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Friday, March 25, 2016

Signs of the Times By Reuben Abati

This is a post by Reuben Abati.
“Easter greetings”
“I am greeting you”
“I see”
“Are we quarrelling? Or you have malaria?”
“Can’t you see that I am just not in the mood?”

“Not in the mood to say same to you?”
“Okay. Same to you”
“This is the season of love, you know. Our Lord Jesus Christ died on the Cross of Calvary so we may have everlasting life. He made the ultimate sacrifice so that you and I can be saved.”

“Keep preaching”
“We must learn to love others and be prepared to imbibe the virtue of sacrifice.”
“I have never pretended that I want to be like Jesus Christ. Thank you.”
“His teachings. His example.”
“Good. But look, listen to me, just don’t go to Kaduna and go about preaching to people. I hope you know. Keep your teachings to yourself.”
“Even on a Good Friday? Oh, come on. Nobody can stop us from proclaiming The Word. And we need the message of love, sacrifice and salvation in this land.”
“Sacrifice? Have we not sacrificed enough?”
“It’s never enough.”
“We haven’t had electricity in our neighbourhood for a whole week. We can’t even afford to keep running the generator”
“All that will change.”
“When they have told us there will be fuel scarcity till May? You may add two more months to that.”
“No, oh. The Minister was misquoted. He has since clarified his statement. He said he was just being sincere.”
“Meaning the journalists who reported the story added salt and pepper to his statement.”
“But have you seen the queues at the fuel stations?”
“Seen? I spent a whole day looking for fuel yesterday.”
“Very good. Don’t complain. You were making sacrifice.”
“I love my country, no matter what. All we need is just love.”
“Say that to the over 3 million workers in the food and beverages industry who are about to lose their jobs.”
“I read that. It is rather scary.”
“Many companies are shutting down, or downsizing, or they are unable to pay salaries.”
“Have faith. All that will change. All these companies sacking people up and down should also try and make some sacrifice.”
“Business is business”
“Business should have a human heart. Sometimes, when I read all those figures about people being retrenched, I suspect sabotage.”
“How convenient?”
“What I am saying is that Corporate Nigeria should be prepared to support the people and the government.”
“Corporate Nigeria should transform into a wing of the Red Cross. Very nice. Well, for your information, the economy is imploding, the Naira is sick, there is no electricity, no this, no that, and so businesses are being disabled.”
“All that will change.”
“You keep saying things will change. You know I don’t like slogans.”
“The Minister of Finance will soon write another article about it, and may be if you have been reading…”
“What article?”
“She likes to write essays to explain things. Newspaper essays.”
“And who reads that?”
“You should. In one recent article she said “we are undertaking an ambitious counter cyclical strategy to stimulate our sluggish economy….”
“Counter cyclical strategy. Please, I don’t want to read essays.”
“Don’t worry. Even that will change”
“Go and say that to all the workers who will not be paid salaries this month end. Go to the streets of Osun and tell the workers that in case they don’t receive their salaries, they should be prepared to make sacrifice. And that they should understand why their state got only N6 million allocation this month.”
“In the spirit of Easter, yes. Why not?”
“If they stone you, don’t expect any sympathy.”
“Man shall not live by bread alone.”
“Can you stop?”
“We should never lose hope.”
“Sorry, the people want to live by bread. Right now, yes. And I can tell you they want to eat rice too”.
“Yes, rice? Now that the importation of rice through land borders has been banned, the cost of rice has gone up again.”
“Land borders? So, rice can only be imported by air or water? I don’t believe it.”
“I know many families who have stopped eating rice in this country.”
“It is not that bad. Ah. People like to exaggerate things. That is why I talk about blackmail and sabotage. There are saboteurs in this country. Economy no good, economy no good, some of the banks are declaring hundreds of billions as profit!”
“Who is sabotaging who?”
“You should answer the question yourself, since you seem to know it all. Everything I say, you just wave it aside. What’s eating you up?”
“Nothing. But you too, you are beginning to sound like members of the National Assembly.”
“What have they done again? I know many of the members seem to have a special talent for comedy.”
“You know the other day, the House of Representatives hosted the gentleman who graduated with a 5.0 Grade Point Average from the University of Lagos. Good idea, but do you know what the Speaker of the House said?”
“He told the fellow that if he wants to succeed in life, he should not let three things get into him”
“Which are?”
“Money, women and alcohol”
“Alcohol, yes. I understand that part about alcohol, but money and women?”
