|By John F. Emmanuel

It’s June 12, another symbolic day to remember. The first time in our Nation that free and fair election ignited the bank of history. Though the former military Dictator Ibrahim Gbadamoso Babangida annulled, the will of the people, the most credible 1993 election, crippling the change Citizens hope for in MKO Abiola, winner of the poll later jailed and died in custody, what is now called democracy day shines light on the darkest moment in our Nation’s history.

So, I strongly feel that today befits my thoughts and reflection on diagnosing our Leaders (or Rulers) approach to governance that has brought nothing but severe pains and profound poverty, a terrible way of honouring the memory of Nigeria’s hero of democracy MKO Abiola, whose blood paved the way and campaign slogan “farewell to poverty“ restored hope in 1993, the President that never was!

Now let’s begin, shall we?

It’s a fact well known that Nigerian Leaders ruled by circumstance while great Leaders of character in modern society bend circumstances to their will for good governance in the interest of the people. Dazzled by the misconstrued facts and deceit of the “gods of men” rumbling in the jungle of maladministration, keeping men enslaved in the 21st century, my country has been crowned the chronicle of shame with political emperors mortgaging citizens future for free, ripping their commonwealth apart like a box of chocolate.

Scant regard for common sense, true democracy, and good governance have compelled me to speak as a journalist for what I believe will create a conversation among my colleagues often threatened to remain quiet when it matters. Quiet, I must not, as we have sadly progress negatively overtaking India as the world’s poverty capital. Blame them not, I must add, for lacking the courage to stand up to a sick political structure of godfatherism, bending the will of a generation to the rhythm of selfish interest unchallenged.

In a ridiculed society where streams of journalists often become targets of political leaders for holding them to account, I am done being quiet and damn the consequences. Let my pen become the instrument of liberation that these political rulers, (not Leaders) may perhaps stop mortgaging the future of a generation on the altar of politics of the stomach.

It’s a clear absurdity for one of the most blessed nations in history with great potential to be the greatest country on earth now falling to a spectrum of a struggling society. Isn’t this a flourishing embarrassment?

Such an incredibly endowed country with too many natural resources still breeds an extremely high youth population wallowing in a scourge of despicable and degenerated streams of seemingly endless poverty. Sweet tears often stream down my convoluted grimace face in amazement with the sight of the poor still living us. What a huge miscarriage of leadership?

In a country ravaged with refined corruption, crass ineptitude, flourishing mediocrity, and absolute disregard for a corruption-free society, journalists like me often fear for their lives and maybe in trouble for speaking truth to power, but do I really care? I don’t think I am! Why I ask myself? If you speak the truth death is inevitable, if you don’t, death is a debt every human must pay. So why not speak the truth, stand for something rather than live for nothing. For a political class costumed by corruption, hard talk like this won’t even cook out launch, however, I am determined to speak anyway.

By the way of global statistics, the latest UN estimate as of this year 2018 put Nigeria’s population at 196 million people. By the end of next year 2019, the global body has projected an estimated population of nearly 220 citizens making my country, Nigeria the third-largest nation with a youth population in the world behind India and China, as over 90 million of its inhabitants fall under the age of 18.

Rather than our population transform into economic strength, increasing poverty becomes the breakfast of every hard-working citizen in a country with resources more than enough for everyone to escape the shackles of limited resources to make ends meet, massive youth unemployment, infrastructural decay and hyperinflation, and all for what? The theatre of political madness.

Ours is a nation where Rulers ( not Leaders ) nicely trade the future of the youth on the altar of politics. Rather than fix the rot, they are aware that a poor man is desperate for the next meal than fighting for his rights. So it makes perfect political algebra to conclude the strategy of turning poverty into political tools. Naked wickedness, I must add!

Since abandoning the quest for promulgating laws to improve and protect lives and property of dying citizens, the flagrant failure of their first constitutional duty, imposing unreasonable laws that condemn fellow citizens of the LGBTQ community to 14 years in imprisonment as victims of their sexual orientation becomes their top priority. How sick can a Government become? Is that the real problem begging for a solution when large population lives below the poverty line? Shamefully not!

To make it worse, the outright mundane and sick argument of hiding behind religion; the unconventional claim of protecting our culture, adopting religious bigotry and non-existing values as unacceptable alibi to inflict uncommon laws, stigmatization, pains and sufferings on the people who voted them into power simply because of their sexual orientation is a disgusting episode in our nation’s history. More on that in my next article because I am upset!

Let’s replay history, shall we?

As Nigeria returned to civil rule in 1999, the Nation was set for growth amidst corruption revival, economic meltdown, excessive crime, and massive youth unemployment the military administration nurtured. Nigerians found salvation in democratic leaders, freedom is here, we thought, but sadly the opposite beckons in silence, we never knew!

If I may cite the report of an international colleague Norimitsu Onisho of the New York Times on May 30, 1999, as Nigerians celebrate the dawn of democracy, we cried hope at last! unfortunately, a diluted hope, it was in stillborn almost two decades after.

