In 1984, when Major General Muhammadu Buhari was military head of state, there was a television commercial featuring a character called Andrew. Frustrated by the hardship and lack of basic amenities like power, roads and water, Andrew wanted to leave Nigeria for greener pastures abroad. “I’m checking out,” he would say. But he was urged to stay back, that Nigeria would survive.
The TV commercial turned Andrew, acted by the late Enebeli Elebuwa, into a star. It was such that whenever anyone experienced some frustrations about life in Nigeria then, what usually followed was, “I’m checking out.”
Ironically, we never knew that those were the glorious days of Nigeria. We never knew that yesterday would be better than today. We never knew that Nigeria would get to a point where it would be ranked among the most terrorized countries in the world.
Today, with the same Buhari as civilian President, the number of those who wish to check out has increased dramatically. The 2021 Nigeria Social Cohesion Survey indicates that over seven in 10 Nigerians (73 per cent) will relocate abroad with family members at the slightest opportunity. This is far higher than the number (32 per cent) willing to relocate in 2019. The survey, a publication of the Africa Polling Institute (API), further notes that there is a decline in how proud citizens feel about Nigeria. Also, the proportion of Nigerians who feel disappointed in the country increased from 30 per cent in 2019 to 49 per cent in 2021.
According to the social cohesion survey, the above scenario may have been engendered by the substantial decline in the level of trust citizens have for the current government. In 2019, 42 per cent of the citizens said they had some trust in Buhari. This year, only about 26 per cent of the people said they trusted him.
This trust deficit is also manifest in the National Assembly (22 per cent), the Nigeria Police (22 per cent) and the judicial system. In 2019, for instance, 32 per cent of the people expressed some trust in the judiciary. Today, it has declined to 26 per cent.
Our courts are supposed to be the temple of justice, the last hope of the aggrieved. But, today, they are gradually becoming the last hope of the oppressors. These days, if one fails to win an election, one doesn’t need to worry, as long as one has the money and the right connections. Look at what happened in the recent Anambra governorship primaries of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Some of those who never contested the primaries went as far as Jigawa and Imo states to procure judgments installing them as authentic candidates of their parties.
We thank God for the Appeal Court, which came to the rescue. Justice Chioma Nwosu-Iheme of the Court of Appeal, Awka Division, slammed Justices Musa Ubale of the Jigawa High Court and B.C. Iheka of the Imo State High Court for contravening the Supreme Court warning against flouting territorial jurisdictions. She recommended serious sanctions against them.
True, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, has summoned the Chief Judges of Anambra, Cross River, Imo, Jigawa, Kebbi and Rivers – the six states where courts of coordinate jurisdictions recently gave contradictory orders. True, the National Judicial Council had sanctioned some errant judges in the past, but how clean is the current CJN who will sit in judgment over these errant judges? Was his emergence as the CJN, after the unceremonious removal of Walter Onnoghen, in accordance with the principles of justice and fair play?
Don’t bother about getting a clear answer because ours has become a nation where the more you look, the less you see. The other day, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, submitted the forensic audit report of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to President Buhari through the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami. As expected, the report was not salutary. Over 13,000 projects were abandoned in the Niger Delta despite billions of naira collected for such projects since the creation of the commission. We have been fighting the war against corruption since God knows when. But the more we fight, the more the malady fights back.
It is saddening that politicians and their cronies swim in opulence while professionals like doctors and lecturers drown in penury. The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has been on strike. The government entered into some agreements with them but it is in the habit of breaching such agreements. Do you blame the doctors if they queue in Saudi Arabia or Canadian embassies to obtain visas to relocate?
Do you blame the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for threatening another strike even when its members are struggling to meet up with the academic calendar after the last strike that lasted for one academic session?
Do you blame the governor of Katsina State, Aminu Bello Masari, who recently urged citizens to arm themselves against attacks by bandits who have made life unbearable for many Nigerians? Just last week, 73 schoolchildren from Government Day Secondary School, Kaya, Zamfara State, became the latest victims in the lucrative business of kidnapping in Nigeria. Over 1,100 Nigerian children have suffered this fate since December last year. No one knows who the next victim would be.
If you escape bandits on the expressway, chances are that you may not escape them inside the city. I was driving along Gbagada-Oshodi Road, Lagos, on the morning of last Thursday. It was drizzling and there was traffic. A group of young men numbering about four were moving from car to car asking for money. The luck we had that day was that they were not violent.
Some other motorists may not be that lucky. Once you are trapped in such traffic in a place like Lagos, be prepared for any eventuality. Many have lost valuable property like phones, laptops and money in such situations. Some others have even lost their lives.
Security agents meant to protect us from these criminals are not better. The level of extortion is unbearable. You will understand this more if you travel to the East from Lagos, especially on weekends. Almost every 200 metres, one is bound to encounter security men on checkpoint duty on Lagos-Benin Expressway. Woe betides whoever fails to ‘scratch’ their hands. You are delayed, harassed or sometimes even killed. The #EndSARS protests of last year, which was against police brutality, seem to have yielded little or no dividend.
The fact is, a leopard cannot change its spots. We have a government that promised change but cannot change from its rigidity. It has continued to promote sectional cleavages. And never in our history have Nigerians been so divided along ethnic lines. Separatist agitations have reached a fever pitch. And we busy ourselves fighting over open grazing and the general welfare of cows.
As I mark my 53 years on earth today, I have no urge to leave Nigeria anymore. But I pray we meet the nation intact by 2023 when another administration is bound to take over. President Buhari still has roughly two years to make amends. Since he is now conscious of not leaving office as a failure, he should redeem his image by putting machinery in motion towards restructuring the nation. That will be the springboard for achieving unity and peace in this country. And that will bring back the spirit of those who desperately desire to check out of Nigeria.
By Casmir Igbokwe
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