Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Who's Listening?

As Yawn'Adua prepares to obey a non-binding, fully reversible decision of the ICJ and hand over 300, 000 of his fellow countrymen to Cameroon in what will surely go down in Nigerian history as the most spineless decision ever taken by a President, one has to ponder what, exactly, are his motivations?

The military has said handing over Bakassi would place Nigeria at a serious strategic disadavantage, pointing out that our navy would need Cameroonian permission to enter Calabar, which is an economic hub. Moreover, the military high command has said Baba never consulted it on the strategic importance of Bakassi to Nigeria's territorial integrity. One would have expected the President to slam the brakes on the planned transfer in the light of such information. Yawn'Adua ignored his military advisers.

Legal luminaries have advised the President to appeal the ruling to the Security Council. Nigeria has played a massive role in ensuring peace in much of Africa, and has shouldered huge financial burdens for keeping UN Peacekeepers stationed in some hotspots. We could parlay this into sympathy for our cause, as nobody else can do what we do in Africa. Yawn'Adua ignored them too.

The National Assembly has protested the planned handover, telling the President that as the Green Tree Agreement signed between Baba and Paul Biya was never presented to it for ratification, the treaty is not binding on Nigeria and cannot have force. By international law, where a treaty must go through an internal process (ratification) before becoming valid, it remains invalid until it has gone through the required process. Yawn'Adua is either unaware of this rule (which is extremely unlikely) or has chosen to ignore it.

A Federal High Court has ruled that the handover must be suspended pending the determination of a suit filed before it by the indegenes of Bakassi. Yawn'Adua has, well, yawned at the Court, and in so doing, has also yawned at his "rule of law" jingle.

Bakassi is credited with holding hundreds of millions of barrels of crude oil, and billions of cubic metres of natural gas, making it a hugely important piece of Nigerian real estate. Yawn'Adua has ignored this fact as well.

And then, there are the people of Bakassi. They have said over and over again that they are Nigerians and not Cameroonians. They have told the government to ask the UN to conduct a plebiscite in the region, as the right of a people to self determination has long been acknowldeged as a fundamental right by the UN. Any plebiscite would surely result in the territory being declared Nigerian. They hold Nigerian passports, and vote in Nigerian elections. Yawn'Adua has ignored them too. And why not, when he knows that their votes don't count?

And this last, is perhaps the most criminal. As long as our rulers choose to ignore the legitimate aspirations of the people, and as long as the ordinary Nigerian continues to be treated as a faceless and voiceless entity, there can NEVER be any progress, and there can be no hope, and there can be no future for this country.

And as long as our rulers continue to put themselves and their selfish personal interests first, as long as they continue to close their eyes to the fact that it is in their best interests to see that there is equity and justice in the country, and as long as they continue to block their ears to the cries of pain and suffering emanating from the streets, there can be NO future for them.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Last Laugh

In the dying embers of Baba’s tenure-elongation scheme, he decided to do something to Nigerians for which he would never be forgotten.

It is well known that Baba does not forgive any slight, real or perceived, and the collective refusal of Nigerians to allow him turn himself into a life President was a major slap on his person. Afterall, was he not our (self-proclaimed) Messiah? Hadn’t he led us single-handed out of the dark era of military dictatorship? So, for us to disregard all that and proceed to tell him to leave when his 8 years were up proved we Nigerians were indeed a most ungrateful bunch of people. And our “elected” representatives were no better. Ken Nnamani, who he made Senate President over the objections of his colleagues turned round to stab him in the back by refusing to banish the television cameras of AIT from the Senate Chambers during the 3rd Term Debates. This act, allowing the debates to be broadcast live to all Nigerians, forced some of his most vociferous private supporters to become public detractors for fear of their family and property. And then, there were the utter bastards who took his bribes of cash, bought their official quarters at rates which make “knock-down” look like “mark-up” and then stood up and denounced his tenure elongation plan. Of course, they knew his hands were tied – he couldn’t ruddy well come out and accuse them of corruption and hand them over to the EFCC, he’d have to arrest himself too! Perish the thought. And then of course, there were the ordinary Nigerians, the ingrates who popped beer and jubilated at his failure. They were deserving of his most special ire. After all he had done for them, they couldn’t even allow him rule them for life. Surely the furies were watching his travails and would support him in his next course of action.

So, Baba declared that winning the 2007 Elections was a do-or-die affair. He then proceeded to orchestrate the most shambolic elections in the history of elections in the history of the world. International observers even said they were worse than when he gave himself a second term in office, and previously, Nigerians had considered those elections to be the height of farce. Baba showed us how completely wrong we were. As the utterly unacceptable results poured out of INEC, it seemed that surely there would be some unrest across the country.

However, Nigerians seemed wise to the fact that unrest would be a great excuse for Baba to declare a national state of emergency and use that as an excuse to remain in power. So we all kept quiet and allowed him do what he wanted.
However, his best parting shot was the man he chose to replace him in power. Having scoured the length and breadth of the country searching for a suitable replacement, he chose Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. And what a replacement he has been.

On taking office, he vowed to provide Nigerians with real leadership, and promised us a government that would respect the rule of law. He was even reported to have told off the leadership of the PDP when they argued against his planned government of national unity. For a few weeks, it looked like Nigerians would ultimately thank Baba for something afterall.
But we were wrong again. Baba had chosen his man well, a good-intentioned fellow who also happened to lack the cojones to see through any planned reforms to the system.

Little by little Yar’Adua succumbed to the pressures mounted on him from without to preserve the status quo. The Teachers’ Strike which he allowed to occur, and run for 5 weeks without check was straight out of Baba’s playbook. And when he intervened in the impeachment of the Adamawa State governor, it was clear that he had finally turned his government over to the dark side.
His foot-dragging on implementing the budget 8 months into the year can only be described as callous. He has also earned himself several unflattering nicknames such as “President Go-Slow”, “Yawn’Adua”, and “Umoru” which is the name Baba gave him while calling him during the “campaign” to ascertain whether he was alive or dead.

Now, Nigerians are seeing a truly rare phenomenon here – a lame-duck first-term President. We get bombarded daily by "7 Point Agenda" adverts on NTA, with little or no action on ground to back it up. Government has virtually stagnated, capital projects haven't taken off even though the year is all but gone. And to make things even worse for Yawn'Adua, some have begun grumbling that at least Baba's government had purpose (however misguided) and was visibly active (however pointless). Yawn'Adua's government appears totally comatose by comparison.

Nigerians expected positive action, and so far all we've gotten are a bunch of pointless probes, where the probers are so utterly terrified of pointing fingers in the proper direction that they would rather gloss over serious issues to chase shadows. For instance, the Power Probe found that Baba waived due process and ordered companies that didn't even exist paid in full. When they spoke of inviting him to appear, all he did was send them the huffiest letter imaginable, and they turned tail and ran. Next we heard they were recommending that the "companies" refund the money, but saying nothing about the man who made it possible for them to get it in the first place.

It looks for all the world like Baba is being treated as a sacred cow. Or chicken...

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I love my country, enjoy a cold beer once in a while, rabidly support Arsenal FC, but I don't get Diet Coke...