OP-UNEDITED | The Damned Penitentiary Called “The Villa” – By Kelechi Mbiamnozie
By Kelechi Mbiamnozie
The events that culminated to the victory of All Progressive Congress (APC) in the last concluded Nigeria’s Presidential general election is still fresh in the memories of many political watchers, pundits, our global allies and foes, as well as among many concerned citizens of our great Republic, heck – it was just ten months ago. For the first time in our history as a people, the country recorded more than seventy two million active twitter users and forty eight million facebookers, and a large number of instagrammers. More than a 100% spike compared to three years before the election. These events are fresh not because they are edible, but because of the hype and tension that finally climaxed to the successful victory of President Mohammad Buhari (GCFR) who we once named “frequent contester” at a point. Many Nigerians held back their observations and doubts about a one-time unpopular dictator whose name attracted many “taglines”. Name callings and demeanor that could have caused him the winning, but Nigerians of “the then” defiled all odds including the call from the “then” ruling party for President Mohammad Buhari (GCFR) to present his education certificate. And the question is; have you ever seen a time when citizens suggested accepting a NEPA bill in place of an educational qualification? I have not seen, not in recent time. This is to show how much the PDP and its candidate were detested by the Nigerian people and the general electorate.
We all are testimonies to the political tension in the country during this period, at a point, it seemed that those who betted against Nigeria will win. If you could remember vividly the 2015 Nigeria disintegration false prophesy? The Casino moguls called to inform that they lost a lot of money on their bets. Little wonder, we are greater and bigger than our differences.
Fmr. President Goodluck Jonathan was the anointed one, the odds were in his favor, with the Central Bank serving as the ATM, the State Security Forces willing and ready to do the bidding of the masters, PDP started the victory celebration even before the election. I could remember as late as December, Party leaders, stalwarts and rented sycophants were still begging the “then” President to consider declaring his candidacy. President Mohammad Buhari had little endorsements capable of cruising him to victory, who knows the saying that “it’s not yet over until it is over” could play out in Nigeria of 2015? I am not trying to sound prophetic, but the hand writing was clearly on the wall as many spectators even those at the corridors and windows of power could feel and sense the hot wind coming.
Let me fast forward to where we are today, probably I will reverse later and pull over in my conclusion.
President Mohammad Buhari did not win the last election because he spoke the best of English, or wore the best of “bespoke suit” – thanks to Ouch (Uche Nnaji), nor did he present the best of policies that could save the drowning giant, except his constant hammering to fight corruption to a standstill, none of those. In terms of financial muscle, the ruling party and the establishment were unbeatable. In areas of incumbency and state might, the Villa utilized it to the maximum. For the first time again in the history of Nigeria, we saw the ruling party convert the nation’s Central Bank to its personal ATM, and the armed forces to its private foot soldiers.
Here and now, the election is over. We have counted our eggs and the chickens, the days of “kakadu” has passed, now we are facing the real deal, the act of governing and leadership. Buckle up fellow Nigerians, as I am about go “OUTFRONT”
If you care to know, many people including political stakeholders and pundits will agree with me that despite many jailhouses and penitentiaries in the country, there is no greater prison like “The Villa”. YES, you heard me right and clear, “The Villa” which houses the President, Vice President, aides to the Executive body and few “connected privileged” is a horrible prison that Nigerians don’t know about. A place where respected high level citizens willingly serve a Mandatory minimum sentence of “Four Years” and a Maximum of “Eight Years” doing either something or nothing. There are rooms for probationary commuting, but that’s always on rare occasions, only if you offend the “kingmakers” and “godfathers”, and I will tell you why.
Like many former inhabitants of “The Villa” will say, “those in the outside world will not, and cannot understand what really happens in the inside”, alluding to the reality that it is a different game played in the “inside”. In the words of one of the most critic of Fmr. President Jonathan’s administration before he became an occupant/tenant in “The Villa” by name Dr. Reuben Abati, Nigerians appreciated his style of leadership and active involvement in offering honest and critical perspective on the good, bad and ugly scenarios about our government. Dr. Abati was praised for his mastery in presenting diverse organic opinions on issues of national affairs. Everyone knew he was a serious fellow until the Administration employed him into “The Villa” and handed him his sentencing, Dr. Abati started dancing “the reggae with the blues”. The defender of those who cannot speak for themselves now became a strongest defender of the statusquo and the establishment. We all felt betrayed and Abati and many other Villa occupants are living the reality today.
Consistently we have seen good men and women sentenced to “The Villa” and often, never came out whole nor remained the-same. Just very few who stood their grounds in the face of a well-organized corrupt machine still commands a commendable public trust.
Leadership is a call greater than the individual himself. It is far more than a call to service, it is a sacrifice of giving oneself for the good of others, like the biblical sacrifice that saved mankind. However, history has thought us that leaders are born and called, not imposed. When leaders are imposed on a nation in the case of Nigeria and Africa in general, that’s not leadership then, it loses the salt and nice taste that accompanies servanthood.
In the case of Nigeria, we have been so unlucky, God gave us everything in its fullest, and Nigerians are the happiest, industrious, hospitable, hardworking, caring, reputable, responsible and kind people on the surface of this earth. All around the world, time after time, Nigerians from all works of life have continued to defile all odds to excel in their different chosen fields, and they are doing phenomenally well, both nationally and globally. They have proven to be worthy of service and citizenship, but over the same period, we have seen little innovation in the style of leadership and service delivery that should have complemented our goodness, beginning from the years of Military regime up till today.
