Two steps backwards, four steps backwards

In the midst of serial lamentations about the fate of the Nigerian state and its economy, as well as greater lamentations still about the perceived complicit inaction of Nigerian runners of state, two pieces of news items sieved in recently. They are sickening in content and context. One was the inauguration of the War Against Indiscipline (WAI) Brigade during the week by the Federal Government of Nigeria and the second, the news that government had subsidized the cost of pilgrimage to intending pilgrims to Mecca for the yearly hajj ritual. The two news items have provoked questions and angers across the board.

Let us address these issues one after the other. On Monday this week, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Federal Government officially relaunched the WAI Brigade in Abuja. According to government, the need for the brigade was accentuated by the burgeoning cases of insecurity, violence, kidnapping, as well as other forms of social vices that have taken over the society. The brigade, government explained, is to perform the role of “civil intelligence gathering.”

The Director General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) Dr. Garba Abari, said that the Buhari government considered the need for the brigade because, “in this era of insecurity, violence, kidnapping and other forms of social vices, the role of the WAI Brigade in civil intelligence gathering cannot be over emphasized. It is in this regard that I call on you to encourage your members across the country to redouble their vigilance in the local governments, wards and their various villages, so that we can contribute our quota towards building a secure society.”

Worrisome as these crimes are, Nigerians are bothered that the present government is leaving, in the imperishable wisdom of Yoruba traditional thought, a more consuming ailment of leprosy and choosing to treat eczema instead. In their hierarchical positioning on the needs ladder, the slide in the Nigerian economy looks a far greater burden which should consume the thoughts of any sensible government than “intelligence gathering.” Apart from occasional rhetoric that comes from government officials, there is a timid address of the terrible economic fates of the people of the country. If there is any attempt to tackle the economic problem, such effort is either too feeble to be noticed or is not in the public domain as it is not communicated to the governed by either the signpost of the government – the president himself or any of his commissars. The result is that people are in the dark about their economic fates.

So, how did government’s hierarchical positioning of the needs of Nigerians come to be that war against indiscipline is first layer before economic redemption of the country? Let us even acknowledge that the social vices spoken of by Abari are in need of a rigorous tackle, what is the job of the Directorate of Security Service (DSS) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC)? Why duplicate efforts, manpower and thus incinerate scarce resources at this period of economic recession? More fundamentally, the wording of the modus operandi of the WAI Brigade bears similitude to that in a police state or the Kremlin. Why do we need to dedicate a brigade to such extensive spying activities that percolate the 36 states of the federation and all the 774 local governments? This sounds suspicious and a bit incongruent with a free society that democracy gives to countries of its practice.

If one takes cognizance of the fact that President Buhari, as a military dictator, established this same WAI in 1984, ostensibly on the assumption that Nigerians were inherently undisciplined, a cover that was used to commit all manner of human rights atrocities and denial of fundamental rights, Nigeria needs to be suspicious about the ultimate aim of this WAI Brigade, lest it be a façade for a more sinister attempt to stomp on fundamental human rights of the people.

The second news item that invaded public consciousness during the week was the subsidy granted Muslim pilgrims going to Mecca. We will recall that the Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, had told Nigerians during the week at a town hall meeting held in Abuja that Nigeria’s consumption of foreign goods was ruining the economy, so much that on a weekly basis, there is a demand for foreign currency that is in the range of $2.5billion. Some other members of the government, chief among whom is the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Godwin Emefiele, have also counselled that unless we reverse our gluttonous lust after foreign goods, our economy would be ruined as daily importations of goods that we could as well consume their local variants, have conspired to render the economy comatose. The dollar is heading for the rooftop and has today reached an embarrassing level, causing a jump in prices of local goods at an unbearable proportion. The groan is so intense that it is hard to imagine when last Nigerians felt such pains.

With the above in mind, why would a government that is trying to reorientate the people about the need for national conservation of foreign exchange through the elimination of spending on needless goods promote this idiotic move? Pilgrimages to Mecca and Jerusalem are touristic ventures dressed in the garb of religion. Its ulterior manifestation is to enrich the purses of governments of those tourist centres. Why then would government leave thousands of children studying abroad, many of whom have had to stop schooling for inability to meet forex requirements and spend such on religious tourists? Coming on the heels of allegations of the president’s ultra-attachment to the Islamic religion which invariably berthed the ludicrous three-day holiday for Muslims during their last festival, this is another governmental somersault that deserves our thumbs down.

In totality, the WAI Brigade and subsidisation of forex requirement for Muslim pilgrimage are two policies of this government that are profiling it in bad light. They make sane men want to puke.