Decades ago, I remember reading a piece by a writer lamenting the sudden but astronomical shooting up in the price of “garri”, which used to be the staple food of poor and down-trodden Nigerians. For reasons which need not detain us here, “garri” shrugged off its beggarly position in the hierarchy of staple foods and began to rub shoulders with the likes of rice, beans and yam flour. So, the writer, alarmed at what he described as the effrontery of garri and its audacity to join the league of the elites, screamed: “See me, see garri!” Unruffled, “garri” has not looked back ever since! On the contrary, it has been helped by the lacklustre and wanton-destroyer Muhammadu Buhari administration to firmly book its place amongst the elite club of foodstuffs in Nigeria. Since the coming of Buhari, no staple foodstuff has been cheap again in Nigeria. The steep devaluation of the Naira, leading to its dwindling purchasing power - and this coupled with receding opportunities on all fronts - has meant that every essential commodity has become priced beyond the reach of most Nigerians. Bread, which used to come to the rescue as ready-made food for the commoner, now attracts a princely price. It is the rich and affluent who eat bread these days! For Buhari to think, in the midst of all of these, that he has done well, is mind-boggling, to say the least.
Does the president live in this country? Is he aware of happenings around him or is he like Rome’s King Nero? And so did Nero fiddle while his country was on fire! Of all the issues confronting this country and sending it to an early and untimely grave, as it were, it is “ponmon” that the Buhari administration is flexing muscles over! Insecurity is there; inflation or stagflation is there; unemployment is there; ASUU strike is there; derelict infrastructure is there; crude oil theft is there; humongous oil subsidy scam is there; high cost of living is there; soaring cost of foodstuffs is there; skyrocketing house rent is there; crushing indebtedness is there; and crippling transportation cost is also there – despite all of these, ponmon lo kan, if we may borrow the expression, which has now become a cliche, from the APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu!
The Buhari administration is said to be proposing a law to ban the consumption of “ponmon”! For a very long time, beef and other forms of meat have wriggled out of the reach of the common man; following suit, fish has zoomed past the common man; and taking a cue from these two, frozen chicken has said the common man must not mention its name again! Egg, at between N2200 and N2500 per crate of 30 eggs, has joined the bandwagon to say bye-bye to the common man! “Ponmon”, the last hope of the common man, is now under siege! From whence, then, will the common man source his animal protein when all available doors appear shut in his face? And it is not as if “ponmon” at all comes cheap these days anyway; it is just that it is still a shade more affordable than the other sources of protein or a semblance of the same. We have even been told that “ponmon” has no nutritional value but it confers a semblance of respectability to have a form of “meat” perch gingerly on your food or sit pretty in your soup or stew!
In the South, the Southwest especially, “ponmon” has also attracted the status of a delicacy; so banning it will attract similar opprobrium as banning stockfish (Okporoko) and fairly used wears (Okrika) in the Southeast. Remember, promising to ban these items for being injurious to the people’s health and well-being were some of the “sins” the Igbo refused to forgive Obafemi Awolowo for! So, if the proposed ban on “ponmon” flies everywhere, I am sure it will fail spectacularly in the Southwest whose trade mark “owambe” parties will be incomplete without the delectable “gbegiri”, “egusi”, “efo riro”, “ila asepo” soups garnished with “orisirisi” and “ponmon kika”! Let no Buhari dare us!
One conspiracy theory says the focus on “ponmon” or hides and skins is another smart plot to divert the country’s resources in the direction of the North that produces the hides and skins in the same manner the Raw Materials Research Council has done with “Kilishi” while serious issues are left unattended to by the Northerners/Muslims and, possibly, Fulani, who head these organisations and the Buhari presidency. Each day and with each policy, these folks give us additional reasons to scream “To your tents, O Israel!”
Buhari’s one country, two systems
Ondo State’s Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu has, once again, hit the nail on the head with his exposure of the nepotistic tendencies of Buhari who favours his own core and Muslim North in every respect but treats the other parts of the country, especially the South, as orphans or, better still, as second class citizens.
