OPINION] “Emi Lokan, Awa Lokan” And The Discontents – Reuben Abati 

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Tuesday, 20 February 2024 06:32

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[OPINION] “Emi Lokan, Awa Lokan” And The Discontents - Reuben Abati 

“Bros, how body? Have you seen what I have seen?”

“No. How do you expect me to see what you have you seen, when my eyes are different from yours? I use my own eyes. The evidence of my own ocular facility, not what other people see in a country where most people are either depressed, half-blind, hungry or sick. Every man for himself or herself.” 

“Ok. Ok, if you would just allow me to talk. You always think you know it all. But there are certain things other people see, and hear that you may not be aware of.” 

“Okay. What? I am all ears”

“Can you believe that in Pakistan, one man who was declared winner of an election in Karachi, Pakistan, in the recent elections in that country on February 8, turned down the victory, and said he was not the rightful winner of the election because it was rigged? Hafiz Naeem of the Jamaat-e-Islami Party insisted that the votes of his opponent were reduced and his increased to give him an illegitimate victory. He says he disagrees.” 

“Don’t believe everything you read on the internet, particularly when it comes to elections. Democracy is under threat universally. This year alone, there are more than 64 elections worldwide, including the ones that have taken place already and the ones to come, and the big threat is technology.  People will use technology to manipulate anything – especially Artificial Intelligence (AI) to misinform, disinform, mislead and do all kinds of things. When you get any piece of information, you have to really double-check. Technology has become a threat to democracy. And the Pakistan that you mentioned. Pakistan is a country of very corrupt leaders, both civilian and military and that is why they are finding it difficult to form a government after the recent general elections.”

“But when we see what looks like a good example from another part of the world, we should throw it up as a good example.” 

“I don’t get your point.” 

“I am saying that is it ever possible in Nigeria that a politician will reject his own declared victory on the grounds that the election was rigged in his favour?”

“I don’t want you to think that anybody in Pakistan is better than any other person in Nigeria. I ask you to check the story behind the story before you begin to put down your own country and your own people.”     

“Whatever the story behind the story is, I can bet that no Nigerian will ever give up an election victory on the grounds that an election was rigged in his or her favour. In this country, politicians would rather win by hook or crook. Win first and let others be the ones to complain. Rig. Steal. Grab the INEC certificate and let the aggrieved go to court. There is zero integrity in Nigerian politics. The politicians are no different from bandits, terrorists and insurgents, and kidnappers. Every electoral event is a kidnapping event.  They kidnap the process, the voters, the officials, and the results.”

“Calm down. Stop condemning what you don’t know. Are you a politician? You will just read one or two sensational stories on social media, and Google and you will start sounding like an expert. Armchair expertise is the biggest problem we have with public affairs analysis in this country, and I see that it is becoming a very attractive and profitable enterprise. Can people learn to be humble?”

“You always like to water things down. Somebody will be going North; you will just take the conversation to the South. Okay, forget about Pakistan. Think of what happened in Edo state last weekend when after the All-Progressives’ Congress (APC) conducted its party primaries for the September 2024 race for Osadebey House, four different persons were declared winners. Nigeria’s ruling party could nor organize its own primaries. Ballot boxes were snatched. Journalists were attacked. There was vote rigging, open violence. As of this moment, all the gladiators and their supporters are claiming victory, trading blames and threatening that there would be more recriminations.”

“The matter will still be resolved. The gladiators will cancel themselves out. Those who can be bought will collect cash and agree to shut up. Whoever proves stubborn will be reminded that whatever the party decides at the end of the day is supreme and binding. You are referencing one politician in Pakistan, don’t be surprised if at the end of the day a member of the Edo APC Gubernatorial race comes forward and says he, as a loyal party man has agreed to respect the decision of the party and that he would rather support a former opponent. Politicians are the same everywhere.  You should know the story before you draw conclusions.” 

“But my point still stands. No Nigerian politician who has been declared winner, would on his own, on moral grounds, reject the victory. He will cling to it.” 

“So, what is the moral of this your Paki story?”

