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OPINION: East or West, home is worse

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OPINION: Buhari’s presidency at Nigeria’s expense [1]

Will I be telling the truth if I say that I never imagined that a season such as we are in today in Nigeria will not come? No. That will be a lie. My fear is that the race to the bottom in many critical aspects of the nation’s life may have just really began. Bad as it is already I never seriously contemplated that we will witness a day when the president of this country will be a source of global embarrassment to Nigeria over trivia- a routine and unfeterred access to his university certificate. Or any certificate for that matter. I had verily thought that we had gotten to the lowest when the former President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari hired a dozen senior lawyers to block the verification of his claim to possession of a school certificate or its equivalent.

The former President who, by the way, was an unmitigated disaster throughout his eight-year tenure [2015-2023], had to hire senior lawyers to prove in court that he sat for, and passed, the relevant examination in early 1960s. But as it has turned out today, Buhari’s was a child’s play. The man who succeeded him in an election mired in controversy and litigation, Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has internationalized the odium.

By the time you read this, an appeals court in Chicago in the United States of America [USA] may have made a decision on whether or not to release Tinubu’s academic records in Chicago State University [CSU], including the documents that formed the basis for his admission given that Tinubu had claimed that he neither attended primary nor secondary schools. There’s no need to recall that in Tinubu’s first incarnation when he successfully vied to be the governor of Lagos state in 1999, he had claimed that he attended a primary school in Lagos and a secondary school in Ibadan in Nigeria’s Oyo state.

He dropped the school attendance claims like a hot potato in 2022 when he was bursted. St. John’s Primary School never existed and his name could not be found in the meticulously kept records of Government College, Ibadan. To cap it all, Tinubu had no known classmates. Sorry, one of his classmates discovered himself recently. Some weeks back that person sauntered into a television station suspected to be owned by Tinubu and declared that he was the President’s school mate in CSU. The man claimed he was a public affairs analyst but curiously he had no digital footprints except the one that indicated that his one-off appearance in that tv station. On the CSU matter, here is a transcript of excerpts from a trending video of Tinubu speaking about himself early this year: “I was one of those most recruited graduates of my university. Multiple honours, first class degree, and I have reference. Those people are there”. The expectation is that a man with this pedigree should have nothing to do paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire topnotch criminal defence lawyers in the US to stop the release of his records by his alma mater.

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To compound the matter, Tinubu told the appeals court judge in his emergency supplication that he will suffer irreparable and irredeemable damage to his life if his school records get into the hands of Nigeria’s former Vice President and appellant in the litigation, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] and Peter Obi of the Labour Party [LP] were Tinubu’s principal opponents in last February’s presidential election and they are in the Supreme Court challenging his declaration by the ‘Independent’ National Electoral Commission [INEC] as the elected president. With a man like this being the face of the country, home is not likely to represent the best.

Tinubu is a drag on Nigeria. And things will not get better if an analysis that trended last week on the social media turned out to be true. And there’s no reason to believe the contrary. The summary of the analysis is that the economic situation of the country and the hardship Nigerians are experiencing will get worse without the hope of getting better any time soon. Nigeria’s future was mortgaged by a thoroughly wicked and ignorant ruler called Buhari. And his All Progressives Congress [APC] political party. Every aspect of Nigeria’s future that could be auctioned was auctioned by Buhari and his gang of marauders. Our barrels of crude oil that are still buried underground were sold. So in reality they no longer belong to us.

The previous regime also sold forward foreign exchange [FX] contracts which means that our future foreign exchange earnings are encumbered. The eye-opener was when global banker JPMorgan revealed that our claim of having close to $40 billion in foreign reserves was a lie. They said to our shock that except for about $3.7 billion, our rulers had secretly used the rest of the country’s foreign reserves as collateral for foreign loans. There’s nothing inherently wrong with borrowing but there cannot be any justification for the Buhari regime leaving a national debt of about N80 trillion with little or no infrastructure to show for it.

