As I write this, my eyes are suffused with tears, tears of sorrow and anguish as my beloved country, my place of birth is in a turmoil. The whole land is embroiled in a war. Nigeria is not just the poverty capital of the world; it is the most terrorized nation in the world right now. The stories filtering out of the country Nigeria are blood-chilling. We have heard gory tales of killing, gut-wrenching stories of kidnapping and torture. We have watched video footages of massacre, genocide and carnages perpetuated by dare-devil terrorist. Every day, it is the same macabre story without any scintilla of hope in sight. It is all like a movie script from a hypothetical land of lawlessness.
At present, life has lost its value in Nigeria. We are no longer talking about poverty and economic hardship foisted on the citizenry. Nigerians have come to accept that as fait accompli. Nobody is talking about formulating good policies to move the nation forward; that too is like outlandish reverie.
It is no more about lockdown or COVID-19 scourge but about a nation at war with itself. Our concern is with the protection of life; the right to live, the most basic of the fundamental rights of the human person that every responsible must ensure. Since the ascendancy of APC government, Nigeria has lost over a million lives to avoidable skirmishes. Nigeria is now a huge burial ground for poor, innocent hapless citizens. I weep for my country. I weep for the hapless masses. How long shall these unsavory state of affairs continue?
Evidently, national security architecture has collapsed like a pack of cards in the face of rampaging terrorists who are emboldened by their belief and the apparent helplessness of the Nigerian Army to curtail them. There are insinuations in some quarters that the war against terrorism and insurgency is not prosecuted with insincerity. It is compromised to the detriment of the citizenry – cases of treachery, betrayal, supply of dud weapons, ambush of troops, leakages of troops movement to the terrorists, conspiracies, indirect funding of the terrorists by the authorities, frustration of international participation and reportage are rife.
Soldiers and officers battling insurgency are demoralized due to lack of trust and the absence of the usual “espirit de corp”. The utterances and body languages of those in the government seem to give vent to these insinuations. For instance, how can Garba Shehu the Senior Special Assistant to the President on media say that people are reporting killings as if it never happened before. That to me is the most uncharitable, irresponsible and insensitive statement I have heard from a government official. It is very unfortunate in the extreme! Needless to go into the usual preposterous defense put up by the lying Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information, to justify insecurity in the land. It is all ridiculous and shame-making.
The pertinent questions begging for answers now are: how could the insurgents have superior fire power than an established army like Nigeria’s reputed for international peacekeeping operation in the past? How could they have superior intelligence than Nigeria army? How come the government has not been able to track their source of funding and block it? What exactly has gone wrong in the polity? Is there any hope for the embattled nation called Nigeria?
Indeed we cannot rule out official complicity and negligence, insidious collusion, lack of will power, incompetence, lack of patriotic zeal in this matter. All boil down to failure of governance, mediocrity and ineptitude. Added to this is the issue of misplaced priority, misconception of role, corruption and abuse of office. In all of these, it is crystal clear that those in government do not know what their mandate is.
They do not understand the concept of social contract. The do not understand the difference between national interest and personal or primordial interest. There is the ethical dilemma of sectional interest and general interest. Our present government seems to pander to sectional interest as against public interest and that accounts for the escalation of insurgency, banditry and terrorism. Why would our government not call herdsmen to order but react swiftly when there is harmless civil protest? Why would the government not deploy troops to flush out the terrorists from the Sambisa forest but quick to deploy fighter jet to bomb the forest of Imo State for ESN operatives? Why would a government that could not protect its citizens frustrate the plans of the people to get their security? These and more are some fundamental questions that we must seek answers for.
The current security challenges facing Nigeria point to ominous fact that security is not about brute force but intelligence. Crude command and control policies have its limitations and they have failed us woefully. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo when he was in power erroneous thought he could suppress “resource control” agitation with brute force by deploying troops and destroying Odi but it backfired giving rise to militancy in the Niger Delta Region. It took the wisdom and intelligence of the late Umaru Musa Yar’dua to restore peace in the Niger Delta through the Presidential Amnesty Program. In the same vein, President Muhammadu Buhari thought he could suppress civil advocacy through brute force and swinging policies but this has proved counterproductive. It is clear that Nigeria does not need a jack-boot general to provide security. All we need is purposeful leadership. We need to free ourselves from the cult of generals. This is what the likes of former vice-president Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the Wazirin Adamawa, has been advocating.
As it is now, Nigerians your destiny is in your hands; defend yourselves, the army is weakened, and the judiciary is compromised while the National Assembly is simply not there, the politicians and those that pretend to speak for you are all self-seeking pettifoggers. As the 2023 election beckons, will you learn any lesson? Will you vote right and avoid tribal and religious sentiments? Will you allow yourself to be used by selfish political jobbers and turn back to regret later? Again, I say your destiny is in your hand.
Hajia Mohammed, actress, social activist, politician, writes from London, UK via