Nigeria is one hell of a study in paradoxy. And it’s not just that it is a rich country of poor citizens. Nor the poor national economy of some of the world’s richest billionaires.
It is probably the only country on God’s earth that is gleefully marching into self-destruction, and enjoying every step of it.
It is the only entity on earth that is in a hole but has stubbornly refused to stop digging. Ours is the only country in this 21st century whose leaders are laughing off the reality of electric cars while still pumping scare resources into exploration for new crude oil deposits.
It is the only country that knows its quickest route out of its present economic downturn is urgent diversification of the economy into massive and mechanized agriculture but has deliberately set its animal farmers and crop farmers against each other continues to finance mutual bloodletting by both groups – and ensures that neither beef nor crop is ever produced.
Ours is a country where the government decides, on the one hand, to hike taxes and increase revenue through company taxes, then, on the other hand, sends out its agents to go close down (through the most inclement regulations regime) the same companies that are supposed to pay the taxes.
Ours is an economy where banks continue to declare mega-profits when the companies they financed have all gone bankrupt and folded up.
We live in a country where the richest people are those who have either served in government or are still serving.
Ours is a country where we intermittently shut down universities for upwards of 10 months, refuse to fund them, or even pay professors the pittance we call salaries, and then turn round and accuse them of not churning out enough research findings. We live in a country were we use corruption to fight corruption. Ours is a country where the standard response of our leaders to pothole-riddled roads is to purchase bigger SUVs for themselves. A country where big mass transit buses give way to tricycles as the population grows larger.
A country were the two richest (oil-producing states) of the South East have the worst infrastructure in the entire zone. A country where the best brains are deliberately kept out of governance that deliberately needs them, to pave way for intellectual never-do-wells. Ours is a country where the section with the highest representation in government curiously has the highest representation in the club of the poorest of the poor.
We live in a country where we have shut down factories and turned their warehouses to churches, where our people now congregate to pray for jobs.
Nigeria is the only country in the modern civilisation where we send pythons and crocodiles to dance and smile on unarmed protesters, while we invite gun-wielding, blood-sucking terrorists and felons to tea at government house.
We are living in a country where the military and other security agencies (and even ministers) daily parrot how the government will never negotiate with bandits and terrorists, even as we are regularly treated to photos and videos of governors with all manner of bandits inside government houses. One governor even regaled us with details of how he took hundreds of millions of naira, in cash, to the bandits in the bush, to make them stop killing his people.
What he did not tell us, however, is that the bandits used the money to procure more sophisticated weapons to begin an even more deadly campaign against the same people. We did the same thing with Niger Delta militants in their heyday.
But the case of the militants was clearly defined. Theirs was a fight against universally acknowledged injustice. In the case of agitators in the North, the reverse is the case. There is no case of state/corporately sponsored injustice against the agitators. In fact, in this case, the agitators are actually the aggressor, seeking to subjugate the state and its people.
But because we’d always wanted to use their agitation as a political bargaining chip, we covertly and overtly bankrolled them. And now, they have become our own Frankenstein monster.
They have graduated from rustling cattle to rustling students. Yes, the same tactic, and charms, used for herding cattle can also be used in herding human beings – which explains how 300, 500, 600 and 80 students can be herded away into the bush without anybody seeing them.
This also explains why the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) comes handy in negotiating their release. Never mind that the army is desperate to claim credit for the return of Kankara students. Of course, my only interest in the matter is that the innocent children were returned to their families unhurt.
Whoever takes the credit between and among the politicians, the army, the Miyetti Allah, Boko Haram, Bandits and Kidnappers is a mere sibling rivalry. And every wise man knows it’s not advisable to intervene in such family matters.
My Bini friend once told me that two witches never agree with each other in public because they both know where they usually meet.
But if you think the paradoxy only exists in at the executive arm, then you have another think coming. And I’m not talking about the Judi-sharing yet. Those once have long been demystified – so much so that justice now goes to whoever has the levers of economic or political power.
Even though we occasionally get real justice by default from time to time, it would appear we take one step forward and take two backwards. If it is not with our ‘brilliant’ nominee for the ICJ job, then it would be with our erudite AGF’s out-of-this-world interpretation of the constitution over the NASS invitation of President Muhammadu Buhari.
And yes! We operate a democracy where the president is mortally scared of talking to the citizens. But that one is now stale news.
The biggest irony of all, however, would probably be that emerging from a 9th Senate that has stubbornly refused to accept its constitutional role of checkmating executive excesses – preferring, instead, to go the route of Motions, which, I’m told, are mere moral suasions that have no force of law. But then, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, in fairness to him, did warn us, on the assumption of office, that this is the way was he would go.
So, when lawmakers from one part of the country sudden acquiesced to the move to push through legislation against child marriage and other related girl child rights issue, I refused to roll out the drums in celebration.
Somehow, something kept telling me that the lawmakers only beat a retreat to buy time and restrategise. I knew the last had yet to be heard on the matter. Like the proverbial ram in a fight, they only back-stepped to gather enough momentum for the next forward charge.
That charge was delivered in a very deadly thrust last week when the Joint Committee of the National Assembly on the Independent National Electoral Commission Matters met with the INEC Technical Committee on Electoral Reforms.
There, both chairmen of the Senate and House of Representatives committees, Kabiru Gaya and Aishat Dukku respectively, made a shocking revelation of what Nigeria’s lawmakers want.
The joint committee has proposed that if a lady who is not up to 18 years is married, she should be considered to be mature enough and be eligible to vote, Gaya stated, adding that the lawmakers want such girls exempted from the present position pegging minimum voting age at 18 years.
