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The cost of national depression By Reuben Abati

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“I hear the World Bank says Nigeria is now the worst place to do business in the entire world.”

“ I don’t believe it.”

“I also hear that of the 15 fastest growing economies in Africa, Nigeria is no longer on the list.”

“ I say I don’t believe that. And stop hearing bad things.”

“We are not even in the top 10 of the World Top 10 oil producers anymore. Yet, we used to be No. 6.”

“ I still don’t believe that.”

“Inflation is now 13.2%, or well may be 12.8%.”

“Story”

“If you go to the market with N400 to buy pepper, that amount can’t get you enough pepper to fry two eggs.”

“Stop eating eggs. Too much cholesterol is bad for your health.”

“Moody’s has also just downgraded Nigeria in its ratings for end of March 2016.”

“Moody’s?”

“Yes. It is a credit and investment ratings corporation.”

“It is called Moody? What do you expect, then, other than a moody report?”

“Our rating by Standard and Poor’s is also negative.”

“I see. Standard and Poor’s giving a poor rating. So?”

“We are talking serious economics, not word play”

“I hear you”

“Even Fitch says our economy is in the negative.”

“Let them all keep fishing for negative information, I say I don’t believe it”

“And as it is, it looks like Nigerians have adjusted themselves to the reality of paying as much as N200 per litre for fuel?”

“In your village? In our own town, fuel is just N140 per litre.”

“And you think that is okay? At a time the spot price of crude oil is dropping internationally?”

“Stop reading those foreign reports. Stop feeding into the Afro-pessimism narrative.”

“You don’t believe this. You don’t believe that. Everybody is saying a hell-hole has appeared, and you are insisting you don’t believe it.”

“Sorry.”

“The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics has also reported that foreign investments inflow into Nigeria is down by73.79%, the least in 9 years, and total capital importation has fallen by 89.13%. GDP growth is the lowest in 9 years.”

“Hold on, one second… Now listen to me in Minister Kemi Adeosun’s voice: we are implementing a planned economy here, dum-b-hea-d”

“The kind of phone calls I receive these days. All artisans that I know have been calling me to ask if I have a job for them. The electrician called yesterday to ask if my air conditioners were not giving problems. I said No. He said what of the television sets? I said they were all working. He even asked whether Madam has not complained about any appliance in the kitchen.”

“That is a potential burglar, staking out territory.”

“Shortly after he dropped the phone, the mechanic also called to ask if the car was alright. I said yes. He asked if I was not hearing any unusual sound. I said No.”

“Your mechanic is stalking your car. What is that? Call the police.”

“But don’t you understand? There are no jobs in town.”

“Who is saying so?”

“I am, based on the evidence of my eyes and what I have been hearing.”

“And you have not heard that the Federal Government has launched a plan to create 1, 000 jobs per week by getting people to become masquerade dressers?”

“Masquerades?”

“Yes. Those masquerades that need 100 people to dress them; and another 100 to undress them. If every Nigerian community organizes a masquerade festival every week, all this nonsense about people not having jobs will end. It is the most profound official contribution to this unemployment narrative so far.”

“You just like to trivialize things.”

“How, it is simple economics. Imagine the number of tailors that will also be engaged.”

“You can’t be serious.”

“I am. Your electrician and mechanic will be better off joining the masquerade gang of Nigeria.”

“Who is proposing this?”

“ I don’t mention names, please. It is the idea that matters.”

“But come to think of it, I see some sense. We are actually a nation of masquerades. Masquerades in high and low places; masquerades behaving like ancestors when they are actually mere mortals.”

“It is the day motor jam masquerade that you will know he is a human being. Even the whole economy has become a masquerade.”

“But this thing about festivals.”

“It happened in ancient Rome. The Romans had over 170 festivals in a year. They were a source of unity for the Empire.”

“I don’t think Nigerians are asking for festivals, and an opportunity to dance, they want jobs and money in their pockets.”

“But you know the truth and why I don’t believe all these tales? Foreign investors will never give up on Nigeria. We have the biggest market in the whole of Africa. It is the source of our strength. If you like let a thousand kidnappers strike per day, all the airplanes on the Nigerian route will still be fully booked all year round. At the height of the Boko Haram and the Niger Delta crises, investors still rushed into Nigeria to look for opportunities. What they may be doing now is a kind of siddon look. It will pass.”

