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DEATHS AND THE APRIL POLLS

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Fela Anukulapo Kuti of blessed memory in one of his classics characterized the military dictators who ruled and ruined Nigeria for the better part of the last fifty years as “beasts of burden”. Fela also in one of his songs stated that the military incursions into the civil administration of Nigeria brought only ‘tears’, ‘sorrow’ and ‘blood’ and said that these negative and noxious attributes were the regular trademark of military dictators. From benefits of hindsight we can now conclude that the legendary Fela was singing prophetically about the current set of political office holders who in the last ten years have made Nigeria to become a no-go area where only the men of the underworld are in charge.

In 1999 before the coming of the current crop of politicians, the country was relatively peaceful with the exception of occasional religious riots in the North. But generally, security of lives and property of Nigerians were appreciably protected because then there were no armed kidnappers who will snatch people at will for payment of ransoms.

Before 1999, the situation of instability in our nation’s educational system was not as bad as it is now and corruption was only limited to the military administrators and their few cronies who had unlimited access to the public funds but of course the public treasury was not as buoyant as it is now with the ever fluctuating prices of crude oil in the international market which has consistently remained far higher than the benchmark often used to prepare our nation’s dysfunctional annual budgets.

The coming of the current set of politicians most of whom are greedy, corrupt, unpatriotic and selfish, could rightly be said to have unleashed tears, sorrow and blood to ordinary Nigerians who have largely become jobless, impoverished, hungry, frustrated and hopeless even in the midst of plenty of natural/mineral deposits that God endowed Nigeria with. The current set of politicians have made Nigeria broke.

To drive home what I have stated above, the Wall street Journal recently reported how the current administration mismanaged over $27 Billion from Nigeria’s Excess crude oil Accounts and nothing practical by way of infrastructural facilities are on ground to justify this obscene profligacy exhibited at the highest level by the federal government of Nigeria.

Will Connors and Peter Wonacott wrote and I quote; “Nigeria has spent more than $27 billion from its oil-windfall savings account in three years, significantly eroding the total and putting the financial health of Africa's most populous country and biggest oil producer under scrutiny ahead of April presidential elections”.

“Officials here say they spent $27.5 billion from their so-called Excess Crude Account to weather the global financial crisis and to counteract falling oil prices, and that they can account for "every penny" spent”.

“But analysts say the depletion of the account—combined with dwindling exchange reserves, a rising debt profile and a lack of fiscal transparency — represent financial setbacks for a country that is poised to become Africa's biggest economy by the end of the decade”.

“The criticism reflects concern that Nigeria could be deprived of funds from much-needed infrastructure projects and maybe forced into financial straits if the price of oil drops sharply. The debate over the government's fiscal responsibility has fed into a contentious presidential-election campaign”.

To our topic of today, I initially chose to write on the theme “How many more will die before April polls?” but decided to go with the above theme basically because we are concerned about the speedy devaluation of the essence, meaning, philosophical and spiritual import of life in Nigeria because of the general state of poverty that has become the beast of burden heaped or imposed on most Nigerians by the current set of corrupt political office holders at every level and most significantly at the local and state levels.

Most Nigerians have become afflicted with financial and mental poverty so much so that more than five undergraduates sacrificed their lives in a stampede to be part of those who would benefit from the reported N15 million largesse allegedly handed over to students in tertiary institutions in Akwa Ibom state by Governor Godswill Akpabio to win their support in next month’s election. The question I asked on reading this pathetic story was how can five undergraduates die because of mere N15 million when it is possible for each of them to earn these sum of money within two years upon graduation for those of them who will have chosen better professional careers like medicine, law, Mass Communications/Public Relations, Economics, Accountancy and Petroleum Engineering courses among several other juicy and relevant courses?

This is very shameful and some body should be made to pay severely for this unfortunate waste of precious lives of our youth. Again this Akwa Ibom show of shame is a manifestation of the sad reality that the kind of youths that we are breeding in the nation’s tertiary institutions today are not ready and willing to change the evil status quo since most of them have joined the evil crusade to make money by all means. A proper investigation should be carried out by the federal government which should constitute an Independent panel of investigators to probe the circumstances that led to the unfortunate death of these five or so students.

The other day, over twelve persons perished while attending the Peoples Democratic Party’s Presidential campaign in Port Harcourt because the State Security Services (SSS) operatives reportedly locked all exit gates from the stadium and in the ensuing stampede this sad incident happened.

In Akure, Ondo state, also during the Presidential campaign by the Peoples Democratic Party, over a dozen persons perished because one of the buses conveying officials of the party collided with an oncoming vehicle. In Plateau state, over eleven persons belonging to the Labour Party died in an avoidable accident while going to attend the governorship campaign of the current Peoples Democratic Party’s Deputy Governor Mrs. Pauline Tallen.

How many Nigerians will die before, during and immediately after the April elections? This is to plead with all the political parties involved in the ongoing campaign to be circumspect, warn their drivers and security operatives to respect human life, drive with caution and for the security operatives, they must learn effective crowd control and any of them that contributes to the death of a Nigerian must be made to face the full weight of the law.

Politicians who bring tears, sorrow and blood must be democratically removed in the coming poll.

Emmanuel Onwubiko heads HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS’ ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA.

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