Tinubu, Beware The Gathering Dark Clouds (1)

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu
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By Hassan Gimba

I do not want to believe that in a country of close to 250 million people, I am the only one who thinks there is a gathering of ominous dark clouds over our dear country beginning from the North. I cannot afford that foolish and lazy thought even if I wanted to dream so, because it is that type of thinking that brought us to this sorry pass. Yes. Not long ago, we had a leader who believed he knew more than everybody and was better than everybody. And surprisingly, many northerners believed he was the only upright person in this populous country, better than even their fathers.

The shout all over the nation about hunger is something that can confuse any government or leader, because it is a fact that hungry people will become angry, and an angry nation is a step away from anarchy.

But one may be forgiven to conclude that the citizens, especially in the North, are being remotely pushed to behave that way. A respectable journalist from Bauchi sent me a report he wanted us to publish. The report was that “labourers in Bauchi were digging up anthills to collect stashed grains there.”

I asked him for pictures and he sent me about four pictures of a well-dressed, healthy-looking man wearing a fez cap and jackboots, shovelling an anthill. According to the report, despite the ongoing construction of roads and houses in Bauchi and surrounding states, this labourer had to go steal food from ants!

When you critically look at Nigeria, or the North, and its situation, what is happening is not excusable. Take instances where warehouses or trailer loads of food were attacked and stripped of everything: Is it hunger where you see a purportedly hungry man hurrying away with two or three bags of rice on his shoulders and returning for more? Or able-bodied youths, both male and female, fighting their way through the madness to grab as much of the loot as they can, taking them somewhere for safekeeping and returning for more?

If the looting of foodstuff from government warehouses and trailers in the name of hunger continues unabated, unchecked, we should brace up for the next phase. The next phase would be breaking into houses of “big people” to loot foodstuffs. And because the looting is not motivated by hunger, we will see some looters carrying televisions, furniture, cookers, refrigerators, gas cylinders, etc. Do not forget that during one of such “hunger” protests and looting, even a signboard was uprooted and stolen. Some people just love to steal – hungry or not – and opportunities are now being offered to them.

Alhaji Aminu Dantata told a story of how his father’s wealth, then transported on the backs of donkeys, got missing when the donkeys ran off while his aides accompanying the wealth were asleep. A public announcement was made, and six weeks later they were found without a single coin lost. And the lack then was greater than what it is now.

And when you look at the looters, hardly do you see signs of responsibility in them; they most likely will take the loot to the markets to sell. They are the types you see springing up from nowhere selling fuel by the roadsides whenever there is a scarcity.

The problem with instigating such people either to cause discomfort to the government or even to derail it is that they are Frankenstein Monsters that would end up as no good to anyone.

But these monsters may not attack the houses of the “big men” first because of many factors, among which are the elitist and urban nature of their environments, and thus enhanced security. But most importantly, because the middle class, which has largely thinned out, is a buffer between them and the monsters.

For decades now, some people have been denying Nigeria a middle class. It is as if they are saying from zero to 100, nothing in-between. Is that possible? Even at the speed of light, one has to go through those steps. In between the have-nots and the bourgeoisie, there are those hanging there either through hauling themselves by their bootstraps or because of some connections. They are not quite down there and yet not up there.

If you can afford a house, rent a flat for your family, pay your children’s school fees, and take care of your basic needs and those of your dependents, then you are not at the bottom of the rung, though you are not with them at the top. You are, therefore, somewhere in the middle. In that category, you could be lower-middle-class, middle-middle-class or upper-middle-class. They have to pass you before they can reach the “big man.” The rampagers will easily and quickly get the middle-class man because the distance between them is very small.

Therefore, people like us will be the first casualties. While we are just a little above them by the grace of God, they see us as their enemies, not knowing our daily struggles for survival. To them, we are part of the enemy because we do not live in a “face-me-I-face-you” type of compound; we own cars, but they do not know we are auto mechanics’ best friends, and our children perhaps go to private schools where we practically bleed from every vein to pay their extortionate fees.

But after us, surely, they will come for the “big men”. And they will get a lot of them because not all can escape abroad with their families. And even if they flee with their immediate families, they must leave behind more family members than those taken.

We must not continue to let the ominous dark clouds gather. Something urgent has to be done.

I have lost hope in the Nigeria Labour Congress to come to the rescue. I do not know what has happened, but since their top man was beaten blue and black sometime back in Owerri, their thinking has been somehow. I do not know if he had seen the right doctor, but imagine them asking for a basic salary of ₦794,000 a month!

The issue is the money for that is simply not there, but even if it is, paying such an amount to less than two per cent of the population is untenable because inflation would spiral out of control, afflicting the entire population. In Nigeria, unlike other countries, when there is a ten per cent salary increase, the prices of goods and services rise by at least twenty per cent, rubbishing the increase.

Moreover, in a country where the private sector that employs the bulk of the people is gasping for breath, where do they get the extra cash to pay such an amount as salary? The private sector will simply go under, and the people roaming the streets without jobs to even “manage” their lives will exponentially increase. Have we ever thought of the security implications even as we are currently being overwhelmed by security challenges?

Anyone genuinely interested in the welfare of workers, and indeed Nigerians, should do well to proffer solutions that would boost our economy and strengthen our currency and not suggestions that would bastardise our economy and drive the naira’s value further down. And that is what salary increase portends now.

Methinks Labour would join the federal and state governments in making our youths self-dependent and employable by teaching them trade skills. As a trade union with many affiliates, when last did Labour speak about the moribund textile industries, for instance? Resuscitating them would provide hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs. And cotton production would be revamped where another huge number of nationals would be gainfully employed.

The government must reduce the cost of governance and the unimaginable take-home pay of political leaders and redirect the excess towards production. We must become a productive nation that eats, drives and wears what it produces. This is the only way to think if we want the dark clouds to clear.

But, is it a problem of the North only? No, if left unchecked, the looming dark clouds will cover the entire nation, as we shall eventually see in the next edition.

Hassan Gimba is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Neptune Prime.

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