The 2014 Wongi Annual Awards (And Snorts!)

Posted on 29/12/2014

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1. National (Con)Farce of the Year: The National Convention. The so-called ‘National Conference,’ (hardly national, as all members were selected, not elected!) takes prime position for this award. Raison d’être? The President had always been on record against the hosting of a national conference, but a rather sudden ‘about turn’ started the speculations about his real motive – was he trying to push his pet 7-year agenda through the back door? The government laid down the guidelines; while the PDP, Labour Party, LP; the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA and the Accord Party were fully represented, APC did not only boycott it, but rejected it completely, describing it as diversionary, alleging that the Conference was designed to prolong the president’s tenure. But that was only an argument, which could be defeated, only if the conference outcome met positive national targets. At the end of the ‘conference,’ the Report submitted to the President was 22 volumes of approximately 10,335 (ten thousand, three hundred and thirty-five) pages! Did you just say, ‘Wow?’ Now, a few of those recommendations seemed magnanimous, a few seemed to simply follow a pre-designed template. Consider these: Part of the recommendation of the 2014 National Conference was the creation of 18 new states with three per geo-political zone. Among them were Apa, Edu, Kainji, Katagum, Savannah, Amana, Gurara, Ghari, Etiti (South East zone), Aba, Adada, Njaba-Anim, Anioma, Orashi, Ogoja, Ijebu and New Oyo. Apart from the 18 proposed states, the Conference also recommended one new state for the South East to enable the zone have equal number of states with the other zones except the North West which has seven. It also recommended that states willing to merge can also do so based on certain conditions. Ehem! Hello? Here we are – 36 states that can’t even fend for themselves without asking ‘Big Daddy’ for a monthly share of the spoils? More states??? Please, Nooooooooo!!! But then the Conference also recommended that the immunity clause should be removed if the offences attract criminal charges to encourage accountability by those managing the economy. Huge Yesssssssss!!! So was the National Convention, a farce? Well this is still 2014, and nothing has been implemented yet, and elections still seem to be on course. So, unless, and until the conference recommendations are empowered (next year, perhaps?), at an estimated cost of about N7billion, the whole shenanigan was one massive monumental waste! 2. The (In)Glorious Award(s) of the Year: The House of Representatives. Well, here’s where you decide if that height-defying act of ‘fence scaling’ goes down in history as either noble, or not; and I guess it also depends on which side of the fence you stood, during the drama. For some it will ever remain a daring attempt at upholding the values of Nigerian democracy; for others, well, it probably was a disgrace to the ethics of democratic principles. But, putting it all in correct perspective – one fact that was often ignored, was the fact that the super-athletic members of that esteemed house were actually prevented from entering into the premises, and were scaling the gates INTO that assembly complex, and NOT attempting to escape, as has happened so often before in Nigerian congressional history. So, on which side of the fence do you stand? 3. The Most Feared Group: Boko Haram. It would be difficult to discuss issues that shaped Nigeria in 2014, without the menace of insurgency. The insecurity in the North, especially in the North East, due to the unrelenting onslaught by members of the Boko Haram sect has remained a sore event in the nation’s political development. Despite the efforts of the government to put security on its priority list, yet cases of bombing offices, shopping complexes, motor parks, mosques, churches and schools continued unabated.  Parts of sovereign Nigerian territories were even captured by the insurgents, who went on to hoist their flags and administer these areas as independent territories! A few figures here may shock you: Human Rights Watch estimates that around 500 young women have been abducted by Boko Haram over the last 5 years. According to other reports, not less than 13,000 people have been killed since Boko Haram insurgency began in 2009, while over 1, 500,000 persons have been displaced, and become refugees, both within Nigeria and by crossing the border into neighbouring countries. According to the UNHCR, over 100,000 Nigerians fled to Niger, 39,000 to Cameroon and 2,800 to Chad, thereby also endangering the economic structures of those already fragile regions. Nigeria ended the year with the ignoble position of 4th on the international terror list and Boko Haram was listed as the third most deadly terrorist organisation in the world. 