(Published in The PUNCH on Monday, March 26, 2018)
Understandably, the noun ‘change’ is the most controversial word in Nigeria today. You need to be careful about where and how you say change because the design of your face and the architecture of your mouth could be badly changed for mouthing change wrongfully. Here, change doesn’t mean the money you collect after making a purchase. Here, change was the powerful potion a nation in hebetude was eager to take to break free from crushing poverty and grinding backwardness of yesteryears.
Change was the flaming key with which the All Progressives Congress unlocked the hearts of Nigerians during the 2015 presidential election, splitting into two equal halves the door to the Aso Rock bedroom of the then President, Goodluck Jonathan, laying bare a cringing occupant.
Change became Nigeria’s most popular word in 2015 as thrice-unlucky-presidential-aspirant, General Muhammadu Buhari, dazzled the electorate with a blazing manifesto whose glitter was blinding. Nigerians were drunk on the Buhari opium, swooning over the long list of his Eldorado promises. Like a messiah in a hurry, Buhari promised, among other things, to chase corruption into the Dead Sea and part River Niger with earth-shaking socio-political reforms. Armed with his sainthood and halo, Buhari vowed to publicly declare his assets, ensure constant electricity, create three million jobs per year; ban medical tourism by politicians from May 29, 2015, remove immunity from prosecution for elected officers in criminal cases, make the economy one of the fastest growing in the world with a GDP growth averaging 10-12% annually, and enshrine political reforms to check electoral malpractice. The savior has finally arrived!
Purportedly driven by the passion to see Nigeria emerge as a strong regional economy, Buhari also promised to make the naira to be at parity with the dollar through investment in agriculture, establish city and state policing system, build 6,800km of modern railway and 5,000km superhighway by 2019 just as he pledged to quash Boko Haram and vowed not to ‘leave the defence of the nation in the hands of hunters, children and Civilian JTF’. Nigeria’s time in the sun has come!
The husband of the uncommon and courageous woman, Aisha, also told Nigerians that he would, if elected president, establish a conflict resolution commission to prevent and resolve civil conflicts in the Niger Delta and states such as Plateau, Benue, Bauchi, Borno, Yobe, Kaduna etc; provide allowance to discharged but unemployed National Youth Service Corps members for 12 months, ‘revive our minimally performing refineries to optimum capacity’, and revive and restructure the Nigerian football league, among other lofty promises. Has the president delivered on his promises? Yes, Buhari and his supporters living in the Nigeria bordering between the USA and Canada believe the president has delivered on all electoral promises and more to boot!
Change has become a curious word in the present-day Nigeria amalgamated by the British Empire in 1914. Without a doubt, things were rosier for Nigerians under colonial rule than they are today and the only difference between the savagery of the slave trade era and the lives of Nigerians today is the change in the skin color of the slave masters!
Although a breakaway faction of Boko Haram headed by Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi is suspected to have masterminded the Dapchi kidnap in order to have a piece of the national cake as the Abubakar Shekau faction had when negotiations on the release of some Chibok schoolgirls were reached, neither of the two factions have openly claimed responsibility for the Dapchi kidnap.
The ruthlessness of the Shekau faction, however, puts him on the same podium with the world’s vilest murderers. With a place assured in hell as Satan’s deputy, Shekau, a leader of the world’s deadliest terror gang, ostensibly fell under the spell of the magical swagger stick of President Buhari last Monday, in Dapchi. I remember seeing camouflage-wearing President Goodluck Jonathan playfully sitting on a swagger stick as a kid would mount his first potty – during his visit to Boko Haram-ravaged Baga in Borno State.
President Buhari says he hails from Katsina, despite planning to build a rail line into the neighboring Niger Republic. With my head on the chopping block, I can wager a bet that Baba Yusuf will contest the 2019 presidential election, but I can’t bet that kidnapping won’t mushroom in the coming months. Shekau, a Kanuri from Yobe State, stole the change, sorry, I mean the show, in Dapchi last Monday, symbolically marching through the scourged village to the shock of an alarmed nation when he returned 105 schoolgirls kidnapped on February 19, 2018. ‘Boko Haram returns Dapchi schoolgirls’ ran hasty headlines on social media.
It must be a joke, I thought. Return ko, reverse ni. Then the news gained momentum and soared on the pinions of reality. With the manner of the girls’ release, Boko Haram has brought a change to the young trade of kidnapping and negotiation in Nigeria. The girls’ release was made to look like an authorless fairytale book from a faraway land beyond seven rivers by the Minister of Information, Youth and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who said Boko Haram released the girls without collecting a ransom. Haba, Alhaji! I didn’t know that ‘Bonanza’ was Boko Haram’s other name. If Mohammed had told Nigerians that Boko Haram released the girls because of the ‘APC’ in d-APC-hi, he would have told a better lie.
Also, the assertion by the minister that Boko Haram claimed to have returned the Dapchi girls because they’re Muslims makes one wonder whether the kidnapped Muslim Chibok schoolgirls are inferior to their Muslim colleagues in Dapchi. Globally, the terms of hostage negotiation are not fed to the public, but Mohammed could’ve said something like: “The girls’ release was negotiated by Nigerian and foreign experts who want the terms of the negotiation kept under wraps for security reasons.” As poor as a church rat that my family is, I had to negotiate and part with some money when my in-law was kidnapped in Rivers State in 2014. Kidnappers, unlike politicians, don’t have access to the treasury; ransom is their holy grail.
The Boko Haram change. Since he emerged in 2009 as the world’s primus inter pares in terrorism, Shekau promised Nigerians sorrow, tears and blood. Boko Haram, his mass murder machine, has sowed everlasting grief into families, whose thousands of dear ones it bombed into shallow graves. Last Monday, however, Boko Haram gave Nigerians what it never promised – joy, albeit momentary – while the change promised by the Buhari government remained a miserable hope.
Another agent of death who mouthed change a few days ago was Assassin-in-Chief and Tormentor Extraordinaire, Adeola Williams aka Ade Lawyer, who recently confessed to killing over a hundred persons. Begging for forgiveness, Ade Lawyer (39), whose last kill was Ganiyu Ayinla alias Pinero, the personal assistant to the NURTW chairman in Idumota, Azeez Lawal (aka Kunle Poly), said he has also embraced change.
The self-confessed serial killer said he had killed four people on the prompting of a former Chairman of the National Union Road of Transport Workers, Lagos State branch, Alhaji Akanni Olorunwa. He said he had aimed to kill Kunle Poly on Olorunwa’s request, but mistakenly shot Pinero who was with the former on the fateful day. He said he had killed several people on the request of prominent Nigerians including traditional rulers in more than a decade of his stellar career.
In a serious country, Ade Lawyer would’ve been long arrested and his arrest would’ve led to solving the jigsaw of several killings in the country.
A few days after his disturbing confession, change crept into Ade Lawyer’s statement, which wasn’t made under duress. Ade recanted. In this era of change, Olorunwa will be freed, the politicians and traditional rulers Ade killed for won’t be exposed, and life goes on.