Au Nom Du Peuple (Bienvenue 2017!)

Permit me, ladies and gentlemen, to commence this commentary by expressing my warm greetings to the people of the world as we enter the new year, one pregnant with hope, opportunities and possibilities. 2016 was a difficult year in terms of good or bad tidings, tragedies, conflicts in the world and the accentuation of poverty but 2017 may well be different. We can only hope and pray for the best this year. As we march towards the advancement of the global village making steady effort and progress to make same a better place to live in for us and the future generation our everyday supplication to the higher powers above is to strengthen us spiritually and physically for the battle that announces itself as one capable of sapping our collective morale and challenging our resolve to triumph in the face of multiple attempts at degeneration of values hitherto held sacrosanct.

The major events of 2016 included the American presidential poll that saw the unpredictable victory of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton. The terrorist attacks in different cities and countries including Grand Bassam in Cote d’Ivoire, Paris and Nice in France, Berlin in Germany, Istanbul in Turkey. The raging war in Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan etc. The British referendum that gave a resounding approval for Brexit. The presidential election in The Gambia that saw the electoral routing of the demented dictator Yahya Jammeh by the opposition led by Adama Barrow. The alleged capture by the Nigerian armed forces of the notorious Sambisa Forest in Borno State. The Super Falcons winning the African female football championship at the expense of the host nation (Cameroun) only for our red-berret wearing Sports Minister to inform us (comically perhaps) that the government was not expecting the soccer amazons to win hence the lack of planning or preparation for their bonuses and gratuities! He even added “spended” to our grammar lexicon!

Nigerians are deeply religious. If not for the prayers of the faithful this abused nation some critics have described as a large zoo or open prison would have collapsed by now given the fiscal bleeding it has suffered from mindless looting of her resources and unpatriotism from administrative quarters. We are witnesses to happenings in our body polity where democracy is daily preached to the populace by the ruling elite only for them to exhibit their collective incompetence and lack of will to exploit judiciously the natural resources at our disposal and the energy of the youth towards national greatness. No nation ignores the teeming potentials of its youth and expects to achieve great things. When unemployment remains unchecked, crimes unpunished, corruption untamed the prospects of greater tomorrow are compromised on the alter of negligence and/or visionlessness.

In this new year 2017 we are faced with few options: do the right thing and reap the dividends of democracy or maintain the status quo of political patronage and favouritism and remain stuck in the mud of underdevelopment. Things ought to be done differently if we hope to achieve a different result this year. Corruption must be fought fairly and decidedly. Security must be guaranteed for the people and investors. The people themselves must be given sound answers to their daily challenges of economic survival. And social solidarity must be seen to be coming from those we entrusted with powers at various levels. We are a people that has failed over generations to manifest love for one another. Mutual suspicion kills national dreams and reduces our capacity, in unity, to push our nation skywards.

God has been kind to us by depositing large swathes of oil in the Niger Delta, coal in the east, solid minerals in the south-west, groundnuts in the north. All we need to do as a matter of national duty is to harness these natural resources to bring about the suspended greatness. When you add the force of our population to the mix then the Supreme Being must not be blamed for the fate that has befallen us year in year out. We are the architects of our national misfortune! With little patriotism and selflessness it is possible for us to halt the national fiscal hemorrhage. It could start with the kind of strong leadership we have right now at the centre.

In Paris few years ago I remember encountering a Yoruba brother from the south-west in a night club and after some banters he told me without any reservation that he would no longer return to the hell that was home until a revolution occurred or the new generation took the mantle of leadership from the old brigade. He declared that he had since gotten married to a French lady and thus obtained his citizenship so he cared less about odd happenings back home. For him there was no difference between the then Jonathan presidency and the past administrations. He told me Nigerians were cowards mouthing change of the system but doing nothing to bring about the change desired and deserved. I left the night blissful outing with another perspective of the ebbing Nigerianness of some Nigerians, especially some of us in the Diaspora.

In December 2004 I had gone home to see my aged mother and celebrate the Yuletide and new year in the village of my birth with my siblings and friends. Sadly the mother of a relative in the same village had kicked the bucket few weeks before Xmas and her burial was fixed for 27th of the month. We all grieved for the good woman whose last son was based in Germany. When the son was called on the phone in my presence he was shedding tears and telling us that he could not make the trip because his wife and children were refusing to come with him! The German lady and her children objected to the visit saying that they were not ready to rumble in the big jungle that was Africa! Besides, the glorified husband who had obtained his green card in Dusseldorf by his marriage to the white lady claimed he could run into problems concerning his return back to Germany after the burial! We saw reason with him and consoled him. But many villagers never understood why and how he failed to witness the last earthly journey of a woman who never saw him again decades after his voyage across the Atlantic.

