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Independence, Falana and other matters ignored

Independence, Falana and other matters ignored

4 October, 2020

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As Nigeria marked her 60th independence anniversary on Thursday, the atmosphere around the country was telling. There were reports that a fell wind passed through the polity  the sort that pervades an unsettled society. Perhaps only the federal government was eager to celebrate the occasion, but even then, they were careful to proclaim that the celebration would be low-key and would stretch for all of 365 days. Unveiling the logo for this year’s independence celebrations, the federal government had themed the celebrations “together shall we be”. Nothing could be further from the spirit of independence, and secessionist Nigerians punned the theme by ironically protesting together for a separate Nigeria. The last time the Yoruba and Igbo would unite for a cause was during the independence struggle leading up to 1960. Although not all Yoruba and Igbo leaders are pro-secession, it is pertinent to note that agitators for the Republic of Biafra and Oduduwa Republic stood side by side both in England and in Nigeria asking for self-governance.

The president was asked in 2015 about his plans for an inclusive government and he appeared to be unfamiliar with the concept, even going so far as to clarify the meaning of the concept from the compere of the show where he was asked the question. Critics have often accused his government of mismanaging the nation’s diversity and this forced him on September 16, while unveiling the independence logo, to promise that he would run a more inclusive administration. It is not clear how he plans to do that seeing as he has conveniently shelved the report of the National Conference of 2014 calling for the restructuring of Nigeria and is even seeking to control more of Nigeria’s natural resources including water.

One lone protester in Sokoto, fearing that there would be more damnation than strength in numbers, or perhaps simply unable to muster others to join in his protest, donned two placards and roamed the streets of the state announcing to all who cared that he was rather fed up with the state of things in the country. In Lagos state, the Police Command had a rather busy day as it rounded up some 30 protesters at various locations within the state for unlawful assembly and conduct likely to cause a breach of public peace. This ilk belonged to the Revolution Now protest group convened by Omoyele Sowore, who is a former presidential candidate and human rights activist. During the protest, an errant police officer betrayed his true nature and roundly cudgelled a journalist on the head. Aware that the wider world was watching, his superior made a scapegoat of him and the police naturally bragged about the entire tragic affair, a peculiarly Nigeria Police story since independence which no new Police Acts can correct, but which reorientation and retraining, however, can.

Meanwhile, irked by the imperial declaration of a yearlong celebration, many groups and prominent individuals tried to steer the presidency from what they thought was a misplacement of priorities with ample suggestions of nobler courses of action. The federal government discarded these suggestions by simply ignoring them, just as it blatantly ignored the twelve demands of the Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB), a coalition of over eighty organisations, led by human rights lawyer, Femi Falana.

Prior to October 1, the body had written the presidency urging it to accede to twelve demands. In any other democratic entity, a coalition of over eighty organisations would be a compelling enough pressure group to the government. Not in Nigeria where a portentous replay of history has not moved the folks of the federal table. ASCAB’s demands were not outrageous; they were basic. They concerned promises, which the federal government had made several times in the past.

ASCAB had asked the president to implement N30,000 minimum wage in all states, prevent job or wage cuts by governments or the private sector, increase wages as inflation rises, guarantee security of life, protect the livelihoods of the poor and informal sector, refrain from hiking electricity tariffs, VAT or fuel prices and reverse all price increases, provide PPE and payment of hazard allowances for medical workers, ensure a safe and conducive environment in schools and universities, upgrade facilities in public hospitals and prohibit medical tourism by top public officials, ensure a frontal fight against corruption, implement all previous agreements with trade unions, and use federal and state security votes to meet basic needs and institute a committee of representatives of labour, civil society organisations and government to keep track of the revenue leakages.

The letter, if reworded, would have read, “Be a successful and honourable government.” The presidency has so far ignored them. It will continue to do so until they act compellingly. As is manifest in the industrial action of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the federal government sees no problem with allowing a crucial labour union sit at home for more than six months. Nigerians’ frustration with the president’s style has brewed widespread resistance to the federal government. Somehow, the president unblushingly gloats over the Edo election as a mark of his commitment to democracy, when he should be worried about how it is a loss and a ripple in the water that could go on to flood whatever legacy he hopes to leave behind.

The post Independence, Falana and other matters ignored appeared first on Smart9jaMedia.

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