Collins Uma: What an eventful week in the life of Nigeria

by Collins Uma

Hamza Al-Mustapha

 Sunday came with the news of George Zimmerman being found not guilty of the murder of Trayvon Martin. Of course those who hailed Al-Mustapha’s ‘Not guilty’ verdict were the same who condemned Zimmerman’s ‘Not guilty’ verdict.

It was the best of weeks, it was the worst of weeks. It was a week we should have rolled out the drums in celebration, it was a week we wished never happened. A self-contradictory week. In all, a week that defined, in the best of terms, the people we have become. The Giant of Africa yet so infantile. When people ask “How did we get here?” I often ask “When did we ever leave here?” Our greatest achievements, both individually and as a group, have always been against the backdrop of the worst of situations. That is who we are. We are the endangered. We are the danger. We are the predator. We are the prey. We are Ying. We are Yang. The ones that proceed from among as shining lights only but represent a synthesis of this thesis and anti-thesis.

So it was that the week began with a lot to cheer. Out of a nation with the highest number of out-of-school children came four out of the five finalists for this year’s prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing. Tope Folarin, Elnathan John, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim and Chinelo Okparanta stood gallant and proud, joined by Sierra Leone’s Pede Hollist, as the finalists out of 96 entries from 16 African countries. Tope Folarin took home the prize but the day was Nigeria’s to celebrate.

As I write this the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Academic Staff Union of Polythecnics (ASUP) are still on strike following the failure of the Federal and State governments to implement agreements on issues affecting the lecturers belonging to each union. In spite of this our young writers still win literary awards. Imagine what will happen if we have a government that gave adequate attention to education. It is not impossible.

On Tuesday the other side of us chose to reject its suppression. Five members of the Rivers State House of Assembly got a revelation that the five of them can (somehow) constitute a two-third majority in a house of 32 members and impeach the Speaker of the House. So they sat and impeached the Speaker and appointed a new ‘Speaker’ from among themselves. The rest is on YouTube.

Several commentators have blamed the Rivers crises on President Goodluck Jonathan because of the much publicised rancour between Governor Chibuike Amaechi and the Jonathans. As risky as it is to take things at face value, the truth however remains that all the actors in this show of shame are adults. It is therefore unfair in all ramifications to totally absolve them of the responsibility for their actions. This is beyond a PDP family affair as their actions have brought shame on a whole nation and they must be made to live with the consequences of this ignominy.

The Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Joseph Mbu, is another man with questions to answer. On Wednesday his men reportedly shot canisters of tear gas into the compound of the Rivers State government house as Governor Amaechi’s supporters thronged to show their support to the governor. This was the evidence of the height of disrespect the commissioner has for the governor of the state. Of course, the Rivers State Police Command denied that anything like that happened regardless of the insistence of the Commissioner of Information, Ibim Semenitari’s claims that policemen fired tear gas into the government house. Somebody is lying. Who?

Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, got into the fray when, on Thursday, it was reported that he laid the blame for the crises entirely on the feet of the Jonathans, particularly Patience Jonathan who he described as a “mere domestic appendage”. Was Soyinka right in describing her with that phrase? Should she be as obvious as she has been with her interest in how Rivers state is being governed, being the wife the of the President? Should she be less obvious with her interests even though she is an indigene of the state, irrespective of her position as wife of the President? No matter the answers to these questions, the fact remains that Dame Patience Jonathan needs to apply a little more diplomatic finesse and panache befitting of her position to her conduct. Promoting the spirit of dissension in her own home state to the point of being a politician’s Jesus Christ just does not cut it.

Friday came with some news received with joy in some quarters and sadness in others. No, I’m not talking about Dame Jonathan’s reply to Soyinka. It is up to her to tell us what she meant by Amaechi’s ‘launch into a river without applicable survival skills’. I am talking about Hamza Al-Mustapha’s early Ramadan gift. He left Kirikiri Prisons to a hero’s welcome in Kano. The Abiola family, one of whom he was accused of murdering during the Abacha days, are not celebrating the court verdict. I am not a lawyer so I will not debate the judgment. However, I believe Al-Mustapha is being celebrated in the North simply because is a Northerner. Most of the people jubilating because of his release do not care if he was guilty or not, all they know is that he is their ‘son’ and, as such, should not be locked up, no matter what he has done. I also believe the jubilation would not be this loud if he was a Northern Christian. The twin concepts of Ethnicity and Religion cannot be eschewed just yet from Nigeria, in practice, try as we may. As a result, appraisals and ratings of groups and individuals, especially public officials, will continue to be subjective and skewed. Only in this light can we understand Goodluck Jonathan’s popularity in the South-South and Muhammadu Buhari’s massive followership in the North.

Coming after all these were some heart-warming news on Saturday. Nigeria is to receive a Guinea worm-free certification from the World Health Organisation (WHO). To be certified free by WHO, endemic countries must document the absence of indigenous cases of Guinea worm disease for at least three consecutive years. As at 2007, Burkina Faso, Benin Republic, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Mauritania, Togo and Uganda had stopped transmission and Cameroun, Central Africa Republic, India, Pakistan, Senegal, and Yemen were WHO certified. It was therefore not commendable that Nigeria was still battling with the disease. This certification is something worthy of celebration considering that Nigeria used to be the world’s most Guinea worm endemic country in 1988.

Another cause for celebration on Saturday was the news that a group of Secondary School girls in Lagos have invented a generator that runs on urine. Yes, urine. One (1) litre of urine will power the generator enough to produce six (6) hours of electricity.

Sunday came with the news of George Zimmerman being found not guilty of the murder of Trayvon Martin. Of course those who hailed Al-Mustapha’s ‘Not guilty’ verdict were the same who condemned Zimmerman’s ‘Not guilty’ verdict.

Will this new week come with better news?

PS: Madiba Nelson Mandela is still alive! This is a great thing.

I hope I get to say that again by the end of this week after he’d have celebrated his 95th birthday on Thursday July 18. But even if I don’t get to say it, fact is, he will always live. He is one man who’s good cannot be interred with his bones.


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

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