Friday, 15 March 2013

Unlikely hero, unlikely country

Senator Ahmed Sani Yerima, the former two-term governor of Zamfara State, recently claimed in a radio chat show that the revolution in Egypt would be repeated here in Nigeria if INEC refused to register the supposed mega-party which has promised to unseat PDP come 2015. Alas, within minutes of the broadcast he was invited by the police to ‘clear the air on the statement he made’ although being a senator as opposed to an ‘ordinary’ Nigerian he was quickly released. We are still waiting for President Jonathan’s parrot to tell us the reason for this heavy-handedness by an administration which otherwise ‘follows the rule of law every step of the way’ but it is early days still. No doubt all will be explained in the website the parrot recently uploaded – President Jonathan visits Cȏte d’Ivoire, President Jonathan visits Borno State, President Jonathan visits the toilet - in a country where reading is a problem for most, never mind the extortionate prices ISPs charge for access to the internet.

The pity of it is that it should be this particular representative of a degenerate political class who should emerge the victim of what an opposition spokesperson dubbed the government’s incipient ‘fascism’. We recall that it was Yerima who caused a man’s right hand to be amputated for stealing a goat worth N5,000 when he became the first governor, post-military, to introduce Sharia law in a supposedly secular country; the same Yerima who, proceeding to the senate in order that he might make laws for the good governance of Nigeria, bought a thirteen-year-old Egyptian for $100,000 as his fourth wife in contravention of the Child Rights Act passed by the federal government he now legislates for. When questioned, he said that he followed the Koran ahead of the Constitution and that, in any case, Zamfara under his watch refused - and continues to refuse - to ratify the Act.

As for the charge of fascism, that is just so much hyperbole on the part of excitable politicians whose first Bill on reaching the National Assembly was to vote themselves salaries seven times that of their Swedish counterparts while quashing another Bill for a rudimentary social security system in a country awash with the petro-dollars they are so intent on stealing. As the whole world knows, Nigeria faces many challenges, not least the Islamic fundamentalists who recently executed seven expatriate workers they had previously kidnapped. Some observers are even predicting the collapse of the state itself come 2015, in which case the Egyptian revolution will indeed look like ‘a child’s play,’ as the same opposition spokesperson promised. In amongst all this, one might have imagined that the Nigeria Police Force, underpaid, understaffed and under-resourced had enough problems without wasting its time interrogating a senator for predicting what many hope will come to pass in the belief that anything must be better than what currently obtains.

The only lesson to be drawn from Yerima’s interrogation is Jonathan’s mounting obsession with 2015, as if the sole purpose of power was the perpetuation of itself by any means necessary. This is why we can safely infer that nothing much will happen in the interim: no running water, no electricity, no jobs for the ever-growing army of unemployed youths churned out by universities widely acknowledged to be little more than glorified high schools. As I remarked in a previous blog, the absence of an idea – any idea – that ‘you can set up, and bow down before, and offer sacrifice to’ is countered by said parrot’s assurance that Jonathan had done ‘something novel in Nigeria’s history,’ to wit: ‘He got the ministers to sign a performance contract, to state their key performance indicators. A ministerial appointment as the president has made clear is not an opportunity for you to come and moonlight.’ In other words, what is considered perfectly normal elsewhere, and hardly requiring a signature on a contract that is assumed as a matter of course, is a revolutionary event in Nigeria, and this from a previously respected newspaper columnist who claims to have a doctorate, but then so does his employer. No wonder the average Nigerian is sceptical about ‘you book people’ who spin the English they barely understand in order to flatter and deceive.

So it is that Yerima has emerged a hero of democracy but this is fitting in a way. As I also remarked in a previous blog, any pretence that the country’s civil society organisations might provide an alternative to the you-chop-I-chop mentality of those in power is belied by their evident reluctance to challenge the status quo in any meaningful way. Their notion of activism is a conference in a hotel in Abuja where papers are read, published and filed away. This doubtless pleases their American and European funders, who have thereby engaged the relevant ‘stakeholders’ in their desire to help move the nation forward, as if they cared one way or the other. And why should they? Only Nigerians can move Nigeria forward, a lesson the Egyptians learned – are, indeed, still learning – even as a Nigerian senator defiles one of their daughters in this latest version of the trans-Saharan slave trade.

Which leaves the matter of whether INEC will register the new mega-party that is to be the solution to our myriad problems.  Much has been made of Buhari’s quip to the effect that INEC has now merged with PDP but this is playing to the gallery. Jonathan’s own position as an accidental president with a limited constituency is far too precarious for him to contemplate any such thing, much less imagine that he can get away with it. Perhaps he already senses that his unlikely tenure at Aso Rock is even now slipping from his grasp, which is also why he has been sucking up to Baba despite the latter’s endlessly public – and endlessly tiresome – criticisms of his successor. As for the opposition, it merely suits them to cry wolf in their own desperation to get their hands on the loot.

© Adewale Maja-Pearce


  1. Preach it, Mr. Pearce. We're reading...


  2. Akin Caulcrick6 April 2013 at 14:11

    Abami don talk am say na "Dog eat Dog" Na the fattest bone be d contention! Pakam! Second base jare!!!