Interesting Times: 2014 In Review, by Usman Shamaki
“May you live in interesting times”
The first time I heard the above saying, I thought it was an expression or a prayer for good fortune. Upon research however, I discovered it is purported to be an English translation of a Chinese proverb with the word “interesting” conveying ironic meanings such as chaotic, turbulent and awe inspiring. Please take note of my use of the word “purported” as there has so far been no clear and verifiable evidence to prove that it is actually of Chinese origin. As far as interesting times go, 2014 has been one heck of a ride. You will hardly meet a Nigerian who will attest to having experienced a year such as this one.
2015 has been expressed by various individuals as being a year that will usher in the change so many Nigerians are eagerly seeking for, some see it as being just a number on the calendar, while others have threatened to raise all kinds of hell if the status quo of the leadership of the country is not maintained.
Personally, I believe to have the foresight of where we’re heading, it is important to take hindsight of where we’ve been. So, let us take a recap of some of the events that made 2014 the interesting year it was.
FEBRUARY 2014: THE MISSING $20 BILLION SCANDAL
Sometime in February 2014, the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi raised an alarm alleging that $20 billion was missing from the country’s coffers. In a sane society, especially one with a government that claims the fight against corruption as one of its major priorities, having the courage to speak out against financial impropriety should have earned the former CBN governor a commendation for performing his duties diligently. However, in a move that will no doubt ring in infamy for many years to come, the former CBN governor was vilified, accused of all forms of financial misconduct and was finally suspended from office on the 24th of February, 2014.
Sanusi’s suspension was met with mixed reactions by Nigerians. While some saw him as a thorn in the flesh of the government and hailed his exit, others viewed it as a deliberate attempt to punish and silence him for daring to expose a mind boggling act of corruption. After his suspension, the government promised to engage the services of forensic auditors to uncover the whereabouts of the missing $20 billion. As for when the reports of the findings of the auditors will be made public, well, you know what it is.
FEBRUARY 2014: THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT COLLEGE, BUNI YADI MASSACRE
On the 25th of February 2014, 59 boys were killed at the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, Yobe State, Nigeria. The twenty four buildings of the school were also burned down in the attack. Though no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, it has similarities of the usual Boko Haram attacks.
It was in the wake of this massacre that the Special Assistant to the President on New Media was implicated in a scandal in which he drafted an article under the name Wendell Simlin. In the article, he tried to link the removal of the former CBN Governor with the escalation of Boko Haram attacks, especially the Federal Government College Buni Yadi massacre.
MARCH 2014: THE NIGERIAN IMMIGRATION SERVICE RECRUITMENT SCANDAL
On Saturday 15th March, 2014 during a nationwide recruitment exercise organized by the Nigerian Immigration Service, a stampede broke out in various locations where the recruitment exercise was being held which led to the deaths of about 19 people and the injury of many others. The images of thousands of job seekers all trying to get into the inadequate centers designated for the exercise was irrefutable evidence of the high unemployment rate in the country. It also raised serious doubts and questions about the provision of 1.6 million jobs that was echoed as being one of the major achievements of the Goodluck Jonathan administration at the time.
No one was ever indicted for the poor organization that led to the stampede, neither has there been any formal apology by anyone associated with the scandal. In fact, a senior government official under whose instructions the recruitment exercise was organized went as far as blaming the stampede on the impatience of the candidates that lost their lives. In a bid to assuage the temper of Nigerians, the President ordered the cancellation of the recruitment exercise, called for a fresh recruitment exercise to be held, promised to pay for the hospital bills of the injured and provide three members of the families of those who lost their lives in the stampede with jobs. Of the aforementioned orders and promises mentioned above, only the cancellation of the recruitment exercise has come to fruition. As for the other promises, well, you know what it is.
APRIL/MAY 2014: THE NYANYA BOMBINGS
On Monday 14th April, 2014 at about 6:45am, explosives hidden inside vehicles detonated during morning rush hour at a crowded bus station in Nyanya on the outskirts of Abuja. The Abuja Emergency Relief Agency initially confirmed that 71 people had been killed and 124 injured. By April 15th the death toll had increased to 75. By April 18th the final death toll was 88 dead with more than 200 injured. Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attack six days after it occurred. On the 1st of May, 2014 another car bomb exploded in New Nyanya, a few kilometers from the scene of the April 14th explosion. The explosion killed at least 19 people and injured at least 60.
Aminu Sadiq Ogwuche, a suspected terrorist associated with the Boko Haram terror group was arrested by Interpol in Sudan in connection with the April 14th and May 1st bombings.