4. The Worst Nightmare: The Chibok Kidnap. How would you feel if your teenage daughter was kidnapped by vile, vicious, unkempt, rampaging terrorists, and has been confined within their hellhole for 260 days? One of the saddest parts of the year was the kidnap of well over 200 students from Government Girls’ Secondary School, Chibok, in April, by members of Boko Haram. At first there were valuable weeks wasted, spent in denial. Then about seven weeks after the incident, President Goodluck Jonathan, who spoke publicly about the kidnapping for the first time, said that the government was doing everything it could to find the missing girls, and blamed parents for not supplying enough information about their missing children to the police. Nothing much has been done in an effort to rescue these girls, since. As we venture into the New Year, we hope the girls are still alive, we pray they have not been put into family way (blank the word: ‘raped’ from your mind!) We also pray that none of them have been involved in the recent cases of female suicide bombings that are becoming more rampant. It is our fervent wish that they return and join their families as we enter 2015. In saner societies, the case of the Chibok kidnap would have decided the results of the Nigerian election even by now! 5. The Year’s Best Cliche: “There is God, ooooo!!!” (Em, actually, “DiarisGoduOoooo!!!”) Sometimes when we cry, we must also learn to laugh. In the immediate aftermath of the Chibok kidnap, there were more than a few doubts in high places whether the kidnap had actually taken place, or if it was another ‘ruse’ by the opposition to ‘bring down’ the government. Government was making no moves, so the First Lady took affairs ‘by the horns,’ as they say, convening a conference (of sorts) to find out if the girls had really been kidnapped. Channels Television relayed the event on it’s Ten o’clock News that night. From that moment, all hell broke loose. The video went viral! There were a number of stand out highlights: ‘Na only you waka come?’ ‘Continuuu,’ ‘Those bloods that are sharing in Bornu will answer.’ It was a bizarre bazaar! But none of the many faux pas of that evening showcase became more repetitive than the classic: “There is God, ooo!” Even I employed it to great comedic effect, as compere, during the 2014 Ogun State Economic Forum, when a particular video on the achievements of the state government started dragging on screen. I ordered it stopped, asked for it to be played back. We couldn’t seem to get it right for a few testy moments, and then…the magic words slipped out of my mouth: “DiaRisGoduOoooooo!!!” The whole house came down. People were tripping over each other! By the time the audience had started wiping away tears from too much laughter, the screen lit up! Indeed, in all things we are doing, ‘There is God!’ 6. The Best #Hashtag: #BringBackOurGirls (#BBOG, #ChibokGirls) At first, the world took little notice of the Chibok kidnapping – worse crimes had been committed by the insurgents prior, including the February 25 killing of dozens of boys in a dormitory at the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, in Yobe State. It’s thanks in large part to an initially uncoordinated campaign launched by local Nigerian activists that the girls’ disappearance  came to world attention. The campaign began on the 23rd of April with a single tweet by Nigerian lawyer Ibrahim M. Abdullahi, who had just watched a live address on that date by former Nigerian Minister of Education, Obiageli Ezekwesili. Abdullahi tweeted a phrase she had used: “Yes #BringBackOurDaughters #BringBackOurGirls declared by @obyezeks and all people at Port Harcourt World Book Capital 2014.” The former Education minister whom Abdullahi originally quoted, was among the first to lend steam to the campaign, retweeting his comment hours later and encouraging her followers to “use the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls to keep the momentum UNTIL they are RESCUED.” Their joint appeal on April 23 had an impact. In the following week, Twitter users, primarily in Nigeria, began using the hashtag thousands of times per day to draw attention to the girls’ plight. The first breakthrough in the campaign’s popularity came on April 30, when Twitter references to #BringBackOurGirls shot up to well over 100,000 in a single day. Around the same time, prominent Twitter accounts associated with Pakistani Taliban victim Malala Yousafzai, UNICEF and celebrities such as Mary J. Blige and Chris