BY ABDULHAMID AL-GAZALI, FEBRUARY 25, 2023 | 05:38 am
The polls are hours away, and many are still undecided, even confused about who to vote. Since Muhammadu Buhari's foray into politics in 2003, a lot have not been this confused about who to vote for in an election. There is fear, anxiety and dilemma, which is obvious from what has averaged in our discussions all over. But if you are in the North East, I think I have some words for you. And if you are not, our experience may help you make a choice.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is obvious you are looking for that illusionary thing called salvation--‘material’ salvation from 'the current situation in the country'--a code-word for your undefined, and indefinable fantasies. Or, what else? You want fuel prices to go down? You want foodstuff to become cheaper? You want jobs to be all over the place? School fees to go down and salaries to geometrically rise? May be these are not major issues; and so you want crime to end or criminals to disappear. Or you want the value of Naira, while you continue your lavish lifestyle and consumption of foreign luxury goods, to go up and Nigeria Airways to be back overnight? You want your public office holders to build hospitals in their hometowns where they will be treated by Nigerian train doctors, who are by the way and without any doubt some of the best in the world? I am sorry to break your heart, the next president, whosoever it is going to be, cannot help your situation.
I understand that, because you have never defined what you truly want, you certainly find the present government farfetched from your utopia—which in hindsight you will definitely come to appraise all by yourself as a being better package. Because of this, you now feel rough-handled even though you have a lot to be thankful for. Rough-handled you will always feel, as long as we operate—especially if you do not hasten to, reasonably, define what you are looking for—in this vicious cycle of vote and regret--after four years! Government will always remain a firefight, because a perfect society and a perfect situation, which unfortunately nobody has ever seen, do not need a government in the first place.
That is why my thought about this election is simple: do not be afraid to follow your heart. Almost all of them will do exactly what you are presently running away from. Prices will go up. You will still struggle to get jobs. Nepotism will again be seen. You will experience official insensitivity in times of your trials. And yes, there will be new hailing hailers and wailing wailers, may be then under new catchphrases coined by a regular member of the notorious group now fastened under the word cabal. Some, who are, as always, close to the establishment, will get new appointments, others will lose theirs, and you may still live with nothing.
But if you are in the North East, you should not be afraid. You have survived a war, the deadliest terrorism the world has seen in modern times. You have survived state neglect at its grandest. In case you have forgotten, let me remind you a few.
We lost 21 local governments to Boko Haram. In fact, they were on their way to taking over our state capitals in at least three states when we rose up to fight them barehanded. In Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, we had 2.6 million displaced persons put together. Feeding them became our governments' only work, which even at that, some had to steal from to become stinkingly rich. What could be worse? You survived it!
Let us talk about the subject of the day, which is Naira scarcity. Ladies and gentlemen, for those of us in Borno and Yobe, this is not our first experience. In 2013, banknotes in circulation in the whole of metropolitan Borno was a little over a billion. That same year, even our major markets, Gomboru and Monday markets, which, a year later were the only functional in the state, became deserted. At Babban Layi, you have to place advanced orders to get basic electronic appliances, both because businesses had plunged into the precipice and customers had no time for them; but which even after it had been placed, may end up never brought, for, it had to be sourced and brought outside the state. This way, many of them would be intercepted and seized by Boko Haram along Maiduguri - Kano road. Did you see anyone ever protest? You could not because the vendor may be a Boko Haram member; so, gentleman, you better be thankful you lost only an item rather than your life, as it was the cheapest thing in Maiduguri during the time—since, even soldiers whose only duty was to protect it, took part in taking it.
Ladies and gentlemen, you survived it!
Are you talking about security of lives and properties? I am sorry that you lost loved ones, but I want to assure you that if you survive that, you can survive anything. Remember when Boko Haram deployed saw machines meant for cutting trees in Benisheik to cut down innocent travelers into two by the torso and throw them in opposite directions—so that families could not even retrieve dead bodies in one piece? Nearly 300 went down this way. So the worst case is to be taken back to that situation, and you will still survive it if you are meant to, not because of who is your president or what party is in power. Do not be afraid to follow your heart, my friend, you have already seen the worst.
My advice to you is simple: lower your expectations and be prepared for any situation, then make your choice without fear. As long as there are newspapers, civil society organizations and opposition parties, as long as we run democracy, there will never be a day you will see a breaking news about any good news. The headlines will be the same, fear striking, stomach turning and heartrending; and in Nigeria, even the characters can be the same. If you are still on social media, you will see their photos in Ivy League schools celebrating the graduation of their kids, with your friends, who cannot regularly pay their kids' school fees in community schools, writing long posts to justify their actions. They will still keep their foreign doctors. Even with first class degrees, CBN, NNPCL and FIRS jobs will be for their children, girlfriends and marabout network. Even if you will die, they will marry among themselves and roads will be blocked during their ceremonies.
If you want leave beyond all these, you have to look within yourself. Work hard. Learn more skills. Start a farming project. Rear animals or start a poultry. Be an apprentice and learn a craft. Do not listen to those who make you feel entitled by telling you that the government has to provide you with an enabling environment before you do that. There are millionaire farmers who did not wait for any enabling environment to start. In Borno, when Boko Haram disrupted farming and fishing activities, I saw some, who, while we are busy writing about enabling environments, move to Mubi, Jigawa and Taraba, to continue running their show because they bear no any sense of entitlement. That is why I supported Buhari in 2015 and 2019, which I still didn't regret. I would have again voted for him if he's on the ballot this time. So Atiku, Tinubu, Obi, Kwankwaso, Al-Mustafa... vote anyone you truly want to vote for, for whatever reason.
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