2006: The Year in Review

by Michael Oluwagbemi II

How time flies. It is already the twelfth month of the year 2006; in the country called Nigeria, and in the lives of her inhabitants called Nigerians this has been an exceptional year in political and socio-economic terms. The year represents perhaps the last beachhead that needed to be crossed, the last month before birth, the last bridge before the destination – on our road to either full blown democracy or national crisis. It has been an interesting ride – sometimes filled with great joy, other times filled with shame and disappointment. All in all, a year like 2006 is unavoidable in the growing pains of a more prosperous nation that we all seek to leave behind for the next generation.

The year started in full speed with the gladiators of the third term agenda. It was an agenda hatched and babied at Aso Rock. Never in the history of our country have the powers that be and the common man staked out diametrically opposite positions on such a vital subject as our national destiny. In one camp were those who believed in the divinity of kings and equating the elected leader of our nation to such divine lines of rulers – who should carry on. They peppered us with theories of continuity; they stoked our fears of the unknown and even said that no one amongst the 120 million people that inhabited our country can do it other than their man. Fast forward four months later, the people prevailed. For the first time in the history of our nation, the voice of the people was heard loud and clear. No to third term, became no to shenanigans and idiocy. This victory boosted the morale of the common man as far as analyst were concerned- at least for once it showed we are not all robots of one man or some men playing kalo-kalo with our collective livelihood. Suddenly at the end of the year it appears twenty or more people can fill the shoes of their man after all. Haba!

But the aftermath of the third term hurricane have been nothing short of a cool breeze. It has been a gale of domino effect, shattering the corrupt arrangements of the political elite. Impeachment, cheque bombs, late night house of assembly proceedings, state of emergencies, sedition, unsolicited gifts, as well as EFCC are terms jostling for place in the primetime of political lexicons in our country. I am sure you my readers would be able to add to this list. There is no gain saying in the fact that these terms were products of the vindictive forces that swung to action following the huge blow of the defeat of the third term agenda. In the process, the rule of law have been trashed, one men legislative body became the order of the day, one illiterate garrison command became the fashionable machinery of government, court orders were reduced to stuff of beer parlor joke while the rule of convenience and men was elevated to an enterprise of state power. In the process, principles were thrown to the wind, consciences were bartered for momentary political advantage and even the most righteous was compromised in the fight between two evils. The best one can do in these circumstances is perhaps to siddon look.

For the assassins and political killers in our midst, this has not been a year of siddon look. Their services have been earnestly sought and grapevine sources have since confirmed that it is now a “killer’s market” in their industry. Gone are the days where you could hire these bloody hands for one in a dime- they get paid in dollars and pounds sterling to carry out their heinous tasks and make no mistake about it, the pay is good at least for the gang leaders. It was first the quintessential gentleman and politician, a partaker of the feast in the nest of killers popularly known as PDP- who was slaughtered in his prime as he positioned himself as frontrunner candidate in the Lagos Gubernatorial elections. In quick succession Dr. Daramola in Ekiti quickly followed, so did the AC chieftain in the Middle Belt slaughtered and whose bloodied body parts were left for his disenchanted wife. Today in Nigeria, the easiest way any married men who wants out of a marriage can get divorce is to tell his wife he is running for political office. Wives are not taking any chances- who want to be an overnight widow? Not me. Again, ours is a funny country- we love it and hate it the same time. While some are crying to leave the arrangement, we were united in condemning the ceding of Bakassi painfully taken in by Cameroon this year. You would think Nigerians would apply the same love in the way we handle our treasury, use our public utilities and honor the name of our father in foreign lands.

The year of 2006 would also go down as a year of deal making in our country. First it was the IBB front company (i.e. Globacom) parent company that was buying some Indian firm. This was a first in the history of our country. Global merger and acquisition was heating up the investment space. The other huge deal with the Indians was the sale by Danjuma’s paper company of a huge stake in an oil bloc for reportedly millions of cold hard dollars. While all these were going on , our national inheritance were being put on the block for sale by the innocuously named Bureau of Public Enterprise and oil blocs credited to the connected and wealthy. Next it was Celtel paying huge for V-Mobile after other suitors had jumped ship on this enterprise that never seem to be able to get its feet off the ground courtesy of a disorganized management and poor ownership structure. First it was Econet, next it was Vodacom Nigeria, then V-Mobile; God knows I was expecting something like INEC Mobile to come up next before Celtel showed up on the scene to finally assure us that it was not the disorganized Professor Iwu or his National Population Counterpart that ran or owned the company. A year of bungled national programs certainly: how else can you explain that we can neither register nor count ourselves; and Obasanjo wants me to believe that he is not inept?

The biggest deal of the year of course was the Transcorp deal- that stuff can only be contrived in Otta and I shall leave Obasanjo Farms with the singular honor of brokering such a blind deal. The other big deal in pure monetary terms is actually ongoing- it is the Initial Public Offer of shares in Dangote Sugar Company. The deal prices the stake of Alhaji Dangote in the company at nearly 1.5 billion dollars, with about a third being offered to the public. This definitely puts this behind the scene businessman cum political financier as the first verifiable billionaire in dollar terms from Nigeria. Remember, Dangote Sugar is just one of his many companies in the Dangote group. Hence, you heard it here first: Dangote is a billionaire. I hope Forbes Magazine and Fortune are listening.Forget about the CNN program and the hoopla by ABC’s 20/20, another Nigerian residing in Houston is also sitting on cold “legitimate” cash.

In 2006 bloodbath and kidnappings continued in the Niger Delta. Years of injustice continued, while armed gangs continued to hold the common man in these areas hostage while the thieving leaders of their communities and our national leaders in Abuja and their families escape the direct brunt of this jungle justice. Time will tell how this crisis will be resolved. Planes crashed, “dignitaries” died; East-West road between Benin and Ore collapsed and is currently impassable and please can someone just wake me up and say it is just a bad dream?All in all, I wish this year can be remembered as a tale of two Charles: one tried to escape from our national borders, the other came back to the warm embrace of his favorite sub-Saharan partner in Kano. In 2006, illegalities have been elevated to the rule of law- and of course would go down as the year where ordinary party chairman can declare an elective post vacant- only in Obasanjo’s Nigeria. What a country and someone says this Nigeria won’t ever be great? You must be kidding me! Have a blessed Holiday.

This work is dedicated to the hard fighting and loyal officers of the Nigerian Armed Forces especial

ly the brilliant officers who died in the plane crash and lost their lives in the process of reengineering the much battered national fighting force. Your Labors are not in Vain. Adieu.

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