Archive for August 2014

A Nation And Her Poisoned Apples

August 22, 2014

Casmir Igbokwe

Published in The Union newspaper, Friday, August 22, 2014

Tunji has a shop that is well located in the heart of Ikeja. He has a habit of waving at me each time I pass by his shop. It is a way of greeting and a way of drawing my attention to what he is selling. As I was driving home a few days ago, he waved and smiled. I stopped by to buy some items.

“Do you want some biscuits for the children?” he asked. I didn’t want biscuits because I had bought some tantalising red apples from Mallam, a fruit seller in one of the major streets in Ikeja.

“Apples!” the man exclaimed, “Be careful of apples o!” I was alarmed. What is it with apples again? I wondered. My mind went straight to the rumour some years back that a former Head of State died in office after munching some poisoned apples allegedly given to him by some Indian prostitutes.

I also remembered how Eve gave Adam the forbidden fruit that led to their being banished from paradise. I learnt that that forbidden fruit was an apple.

 I was still ruminating when Tunji cut in, “I heard that Boko Haram people have poisoned apples in Lagos. They are targeting Lagos seriously and they want to kill as many people as possible. They recruited all these mallams selling fruits to do it.”

Noticing the frown on my face, Tunji clarified, “It was announced on radio.” Did he hear this radio announcement himself? He said (pointing to a neighbour’s shop), “No, the woman in that shop heard it on Radio Continental and told me.”

Just as I picked my things to go, the man asked, “Oga, is it true that all shops close August 20 every year? Somebody just told me this.” I looked at him with surprise, shook my head and left.

My children did not allow me to drop my bag before rushing for the apples.  I stopped them. As I told them the poisoned apple story, my second daughter, Kosi, asked, “Daddy, how can they put poison inside apple?”

My quick answer was that they should wait until the following day. “Let me eat it first, if I die, then know that it’s poisonous. But if not, then you can eat,” I said.

“God forbid!” my first daughter, Favour, shouted. Of course, God did forbid my dying. I ate the apple that night and slept soundly. The following day, the children did justice to the apples.

The fact is, rumour and delusion have become part of the poison we must eject from our system.

Look at the outbreak of this Ebola Virus Disease, for instance. As at the last count, it has killed over 1000 people. In Nigeria, it has claimed the lives of five people, the latest being a female senior consultant that treated Mr. Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian/American who imported the disease to Nigeria.

Health authorities have repeatedly announced the mode of transmission of this disease and how it could be avoided. But what have we heard so far? Some cock-and-bull stories!

We are already familiar with the salt and water therapy story. Just one morning, some fellows started spreading weird messages that Ebola was in the air. To avoid contacting it, all one needed to do was to put salt inside water and bathe with it. Then, put some of the salt in water and drink. Over 20 people found themselves in the hospital that day.

Suffice it to say that it is this kind of dangerous rumour that prompted some misguided youths to invade a centre where Ebola victims were quarantined in Liberia. They carted away some items including bloodstained bedding of the patients. Their action was said to have been partly prompted by suspicion that their government was deceiving them. They believed there was nothing like Ebola in the first place.

Back home here, the Lagos State Government, last Wednesday, announced the discovery of five new suspected cases of Ebola in Lagos. The Federal Government fired back, asking citizens to regard the statement as a rumour. According to the Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, no other body except the Federal Ministry of Health under him is authorised to issue any statement on Ebola.

Nevertheless, I have not forgotten the born-again Christians. Yes, some of them see this Ebola as a sign of the end time. They say when that time comes, there will be strange diseases; wars and rumours of wars; brothers killing brothers; sons killing fathers; pastors raping young girls and so forth.

Agreed, there are wars and rumours of wars. Pastors are becoming randier that the rest of us. But much of what we believe to be signs of the end time are figments of our imagination.

Today, I remember some 11 students of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. In 2007, these students got some revelations about the end of this world. They are members of a Christian group called the World Ablaze Fellowship. They thought the world had really gone ablaze and went into the forest to await rapture.

For days, they prayed and fasted, claiming that God gave them a message to rapture. Unfortunately, the same God refused to spirit them away. They eventually emerged from the forest looking like skeletons. Elsewhere in the world, people had committed mass suicide believing that God wanted them to rapture.  

Thank God, our military authorities prevented a similar mass suicide by some hunters a few months ago. These hunters wanted to invade Sambisa Forest in Borno State with dane guns, bows and arrows and possibly some charms. Their aim was to eliminate members of the Boko Haram Islamist sect. Their second objective was to rescue those girls held in captivity by the terrorists since April 14 this year. Happily, the army refused their request to move in. And we still have them with us.

Aha! I almost forgot the mystery fire that gutted the headquarters of the Nigeria Football Federation in Abuja last Wednesday. We hear that the fire started from the Chief Accountant’s office. You see, the president of the NFF, Aminu Maigari, has been on and off his hot seat. Today, you hear he is sacked. Tomorrow, the news will be that he has been reinstated on the orders of FIFA. And now this fire!

Seriously speaking, Nigeria is drifting. Boko Haram came with terror and rumours of terror. Ebola came with death and rumours of diseases. Corruption has always been there with mystery fire and rumours of probes.

We must all join hands to cast these rotten apples into the dustbin of history.

