The straits of a nation

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By Hope Eghagha

Some tumultuous events in the last weeks and months have showed that the nation is indeed in dire straits. So if we were to write on the State of the nation we would say we are in straits, arising from the national pastime of official foolishness. The IPOB (now officially a terrorist group) seized control of Anambra and Abia States till the activists were brutally decimated by the anti-people (courtesy retired General Danjuma) Nigerian Army. As we write no one knows the whereabouts of Nnamdi Kanu the fire-spitting, hate-infused leader of the now-proscribed IPOB.  Herdsmen of Fulani stock (the real terrorists in my view) suddenly became mass murderers, decimating whole communities in Enugu and Benue States and collecting tolls from farmers in Ughweru in Delta State. Kidnappers, scoundrels otherwise known as ‘miserable worms of humanity’ became lords of the Manor. The security situation became frightening; yet Aso Rock looked on in admiration of ‘retaliating vandals’, with the dubious blessing of the Minister of Defence and the Inspector-General.  If we were asked to comment on the letters from Ex-Presidents Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida we would say that a handshake from Minna to Abeokuta shook the entire nation to its political foundations. While we were still struggling to get out of the stupor of the Technical Knock Out that the two Generals gave Aso Rock, another General, the taciturn T.Y. Danjuma, (a man of many coups and countercoups, a man of two oil rigs and billions of naira), fired a nuclear salvo from the heights of the Mambilla Plateau. As if these were not electrocuting enough, Bill Gates, I mean Bill Gates himself joined the fray and directly gave an international slap to the economic policies of the Federal Government. The slap hit us too! I had thought Gates would weigh in on the anti-corruption agenda of the Government. But the great man ignored that and brutally rebuked the Government for failing to invest on the people, health and education! Boy o boy! What a month it was, what a week it was!  Well, we do not know for sure how our President personally took all these hullabaloos, these missiles, guided and stray! My people say that it is at night the strongman cries. Did he shake off the darts like an ‘ogbu’ laced with the appropriate ‘odeshi? Did he feel misunderstood? Did he feel betrayed? Did he reach out to the letter writers in political reconciliation? We are not sure. We are only sure that he refused to visit the field of a bloodbath that was Benue State shortly after the attack, when the wound was still fresh, while the State was still grieving. He chose to visit five affected States in a row only after a huge public outcry against his apparent aloofness. The nation felt he was coldly detached from the tragedy being inflicted on us by some of his kinsmen; that is, those men who put cows in front and bear Ak-47s on their backs! The first missile fired from the arsenal of the Association of Retired Heads of State took everyone by surprise.  Now, Obasanjo is a well-known, habitual letter writer. (No one prays to receive a letter from him, particularly if you hold political office). He can be trenchant. He can also be bitingly frank and brutally dismissive in a positive manner. Some people hate him for this; others love him for the same reason; which is the way of the world. Of course he is not a saint; he has his own terrible warts, thanks to his Odi bombardment and third term ambition. But we do not need saints to tell us that the mouth of the nation has a foul odour!  Sometimes I wonder how Obasanjo finds the right words and expressions to capture the right mood of the people at odd times, and at critical times. I remember he once sent a missive to President Babangida; to be sure, the Military President did not find it funny. There was an exchange of letters between him and one of the ‘super’ Federal Permanent Secretaries in 1990 before a national upheaval took place in April of that year. I also haven’t forgotten the missile that he fired at President Goodluck Jonathan in the dying days of that unfortunate administration. That letter reminded me of the one that was fired by late Chief Obafemi Awolowo to then President Shehu Shagari about a sinking ship of State. Of course, all the loud mouths around Shagari called Awolowo all kinds of unprintable names. Was that how the phrase ‘weeping Jeremiah’ came into our national lexicon? I’m not sure now. But shortly after that missile and in the wake of the insults, President Shagari declared ‘austerity measures’ to save the economy! Ex-Presidential letters in form of missiles do have an impact!  It would seem that people who are inside the corridors of power see things differently. The beautiful environment which they live in, the perks, the endless and sometimes hopeless meetings, shield them from the ugly realities which the ordinary folks deal with on the streets daily. As a result, when citizens cry out or when counter opinions are thrown into the public space they react with the infantile spirit of paranoia. How do we account for the current disconnection between the rulers and the ruled? How do we account for the spurious defence being put up by some erstwhile credible aides? I remember an aide who once defended his principal that the man does not say Amen to prayers! Hahahahahahahaha! May we never have the misfortune of defending an unpopular Government or a hopeless situation! It can be very trying.  Now, back to the Danjuma weekend-outburst! Retired General Danjuma has been a great beneficiary of the sweetness of power. The mythic North (now shattered through this vituperation)) gave him an umbrella to function at the highest level in Government and in the Army. His serious mien makes him a figure to be feared or respected or adored. What made this extremely-pro-establishment senior citizen erupt against the State? What made him call on Nigerians to defend themselves against the very Army he once boldly and courageously commanded? Why did he break ranks with the establishment?  I know that when an elder gets angry it is not a small matter. His curses could mean chaos. We are Africans and we take our elders seriously. Some people have chided the 80-year old General for calling out the people against the Army. Others have said the Retired Generals’ Club may have gotten impatient with the slow and mischievous antics of the Cabal in Aso rock. Whatever the reason for the outburst it is high time Aso rock sat down with these men to chart a new pro-people course. It is time Aso Rock distanced itself by word and deed from the scoundrels masquerading as herdsmen and unleashing terror in the land. Our nation totters in uncertainty. What will 2019 bring?

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