Titled “We believe in one Nigeria but we cannot have one country, two systems”, Akeredolu was reported as saying: “The video making the rounds showing the equivalent of the Western Nigeria Security Network (Amotekun Corps) in Katsina obtaining the approval of the Federal Government to bear arms is fraught with great dangers. Denying Amotekun the urgently needed rights to legitimately bear arms is a repudiation of the basis of true federalism which we have been clamouring for. That Katsina was able to arm its state security force with the display of AK47 means we are pursuing one country, two systems solution to the national question. If the Katsina situation confers advantages on some, in the face of commonly faced existential threats, it means that our unitary policing system, which has failed, is a deliberate method of subjugation, which must be challenged. The Independence agreement was based on a democratic arrangement to have a Federal, State and devolved internal security mechanism. We must go back to that agreement. Denying Amotekun the right to bear arms exposes the Southwest to life-threatening marauders and organized crime. It is also a deliberate destruction of our agricultural sector. It is an existential threat. We want to reiterate that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. The Ondo State government, under the doctrine of necessity, has decided to fulfil its legal, constitutional and moral duty to the citizens of the State by acquiring arms to protect them. This is, more so, given that the bandits have unchecked access to sophisticated weapons. The State government cannot look on while its citizens are being terrorized and murdered with impunity. We will defend our people”.
The statement, succinct and poignant, was personally signed by the governor; possibly to show the importance he attached to it. It is good that the impunity and audacity of the conservative North have become as clear as daylight for some of our people to see. Unfortunately, not all of them have seen the light yet. Many still wallow in their self-inflicted darkness because of selfish interests which, ultimately, will become their Nemesis. It is a good thing, however, that a few of our leaders are being forced to speak out now that the rascality of Northern leaders has got them choked to the throat.
Nevertheless, they kept it too late and have been too timid in their response.
Femi Falana has advocated ad infinitum and ad nauseam that the state governors challenge the excesses of the Federal Government in the law court. That is one legacy no one can take away from Tinubu. When he was the governor of Lagos state, Tinubu incessantly challenged the excesses of the Olusegun Obasanjo presidency and won severally, helping to extend the frontiers of democracy and deepen the tenets of true federalism. After him, no other governor has been as audacious, brave, courageous, and focused. If Akeredolu will now fill the void in the interest of all, he has my support.
FG/ASUU tango: Escalating or de-escalating the crisis?
The Buhari administration dragged ASUU to the National Industrial Court after eight months of strike action by the university lecturers who have now been ordered by the court to go back to the classroom. The government said on the heels of that judgment, it would soon direct the universities to reopen. ASUU, however, has vowed to appeal the NIC judgment - and had since proceeded to the appeal court. I dare to say that rather than taw, the ice has hardened. Rather than de-escalate, the crisis has escalated. Bragging rights have entered into the fray. Honour and foolish pride, to quote the Jamaican reggae music artiste, Jimmy Cliff, are now at stake more than ever before.
As ASUU goes on appeal, the matter can drag up to the apex court. And knowing the way the wheels of justice grinds with snail’s speed here, this matter may last till this government leaves office. Is that the intention? Again, some conspiracy theorists say the goal of some cabals in the Buhari administration is to so give this government a bad name that the people will vote it out in 2023 so that, hopefully, the candidate of its liking – Atiku Abubakar, a fellow Northerner, Muslim and Fulani – will stand a chance of being voted into office. Otherwise, why should a government winding up and getting closer to election year behave the way this government is doing?
It is only in the South that the politically naive speak of political parties or party programmes and policies. Preoccupation with merit and ideals are only for Southerners whereas selfish and clannish interests rule the waves in the North. What the North’s political establishment follows is: Who is our man? Who will hold power in trust for us? Who will best serve our parochial interests? Who will give us the advantage over the South? Hence, Tambuwal will stab his old Comrade and helper, Wike, in the back in the interest of the conservative North. There are no principles, ideology or morality involved. Otherwise, why has it become rocket science for the North’s political establishment, suddenly trooping into Atiku’s PDP, to understand and accept the simple logic of Wike’s demand for inclusivity and a restructured party? They seek none of the ideals the South fusses about but are fixated on a continuation of Buhari’s naked and arrogant promotion of the Fulani/core Northern interests and the continued subjugation of the South. Destroying education, which is the South’s industry, appears as one of their goals. Did Boko Haram not say that Western education is poison?
Now, if you force the horse to the river, can you force it to drink? If the lecturers are forced to resume, can they be forced to teach? When you ask students to resume and they congregate on campus without being taught, is that not a sure recipe for disaster? Bad as it is, the students being scattered abroad, as they are now, but under the watchful eyes of their parents, is better and safer than asking them to resume and congregate on campus and are not taught. Idle hand, they say, is the devil’s workshop.
If the Buhari administration orders the universities reopened without any solid assurance that the lecturers will immediately resume their teaching job, then, know, for certainty, that the government has an evil intention up its sleeves!
- Bolawole is a former editor & chairman of the editorial board of The PUNCH newspapers. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio, television, traditional and digital media.
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