Many people based outside the shores of Nigeria are home-sick but when they hear or read through the news networks or social media events in Nigeria discouragement and disappointment or even fear of the unknown takes precedence over any family affinity or nativity. The dwindling infrastructural fortunes of Nigeria constitute the greatest challenge for anyone who have lived long enough abroad upon return back home. If you return with a bag of money then things could be done easily but when you are not armed with enough cash then frustration at every turn becomes your daily staple. Besides, negative news about home has some impact on how we see home-coming.

Au nom du peuple (In the name of the people) we demand accountability from the government and ask for people-oriented policies and programmes that would transform lives and change stories for good. It is not enough to pray! It is not enough to offer promises. Talk is cheap and anyone could involve themselves in same. Work is the key to national development or self-actualisation!. God is for all peoples and all nations — whether He is called Jehovah, or Oluwa or Chineke or Allah or whatever– He remains infinitely one and only one! If a godless society like Japan could be ranked among the developed tech nations in the world then a God-loving or Allah-loving nation like ours ought to shine to His glory!

Corruption has rendered majority of our people (especially politicians) lazy and parasites. They steal the national wealth with impunity and tell the rest of us to go to hell! If not for the EFCC and ICPC maybe the nation would have collapsed economically by now. It is trite but true to say that corruption alone constitutes the major challenge in our elusive search for national transformation. But the current effort by the present administration to punish corruption and the corrupt irrespective of class or tribe must be lauded. If Buhari can win the declared war against corruption then his government must be judged to have succeeded. Otherwise every other thing would end up like it was before his celebrated second coming.

However, the spirit of the new year ought to interrogate our collective conscience and question our will to build a new better nation all of us would be proud of to call home. Like the Singaporeans, Americans, French and English, the Russians and the Italians we should identify proudly with our nation for we are great like them potentially speaking. These aforementioned great nations do not have the natural resources Nigeria have yet we are still lagging behind. Leadership is all it takes to give life to any comatose society. Yes, it is all about leadership, brothers and sisters! With a good visionary leadership no national mountain could be said to be too high to surmount. Singaporeans remember the late Lee Kuan Yew as Ivorians, closer home, remember fondly the late Felix Houphouet-Boigny.

Au nom du peuple we ask that the armed forces should stop killing innocent civilians just for expressing their dissent for whatever reason. In the name of the people, the owners of this democracy, we demand full disclosure on the killings, be they in Zaria, Igboland or Niger Delta. Au nom du peuple we are asking for equity in the appointments into the federal government agencies and parastatals. In the name of the people we ask that the Daura mafians holding the Buhari presidency hostage (or so it seems or so the First Lady claimed in the famous BBC Hausa service interview) should liberate their executive captive for him to be free to fulfill the promise of change to our suffering people.

In the name of the people let education be free for all at all levels. An illiterate or ignorant population cannot be said to be part of the modern world. Education can help immensely in the releasing of the people’s potentials for greatness. Education remains the key to unlocking the hidden and buried talents that abound in the nation. With educational priorities set right nations have realised their full potentials. Let their be light au nom de peuple. A nation in perpetual darkness cannot conquer the evil spirits hovering above! On the other hand however, a nation lit up by electricity sees clearly the future and works hard to achieve new great things.

In the name of the people let there be good roads across the federation. A nation whose population are constantly reduced through avoidable road accidents ought to be ashamed of itself. With good roads people should be happy moving around and about. Let there be pipe-borne water everywhere. A waterless society cannot produce the healthy workforce needed to service the developmental machine. Let there be quality houses for the people. A nation boasting of many homeless and hopeless people cannot possibly reach for the sky. With compatriots sleeping rough on the streets and living generally rough then life can only be short, brutish and nasty!

Au nom du peuple we demand that the new year should see the reinvigoration of efforts to rout corruption and Boko Haram. In the name of the people let democracy dividends start manifesting themselves in the lives of the miserable Nigerians. For these are the people that matter; they are those on whose behalf we speak! Long live the Nigerian federation!! And happy and prosperous new year to all and sundry.

Bienvenue donc 2017! (Welcome 2017!) 2017, we cuddle thee with excitement and expectations. Peace to all!

Written by
SOC Okenwa
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