The ugliness of terror, death, misery, pain, fear and uncertainty coloured our collective reality in 2012. It was a year of extreme insensitivity and greed. It was a year of unadulterated evil. It was a year when the highlights of the news were the anguish from mass murders, of families burying innocent victims of Boko Haram, who deployed guns and bombs to kill in the name of God, of government officials and influence peddlers in the corridors of power who steal ruthlessly and have succeeded in rebranding corruption as smartness.
The ugliness of terrible men who believe that to kidnap, maim and murder is a smart, easy means of fortune and wealth, of plane crashes that took away loved ones and tore our bleeding hearts, of spiritual leaders who defended opulence and private luxury jets in the face of bludgeoning mass unemployment and mushrooming poverty, of leadership that has lost the virtue of shame in the lust for money and power. It was the year of the scorpion.
The very first day of the year foretold the ugliness to come. On January 1, 2012, President Goodluck Jonathan visited the whip on Nigerians. On the pretext of removing fuel “subsidy” he announced the insensitive and cruel increase in the pump price of petrol from N65 to N141 a litre. Nigerians returning from the high spend Yuletide holidays at their country homes were stranded. After days of mass protests and investigations by the National Assembly, it turned out that the subsidy scheme was the biggest ever scam visited by a government on its own peoples.
Corrupt government officials and allied contractors stole the nation blind with fake fuel importation documents and fraudulently claimed billions and billions of naira. It was this huge scam, the government wanted common folks to finance through the increase in the pump price of petrol. The petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, banker Atedo Peterside and the spin machinery of the presidency shamelessly defended the incompetence and rogue subsidy scheme. In more sane climes, the government should have resigned.
It was the year of relentless official corruption, for the brouhaha over the fuel subsidy scam had barely been digested when the multi billion-naira pension scam broke. Top public officials stole the national and police pension funds and deprived retirees of comfort in their old age, sending them to their early graves. There was the looting of over N2 billion from the Security Printing & Minting Company. There is the National Assembly whose members’ main duty seemed to be endless harassment of private and public sector executives for lucre than the cleansing function of oversight. The disgrace suffered by some of NASS leading lights including Hon. Farouk Lawan’s $3 million bribery scandal or Lawangate.
2012 was the year of senseless bloodletting. Boko Haram visited blood curdling mayhem in northern Nigeria, killing thousands of innocent people in cold blood in churches while praying to the same God they claim to worship, in homes and on the streets. Indeed only yesterday they killed another 22 people. Counter insurgency by the military has also sen the decimation of Boko Haram members and innocent bystanders. The cycle of bloodletting in the name of God continues. Kidnappers had a field day, abducting people at gunpoint and demanding ransoms that ranged from recharge cards to billions of naira. Thousands were kidnapped during the year and no less than the mother of the finance minister tasted the ugliness of the kidnapper’s soullessness and cruelty. These are indeed signs of the times. These are the times of joblessness, of poverty, of get rich quick mentality, of disdain for the dignity of labour.
It was also the year of the most plane crashes. There were five crashes involving a police helicopter, a military helicopter, a cargo plane, a Cessna plane and Dana Airline jet. The crashes claimed 171 souls including Governor Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna State and former National Security Adviser to the President, General Owoeye Azazi. Another governor, Danbaba Suntai of Taraba state and five others luckily survived a Cessna crash.
The Dana Airline crash was particularly traumatic to me. There I with my brother was at the Abuja International watching the passengers file away into the Dana plane and take off into the clear blue skies. Then we boarded the next flight for Lagos and were taxiing on the tarmac for take off when our pilot announced that Lagos airport was closed and we returned to the departure lounge. Then the terrible news filtered in. All 153 passengers on that flight including people I personally know, the Awarnis and Dr Levi Ajuonuma were dead. It was horrible.
But 2012 was not done with the harvests of despair and deaths, for nature opened up its floodgates and sacked whole communities across the country. Thousands were rendered refugees in a country hardly ever prepared for natural disasters.
It was also a year of contrasts. The year when Nigerian elites bought the highest number of private luxury jets while the larger majority of Nigerians languished in deepening poverty. The National Bureau of Statistics revealed that more Nigerians crashed below the poverty line in 2012. It was the year when a Nigerian woman known for her fashion business suddenly emerged as the wealthiest black woman on earth due to an oil prospecting license granted her by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in a nation deemed the worst place for a child to be born in 2013 according to an Economist Intelligence Unit’s survey of 80 countries.
It was a year when economic indicators such as GDP, foreign reserves and budgets were growing and inflation, interest, exchange rates were trumpeted to have stabilized but banks continued to lend to government through treasury bills while the real sector and SMEs scoured the land in vain for credits. It was the year when the incidence of official corruption stank to high heavens but a business leader, Mr. Tony Elumelu argues that the issue of corruption is overblown and President Jonathan insists that the attitude of Nigerians not corruption is the issue. It was the year when there was not a single conviction of corruption in high places.
But it was not all so bleak. If you are reading this, it is most likely that you are about to survive 2012 with your health intact and have enjoyed a wonderful Christmas season. We have become dye in the wool skeptics but there is hope that the ongoing power reforms will usher in a new era of constant power supply.
Let us pray. We seek the mercy of God that He may heal the hardened hearts of Boko Haram’s members and kidnappers who terrorize the nation to see the folly of their macabre endeavors. We also pray that our leaders have the wisdom to review section 162 of the constitution and stop the pillaging of the nation’s revenues by their thieving cabal. We pray that our leaders come to know the virtue of shame, have the capacity to benchmark Nigeria with the best nations of the world, focus on good governance, alleviate poverty and lead in the example of good attitude.
God bless Nigeria. Happy New Year! Everybody.
Pix by Gurinder Jeet SOURCE :GBENUDU.COM