Eternal vigilance as election year approaches

By Casmir Igbokwe  
Sunday, 13 Jun 2010

PENULTIMATE week, I had travelled to Port Harcourt for the sixth All Nigerian Editors Conference. Thus, I hadn‘t the time to do certain things I normally do. I also couldn‘t perform some of my duties as a husband and father.

To fill this gap, I came back home early last Monday to have a chat with my family. By midnight when the kids had all gone to bed, my wife and I decided to play some husband-and-wife game. Just as I readied myself for the task, my five-year-old son, who normally sleeps with us, opened his eyes.

All efforts by his mum to lure him back to sleep failed. Disappointed, I covered myself with a wrapper, closed my eyes and dozed off. What woke me up the following morning was a fight I engaged with an unknown enemy whom I gave many machete cuts in my dream.

 Pardon my bluntness. It‘s just that I feel we can borrow a lot from this child who stayed awake and prevented his parents from playing games. We may have been shouting about corruption on the pages of newspapers; we may have labelled Ibori and some others thieves; but what have we done to follow up our protest and wipe away our tears?

Even when a radical body like the Save Nigeria Group emerges, it makes noise for one or two days and returns to sleep. Our professional politicians only laugh at us and continue their business as usual.

A few months ago, the SNG organised protest marches in Abuja and Lagos. With clenched fists, we pumped the air. With big placards, we marched to the seat of government in Alausa, Lagos, singing solidarity songs and making flowery speeches. It ended there.

 A few weeks after, some celebrities organised their own protest march in Abuja. People like Charlie Boy, Dele Momodu and Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde showed their beautiful faces at the National Assembly complex. Security operatives prevented them from completing their assignment. That too ended there.

To show that our politicians are not fazed by such protests, some members of the House of Reps the other day started agitating for an increase in their quarterly allowances. The media did their job by exposing that inordinate request. Since then, the Speaker of the House has not known peace. Some members feel he revealed the information to the press.

 A group of lawmakers have even asked him to resign. Spokesman of the group, Dino Melaye, was quoted to have said that they would soon send their petitions against the Speaker to anti-graft agencies. To him and his group, Dimeji Bankole‘s leadership style has caused disaffection, rift and disunity between the Senate and the House since 2007. They want the EFCC to release its report on the N2.3bn car scam of 2008 and prosecute those indicted.

Who is fooling whom? I won‘t hold brief for the Speaker. If he had committed any offence, he should be made to answer for such crimes. But is it not curious that our legislative activists just realised that the Speaker, who had caused disaffection in the House since 2007, is evil? Why didn‘t they shout immediately they noticed the problem?

We may never fully understand politicians. Their ways always look crooked. Now that the 2011 elections are fast approaching, stories of ritual killings, missing persons, assassinations and massive corruption are the main menu served daily by our media.

Last week, the police in Lagos arrested one Mr. Femi Ade with human parts – a severed female head, two hands, two legs, intestines and some others. The suspect claimed he was only a messenger and that he was asked to take the parts to Ojo market. So far, there is no direct link with any politician. But I won‘t be surprised if the main customers are those who either want to make easy money or win elections.

 If ritual-for-election fails, there are sundry criminals who can lend their services to desperate office seekers. At present, the South-Eastern part of the country is under siege. At Aba, armed robbers operated with audacity the other day. Banks were forced to close for some days. The police appear to be responding by sending extra men to the region. But the people have lost total confidence in the ability of security agents to protect them.

Nothing portrays this state of affairs better than the action of Benin chiefs and traditional worshippers. Last Thursday, about 60 traditional worshippers moved round some major streets in Benin, the Edo State capital. They gathered at King‘s Square, where they sacrificed some animals, poured libation and placed curses on kidnappers and other criminals.

A few months ago, Akwa Ibom women, with the support of the state government, organised prayer and fasting sessions to cast and bind kidnappers and other evil doers. In the North, there is one man called Ali Kwara. He is reputed to be an expert in catching bandits and has helped some states in the North to do just that. Perhaps, by the time the South-East and South-West seek the face of Amadioha and Ogun, there will be no hiding place for hoodlums anywhere in the country.

And we say we have a government! Thank God, the tenure of some of the state governors will soon come to an end. Most of them have nothing to show for the years they have been in the saddle. Yet they will come for our votes again. Some of them are heavily indebted. Some have gone to the capital market to raise bonds to offset such debts. Some are seeking cheap endorsement for 2011. What have we done to contain their excesses? We rant. We talk. We pontificate and go back to sleep.

Our watchword now should be eternal vigilance. Whatever we can do individually to sanitise the system, we should do it. Non-governmental organisations should go beyond seeking foreign aid. They should mobilise Nigerians to fight for their rights. Village and town unions should provide the platform for their members to question their representatives in the state and national assemblies. Those who have the wherewithal should sue whoever deserves to be sued.

If we don‘t remain awake and alert in the coming months, politicians will play games over our heads. And we will have ourselves to blame.

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