“This is an example of a country that has fallen down; it has collapsed. This house fallen.” — Prof Chinua Achebe
While several northern states became the gory theatre for mindless violence and wanton bloodshed last week, and hundreds of corpses littered the already greening stretch of the savannah leaving a dreadful fog of gloom, mourning, sadness, fear and despair in the air, President Umar Musa Yar’Adua and his increasingly fashionable and insufferably ubiquitous wife, Turai, grinning from ear to ear like over-excited pupils undertaking their first excursion, and resplendent in their best Sallah costumes, boarded a Presidential Jet at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, and headed to Brazil, where they spent nearly three days, hugging warm bodies, pumping soft hands, clinking delicate glasses as they sipped choice wine, treating themselves to various, sumptuous delicacies amidst laughter, music and boundless gaiety, visiting choice tourist sites, and generally having an unforgettable good time. And these for a whole three days, dear reader, thousands of miles away from home, by a president whose country was engulfed by the raging flames of death and destruction. Yar’Adua’s host must have been shocked to his bones by such unparalleled indifference, if not gross irresponsibility, to put it mildly.
But for the rigid stipulations of diplomatic etiquette, I am sure the Brazilian leader would have looked his guest in the face and said with a forced broad smile masking his disgust: “Oh, you made it? We thought you wouldn’t have been able to come again given the kind of carnage going on in your country at the moment, whose images on TV have horrified all of us here. But then, you are here. Welcome.” And the Nigerian leader would probably smile his thanks, and reassure his host that a “small crisis” and the few hundreds of people it had already consumed shouldn’t by any stretch of the imagination make him cancel for the second time “this long-awaited and very important visit to your country.”
Then, stepping on the red carpet (appropriately depicting the red blood flowing from the tragedy at home), he would hurriedly enter a waiting presidential car to his guest house to catch a refreshing nap before the very important State Banquet in his honour that would most surely come up later in the evening. And as Brazilians watched the whole joyous proceedings on TV, juxtaposed by footages of the hundreds of corpses littered on the blood-splattered savannah in the home country of the president soaking in all that fun and fanfare in Brazil, many of them must have stopped to ask themselves where Nigeria dredged its peculiar kinds of leaders from. But unknown to them, Yar’Adua may have told himself: Why is my trip creating such uproar? Even if I stayed at home, would I have been able to manage the crises better? Let me better go to Brazil so that the shoddy handling of the crises could be blamed on the fact that I was away.
By the way, how many investors would Mr. Yar’Adua’s trip possibly bring to Nigeria? Who would risk an investment in such an unsafe and hardly stable country, while business outfits on ground are even closing shop and relocating in droves to our better managed, though less-endowed neighbours? The whole trip, if you ask me, was a wasted exercise. The grisly images CNN beamed to Brazilian investors only constituted a clear warning to the wise and prudent to steer clear of Nigeria. Some of them would have said in their hearts: “Mr. President, go home; put your house in order, and we would not need any persuasion to flood your country to do business.”
And that is precisely the point. Put your house in order and everybody will find it irresistible! And they will rush down in droves. But here we are with a thoroughly overwhelmed president who appears totally insulated from even the most basic ideas for fixing the country’s numerous critical problems. He has, therefore, chosen the convenient option of ignoring those problems completely and wallowing in such small, inconsequential affairs like hopping across to Yenogoa at very huge expense to the State to “commission some projects” or to Owerri with excessive fanfare, to hug a governor whose recent shameless defection from the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), the party whose flag he flew to become Imo Governor in 2007, to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the “ruining party,” has been extremely revolting to decent Nigerians.
When then will Yar’Adua even appreciate that the country he says he is ruling is being crushed by countless critical problems, which are assuming frightening complications everyday?
For several years, Nigerian leaders could afford to just sit still and do nothing, because the auto-pilot directing the big, well-populated jet called Nigeria was yet to be totally out of order. But now, in this year of Umar Musa Yar’Adua, the auto-pilot has completely packed up. And so, unless the fellow who has also joined his predecessors to dubiously claim that he is the one directing an auto-piloted plane discovers that the game is up, and takes full charge, the crash would be most devastating!
But as it appears, the current captain is still trapped in the daydream that the auto-pilot is still functioning, and so still enjoying his slumber in peace and comfort. What appears to be uppermost in his mind now is a Second Term in office, and, probably, another very impressive and grand wedding fanfare when the highly speculated epic battle for the hand (and not necessarily the heart) of his daughter, Aisha, eventually throws up a gallant winner soon. Rumour says the girl may soon clinch an award as the most hotly wooed girl in town!
Meanwhile, Nigeria is still trapped in prehistoric darkness, four months to the promised date for the now famous six thousand megawatts. As I return home everyday, I am rudely greeted right from the street gate by the tormenting and ear-splitting clatter of several power generating sets locked in clearly mad competition to out-roar each other. Every house contributes to the bedlam, as eardrums come under serious threat, and hypertensive cases become more complicated, drawing their victims closer to their graves. Sanity struggles to take leave of several people, as the roaring noise tear and violate the day with violent rage and piercing, tormenting loudness. Very lethal, thick, black fumes ooze into the atmosphere, targeting the hearts and lungs of hapless Nigerians, and turning the whole place into one huge fatally saturated gas chamber. How can any meaningful thinking and development possibly take place in this organised chaos?
Over there is the Niger Delta problem which the president had promised to solve in his first few months in office, but which has now been successfully compounded under his watch. The recent reversal of the decision to upgrade the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI), Warri, to a University, its relocation to Kaduna, and the very specious and insufferably arrogant arguments advanced by Rilwan Lukeman to justify such an obnoxious and insensitive decision have exposed the lack of commitment by the present regime to restore peace in the region. Security of lives and property can no longer be guaranteed by anyone, anywhere.
Nigerians live in mortal fear of kidnappers, armed bandits, and ritual killers, while the characters in the organised “legitimate” banditry we call government are busy at virtually all spheres bleeding Nigeria to death.
There are no roads to virtually anywhere, and hospitals and the educational system are no longer able to win the confidence any sane person. And there is no shred of hope, given the zeal, pace, and comm
itment we are seeing today, that any change worth noticing would occur even if Yar’Adua is made a Life President!
As the nation dies gradually, the man invested with the responsibility to ensure its revival is too absent-minded to bother. Yet, he is seeking a Second Term, perhaps, to preside over the complete and irreversible collapse of the House. Maybe.
How long really can a conquered people endure a man they never voted for, whose insensitivity and extreme passivity in the midst of boundless decay has remained unparalleled?