Unfolding events in Nigeria is confirming the existence of a basket case of raging tsunami storms. The storms have started making impacts, leaving their catastrophes, tears and blood on their trail. The ongoing spate of killings is dressed-up in the garb of unconscionable arrogance and impunity enmeshed in idiocy. However, it is yet to dawn on the Muhammadu Buhari led federal government that the symbolism of its authority and legitimacy is systematically under serious challenge and has already been demystified, if not by all at least by the Northern Elders Forum and other interest groups. The country is under serious threat of disintegration, not, even a military intervention cannot save.
Whatever solution interest groups proffer to defeat the monster of insecurity, those piloting affairs of government, are ever ready to scuttle with flimsy reasons. Several suggestions were proffered but no positive response from those in leadership either for insensitivity or cluelessness.
If not for anything, at least the leadership of the North East Development Commission (NEDC) is expected to partner with interest groups to source solutions to the unfortunate situation in the sub-region that necessitated its creation by Act of Parliament. To the NEDC, that has nothing to do with its mandate. It occupies its self with distribution of donated palliative items to Internally Displaced Persons, diverting larger portion of the palliatives to the open market and purchase of exotic automobiles than proffering solutions to the insecurity situation that may reduce the growing number of the IDPs. Sponsorship of common summits targeted to de-radicalizing the idle frustrated youths that are the soft targets of recruitment by the insurgents within the sub-region was turned down backed with flimsy official excuse by NEDC management. The Office of the Senate President is another place that has less interest to overcoming the insecurity problem bedeviling the sub-region. It portrays more of pretence than action to show concern as a mere talk shop. The Presidency has lost direction and focus on how to handle the problem at hand. Security agencies at the trouble spots are overstretched and frustrated. Where then lies, the solution? Should a revolution be the solution?
A casual analysis of deaths recorded from banditry, insurgency, kidnapping not to talk of extra-judicial killing by security personnel, reveals that between May 2011 to November 2020, more than 37,500 innocent lives were wasted, with over 2-5million persons displaced and nearly 244,000 souls in the socio-demographical status of refugees in their own country. Yet, the government seems to feign ignorance and chooses to live in reprehensible denial based on concocted security reports laced with deceit and falsehood at its disposal.
It was few weeks ago that Boko Haram terrorists brutally slaughtered over 60 innocent poor farmers in Garin Kwashebe in Jere local government area of Borno state that forced tears from the eyes of Prof. Babagana Umara Zulum, rated as the most vibrant governor in Nigeria today. Before then, in Abuja, kidnappers of Mathew Dajo reportedly demanded N100million ransom before the Catholic priest could be released to freedom. Alh. Danladi Maihali, an indigene of Wase, in Wase local government area of Plateau State residing and doing business in Mutum Biyu of Taraba State, was kidnapped and N12million ransom was demanded for his release by the bandits. The family excluded the police in their transaction for fear of the obvious to ferry N10million of the N12million to the beasts.
The amount was receipted but the victim murdered. His dead body was found at the foot of the notorious Dan Anacha forest. In Kaduna State bandits, unleashed mayhem on a remote village while hoodlums and smugglers also held some men of the Nigeria Custom Service hostage and snatched a gun from a female soldier, in Ogun State. We are not talking of the epicenter, Zamfara State where life is unbearable. The worrisome implication is that the Nigerian state is clinically dead. Contemporary cataclysmic events have highlighted government’s impotence and powerlessness; and, it is as if the national government has succumbed to the wishes of amnesia; as such, has lost its ability to decipher the interpretive understanding of the writs of the social contract.
The political storm in Nigeria is coming with speed of a tsunami. However, when it will make its ominous landing is unknown! Besides, only God can tell what the shape and size of its destructive ramifications will look like! #EndSARS protest might just be the beginning of a furry unleashed on the society by the mob, with no one saddled with the responsibility of an effective control over the unorganized frustrated and deprived mob! President Buhari should be told by those that have his ears that Nigerians are hungry, frustrated and angry and only God knows the degree of bitterness in their minds against the government he leads. In this clime, public servants are neither accountable nor responsible for the survival of the people. Not only that, most civil organizations have integrity crisis even as few are grounded in financial immobolism. Unfortunately, contemporary crises and sloppy responses of government to them are preparing the future #EndSARS – type of protests that has already started in Lagos/Ibadan axis of the Southwest. That is why, as Boko Haram insurgents were brutally harvesting the souls of poor farmers in Kwashebe, operatives of the Nigeria Police were probably either busy on the highway or in their stations extorting money from motorists and sureties standing bail for suspects or carrying handbags for the wives of Very Important Personalities (VIP) otherwise known as Vagabonds In Power or framing phantom charges against innocent suspects in their custody tailored to extortion.
The government’s doublespeak on the #EndSARS protest is directly responsible for the resurgence of the protest in Lagos/Ibadan axis. The protesters are legitimately demanding the immediate release of detained suspected promoters and the unfreezing of their accounts.
The government’s initial action of promising to look into the demand of the protesters and setting up of judicial panel of inquiry into their grievances as well as President Buhari’s recent statement that the youths have the right to protest was hailed as responsive action for believe. However, they do not square with the arrests of suspected promoters of the protests and the freezing of the bank accounts.