Brown began tweeting the tag. By May 7, just after #BringBackOurGirls had been tweeted one million times in total, US First Lady Michelle Obama lent her support to the campaign via Twitter. She took over the president’s weekly address on Saturday, May 10, to express being “outraged and heartbroken” at the crime in Nigeria. One day later, British Prime Minister David Cameron similarly offered backing to the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, pledging in a television interview that Britain “will do what we can” to recover the abductees. By then, almost every world celebrity, actor, musician, sportsperson and politician, had joined in. Social media played a pivotal role in forcing the issue onto the worldwide agenda!  And @obyezeks and the #BBOG movement have not given up, yet! Just one more tweet might just make the difference! So, come on, let’s renew that call: #BringBackOurGirls! 7. The Best New Word: Stomach-structure. (Stomach Infrastructure) A new word crept into the Nigerian vocabulary this outgoing year. A contraption of two other words ‘stomach’ and ‘infrastructure.’ A little history would help: on the 22nd of June, Ayo Fayose of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) had polled 203,090 votes to defeat incumbent Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who scored 120,433 votes. It was refered to in many news reports as a ‘landslide.’ Fayose had won in all the 16 local government areas of the state. But how does one beat an incumbent who had been known to embark on more developmental projects than any other previous government in that state had done? How could the electorate be blind to the positive economic futures of their state based upon the huge infrastructural development going on across the state: township redesign, rural road network increase, modern bridges construction, new electrification projects, housing schemes, educational investment, modern school buildings, rural agricultural development, novel pension allowances, etc.? The answer was provided by the ‘Ekitikete’ themselves, translated from the local parlance: “Na food we dey find, you dey build bridge?” Fayose’s election strategy was to feed the people, while he also promised them a share from the coffers of government when re-elected. It was an easy win. Fayose played grassroots politics; Fayemi may have had too many visions of an imaginative ‘El Dorado.’ So ‘Stomach-structure’ became the new campaign chorus and the PDP resolved to copy the format for all future elections, as the Ekiti governor even went ahead to appoint a personal assistant on Stomach Infrastructure. Unfortunately, the party’s first attempt at re-enacting the marvel elsewhere failed when they met a certain Ogbeni in a state of men born of tradition and virtue. The ‘Omo’luabi’ nation (state) had it’s own set of rules! 8. The Du-uh? Award: Doyin Okupe. It was a hectic task sifting through all the howlers, bloopers, gaffes and blunders of the Presidential adviser on Public Affairs. That man is simply prone to dropping clangers; he probably could write a book: ‘Solecisms and Malapropisms for Dummies.’ Okupe outdid himself during the year, often breaking even his own previous records. Here are a few more recent ‘Okupeisms.’ #BringBackGoodluckJonathan: In June this year, Okupe and his cohorts launched the #BringBackJonathan2015 hashtag, seeking the re-election of President Jonathan to office. The hashtag quickly received public condemnation forcing President Jonathan to call for the removal of banners and every other signage bearing the slogan. “Goodluck is like Jesus.” Speaking during ‘Sunrise Daily,’ a programme on Channels Television, he said, “People do not understand the burden this president is bearing. He’s like Jesus Christ. He’s bearing the burden of everybody.” Expectedly, the comment was met with wide spread criticism, with many of his critics describing it as blasphemous. But in his most recent gaffe, he makes an unnecessary, banal and dull attempt at defending kleptocracy and corruption, where he goes: “Buhari is trying to make poverty a virtue but poverty is not a virtue. The fact that Buhari has left office for so long and says he is so poor, is nothing to celebrate, it is indeed indolence and shameful. Is that a role model? Is that who you will want your child to be, a poor man?” The perfect reply came from the erudite journalist and political strategist, Dele Alake, the Director of Communications for the Buhari camp: “Dr. Okupe is grossly mistaken. He lives in a completely perverse and illusory world. General Buhari is immensely rich in character. He is affluent in integrity. He is prosperous in credibility. He is wealthy in honesty. He is bounteously blessed in self discipline, self control and contentment. Those are greater and more valuable than all the material acquisition in the world.” Touché! 