Monday, June 20, 2016

The State Of The Nation

By Olusegun Adeniyi
Following a recent column which apparently did not appeal to a particular reader, he sent me a tweet that when next I have no important message to convey, I should just simply not write. Today is one of such days and I have decided to follow his advice. The point really is, even if I choose to write, what is there to write about that would be appealing to readers? For instance, the same friend who suggested yesterday that I could write on the crisis within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)–whose national secretariat called “Wadata Plaza” has been turned to “Wahala Plaza”–also warned me to be careful now that the party is being invaded almost on a daily basis by some Boko Haram Avengers!
*Olusegun Adeniyi
However, even when I have elected not to write about the issue, I still consider it amazing that some PDP governors, in their cold calculations to hijack the party, would be naïve enough to believe they could use and dump a tested politician like the former Borno State Governor, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff. While they told Nigerians that Sheriff was brought in to complete the tenure of Alhaji Ahmed Adamu Muazu which ended three months ago, Sheriff now says the deal he had with them (when they came to “beg him”) was to chair the party till 2018!
Nevertheless, it is interesting that the Senator Ahmed Markafi-led PDP national caretaker committee would alledge, as it did yesterday, that Sheriff was being sponsored by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to scuttle PDP’s chance in the forthcoming governorship election in Edo State. After storming the PDP secretariat on Monday with thousands of his supporters with a “court order” he has refused to produce, Sheriff specifically announced plans for the Edo gubernatorial election and appointed a committee for that purpose. While PDP leaders are now pointing accusing fingers at the APC for the crisis, the pertinent question is: Were they not warned?
In February this year, the Kano State Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje said the emergence of Sheriff as PDP National Chairman was a good omen for the APC. “We are happy because we believe in the long run he would work for us…Looking at the antecedents, the history of the chairman himself, we all know he is a cross carpeter. He is always on the move in changing from one party to the other. Even when he was in All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) for eight years, he was working for the PDP. Even APC started with him, and then he went back to PDP and we were happy. I am sure in the long run he would work for us,” said Gandoje just four months ago so why should I be concerned about a problem foretold?
Okay, I know there are readers out there who may remind me that if indeed I want to write it doesn’t have to be about the PDP crisis, especially since Osun State is again in the news, this time over the controversial wearing of Hijab by female Muslim students during school hours. To be sure, I am following the sordid drama as some Christian leaders goad their wards to also begin to wear “coats of many colour” to school–garments for Boys Brigade, Girls Guide, Choristers and others. I have seen interesting photographs of what Osun schools have been turned into but I cannot write on the issue now because I am still waiting to hear from Sat Guru Maharaji who is yet to give instructions on how children of his adherents in the state must now dress to school. And then worshippers of Ogun, Sango, Obatala etc must also be bracing up with their own apparels.
Apparently because some people like to major in minors, to borrow a famous refrain of Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, Governor Rauf Aregbesola, who came to office with so much promise but has flattered to deceive, is now giving the people of his state Hijab to assuage their poverty. Clever man, Aregbesola would rather feed their souls than their bodies. And knowing how people take religion in this clime, the Governor has scored a major coup by his clearly divisive policy.
According to Mahatma Gandhi who evidently didn’t know much about Nigeria, “there are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” As things stand today in Osun, even if Aregbesola leaves majority of the people of Osun in hunger and want, whenever his term is eventually done, for as long as the Hijab issue remains on the front burner, he can always count on the support of a significant population. But let us leave Osun and come to Abuja where interesting things happen every day.
In a recent revelation, a fake medical doctor was discovered to have served in the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) for nine years during which he must have formulated policies for the rest of us. He even rose to Grade Level 13 and had worked in the Departments of Hospital Services and Health Planning Research and Statistics (HPRS) before he was eventually detected for who he is. The fake doctor by name Martins Ugwu Okpe who hails from Benue State got himself employed by using the stolen documents of a childhood friend who happened to be a medical doctor. One can only hazard a guess about how much harm the guy must have done to the system though in his own case, we still have cause to thank God since he did not practice.
However, because I have not been feeling well in the last couple of days, a friend who visited me last night wondered whether I had at any point been a patient at “Luna Maternity & Surgery” hospital in Gwarimpa. When I asked why, he told me that the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) has just outed the fraudster who has been running the private hospital for a decade, using forged certificates. Without attending any medical school, “Dr” Akpan has been performing caesarean sections (and no doubt, abortions), removing fibroids and delivering babies from women.
According to Dr Henry Okwuokenye, head of inspectorate unit at MDCN, the council did not grant Akpan a homeopathic practice licence because the school he claimed to have graduated from in Enugu was unapproved to train students in alternative medicine. And the “doctor” reportedly owned up to the police during questioning that he actually paid N15,000 to one Mike Nwagbara, then an administrative official with the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital in Enugu state, to get a forged MDCN practice certificate in 2002. The question is: how many quack doctors are out there damaging the health of our people in a society where anybody can claim to be anything?
And just as I intended going back to bed last night, having taken my medication, based on the prescriptions of a medical personnel whose qualification I may now go and check again with the MDCN, I saw this post from Pastor Joe Attuenyi: “Finally, after one year of listening to Venezuela type ‘economists’, and having created in the economy a lot of unnecessary dislocations, rent seeking, arbitrage, loss of investment and lack of market credibility, we must give kudos to PMB that his ‘stubbornness’ did not last more than one year”. It was Pastor Joe’s own way of announcing the latest Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) policy which will allow the naira exchange rate to be market-driven, with possible currency devaluation when it comes into effect from Monday next week.
While I am still trying to understand what it all means for the standards of living in our country, I have been reading several stories of how poverty and hunger have been driving many Nigerians to steal bread, tubers of yam and even pots of soup. Just last weekend in Obiaruku, a community in Delta State, a food vendor simply identified as Mrs. Agnes, lost the pot of stew she was preparing while having her bath. The thieves, who reportedly left behind the pot of rice because it was still boiling, were lucky that they were not caught because on 23 August last year in Calabar, Cross River State, a young man was set ablaze for robbing a woman of a pot of soup.
For sure, hunger or poverty is not another Nigerian malaise, it is a universal problem, especially against the background of a recent report that even in Italy–where many of our young would kill themselves to travel to–“615 people are added to the ranks of the poor every day”. Indeed, it was in that same country that a theft conviction against a homeless man, who attempted to leave a supermarket with two pieces of cheese and a packet of sausages in his pocket, was recently overturned.
In 2015, the man was convicted of theft and sentenced to six months in jail and a €100 fine. However, his case was sent to appeal on the grounds that the conviction should be reduced to attempted theft and the sentence cut, as the man had not left the shop premises when he was caught. But last month, Italy’s Supreme Court of Cassation overturned the entire conviction because, according to the Judges, small quantities of food to satisfy a vital need for food did not constitute a crime. “The condition of the defendant and the circumstances in which the seizure of merchandise took place prove that he took possession of that small amount of food in the face of an immediate and essential need for nourishment, acting therefore in a state of necessity,” wrote the court.
The import of that verdict is that a man who is hungry is desperate and when a man is desperate, there is nothing he would not do to survive. It is then little wonder that crimes are on the increase in our country and if we properly interrogate some of them, I won’t be surprised if hunger has been driving a few good people into what ordinarily they would not do. Yet not only are we all at risk when a country descends to the level in which it can no longer feed its people, that society itself is imperiled.
That, I guess, is a serious issue I may have to address whenever I am ready to write again. For today, readers would just have to forgive me for not writing this column.
*Olusegun Adeniyi was media aide to late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua  


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