If the suspected promoters were arrested and their bank accounts frozen to find the big movers behind the protests, the government is mistaken as such information can still be obtained without arrests and freezing of bank accounts. Only a government that lacks proper intelligence architecture would go that route as the only option at its disposal. The method of arresting to obtain information, rather than letting information lead to arrests, is not the best way to uphold the rule of law.
Besides, the government may be mistaken in concluding that the youths could not raise enough money within two weeks in this digital age, especially given the globalization of their protest. The government’s action demonstrates its disbelief in the ability of today’s youths to raise enough funds for a good course. Yet, the government is happy to be bailed out of financial conundrum over Covid-19 pandemic, by relying on the Coalition Alliance Against Covid-19 which raised nearly N40billion from just about 200 donors by the end of November 2020. From 10 donors, the youths could raise above the N40billion of the Coalition Alliance Against Covid-19? If the government is in the dark on how funds are raised for protests, then it has no intelligence mechanism in place and that’s why Boko Haram sponsors are yet to be exposed. In NADECO, we raised funds above the budgets of over 12 economically buoyant States in Nigeria to support our agitation. We established a functional radio station located in the heart of Lagos with state-of-the-art facilities and we were regular guests to Five-star hotels in choice cities. Our security and intelligent networks were superb and reliable. We penetrated the government and we succeeded through good organizational framework.
That was in those days of analogue technology.
The government should save itself by releasing those arrested and unfreeze their accounts while moving with its investigation. Otherwise, the government will continue to undercut the genuineness of its initial response to the #EndSARS protest.
The geography and spread of devastation and sufferings caused by mayhem, arson, looting, gangsterism, and hooliganism unleashed upon the society are ethnicities, religion and political affiliations-neutral, to say the least! But then, imagine a Yakubu Dogara, who hails from Gwarangha in Bogoro local area of Bauchi State to make life worth a living in Jos; and he succeeded, only to lose all his life savings and properties to ‘un-known looters’ during the October #EndSARS protests. What was the offence of Yakubu Dogara to have attracted him such unruly behaviour by the very youths he assists with good representation in the National Assembly? Will Dogara return to his native Gwarangha village, tell his unfortunate story to his kith and kin, blame it upon the gods, and simply go to sleep thereafter? Yes, there are hundreds, even thousands Dogaras, whose voices will never be heard no matter the level of injustice meted against them for failure of the system.
The tragedy of our unfortunate situation is that those who can address the issues are yet to wake up from their self-induced slumber while those who claim to have woken up have since gone back to bed for fear of the obvious. Another troubling point is that the window of opportunity for timely intervention is slowly shutting down and the so called leaders are not sensitive and intelligent enough with the exception of few. Most information handlers of government affairs have long forgotten that an essential ingredient of good governance is effective communication laced with facts. This important tool of administration draws its oxygen from the pool of trust and confidence profile of government as perceived by the governed. Unfortunately, since President Buhari s’ handlers and those of some State Governors and other players are having it mixed-up, the life-link in government cannot wane. Yes, the security apparatus is obsolete, rusty and extremely ineffective and corrupt! But, from their harsh and unmeasured response-statements to issues of national security and a plethora of unguarded utterances spiced with deceit, it is obvious that the presidency’s vuvuzelas have lost touch with the objective reality and the desperate needed connection with the governed. It is unfortunate and sad!
Let me quickly state an example of over show of power. Before his demise in 1998, Gen. Sani Abacha rated himself the Alpha and Omega in Nigeria for just staging a successful palace coup against the status quo for selfish interest. He surrounded himself with all manner of sycophants, brutes and dullards. He was fooled to believe falsehood. He was deceived to be the most ever loved leader by Nigerians. He had royalties dancing around him when Nigeria was heading to a mess. Abacha was living in opulence, fool’s paradise and amassed so much power. There was an allegation against his living style of sleeping with the prettiest ladies of easy virtues. The tyrant became unhinged, and Nigeria descended almost into a slippery slope of socio-political instability. But, when death knocked on his heavily fortified door and snatched him away, he was buried as an ordinary Nigerian and Nigeria remains moving.
Lesson: you are who you claim to be, until the day the perception of the society changes negatively. There and then, you are thrown into the garbage heap of history. The more reason the rich, including those who find themselves in positions of power through political permutations and politics of inclusion, zero merit and nepotism should go and read history of capital. Impliedly, for the rich to survive, it is in their objective interest to part with a substantial portion of their wealth in order to keep their wealth safe from attack by the deprived. Otherwise, there may be no wealth to keep and no country to flaunt the wealth when the deprived people revolt out of frustration and anger for their legitimate share. What one has spent several years to build, anger can destroy it in seconds and with no apology or regret.
To really get out of the woods, the ambivalence in Nigeria’s socio-cultural setting has to be addressed with the required sincerity. In order to build a lasting residence, all the faulty structures must be rebuilt. A skyscraper built on a faulty and weakened foundation will surely come down. We must not wait for the structure to come down if we love the residence. This is the time for governments and public institutions to set in motion earnest appraisals and inward-looking at extant policies and programmes with a view to recalibrating those policies and programmes for the good of all. Any delay, may not be in the best interest of anyone as all indices for a revolution have clearly appeared. Those charge with leadership and policy implementations, should either see reason and act fast or wait for the bomb to explode and collectively we join our resting ancestors. Police protection and overblown siren at that period will be of no solution. It will be fire for fire for a better Nigeria!
Muhammad is a commentator on national issues