There is this funny story I read some years ago in the social media. It was during the reign of Olusegun Obasanjo. The story teller said that Bill Clinton, the then President of the United States of America, came to Nigeria on a state visit. His host told him, perhaps in a jubilant hallucinatory tone, that Nigeria was on the verge of catching up with America in many areas of development index. As Obasanjo took him to see some of the projects, one thing that struck Clinton was the sheer darkness that enveloped many parts of Lagos at night.
Then two years later, Obasanjo returned the visit. During a state banquet in the White House in honor of Obasanjo, Clinton told the visiting Nigerian President that America solved her power needs over a century ago and assured him he would not see any part of the country in darkness. But as Obasanjo looked out through the window that night, he noticed there was no light in one area of the major streets in Washington. He called the attention of his host and pointed to the place in darkness. Clinton laughed and told him, ‘That’s Nigerian Embassy‘.
The point was instructive! And if Clinton comes calling again today, I wonder how he would feel if he notices that the darkness he noticed in a portion of Lagos has now engulfed the entire country!
Some few days ago, the fiery Lagos preacher and social activist, Pastor Tunde Bakare made a telling statement which I believe tingled and jarred any ear that heard it. To commemorate the 27th anniversary of his church—The Latter Rain Assembly—Bakare mounted the pulpit and after serious soul searching mustered the courage to call for a revolution. He felt dissatisfied just like every other Nigerian that the country is on a downward slope. He felt disillusioned just like majority of us that there would be no flicker of hope in Nigeria if we accept the system as business as usual. He was irked just like you and I that the country was on an autopilot and would crash at any moment when we do nothing. One of the worst ills that will befall any nation is for those who are supposed to talk to keep silent in a period of social ferment. But trust Bakare, he is not one of such.
Indeed, Bakare was not only speaking his mind but the minds of many. As he laced the speech in his characteristic oratory with a chronicle of many things that are wrong with Nigeria, the assembly roared and shouted in approval. In other words, they want a revolution too. The pastor must have noticed the dangerous trajectory Nigeria and its government were headed to before his call. He must have been baffled over the seeming silence of the Presidency in the face of the various killings in major parts of the country by the Fulani herdsmen. He must have been not only surprised but pained and ashamed that Nigeria which is the largest exporter of oil does not have a single refinery. To him and many of us, it is a rude awakening.
Bakare must have taken an inventory of the perennial fuel scarcity, the unacceptable exchange rate; the hyperinflation, the perceived slack in leadership, the increasing ethnic hate and so many other ills that seem to plague the present government before such a call.
As a patriot, Bakare wants to see Nigeria work. He wants the system to work. He wants his country to rise from the seeming lack of inertia to become a force to be reckoned with in all spheres of human development. It is because he sees none of these nor a semblance of the promised change that he saw revolution as the quickest route to paradise. Let no one blame him. No one who is aware of the current situation in Nigeria will blame the pastor. He has every reason to be angry, to fume and rage and vent his spleen. Why should he not fume and call for change no matter whichever means when a nation that is naturally and conceivably well-endowed in virtually every area of life is regrettably 152 in the United Nations’ Human Development Index ranking, 136 in Corruption Perception Index and 125 in Prosperity Index? Nigeria has no reason to take this back seat in world ranking if our successive leaders had known what leadership is all about and taken the welfare of the masses into account.
However, nothing has exemplified and exposed the level of rot in the country and the sad decadence of leadership better than the current circumstantial concatenation of scarcity of petroleum products and the darkness that the country has been thrown into since this dispensation. All over Nigeria we see vehicles queue up for days at fuel depots to get some litres of the product. Vehicle owners desert their offices and forget about their businesses to line up at fuel stations for days looking for fuel. My friend told me last week that he slept for three nights at the NNPC Mega station at Abakaliki before he could get fuel at official rate. As it stands today, not only human beings and vehicles are queuing up, generators have joined the line too, the first time in our history. This port ends a sad omen for Nigeria.
What is worrisome and pathetic is not only that Nigerians have been forced to do compulsory exercise by trekking, it is that the government has grounded the country by giving us uninterrupted darkness. Businesses both big and small are closing down all over the country as a result of the perennial lack of power to run them. Nothing demonstrates more clearly government’s lack of empathy which has made it to be out of sync with the mood of the people like the standoffishness and indifference with which the president treats the situation.
For instance, Mr. President summoned an emergency meeting two weeks ago to deliberate on this and on the impasse occasioned by the deliberate omission of vital projects by the National Assembly. But while the ministers waited for the meeting to begin, Mr. President was already on his way to China. What this unpresidential indifference indicates is that our president does not care even if we die. Buhari appears to be undisturbed by the suffering his inaction has unleashed on the people. This could not have happened under Jonathan or in the regime of any leader who is in sync with the people.
Since the APC government came to power, it has established a reputation for unleashing suffering on the masses and for saying one thing and doing another. As an example, the first assignment of Mr. Tunde Fashola, the Minister for Works, Power and Housing, barely a month after assuming the position, was to increase electricity tariff by 45% without taking into account the impact this will have on the poor masses and the economy. We were told that raising the tariff was necessary to make the sector more profitable and competitive. But since that time till now, Nigeria has been thrown into utter darkness as the megawatts of electricity generated dimmed from 5000mw to 1200mw. Even the prepaid meter the government promised and ordered the electricity companies to give its customers is yet to be implemented.
Mr. President announced a pump reduction of fuel from ₦87 to ₦86.50, which, to me, is no reduction. But what is surprising and disheartening is that fuel sells for ₦500 in Taraba State and ₦250 in the East. The masses are groaning and the government pretends not to hear their cry. What we are seeing today is a government that lives in denial as it cannot even enforce its own laws and promises.
Therefore, who under these circumstances will not advocate for a revolution? Who will not call for a change when pressed to this pass? There are times when silence is not golden; it was in the light of these that Tunde Bakare, like Rod Parsley, decided not to remain silent any longer. In a period of catharsis like this, we need a moral champion like him to remind us of the urgent need to roll away the stone—by whatever means.