by Ebuka Obi-Uchendu
I was in the car with my brother’s driver heading out to get fuel and noticed the queues were back sometime last week. We hadn’t heard about any strikes or disagreements between government and tanker drivers or any of the petroleum sector employee unions. In spite of all that, it still wasn’t particularly surprising. In the last year, Nigerians had become used to waking up and seeing cars stretched out in a line from fuel stations for kilometers. It had become our reality.
But then I remembered that there was an explosion at the MRS fuel tank farm a few weeks ago, apparently ignited when there was a transfer of fuel from a ship into the tank. I mentioned to the driver that this new scarcity might just have originated from there. He giggled and said; “How ship go just catch fire like dat? Na person do dat tin joo, so dat fuel go scarce again and dem go fit increase price.” I tried to tell him that no one would go through the hassles of importing products, whether fuel or rice or whatever, and then burn it just to increase the price of products but he wouldn’t have any of it. “Abegee, notin like mistake for dis Nigeria o! Dem know wetin dem dey do.”
Nigerians have been so bruised and used over the years that as far as we are concerned, everything is a calculated conspiracy. When a plane crashes, it is because someone on the flight was an enemy of the state who needed to be eliminated. When anyone (whether popular or not) loses an election, it is because he was a threat and needed to be rigged out. When people die in a canal running away from explosions at a military cantonment, it is because the government needed to sacrifice some people to their ritualists for their selfish benefits. When someone dies of AIDS, it is because that aunty that came from the village gave him soup and put something in it that started killing him slowly after that. Nothing for Nigerians, ever just happens.
Without a doubt, sometimes they could be right. In fact, many times even I am shocked how certain things happen. Sometimes, the theory is so plausible that you have no choice but to wonder if these conspirators really think Nigerians are so shallow to believe anything at all. But there are those you hear and can’t help but laugh at how unreasonable they are. The most disturbing of them all is when the government doesn’t believe that some things just happen out of sheer will by certain individuals, and goes on to conclude that they are a “calculated plot by the opposition to discredit this government”.
Like Chude Jideonwo wrote in his on going Leadership Series a few weeks ago, I still feel quite insulted whenever I hear the government say that the Occupy Nigeria protests from last year were orchestrated by members of opposition parties who enticed Nigerians to the protest grounds in Lagos, Abuja and Kano with bottled water and free music concerts. Anyone who was aware in January knows how silly statements like that are, so I will not even go into it. But the recent comments attributed to Mr. President after he visited the Police College in Ikeja, that the documentary, which aired on Channels TV, was only broadcast by the opposition to embarrass the Federal Government, makes me very sad. The thinking behind that theory is beyond me.
The one question Mr. President needs to ask himself is simple; ‘Did the documentary lie about the facts on ground?’ If Mr. president got to the college and noticed that things were bright and beautiful with the students completely at peace with what they had available, then we would have a whole other story here. The fact that he went to the college and acknowledged by himself that things were shockingly deplorable, and then goes in another breath to say that airing it was an attempt to embarrass his government, is beyond pitiable. Should Channels have gone to Aso Rock to submit the video first? Is the TV station wrong for seeing something wrong in a country it operates and not turning a blind eye to it?
I blame a lot of things for this. Firstly, our television stations, which have forgotten the role they play as the voice of the people. It is almost impossible to turn on a Nigerian TV station today and see any programming or documentary that’s working at exposing anything. Only content paid for by companies and churches see the light of day, as money rules. This means that documentaries have become so alien that making or seeing one, has to have a conspiracy theory behind it.
Secondly, this same opposition that gets blamed for everything, hasn’t shown that they are any better than the ruling party. The way politics is conducted from the ACN states through the APGA states and the endless leadership tussles at the CPC and ANPP makes it very easy to label them as anything. Many Nigerians have concluded that all these parties are the same, simply with different names and tags.
But the bulk of the blame has to go to the Federal Government who continually reduce themselves to cheap talk. Their inability to ever take responsibility for anything is the bane of our existence. Of course, it didn’t start with the Jonathan administration, but the fact that they continue to fuel it, leaves much to be desired. The fact that it won’t change soon is even more disturbing.
Maybe I should stop here before this article is tagged as being sponsored by the opposition to attack the government. At this rate, even I won’t be surprised at that.