The current theatre of war in the North-East and its seeming crescendo occurred when suspected Boko Haram fighters murdered in cold blood over 100 unsuspecting rice farmers in Koshobe and Zabarmari communities of Borno State. The militants alleged that they carried out the attacks in retribution for farmers cooperating with the Nigerian military. In Zamfara andKatsina States, armed bandits now collect harvest fees before allowing farmers access their farmlands – A potential danger for food security. Recently, Ekiti State Governor KayodeFayemi who also doubles as the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) disclosed that some fleeing Boko Haram insurgents have relocated to the Southwest where they now operate as kidnappers.
Boko Haram’s war of attribution puts Northern Nigeria as the most dangerous place to live in. These deaths only lay bare the grandstanding position that government is on top of the situation. The Nigerian populace is now used to terse messages from government agents which neither offers consolation to families of victims nor hope for the living. It is common place to cajole the citizenry in communities hit by insurgency with words that could make an Ant look like an Elephant. And often, these messages are weaved with the wool of political correctness. However, they quickly fade away like a flying star.
Those in authority ought to take lessons about the pain of losing a loved one. We know how they behave when they lose family members. A whole budget is made to cover up expenses as they wail inconsolably. In most cases, a whole agency could go on vacation because one big Oga or Madam lost a child. Any subordinate who does not sign the condolence register is up for query. Because sycophancy has almost become a mainstay in our society today, many cronies or “business associates” offer to make the coffin, pay for ambulance or even sponsor a festival of waste as patronage.
In all these, they look sickly to attract sympathy and empathy. For those who were hitherto busy to pray, that is when they multiply prayers. In short, at this time, they are humble and appear vulnerable. However, it is surprising and heartrending that when scores of fellow country men and women are massacred under their watch, these “professional mourners” pretend that all is well. They are quick to attack those who are either demanding justice for the dastardly act that the victims were responsible for their dead.
Like we heard from the spokesman of the President, GarbaShehu that the farmers did not get clearance from security operatives. When did Nigerians start taking permission to go about their lawful businesses? How about the legion of other citizens who were kidnapped or killed by bloodthirsty murderers? How many times has the Executive Governor of Borno State, BabaganaZulum been attacked despite tight security details? When a government fails to provide adequate security of lives and property and in turn plays victim by blaming its citizens, it only reminds us of the Roman Emperor Nero who burnt down Rome and accused Christians in order to persecute them.
It is statements like these that open up a leeway for conspiracy theories with Problem Reaction Solution (PRS) being the first born. While we leave this to students of political science, it is crucial to give Caesar what belongs to Caesar and God what is his even though both Caesar and his coin belong to God. This raises our discussion from its banal political landscape to a spiritual pedestal. Me thinks that speech writers of politicians or those in government need to borrow a leaf from the scriptures so as to learn the craft of engaging with those who are mourning their loved ones.
To be sure, Jesus did not want the peace of the graveyard. Although he was peace personified and the paragon of servant-leadership, he enters into the shoes of those who mourn to bring them consolation, everlasting hope and salvation. One of such classic examples was when his friend Lazarus died. The family was devastated. They waited for Jesus but he delayed. By then, the dead man was already four days in the tomb. However, when he finally showed up, the dead man’s Sister Martha said: “Lord, if you were here, my brother would not have died.” She added: “I know anything you ask God he would do” (Cf. John 11:1–44).
Jesus asked for where they laid his friend and when he was taken there, he wept. At that, even his worst critics, the Pharisees confessed: “See how he loved him!” The crucial lesson for our leaders is that Jesus visited the family, offered them words of consolation and surprisingly, raised Lazarus from the dead. If he wanted, he would have spoken from where he was and his words would take effect but no! He came in person. This is the ministry of physical presence which our government lacks. For example, our President refused to visit the victims of Lekki tollgate #EndSARS shooting in hospital. He has also not gone to Maiduguri to commiserate with the people of Borno State about the said killings.
While this administration shies away from identifying with the populace during mishaps, it is not media-shy when it comes to electioneering campaigns for party faithful, nay propaganda. On top of that, while the war on terror seems endless, the presidency enjoys talking tough about the sanctity of the nation’s “unity.” The popular saying “talk is cheap” comes to mind here. This disturbing analysis is another contribution on our sad commentary begging for urgent attention.
Unless we are satisfied with the peace of the graveyard, a country which is currently fighting insurgents, armed bandits, kidnappers, killer herdsmen et al would either invest in deploying modern technology to bring the war on terror which has spread into neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon to its knees or seek regional and international coalition to dislodge the insurgents. The time for our leaders to take lessons in empathy and servant-leadership is now. We need to stand up for lives and food security for all. May Christ the Prince of Peace grant us permanent peace. Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year!
Fr. Dyikuk is a Lecturer of Mass Communication, University of Jos, Editor – Caritas Newspaper and Convener, Media Team Network Initiative (MTNI), Nigeria.