'Hammering' and 'Hummering' Nigeriana

by SOC Okenwa

For the past three weeks I was navigating the big modern jungle that is Nigeria in form of ‘holiday’. Even against my wife’s mild opposition to the home-coming (she is not a Nigerian) based on generalised insecurity of lives and properties I decided to visit home to see my brothers, sisters, extended family members and friends and foes alike. As a Nigerian I believe nothing or nobody should stop one, a patriot desirous of his nation’s true greatness, from visiting home to see things for himself. It was a ‘successful’ trip, of course, as I came back ‘alive’, hale and hearty, to my station few days ago to my wife’s utter happiness! Before I left my location few days after Christmas my pastor had insisted on praying for me and committing my life and the journey to God. And as I arrived Lagos and checked into a hotel I thanked the Maker of man for His faithfulness.

The next day I moved down to Benin City where my sister and her family are based. And from the ‘Heartbeat of the Nation’ on new year day down to Ihiala (my hometown in Anambra State) where I wined and dined with elders and siblings and friends. I spent about one week in the village attending one social event or the other or simply relaxing under a tree playing ‘Whot’ with some village folks and drinking fresh palm-wine mixed with stout and eating peppersoup delicacy prepared by my elder sister. And from Ihiala I moved over to Port Harcourt to see a friend and from there back to Benin City and Lagos for the return journey.

It was while in Benin City that I read online about the unwarranted molestation, arrest and detention of SaharaReporters crew led by Comrade Omoyele Sowore on a new year’s eve in the Mountain of Fire and Miracles church camp along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. According to the report the Saharareporters publisher was discreetly in Lagos to do some reports for his online media organisation. But soon after they were allowed in upon introduction of working identity papers Mr Sowore who was holding a camera and filming proceedings in the night new year cross-over programme was pounced on by the church thugs and other conventional and unconventional security men. In the end the Saharareporters team were detained for hours in the church’s illegal detention room where some local ‘suspects’ were reportedly held.

The church media team had since joined issues with Saharareporters alleging that Sowore and his crew were never accredited officially for the religious event but were allowed in nonetheless. But on seeing that they were getting very close to the ‘General Overseer’ Dr. Daniel K. Olukoya the security men intervened to put a stop to such proximity to the pulpit. The Ministry defensively made some allusion to the security challenges the country is currently facing indirectly reminding us all about Boko Haram terrorist organisation and their church bombing missions. Well, the truth is that whether accredited or not Sowore should have been allowed, on recognition of self, to do his job unmolested.

While in Benin City as well I watched on ITV (owned by the billionaire Gabriel Igbinedion) the Tribunal verdict concerning Comrade-Governor Adams Oshiomhole and his defeated rival Maj.-Gen. Charles Airhiavbere (retd). (The tribunal had postponed the final ruling indefinitely). But the Supreme Court ruled days later in Oshiomhole’s favour dismissing the case challenging his landslide victory in the July 14, 2012 gubernatorial election. That the Comrade floored the retired army man in the apex court may not be enough to put the matter to rest however.

The primary argument of the PDP opposition candidate in the Tribunal was that the Comrade never went to primary school nor did not produce the original certified copy of his first school leaving certificate! Wonders shall never end in ‘Naija’. You mean Comrade Oshiomhole doesn’t possess his primary school certificate or what? So he must have dropped out of primary school or didn’t attend any at all? How come he was able to go through some tertiary institutions? The Comrade doesn’t look to me as an illiterate or someone desperate for power as to forge any certificate or commit perjury! As the man of the people said himself recently: “my people have even been saying if a man who didn’t attend school can think and act the way I do, then, may be we should abolish education.”

Moments after the ITV report about the retired Army General challenging the Edo state Governor’s guber qualifications in the Tribunal Governor Oshiomhole was shown inspecting some on-going projects in the New Benin area of Benin City. There he was, looking undaunted, in his traditional Khaki dress taking notes, giving instructions and waving to the enthusiastic crowd of his poor supporters swelling around him and his entourage! The peoples’ governor is at work and no one should try to discourage him in his avowed task of providing quality leadership tailored towards improving the lot of the downtrodden. The Governor is, no doubt, achieving his objectives of service delivery to his state.