Even when INEC Chairman Mahmood Yaakubu reminded the NASS committee members that 18 years peg was a constitutional issue, Hon Dukku took offence, alleging that the INEC Chairman dismissed the proposal with a wave of the hand, and reminding him that the lawmakers had already asserted that change in the amendments NASS is making to the constitution.
Of course, there is no ambiguity about the issue. The lawmakers want married underage children (of course boys are hardly ever married off underage) to be accorded the privilege of adulthood and be allowed to vote. In other words, sneaking into adulthood through the backdoor. What that means is that rather than discourage child-marriage and underage voting, and throw perpetrators behind bars, our lawmakers are more interested in the votes they’d harvest therefrom.
It doesn’t matter to them that those millions of votes are a testimony to our mindless exploitation of our own children – whom we foolishly think are other people’s children.
These are the same children for whom we have made going to school practically impossible.
Of course, you’d think that Hon. Dukku, who is a woman, would put in word for her gender, which is really at the receiving end of this social malaise. But no! The matter for them is not really about gender, but social class. It is a law to keep the poor of the North perpetually poor. It is a gang-up of the elite.
Having deadlocked the passage of girl child rights bill, even after seriously watering down its provisions, they still wouldn’t sleep easily without decriminalising underage voting and, by extension, water down the case for any legislation aimed at stopping child marriage.
It is a comprehensive package in oppression that goes down to as lowly as organising state-sponsored mass weddings for widows and divorcees – mass weddings which never involve widows of the elites nor divorcees from that social class.
The pattern is simple: We encourage the poor who are already overburdened with the back-breaking battle of putting one good meal on the table for their families, to sire even more children – like pigs with piglets. We cheer them on. We praise their fecundity. Reminding them they have to play their part in maintaining the numerical advantage of the North, to keep power in the North. And because they’re too ignorant to ask how that power has benefited them in the last 70 years. They also don’t see that while their own children roam the streets, those of the neighbourhood ‘Rankadede’ are serviced by the state, with allocations originally meant for all. Poor souls!
Sometimes, we even gift them with enough money to enable them to throw a party for the dedication/naming ceremony of their newest baby, sponsor them on pilgrimage, buy them coffins to bury their dead, invite them to worship at the ‘Allah Ga naka’ mosques inside our compound, and even eat from the crumbs that fall of our table. This tokenism makes them eternally indebted to us for our ‘kindness’. But we never give them enough to stand on their own and stop coming to beg bread at our doorstep.
That is as far as our curious kindness goes. We never, for instance, look back to ask how the new child, whose naming ceremony we bankrolled, is faring, whether it ever made it to primary school, or if it has not joined the ever-growing army of out-of-school children.
While we send our own children to choice schools in Europe and America, we encourage them to send theirs to informal Qur’anic schools. Even when President Goodluck Jonathan bent over backwards to introduce some order into the chaotic arrangement, via the Almajiri Schools, we went behind to frustrate it, for fear that it would empower our Serfs to look beyond their lives of servitude to us and our children. We fear that it might get to a situation whereby they would not only not serve us, but their children would also refuse to serve our children. But we wrap this our mortal fear and selfish interest in the veneer of fighting for our constituents. And because we have deliberately kept them uneducated and ignorant, they take up arms against those alongside whom they should ideally be fighting.
So, we come to the National Assembly to, for instance, champion the enshrinement of the Sharia in our federal constitution – even when we have no intentions of subjecting ourselves and our households to any such laws. We impose it in our areas because it basically helps to kill off any tendency to question the exploitative status quo. With the new order, even the most inhuman oppression then becomes ‘the will of God’. Every rigged election is accepted as another case of God giving power to whomsoever He pleases. Every avoidable death, usually resulting from official negligence, becomes yet another case of Allah giving and taking life – it thus brands even the most elementary inquest into such deaths (by way of autopsy) as an unislamic ploy by infidels to frustrate burying a dead faithful under Islamic injunctions. It amounts to blaspheming the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Of course, that is reason enough to go on the rampage, kill a few dozens more, and burn down a handful of houses and other property. Curiously, we kick when Donald Trump and Amnesty Amnesty International add our dear nation to the list of countries sponsoring terrorism and violating religious and other rights.
Meanwhile, our own children dress, drink and party wildly like their contemporaries in the west, while we foist a Sharia police to arrest and extrajudicially discipline the children of the poor for such minor offences as wearing their preferred hairdo or dress.
We frolic with wines and women inside our castles, which are, in themselves, a monument to unbridled corruption. Our children do likewise, albeit less secretive. Yet we publicly destroy bottles of beer and shamelessly pull down public bars and motels, which are about the only places the poor can get a semblance of the entertainment and relaxation we indulge in.
Painfully, none of those pushing to lower the constitutional age of consent for marriage to as low as 10 years would ever agree to give away his or her daughter in marriage at 14. They want them to attend Ivy League universities, explore the world, discover themselves, head one government parastatal or the other, and generally be ready for marriage before going into it.
But the paedophilic feudal lords that we are, many of us are into fulltime cradle snatching, with some of us having actually married 13-year-olds.
Some of our ‘big men are even alleged to have accepted to marry pre-teen daughters of poor families in lieu of debts owed by their parents.
Of course, it’s immaterial to claim that such marriages are never consummated until the innocent girl comes of age. You can tell that to the marines. But what is not too difficult to see is the fact that marrying a 14-year-old smacks of paedophilia and the new-look slave trade.
Come to think of it, what happens when the underaged wives commit a crime – like deciding to do something about the nightly bedroom torture her scarcely mature pelvis is subjected to, reaching for the kitchen knife and slashing off the offending phallus? Would she be treated as adult or minor? Or is an adult status only applicable for election purposes?