9. Mathematical Jingoism Medal: If 16 >19, then 5 is also > 27, and ∴ 7 will be > 19. It was obvious during the year that a number of public officers were bad students of mathematics, and a good number of them were members of the ruling party. Recall the Governors Forum election, early in the year where Governor Jonah David Jang of Plateau state was recognized by the President as the winner of the Governors Forum election, for which the final results stated otherwise. Governor Amaechi of Rivers state had pulled a total of 19 votes as against Governor Jang’s 16 votes. Many Nigerians still wonder how 16 could be greater than19…? But, it was just a sign of things to come as the poor students of maths got even worse at the subject! In the Rivers State House of Assembly 5 legislators made a crude attempt to impeach the speaker of the House. Assisted by open support from the State Police Commissioner, the five members out of the 32-member Assembly procured thugs and hoodlums to disrupt the sitting of the Assembly and prevented the House from performing its constitutional functions. But if that act was shameful and undemocratic, what came next was even more mind boggling. On November 17, seven members of the Ekiti State House of Assembly backed by well armed policemen impeached the speaker of the state House of Assembly, Adewale Omirin. The PDP had only seven lawmakers in the 26-member assembly! They had claimed that all that was required by law was a simple majority of the number of actual members present at the sitting! Their calculus was bad enough, understanding of grammatical terms and usage and interpretation of constitutional legalese was tragi-comedic! You tend to wonder, could the President of our dear nation be linked with all these muddle-headed skirmishes? Hear Okupe: We want to assure Nigerians that the Presidency is not involved. I do want to believe him… 10. A Bauble for the President: Mr. President could’ve contested for the No. 5 award for Best Cliche, but we’re giving no second place awards, or knocks, this year. The only option therefore was to create a special category worthy of presidential recognition. In May 2014, during his 7th media chat, President Jonathan shocked not a few people when he attempted to make a distinction between corruption and stealing. He said: “What many Nigerians refer to as corruption is actually common stealing. Stealing is not the same thing as corruption.” I’m sure I slapped myself that evening! He could’ve stopped there and we would’ve probably accepted it as just another one of those ‘slip of the mouth’ things, but the Prez wasn’t done. He went on, in an attempt to clear the air on the alleged missing $20 billion from the Federal coffers: “It is not possible to steal $20 billion and America will not know. America will know. It is their money.” Zip! 11. Most Talked About Person: Muhammadu Buhari A social media friend once wrote the following statement about Buhari on her page: “There must be something special about General Muhammadu Buhari; the people who love him, love him passionately; the people who hate him, hate him with the same amounts of passion.” I thought then that these were the best lines I’ve ever seen written about a man who has become the main issue of Nigerian politics for the past fifteen, or so years, plus. Who is the real GMB? Let’s share a short history: Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) was born on 17 December 1942, in Daura, Katsina State, the twenty-third child of his father, he was raised by his mother – his father had died when he was about three or four. Buhari married his first wife, Safinatu (née Yusuf) Buhari in 1971. They had five children, four girls and one boy. In 1988, he divorced his first wife and got married the following year to his current wife Aisha (née Halilu) Buhari. They have four children together. One boy and three girls. On 14 January 2006, Safinatu, his first wife, died from complications of diabetes. In November 2012, his first daughter, Zulaihat Junaid died from sickle cell anaemia, after having a baby two days before at a Hospital in Kaduna. Buharl had joined the Nigerian Army in 1962, and was commissioned as second lieutenant, the following year, and appointed Platoon Commander of the Second Infantry Battalion in Abeokuta, Nigeria. In 1964, he attended the Mechanical Transport Officer’s Course at the Army Mechanical Transport School in Borden, United Kingdom. From 65-67, he was Commander of the Second Infantry Battalion and appointed Brigade Major, Second Sector, First Infantry Division, April to July, 1967, Brigade