutiny and audit to identify the problems (visible and remote) that constitute a nuisance to effective and efficient operation of our flight system.
It was Yakowa and Azazi two weeks, whose turn next? It could be you, it could be me. This is what should bother those at the helm of affairs. To fix the rot in our aviation industry is imperative otherwise all of us that fly in Nigeria’s airspace are nothing but walking corpses. That is what we are if we consider the ease with which people die these days. 2012 recorded other chilling incidents. The dreaded Islamist sect, Boko Haram, unleashed its deadliest attacks this year. In fact, this year recorded the highest number of attacks by the sect across the states in the North. Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Zamfara and Sokoto became the hotbeds of these attacks. Plateau State experienced a different brand of terrorism by Fulani herdsmen and extremists.
Hundreds were killed, including Senator Datong Gyang (Senate Committee Chairman on Health) and two other legislators that were murdered in cold-blood. Thank God life has returned to near-normal in the state. However, there are still occasional sporadic shootings by hoodlums and other social misfits that have vowed to make the state ungovernable. Happily too, workers in the state that embarked on a strike that lasted for seven months had called it off. With these latest developments, it is hoped that normalcy will return fully very soon. Some other prominent persons also joined their ancestors.
They included DIG John Haruna and others that died in a police helicopter crash on their way to Abuja from Jos; Olaitan Oyerinde, Principal Private Secretary to Edo Governor Adams Oshiomhole killed in the heat of the campaign for Edo State Governorship election; Oba Oladele Olashore of Iloko Ilesha, renowned banker and administrator; Cynthia Osokogu, murdered by her so-called facebook friends; Lateef Adegbite, Secretary General, Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs in Nigeria; Sheila Solarin, widow of the famous social critic, Tai Solarin; Muhammadu Shuwa, former GOC 1st Infantry Battalion during the Nigeria Civil War killed by Boko Haram militants in Maiduguri; Lam Adesina, former Governor of Oyo State; Chief Hope Harriman, a prominent real estate surveyor; Olusola Saraki, strongman of Kwara politics; Kayode Eso, erudite and fiery legal luminary and former Justice of the Supreme Court; Meni Jonathan, younger brother of President Goodluck Jonathan; Enebeli Elebuwa, a renowned Nollywood actor; and Most Rev. Joseph Abiodun Adetiloye, former Primate of Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion).
These deaths shook the nation in diverse degrees. Kidnapping has suddenly blossomed this year with over 200 kidnapped at various times in the year. The most reported case was the kidnapping of the mother of the Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, whose mother – a retired professor – was kidnapped from her husband’s palace in Ogwashiukwu, Delta State. The old woman was held in the kidnappers’ gulag until respite came seven days after the abduction. The reason adduced for the kidnapping of the Ogwashiukwu Queen was somewhat puerile. This shows the level our nation has degenerated. People now do things that are weird and unconscionable to settle personal scores.
They no longer respect old age or give any value to life. One of my readers wrote me from Awka and what he told me was shocking. According to him, some persons are kidnapped and nobody gets to hear about it. These are people that have chosen not to involve the police or the media. What he was trying to drive at is that hundreds had been kidnapped and they chose to quietly pay their way out. This calls for a serious investigation by the relevant authorities. I am not happy at the rate innocent people are abducted for ransom. After their trauma, they still part with huge sums of money for their freedom. The Federal Government, as a matter of urgency, must do something drastic to bring the situation under control. It must not fail to consider the negative impact of kidnapping on social life and the economy.
Agreed unemployment could be a contributory factor to kidnapping, but that is not enough to make some persons become lawless. Kidnapping is a serious crime, which attracts the death penalty in some states. One of the ways to tackle kidnapping is by providing jobs for millions of our jobless youths roaming the streets. Painfully, some of these youths are not educated, thereby worsening the problem. Nonetheless, government should intensify its job-creation programmes to deal with the issue of unemployment once and for all. Let the truth be told: there is no way we can effectively combat crimes without first creating jobs, fighting corruption and fostering social justice and equality. It is unpardonable for anybody to flaunt his ill-gotten wealth before a band of hungry, jobless youths.
Your guess is as good as mine. This is why it is important that social justice should form the bedrock of our national development in order to curtail incidents of crime. Suffice it to say, that though government is doing its best to deal with all these social challenges, I regret to submit that its efforts are not good enough. Crime and criminality have posed about the biggest threat to the socio-economic advancement of Nigeria. And it is assuming more frightening dimensions with each passing day. Aside the sad incidents that occurred in the outgoing year, it was a generally fruitful year for so many people. I must confess that in recent times, this year is the most fruitful for many mothers seeking the fruits of the wombs as many of them became pregnant.
The likely consequence of this is population explosion, which will begin to manifest as from the first quarter of next year. I do not know if the government is doing anything to control the trend. Some prominent Nigerians also clocked 50 years of age. Among them is the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Chief Godswill Akpabio, who celebrated the event with pomp and ceremony. It was carnival-like and attracted people from all walks of life from all over the country. It is one event whose splendour and quintessence will be remembered for a very long time. Three serving governors won re-election, while a new one was elected.
They included Murtala Nyako of Adamawa, Adams Oshiomhole of Edo, and Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State. Of the three, Edo and Ondo were the fiercest. In the case of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole won with a wide margin making it a futile exercise for anybody to attempt to contest the result. Mimiko also shrugged off the opposition from a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Chief Akeredolu (SAN) of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), to win. Bayelsa produced a brand new governor in the person of Seriake Dickson – a former member of the Federal House of Representatives. In sports, we did not achieve much.
Our athletes at the London Olympics did not win a single medal, thereby raising some salient questions about the future of Nigeria’s sports. There was no reason that would be plausible enough to justify Nigeria’s inability to win even a bronze medal when smaller countries won some gold, silver and bronze. The only way to save our image from another round of battering is to begin now to prepare the next Olympic with all the vigour we can muster. Late preparations have been the bane of Nigeria’s sports. Fortunately, we managed to qualify for the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) holding next year in South Africa.
To restore Nigeria’s sports to its past glory requires the government to design a national sports policy to give sports some focused direction. One thing is certain: in two days’ time 2012 will become history, and a New Year will set in. As usual, prophets and other seers have been falling over one another to forecast what the New Year will bring. But from my own spiritual prism, it is going to be a more delicate year than 2012 in many respects. What the word ‘delicate’ means is a matter for another day. I use this opportunity to wish our readers a Happy New Year and pray for God’s countless blessings upon our dear nation.