To accentuate Nigeria’s frightening and foreboding tomorrow, the APC regimes since 2015 have mindlessly and aggressively engaged in borrowing from future company income tax [CIT]. The rave is to award road constructions or rehabilitations to big corporations and then such companies will be entitled to utilize the total investment costs as tax credits against their future CIT liability. And this arrangement will remain so for each participating company “until full cost recovery is achieved”. As it is in crude oil, foreign exchange and foreign reserves, so it is with future company income tax- they are are encumbered. In plain language our rulers have spent them even before they are earned. So east or west, home no longer seems to be the best. The latest craze for Nigeria’s rulers- President Tinubu and his works minister David Nweze Umahi- is the proposal to contruct super highways including the Lagos-Calabar Coastal Road. Regime spokepersons say rail tracks will be embedded and toll plazas too. The details are still sketchy but two things are likely to be involved. The private public partnership [PPP] projects may likely involve build operate and transfer [BOT] or for the government to forego future tax liabilities of the builders. Our rulers who are now enamoured with constructing super highways have serially and provocatively failed to maintain existing non-super highways. For instance, it has taken successive administrations from the Peoples Democratic Party’s [PDP] President Olusegun Obasanjo to APC’s Tinubu more than 20 years to rehabilitate and reconstruct the 100 km Lagos-Ibadan expressway. Yet nobody in good conscience will say that it has been satisfactorily completed.

On Monday, September 18, Minister Umahi, a former governor of Ebonyi state, said it took him, along with his siren-blaring convoy and full complements of no nonsense security men about 12 hours to travel by road from Abuja to Benin in Edo state. The trip should ordinarily take less than four hours. A day before, it took me 16 hours to travel also by road from Lagos to Mgbidi in Imo state. Our commercial mini bus left Jibowu, Lagos about 8 AM and I arrived home in Mgbidi by 10 minutes to 12 midnight. In Benin where we were stranded for about five hours, some disheveled passengers claimed that they had been trapped there for more than 24 hours. My bus had no armed security escorts and no siren.

The Sagamu-Benin-Asaba highway approximates the typical Nigerian so-called expresswayfailed, broken, collapsed and nightmare for road users. The collapsed portions, and they are many, provide natural road blocks for the numerous armed extortionist state agents- Police, Customs etcetera- to collect private tolls with loaded guns to the heads of drivers and passengers. So east or west, is home still the best? For frequent users of the Onitsha-Owerri highway, home is certainly no longer the best. Unless something happens, and urgently too, those who may be planning to use that road to travel during Christmas are better advised to perish the thought. A particular broken portion of the road near Onitsha can swallow a five-story building without trace. This is no exaggeration. For some travellers, the commissioned but uncompleted second Niger bridge provides a succour.

A viral video of Prof. Patrice Lumunba is telling in this contention of east or west or home which one is the best. He said: “I watched a woman from Nigeria who had been rescued from the Mediterranean [Sea] around Lampedusa say I will not go back to Africa even if I die in the Mediterranean. I will try again and again”. Then the activist and anti-graft crusader asked, “what is it that can make a human being say I do not want to go back to my home. [The] natural instinct of a human being should be that you want to go home”. Not any more. How do you convince this woman and many others in her shoes that east or west, home is the best. The greater tragedy is that we no longer have the opportunity to preach this increasingly hollow sermon to those who have perished in the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert in their quest to escape this country by any means. They will gladly exchange the hardship elsewhere with the hell at home. How can we look the families of Dr. Vwaere Diaso who died out of criminal negligence when an elevator in her work place crashed to the ground from the 10th floor or Adebola Akin-Bright, the boy who died in excruciating pains after his small intestine was criminally harvested or reporter Hamisu Danjibga who was abducted from his Gusua, Zamfara home and killed or the many who have been in the captivity of terrorists in parts of the country or some people in the South East whose freedoms have been severely curtailed and businesses ruined through a contentious weekly Monday sit-at-home and now additional days of 6AM-12 noon curfew imposed and enforced by non-state agents that ‘East or West, home is the best’. That will be unkind. That will be insensitive because for many, east or west, home has become the worst. Do not blame those who have chosen to vote with their feet. Nigeria, as Chief Afe Babalola, is becoming a strange place.

AUTHOR:UGO ONUOHA


Articles published in our Graffiti section are strictly the opinion of the writers and do not represent the views of Ripples Nigeria or its editorial stand.

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