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#OtvOPINIONS: Reflecting on 2014, by Dele Agekameh via @opinionsng”

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The year 2014 comes to an end in a few hours. Like
previous years, the outgoing year has been
dominated by a potpourri of good, bad and ugly
issues in all facets of our individual and national
lives. One particularly sad thing is that the year
recorded a high number of avoidable deaths,
especially those that were inflicted on helpless
Nigerians through bombings and wholesale
massacre masterminded by the senseless Boko
Haram terrorists now on the rampage in the
Northeast geo-political zone of the country. From a
band of misguided youths roaming about and
hunting for people to kill about five years ago, the
Boko Haram terrorists have grown in strength and
sophistication to a major terrorist organisation that
now dominates front page headlines of newspapers
within and outside the country.
This year, the terrorists added a worrisome
dimension to their dastardly operations by using
teenage girls as suicide bombers. This is happening
at a time the whole world is agonizing over the fate
of more than 200 innocent school girls who were
abducted by the terrorists from their school
compound in Chibok community, Borno State, on the
night of April 14, 2014. The fear is that the terrorists
may have converted the captured Chibok girls to
suicide bombers. In fact, rather than release the
girls, the terrorists have continued to embark on
fresh kidnappings of vulnerable women and children
whom they take along to their enclaves as spoils of
war after each assault on isolated communities.
And like a festering sore, the activities of the
insurgents have continued unabated.
Earlier in the year, the nation was gripped by the
unfortunate incident that has since been christened
‘Immigration Recruitment Scandal’. The term is used
to describe the harvest of death recorded in March
this year, when thousands of unemployed Nigerians,
who had converged at different venues across the
country to be interviewed for some job vacancies in
the Nigeria Immigration Service, met their untimely
death. The unfortunate Nigerians had been
mandated to pay N1,000 each as application fee
before they could be considered for employment.
Thousands of them paid the fee and later converged
at the venues of the exercise, mostly stadia. But in
the melee that ensued due to poor organization, no
fewer than 15 applicants, including some pregnant
women, were trampled to death. However, what
remains a big puzzle till date is that this incident
has gone without anyone taking responsibility and
no one has been sanctioned either for the avoidable
deaths.
The year also witnessed a protracted upheaval in
both the health and education sectors. The issue of
doctors’ strike, which has become a perennial
problem in the country, reared its ugly head.
Preceded by a warning strike in January, the actual
strike by the doctors finally commenced on July 1
and was only suspended after 55 days of sorrow
and agony by Nigerians who could not access
healthcare while the industrial action lasted. The
action was finally called off on August 25 after the
medical doctors extracted some commitments from
the government.
‘The irony of this austerity regime is that
while the poor man is often requested to
tighten his belt, the rich are not wearing
any at all, as their waists have doubled
and even tripled in size over the years’
While the doctors’ strike was on, a certain Patrick
Sawyer, a Liberian-American diplomat sneaked into
the country carrying along with him the deadly Ebola
Virus Disease which is currently ravaging the three
West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and
Liberia, where no fewer than 7000 people are
believed to have been so far despatched to their
early graves. With the ‘importation’ of the deadly
virus disease to Nigeria by Sawyer, Nigerians’
penchant for handshake almost became a taboo
during this period. The disease claimed a few lives
in both Lagos and Port Harcourt, even as the
governments of Lagos and Rivers states, as well as
the Federal Government, took concerted efforts to
contain the spread. Relief finally came in October
when the World Health Organisation declared the
country free of the deadly virus after 60 days’
observation without any fresh case of infection.
In the trouble-prone education sector, polytechnic
students remained at home for about 11months due
to a nationwide strike embarked upon by the
Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP. The
union embarked on the strike over, among other
issues, the non-release of the white paper on issues
in the polytechnic sector since 2012. This caused
the students the loss of a whole session when
students admitted into the first year of the National
Diploma and the Higher National Diploma
programmes respectively, for the 2013/2014
academic session, were unable to resume. The
issue was finally resolved and normal academic
calendar resumed in the polytechnics.
As almost always, the year also witnessed a lot of
political activities, two of the more remarkable ones
being the governorship elections that took place in
Ekiti and Osun states. The polls in the two states
had several similarities in terms of the political
parties and the dramatis personae involved. Long
before the elections, political permutations had
predicted that the elections in the two states could
be marred by violence. In anticipation of this,
soldiers were deployed for the elections.
Fortunately, both events did not record any major
incidence of violence.
Furthermore, primary elections were recently held
by the political parties at the state and national
levels in preparation for the 2015 general elections.
The elections saw many political Goliaths kissing the
canvass and losing to political Lilliputians in their
territories. In many instances, the primaries
demystified the incumbency power of governors as
many of them did not succeed in either imposing
their surrogates to succeed them in office or set up
their loyalists for other political positions. In all, the
primaries paved the way for the emergence of new
political gladiators. Of particular significance is the
fact that no fewer than 50 of the sitting senators will
not be returning to the chambers because they
failed to pick their parties’ tickets. While many of
them are crying blue murder, others seem to have
resigned to fate as they lick their wounds in utter
disbelief and amazement.
The outgoing year also recorded unprecedented
jailbreaks as series of attacks were launched on
prisons by some faceless bandits in various parts of
the country. The Kirikiri Medium Security Prison in
Lagos, the Koton Karfe Prison in Kogi State, the
Federal Prisons, Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State and the
Medium Security Prison in Minna, Niger State, were
all turned into theatres of war. The attacks on
detention facilities in the country have become
worrisome in recent times as it has nearly turned
into a routine. The problem could have been
exacerbated by some criminal gangs particularly
Boko Haram terrorists who may have capitalised on
the trend to free their members from detention.
Accusing fingers are also being pointed at the
activities of fifth columnists within the prisons
system itself because some of the attacks bore the
full imprimatur of insiders’ connivance. These
recurring incidents of jailbreak could escalate the
already terrible security problem currently
confronting the country as rapists, murderers,
kidnappers, drug addicts and other dangerous
criminals may have been let loose to roam freely
thereby wreaking havoc on the society.
Perhaps, 2014 is closing with economic doom for
those who rely so much on oil as the fall in the price
of crude oil in the international market, is sending
economic and political shock waves across the
globe. Worse off are countries whose economies
depend largely on oil for appreciable percentage of
their foreign exchange earnings. In that bracket is
Nigeria where crude oil accounts for about 95 of
foreign exchange earnings. What this means is that
in the New Year, 2015, the country would be
tormented by the negative impact of the fall in
global oil prices even harder. Already, the Federal
Government is jittery. Now, Nigerians are again
being inundated with the old, usual song – “tighten
your belt”. This is suicidal because Nigerians have
been tightening their belts since 1976, 38 years ago,
without any respite in sight. The irony of this
austerity regime is that while the poor man is often
requested to tighten his belt, the rich are not
wearing any at all, as their waists have doubled and
even tripled in size over the years. May God help us,
help Nigeria!

Article Written by Dele Agekameh and earlier published on Opinions.ng

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