From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu is right now meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa,Abuja. The minister who wore black suit arrived the Villa at about 11:35am and we t straight to the President’s office. Kachikwu’s letter to the President in which he alleged gross…
There is so much anger in the country. Everyone is worked up. It is difficult to engage in any form of dialogue. There are so many problems that require urgent national attention. One topic that has dominated public conversation is restructuring the country. Even those pushing for restructuring of the country cannot agree on the modalities or the form of reorganisation that would best serve the country’s interests. There are also those calling for an independent state of Biafra. Advocates of this position wouldn’t hear any alternative viewpoints. People who disagree with them are their sworn, irreconcilable enemies. You are either with them or you are against them. There is no space for compromise. There is no middle ground.
Equally interesting are calls by other ethnic nationalities for their own independent states to be carved out of present-day Nigeria. While their voices are inharmonious, their leaders insist they are united in their mission. There are also people who are highly disappointed with the form of democracy that is practised in the country. Nigeria’s public sphere at the moment is dominated by dissonant voices. It is difficult to understand who is speaking at any point in time. Every group wants to tower above other groups. Each group wants to set the agenda for public discussion.
While there are so many views on how to construct Nigeria’s future, the key concern is that no one is listening to anyone. It is an environment full of chatterers. They are uncoordinated, ill-disciplined, and unfocused. They are noisier than what you get in an open marketplace in which buyers and sellers haggle over prices of foodstuff. In a situation in which everyone speaks and no one listens, you have to wonder what each groups aims to achieve. Without a semblance of order in public discourse, the environment becomes polluted with noise.
Nigeria is sitting on a powder keg. The situation is stressful for many citizens. The atmosphere is equally tense. In the prevailing climate, every ethnic and religious group tends to accentuate the superiority of its people, its belief systems, its worldviews, and its cultural practices. When ethnic groups do not recognise members of our commonwealth other than their own members, you know the country is sitting precariously on the edge of disintegration. When ethnic groups play up the things that divide the country rather than the elements that unify the country, you know the end is approaching.
Everywhere you look, you will find people who are very upset with the Federal Government, with state governments, with their local council officials, with their senators, with members of the House of Representatives, and with members of the state Houses of Assembly. Some people are incensed because the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has not delivered what it promised the people, especially the sweet promises that gave voters the impression that, at last, the country has found a political saviour that would take all of us to the Promised Land, the land flowing with milk, honey, money, and plenty of food. Two years in office and with little or none of the promises made by the APC in sight, expectations by citizens have turned into growing frustration. Do you still wonder why there is so much anger in the country?
Many people have asked the question: Why are so many people so bitter, so grumpy, so unaccommodating, so impatient, so intolerant, and so difficult to govern? The answer lies more with the feelings of disappointment and discontent the people have with political leaders. Many people can’t see reason for optimism. They feel hopeless that the government cannot fix the problems so quickly. They know their impoverished condition cannot be fixed so soon.
The poor and less privileged in our society know their situation cannot be altered, they cannot help themselves, and they cannot endure forever the crippling economic and financial hardships, high cost of living, failure of power supply, lack of employment and business opportunities, deteriorating state of federal and state roads, poor health care services, and decrepit quality of education.
People are fed up and tired of complaining. Worse still, no one seems to notice the level of hardships that confront people across the country. Every day, the government tells us to be patient, and to be positive because no condition is permanent. The situation will improve soon, they tell us. As a way to buy more time and assuage the people’s anger, the government says the solutions to our national predicament have been spotted on the horizon. Paradoxically, many people have waited and sadly passed away in the process of waiting.
Elderly pensioners collapse daily and die in the process of queuing to collect their entitlements. We make things difficult for them to collect their pension. No country treats its senior citizens that way. Pensioners are the bedrock of every country. Without their hard work, without their sacrifices, without their sweat, most of the services we enjoy today would have collapsed and perhaps ceased to exist. A labourer deserves his/her wages, we are told. In Nigeria, that maxim has been given a dubious connotation. We place so many obstacles on the path of pensioners to make it difficult for them to collect their entitlements. Why do we make things difficult for ourselves?
Some people are outraged that the Acting President has described those advocating to restructure the country as people who were not able to secure government appointments. Should the Acting President have made such a statement? Must people who disagree with government be categorised as worthless or the leftovers of our society? Does the government have the capacity to offer jobs to the thousands of supporters of the call for reorganisation of the country? How many appointments could government offer?
We must not forget that government is not and cannot be the only source of employment for citizens. The opposition has seized on the ill-advised comment by the Acting President to describe him as a man out of touch with reality, a man grappling with the challenges of his new position as Acting President.
In the heat of all the disagreements, in the tense atmosphere in which people have called for restructuring the country, there are people who have chosen to maintain silence. It would be misleading to assume that the silent ones are those who are happy with the way things are, or that they are deeply in support of the performance record of the government. Silence should not be mistaken for acquiescence. Silence should not imply that people are happy with the appalling performance of ministers, state commissioners, and local council chairpersons. As the saying goes, the absence of war is not necessarily evidence of peaceful co-existence..