“Exercising our patience” -By Amma Ogan

Filed under: Political Issues |
Amma Ogan

Amma Ogan


Rumour has it that President Muhammadu Buhari is taking so long to name the members of his cabinet because good Nigerian candidates are hard to find.

You think the search is over until you uncover a recently concealed secret that unwinds in a long thread of larceny, graft, extortion and fraud that is inevitably tied to the same old names you have sworn to avoid. When the problem is deep the solution requires close and patient scrutiny.

You wonder why this obsession with a cabinet? After all, cabinets and their makers have always turned out to be the source of the problem, actually the building blocks of corruption and an impediment to good governance. Reason is:

Nigerians love titles, we lust for these accoutrements of power, it has been the conviction-proof way to chop without producing. As the chief termites of the old cabinet are exposed, the search for properly seasoned wood to build the next one takes longer and longer.

Where to source the lumber for such a scarce commodity? Who is tending virgin forests for the future when everyone is consumed with becoming a termite?

The last time, we had Patience to absorb our attention and she did a fair job of keeping us entertained, if little else. But our new president is really making us exercise our own. That in itself may not be a bad thing as long as there is method and purpose behind it. The rot is deep, the fabric of corruption, tightly woven and widely embedded in our culture, our fighting forces, our institutions of government, our national values.

President Buhari announced he would be willing to negotiate with Boko Haram for the release of the Chibok girls who remain in captivity. Despite a determined effort to rout them in the run up to the elections, a resurging Boko Haram is back in action with suicide bombings and more mayhem.

According to news reports Buhari’s one caveat to a bargain with Boko Haram was if he could only be sure he was dealing with the genuine agents of the terrorist group.

We have been there before with the hapless Goodluck Jonathan. Counterfeit negotiators meeting sham terrorists, genuine, “budget free” money exchanging hands with no girls to be had, and Shekau shouting taunts all the way from his hideout.

This business of double-dealing and fakery goes back a long way.

In the 80s the joke was about Taiwan and Taitwo versus ‘Aba mede’ while haggling in Balogun Market over the going price for each brand of imitation.

Those were also the days, and this tale is not apocryphal, when Baba rushed to the local police station to report a lucky escape from armed robbers to Nigeria’s finest but had to stop in his tracks when he recognized that the officer behind the counter he was approaching bore an unmistakable resemblance to the armed robber he had escaped from.

Today kidnapping is serious business having swooped on the settlement culture and ridden in on the back of police corruption. The village once the hearth of rural harmony and domesticity is now a place to be feared and avoided.

The late, great, upstanding member of the cabinet, Dora Akunyili, waged a valiant and courageous battle against fake, adulterated and expired drugs flooding Nigeria, tracking the original villains all the way to India. Stricken with cancer the former director general of NAFDAC was flown to the land whose drug manufacturers she had battled, for treatment she could not get in her home country. Today there is still the same war to be waged and India has become the country of first resort for Nigerians seeking affordable health care.

Time was when the notorious security vote, was all the lure a son of the soil needed to aspire to leadership of his home state. Now those who wear the label want the vote as additional incentive to enable them focus on their duty. Or else…

It is a minefield out there for a president who rode to victory on a promise of fighting corruption, by himself, no less, and enthroning constitutional democracy. You have to be savvy at home and abroad and quick off the mark on the web and on the ground. The title of a multi Oscar winning movie released in 2007 comes to mind, but I shall restrain myself.

In 2013, the Wole Soyinka Centre commended journalist Emmanuel Ogala for Investigative Journalism for his online story of a N40 million government contract awarded an Israeli company to monitor computers and Internet communication as part of a government spy programme. Ogala must be half Buhari’s age, which means he grew up in the 80s, the age of settlement and 419. When he rose to accept the commendation, his speech was terse and succinct and so sad. Nigeria is a scam, he said: one big 419. Genuine, and morally upright, are labels struggling to find purchase on our national monuments and hope of the earthly kind is far to seek…

But may be not. There are parents who are waiting patiently to hear good news about their abducted daughters. Some of their fellow Nigerians still gather each day to show their support and keep up the pressure on government to be up and doing on this heart breaking matter.

Patience of this kind surely is a virtue, may it not be mistaken for apathy.

Sixteen months and counting….