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The story of a fragile polity

Before this horrendous and mindless outing of Boko Haram, which bled many hearts in the country, there was the impolitic, ill-timed, many would say needless,…

Before this horrendous and mindless outing of Boko Haram, which bled many hearts in the country, there was the impolitic, ill-timed, many would say needless, removal of subsidy on fuel by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.  This was an act which resulted to instant protest across the country, the dimension of which, in its intensity, was hardly witnessed in the country.

Then, late two weeks ago, came the mighty judgment by the Almighty Supreme Court terminating months of illegal elongations of the reins of governance in five States—Bayelsa, Kogi, Cross River, Sokoto and Adamawa—a ruling which has wrought political and constitutional chaos In the country—but especially in the affected states and the party at the centre of it all—the PDP.  The Party is in a state of turmoil and gripping anxiety over the total implicatur of the ruling of the Supreme Court which ended elongated tenures of the sitting Governors of these States; the impact on already conducted primaries election (INEC has, happily resolved the case of Governor in Kogi State) after May 29, 2011. Will all these elections be nullified following this verdict? Will there, therefore, be fresh   polls in these five states?  The more bewildering of them all is in Kogi State, where, within five hours, there were three Governors—the ousted Idris Ibrahim, the Governor – elect, captain Idris Wada and the sworn-in Speaker of the House of Assembly, who is already making lofty and valiant promises to deliver the goodies of democracy and continue where Ibro stopped. It must therefore be a great relief to the party that Captain Idris Wada has been declared Governor of Kogi State. Certainly, there will be new rounds of legal imbroglios in all these affected states.

No doubt, all these weighty issues have shown that the nation is neck- deep in the woods and the raging battle is neither won nor lost. To begin with the subsidy removal and its implication for peace in the country, nothing is totally clear. Many loose ends subsist on the matter. There are people who have spoken with believable confidence that there was no subsidy in the first instance and thus nothing can be removed from nothing. Secondly, neither government nor its oracular experts have succeeded in telling us the exact amount of subsidy that it says exists, upon which a withdrawal is inflicted on the hapless, already overburdened citizenry. There is no certitude over the amount that was spent on subsidy in the year 2011. The managers of the subsidy for government have gone woolly over the figures, especially with regard to placing them side by side with payments.  Nobody can say for sure how many litres we are consuming per day. The probe panel has received conflicting figures between 12 million and 57 million litres! This speaks volumes about the state of un-seriousness that characterizes economic and financial management in this country. But this will not be an isolated case of cluelessness on the spending of public funds. Up till now, nobody can put an accurate figure on the emoluments of our National Assembly. We may all have given up on that.

The panic over the mammoth protest in Lagos; the interpretation of it as subversion of national security, treasonable acts of disgruntled politicians and manipulation of the protesting masses by opposition parties; may have justified for government its army of occupation in Lagos. The ludicrousness of this position, which saw crowds singing and dancing to the music of some of our best artists and Nollywood superstars as acts of rebellion, spells foreboding ominousness on this troubled land.

As regards organized labour and its frightening blink, it is best to separate trade unionism from civil protest. The former seeks negotiation and minor gains to placate its principals—the working class who carry membership cards and sing ‘solidarity forever!’ and ‘aluta continua!’  and dash for cover thereafter waiting for the next violation. The logic is simple. Government names an outrageous increase in fuel prize. Labour calls its men out. Government invites them for negotiation and slightly reverses the offer downwards. End of strike till next time. The only difference this time is that the President did not bother to negotiate a prize with labour— if to save the faces of labour leaders. He simply cajoled, admonished them not to be tools in the hands of disgruntled politicians and indeed steer clear of being used to endanger tottering national security.

Now, on the Boko Hara ‘warfare’, there is every reason to believe that the government, in spite of pious pronouncement of being on top of the matter (a placatory euphemism that implies doing nothing), has virtually lost the initiative for stemming the frightening violence mindlessly visited on a large section of this country. As we write, and in spite of the very moving emotion displayed by His Royal Majesty, the Emir of Kano while narrating the sordid blood-letting to the visiting President (the tears of an old man and monarch is not a child’s play), the bombs roar in the city of Kano with untold contempt for regular custodians of the state’s monopoly of violence. It is important, if also intriguing, that the main targets of attacks are the police stations. One of the most recent was the gun-battle between Boko Haram suspects and the police, who are making a desperate effort to fight back, in Naibawa district in Kano. The grave and sinister symbolism of this is to warn the nation that if they can wreck havoc on the police, who else can they not take on? It is the ominous equivalent of tragedy—the fear and pity that characterize the emotion of the minions and the lowly when the great ones fall. What can prove this more than the escape (happily recovered) of a Boko Haram suspect, Kabiru Sokoto, under the very nose of the Commissioner of Police. Yes, the IG has lost his job, to boot, whether a resignation or a dismissal. So what?  Well, a new Ag IG has been installed, and this in spite of CAN’s protestations. The gentleman appears serious, on the outset, and we hope it lasts.

In the end, the nation is in the grips of mortal crises and it were best for the President and his men to seek solutions rapidly. They also need to stem rising tensions across the nation, occasioned by economic hardship, mass want and deprivation. There is anger in the land and the total nature of the last protestations on fuel subsidy is a pointer to story of the fragility of the national polity.

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