Recently, Nigeria was in news again for unpleasant reasons. The murder of an 18-year-old Seminarian, Michael Nnadi and the wife of a Kaduna-based Doctor, Mrs. Bola Ataga in cold blood by suspected bandits woke a sleeping nation. The citizenry had not recovered from the trauma of the gruesome bombing of a 12-year old Muslim boy at a Mosque in Gwoza, Borno State, beheading of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Chairman of Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State, Rev. Lawani Andimi and the shooting of a Plateau-born Biology/Education student of University of Maiduguri, Ropvil Daciya Dalep by suspected Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) militia. These sad incidences are indicative of a people living “on the brink of the grave” (Psalm 88:3).
A few days ago, the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump placed Nigeria alongside Eritrea, Sudan, Tanzania, Kyrgyzstan and Myanmar on the immigration list of countries that cannot obtain certain types of Visas to the US. The Department of Homeland Security cited failures by these six countries to meet US security and information-sharing standards as reasons for the ban. “The administration wants to see them start issuing electronic passports that can be scanned with a computer and improve their information-sharing with US authorities and Interpol to help identify criminals and terrorists” the US further noted.
While the new measure is unfortunate, citizens of a country that has over 70% of Black Doctors and also the most educated immigrant community in America should not be punished as a result of government’s policy somersault. It is crucial to reiterate that the primary purpose of government is the security and welfare of the people (1999 Constitution, Section 14 Subsection 2 b). By the same token, the current move to allow African passport holders into Africa’s largest economy with Visa on arrival portends great danger for peace and security in a country that is battling to survive insurgency, armed banditry, commercial kidnapping, herder-farmer clashes, and other criminal activities.
On top of that, the government and its agents seem to be saying, these nefarious activities are isolated cases. If a drop can cause an ocean, the life of every single citizen matters. What this means is that the government needs to be on top of the situation. What is surprising is that the call to rejig the security architecture in the country has fallen on deaf ears. Without a doubt, there are gallant men and women of the armed forces who are doing their best to serve their fatherland. However, given the lack of equipment and the inability to boost their morale, insecurity challenges seem to fester.
In his article, The African Crisis Response Initiative: Domestic Politics and Convergence of National Interests, (99 African Affairs 73, 84, 2000) Omach opined: “Paradoxically, Nigeria was able, through [Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group] ECOMOG, to install democracy in Liberia and to reinstate it in Sierra Leone while leaving its own citizens under the darkness of military rule.” Is history repeating itself that Nigerians are left “under the darkness of insecurity” amidst a military that has enhanced its “prestige abroad”? This failure is blamed on the apparent lack of synergy within the armed forces. As such, if the army, navy and air force are working in collaboration with other sister agencies like the Department of State Services (DSS), The Nigeria Police Force and The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, the expected actionable results would have been achieved.
In like manner, the seeming lack of mutual support between the security agencies and the Ministry of Information and Culture, Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) with all the Service Providers is another major deficit in the war against crime and terrorism. If indeed all SIM Cards were registered as directed by the NCC, how come criminality is on the increase? What has happened to aerial surveillance to locate where criminal elements are hiding? While large and often unaccounted sums of money are spent on security votes, people are often killed with reckless abandon. While taxpayers’ money is used to pay the police, criminals are walking freely without being apprehended.
In what is perceived as targeting of certain groups of people for elimination, many citizens are crying foul. For instance, while it is true that Boko Haram kills both Muslims and Christians, the amateur videos of the gruesome murder of one and two students of Plateau origin respectively as well as that of Rev. Andimi making the rounds on social media platforms calls for great alarm. The case of Leah Sharibu, the only Christian-girl who is still with her captors underscores this point. That these helpless citizens are Christians and their killers recited certain Quranic verses before executing their victims suggests that their killers employed Islam as a principle for the dastardly act. This does not mean that all Muslims are bad. What is clear is, we have a common enemy. That enemy is criminality. Surprisingly, in the face of these life-threatening occurrences, we are expected to be politically correct and not realistically correct. Sadly, the deafening silence of those in authority is worrisome. It behooves on all people of goodwill to condemn this evil and make concerted efforts towards the protection of lives and property.
That the Service Chiefs (except two – that of Defense and Naval Staff) and other occupants of strategic offices in the country are of either Hausa or Fulani extraction under whose watch these atrocities are being perpetrated further creates suspicion in the minds of most Christians and other minorities across the board. In history, peace has always been a consequence of justice, equity, and fairness. Have we suddenly got amnesia as a nation? We cannot afford to have another civil war in this country. The Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970) is one lesson too many. The cries of self-actualization from various segments of the country in the near-past like Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) et al and currently the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOP) demonstrate that we need both private and collective action to cure a bleeding nation.
It is saddening is that we are living in a society where many people prioritize things over people and ambition above the peace of the nation. What is more, there is a deficit of values as the political class views politics as an occasion to lord it over the masses rather than a position of service to God and humanity. The quest for raw power and domination of others has further led to various malpractices in our electoral process. It is safe to conclude that desperation leads to frustration – frustration leads to selfish ambition which paves way for competition, the survival of the fittest, rancor, strife, insurgencies and war with little or no chance for achieving peace and prosperity.
If the current insurgency, spate of kidnappers and killings across the country is handled with the swiftness which the military responded to the restiveness of IPOB in an action codenamed “Operation Python Dance,” by now, Nigeria would have experienced relative peace. In his book “Peace of Mind” Liebman (1998) has this timeless advice for the populace: “The time has come when a man must say to himself: I am no longer going to be interested in how much power or wealth another man possesses so long as I can attain enough for the dignity and security of my family and myself…” It is crucial to note that a lot can be achieved in the war against terror and criminality through espionage (intelligence gathering) and multi-sectoral humanistic approaches rather than employing bombs and bullets.
While ultimate peace comes from God, those in the position of authority ought to act promptly to rescue the children of late Mrs. Bola Ataga who are still in the hands of their abductors so as to reunite them with their father, Dr. Philip Ataga. This writer wonders what the spokesmen in Aso Rock and their principal would tell Bishop Matthew Kukah whose seminarian, Michael Nnadi was recently killed by his abductors. Recall that the Bishop was accused of dividing the country along religious lines when he spoke truth to power by describing the situation in the country for what it is. One wonders what message they would send him at this moment of grief. Meantime, we commiserate with Bishop Kukah, the Diocese of Sokoto, Rector, Staff, and Students of Good Shepherd Seminary Kaduna, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) and the Atagas. May the souls of Michael, Mrs. Bola, others who have died in a similar fashion and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen. May God bless our gallant security agents on the fire-line, guide our leaders aright and grant us permanent peace. God bless Nigeria!
Fr. Justine Dyikuk is a Catholic Priest and Researcher who combines being the Editor of Bauchi Caritas Catholic Newspaper, Communication’s Director of Bauchi Diocese with his job as a Lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication, University of Jos, Nigeria. He can be reached through – firstname.lastname@example.org.