You gotta cry for Nigeria
I laughed. Not the type of guffaw associated with a deep feeling of satisfaction occasioned by full belly and some glasses of wine, non-alcoholic mind you. I laughed all the same – because if I did not laugh, I would have wept. For Nigeria, that is.
Why did I laugh? The National Assembly is on recess. That is no news. But it is news to hear that many of the members of the House of Representatives are stranded in Abuja. They can’t go home because, so they said, they had not been paid their July salaries and allowances. And to go home empty handed is like a trip to Golgotha. What will they tell members of their constituencies waiting eagerly for largess from Abuja? I laughed when I remembered the Mexican soap opera The Rich also Cry. But I restrained myself, not to be seen to be laughing at their calamities.
It is not fit and proper for anyone, not me in the least, to laugh at the plight of our distinguished honourable members. I guess the endless wait for their July salary, due only a week or so ago, is in sympathy with their fellow citizens who have not been paid for long.
To be sure, they are not unaware that there are some states in this same country where workers have not been paid salaries for upwards of 12 months. But not without good reason. In Kogi State, for example, His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, the executive governor of the people, has vowed to clear all the salary arrears in no time. By official admission the state is owing workers more than 12 months salary arrears.
If he says he will clear it, he will do it. The reason the salaries have piled up, in case you don’t know, has nothing to do with lack of money. No, Kogi State government, under the new direction management, is not broke. It has enough money from bail-outs and from Paris Club refund, not to mention the one from the robust internally generated revenue, IGR.
The governor, in his efforts to clear the Augean stable, is determined to pay only genuine workers, even if it takes him 12 months or more to identify them. What matters to him most is due process and integrity – call it zero tolerance for corruption – and to make sure that not a kobo of the people’s money goes into the hands of ghosts.
And to say the truth, the state is actually full of ghosts. Don’t forget that it was in Kogi State that some odd officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, recently registered the ghost of a living governor and they called it double registration. The governor himself confirmed this.
Governor Samuel Ortom’s Benue State competes favourably with Kogi State. There, the salaries are only delayed to allow government to tidy up its account books. Like in Kogi, the governor is also very busy pursuing many criminal elements led by “Ghana” and the cattle herdsmen who are in an epic battle with the indigenes over grazing land. Like their counterparts in Kogi, the good people of Benue State can appreciate why salaries are not being paid as and when due.
So for all manner of reasons, there is an abundance of weeping, wailing and the gnashing of teeth in the land. And it comes very easily to some people despite all the assurances of a bright ray of hope at the other end of the tunnel. For sure, this side of the tunnel, as far as we can see, is clogged with all sorts of oddities, moral depravity, failed cultural, traditional and religious values that have made nonsense of the age-old tradition of interrogating sources of people’s sudden wealth. Honesty, we were tutored to believe, was the best policy. That has now become ancient history.
Today, because the society, led by our so-called elders, now worship money and celebrate illicit wealth, corruption has taken us down the dangerous alley. The society in which everybody was his brother’s keeper, has been replaced by the one that resembles, warts and all, the Hobbesian state of nature where “life is short, brutish and nasty” where the Boko Haram way appears to be the right way for all manner of criminals, where cattle rustlers and the hitherto innocent and harmless herdsmen have now teamed up with kidnappers, all of them armed to the teeth with AK 47 and other sophisticated arms and ammunition, to terrorise innocent travellers and make the highways and even the homes and schools unsafe; where the Badoo narcissism reigns supreme, feeding fat on the blood of innocent families.
The Church killing in Amakwa-Ozubulu, Anambra State, where some lunatic gunman, said to be on a revenge mission, with no tinge of remorse, wilfully entered the church and killed at least 11 worshippers and injured about 18 others last Sunday, sent shock waves across the country as the highest form of sacrilege.
The nation was one with furious condemnation with a vow to bring the culprits to book. Messages of sympathy poured in even from far away London where our president is recuperating. Various narratives have so far emerged tracing the genesis of the church massacre. A drug baron who hails from the town lives and plies his trade in South Africa spotting alias Pablo Escobar. He was said to have had a drug deal with another kinsman with the holy name of Bishop also from the same place in Nigeria. But the deal went awry, with cheating and betrayal.
When their disagreement came to a head, Bishop returned to Nigeria and engaged in community work. The church in which the attack happened was built by Bishop who donated it to the Catholic mission. He was celebrated and, to boot, the men of God prayed for more blessings and for his businesses, whatever they are, to prosper beyond all imagination.
But Pablo, true to his name, was not the type that would take insults lying down. He may be a true Catholic but he is not the meek one who would turn the other cheek. The original Pablo, you will recall, was a Columbian drug lord and a narcotic terrorist whose cartel supplied the United States of America more than 80 per cent of the cocaine consumed in that country. At the height of his career, it is reported, his personal business turnover was about 20 billion dollars per annum.
Ruthlessness was the name of the game. In drug war, like any other war, life counts for nothing. The Ozubulu drug baron lived up to his adopted name and kept faith with the unwritten rule of his trade. Bishop has crossed his path and Bishop must be hunted down. It does not matter how many people go down with him. Reports said he suspected that his target would be in the church early that morning either to confess his sins or to seek the face of God. He was mistaken. But he took his prize all the same. He killed Bishop’s father and killed ten other people, possibly out of anger – anger that he missed Bishop, the prime target.
It is all very sad and very shocking though I had thought that by now we, as a people, have become unshockable. Except that this latest incident, fit for a horror movie, happened in the East, far from the madding enclave of the Boko Haram, this inexplicable lunacy is akin to what innocent worshippers in the North Eastern Nigeria – Muslims in their Mosques and the Christian faithful in their Church – have been suffering since the coming of the Boko Haram debacle. Innocent worshippers are routinely machine gunned and slaughtered at will, in the process desecrating the holy places of worship.
From the Boko Haram menace all sorts of criminal elements have gotten their franchise and seem to have appropriated it, just as many others have acquired their own franchise from the Niger Delta militants in the creeks where kidnapping for ransom was patented as business and as a profession. It has since been domesticated in every home and hamlet in all the nooks and crannies of the country. As it is now, Ozubulu may become another metaphor for societal complicity in the use and misuse of illicit wealth, cultism and a pernicious depravity in moral and religious values – It should not become another ill-wind that blows nobody any good.