Whatever Happens, Don’t Panic, Be Patient, Football Helps


By Ikeddy Isiguzo

The latest allegation our government has against the people it begged for votes about this time last year is that we are impatient. We are in a hurry to enjoy renewed hope, forgetting it is a provision for the pre-qualified. We, the masses, are not.

Where we crossed the fault line was in asking that delicious as grilled meat is, what do we eat while the meat is being roasted? Is that not what economist call immediate or short-term measures? How did government even know that we wanted roasted beef? Did it ask us?

But the surprising performance of the Super Eagles at AFCON has provided a deluding interlude with spasms of happiness that belie the rumblings of our bellies. Each victory injects hope, unity, into forlorn expectations of a people now left to clutch to anything for the moment. Football’s opium is fleeting.

We are still hungry, unsafe, buffeted by clouds of worries that even winning the World Cup would not erase. We do not have electricity to watch matches. It is not that the electricity is available at other times or that we need it only for football.

Is there any evidence that there is something, anything for the ordinary Nigerian in the causes the government chooses? None. We are in a worse situation than we were by February 2023. This has nothing to do with the rising price of the Dollar, an economic disaster that the Vice President Kashim Shettima, a reportedly banker of repute, blames on Nigerians contributing no ideas to the Dollar doldrums.

Wild partying goes on, adding to the drains on the common purse, and more tellingly, painting a picture of uncaring government officials. The invitations to the parties are public. Are they telling us something? They are balling. We are bawling. They would not listen. They are too busy counting the gains of their electoral success and managing the nauseating belches that manifest in the unspoken malfeasances they say are being probed.

Everything points to certainties about a lack of direction. What President Bola Ahmed Tinubu wanted was power. He has got it. What he wants now is enough confusion to keep him in power post-2031 when he would have concluded his second term.

His strategy prices the future above everything. His future, not yours, not mine, not Nigeria’s. Power is so important to him that his understanding of it is to grab it, and keep it out of the reach of others.

There are more than enough federal appointments to make. These make him more powerful as people from all parts of Nigeria genuflect before him to seek favours for their own good, not Nigeria’s.

Nothing will separate the President from his visits to Paris, France. He will continue to make them. For Muhammadu Buhari it was London. Each President decides how to ride Nigerians to more penury. Renewed hope is a worse version of that ride because it cruises on a worse amalgamation of interests amassed and masked behind an insidious assumption of Tinubu’s strategic understanding of everything.

We should be grateful that he is the one leading us, Bayo Onanuga, one of his media aides, says in one of his interventions about the mis-understood Tinubu, without whose sagacity the ship would have been wrecked.

Ordinary Nigerians knew that the ship was wrecked and thought a better leadership was required to pull it up. Tinubu with his crowd of 2014 unbalanced Nigeria, over-awed reasoned voices, threw Buhari into the race, and the rest is what we are enjoying in a Tinubu presidency that cares nothing about anything that does not build Tinubu’s image as the messiah.

Onanuga is busy telling us that we have seen nothing with kidnapping. His thesis is that Nigeria was not the worst-secured place in Africa. His long list of worst countries is the response to why we are unsafe anywhere we are.

His answer is that kidnapping was a challenge before Tinubu. We should not hold it against the hardly working President whose interests are limited to securing his immediate surroundings and interests.

Nigerians have to be patient to appreciate that Tinubu is serious with the task of rescuing them. Things are worse than Tinubu projected in his campaigns. He knew.

His sole mission was to grab power. Nothing, as he boasted, would stop him. He is already worse than Buhari by miles in less than one year, the same thing we saw when Buhari assumed office in 2015. A trending skit in the social media is about how Nigerians miss Buhari. One of the characters wailed that Buhari was like a father to him.

When voices are raised about food scarcity, government goes into a debate about availability of food, admitting that the challenge was that the prices were high. Impatience leads us to conclude rather hastely that insecurity and post-harvest losses were central to food scarcity and high food prices.

Presidential orders opening the silos or fixing food prices are no solutions. Did we not see that with presidential measures that would ease the pains of petroleum subsidy removal? Emptying the grain silos will ensure that food prices will crash. Kidnappers and herdsmen will stop attacking farmers. These measures will re-stock the silos. We would patiently watch the grains prised across the borders where they will fetch better prices for transactional government officials who are in no doubt about their calling to have over-arching, self interest in all matters. We congratulate them. We have to be patient.

If we are not patient, it is not Tinubu’s fault. Nowhere did he promise to provide us with patience, a virtue famed for its attributes of accommodation of situations, fortitude, and perhaps, forebearance.

Back in the day, an advertisement for an alcoholic beverage in Reader’s Digest admonished, “Well, they said anything could happen, but whatever happens don’t panic”. We are late arrivals to panic.

Nigeria passed the panic point years ago. Those trying to push the panic button would find out there is no button. Street unrests in Niger and Kano States are bad headlines if it is your turn to eat. Nothing will be done about the shouts of we, the hungry people, unless they cause indigestion for the diners.

Would protests in Niger and Kano suggest they are the only States where the hungry are found? A more profound perspective could be that other Nigerians are hungrier. They are so drained. They cannot muster the little energy a protest requires – their voices are parched.

Panic over anything that can happen would solve nothing. Suppose we paid more attention to football? A cartoon of kidnappers with their victims celebrating the Super Eagles suggests that football can re-radicalise kidnappers, lessen ransom which puts pressure on the Naira, and make Nigerians panic over every call from an unknown number.

Let us be bold. And embrace our concerns, personally. Restructure your expectations.

May the Almighty rest those who died while watching the Super Eagles against South Africa. And thanks the Super Eagles for your video in those who fell during that tie. Please bring home the Cup for their memory. Good luck.

Isiguzo is a major commentator on minor issues.

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