Yesterday, Tuesday, January 1, 2013 marked the beginning of yet another year. This event, as usual, was heralded by pomp and ceremony all over the world. The ceremonies were rather spontaneous. This is because regardless of previous or past experiences, people are always nostalgic in welcoming a new year. And so is the joy and optimism that goes with it.
But then wait a minute. Let us take a look at 2012 and see whether the year justified all the ceremonies and expectations that heralded it this time last year. We might just look at the good, the bad and the ugly scenes or events that characterized 2012. As I was saying earlier, there is something so special about January 1 of every year. It is a day people give thanks to God for many things. High on the agenda is the gratitude for surviving the previous year. And it does not matter if the previous year was either good or bad. Everybody will be united in looking forward to a pleasant new year.
In Nigeria, January 1, 2012 brought sorrows, tears and even blood. That was the day Nigerians woke up to the reality that the Federal Government had removed ‘subsidy’ on petroleum products. The exercise led to astronomic hike in the cost of fuel. It rose from N68 to N140. Many people who had travelled to their villages and hamlets for the New Year festivities were stranded. Tension enveloped the entire nation.
What followed were huge protests all over the place. In Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria, the Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Square at Ojota, on the outskirts of Lagos, came alive. For days, protesters trooped there to register their displeasure over the sudden hike.
For some people, it was fun all the way as the organizers of the protests, the Save Nigeria Group, added innovations like bringing musical bands to play, and people volunteered food that was served freely. This kept the protests alive for several days. Every day, the crowd grew in number. The more the crowd grew, the more worrisome it was for the government in Abuja. For a government that had all the time stuck to its gun, by the time it was apparent that things might snowball out of control, the Federal Executive Council scrambled to the negotiating table. By this time, the whole country was in turmoil. Lives were lost.
‘The president only needs to see beyond the present narrow prism and confront the challenges facing the nation headlong. To do this, he must act like a tiger and not a snail!’
It was a fidgety President that later addressed the nation, and reduced the price of petrol as well as promised the nation a number of steps to right the wrongs in the oil sector. Had it been that there were no protests or that the protests did not assume the fearful dimension it took, I am not sure the government was prepared to look into the oil sector to actually see what was going on. Though attempts have been made by the government to rubbish the protests by labeling it as the handiwork of the opposition, that protest will go down as the first well-organised civil disobedience in Nigeria.
We are all witnesses to the subsidy probe that followed. That probe opened a can of worms in the oil sector. It was like turning up the underbelly of a bad car. A lot of earth-shaking revelations on the financial malfeasance and sleaze that have bedeviled the oil sector were unearthed. However, what is left is the will by the government to successfully prosecute those involved in the subsidy scandal. The scandal dominated the polity in the first half of 2012. Many of the so-called ‘big boys’ driving around in posh cars were unmasked as thieves.
Take for instance the case involving the oil magnate, Femi Otedola, and Farouk Lawan who headed the subsidy probe instituted by the House of Representatives. Otedola is known to be one of the commercial hangers–on around the president. Therefore, many people believed the bribe between him and Farouk could have been stage-managed or instigated from above to rubbish the exercise. Otedola’s company was one of the companies allegedly indicted. Till date, nothing concrete has been heard over that case. Yet, in Nigeria, it is a crime to offer or receive bribe. In that case, both the giver and the receiver are culpable. Nigerians are still waiting.
In June 2012, a major diversion was the news of the crash of Dana Aircraft on a routine journey from Abuja to Lagos. All the 150 passengers, including the crew, perished. The crash threw the entire country into grief. The Aviation industry came under the binoculars as people asked questions. Anyway, that did not prevent further crashes in the sector.
Danbaba Suntai, the governor of Taraba State, was involved in an air crash in October 2012 while ‘personally’ flying an aircraft from Jalingo to Yola. He, along with some of his aides, were badly injured and they are still receiving medical treatment abroad. If Suntai and his aides were lucky, Sir Patrick Yakowa, former governor of Kaduna State, along with Gen. Andrew Owoye Azazi, immediate past National Security Adviser, the pilots and aides, were not so lucky. Six of them perished on December 15 in a helicopter crash in the mangrove forest of Bayelsa State.
Nigerians had thought that that helicopter crash would complete the unfortunate events of 2012. Another tragedy, this time, on the road, occurred when the vehicle bearing Idris Wada, the governor of Kogi State, was involved in a fatal accident on Friday, December 28, 2012. The crash occurred when the governor’s Lexus Jeep suffered a tyre burst on the Ajaokuta-Lokoja Road while returning to the state capital after attending an official function. Though Wada sustained a leg fracture and other minor bruises, Idris Mohammed, his Aide-De Camp, an Assistant Superintendant of Police, died in the crash. He has since been buried in Kaduna.
I will not want to bother my readers with the numerous terror attacks in the northern part of the country in 2012. As it seems, that has come to be a permanent feature in that part of the country with an apparently helpless government blowing hot and cold each time the terrorists strike. It is a big relief that 2012 is gone with the loads of highs and lows that confronted the nation.
If our recent experience is anything to go by, Nigerians welcome 2013 with mixed feelings. We surely need a new beginning this year. It is obvious that issues of the economy, security, employment, fighting, corruption and official cover-ups, to name a few, will dominate 2013 in Nigeria.
On the political turf, though the president has confessed that his government is “slow”, Nigerians will want to see a more invigorated government that will alleviate the sufferings of the people. The first way to ensure this is for the President to tinker with his cabinet and his aides. Some of them are dead woods who have nothing to offer than to sing praises and tell the President what will make him happy at all times. When you look at the performance indices of some of the ministers and aides, you could see that they are not worth to be councillors in their local governments. They are simply bereft of ideas and the wherewithal to move this country forward at the pace it deserves.
It is obvious that many of them have become fronts for fortune seekers and profiteers. Majority of them have become too stupendously rich to continue in their present positions. It is for this reason that the president must take a second look at those around him and his cabinet. Nigerians don’t want a slow government. What is at stake in this country today cannot be handled slowly anymore. Afterall, the resources – human, natural and capital – are there. The president only needs to see beyond the present narrow prism and confront the challenges facing the nation headlong. To do this, he must act like a tiger and not a snail!