Adejoh Idoko Momoh
It was Benjamin Franklin who said ‘those who would give up essential liberty for temporary security deserve neither’. The difficulty is, in Nigeria we have neither.
We attempted to take back some liberty we long gave away in the face of security challenges when at one of its highest points in 2012, the National Assembly enacted the Freedom of Information Act. The bill got Presidential Assent, but the FOI like many other Nigerian Bills that probably died before their arrival, has done no good as regards accountability.
For news followers, the civil society group S.E.R.A.P (Socio Economic Rights Accountability Project) dominated the news cycle last year when it tried to invoke provisions of the bill and compel President Jonathan to declare his assets, but like he authoritatively said to millions of Nigerians via a media chat, he “didn’t give a damn” in 2009 when former President Yaradua forced him to declare his assets, and he still doesn’t give a damn now. And as it appears, the FOI may support his stance; why else would the matter simply be forgotten?
A People United…. By Insecurity and Suffering
Whenever talk of Nigeria’s divides across ethnic or religious lines are raised, the National Orientation Agency or the Ministry of Information would start a winded sermon about how our 160 million or so population, 250 ethnic groups who amongst themselves speak 4000 dialects is Nigeria’s main resource, and this is true. Even nations half as populated as Nigeria put their human capital to much better use.
The thing is, if the government cannot guarantee security or the right to basic amenities, human capital cannot be put too much use. Look at the number of accidents on our roads, and you would begin to understand this government’s attitude to human capital: expendable.
In January 2012, during the ‘Occupy Nigeria’ protests, there were 3 reported deaths. The trend continued and there was hardly any month in 2012 without deaths: March saw the military chopper crash that killed DIG Haruna John. The low point of the year was in June when about 153 people lost their lives in a DANA crash. October saw 4 promising UNIPORT students gruesomely killed, and then to round off the year, General Azazi and Governor Yakowa were amongst 6 people who died in a naval chopper crash. When you include the mindless Boko Haram killings, road accidents and political assassinations in the equation, we truly start to see a picture of how bad things have gotten.
Sadder is the fact that these deaths occur and no one is held responsible for them. As is typical of a people that are too relaxed to pursue justice, investigations into these killings are handed over to God and swept under the rug.
In spite of the fact that in 2012, Nigeria was no closer to achieving the Universal Basic Education - Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target, the Professor Ruqayyat Rufai headed Ministry of Education introduced the Almajiri system of education to hopefully, cater for more than 9.5 million children of Northern extraction who are forced to engage in begging for their daily bread, and that of their sponsors. As was expected, Nigerians lauded the system; the few who had objections only asked why these students could not be enrolled in normal schools and why they had to have the Almajiri label? Could Almajiri schools be grooming a string of Boko Haram insurgents?
As good as this was, most people argued that this is perhaps Nigeria’s biggest issue, not solving a problem from the root cause. Case in point, if about 10 million of these children are catered for, would another 10 million not spring up? Are the issues of population growth, family planning, poverty not the root causes of the Almajiri phenomenon?
In June 2012, at the peak of Boko Haram insurgencies in Kaduna and Kano states, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan decided to proceed for the Rio+20 summit in Brazil, rather than attend to the insecurity and death that ravaged Nigeria like a plague.
He later justified the trip in a media chat where he said ‘the moment the international community realizes that the President of Nigeria cannot travel because of Boko haram, then this nation is in trouble’. What he did not know at the time was that the nation was indeed in trouble. Perhaps, the situation was even more worrisome than he thought.
He would later admit through his spokesman, Labaran Maku that he could not visit Maiduguri because of the security risks such a trip would pose.
Towards the end of the year, Enugu State’s Sullivan Chime travelled abroad on the 18th September. Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross River state also proceeded on ‘2 months accumulated leave’. Little has been heard of the both of them ever since they left.
2012 was truly a remarkable year, if only because Nigerians survived so much hardship and still are content enough to hope for a brighter future. It is the collective expectation that in 2013, Nigeria under President Jonathan’s leadership would see things get better. But no one seems to be betting on it.