It’s doubtful that Nigeria has ever been at this juncture where life means nothing. Last month alone, only God knows the number of lives summarily terminated in the violence that has become a daily occurrence in Nigeria. Another peculiarity of this season of anomie is that no part of Nigeria, no class of Nigerians and no demography are spared of this wanton return to the brutishness of primacy.
The nation woke to the slaughter of over 43 hardworking farmers on Sunday. That gory incident happened on rice fields at Zabarmari, in the Jere Local Government of Borno State. That is an area where Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa insurgents have held the country hostage in the past decade or so. That such an event happened, despite authorities’ continuous insistence of the sect’s degradation is an indication of where the rain is falling on the country uncontrollably.
Two days earlier, a first-class traditional ruler in Ondo State, Oba Adegoke Adebusi, the Oluifon of Ifon, was shot dead alongside two other people. A few hours later, wife of the chief of staff to the state governor, Olugbenga Ale, was kidnapped.
Five days before, Chairman of the All Progressives Congress in Nasarawa State, Philip Shekwo, was found dead hours after he was abducted from his residence. He was indisputably, one of the most influential persons in the state.
On October 13, 26 women and girls were taken from their homes at Dan ’Aji in the Faskari Local Government of Katsina State. They were in the den of kidnappers until November 3 when their community reportedly mobilised sums totalling about N6.6m as ransom for their release. They were allegedly raped and beaten repeatedly. In the end, their families coughed up a ransom while government waited to claim glory. This was in the North-West where Kaduna is another state under the torment.
A respected friend recently told me that kidnapping has become democratised in Calabar, Cross River State. He said kidnappers now strike for as little as N50,000 and that residents of the otherwise bubbly city now hurriedly retire home before the fall of darkness. The point here is that not Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, rich, poor, old or young is spared of this latest unleash of crime. Nigeria is in an uneasy and precarious spot. Like the proverbial chicken, which perches on the rope, jeopardising the peace of itself and the rope, Nigerians no longer sleep with both eyes closed.
Yet, this is avoidable self-affliction! This violence and wanton disregard for the sanctity of lives are a result of years of the neglect of the most critical factors of nation-building. Successive administrations only paid lip service to the important issues some of which many perceptive citizens enumerated to the point of sounding like broken records over the years.
Just name it and you’ll find every symptom of mediocre leadership and failed governance here. Failure to manage the country’s population; failure to ensure the basic education of every Nigerian child (to the effect that millions are out of school and left in the hands of the devil and his agents); lack of vocational education for those who cannot pursue academics; lack of employment opportunities for the country’s teeming youth population; lack of a deliberate, single-minded focus on reducing the level of poverty and most importantly, the age-long failure to give every citizen a sense of justice and fairness that can create unquenchable loyalty to fatherland. The curse of incessant lack of know-how punctuated by nepotism and pervasive corruption, symbolise Nigeria’s lack of a progressive leadership selection process and this has engendered the tragedy that has turned the country into a killing field.
The current situation is compounded by an economic recession, which bookmakers describe as the worst in three decades. Naturally, that situation, which is not peculiar to Nigeria, portends increased poverty and hunger. But the mindless killing of farmers, which has gone largely unchecked for years, is sure to worsen Nigeria’s condition, driving more people into crime and plummeting us deeper into the pit, unless something useful is urgently done.
Now, the prospect that something useful would be done is what is most frightening. Nigerian leaders do not possess any capacity to offer relief. The few who understand the exigency at hand claim to be too helpless for effectiveness, while the majority of those in power still live in the fool’s paradise of self-delusion, where they either misread the problem or fail to see themselves as central to the solution. Most Nigerian leaders have no fidelity to the country, after all nearly all their children are citizens of some other well-run countries, so when the trees come down on Nigeria, they fly away like bird in the air!
Someone at the highest level of authority indicated early this week that the Borno farmers may have brought the harsh fate upon themselves. That is by not obtaining military clearance before going in pursuit of a livelihood that also serves the stomachs of millions of other Nigerians. He forgot that Nigerians have been told repeatedly that Boko Haram was no longer a serious threat.
He would later amend his position to claim that he was only explaining the mode of operation of the military. You then wonder when he became spokesperson for a military, which is itself short of capacity to fight the insurgency. What greater manifestation of the military’s handicap exists than the recent court-martial and sentencing of the former commander of the offensive against Boko Haram, Major General Olusegun Adeniyi, for expressing the opinion that his command lacked the required capacity to battle the insurgents.
There are leaders who see the current level of insecurity as just the manifestation of a weak security architecture. They imagine that the only solution is the decentralisation of the police and increasing the firepower of our armed forces. While this is truly a factor, governors and other levels of leadership in Nigeria should be advised that nothing promotes crime and rebellion like poverty, hunger, joblessness and the frustration and hopelessness that attend them.
Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, said on Monday that Nigeria may be unable to defeat Boko Haram without the cooperation of global leaders in the procurement of arms and ammunition. So, is the minister, who sang the technical defeat song to Nigerians in 2018, now saying that this war may go on forever? Do these people realise how many opportunistic groups have latched on to the prolonged nature of the Boko Haram insurgency to launch their own mini-wars? Are we too big to seek the help of mercenaries as recently suggested by Governor Babagana Zulum? Aren’t there non-combat solutions to this type of problem? But there are methods, which Nigeria might indeed return to after years of this endless battle.
Jonathan Powell, the British diplomat who served as chief British negotiator on Northern Ireland, quoting Hugh Orde, a former Chief Constable of Northern Ireland, wrote in, Security is not enough: Ten lessons for conflict resolution from Northern Ireland, that: “There are no examples anywhere in the world of terrorist problems being policed out. Of course, without security pressure, insurgents will find life comfortable and have no incentive to make the tough decisions necessary for peace but security pressure by itself without offering a political way out will simply cause the insurgents to fight to the last man.” There must be other creative ways that citizens do not even need to know about.
Then, we have leaders like Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State, who are too engrossed in the glamour of office to see the responsibility it bears. Mala Buni, chair of the ruling APC, is the governor who thinks visiting the state he was elected to govern four times in a month is a thing of pride. Such misconception of the essence of leadership is why Nigeria is here and even greater dangers lie ahead without quick and concerted efforts.
What to do is for the President, Major General Muhamadu Buhari (retd.), to urgently convene a meeting of leaders (across party lines), which will not just speak about law enforcement but also how to urgently and comprehensively address the social dislocations that dog Nigeria’s path to progress.
Adedokun tweets @niranadedokun