“Male chauvinist. Hypocrite.”
“And the female members of the House did not protest?”
“By now, they must be used to their male colleagues always making snide remarks about women”.
“Do you know the Speaker’s wife?”
“What has that got to do with this matter, if I may ask?”
“She should be the one to help settle the matter on behalf of all Nigerian women. He should deny him food, and constantly remind him that it is not good for him to allow a woman get into him.”
“Some of these people are tyrants at home, you know. They wont even allow their wives to express an opinion. And I tell you, don’t offer advice to other people’s wives. That can be dangerous.”
“But have you heard?”
“What again?”
“The Federal Government is planning to organize a town hall dialogue between herdsmen and farmers to address the issue of constant violence between the two groups.”
“Dialogue? What dialogue? To be attended by the people of Agatu and the herdsmen who slaughtered them? And who are walking free, beyond justice?”
“Dialogue is always healthy”
“Justice first. The solution is simple. Create grazing reserves. Set up ranches. This is the 21st Century. Nobody should graze cattle on highways, airports and on farmlands.”
“There are cultural issues involved.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about. They have cattle in other parts of the world too. Nobody sheds human blood to preserve the blood of cattle.”
“I think you should attend the dialogue and offer some ideas.”
“I have said my bit. Certain things are just straight-forward. Look at the case of the three girls who were abducted from Babington Junior Seminary in Ikorodu, Lagos state.”
“The principal of the school is saying the suspect in the matter has been sending text messages asking for forgiveness and prayers”
“He certainly needs prayers.”
“No. He doesn’t need prayers. He should be handed over to the police and made to pay for his crime. He abducted three young girls for six days and he is asking for prayers! We pray too much. We talk too much. And it is a shame that anybody is listening to his request for prayers.”
“Young girls in Nigeria are really endangered. I was reading another story about a female student at the Queen’s College, Lagos, whose parents reported that she was molested by a male teacher.”
“I read that too. But there are too many versions of that story. What is certain is that the right of young girls to grow up without being molested and abused by older men must be protected. You check the newspapers, there is a hardly a day you won’t read a story about young girls being raped or abducted. What is wrong with Nigerian men? Grown up women no longer appeal to them?
“Please don’t generalize. Say some Nigerian men. Don’t join people who label all Nigerians.”
“Okay. Okay. At least, I can vouch for you. And I am certainly a gentleman. And if anyone is caught abusing a girl-child, that person should be punished.”
“In the UK, they just sent a footballer to prison for six years for having unlawful carnal knowledge of a 15-year old girl.”
“Good. Good. Who is he?”
“Adam Johnson. He used to play for Sunderland.”
“Never heard of him. But I hope Yunusa Yellow and all such men in Nigeria also get their day in court.”
“What’s the latest from Rivers State, after the re-run election?”
“Nothing. Bad blood. Politics of hate. Rivers of blood. My heart goes out to the families of all the people who were murdered during that election.”
“That was sad. It is so painful to see how people shed blood because of politics.”
“Oh, you are not talking about sacrifice, again?”
“I am not talking about that kind of sacrifice. If people have to die to elect their own representatives, it is a sign of sickness in society.”
“Looks like INEC has changed. If they can’t organize common re-run, how will they manage a general election?”
“Too much ego in that their Rivers state. It was a fight-to-finish re-run. I just hope the outstanding elections will not again result in violence.”
“In fact, no member of the NYSC should agree to serve as an ad hoc staff for INEC again in Rivers state.”
“Governor Nyesom Wike says the state government will immortalize Samuel Okonta, the youth corps member, who was killed. He has also increased the monthly allowance for youth corps members serving in the state”
“But will that bring the dead back to life?”
“I know. Really sad. National service yes, but these youth corps members should not be exposed to danger. You remember how they are always the victims during elections.”
“I do. Nobody at all should die during elections. Electoral violence must be prevented by all means and whenever it occurs, sanctions must be applied.”
“Anyway, no government has ever promised magic.”
“Well, at least, they now have a budget. Has anybody analyzed what was passed by the National Assembly?”
“Please. The analysis is enough. Enough analysis.”
“I think the Ministry of Finance will still make some presentations.”
“Can you tell them not to bother? Ha, ha. Wetin?”
“Have a Happy Easter.”
“You, too”.

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