“If we sort out the economy.”

“What I know is that we are better than Venezuela.”

“So, Venezuela is now the standard?”

“They have oil, we have oil.”

“But Venezuela is now a failed state, for failing to manage its oil wealth very well. You need like a bag load of money to buy any essential commodity in that country. Is that what you want in Nigeria?”

“God forbid bad thing!”

“God?”

“I say God forbid bad thing!”

“This is about God?”

“Everything in this country is about God. That is why I agree with people who are now saying that the way forward is to approach God for help. Even the masquerades will offer prayers and speak to God through the ancestors.”

“Well, some people are not going to God. One man in Lekki yesterday, decided to climb an electric pole. He threatened to hug the electric wires and die. He said he would only change his mind if he was given N5 million.”

“Only N5 million, not N45 million?”

“The people called the Fire Service. Fire Service said they should call PHCN. They called PHCN; those ones said call the police. The police came, the Fire Service too, after about six hours. They begged the man but when he didn’t listen, they just went away.”

“The officials left the scene?”

“Yes. Everybody tried to talk to the man. He insisted on N5 million or nothing.”

“Don’t worry, it is the Tee Billz spirit in every Nigerian. So what happened in the end?”

“ I don’t know.”

“The man was not ready to die. He should have jumped straight into the Lagoon instead of climbing an electric pole. And did he tweet and instagram his drama like Tee Billz?”

“Well, I think government should just make it clear that anybody who wants to die should not disturb public peace, they should just go ahead.”

“That’s cruel. I expected the Lagos State government to be pro-active and offer that man some money. May be N1 million, and then rehabilitate him.”

“One ginni? If anybody gave that man money, you’d be surprised by tomorrow morning, you will find half of Lagos on top of electric poles, asking for money. Even me sef, I fit climb pole or hug transformer, but my own no be to die oh, na to collect money.”

“That is it… the strongest sign of the state of the nation. People are just going crazy. That was how one guy went to a fuel station in Lagos, stark naked, saying he would not dress up unless he was allowed to buy fuel. Nobody listened to him.”

“Don’t worry, they will all get used to it. It is a matter of time. Or it may just be that Nigerians love drama. Everybody has become a Nollywood artist; there is more drama outside Nollywood today.”

“What I don’t even understand is why people use the social media these days to kill people. You’d just wake up one morning and read a fabulous story about someone dying when they are actually alive. It must be only in Nigeria that death is used as an instrument of blackmail.”

“They did it to Chief Tony Anenih. He has had to announce that his traducers will be the ones to die before him.”

“They also did it to King Sunny Ade, IBB, Desmond Elliot”

“I blame the media. It is called irresponsible journalism.”

“No, blame the bloggers. Using the social media to announce a death that has not happened should be taken as a crime: a clear case of attempted homicide.”

“Ha, wait oh”

“What?”

“I just remembered something.”

“What?”

“I hear Baba OBJ has just donated a chimpanzee to an animal centre. Do you want to know what the Chimpanzee is called, named by the Baba himself?”

“Just shut up that your mouth!”

“Hear me first now. Try and exercise some Patience.”

“I say keep the name to yourself.”

“This is your problem. You don’t believe things you should believe and yet you don’t have the Patience to learn about things you don’t know.”

“Thank you. So, what are you, yourself donating to the animal centre? How about you donating a cow?”

“Cow ke? I don’t want any problems, please. I may donate one of my dogs.”

“Hen, don’t try that! I’ll send you one article I have just read. It says dog meat is medicinal and that it can cure malaria. It is also fortifies the human spirit and when you eat the testes, it is like taking Viagra. Current research findings!”

“Nonsense, I can’t eat dog meat. A dog is a man’s best friend.”

“The article says it contains energy, fat, protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium, iron, thiamine, niacin.”

“You are salivating! If any of my dogs should disappear, I’ll bring the police to your doorstep.”

“Which ones? The same police who cannot rescue a man who wants to commit suicide. They will rescue a dog?”

“Just don’t go about telling civilized people that here, in Nigeria, we eat dog meat to cure malaria and impotence. Argggh!”