“That politicians must have integrity. And I don’t know what is wrong with them in Edo APC. They have disgraced their party. They are disgracing the ruling party at the centre.” 

“Calm down. They are not alone. The PDP is also disgracing itself in Edo State.” 

“I hear Governor Godwin Obaseki is the problem in Edo PDP. They say he is the one who wants to determine single-handedly who succeeds him.”

“They say, they say… but the man himself has not said anything.”

“They say he wants to turn himself into the next Godfather of Edo State. He wants to choose and impose his own successor. I am afraid that when the EDO PDP organize their own primaries, this week, the chaos may be more than what we have seen in the APC.” 

‘Dem say. Dem say. The only thing I know is that he has made it clear that his Deputy, Philip Shaibu who has been disrespecting and insulting him will not be Governor after him. It looks like that is his singular project, and the way he looks and even grunts when Shaibu tries to greet him in public, it looks like stopping Shaibu is a do or die affair for him.” 

“But is that politics? Should people play the politics of hate and conflict?” 

“You will have to mount the pulpit in a church to raise such questions, and you may do so to your heart’s content until you realize that the politics in churches and mosques is even far worse than what you see on the open field. The do-or-die politics in Nigerian places of religious worship is enough to make God wonder why he created Nigerians”. 

“I understand that even the Labour Party in Edo State is divided. What is wrong with these Edo people?” 

“Be careful. Nothing is wrong with Edo people. Watch what you say before the Oba of Benin declares you are an enemy of the Palace.” 

“Oba gha to kpere. Ise!, Ise o, Ise o”

“The Nigerian politician is the problem, that is what you can say. Our politicians have not learnt any lessons, despite all the electoral reforms resulting in the Electoral Act 2022. They don’t care.  They are still snatching ballot papers and deploying violence. What we are seeing in the off-cycle elections is actually a dress rehearsal for the 2027 elections.” 

“Are you now a prophet?”

“No. But I can tell you that I am better than all those Nigerian prophets who predicted that Nigeria was going to win the top prize at the African Cup of Nations in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. The prophets lied. No one could even predict the outcome of the final game. But tomorrow, the same prophets will claim to know tomorrow, and Nigerians will believe them. Yahoo prophets! Some of them told us the Labour Party would be the alternative party in 2023. Look at what is happening to the Labour Party, not just in Edo State, but even at the national level.” 

“I agree with you on this one.  A big scandal. A terrible disappointment. This is a party that Mr. Peter Obi practically built up, revived and turned into a platform of desire, with his energy, goodwill and resources. He galvanized and mobilized Nigerian youths to believe that a new, different Nigeria is possible and many bought into the vision: “Obi ke ke renke Obi, Obi Nwan nem… Elu uuu Pee”. Remember the Obidient Movement. They told us to be Obidient and Yusful. But look at the Labour Party today. It has been reduced to Julius Abure vs. Lamidi Apapa, Julius Abure vs Oluchi Oparah. I even hear they are looking for money. They are fighting over money. Please tell me, how are they different from APC and PDP?”    

“The parties are all the same. But you left out Maria Labeke vs. Julius Abure. The former Acting Chairman of the Party, Maria Labeke says Abure forged her signature. Poor Peter Obi. He has had to call for a proper audit of the party’s accounts.”  

“It probably looks like the APC is a better party after all. At least they are in power at the centre.”

“How is the APC better? In less than one year of the Tinubu Presidency, Nigerians are groaning and weeping and gnashing their teeth as a result of the high cost of living. Average price levels have risen. Families can no longer feed. Inflation is 30%, food inflation is over 34%, the Discos are threatening to increase electricity tariffs and the cost of meters. National Road Transport owners are threatening to stop lifting petroleum products because they can’t agree on affordable freight rates with major oil marketers. Landlords are hiking rent. Foreign exchange is a source of daily nightmare with the Naira devalued by more than 60% since January. If I must tell you something, housewives, side chicks and prostitutes have all conspired to punish Nigerian men. They all now quote black market rates. These people have destroyed the culture of leisure”. 