Major of the Third Infantry Brigade, July 1967 to October 1968 and Brigade Major/Commandant, Thirty-first Infantry Brigade, 1970-1971; Assistant Adjutant-General, First Infantry Division Headquarters, ’71-72. He attended the Defence Services’ Staff College, Wellington, India, in 1973. From 1974-1975 Buhari was Acting Director, Transport and Supply, Nigerian Army Corps of Supply and Transport Headquarters. He was Military Secretary, Army Headquarters from ’78-79, also Member of the Supreme Military Council, General Officer Commanding, Ibadan, Oyo State in 1979 and later that year he was redeployed as General Officer Commanding, Jos, Plateau State. From 1979 -1980, at the rank of colonel, Buhari attended the US Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, United States of America and gained a Masters Degree in Strategic Studies. In August 1975, after General Murtala Mohammed had taken over government that year, he appointed Buhari Governor of the North-Eastern State. In March 1976, the then Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo also appointed him Federal Commissioner for Petroleum and Natural Resources. When the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation was created in 1976, Buhari was also appointed as its Chairman, a position he held until 1978. Major-General Buhari was selected as Head of State to lead the country by middle and high-ranking military officers after a successful military coup that overthrew civilian President Shehu Shagari on December 31, 1983. At the time, Buhari was head of the Third Armoured Division of Jos. He has justified the military’s seizure of power by castigating the civilian government as hopelessly corrupt, and his administration subsequently initiated a public campaign against indiscipline known as “War Against Indiscipline” (WAI). This policy won him national and universal applause, as a result of its effectiveness. In August 1985, he himself was overthrown in a coup led by General Ibrahim Babangida and other members of the ruling Supreme Military Council (SMC), and detained in Benin City until 1988. His admirers believe that he was overthrown by corrupt elements in his government who were afraid of being brought to justice as his policies were beginning to yield tangible dividends in terms of public discipline, curbing corruption, lowering inflation, enhancing workforce and improving productivity. Buhari served as the Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), a body created by the government of General Sani Abacha, and funded from the revenue generated by the increase in price of petroleum products, to pursue developmental projects around the country. A 1998 report in New African praised the PTF under Buhari for its transparency, calling it a rare “success story.” General Buhari has previously contested presidential elections thrice, in 2003, 2007, and 2011 and even though he had never won, he always gave a good account of himself. In the last election on the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), a party with little semblance of national structure, formed barely weeks before the election, he still managed to poll over 12 million votes! Here is a man who remains consistent, committed, unrelentingly patriotic, and courageous, even in the face of all the transgressions he has endured. He has been called every bad name you can think of – religious bigot, Islamic fundamentalist, a semi-illiterate, coup plotter, dictator, too old and too weak to get things done, yet he trudges on. He just refuses to succumb to the lies, disinformation, and jibes. He just wont give up on Nigeria. For all of Nigerian history, we have had leaders thrust upon us, people who had no mission, nor vision to lead. It was never their ‘will’ to lead, to quote a famous one amongst them, who TWICE was in the position to steer Nigeria aright. Some had ‘luck’ thrust upon them; some were just plain lucky. For the first time in Nigerian history, we have one man who wants to SERVE, and who has a game-plan. Mission. Vision. Decision. Fourth time lucky? They say ‘Change’ is the name of the game. (Lengthy? I did say ‘most talked about…!) 12. Song of the Year: Mavin Group ~ Dorobucci You know, I’m never too far away from the music. 2014 was the year of Don Jazzy. The recording artist and record producer Michael Collins Ajereh (aka Don Jazzy) is founder of Mavin Records, home to recording artists such as Tiwa Savage, Dr SID, D’ Prince, Di’Ja (Hadiza Blell), Reekado Banks, and Korede Bello. Mavins were the most prolific recording label of the year, releasing group, individual and collaborative singles galore, including the monster smash, ‘Dorobucci.’ The song was released on May 1, 2014 to critical acclaim, and has been downloaded more than 12 million times since its release. One common question made the rounds – What does ‘Dorobucci’ mean? Don Jazzy has explained, he said: “Anything that is fun, cool, awesome, or fantastic.” I guess you could call me, ‘Doro-Mega-Super-Wongi!’ 13. Best Movie (Script?): The Nollywood Family. It was a year where Nollywood overturned itself, upside-downside. If they had only put heads together and put out a dramatised film production of the Daniel Kanu ‘Million Man March,’ or the ‘Youths Earnestly Ask for Abacha’ as guide plot, it could’ve gained more viewers, a lot more credibility, and probably would’ve been the one production we might’ve considered worthy of the star prize, this season. But, our Nollywood ‘celebrities’ decided to make another kind of headline as they beat themselves over finding who could be the best group to pay a solidarity visit on the President at that famous Place of the Rock where nobody goes and comes back unhappy. First it was Ibinabo Fiberisima’s Actors Guild (AGN). As the good news of their profitable venture quickly spread around the industry (like manna from above), others began to plot. (Nollywood never had a reputation for equal-sharing!) The ‘others’ had heard of the adage of Mohammed and the mountain, and knowing how busy Mr. Prez was, had made arrangements for their ‘Mohammed’ (Jesus to others!) to come down from his mountain to meet an august conglomeration of their enlarged membership, a sort of contraption of media-related personnel, at the splendorous banquet hall near the shores of Atlantic City. Unfortunately, you see, our worst nightmare, the infamous terrorists (also on this list, somewhere!) had other plans that evening. Like a wizened man who had been too often caught dancing with his pants down, protocol quickly cancelled the ‘Messianic’ trip, and our esteemed audience-in-wait unfortunately dined alone, not that they missed him that much, going by the amount of selfies that showed up on the social blogosphere. So, mission unaccomplished. No. 2 was there, but it wasn’t No, 2 they all came to see. So the wise heads at Nollywood quickly went back to their scripts. First they came up with the name Media Professionals of Nigeria, made their visit to that Rocky heaven, and came back smiling, as usual. Again, there must’ve been some grumbling over the ‘sharing’ formula; so not to be outdone, a few retirees (have-been’s?) had seen how easy it was to shout out a few bars of the solidarity song and be ‘warmly’ accepted, and ‘richly’ rewarded. What to call themselves? Little problem, Nollywood has never been bereft of ideas for movie titles! Voila! They became the ‘Nollywood Legends of Nigeria!’ Howzat!!! I nor fit shout! Perhaps the next Nollywood blockbuster should be titled: “How To Milk Money From a Rock?” 14. Person(s) of the Year: Dr. Stella Adadevoh. Many people miss the enormity of the sacrifice of this modern Nightingale’s supreme contribution to the survival of Nigeria during the Ebola scourge. Only a glance at recent statistics from Liberia and Sierra Leone, and an imaginative multiplication of those figures using current Nigerian population density figures as a variance would further enlighten. Imagine for instance that the human candida, Patrick Sawyer had come across the Nigerian border by road, and had passed through Seme, Mile 2, Yaba, or Ojuelegba, before he finally collapsed? What if he had managed to board that onward flight to Port Harcourt and had attended that conference of African diplomats that he had intended to? What if Dr. Adadevoh hadn’t been on duty that day? What if…? Alongside Dr. Adadevoh to receive this posthumous award would be all the other health workers who succumbed to Ebola in the effort to save others. Also due for award are all other health workers and public officers who against all odds and at great risk of life, worked selflessly to stem the spread of the virus, in the absence of volunteers. It would be grossly unfair to not add on the ‘worthy of mention’ list the name of the Executive Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola, who marshalled all efforts to ensure Lagos, and indeed Nigeria, got a clean bill of health, and in record time! Finale: So, what a year? Well, not quite exactly. Too many negatives, and we must also remember the many friends we lost along the way. But, we must always be grateful for good health, sustenance, staying power and possibilities. It’s a New Year in a couple of days. May all your wishes come true. May peace and fulfilment reign in Nigeria. And, may God continue to strengthen, protect, and guide you, and all yours, in the coming year, and beyond.

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