Nigeria: The WE versus THEM mentality, By Zainab Suleiman Okino
“But official engagements were stopped because of one superman who happened to belong to the right family.”
The other day, the Prime Minister of Britain, David Cameron, was caught on camera walking his daughter to school. When President Barack Obama was a senator in Washington, living outside his home state of Chicago, he lived in a one- bedroom rented apartment in Washington. This is unheard of in Nigeria. Here, leaders/rulers make deliberate efforts to show and prove that they are better human beings, even if we have shared humanity, just because of the privilege of office. They never let go an opportunity to remind us that all animals are equal but some are more equal than the others, in reference to George Orwell’s Animal Farm.
Democracy offers us a singular opportunity to work at equity, and an egalitarian society, where everyone will feel a sense of belonging, having participated in the choice of who their leaders are, but we have since bungled it. Instead we hero-worship, idolize and deify people at the helms and never tell them the truth. What we now have is a caricature of democracy, which we brandish to the international community, to prove that we belong to the progressive nations of the world that believe in freedom of speech and choice as cardinal ethos of democracy. No less is this better illustrated than in the gulf between leaders and the led, the haves and the haves-not, the high and low table members and the ruling elite and followers’ mentality. Our
leaders, by their actions and deeds, tell the rest of us to ‘go to hell’; obviously, they live in a different planet. A few examples will suffice here.
Last week, Vice President Mohammed Namadi Sambo lost his younger brother, Sabo Yusuf Sambo, in a road crash. For a man who was healthy and bubbling until that fateful day, his death was a rude shock to the VP and his immediate family. And naturally too, President Goodluck Jonathan was expected to mourn with his VP. He did this in good measure and went beyond commiseration. The president halted state affairs by cancelling the week’s Federal Executive Council (FEC), as a form of tribute to Capt. Sambo and solidarity with his VP. To say the least, this is wrong, and does not in any way increase or detract from the sadness and sympathy everyone felt for the nation’s Number 2 family. But there are more profound questions that Nigerians are asking. In contrast to the VP’s brother’s death, this year alone, mass deaths have taken place in Borno, Yobe and two weeks…before then, over 70 Nigerians perished in a gruesome bomb attack in Nyanya. Flags did not fly at half mast, holidays were not declared, official assignments were not cancelled. But official engagements were stopped because of one superman who happened to belong to the right family. Surely, Nigeria is a bundle of contradictions.
Even in time of national mourning, politicians think of only themselves. Kema Chikwe, the PDP woman leader made a very insensitive speech of her life last week when she doubted the veracity of the abduction of the Chibok school girls. She asked: “How did it happen?
Who saw it happen? Who did not see it happen? There is hypocrisy about corruption among individual Nigerians. The last straw that broke the camel’s back was the kidnap of Chibok school girls”, insinuating a grand conspiracy to demonize and persecute the PDP government. How can a woman with adult children be so careless with words? If her daughter had been one of them, will she be so unfeeling in her remarks? Her comment borders on ego-tripping and lacks human-feeling; typical of the Nigerian elite, who do not care about other people’s children once they have theirs secured in Europe and America; they caused education, health and infrastructure to decay because they can afford same for them and their families abroad.
The World Economic Forum starts today. Our leaders will surely roll out the drums to welcome global economic players. However, in trying to showcase Nigeria’s economic potentials, the economy of the nation’s capital has to be shut down for three days. Movement is restricted, schools and markets are closed, and offices are under lock and key.
While the capital city is locked down in order to guarantee the security of the visitors, we do not care what happens to citizens of the country. Every day we become more and more vulnerable to terrorist attacks, kidnapping and armed robbery, yet there is no reassuring effort by the government to protect citizens. I’m not by any means saying foreign nationals coming to the country should be exposed to danger, but the government should make as much efforts to protect citizens, offer hope and deliver on promises and uphold a constitutional duty to do so.
There goes another committee on snakes
In my column last week entitled “These girls must not die” in reference to the missing Chibok school girls, I, among other things, warned government to resist the temptation to set up a committee to find the girls, as it wont to do. “The government often sets up committees when confronted with matters of this magnitude. The Turaki committee was one of them. Personally, I do not believe in committees because they do not resolve problems. It is what Ross Perot, one time American presidential hopeful called committee on snakes”, I had written. To my consternation, we ended having two committees; one by the president and another by his wife, the First Lady, Patience Jonathan, leaving people wondering how committees in Abuja can achieve a rescue operation in far away Chibok forest. This is exactly what Ross Perot meant when he said: “why set up a committee on snakes, instead of killing the snakes right away” or something to that effect. By the weekend, the president and his wife had parallel meetings with different groups, but they spoke with one voice; they challenged the Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima to find the girls. The first lady was more direct: “Governors are the security officers of their states. During Obasanjo’s time anytime an oyinbo was kidnapped in Bayelsa State, he would call the governor (Jonathan) at 2.00 a.m. and give him 24 hours to produce the kidnapped person. We know who to ask for our children. We don’t need to embark on demonstrations from state to state”, the first lady said. Someone should tell this woman to shut up if she has nothing useful to say. The country is in the middle of a full scale war, there is an emergency rule in place, the service chiefs who are in charge of the operations take directives from the president as the commander-in-chief, and this woman is trivializing and politicizing the apparent cluelessness of the government in the matter, talking about Borno first lady frustrating their efforts by refusing to attend their meetings. Someone should tell her that a thousand first ladies and their meetings cannot make the quagmire to suddenly vanish. It is only a full scale military undertaking by well equipped military operatives including possibly, tactical aerial bombardment that we need to bring back the girls.