What a weird season! An unending season of hydra-headed maladies and gory goings-on in the polity. A season of bad news. A season of saddening controversies. Minus civil war, has it ever been this bad?
The polity is sick. The economy is sick. Our unity is sick. Everything is sick. Even our president is sick (no apologies to a cabal that is telling us otherwise). How did we even arrive here? Arab historian, Ibn Khaldun, once posited that ‘the past and future resemble each other like two tiny drops of rain water.’
No doubt, the shortcomings of the present administration aren’t helping matters, but listen to this: Nigeria’s present sickness has been largely blamed on our past leaders failure to plan for the rainy day. Some say that there were days when our problem wasn’t the lack of money, but how to spend it. Not knowing how to spend the money wisely, people in high places resorted to stealing it. Some devised strange methods of concealing their loot by burying same in cemeteries. Viable national assets were shared or sold to cronies. And now, dear readers, that dreaded thing called karma has seemingly pitched a tent near our abode.
Talking about national assets that were controversially sold, space won’t contain its long list, but I can’t fail to mention the defunct Nigeria Newsprint Manufacturing Company in Oku Iboku, Akwa Ibom State. The staffers of the company were disengaged without proper settlement and thrown into abject poverty. Even the host community felt the brunt as a feeling of dejection set it.
In the 80s and 90s, the paper mill located in the outskirts of Itu Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State diligently served Nigeria and other African countries. In the words of legendary columnist, Tola Adeniyi, who once served the defunct company as Director, “the company compared with any newsprint manufacturing company anywhere in the world.”
Not only were newsprints produced there, exercise books were also prominent products churned out. I remember vividly, the slightly brownish pages of those exercise books. Those days of yore when parents flogged us silly for tearing or ruffling our books. The days of the Oku Iboku books were indeed wonderful.
Negris Group – the company which acquired the paper mill from the federal government has failed to reactivate it. In June 2016, yours truly covered a protest march wherein the indigenes protested against the alleged assets’ stripping (sale of the company’s assets) by Negris Group.
Today, the Oku Iboku communities are in coma, no thanks to a boundary related crisis with their Cross River State neighbours. Uncountable lives have been lost. Women and children have been raped and killed. Oku Iboku farms and waters are no longer safe. These days, marauding gunmen on speedboats visit Oku Iboku with reckless abandon leaving behind blood, tears and destruction.
Just type ‘Oku Iboku’ into the search engine of your internet enabled device. Hmmm! The Oku Iboku of yore whose glory resonated beyond the shores of Nigeria is now a stark contrast of its self. It has become a paradise for vultures. Vultures now feast on the human corpses littering the land.
The fact that the governments of Akwa Ibom and Cross River have failed to jointly find a solution to the Oku Iboku -Ikot Offiong crisis is disheartening. Even security agencies have failed too.
Instead of solving the problem, our leaders only pay lip-service when a concrete action is needed. A governor, who visits Oku Iboku, is guarded by security operatives while the indigenes are defenseless after he leaves. No security arrangement for them. No relief materials for victims. No nothing, but they are ‘represented’ by a Councilor, Local Government Chairman, House of Assembly member, Governor, House of Representatives member and Senator. Why are people who snub their responsibilities still earning fat salaries and driving posh cars to ‘work’? Why?
At this point, we should assess ourselves. Everyone from top to bottom. Anyone that has contributed directly and indirectly to the present condition of Oku Iboku should know that God isn’t asleep. The wasted blood of the innocent victims is a curse. The mill of God may grind slowly, but it grinds perfectly.
Surely, the story of how Nigeria’s Mecca of books and newsprints became a replica of war-ravaged Syria surely has many villains as dramatis personae whose agenda is to recreate the infamous Hutu and Tutsi genocide hereabout. Haba! We must thwart such effort. Time to act is now! Better late than never!
Let me pause awhile!
(Ofonime Honesty is a journalist. firstname.lastname@example.org 08025286082)