2017 has in many ways been very eventful. No one can deny that. For many Nigerians, the events have been largely negative, at least in the public sphere! Most worrisome is the excruciating fuel scarcity and humongous queues with which the year is ending. In the history and experience of fuel shortages in our nation, this year’s is arguably the worst because no single part of the nation is spared the horror!
From Sokoto to Port Harcourt, from Maiduguri to Calabar, the story is the same; long lines of cars, motorbikes and people. Stories are told of women taking food to husbands trapped in unmoving and endless queues. Incidentally, I hold a rather radical view on fuel shortages and its solutions. I experienced my first fuel shortage as a primary school pupil, now I am 35 years post- university and I am experiencing yet another. Does it mean that fuel crisis will never end?
My radical solution is a surgery, the kind reserved for cancer: nationalize all tank farms, withdraw all operating licences in the petroleum sector, sack all Directorate of Petroleum Resources (DPR) employees, restrict Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to the export market and hand over the entire industry to a proven multinational logistics company for six months while a complete overhaul of that sector takes place under the eye of a multinational and the hammer of law! But most Nigerians don’t care for drastic long-term solutions, so palliatives will continue to be applied, while fuel crisis will continue to occur.
The year 2017 presented our country many opportunities to shine and grow. The Libyan slavery of Nigerians is a case in point. Our country had a chance to show the world and Nigerians that the Nigerian citizen is valued but once again, we missed it. Our uptake on that crisis was too slow and our response as a nation was insipid. It lacked outrage and the kind of passionate condemnation that the sale of our sons and daughters by Libyans deserved. Even France showed more concern than we did. The United Nations (UN) also showed more concern than African Union (AU). All the agencies of government that had a direct bearing on that matter ought to have done more but then, go slow appears to be our new foreign policy slogan!
One of the most organised and spontaneous crusades this country had ever seen was the one youths of Nigeria organised against police brutality and extortion. Youths from across Nigeria simply without “mobilisation” organised and the world heard, so did the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, who immediately promised a reform of Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS! Kudos to both the youths of Nigeria and the Police of Nigeria for its response to a clear and honest danger.
The Maina saga actually left me ashamed. The former chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina, is a fugitive of the law having been declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for offences bordering on Procurement Fraud and Obtaining by False Pretence. He is allegedly complicit in the over N2 billion Pension Biometric Scam in the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation. And had remained at large after charges were filed by the EFCC against his accomplices.
He allegedly fled the country because of the weight of evidence of wrongdoing found against him by the EFCC. However, Maina, returned to the country and was surprisingly reinstated to the civil service and promoted despite absconding from his duty post since 2013. This generated a lot of outcry and President Muhammadu Buhari eventually sacked him once again.
How could that sordid episode ever have happened? How could it ever have happened in such a clumsy and sense defying manner? Many things have happened to demystify governance in recent times and in the future, the Maina episode will be noted by Nigerians as one of the turning points in the public perception index of this administration! The way Maina breezed in and then breezed out left a sore taste in the mouths of many Nigerians!
One of the news that made the headlines this year was the Ikoyi Gate. In April, the EFCC stormed a residential building on the 7th floor of a four-bedroom apartment at Osborne Towers located at 16 Osborne Road, Ikoyi, Lagos where a humongous find of foreign currencies and naira notes to the tune of $43.4million, 27,800 Pounds Sterling, and N23.3million was uncovered.
This was made possible through the whistle blowing policy of the federal government. Under the policy the whistle blower will get between 2.5 per cent (minimum) and five per cent (maximum) of the recovered loot, provided that there is a voluntary return of stolen or concealed public funds or assets on the account of the information provided. Sadly, this laudable development was marred by the delay and controversy that ensued over the payment of the whistle blower’s commission for exposing the Ikoyi heist.
That single snafu has dampened the initial zeal with which Nigerians embraced the whistle blower policy of the federal government.
On the positive side is the health of Mr President. No fortune teller could have predicted the splendid return to ebullient and excellent health of President Muhammadu Buhari. Seeing him these days at functions and his official engagements, one can only marvel at the skill of the British doctors through who God restored him to health. I hope and pray that the authorities will look kindly to the Nigerian health sector so that such miracles of healing can also be conducted on Nigerians in Nigeria by Nigerian doctors!
In the arena of politics, former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar ‘ported’ from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the PDP organised the most monetised convention in its entire history. The echoes of that affair is yet to die down but it was so monetised that the flow of dollars therefrom affected albeit temporarily, the very volatile Abuja forex market.
The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) was finally bedded in the year with the silence and or escape of the very loquacious Nnamdi Kanu whose string of words nearly set this country ablaze. Even the elders of Ohanaeze nearly misstepped there too. Thank God, wisdom and statecraft eventually saved the day. This column hopes that 2018, will be much better for Nigerians as a whole. It is on this note that I wish my readers a really prosperous and positively eventful New Year. Happy New Year everyone.