By Adewale Sanyaolu Despite being a country with the second largest deposit of bitumen in the world, Nigeria, according to Foraminifera, a marketing and research firm, spends about N2 billion yearly on importation of asphalt, a derivative of bitumen. The occurrence of bitumen deposits in Nigeria is twice the amount of existing reserves of crude…
Of course, those of us who are old enough would remember that line from the MKO Abiola jingle for the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
The only difference was that, the Nigerians who took to the streets, last Monday, we’re looking for both ‘Mr. President’ (whose whereabouts we cannot honestly tell) and our daily bread.
It did not matter under which banner they marched: Enough is Enough; I Stand with Nigeria; or One Voice Nigeria. Or whether they marched in Lagos, Benin City, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Ibadan or even London, the message was the same: Nigerians are hungry. And hungry and angry people can no longer keep quiet.
So, Nigerians are on the march again.
After several months of living in denial, there is now a national coming-out-of-the-closet. Party lines have faded out, as we all are now united by hunger.
The unmistakable message from across the states, where the protests held, was one and the same: “We cannot continue to die in silence, while government continues to impoverish our people, through its unrealistic polices. Time has come for Nigerians to rise and collectively reject it.”
Finally, the chickens are coming home to roost. And it was not just sour-grape wailers, but acclaimed hailers, who are now telling everyone who cares to listen that there is hunger in the land. That the economy has continued to go south, despite the alleged best efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari’s economic team (if indeed there’s really any such team). And that not all the lies of Lai Mohammed are enough to continue to pull the wool over our eyes.
And there were many more lies: They were so organised that they had the record/statistics of Nigeria’s unemployed, even before the campaigns kicked off, but, curiously, they never had the little detail of the poor state of the economy they were hoping to inherit. Then they came to power and began to deny that they promised to pay those same people a monthly stipend of N5,000. And when we pointed out that the billboards announcing this campaign promise had yet to be pulled down, after the elections, they reluctantly owned up.
Suddenly, they threw up a spurious list of beneficiaries, a list they said was ready even before the elections. APC magic! I can’t shout!
The ready excuse that the rot we face today was foisted on us by 16 years of PDP misrule has suddenly lost its appeal. Nobody wants to listen to the same old tired lines two years after. The nationwide goodwill, which took PDP all of 16 years to squander, has been frittered away by APC in just a year and a half.
And now, the same protests that sounded the death knell for the PDP in its 14th year in power, have caught up with the APC, barely two years into its own rule.
Thankfully, luck is still on the side of the ruling party. And it’s not because of anything it has done. Rather, it’s because the PDP that should be the biggest beneficiary of this seeming demystification of the APC is unflinchingly on the path to suicide – determined that nobody should save it from itself, nor sway it from this journey to self-destruction.
So, rather than seizing the opportunity of the increasing popular disaffection with the APC to relaunch itself to reckoning, everybody that matters in PDP is fleeing and jumping into the APC ship. Everyone is desperate to be in the mainstream – without sparing a thought for the fact that this ‘mainstream’ vehicle has a very high possibility of abandoning its passengers midstream.
So, if the PDP (and whatever is left of the opposition) won’t rise to the occasion, the citizenry have now decided to that their destiny into their own hands and fight for themselves. I guess, that’s what the protests are all about. The citizenry were only looking for a leadership that would galvanise them into action – which was what musician Tuface temporarily provided, before pressure was mounted on him to pull out. But the movement was already bigger than him by the time he backed out. And so, the protest marches still went ahead.
But PMB should not make the mistake of doing a victory dance, thinking that the protest has come and gone. Or that it did not attract the large crowd that such protests would normally draw. No! Like Tuface who ended up not marching with the protesters, many of us at home were with the protesters in spirit. I dare say that, for every protester who braced the odds to be on the streets on Monday, there were, at least, a thousand others who, for one reason or another, could not come out.
So, my dear APC leaders and government, the fire is still smoldering beneath the calm façade. As the labour unions would say, this may well be a warning strike. The real thing is still on the way. Now is time to take steps to ensure that it never happens. And the only step that matters here is simple: Put food on people’s tables. Don’t tell people to embrace agriculture and go back to the farm, when gun-totting Fulani herdsmen are lying in wait for them in the bushes. People cannot go to the farm when marauding kidnappers are picking farmers from their farms and demanding unfathomable ransom. The people of Southern Kaduna, for instance, cannot farm if, whenever they go to the farms, the herders, who seem to be permanently camped there, reemerge, kill some more, and retreat into the forest, where the soldiers and police, curiously, have no orders to enter. Curious!
So, where’s our president?
I don’t know anything about President Muhammadu Buhari’s state of health. So, people should stop calling me to ask about him. I’m neither a doctor, undertaker nor member of the burgeoning Buhari cabal.
However, the only thing I know is that nearly all the people telling us that they spoke to him, and that he is hale and hearty, have not spoken to him. I can bet my third leg on that!
I also suspect that if the president were in the sound state of health they claim he is in, he’d have since said something. After all, the most important things PMB has ever said about his government and himself were all said while he was abroad.
So, for now, I’m not believing anybody’s tale – good or bad, about the president’s health. Similarly, I won’t believe any of the pictures of PMB in Intensive Care Unit, or the video of him being wheeled into an ambulance in the UK, that are now making the rounds on blogosphere. The only thing I’ll believe is when I see the president – or hear him.
Meanwhile, that the First Lady, Aisha, has left the UK and headed to Saudi for Lesser Hajj (Umrah) is a clear indicator that the situation at hand needs serious prayers. But, don’t ask me what the situation is. Because I don’t know.
But it could also mean that she does not see the situation as serious as ‘detractors’ would want us believe, and has moved on with her normal life. Or is she helpless? I’m just confused.
That is why I’ve been giving a serious thought to one ‘naughty’ Whatsapp message I received last weekend. It read: “Please, who are those people who trekked to Abuja in 2015 when Buhari won the presidential election? We need them to trek to London to confirm something for us”.
But then, we must not lose track of the fact that Buhari is human and is bound to fall ill from time to time – especially at 74-going-to-80. I only get angry when they tell us that the dog we can all see clearly is indeed a monkey. I feel insulted when the “Presidency” suddenly begins to be acting and speaking for itself, and not the ‘president’.
On this score, ‘I stand with Nigeria’. Let the president speak to us himself – especially, now that there is nobody to make that infamous call: “Umoru (no, Muhammadu) are you dead?”