Nigerian politics

Is Ohimai Crazy?

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There are two young Nigerians whom other young Nigerians love to hate – Reno Omokri and Ohimai Godwin Amaize. There are several reasons why they are hated, but among the top reasons are their perceived excessive vocalizations of the Jonathan administration’s agenda, their insistence that young Nigerians should not be satisfied with ‘Twitter activism’ but should challenge government in the arena of ‘alternative ideas’, and Ohimai’s recent declaration that the best solution for our country is for the majority of Nigerians, the youth especially, to get involved with politics. That last one did not go down quite well with the vast horde of anti-Ohimai campaigners, but let’s hold our guns, Reno Omokri isn’t fairing very well at all. In his 2012 end-of-the-year Twitter award ceremony, Japhet Omojuwa awarded @renoomokri the ‘most hated twitter handle’. These days couldn’t be tougher for these two young men.

Politics in Nigeria has never been an endeavour for the chicken-hearted. We are all devotees of Nigerian dailies which have, from time immemorial, reported gruesome tales of assassinations of patriots who believed that it was their God-ordained mission to save the country from the throes of oppression. We have mourned, cursed and mourned again after each murder, but we have moved on, with reasonable fear of the pervasive darkness of Abuja. The fastest way to incur one’s parents’ wrath was to indicate interest in a career in politics. Respectful children have learned not to threaten their parents with such wild interests. The collective dream of most of our parents is to earn enough to help us escape the misfortune of Nigeria and her cursed political system, and see us thrive in huge companies in New York or London. What then are these two vibrant young men doing in the Abuja inner-circles?

The Amaize and Omokri families must have called several family meetings to discuss the obstinacy of their sons, just as the rest of us have concluded as to their motives in Abuja – “they clearly are there to line their wallets, build enough clout to launch political careers of their own, and replace their bosses in the near future”. We have castigated their every statement, justifiably or otherwise. Somehow, it just sounds really unreasonable for a young person in this generation to justify the actions of any Abuja politician, less-talk of work directly with them. What exactly were these two gentlemen (and others like them) thinking? More specifically, what was Ohimai thinking when he wrote that piece for YNaija on January 7 and its follow-up on January 14?

Ohimai recalls the definition of a political illiterate as someone who claims to hate politics, he mentions the fact that political party membership is as interesting to young Nigerians as the hostage crisis in Algeria, he reminds us that we despise politicians because we are saints and they are demons, he acknowledges our preference for cursing the PDP and her apologists, and hints at our love for opposition parties. He, thankfully, recognizes that the PDP hasn’t done well for Nigerians in 13 years, but states that our problem is not the PDP or politics. Ohimai says that the problem is that several of us, young Nigerians have backed too far away from politics and left it in the hands of a highly-corrupt few. He calls us a politically-naïve generation, and feels pressed to give us a knock each on the head. Of course, he is the one who gets knocked on the head, kicked in the stomach and smacked in the face for making such ‘unguarded statements’. YNaija commentators did to him what the ‘Twitter activists’ have been doing to him for almost two years. Very few people felt sympathetic to his statements. I was one of them.

I subscribe to Ohimai’s assertion that not very much will change on Twitter or blog pages. A lot will change, but not very much. Social media sites do a lot for sensitization, but in all honesty a lot of that is misguided. There’s a lot of naivety being paraded on social media, disguised as patriotism; consequently, the (un)informed thoughts of a handful of socio-political critics with a few thousand Twitter followers becomes the gospel truth for their readers who hastily retweet every criticism they level, and then beg for retweets as rewards. If we set aside emotions, we’ll realize that not much of that is going to get a genuine change-maker into Abuja.

Ohimai mentions that “in a democracy, the majority, no matter how stupid will always have their way”.  He also says that “Bundles of ankara penetrate the farthest nooks and crannies of our nation and big bags of rice inspire more hope than well-written blogs “. Unfortunately, he’s right. Whether for good or bad, the majority dominates. The majority of disgruntled young people brought about the 2011 Arab Spring, as did the majority of young, black and female voters in the 2008 US elections. The silence and lack of involvement of the majority of Nigerians could also be responsible for the undesirable present state of our politics. I get amazed when Nigerians identify more as Democrats (very rarely Republicans) than they identify with Nigerian politics. Definitely, no one wants to be associated with a disgusting political institution, but Ohimai was spot-on when he said that “We can chose to be remembered as the generation that lamented about our problems or the one that took drastic decisions towards solving those problems”.

Ohimai is not crazy, he’s just unpopular. But that will not last for long. His message will percolate through the crevices of our minds and we will get involved in Nigerian politics, either through the formation of alternative political parties or the reformation of the existing ones. This generation of young Nigerians will soon lose their satisfaction with only social media advocacy and gravitate towards mainstream politics. We will realize that there is a place for us in there and that our direct involvement is as relevant as our criticisms of the status quo. We will not chide forever. We will get involved. Before or after 2015, we will migrate en masse into the core of Nigerian politics, and whether or not that is part of Ohimai’s motivation, he will be vindicated. It will be remembered that he spoke out when it was unfashionable to do so.

