Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim was Governor of Yobe State from 1992 to 1993. He was Governor again from 1999 to 2007. Cumulatively Bukar spent 10 years in the saddle in Yobe state and went ahead to become Senator from 2007 to date. During his time as governor, his youngest wife, Hadiza, served as commissioner in his government. She moved over with him to Abuja, to the House of Representatives as member from 2007 to date.
Yobe State came into being on August 27, 1991. It was carved out of the old Borno. The old Borno State, according to the soldiers that created Yobe, was one of Nigeria’s largest states in terms of land area and was therefore considered too large for easy administration and meaningful development. Ethnic rivalries within the old Borno State also contributed to the decision to create Yobe. There are about two million people in Yobe state but Bukar Abba Ibrahim did not find any of them worthy of representing the state either as commissioner or member of the House of Reps in Abuja but his wife whom he drove rough-shod into the House of Representatives, whether the people of Yobe liked it or not, as is typical with most decisions of Nigerian leaders.
Like Obasanjo the former president, Bukar Abba Ibrahim is now advocating for a revolution. With the high offices that these advocates have held their prescriptions are sounding like medicine after death.
If there is one fundamental relationship that is central to stable statehood and the wellbeing of entire populations in modern states, it is the relationship between the citizen and the state. The highest and the lowest, biggest and smallest levels of statehood need to be reasonably in sync with one another for relatively normal life to go on in any country. That precisely is what leads to social calm, economic progress, security for all and opportunities for individual men and women to develop to their full potential. In Nigeria, social upheavals have taken over. Not surprisingly, the citizen-state relationship in Yobe state has been widely distorted, in fact never fully established. It is one reason why millions of Yobe citizens have joined the Boko Haram revolt against their government and ruling elite since 2009.
A good example of the unnatural state of citizen-state relations is the recent string of incidents in which government officials from Yobe have relocated to more peaceful neighboring states of Jigawa, and Kano thus shifting the insurgents’ hostilities to those hitherto calm states.
For someone who has led a state for ten out of the twenty years of its existence how can Bukar Abba Ibrahim escape trial in any sane society when the leadership of the insurgency that he claims is intractable comes principally from a state he governed for so long?
His government symbolizes not only a gross human rights violation that goes against all norms of civilized statehood; his current treatise is also a pathetic abdication of responsibility by officials who panic in the face of their own fellow citizens who question how his government exercised its authority.
For most of the last decade or so, the overwhelming majority of Yobe citizens have been subjugated by overlapping layers of controls and prohibitions that have narrowly defined what they are allowed and not allowed to do. These layers of control – from youth through adulthood – include the family and community, the wider tribe or clan, the state’s civil laws, the overarching security agencies that dominate the nominal republics, monarchical dictates, ethnic, sectarian or religious definitions of permissible or unacceptable behavior. And Bukar Abba Ibrahim kicked all off.
Many parents longed for the change Bukar promised. They still do. They believed in a less oppressive society, one that recognizes the dignity of its own people and offered a way out of poverty for the dispossessed. When you are poor in Nigeria, you know what oppression is. You feel it in your blood and in your bones, even if you don’t quite know the word to describe the way the system sneers at you, how it picks you up, throws you down and kicks you around like yesterday’s news.
And it is getting worse. The last time I checked, Nigeria is said to be angling to borrow more money from lender organizations around the world. For crying out loud, all the debt incurred by the country has been used in servicing the lifestyles of the rich and inebriated. At the moment our foreign reserves have dropped below the $6bn mark. And all these wastes have been for governors and their young wives including Bukar Abba Ibrahim’s.
Nigeria is so exciting it could kill you. Sadly it breaks many hearts and does kill some. As we enter 2013 we should do our balance sheet and our New Year’s resolution for Nigeria and reject the likes of Bukar whose antecedents have been inimical to national progress. We should begin negotiating the deal of a lifetime with our leaders. Our situation is gross. We are caught between agony and ecstasy, heavenly charity and brutal murder; and many of our citizens are manic depressive. We celebrate a lot. Few understand this fission. We keep the world guessing about Nigeria.
In 2010 we were in heaven; took time out from to have a 50th Jubilee blast and celebrated. We partied like there was no tomorrow. By 2012 we were in the rough; our oxygen was to be cut off; our creditors had our guts for garters; the flags were still up but their signal was grief and pain. We are an amazing people. As I end my forth year back home from decades of self-imposed exile, a few things intrigue me. Nigerians have chosen for themselves sub-human bondage.
Apparently, Nigerians use buses and public hospitals, so I am shocked that Jonathan and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala incurred near $2tn in debt in a year yet none of our services work. After 50 years of independence, 50 plus of self-government, almost everlasting freedom and 100 years since amalgamation, nothing works. Truth is, in this country, wickedness has never been far off. Governor Fashola of Lagos State and Danbaba Suntai of Taraba are part of a Nigerian tradition of excellence in good and evil. Wonder why none of our systems work? We struggle to get food production off the ground for the “umpteenth” time; health care is shaky, light and power are vilified; housing, at least for the poor, remain in the ghettos while Abuja is brimming with empty palaces.
Pick any service and the outcome is failure; as for education, let the record show and many are silent. A great injustice has been done to poor people in Nigeria – the educated are not blameless – the result is Boko Haram. Transportation is feral and our poor are disrespected as leaders kowtow to powerful “eat a food” robots, limos and minibuses. We demand no account and ignore betrayal. Often we shoot the messenger and do not heed the message. Which of our leaders can you tick off as having a “Job well done?” Not the molds of Bukar Abba Ibrahim. We have a coating of modernity and civility but no substance. The poor can take no more! And I am sure that by the time the revolution comes, one of its first victims will be those who have been advocating for it; Olusegun Obasanjo, Bukar Abba Ibrahim and his youngest wife Hadiza. That would be poetic justice!
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