This past Thursday was hell in Lagos.
I left home about 7.00 am headed for the State High Court in Ikeja. In the course of my work, I have to do the court circuit regularly. On an ordinary day, it would take me about thirty minutes to get to Ikeja High Court. I then would have time to catch up with the newspapers and engage in banter with the lawyers in court.
Lagos lawyers are a very interesting bunch with interesting opinions on everything going on in the world. It is always a lot of fun to listen to them before the court registrar shouts ‘court!’
This past Thursday was no ordinary day. Something was terribly wrong. It was like all the cars in the world descended on the streets of Lagos and nothing was moving. There was no accident and no old ‘Danfo’ had caught fire. Lagos was engaged in an all-out battle to get a few litres of whatever gasoline could be seen in the city.
It was the closest thing to anarchy that I have ever seen. In the crazy traffic, everybody was blaring his horn. Many cars ran out of whatever little gasoline they had, some over-heated, broke down only to compound what was already a terrible situation.
At 7.30, when I should be in court, we had made very little progress. At 8 o’clock, I called my lawyer who was going to court but coming from a different direction and he was stuck in traffic too. I called some members of my staff who religiously would be at work at 7.30 am and they were also stuck on the streets of Lagos. Lagos was simply on lock down.
I did finally get to court but at about 10 am. It took me six times the usual time to reach the High Court in Ikeja. If I had left Lagos for Benin City, I should be in Benin City at the time I got to Court.
The terrifying thing is that it was on the same day that the story broke that our Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum and Group Managing Director of NNPC, Dr Ibe Kachikwu had thrown up his hands in the air and told one and all that he is no Professor Peller, the famed Lagos magician with the skills to make things appear or disappear at will. My understanding of what Dr. Kachikwu was reported to have said is that we should be ready to go through the hell that I experienced on Friday for two more months. I don’t know how else to say it, I was left gasping for breath.
I have met Dr. Kachikwu before. He was once at an event that I hosted. I am told that he is a very intelligent and competent man. If he made the very insensitive statement credited to him, either in anger or frustration, he let himself down badly and did untold damage to his principal, the man who trusted him and in a nation of 170 million people, gave him such a choice job.
After my experience of Thursday, I was worried about the next day, Good Friday. I was scheduled to leave Lagos to Owerri, on Arik Air’s first flight departing at 7.30 am. I begged Abey, my young driver that after our Thursday experience, we must leave home to the airport not later than 5.30 am. Lo and behold, at 5.30 am on Good Friday, the streets of Lagos were jammed! There were cars everywhere with everybody searching for fuel.
The traffic around Ikeja was absolute chaos. Like so many people did, I had to abandon the car, pick up my luggage and trek to the airport. The sight of many of us with luggage on our heads on the way to Murtala Muhammed Airport was no different from that of Syrian refugees fleeing the theatre of war. Is this what Dr. Kachikwu has in mind as Nigeria’s new normal?! Nowhere in the world are human beings supposed to live this way.
I remain a strong supporter of the Buhari revolution. I consider the revolution necessary for our nation to unchain itself from the greed and avarice that has hijacked our development. I am aware of the very limited resources that the government has to grapple with these days. Most Nigerians are also aware of the massive corruption that has enriched the Nigerian fuel supply cabal.
None of the aforementioned is however good excuse for what appears like anarchy descending on our nation. With respect to the fuel situation, somebody miscalculated. To put it bluntly, somebody dangerously took his eyes off the ball and Nigerians are paying a huge price as a result.
Let it be clear that no one is doing Nigerians a favour by being a minister. If I recall properly, the struggle to become a Minister under this government was very fierce. For anyone that lucky, it is indeed a great privilege to have been chosen amongst millions of Nigerians to hold such a position. From the beginning, everyone knew that the problems of Nigeria are huge. At the end of the day, those chosen are considered to be the magicians who can conjure solutions to these huge problems. It is indeed too late to tell us that you are not a magician
Let it also be made clear that Nigerians don’t want any more excuses. We want people in office who can lighten our burden. If I had the privilege of advising our Minister of State for Petroleum, I will tell him that he owes Nigerians a straight forward unreserved apology after which he should go to work and put fuel at the gas stations without more grammar.
If the conditions are such that he believes that this cannot be done, he should do what a gentleman does in the situation- write a one paragraph letter to the President thanking him for the opportunity he was given to serve and move on.
I do not know how much the President knows about what is going on. Has been shut out by his aides from the reality of the angst in the land as his predecessor was? If there is anyone out there who has the ears of the President, please let him know that his administration is being defined right now. It may surprise him to find out that his government is not being defined by the great anti-corruption work that he is doing.
If the very embarrassing fuel crisis continues, the Buhari government would be defined on the streets of Nigeria by the unending hardship that citizens have gone through at the fuel queues and gas stations. That would be a tragedy for a man I believe set out to do tremendous good.