Dapchi: Same old song, by Zainab Suleiman Okino

At the foundation laying ceremony of the Editors’ Plaza on Thursday, March 1, 2018, last week in Abuja, some weird truths emerged. The Minister of Information, Lai Muhammed and Senate Minority leader, Godswill Akpabio, who served as chairman of the event threw punches at each other, on behalf of their parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), that is.

The senator recalled how the PDP government was upbraided by the then opposition APC for not working hard to rescue the Chibok girls abducted in April 2014, and which later became a major campaign tool for the fledgling APC. Fast-forward to Dapchi in February 2018, and the APC, now in control of government, is equally helpless over the abduction of the students from Government Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Akpabio recalled.

When Lai Muhammed’s turn came, he first responded to Akpabio’s accusation, asserting that while the PDP government dithered in their response, the APC acted swiftly by deploying service chiefs and his good self to Dapchi. And you know what the rest of us in the audience did?

We laughed hysterically at their follies and politicisation of the precious lives of tomorrow’s mothers and nation builders just because they are not the children of the rich, affluent or powerful members of the society. After the pot-shots thrown at each other, the two so-called political foes and VIPs at the event had a warm embrace while the rest of us gave them an underserved applause. Here lies the tragedy of this nation.

The victims of two abductions to which the two gentlemen talked politics over are still in captivity with the exception of a few that were rescued or found their way back almost four years after Chibok saga. Who knows how long Dapchi will take considering the lethargic leadership at the centre, near absence of intelligence and previous experiences.

So, from one regime to the other, PDP to APC, Jonathan to Buhari, and the audience of mainly journalists who laughed off the show of shame between Muhammed and Akpabio, Nigeria has become a captive of the ruling elite, while the vulnerable are mere pawns in the political chess game. The only time the down trodden is ever remembered is when their votes are needed to authenticate and legitimise their (politicians’) positions in the four-year cycle during campaigns, and the romance ends a day after they are settled in office.

Therefore, from Chibok to Dapchi, it is still the same old song and scripts. On February 22, about 110 girls were taken by Boko Haram from the all girls college, Dapchi, Yobe state, in a commando-style approach and very similar to what happened four years earlier. After the initial confusion over the number of girls taken away, the blame game over withdrawal of troops from the troubled zone and the shockwave over Chibok history repeating itself in Dapchi even after a change of government was effected, Boko Haram said to have been decimated and technically defeated, we have come to the sad reality, that another Chibok scenario is playing out and the security apparatchik seems helpless and has no answer for the bewildered, agonised and shattered parents of the girls. Take a look at some similarities and you will understand why we have only two divides—we versus them and the “them” do not differentiate between the PDP and APC.

It is therefore not a surprise that Buhari’s attitude, body language and reaction to the depressing issues of kidnap of girls in particular from the NorTheast by Boko Haram, kidnap for ransom all over the country, armed robberies, herdsmen-farmers’ clashes fuelled by inter-ethnic rivalry, display of impunity by our governors/elected officials, curruption, nepotism and cronyism in high places are not markedly different from Jonathan’s. By the time I heard someone say ‘Buhari does not give a damn’, plus T.Y. Danjuma’s assertion that ‘Nigeria has lost the capacity to govern itself’; I’m compelled to agree that the country is in trouble. Just like Jonathan, who was in Kano for a dance rally on the day Boko Haram bombed and killed scores in Nyanya, a shouting distance from the seat of power, Buhari may soon surpass Jonathan in insensitivity on negative issues that have no direct bearing on his ruling class elite – colleagues. On the day of Col Muhammed Abu Ali’s burial, the president was in Edo state for a campaign rally. After he failed to visit Adamawa over the death of over 100 citizens, Buhari later visited the same state for an anti-corruption summit.

About 24 students from Bauchi died in a part of Kano, the president only sent a condolence letter, neither has he ever said or issued any statement on Mambilla killings. Zamfara killings occurred and he was having dinner with APC leaders in Katsina.

The president did not visit Benue to commiserate with them almost three months after; instead he received some ambitious governors in audience for the purpose of his endorsement. And two weeks after Dapchi and subsequent kidnap and killing of aid workers in Rann, the president’s latest public appearance was at the wedding of his political allies’ children in Kano. In spite of the support he got from the masses, the president does not identify with this key support base, not to talk of initiating policies that could ameliorate their sufferings. Talk about leadership that is not responsive or responsible, yet it is convenient for us to condemn US President, Donald Trump, who has already initiated gun control monitoring centres in schools in the aftermath of and response to the gruesome Florida shooting. Finally, this government has so divided Nigerians along ethnic, religious and regional lines, so they can continue to subjugate the majority, such that there is virtually no hope of a united front against it.

In the colonial era, we coined the phrase divide and rule. Today our local slave masterspoliticians have mastered the art and are applying it with devastating effect. It is hoped that all those who seek to take advantage of the people’s plight for political benefi t will meet their Waterloo someday soon. It’s also our hope that the country does not relapse into the dark days of the past.

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