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Sunday, 25 February 2024 06:41

[OPINION] Tinubu, beware the troubles of March to May - Dele Sobowale

“Caesar, beware, the ides of March” – William Shakespeare, 1546-1616

As Shakespeare rendered it, in his famous book, JULIUS CAESAR, the Roman Emperor (Jagaban if you wish) was at the peak of his powers; without realising that a plot against him was in progress. A seer approached Caesar to warn the most powerful man on Earth then about impending danger. He was dismissed with a wave of the hand.


Then it happened and world history was changed forever. Don’t get me wrong. I am not predicting another assassination. But, all the signs of a major upheaval are already present in the Nigerian polity – as to make the next three months the most dangerous in our history since January 1966.

Never, since then, have so many Nigerians, old and young, rich and poor, male and female, irrespective of political affiliation, ethnicity, religion, employed or jobless, lost confidence in the Federal and most State governments as well. Unprecedented hunger, allied with deepest anger, ever experienced, is so pervasive as to leave one wondering when the explosion will occur and what will trigger it. We are all sitting on a box full of explosives.

The road to hell is always paved with good intentions – as a sage has warned us. And, it must be stated that we arrived at this crossroad – between salvation and oblivion – purely on the good intentions expressed as government policies on May 29, 2023. However, some other wise men have also cautioned us that good intentions alone are never enough.

For leaders, the best of visions must be accompanied with adequate preparations, taking into consideration the possible repercussions of measures contemplated – when they are revolutionary in nature especially. Those of us fed on the idea that visionary leaders are the best were jolted in 1993, when then-British Prime Minister John Major, pronounced that: “People with vision do more harm than good”. We thought Major was talking rubbish. Today, in Nigeria, we are on the brink of anarchy on account of vision. Only God knows how we can avert the worst case scenario.

FG leading from the rear

“Things are in the saddle; and they ride mankind” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882

Last week, the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, threw petrol into our burning house. NBS was only doing its job. But, when people were already up in arms about 28.80 per cent inflation in December 2023, the announcement that it was 29.90 per cent in January was not exactly how government can assuage the anger already built up. Inflation has become one of the things in the saddle; riding and flogging government and citizenry as well. It will again rise above 30 per cent in February – for various reasons which cannot be treated here.

Earlier in the same week, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN (friend or foe?), ordered import duties to be charged at N1, 550/US$1. The impact of that will start to be felt starting mid-February. Exchange rates have joined inflation in the saddle as one of the things in the saddle whipping all of us mercilessly. It will rise to about N2, 000/US$1 by the end of the second quarter of the year. More fuel.


“The most dangerous person to fight is someone who has nothing to lose.” I first learnt that bit of wisdom from a family friend in Boston, USA. Paul Frazier was a black American, well-decorated, Vietnam War veteran. He was sent home after suffering a spinal cord injury in 1971. We met in 1973 and he told me about the Viet Cong, the enemies. They were literally in rags; recruited and trained to carry and shoot guns.

Paul told me of one encounter in which the American forces, about 200, engaged in a shoot-out with about 1000 Viet Cong soldiers. The Americans had the superior weapons and could even call for air support. They mowed down hundreds of the enemy. Surprisingly, instead of turning round and running, the remaining enemy soldiers just kept moving forward. The American soldiers wanted to return home safely; the other guys didn’t care if they died or not. Eventually, it was the US soldiers who withdrew under air cover. For all we know, Nigeria might have its own bunch like that.

Our Almajiris are now mostly people with nothing to lose. They probably have formed the reserve army for bandits and kidnappers. The current food situation, which is already testing everybody’s resistance, might prove too much for these guys unless we can somehow ameliorate the hunger pains.

March 2024 will bear a remarkable resemblance to March 2004. Christians started Lent on February 14. Our Muslim brothers will start the Holy Month of Ramadan in early March. For about twenty eight days, practitioners of the two religions will be fasting simultaneously. Breaking fast with food is the least expectation. Right now, millions are already mini-fasting.

Having nothing on which to break their fast might prove to be the spark which will ignite the keg of gun powder on which the Sultan of Sokoto proclaimed we are sitting. Donor fatigue has set in everywhere in Nigeria. In the North in particular, where it has now become extremely risky to entertain Almajiris in one’s home, the lack of traditional support and social safety net poses serious danger, not only to the communities where the disturbance might start, but, they might spread to the entire nation on account of contagion.


Pray there is no strike

“The Devil always finds work for idle hands.” We know. Since May 29, 2023, the number of idle hands jumped up precipitously. More people have been thrown out of work in the last nine months than at any time in our history. Many have nobody to help them – but the Devil of course. And, he has been very busy recruiting from among the ranks of millions of unemployed youths especially.

The biggest immediate threat, which might precipitate anarchy, is the possibility of a national strike called by Organised Labour. If that includes street protests and occupation of some areas in Abuja , Lagos and possibly Port-Harcourt, with ripple effects in Kano, Kaduna and Ibadan, then we might be heading for another face-off taking us back to the #ENDSARS calamity. This one has the potential of becoming much bigger, more widespread and easily hijacked by hoodlums wherever it occurs.

Despite, the fact that Labour’s right to protest has always received my support, every morning in our prayer house in Lagos, we now pray fervently that the disputes between Labour and government can be resolved without resort to street protests. That, to me, is the spark required to ignite all combustible anger building up nationally. That also means that the FG and Labour must negotiate seriously; and promises made this time around must be kept.

Impediments to peaceful resolution

“If you shut up the truth and bury it underground, it will but grow and gather to itself such explosive power, that the day it bursts through, it blows up everything in its way” – Emile Zola, 1840-1902

Bayo Onanuga, Special Adviser to President Tinubu, spoke, truthfully, two weeks ago when he called Nigeria a poor country. But, because of our toxic political environment, most commentators ignored the message; and went after the messenger. Yet, Bayo was right for the most part. Potential and actual wealth are two different things. For instance, Nigeria is potentially richer, but, actually poorer than South Korea. We all know that. The difference has been in the development of that potential and corruption. I will not elaborate on that now.

Therefore, as we enter into negotiations on Minimum Wage, we need to be realistic; base our proposals on where we are, not where we should have been or where we hope to be ten years from now; because the wages will have to be paid from what is, or might be, available; not what we wish is available.

One false step on this matter and we might land in political hell.

That said; granted all governments lie to protect political interests; but, violent repercussions occur when too many falsehoods are thrown into the public domain. At a time like these, the credibility of the President is paramount. It is almost impossible to persuade the citizenry to absorb more hardship, in exchange for a brighter future, if few people trust the leader. Trust, meanwhile, cannot be compelled; it can only be earned by telling people the truth all the time. Say so, if only two months arrears were paid. Don’t announce that all arrears were settled; only for ASUU to refute it.

The major obstacle to peace, right now, is a truthful statement about the State of the Nation from President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Fund me to write the truth about Buhari

“Liars ought to have good memories” – Algernon Sydney, 1622-1683.

A bunch of liars got together to write and launch books about Buhari’s eight years in office. In it, you will not read about N30 trillion Ways and Means scam, N53 billion spent to feed fictitious children during COVID-19 lockdown; the N100 billion for which the Accountant General, under him, is being charged or how a plane borrowed from Ethiopian Airlines was painted and launched as NIGERIA AIR. Liars don’t tell you about such things.

I started my own book on Buhari two years ago; funded it myself and now I am stuck. Inflation and exchange rate threaten publication of the truth about Buhari. I need help – your help – to finish the job. 

Their book was advertised for N200, 000. I can deliver the truth for N20, 000 or less. Can you help? Please, get in touch.

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