But later in the evening I was in a bar drinking with a former UNIBEN lecturer (now a proprietor of a high school in Benin City) and debating the issue with him. An anti-Oshiomhole the old teacher made it clear that Gen. Airhiavbere had a good case insisting that had the Comrade possessed the primary school leaving certificate (which remained the core issue at stake) he would have since made a ‘show’ of it as a man of propaganda by photocopying millions and causing them to be distributed on the streets of Benin and other towns in Edo state. He berated the executive expert in verbal assault for his pro-people “showmanship” arguing forcefully that he thrived on exaggerating facts and figures.

He claimed wildly that the Governor had, through the reverred Oba of Benin, been “begging” the General and negotiating a “deal” with him! The radical ex-don was of the opinion that in the event of the diminutive Comrade failing to prove otherwise the prayer of his rival in court then he should be relieved of his functions no matter how populist his government, how popular he is or how effective he has been as governor. Well, I agreed with him on this last point because whoever comes to equity must come with clean hands!

But beyond the case and whatever the final verdict the Tribunal might reach what is evidently clear is that even the enemies and detractors of “Oshio Baba” have all acknowledged in Benin City and elsewhere around the country he has been a performing Governor whose steady transformation of Edo state is very visible everywhere. Comrade Oshiomhole has succeeded in building a strong goodwill of the people based on unprecedented performance record. We have few progressive Governors like him in Nigeria in general: Peter Obi of Anambra, Raji Fashola of Lagos, Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom, Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers, Sule Lamido of Adamawa, and Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti.

Nigeria, from few indications, is improving indeed economically and socially. But politically she is trapped still in a vicious cycle of godfatherism and mediocrity, especially at the federal level with a sitting President whose incompetence and cluelessness ring a bell! The opposition is presented yet another golden opportunity, come 2015, to oust the PDP from executive power in Abuja by uniting their forces and eschewing any form of selfishness and bitterness. One believes the current internal wranglings and power play tearing the ruling PDP apart should be maximally exploited by the opposition to hand the behemoth a resounding defeat in the presidential poll few years away.

Power generation and distribution has indeed improved as one witnessed in some places one went to. But noise pollution by generators still constituted a big health problems confronting Nigerians. Churches everywhere with loud speakers with little or no moral ethical impact on the lives of the faithfuls. There was still manifest confusion on the streets with fear of the unknown stalking many homes. Law enforcement still rem

ained a thing of brutal force with outdated methods and intimidating tactics. However, economic activities were happening with breathtaking speed and ever-expanding scope. Nigerians were doing daily street battles to overcome the poverty the politicians are imposing on them with their visionless policies.

When you looked around there is no social security, no pro-people measures and schemes aimed at ameliorating the plights of our suffering compatriots. Self-help was the accepted rule of engagement! To mitigate the effects of daily challenges of living many were engaging themselves in one venture or activity or the other. And those who failed to find their place in the scheme of things simply settled for armed robbery, kidnapping and terrorism! A glance through newspaper headlines revealed the fears people went through as violent incidents and accidents competed with little good news in the local press.

But Nigerians are formidable people with can-do spirit and positive attitude of individual survival. You see new houses being built, new companies being opened and new cars being bought. The major problem however remains that while new vehicles flooded the country from within and without there are no good roads to use them on. I spent hours along the Benin-Ore expressway on my way to Lagos as some portions of the road had worn out. You see people sweating and others silently ‘cursing’ our leaders for their short-sightedness, purposelessness and wickedness.

Yet the positive news is that more and more Nigerians are ‘liberating’ themselves from the clutches of poverty and joining the middle or upper class. Yes, people are ‘hammering’ and ‘hummering’! An old friend of mine in Benin City who bought a hummer jeep met me up pleasantly as I walked out of a bank along Mission Road and a friendly conversation began in earnest. “Old boy long time no see but I’ve been reading you online. You had some hard views on the situation back home and I appreciate your takes” — he said smiling. Continuing he declared that he had “hammered” with a hummer jeep as the ‘reward’!

And when I enquired ‘ignorantly’ about “hammer” and “hummer” he took me to a near-by restaurant where he ordered for some refreshment enlightening me about ‘hammer’ (making it big) and ‘hummer’ (vehicular bragging proof of success). In Nigeria, Eghosa is not alone as more and more people are hammering it big and hummering out in great fashion in spite of the politicians and their daily scandalous tales of sleaze and scams.

Let us, in the final analysis and in the spirit of the new year, ignore the fact that the hammering and hummering ‘season’ in Nigeria, in some cases, is associated with fraud, armed robbery, kidnapping, oil bunkering, human and drug trafficking and terrorism. And wish more ‘hammer’ and more hummer to more Nigerians in this new year 2013!

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