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The knee on our necks

The last week of May holds several dates of significance – the one-year anniversary of the police murder of African American George Floyd, the Children’s Day, and the 6th anniversary of Major-General Buhari’s current tenure in office. In a curious manner, these trifectas are all somewhat interrelated.

Nigeria marked Children’s Day on 27 May. However, in Nigeria children have nothing to celebrate. Rather than being treated as leaders of tomorrow, they are being relegated to the lowly status of leaders of “no tomorrow,” with a barren future in a hopeless nation.

As children in the ‘80s, we were deceived that we were the “leaders of tomorrow.” Buhari was Head of State then; just as he is today. The question is: Who stole our tomorrow? We now have children and grandchildren of our own so who is fooling who?

Perhaps nothing illustrates the stolen future than the fact that the first lady who was a child when Buhari was first Head of State in the ‘80s has abandoned Nigeria for refuge abroad not even able to fulfill her designated servile kitchen and ‘oza’ room duties in peace. Or need we mention Yusuf the presidential scion who is idling riding power bikes at an age when his dad was already rising in power in the military?

Last week in Nigeria rather than celebrating Children’s Day with march pass, we saw videos of children fleeing the weeklong rampage of killer Fulani herdsmen in Plateau State that left many dead.

Schools and orphanages in which we have placed over half a dozen victims of Fulani and Boko Haram Terrorism this year were shut down as the government did nothing to guarantee their safety. Sadly, even Nigerian child refugees in Cameroun who returned home to Nigeria are among those displaced again by the Fulani attacks.

Here are just a few examples of how Buhari has done worse now than as a military dictator: He has detained journalists more and longer than in the ‘80s; More protesters have died under him today than did in the ‘80s; The Naira has fared worse than in it did in the ‘80s; He has been far more nepotistic than he was in the ‘80s; He has debased and desecrated the judiciary more than in the ‘80s.

But apart from the constitutional travesties above, there are even more systemic and economic atrocities inflicted on the nation.

The southeast can no longer use Port Harcourt to import their goods though they’re the biggest entrepreneurs in Nigeria, but the North that imports and distributes beggars and terrorism is getting a $2 billion railway to the Niger Republic at our children’s expense.

Incidentally, Buhari cancelled the Lagos Metro Line project that would have eased up Lagos traffic congestion over 30 years ago and considerably improved the quality of life and cost of living.

Boko Haram used to hire mercenaries from Niger to come into Nigeria to kill and go back. Arms proliferation from Qaddafi’s armouries permeated Nigeria through the Niger border (the Killer foreign Fulanis as well). The deadliest border front in Nigeria is Niger. Instead of securing it with a wall, we’re rendering it even more porous with a train.

Buhari exacerbated local factors that have strangulated commerce. The rise of the Bakassi Boys led many traders from the West African subregion to stop coming to southeast markets. Similarly, those from the Sahel area bordering the northeast also stopped coming to buy in Nigeria because of terrorism. So also, southwestern traders who used to go to the northeast to buy goods stopped. So subregional and internal trade were affected. Then, Buhari shut the borders and trade across Seme border was again negatively impacted. So, the bad economic situation orchestrated by crime in the southeast and terrorism in the northeast was exacerbated by misgovernance in the southwest.

The Ibos in the southeast are the entrepreneurial engine of the Nigerian economy and their apprenticeship scheme has produced more millionaires than any Nigerian university. During my youth service year, I was legal adviser to Aba local government and was so impressed that, years later, I brought a US government team to research Ariaria market. As at 20 years ago, they determined that Ariaria market was exporting goods worth N18 billion per annum to the West African subregion. The road from Aba to Port Harcourt normally takes just an hour when you drive. Yet, to this day, entrepreneurs from the East have to go to Lagos to clear most of their imported goods.

Buhari borrowed $2 billion for a railroad to the Niger Republic for the benefit of Niger, not Nigeria. Meanwhile, Niger itself is not the one borrowing the money and will have no obligation to repay the loan tomorrow.

Rice is being smuggled in broad daylight on bikes from the landlocked nation of Niger into a coastal nation for cheaper. The Benin Republic is coastal and smuggles rice and cars into Nigeria cheaper than through Nigerian ports.

Recently the cost of shipping a container from the US to Nigeria escalated from $4000 to $13,000 because containers to Nigeria come back empty or not at all! After spending over $16,000 to clear my food aid container which spent months at the port, the cost of returning it to Lagos from the north was so much that it exceeded the cost of our security deposit for the container.

The conclusion of the matter is that our children are the leaders of no tomorrow and Buhari is the non-leader of today. All he has managed to do is to be the knee on the neck, choking the life out of Nigeria, for six years and counting. And Nigeria is the prostrate George Floyd for two more years.

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