“You think Oyinbo people don’t know? Sit down there.”

“I hear…”

“You and the things you hear”

“I hear the Senate is recommending death sentence for kidnappers”

“Kidnappers. How about rapists? Look, what we need, to save Nigeria, most urgently, is a National Depression Initiative. People are depressed. It is why they say and do stupid things. ”

“I also hear….”

“Ok. Enough of these things you hear. I have heard enough today.”

Opinion

Who Will Explain Coronavirus To Buhari?

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Coronavirus (COVID-19), an exorable doom, threatens life on the planet. It is exorable because it is conquerable. This explains why world leaders are taking the charge to combat this ominous apocalypse. It is a time for leadership from the fore-end; a time when citizens must hear their leaders speak to them; see them take action, making assurances and fulfilling those promises. The counsel, consolation and firm statement of a leader is imperative at this moment.

In Canada, Justin Trudeau, prime minister, despite being in self-isolation and his wife battling the virus after contracting it at a conference in the UK, is leading the fight against this dreaded disease from the fore. He is providing regular updates of the efforts of his government to roll back this scourge, listening and speaking to citizens.

In a popular broadcast on March 13, Justin spoke to citizens of Canada announcing measures to relieve the financial stress brought on by the pandemic on Canadians.

“We do not want any Canadian to have to worry about whether or not they’re going to be able to pay their rent, whether or not they’re going to be able to buy groceries, or care for their kids or elderly family members. We need to make sure that Canadians have the options and the ability to follow the best public health advice and keep themselves safe,” he said.

In the UK, Boris Johnson, prime minister, leads the struggle against coronavirus. He provides updates, alongside health experts, on the measures his government is taking to tackle the spread of the disease. And in the US, Donald Trump is not shying away from speaking to Americans on the virus.

As a matter of fact, President Muhammadu Buhari’s lapses are often easily dismissed by his supporters or by Nigerians who do not know better. Some of them say, ‘’ Why must the president speak when the minister of health and the NCDC DG are already doing that?” This is a contemptible rationalisation of incompetence. Are they suggesting the president lacks the capacitance to understand the issues?’’

Really, I surmise the president has been walled off the ‘’candid cameras’’ over the years by his handlers – not just now – because he lacks the intellectual propensity to understand and discuss incisive issues. The last presidential media chat he held was in 2015 and it was a woeful outing. Also, his non-choreographed media interviews have been abysmal to say the least.

The truth is the unfiltered Buhari is a vacuously gaffing one. On October 14, 2016, standing beside Angela Merkel, German chancellor, Buhari said his wife, Aisha, ‘’belonged in the kitchen and the other room’’, when he was asked to comment on the first lady’s criticism of his government.

On April 18, 2018, at the Commonwealth Business Forum in London, the president said the young citizens of the country he leads are lazy.

“More than 60 per cent of the population is below 30, a lot of them haven’t been to school and they are claiming that Nigeria is an oil producing country, therefore, they should sit and do nothing, and get housing, healthcare, education free,” he said during a panel appearance with world leaders at the forum.

In a February 2016 interview with UK Telegraph, Buhari dropped another clanger. He said the young citizens of his country have a knack for criminality and should not be granted asylum in the UK.

With the Buhari experience, it is indubitable that Nigerians must place a high premium on education — not just certificate – in choosing their leaders. The cost of electing leaders who do not have the intellectual grit to understand and handle matters is far too high.

The senate has asked the president to speak to citizens on this threat, and Nigerians are also asking the president to speak to them. This is an abnormality. Citizens must not beg to hear from their president. But because it is Buhari involved here, we have to beg and even excuse the crass inefficiency and vacuity.

Perhaps, the president is still trying to get a hang of it. I think he has ‘’capable handlers’’ who can break it down to him in ABC.

Mr President, speak to your citizens. The words of a leader are more resounding and assuring than the blandishment of proxies.

PS: Let’s follow all health protocol as advised by the NCDC.

• Wash your hands regularly with soap under running water.

• Cover your mouth and nose properly with handkerchief or tissue paper when sneezing and/or coughing. You may also cough into your elbow if a handkerchief is not available.

• Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.

• Avoid self-medication, report to the nearest health facility when you experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms.

Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist.

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Opinion

Sanusi: Once Upon An Emir, By Wole Olaoye

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We are all potential Ex-es: ex-student, ex-director, ex-lecturer, ex-senator, ex-governor, ex-president, ex-oba, ex-emir…. The inimitable Zik famously reminded us when he had a spat with Ukpabi Asika that Ex was an inevitable prefix for any human being as was evidenced by the fact that a certain young man who would someday become an ex-Administrator, was the son of an ex-postmaster!

So, what’s so apocalyptic about Sanusi Lamido Sanusi joining the ranks of ex-potentates? Nothing? Everything! Don’t ever think that bell you are hearing is tolling for the former Emir of Kano. No. It could be signalling the beginning of a comprehensive demystification of traditional rulership by plebeians holding tenured political power. In centuries past, no plebeian messed with the traditional institution. The halo of nobility, the sheer vastness of a prince’s hereditary powers, rights and privileges, made the subject know his place.

Yesterday’s subjects are today’s political sovereign. They make no pretences to sophistication. They load a gun to kill a spider. When you dethrone a monarch and then deprive him of his liberty, forcefully banishing him to a place without electricity and potable water, you are playing god. If it was all a public relations Olympics, the calm dignity with which Sanusi handled the humiliation made people all over the world admire his chutzpa and hand him the gold medal. A

Life and its many puzzles! Why is it that for some men and women, “their sleep is taken away unless they cause some to fall”? What do you do about an ego that knows no satiation? As the Preacher in the Good Book timelessly says, “All the rivers flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full… The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear content with hearing… there is nothing new under the sun”.

The Yoruba have a poem that says just that. “The horse struts and frets and then dies. Being a veteran walker is no immunity to getting lost. Nothing new under the sun. I’ve seen kings reduced to slaves; and servants who mounted the throne. Haven’t my eyes beheld both river and sea? Haven’t I seen a hunchback on spindly legs, and a midget climbing a ladder to add condiment to the soup pot? Tell me, has anyone ever started a building from the roof?

The new Emir of Kano, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero, is a cousin of his predecessor. As royal intrigues go, when the dust is settled the sword will be sheathed and brother will embrace brother. That is the way of princes. Eventually, outsiders will realise that all they can ever be in palace politics is outsiders. Our very own Nobel prize winning Kongi was not amused by the scandalous extra-judicial detention of the former emir.

He put the emir’s travail down to his progressive stance: “Emir Sanusi was a one-man EFCC sanitisation squad in the banking system, taking on the powerful corrupters of that institution…. “Most important of all, and most pertinently for the nation, Sanusi was one of the early warning voices against religious extremism whose bitter fruits the nation is currently reaping….

The doors of enlightened society remain wide open to Muhammad Sanusi. As for his current crowing Nemesis, a different kind of gates remain yawning to receive him when, as must, the days of governorship immunity finally come to an end.” Support for Sanusi is not limited to radical voices.

Veteran technocrat Alhaji Ahmed Joda penned a panegyric in support of the ex-emir: “The purpose of this letter to you is not to commiserate with you, because I know that you must have known the likely consequences  of the principled position you have taken. The reality we must face in Northern Nigeria is that the evil forces of feudalism that have kept us in bondage for so long are still there and fighting. You have been the only voice that has been telling us this truth….”

It is easy to kick a man given a pin-fall by fate, or piss on the grave of a fallen warrior. Dead men don’t bite. Real friends show up when you are in life’s valley. Say what you will, I would rather have a friend like Nasir el Rufai when the chips are down. In the midst of all the turmoil, conspiracy theories have surfaced to the effect that the dethronement is but a political sleight-of-hand to propel Sanusi to Nigeria’s presidency in 2023. Caution! Let’s separate the issues. Political succession is totally different from fundamental human rights. Sanusi is not my next president.

My views on power rotation are well documented. The ex-emir will go down in history as a champion for the rights of the poorest of the poor. He advocated for a new Northern Nigeria where old backward practices such as the almajiri system and irresponsible parenting will be abandoned. His was the voice crying out in the desert, lift my people up from the cesspit of penury. The attempt to demonise him after dethronement through various allegations, including one on religious fundamentalism, is dead on arrival. The same fate will befall the vilification of El Rufai on account of his loyalty to Sanusi. Please quote me: Modern challenges can never be resolved with a resort to medieval solutions.