On the 24th of November, 2014 the charges against Ogwuche for terrorism and his alleged role in the bombings were struck out by the Federal High Court for lack of diligent prosecution by the Nigerian Police and the Department of State Services.
One defining feature of this incident was the photograph of the President that went viral on the 15th of April, that is just twenty four hours after the Nyanya bombings. In the photograph the President is seen dancing on stage at a PDP rally in Kano when he went to welcome Shekarau back to the fold of the PDP. He was harshly criticized for engaging in a rally just twenty four hours after over 80 people were killed in an explosion not far from the Presidential Villa. The photograph has since been christened with the befitting name of the “Kano Ikebe Dance.”
APRIL 2014: THE CHIBOK ABDUCTIONS:
On the night of 14th-15th April, 2014, about 276 female students were abducted from the Government Secondary School in the town of Chibok, Borno State. The responsibility for the kidnapping was claimed by the terrorist organization, Boko Haram. The scale of the abduction was unprecedented, which led former United States ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell to declare that “Boko Haram’s strength appears to be increasing, while the government’s ability to provide its citizens with security appears to be decreasing.” Nigerians took to social media to complain about the government’s slow and inadequate response. What made this incident remarkable is the fact that it took the President almost 21 days to publicly acknowledge the fact that the abductions had taken place or to offer the Nigerian people any words of assurance regarding the government’s efforts to secure the release of the girls. This led to protests in several Nigerian cities as well as in other Western cities such as Los Angeles and London to protest against the abduction and the government’s response. It was during this period that the #Bringbackourgirls hashtag began to trend globally on Twitter as the story continued to spread and by 11th May it had attracted 2.3 million tweets.
Another interesting fact about this incident was the First Lady’s setting up of a “committee of inquiry” to look into the abductions. She however ran afoul of the public when she tried to allege that the abductions were a ruse intended to smear the name of the President.
Since the abductions in April, some girls have escaped from captivity but majority are still unaccounted for, presumably still in captivity. At the early stages of the abduction there were plans by the government to rescue the girls, however, that issue seems to have waned into oblivion as the words “Chibok” “girls” and “rescue” has ceased from the lips of the government or its numerous spokespersons.
SEPTEMBER 2014: PRIVATE JET CAUGHT WITH $9.3 MILLION IN SOUTH AFRICA
Sometime on the 5th of September, 2014 a Bombardier Challenger 600 private jet with registration number 808HG was seized at Lanseria International Airport, Johannesburg by South African authorities. The aircraft and its occupants (two Nigerians and an Israeli defense contractor) were detained for arriving South Africa with illegally imported and undeclared stacks of cash amounting to $9.3 million. An investigation later revealed that the private jet belonged to the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria. A few days later the Nigerian government owned up to ownership of the cash and revealed that it was for the purchase of arms on behalf of the Nigerian security services.
Despite swirling questions regarding why a transaction by a government was done in such a crude manner, this particular incident like other scandalous incidents has joined the ranks of the forgotten scandals of 2014.
NOVEMBER 2014: MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES LOCKED OUT
On Thursday 20th November, 2014 the Speaker of the House of Representatives and other Members were prevented from gaining entry into the premises of the National Assembly. Members had to resort to scaling the fence to gain access into the National Assembly. In what can best be described as an arrant affront on democratic tenets, no one has yet been reprimanded for this.
NOVEMBER 2014: THE KANO MOSQUE BOMBING
On Friday 28th November, 2014 more than 200 people were reportedly killed when three bombs went off simultaneously at the Kano Central Mosque during Friday prayers. When people tried to flee the scene gunmen opened fire on worshippers. Many of the casualties were children who were trampled to death in the ensuing stampede. A few days later, Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attack and revealed that the Emir of Kano was the target of the attack.
IN 2014 I STARTED A BLOG
In 2014, after years of procrastination and self doubt, I finally took the leap of doing what I’ve always wanted to do;be a writer. I started a blog and I’ve received lots of advice, encouragement and support from my mentors and readers. Thank you so much for your support. I am so grateful.
I realize most of my readers will comment on the grim nature of the topics I chose to review as the highlights of 2014. Then again, in a country where an estimated 3.3 million people are displaced and territories have been lost on an unprecedented scale, what cheerful news is there to review as part of the highlights of 2014? I am an optimist, not an incurable one, just an optimist. Therefore, I would like to believe that 2015 will be far more positive than 2014. No offence 2014, you’ve been an interesting year but I’m glad to see you go.
To my readers who may have already crossed over into the New Year, I wish you all the best that 2015 has to offer.
To those yet to cross over, I wish you all the best as well.
To my fellow countrymen, may 2015 bring an end to the carnage that has become our new normal.