TBT #3: Opposing the opposition and the battle for a nation’s soul

Opposing the Opposition?

This week’s major political story has been the back and forth between Buhari’s Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, and Obasanjo. It can be traced back to Obasanjo’s subtle dig at this administration claiming “Boko Haram’s aim is the ‘Fulanisation’ of West Africa and Islamisation of Africa”. He went on to offer possible solutions to the terrorist threats in what was seemingly a casual distraction. For anyone who knows OBJ, it was most definitely not. The wily old statesman knew the damage the word ‘fulanisation’ can do to the credibility of a Fulani president in a highly tribal and unstable political landscape.

Lai Mohammed quickly moved to do damage control and nip the issue in the bud saying that the “indiscreet, deeply offensive and patently divisive comments are far below the status of an elder statesman” and going on to suggest that the Boko Haram threat had been growing and allowed to fester, as far back as OBJ’s regime. Both had their points but the problem is, regardless of who wins this squabble, Boko Haram remains at large.

“Nobody is picking stances on issues regarding Nigeria’s advancement, instead it’s a constant back and forth over who did ‘it’. ‘It’ being our current situation.”

It’s a smaller part of a much larger issue. The 2 parties that hold a duopoly over the political landscape, have spent the last 4 years firing one accusation and counter-accusation after another. These duels have spanned across media rooms and courthouses displaying a healthy rivalry. What’s not healthy is that most of these disputes are personal and not issue based. Nobody is picking stances on issues regarding Nigeria’s advancement, instead, it’s a constant back and forth over who did ‘it’.

‘It’ being our current situation. For many of us, this is the first time we will witness PDP as opposition at the federal level. The APC also find themselves in the unenviable position of being the incumbent while simultaneously finding the country in a huge hole to dig out of, it means the opposition won’t need to look far for ammo. Regardless, they’ve had four years to diagnose the problem and begin to apply their own solutions. Nigeria cannot handle another four years of finger-pointing.

The APC has to figure out how to pick themselves out of the mudslinging battle they’ve entrenched themselves in and start fighting over issues that matter. Fiscal policy, taxation, building the power sector, regulating the oil industry, women’s rights, restructuring and many more, even human rights are still being abused in this country. Who did it is the wrong question to ask right now, the more important question that needs to be asked is “how we’re going to fix it?”. The “we” here are Nigerians; because whether APC or PDP, at the end of the day, that’s what we all are. 

Politicians and Yahoo Boys, one and the same. 

If I were to ask you what group of Nigerians are known for creating false identities, making false promises and eventually stealing large sums of money, you’d probably guess that I was talking about “Yahoo Boys” as we fondly call them. You won’t be wrong to say Nigerian politicians though… look over my initial question, see what I mean? Over the years as the cyber-crime industry has grown, so too has the folly of our leaders. One disappointing headline after another, it’s almost become a race to determine who can finish Nigeria’s reputation first.

Why am I bringing this up now? 

Since the 10th of May social media has been abuzz with the news that Nigerian Artistes Naira Marley and Zlatan Ibile were arrested alongside their cohorts for fraud-related offences after the release of their single “Am I A Yahoo boy”, this was celebrated by some youths who are against the now trending Yahoo Yahoo lifestyle, although many spoke against the arrest.” – Kunle Cole

Sadly, what should have been a teachable moment for the younger generation on the consequences of illegal activities became something much worse. Surprisingly… or maybe not, some Nigerians felt Naira Marley was somehow a victim, as are other yahoo boys, victims of a system of oppression created directly or indirectly by poor leadership. They laid the blame for all of this at the feet of our politicians, who they believe should be the first on the chopping blocks if anyone is to be witch hunted. I can’t say I entirely disagree.

While I am unequivocally against fraud, I do believe it’s a slightly lesser crime than embezzling public funds; an act which is not just stealing but, in the case of funds allocated to security and education, possibly murder and curtailing the future of a generation. It amazes me that people like you and I, can steal these funds and sleep soundly at night, but hey, it’s the country we live in and the reality we find ourselves in. Where I divert from their point of view is where they begin to compare the gravity of each crime and suggest one may be the lesser crime. Crime is crime, both are destroying Nigeria’s reputation internationally and ruining lives.

“While I am unequivocally against fraud, I do believe it’s a slightly lesser crime than embezzling public funds, an act which is not just stealing but in the case of funds allocated to security and education possibly murder and destruction of the futures of Nigerian youths.”

The Nigerian culture, one we’ve all been a part of glorifies wealth without regard for the means of acquisition. We’ve all been guilty of it in one way or another. Yahoo Boys and Politicians both flaunt their ill-gotten wealth at the casual Nigerian and we seem to love it. We love their investments in the entertainment industry and how they sponsor the frivolous lifestyles of many of our favorite celebrities. We love the lavish weddings, the steady flexes on Instagram, and the Lagos nights famous for endless streams of bottles. They get away with it because nobody cares how they got it, only how they spend it. We look up to some of them and want to be them; staircases to success are outdated, Nigerians want elevators.

A nation must be built on principles, ethics; destroying people’s lives can’t be acceptable just because they’re out of sight. There must be the dignity of labour and respect for people paying their dues with a view to building a career. Just think, why would anyone want to come and invest in a country full of people they can’t even trust? Nigeria is known for having the largest black population in the world and, presumably, one of the largest potential workforces… it would be nice if they had a reputation for actually working, honourably. Perhaps this was what Buhari meant when he suggested Nigerian youths are lazy.

I don’t have all the answers but I know that what the Nigerian populace needs is re-education, perhaps a government campaign targeted at convincing Nigerians that there’s dignity in an honest living and that money is not the god we’ve made it out to be. As individuals, we have to question our response to a lot of the situations I pointed out above and think about the kind of country we want to leave behind for the next generation, then let those thoughts serve as a sort of moral compass to guide our actions. 

Naira Marley remains in custody; it’s believed incriminating evidence was found on his laptop. His management has since come out to say he borrowed the laptop. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has prepared a charge sheet for his offenses, the charge had 11 counts based on Fraud, Conspiracy and other criminal issues. The judge ruled that Naira Marley be remanded in prison until 30th May.”– Kunle Cole

We don’t know how strong the case against him is and whether he will be convicted or not. What we do know is that Naira Marley is a symptom of a wider rot, one we can no longer overlook. The battle for Nigeria’s soul is well and truly on, there may not be much most of us can do but the re-education of Nigeria’s youth begins with you.

P.S. This week’s issue was a long one and could have been even longer had I not taken out Buhari’s 2nd term forecast. For those of you who made it to the end, I’d like to thank you for your time and ask you to keep an eye out for the continuation to be published on Sunday. Stay blessed and concerned about our country, during these Buhari Times.

This week’s contributor Kunle Cole is a lawyer with an avid interest in politics and a penchant for political discussion on twitter @hitmankunlecole. He is currently a member of the APC.

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