“I don’t know what you call leisure. Leisure is different from sin. When you are made to pay for your sins, don’t drag the government into that.”

“So, is it a sin to be a Nigerian? Because that is how many Nigerians feel right now. Even the price of beer has gone up.”

“You don’t have to drink beer. Drink water.”

“The last time I checked, this is supposed to be a free country. But there are food protests all over the country. The cost of staple foods has gone up. People cannot afford to buy bread. The other day in Lagos, people were struggling to buy subsidized loaves of bread for N100. Another day, a good Samaritan provided free tubers of yam, people were ready to die to get their hands on just one tuber. In Niger State, the state Governor has had to warn other Nigerians not to come to Niger State to buy food.”

“The Federal government says it will release 102, 000 metric tons of grains to Nigerians.”

“Grains to be fed to goats and hungry chickens right? Nigerians have become animals?” 

“But the government will not import food. They wanted to, but they have changed their minds.”

“Confusion. Policy incoherence.” 

“And there will be no commodity boards. No fixing of prices.” 

“They have no clue”

“They say the problems they inherited are too many, too much and the people should learn to be patient, especially Organized Labour, NLC, TUC, threatening to go on strike by month-end.”

“I have my doubts about those ones, please. Nigerians must be used to the perpetual scare-mongering by Labour now. They will hold one or two meetings with the government, and they will call off their strike and our suffering will continue. Please.” 

“The Government says you people must have hope. Every person associated with the government, including Tinubu’s son, Seyi says Nigerians must have faith”

“Who is that?”

“Tinubu’s son. He says Nigerians must endure.”

“Seyi Tinubu has the audacity to put his mouth into this matter? Does he think this is a family affair? What does he know about endurance?  Can he just focus on his omo Baba Olowo, akebaje, lifestyle?” 

“Even his brother-in-law has been appointed Managing Director of the Federal Housing Authority. And the sister, the Iyaloja-General of the Federation, says we should all be patient. The President is trying his best to carry everybody along.” 

“God! God! God!”

“Indeed, it is only God who can help us. In Borno State, Governor Babagana Zulum has asked the entire state to embark on fasting and praying and to call on God to help resolve the crisis of rising food inflation and insecurity. Yesterday, in Borno state, the people fasted and prayed. O ye men of little faith.” 

“We have a government in place and we are looking for Manna from Heaven? In 2024? Can someone please pinch me?” 

“The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Yemi Cardoso, and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, George Akume have just told doubting Thomases like you at the Catholic Bishops Conference a few days ago that there is hope. Serious hope. Wake up, my friend.” 

“Audio, my brother audio oh. Where is the hope?  The Naira is practically becoming worthless. Who is still preaching hope to the Gentiles?”

“The CBN Governor said that the economic reforms introduced by the Tinubu administration are working, and that if Nigerians do not see this, the IMF has seen it. Rating agencies like Fitch have seen it.”

“Very good. Good to know that our CBN Governor is suggesting that Nigerians are blind people. Nice compliment. But can someone tell him and other merchants of hope that, we, the Nigerian people do not see what IMF is seeing? We live here. We feel it. We are the ones involved in it. And we know that things are tough in this country. Life is hard. That is why there are food protests on the streets of Abuja, Ota, Kano, Kaduna and Ibadan.”  

“They say the problems were caused by the Buhari administration.”

“Not Jonathan again? I thought they said it was Jonathan.”

“President Jonathan is now a hero. When he left the government in 2015, the foreign exchange rate was N150 to the dollar. Today, it is about N1, 650 to the dollar. By Easter, it may get to N2,000 to the dollar. Even state governors are now saying they cannot function, they cannot deliver services because of inflation and the exchange rate fiasco.” 

“You are quoting PDP Governors who are looking for visas to Venezuela. They are part of the problem too”. 

“So, from whence will our help cometh, O Lord??” 

“In a democracy, what you wish for is what you get. Have you forgotten? Emi lokan.  Awa lo kan.  Eyin lo kan. Come on, e lo fokan bale.”

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