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An Hour To Worry

Is it simply coincidence that while Nigeria’s ruler, Bola Tinubu, is preparing for an ECOWAS war in Niger Republic, grave news erupted in our Niger State last week?

First, troops of the Nigerian Army on an “offensive operation” in Zungeru area were ambushed by armed gangs, and then a rescue helicopter sent in crashed elsewhere in the state.

In an account by Nigeria’s Defence Headquarters on Thursday, when that helicopter went down it was carrying several corpses and injured soldiers from the ambush, along with its two pilots and two crew.

Total human toll to Nigeria: 36. At least one newspaper reported that about 50 bandits had been killed in the ambush.

The worst part of this story is that the triumphant ambushers who rule Niger told a different story in a video they published soon after, claiming to have shot down the helicopter.  In the video, they are strutting around the crime scene wearing broad smiles and brandishing their weapons.

Lamenting the insecurity in the state on Thursday, following a visit to Mr Tinubu, Governor Muhammed Bago told journalists that his government was considering a policy of dialogue with the criminals.

He said, “We don’t want any major military activities in Niger as we also don’t want the grazers to leave our state because of business and the investment.

“Niger State is being referred to as the food basket of the country largely due to our largest land mass…but the growing security concern means that our people are constantly at the mercy of bandits and other criminal elements.”

The new governor observed that farmers, being the worst hit by the insecurity in which civilians are often attacked and killed, have abandoned their farmland. He warned that if dialogue does not work, “then probably, we have to go fully military.”

That same military, which no state governor controls, is the same one that has sadly failed to gain the upper hand against sundry criminals and militants around the country. It is the same one that is now being dragged towards a regional war in Niger: the Republic, that is.

The truth is that these so-called criminals do not deserve dialogue, particularly from people they do not respect, but to be separated from their weapons. That is the conversation we should be having, for that is what will reopen the economy and our country for development.

But Governor Bago is right because if farmers cannot farm, hunger follows. When hunger arrives, the hungry will not always choose to die peacefully. They may attack the forces they hold responsible for that hunger. In Nigeria, they often include governors: current or former, who are impermeable to pain as they are to logic.

Right now in Nigeria, hungeris assuming primacy, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday that Nigeria’s inflation rate had climbed to a new 18-year high, citing transport and food costs.

The previous day, it quoted Nigeria’s transport fares as nearly doubling in June. Using data from the National Bureau of Statistics following the removal of fuel subsidy, it said that the average fare paid by commuters for bus journeys within a city per trip increased by 98 per cent to N1,285 ($1.65) in June from N650 in May.

One of the former governors in reference is Senator Adams Oshiomhole, the former Edo State governor and former All Progressives Congress National Chairman who last week said that Tinubu inherited a “terrible economic situation” from the Muhammadu Buhari administration.

Yes, it is an hour of worry because such persons as Tinubu and Oshiomhole were – as politicians and as APC chieftains – very much a part of an era where governors are not only collecting senatorial seats almost automatically but becoming “wealthy” without the benefit of any investment.

It is an hour of worry: two areas in which Tinubu has offered the appearance of disagreement with the Buhari years are the Central Bank and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.  Former EFCC and Central Bank chiefs, Abdulrasheed Bawa and Godwin Emefiele, are in custody, the former now charged with fraud.

In December 2022, the Department of State Services had alleged in court documents that Emefiele had funded “unknown gunmen” and members of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra. It also accused him of “fraud, money laundering, round tripping and conferment of financial benefit to self and others.”

His Saville Row suits, swagger, and political and financial muscles gone, the ruthless Mr Emefiele looked like someone’s houseboy in court last week, shamelessly shedding tears. He had spent eight years feeding the tentacles of the Buhari regime, which had in turn fed him so lavishly he had round-the-clock access to Buhari.

That begs the question: of the “terrible economic situation” that Tinubu inherited, is the current president man enough and courageous enough to ask questions of his predecessor?

Because double standards are always a source of worry.

It is a time of worry when a government confronts a “terrible economic situation” with the leader choosing to confront it by keeping the Ministry of Petroleum in his own pockets.

And not only is the new cabinet excessively large, but some of its members are also known to have been champions of excess, wherever they have been.  But again, that is probably the objective: to colour the water so that people forget that water is supposed to be colourless.

It is a time for worry, and we all should. But while we worry about all the water, one person has a private but significant worry: Mr. Tinubu. This week, at a United States District Court in Chicago, the Nigerian ruler is required to persuade a judge as to why a local university should not be ordered to release his academic records to Atiku Abubakar.

According to the People’s Gazette, his political rival had requested the approval of the court to subpoena Tinubu’s Chicago State University records, as he believes they would clarify “glaring inconsistencies” in Tinubu’s background.

The problem is that after Abubakar approached the court, Tinubu followed with a motion to thwart the request. And the world wonders: why on earth would an alumnus want secrecy?

For his part, Abubakar is to respond to Tinubu’s argument by September 9, and the court will rule on the matter before September 21, ahead of Nigeria’s election tribunal delivering its judgement in the suit challenging Tinubu’s presidential election victory.

On that point, the government last week ordered billboards in cities proclaiming “All Eyes On The Judiciary” to be removed. Of course, they were, and the officials who permitted them to be put up, fired.

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