To the ruling party, before the “APC” was elected into office, they came up with great ideas as manifested in their party manifesto, incredible promises that would make someone vote against their own parents. Nigerians were quick to buy into the product. I for once, was very happy seeing the now Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo inside Lagos transportation buses engaging with the common man, such has never happened before, and like I said, the “then” mighty and powerful PDP stalwarts were still serving their jail term inside “The Villa” and in doing so, was disconnected with “street realities” that they are indeed losing the election so big.
In this era of “APC” government, since after the election, Nigerians were more than hopeful that our pains will be lifted, our electricity problems will be attained to, social amenities will start working again, law and order will be restored, but above all things, our economic woes will be made whole. While it is just less than a year since the APC victory, Nigerians are yet to see a tangible proposal, we are not talking about feeling the change as much but to see the government show seriousness in leadership especially in turning the economic woes around. As a result, frustration has made good loving citizens to start calling for the years of the so called “corrupt government” of the PDP to come back. Call it being impatient or whatever you wish, the people deserve answers on the State of the Nation especially in time like this.
We have witnessed the “Dasukigate” and “budgetgate”, all points to the rascality of the former and the later. In “budgetgate”, the government couldn’t even defend budgetary numbers contained in its own document, I don’t want to discuss the budget numbers here, I will leave that for another day, but let me say this, those numbers are shameful, very shameful. I call on the government to recall the budget and start all over, on a clean slate. And in “Dasukigate”, it’s such a pitiful impunity.
Many concerned citizens have begun to voice concern over the current state of the nation. In the words of Prof. Pat Utomi, our government is not getting it right and should change its economic plans to something better and more attainable, Japheth J Omojuwa in one of his epistles title “Before It Is Too Late for Nigeria’s ‘Change’ Team” summarized it all in a very understandable manner, and Chief Dele Momodu in “Time to re-write the APC Manifesto” gave what I will call “A Patriotic Manifesto”, to a deserving government that he loves so much. I hope the concerned are paying attention.
It brings me to where I started from, you can see what happens when good men enters “The Villa”. My question is: Is Mr. President really listening? Is the Vice President paying attention to “street realities”? Are the aides still connected to men in the Street? And what in the world is the Cabinet Members doing?
I am not insinuating that these men of “timber and caliber” are not doing anything, NEVER. I understand governance especially when the last administration almost brought the entire nation to its knees, believe me, I understand. When America suffered the worst recession since the great depression in 2008, followed by the election of President Barack Obama, we saw as he engineered an economic bailout to manufacturing corporations and small businesses because he knew those were the engine for growth and job creation. Financial sectors, manufacturing multinationals, small businesses and citizens were all bailed out. Unemployment benefit scheme was created to care for those who lost their jobs and couldn’t make ends meet. We all knew that Wall-Street recklessness caused the depression and financial collapse, but in Nigeria, our political elite club and greedy banks, contractors and fellow citizen’s collective actions culminated to a massive economic destruction in the country, such that we’ve never seen before. If not, explain to me why fmr. Army Chiefs sentenced the little guys to the war (death) front with undeserved ammunition only to loot the funds meant for weapon purchase? The rot in almost all the sectors of the economy is mind blogging. Heads of MDA’s looted the treasury as if they are not Nigerians. Nigeria was a-free-for-all-country where anybody could do virtually anything and go free. There was no government, None.
In this new APC era, it seems we are going back to the detested time that we all rejected, God forbid, I will never wish such to my government and Nigerians in particular. But it appears that those who took their sentencing as new inhabitants of “The Villa” have quickly forgotten “the street”. The country as we speak is on a standstill, nothing seems to be working. Even in the face of all these trials, Nigerians are still hopeful that one day, things will return to normalcy.
All I appeal to the new government of H.E. President Mohammad Buhari and his team is to take a deep breath, reverse and just pull over. One thing you cannot quench is Nigerians thirst for change, they believed in it, and they want to see it. They need reforms in our corrupt Judicial system, National Assembly, Ministries and Parastatals, Private Sector, and within the Armed Forces. The EFCC is doing a lot and taking too much, while the ICPC is long dead if they ever had any life before. We need this government to work for us, to tell us the truth and to hold no spin against us. I believe our better days are still ahead, but the government must make us believe in it again and not to always feel that once in “The Villa”, folks get disconnected with the realities in the outside.
In Dele Momodus epistle, he appealed to this government to reflect true frugality and shed the toga of prodigality that is already rearing its ugly head. Advising Mr. President to be alerted about how those outside now believe he has already joined the psychedelic class by wasting resources on flights of fancy and excessively flamboyant and ostentatious airport ceremonies. We saw the pictures of our Brigade of Guards in Scottish kilt fully piped up welcoming the President on his arrival from his Middle East tour. In Mr. Momodu’s words, such frivolity did not reflect the mood of the nation. The President’s winning formula had always been his simplicity, humility and childlike innocence. “We the people” are joining Mr. Momodu in advising the President to resist the temptation of being corrupted by the carpetbaggers who litter our corridors and windows of power. A reminder of the worst jailhouse called “The Villa” where people surrender to lies and sycophancy. Mr. President should dismiss anyone involved in planning or organizing such a wasteful jamboree.
All we appeal is for our leaders to feel our pains, to put themselves in our shoes. All we ask for is political, economic and social grace to help reposition Nigeria in this very challenging time that offers an unbeatable well informed millennials seeking for answers to many of the issues that has continued to impede on our collective wellbeing. And in doing so, prove us wrong that “The Villa” is not a jail house where people are sentenced and they forget their souls, but an open quarters where smart governance, innovative leadership ideas and approach, passion for service and compassion for the citizenry is born.
Mr. President, I hope you are listening?
Inspired by Steve Biko’s ‘I Write What I Like‘, OP-UNEDITED is the citizen opinion segment of SIGNAL. All opinions posted on the OP-UNEDITED page are unedited and the raw opinions of the writers.
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