Christopher Hitchens’ Q&A may someday apply to the ex-Kings College boy who’s now an ex-king.

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Opinion

Sanusi Dethronement: The North Only Beheads The Bearers Of Truth

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By Fredrick Nwabufo

Northern Nigeria is prostrate. It is the axis of uglies – banditry, insurgency, kidnapping, diseases, ignorance, and drug abuse. Alas! The region’s elite are aware of the problems, but look away because the disequilibrious status quo sustains them. What is petrifying, however, is that they maul and clobber at anyone who spits the truth in their faces.

I think, this is the mortal sin of Muhammad Sanusi II, emir of Kano – beyond his politics with Abdullahi Ganduje, governor of Kano.

But wait!

The World Bank says 87 percent of Nigeria’s poor are in the north. And that while poverty is plummeting in the south, it is rocketing in the upper region.

READ: Dethroned Sanusi Will Be Under House Arrest – Ganduje’s Aide

“Poverty in the northern regions of the country has been increasing especially in the north-west zone. Almost half of all poor lived in the north-west and the north accounts for 87 percent of all poor in the country in 2016,’’ the Bretton Woods institution said in its report entitled ‘Advancing social protection in a dynamic Nigeria’ in February 2020.

In August, 2019, the federal government revealed that 1,460 people were killed by bandits in seven months. And that the north-west is the worst-hit by this bloody enterprise. The killings have steadied, expanding in proportion and execution in the region.

In his accustomed manner, Sanusi recently vocalised these depressing figures of retrogression in the north – as regards the World Bank report — earning himself praise from progressive Nigerians and reprimand from the usual suspects — those stuck in the cesspit of bigotry.

Also, the gadfly emir of Kano, whom I regard as the John the Baptist of the north for his vociferous condemnation of this status quo, is alone in his advocacy against irresponsible polygamy, Al-majiri and child marriage – practices the northern elite espouse. He is the face of a progressive north; the northerner of the new age.

As a matter of fact, on different occasions he had complained about the northern elite whom he said wanted to silence him for speaking the truth about the region.

‘’Our colleagues and compatriots among the elite do not like statistics. Numbers are disturbing. I recently gave a speech in which I said the north-east and north-west of Nigeria are the poorest parts of the country. This simple statement of fact has generated so much heat; the noise has yet to die down. The response to this speech has been a barrage of personal attacks and insults aimed at silencing any voices that dare shine the light on the society to which we are saying Bring Back our Girls,’’ he said at a lecture held to commemorate the Chibok girls abduction.

READ: Sanusi Breaks Silence After Dethronement As Emir Of Kano (Video)

And I guess they can only take the throne away from him but cannot take away his royalty in the community of decent humans. Really, I believe the emir would rather give up his throne than be gagged by the shareholders of iniquity.

To say the least, Sanusi’s dethroning was not unexpected. Ganduje had always shown his hand in this plot. Really, the emir of Kano never hid his dislike for him. But what is there to like about a governor who was allegedly caught on camera stuffing wads of dollars into his babariga? In the build-up to the 2019 governorship election in the state, the emir was not shy in expressing his disapproval to Ganduje’s candidature.

So, Ganduje, who considers Sanusi a ‘’loud mouth’’, plotted a bitter revenge after he was re-elected. He had moved to remove the emir in 2018 but for the intervention of some ‘’higher powers’’. However, he whittle-down the power of the emir by creating new emirates from his domain. He was not done though. He rustled-up allegations, set up probe panels – all in the desperation to embarrass Sanusi.

But Sanusi was still talking.

Really, one of the most abrasive places to exist is in the circle of non-progressives. You talk different, think different or act different, they will feel threatened. Even when you try to clown around; the aboriginal clowns will still feel threatened because you do not look the part.

I think, Emir Sanusi is light-years away from the people he is dealing with in Kano government. He is needed more at the top echelon of government where he can contribute more meaningfully to the development of Nigeria.

Northern Nigeria is not ready for an emir like Sanusi. He is ahead of his time.

Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist.

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