You can follow Faith Abiodun on Twitter @FaithAbiodun

Whipping Governors, Phony Pilots and Private Jets

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Politics in Nigeria is extremely screwed up, but that is not exactly headline news. For several decades, Nigerians have mourned, bemoaned and agonized over the kind of politicians they have been cursed with. Some argue that a people deserve the kinds of leaders they get, but Nigerians are yet to be convinced that what they have received is really what they deserve. Presidential politics is literally out of the league of the common man – knowing that such permutations are reserved for the gods, however ward councillors, local government chairmen and states assemblymen have routinely proven that nothing amazing should be expected of any Nigerian politician. In a crazy nine-day span during which state governors seemed to be desperate to outdo one another, Governor Babatunde Fashola (legitimately or otherwise) withdrew the sources of livelihood of thousands of Okada riders, Governor Aliyu Wamakko turned village headmaster and flogged PHCN officials in his state, Governor Danbaba Suntai decided to take a fancy helicopter ride to survey his beautiful city and Governor Rotimi Amaechi flaunted his pretty new private jet. What a dynasty!

Enough has been said about the wisdom or wickedness of Fashola’s dictatorial decision regarding commercial motorcycles in Lagos, and apparently Governor Aliyu Wammako in far away Sokoto State was rueing his prolonged absence from the front pages of national dailies. And so what better way was there to make a majestic return to national consciousness than to invite the Business Manager of PHCN Gwiwa Business District to his private residence and flog him till he became unconscious. Recreating the scene seems to be an arduous task for anyone – a grown man picking up a locally-made whiplash to trash another grown man? For what crimes? Understandably, PHCN officials need to be reprimanded if they indeed have failed to deliver the two SMVA transformers to Wamakko town as they were commissioned to do, but have all official channels been exhausted? By physically assaulting Engr. Moses Osigwe, Mallam Isyaku Daura and Nurudeen Mohammed, Governor Aliyu Wamakko did not crown himself in glory; he rather belittled himself and descended to the lowest depths to which any public official could sink.

The Nigerian Governors Forum, apparently kicked off a ‘Mediocrity Week’ a while ago without remembering to inform us, otherwise how else could one explain Governor Danbaba Suntai’s unwise decision to fly a private Cessna 208 jet from Jalingo to Yola in pitch darkness? Having been warned by his private pilot that it was unreasonable to embark on such a foolish mission at the dead of night, knowing that the Yola airport was ill-equipped to accommodate flights beyond 6pm, he refused to read the writing on the wall, even when his pilot declined to fly with him. He instead headed for the cockpit, relying on his private flying license (hoping he didn’t skip the class where flight safety rules were taught) and took three loyal aides along with him on a ride to death. Not unexpectedly, the aircraft lost contact with the Yola airport and headed straight for hell’s gate.

The problem was not Suntai deciding to take his own life because he thought he knew how to fly a jet or because he could afford one, the problem was compelling three hapless assistants to embark on the flight with him. As expected, he is possibly now sipping fine wine and receiving world-class treatment in Germany on the sweat of Taraba’s poor taxpayers while his three comrades languish in hospitals in Abuja. No matter how the Taraba State Commissioner for Information tries to spin it, there is no logical justification for airlifting one of four passengers to Abuja and then Germany within 36 hours of an air crash while the other three are shuffled between Yola and Abuja up to seven days after the same crash. How else could one explain this than the fact that some animals are definitely more equal than others in the jungle called Nigeria?

In the spirit of flaunting private jets, Governor Rotimi Amaechi has decided not to be trumped by any of his contemporaries and the way to do that is to debut a stunning Global 5000 Bombardier jet at the peak of dealing with the aftermath of destructive floods in his state. Whether the fancy jet cost $45million or $50million, whether it was purchased two years ago or whether it was freshly minted, whether two other expensive jets were traded off to purchase this amazon or whether it was bought in cash, the question is not about affordability, the question is of priorities. And as if matters couldn’t get worse, media sources have recently confirmed that Governor Godswill Akpabio also owns a similar private jet to Amaechi’s. In their private capacities, no one cares what Amaechi or Akpabio does with their money, but as the custodians of goodwill for the people of Rivers and Akwa Ibom States, Amaechi and Akpabio have just ostracized themselves unnecessarily from the citizens of their states. True enough, there are transportation needs for any Governor, but the insensitivity of actions such as these ring louder than any other amazing tasks that they might have performed.

Will Nigerian politicians ever change? Possibly not. Neither will the ill-feelings and curses of the good people of Nigeria towards them. After all, one good turn deserves another, doesn’t it?

You can follow Faith Abiodun on Twitter @FaithAbiodun