Nigeria 2015: Servicing the instruments of war

August 8, 2014

Ahead of the 2015 elections, Nigeria’s political elites are mired in exchanges of bitter criticism and accusations.
Published by Aljazeera: 06 Aug 2014 14:19
Casmir Igbokwe

Former Nigerian head of state, General Muhammadu Buhari, is a war veteran. Even as a retired soldier and now an opposition politician, the man still has some form of romance with war.
After losing the 2011 presidential election, this All Progressives Congress (APC) party chieftain became angry with the electoral system. He reportedly said that if what happened in 2011 should happen in 2015, “by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood.”
In Nigeria these days, elections seem to be presented in war terms. We all remember former President Olusegun Obasanjo describing the process as a do-or-die affair and it seems that Nigerian politicians are working towards proving him right yet again.
The 2015 general and presidential elections are some six months away and yet the drumbeats of war are already echoing in different parts of the country.
Power struggles
Just a few weeks ago, Buhari warned, “Our country has gone through several rough patches, but never before have I seen a Nigerian President declare war on his own country as we are seeing now. Never before have I seen a Nigerian President deploy federal institutions in the service of partisanship as we are witnessing now. Never before have I seen a Nigerian President utilise the common wealth to subvert the system and punish the opposition, all in the name of politics.”
The former head of state was reacting to the removal and threats to remove some state governors who belong to the main opposition party, the APC. In July, lawmakers from the northeastern state of Adamawa removed the state governor, Murtala Nyako, based on an investigation of alleged financial misconduct.
A probe was also launched by some legislators in Nasarawa State who threatened to remove the state governor, Tanko Al-Makura; the move did not succeed, as accusations against him were dismissed by the panel tasked with the investigation. Tensions over Nyako and Al-Makura’s probes rose and now there are also rumours that plans are afoot to remove other opposition governors.
Although the two probes were hinged on gross misconduct and misappropriation of funds, opposition leaders strongly believe that the presidency and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are the unseen hands manipulating the lawmakers.
The Nigerian president and head of PDP has denied this charge, and in response his spokesman, Reuben Abati, announced, “President Jonathan has never at any time ordered that any Nigerian should be kidnapped or that anyone should be crated and forcefully transported in violation of decent norms of governance.”
This was a veiled reference to the failed attempt in 1984 to smuggle in a crate the then exiled former transport minister, Umaru Dikko, from London to Nigeria to face corruption charges. Buhari was the military head of state then.
The idea of crating former politicians to face charges died with Umaru Dikko.
The real issue today is Boko Haram and both sides seem to conveniently use the group for their own conspiracy theories.
The PDP believes that the opposition uses the dreaded Islamist group to cause confusion and make the government look incapable of governance.
The APC believes the ruling party is using the terrorists to destabilise the north, the stronghold of the opposition party, in order to gain political advantage in the forthcoming elections.
As an APC spokesperson, Mr Osita Okechukwu, reportedly put it, “The worst of Boko Haram attacks are carried out in areas where the PDP is afraid of losing.”
Last month, Buhari cheated death when a suicide bomber suspected to be a Boko Haram member attacked his convoy in Kaduna, northwest Nigeria. He strongly believes the incident was a clear assassination attempt on his life and most of his party members seem to agree with him. As expected, they point fingers at the PDP-controlled federal government.
At the same time some pro-government people believe that Buhari masterminded the alleged assassination attempt to attract public sympathy and paint President Jonathan as a bad leader.
This exchange of allegations is clearly ridiculous, to say the least. Buhari couldn’t have arranged his own assassination. After all he had condemned Boko Haram and the group had threatened him directly before the incident. It is equally implausible that the government planned to kill him and sent a suicide bomber for the task.
Accusations and counter-accusations
Some politicians are merely capitalising on the poor security situation in the country to achieve political gains.
Their accusations and counter-accusations have become a pastime. In Osun, southwest Nigeria, the PDP claimed that its governorship campaign train came under attack at a rally in the Ilesa area of the state recently.
The APC followed suit with a petition to President Jonathan, alleging plot to kill one of its governors – Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State.
The party further alleged that troops sent to provide security for the June 21 governorship election in Ekiti State also harassed and intimidated the opposition.
Ironically, the federal government deployed troops during the governorship election in Edo State in July 2012. That year the opposition governor, Adams Oshiomhole, not only won the election but also commended the Federal Government for deploying troops to maintain law and order.
For now, the PDP appears to be gaining ground over the opposition. Since it changed its national chairman in January, the ruling party has been reaping good fortunes.
Some strong opposition leaders have defected to the party, including the former governor of Sokoto state, Attahiru Bafarawa; former governor of Kano state, Ibrahim Shekarau; former military administrator of Lagos state, Buba Marwa and former governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff.
Currently, the PDP controls 20 states while the APC controls 14. In the governorship election held last June in the southwestern state of Ekiti – a supposed stronghold of the opposition – the PDP won.
More cross-carpeting and tension will follow when President Jonathan formally declares his intention to run for the 2015 presidential race. Some Niger Delta warlords have threatened that it’s either him or nobody else.
But some northern leaders, who believe that it is the turn of the north to take the presidency, are ready to do anything to stop him.
So far, the two main parties have deployed what has been termed “stomach infrastructure” to outwit each other. Occasionally, they dole out gift items, especially foodstuff such as rice, to gullible citizens to win support.
Besides, some politicians indulge in ritual practices to win elections. Each time a major election approaches, as in 2015, there is usually an increase in cases of ritual killings in different parts of the country.
In all this, only a few politicians have the interest of the masses at heart, while the rest of them struggle to grab power for their selfish interests.