The Patient Nigerian

The Patient Nigerian
May 27 22:54 2016

By Moses Okpogode

[I]t is one year since President Muhammadu Buhari took office and all you hear these days is  the now usual call for patience from his fanatical ‘hailing hailers’ and spin doctors.  At the receiving end is the average Nigerian, battered and bruised by successive governments, his enduring shock absorbers and capacity to accept and tolerate delays, excuses and disappointments at their wits ends. Still, he trudges on without getting upset, holding on to the eternal hope “e go better one day.” He is tossed round and about by politicians and their cheerleaders who hang on high chairs, vilifying critics and political opponents alike, forgetting Nigeria is here for the long haul and not the few years of a particular administration.

The Nigerian has been the ultimate victim of misgovernance, arrogantly disregarded and treated with impunity. He is only courted in the run up to elections with unending promises after which he is discarded to the background where the politicians and their appointees feel he belongs. That has been our story for 55 years of nationhood. And that’s assuming what we operate is a true nation. The administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo told all the tales of decayed infrastructures, moribund refineries and even undertook turnaround maintenance services for a period of eight years. Yet, the refineries never worked and were sold off. There were promises of `uhuru’ with several plans and roadmaps that couldn’t find their ways out of summit meetings and workshops in the Obasanjo days. In pretending to provide power infrastructure, he undermined the people, especially those of the Niger Delta, citing power plants out of the region but proposed to run pipelines out of it to service the plants inlands. Now, the power stations are unable to operate because of gas pipeline vandalism. The reason for our perennial daily blackouts. There were unresolved issues in education and other sectors because to the ruling class, the average Nigerian’s patience seems inelastic.

Less could be said of the President Umaru Yar’Adua’s administration yet he achieved so much in his few months of stay in the Aso Rock Villa. He was not a preacher and within the short period before his health failed him, he took care of the problem that could have messed up his administration; the militancy in the Niger delta. Without a bullet fired into the air, he resolved the agitation of the militants, initiating the amnesty programme, a legacy that has not been challenged in the six years since his death. He was known for fewer promises and only approved contracts that the budget guaranteed cash backings. He joked a lot about the weekly federal executive council meetings approval on contracts. He will tell his cabinet ministers that while the council members sit to determine, access and approve work, it is only the president that is called to task when they fail. He was never comfortable with the principle of collective responsibility but of no collective blame. Nigerians were patient with him when he became bedridden and incapacitated to do the job that he was elected for. We all prayed for him.

After him came the bride of the Niger deltans, a man who ascended the presidency under circumstances that are now known as doctrine of necessity.  President Goodluck Jonathan’s days were turbulent so he called for patience. He was taken as a political underdog because he is not from one of the big three ethnic groups, his reign was undermined from many quarters. He was haunted and taunted by all, politicians, party and polity alike. His troubles started when nature bestowed on him an opportunity to serve his people as president. He saw it all but felt there was always time to accomplish his dreams that looked his; alone. The rest is history. Some now liken his reign to the days of President Shehu Shagari when politicians were jailed for corruption. His reign though with a fine face had been enmeshed in the current ‘single upload’ of this administration; corruption. Every success of the regime has been drowned in the background, covered with the thick blackness of the corruption tar.

Alas it is been a year since the peoples government, the supposedly most accepted change administration came to power. Not much of the old song of patience but a rude and overbearing reference to our past and our tempered growth is heard everywhere. Shirking responsibility for anything but pointing accusing fingers at all that has been bad and not those that could be fixed. Alas we are patient. In the last 12 months inflation has climbed to 13.7 percent, a six-year high. Still, we remain calm about it. Our children have been indirectly stopped from schooling abroad over strict policies of the government on foreign exchange, we are patient. Several Nigerians have been pushed out of jobs, we are not complaining. There has been incessant power outage despite promises of quick fixes. We have kept mute. Electricity tariffs have been increased by about 50 percent in the past one year with the blackouts even far worse now. Our mouths have remained sealed. Petrol price has increased by over 60 percent, still, we are unruffled.  We can’t even buy tomato, yet we are uncomplaining. Patience has become a compulsive option so we are not marked out as `wailing wailers’ or worse, picked up by our dark goggled friends known as secret police by the United States.

But there are other people that are no longer that patient for the total disregards for their people. They have been ignored for decades, cheated, deprived with their people vilified till this day. These are the people of the delta. A former president and general woke up about 13 years ago and killed the people of Odi on the same circumstances that seem to be playing out today. For the sins of the Niger Delta Avenger, every Ijaw man is treated with disdain and as a suspect. His privileges and rights are denied and even looked down on in the society he calls his own, even when he exhibits a higher level of patriotism than his contemporaries. He is presumed to be a rebel despite sharing oil well from his backyard amongst people who now brag about the wealth acquired through those allocations on Forbes without complaining. He reads of how people become rich in millions of dollars because they had oil allocation while he paddles canoe into the same village where the black gold is drilled. Others donate whole blocks to universities in America with the proceeds from oil blocks to further scorn the Niger Deltan living in squalor.

There is no greater corruption than maintaining the regime of oil block allocation to a few individuals to the detriment of the livelihood of the Niger Deltan and the generality of Nigerians for one more year and feel all can be well in a change situation. It is not well down here in the Niger delta especially with the influx of ‘okobo kobos’ manhandling our men and women in the past one year of change administration to gag the people while the mainstay of the nation’s economy is exploited without any social responsibility programmes for the people of the region.

Twitter: @MOkpogode