Nigeria, Biafra, and challenging days ahead!, by Fola Ojo

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Fola Ojo argues that “the call for Biafra is no barbarians’ babble” but “an expression against repression by a country that represses its own people; and a system that devours its own inhabitants”…

Fola Ojo
Fola Ojo

Truth is immortal. Truth lives forever. You can suppress it but not eternally; you can deny, but can’t avoid it. Truth is an uninvited guest at the funeral of those who attempt its murder. A man who strives to kill the truth will die trying. The bounce-back ability of truth is what attracts the wise to it; its invincibility is what makes great men stand in awe of God of truth. Men hate the truth; but truth conceived in the uterus of time ultimately stays alive. The whole world was formed by truth; there is nothing as true as truth. It is the truth.

If prevalent illnesses besieging Nigeria have an encouraging prognoses, if the augury from the mouth of Divinity or an oracle is favourably reassuring that there are some sparkling brightness in the country’s future, it will only be because Nigerians are deft and dexterous in hanging firmly onto hope that tomorrow will be better than today. Momentarily, in Nigeria, HOPE is the only available survival straw and lifeline left for us to hold on to. Aside from this, days ahead may be unpredictably rough and frenetically frightening.

Those who are privy to figures and facts about Nigeria’s economy believe that aloft is a thick, dark cloud. The economy which has enjoyed sustained growth for a decade, with annual real GDP increasing by around seven per cent; (it was 6.3 per cent in 2014), is on shaky grounds. Macro-economic challenges especially in exchange rate volatility and dwindling global oil fortunes are impacting public sector spending. Our fiscal revenues are shrinking. Very many lofty promises made during the campaign by the governing All Progressives Congress may suffer a setback.

Nigeria has an international debt profile of whopping $60bn and in 2015 alone, a debt serving bill of N953.6bn. Nigeria’s domestic debt was at N8.51tn as of May 29. Domestic debt at the Federal level grew by 157.48 per cent, and external debts of both the federal and state governments rose from $4.31bn to $9.46bn before President Muhammadu Buhari came to power. Twenty five per cent of Nigeria’s annual earning will be spent on servicing the huge debt. Inevitably three days ago, the President sent a supplementary appropriation bill for the 2015 fiscal year to the Senate for approval requesting to borrow the sum of N2.10tn to finance the budget. We are rolling from debt to debt!

Poverty rate in Nigeria is pegged at 43.1 per cent; and the World Bank considers Nigeria as one of the five extremely poor nations of the world. Almost 110 million people live on less than $1 a day; 92 per cent live on less than two dollars a day. Between and betwixt, we heard that top five billionaires in Africa are Nigerians. 11,162 Nigerians own private jets registered in the USA alone, and at least 20 first-time jet owners will emerge from Nigeria by end of this year. About 87 per cent of Nigerian top politicians (past and present) own expensive mansions abroad; while 98 per cent of their school-age children study and have studied overseas courtesy of Nigeria’s wealth. A nation so rich also ensnared in pervasive penury.

Do you know why for many years to come corruption will be too difficult to arrest? Government money is loose and access to it is unfettered. Intellectual deaf-and-dumb, half-baked minds semi- illiterates and their colluding foreign-beings and home-grown godfathers historically have piloted a very fragile aircraft called Nigeria.

In developed countries of the world, government employees do steal. What is happening in Nigeria, howbeit, is beyond stealing. It is a discombobulating combination of endemic dementia and schizophrenia that will never respond to intravenous medicinal treatment regimens. Men who rob their country with golden pens innately believe that life and living are all about gold.

From arms procurement to fight and win wars, we just learnt they have bled Nigeria again. The figures of heisted military funds I read yesterday were insanely and outrageously cyclopean. I had to drop reading before I drop dead like dodo. Even in the animal kingdom, there is decorum. In Nigeria’s government business, decorum is a thaumaturgy. Do you wonder why some people call Nigeria a zoo and want out? Barbarism in government and heartlessness in leadership are a few of the reasons.

Young men and women who took to the streets demanding a Biafra breakaway are reacting to Nigerian elite’s spin of the nation’s wealth strictly among their cohorts and cahoots. If you don’t belong in Nigeria, you will never become. Rich and affluent people in Africa do not walk the streets protesting injustice. Poor and hungry people, driven by hunger, poverty, and injustice, do.

Ordinary citizens are dying of famishment. Any government that cannot with wisdom mitigate hunger and attenuate poverty among its citizenry will, in due season, come face to face with an inevitable revolution that no tanks and guns can stop.

Recent events across the South-East and South-South regions of Nigeria should concern those who love peace. Some of our leaders called it a gangster bunch-up. Some want us to believe it is a gathering of measly miscreants who are seeking attention. Some call it plain fraud. Although it is not impossible that some drivers of mercantilist agenda may have crept into the discourse, the call for Biafra is no barbarians’ babble. It’s an expression against repression by a country that represses its own people; and a system that devours its own inhabitants. Yoruba, Hausa, Ikwere, Igbo, and all tribes and tongues have forever been beneficiaries of this life-in-the Hades scenario. Life is hell for the majority and it did not begin with Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.

The cry for severance is from the guts of hurting people who feel like second class citizens in their own country. Biafra is not the lone voice screaming. There are screams everywhere. Our ears must be kept open to these screams; otherwise our future as a nation will hang between the devil and the deep-blue sea.

To those who want out of Nigeria, listening ears of wisdom hear you. There must be a free-exit from an arrangement that does not serve a people well. Violence and war, however, will not provide the answer. They will exacerbate the problems. War-path is not what you must toe to achieve a freedom dream. There are guiding laws of the land that must be respected and obeyed to the letter.

To those from whom demands are made, saying an adamantly “no” to agitations without talking issues over and exploring what will peremptorily assuage, is insensitive. Saying an adamant “no” is rubbing salt on the wound and flaring up an already tense situation. With a weakened military struggling to quell Boko Haram’s madness, any military engagement at this time is a dangerously overwhelming distraction for Nigeria.

Inter-ethnic suspicion and disdain are growing among us. Inter-regional trust and love seem like mere phantoms and fantasies. Nigerians can no longer sweep these unpleasant phenomena under the rugs. It’s time to kill the bugs under the rugs and disinfect the environment.

I, alongside millions of Nigerians across all groups, cannot fathom a discussion like pulverising up Nigeria into fragments. Nigeria is a good idea. All the good people therein make Nigeria a lofty idea. We desire that it flourishes and stays intact with no abridgment. Days ahead of us are frightening; but the fright can take a flight out of our midst if only we face the stark realities and address them.

In conclusion, a sitting South-West governor who preferred anonymity recently told me that it would take a whole lot of sacrifice to get Nigeria out of its present financial quagmire. But the governor assured me that, with good managers of the economy, at the end of the tunnel will show the bright light of progress. I hope so. Coming days ahead in Nigeria, however, frighten me! (Punch)

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