Norimitsu report “Nigeria’s Military Turns Over Power To Elected Leader” reads:

“In an exuberant ceremony of martial music and marches, Nigeria’s military ruler turned over power to an elected leader today, opening an era of civilian government in the nation where one in six Africans live.
Seconds after he was handed a copy of Nigeria’s 24-day-old Constitution and 20 years after he stepped down as its military ruler, Olusegun Obasanjo, a retired general, was sworn in as President.
After the ceremony, in a symbolic retirement of the military from politics, the outgoing head of state, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, was escorted in a motorcade by the military’s highest-ranking officers to his hometown, Minna, about 75 miles west of the capital here.
In the square where the handover of power took place, President Obasanjo — speaking in English, the one common language in a country with as many as 400 ethnic groups and languages — declared the day as the ”beginning of a genuine renaissance” in Nigeria.
”This day, May 29, 1999, must rank second only to October 1, 1960,” General Abubakar said, mentioning the day on which Nigeria gained its independence from Britain, whose colonial officers cobbled together patches of land in West Africa to create present-day Nigeria in 1914.
It was a day awaited with excitement as well as anxiety since last July, when General Abubakar announced that the generals who have ruled Nigeria for all but 10 years since 1960 would finally relinquish power. And it ushered in a period of cautious optimism that an elected government would address the myriad political, social, and economic problems that, at several dramatic points in the last year, pushed this restive nation of 110 million people to the edge of chaos.
The handover — long-promised, and for a generation, often postponed — registered immediately on many levels. It means that Africa’s most populous nation, the nation with the largest black population in the world, now lives under a government of its choice. It means that one of Africa’s biggest powers, just one year ago an international pariah led by the ruthless Gen. Sani Abacha, is now headed by a man respected and welcomed on this continent and in the West.

Backed by retired generals and the country’s wealthiest businessmen, General Obasanjo easily won the elections in February despite suspicions surrounding his military past and a widespread anti-militarist mood in the nation. The election’s results were contested by General Obasanjo’s rival, Olu Falae, but the challenge never gained any support from a population eager to see the military relinquish power.
”In my mind, the event of today evokes total freedom,” said Mohammed Lawal, 27, a teacher, of the inauguration. ”I had thought it was a dream and would not happen. Whether Nigeria is on the verge of the promised land depends on Obasanjo. I cannot predict what will happen, but the only thing is that democracy has come to stay and nobody can stop it.”
Others worried about the future.
”I hope this event is not a re-awakening of illusions of freedom, or a eureka, like we had during independence in my youth,” said Tar Ukoh, 46, a musician scheduled to perform in the square after the inauguration. ”Having returned to civilian rule, we now have to fight for democracy.’’ | Norimitsu Onisho, New York Times on May 30, 1999

Yes, how more accurate can a reporter be? After almost two decades, darkness thrives still with unacceptable poverty ravaging citizens with corruption emboldened, institutions weakened, democracy shattered, transparency murdered and the people’s commonwealth shared by the very Leaders elected to create a pathway for development. How Pathetic?

The hope we all anticipate at the dawn of democracy in 1999 now fades away with no help in sight for the masses, as ordinary Nigerians cry daily on the street with no clue what hope lies ahead.

I remember interviewing Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka for a special report I was working on for my prime time news shortly after releasing his latest book this year, Quit Custodies Ipsos Custodes? : Gani’s Unfinished Business” recently unveiled in Lagos. His attacks on former President Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo reflected the feelings of the common man in the book. He told me that the political elites failed to lead the Nation on the right path at the dawn of democracy, citing massive corruption, failure of leadership, and poverty as political tools to keep the people enslaved.

My respected senior colleague Osa Nbonu-Amadi who works for Vanguard Newspaper expressed same thoughts I believe we both share, in his article published August 12, 2018, in Soyinka vs Obasanjo: Matters Arising. He writes:

“When Soyinka argues metaphorically on page 10 that “you do not recruit a child molester into a fight to combat drug addiction, claiming that the two ‘disciplines’ are quite separate and do not morally impinge on each other,” the professor discounts the fact that it was on that same moral waiver that the coupist record of Buhari was overlooked by himself and many other Nigerians when Buhari, who had sacked a democratically elected government and truncated democracy, was “recruited” as Nigeria’s Messiah, which has now turned out to be a disaster. Professor Soyinka did not make any distinctions between morality and politics which have no meeting point. If the professor had stuck to the issues of failure of governance as the basis for his suggestion to Nigerians to be wary of Obasanjo, that would have been more justifiable, because it is on a similar basis that Nigerians, including Soyinka himself, now desire to kick Buhari out of Also Rock. One important and pertinent question Soyinka was asked that day at the Freedom Park was whether there was no good thing whatsoever that Obasanjo had done. In summary, the Prof said “It is very difficult to find one. It is just that I can’t remember one which Obasanjo has done.” But he admitted that “It is there; it’s got to be there.”

Yes, of course! I agree with the Nobel Laureate when he was provoked in the book, so upset and told the world that the former President Obasanjo lied multiple times in his autobiography, “My Watch”. Having failed successfully to create a Nigeria we all hoped for at the dawn of democracy in 1999, It’s a profound insult on my education to write that his successors graphically sustained the same rhythm of incompetence and abuse of power that insult every Nigerian.

After Obasanjo’s eight of ineptitude and leadership chaos, from the administration of Musa Yar’adua to Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and now Muhammadu Buhari, it’s been harvest of leadership collapse and I weep endlessly to see the labour of our past heroes erode in vain.

Until a new generation of leaders emerge to save the only country we have from these selfish rulers with the sole intent of trading citizens future on the spectrum of greed, I’m afraid, Nigeria remains a sleeping giant crippled by demigod fathers; the same dynasty of recycling garbage of desperate politicians, or can I say “polithievians” obviously the worst of us ruling the best of us.

John F. Emmanuel is an international TV Journalist. He currently works for ONTV, Lagos Nigeria as Chief International Correspondent and Senior News Editor.

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