By Innocent Okon
Give it to IBB (Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, the self-styled Maradona of Nigerian ‘militocracy’ from Minna. He was one of the military Generals that (mis) ruled Nigeria, who connected with the people. He knew the psyche of Nigerians in and out. He never feigned ignorance of the afflictions his actions and inactions inflicted on his fellow countrymen, neither did he fail to float populist programmes that targeted the poorest of the poor, even if they were not meant to alleviate their conditions. When he wanted to take the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan, he first allowed the nation to engage in a round of cacophonous national debate for and against the proposal! At the end , Idika Kalu, his then Minister of Finance, concocted an economic elixir called FEM (Foreign Exchange Market) and SFEM (Second-tier Foreign Exchange Market), which turned out worst than the IMF loan! Undaunted, the ” Evil Genius” as he once described himself, floated people centred schemes like the DFRRI (Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure) and Peoples Bank to address immediate needs of both the urban and rural poor. Truth be told, these schemes might have fallen short of expectations , but they sure comnected the leadership with the people beyond marginal marks ! Until he committed political harakiri / sepuku ( suicide) with the annulment of MKO’s election in 1993, IBB , never hesitated to admit failures of his policies and programmes! He once told GUARDIAN newspapers that he was baffled why the national economy had not collapsed. This was after he had experimented all the fiscal measures cooked and served the nation by the Idikas ,
Chu Okongwus and some faceless egg heads in his kitchen cabinet . His administration sure has its date with History , but I don’t think he will perform below average on masses centred projects and programmes.
The last Sallah holidays in Nigeria offered yet another opportunity for stockstaking by the leadership at all layers of constitutional governance. As reported, PMB elected to spend his holidays in his country home in Daura, Katsina state. Keeping with tradition, many interest groups took turns to pay him homage . From the Press Releases churned out by his ‘closest’ mouthpiece, Garba Shehu, PMB seized the opportunity to comment on national issues. He told some select guests in Daura that he was uncomfortable with the reality that only 2 percent of Nigeria’s arable land has been utilised for agricultural purposes! When another select group with interest in education came calling, he emphasised his commitment to educationand the need to give the sub sector better attention and funding.
Then came the Emir of Daura’s reported comment on the administration of PMB, arguably the icing on the cake! His Royal Majesty was reported as positing that but for the emergence of PMB in 2015, Nigeria and Nigerians have been served from unimaginable socio economic difficulties!
What a Sallah to remember! Let’s examine the anatomy of the messages seriatim. Only 2 percent of arable land cultivated? Does Aso Rock need to be told that insecurity is a legitimate parent of food insecurity? Has IDP camps dotted all over the North West, North East and North central geo political blocs today not populated by farmers dislocated by bandits, herdsmen,
terrorists and kidnappers? How on earth can we achieve food security when farmers need armed protection each time they want to go to farms? How can more arable land be cultivated when the ones dutifully cultivated with tears and sweat are ravaged by both known and unknown herdsmen? Does it mean the wailings of farmers in Ortom’s Benue , Plateau, Edo and Delta states have been serially denied access to Aso Rock? How can food security be achieved in a country that farmers are charitably endangered species?
Another sore point was PMB’s thoughts on Education. Let’s probe allocations to Education since 2015 when Nigeria constitutionally came under the watch of PMB. Has that critical sub sector ever enjoyed the UN recommended 26% of annual budget ? So the importance of education is not lost on Aso Rock, but it allowed Federal universities to be shut for almost a year over poor staff welfare and absence/delapidated infrastructure? What a Sallah message!
The mother of all the mesages came from a royal messenger , the Emir of Daura. Displaying all candour of royalty, he observed that PMB indeed, came to Nigeria as a blessing! According to him, there could have been more gnashing of teeth , wailings and misfortune if national leadership didn’t change its course on May 29, 2015. This coming from a privileged Nigerian on royal throne, who may be older than Nigerian nation, deserves more than a passing comment. But wisdom demands that some truths be left unperturbed in the womb of time! At times like this, one can only philosophical ly sing along with the late Jamaican Reggae maestro, Hon. Robert Nesta Marley thus : OPEN YOUR EYES,
AND LOOK WITHIN.
ARE YOU SATISFIED
WITH THE LIFE
YOU ARE LIVING?
( Excerpt from the song “EXODUS”).
Okon is a lawyer and former Chairman, NUJ, Akwa Ibom State Council