Our new hostage takers (II)

The trouble with our country, as it is today, is it does not value its vast human riches. It cares very little about the lives of its citizens and, so, does not invest in people with the intent of benefitting from their skills or advantages in future. It operates more like a fiefdom, where those at the top fortify themselves and their interests and leave the serfs at the mercy of anything and everything.

In our numerous debates on this situation with my late friend Dr Ibrahim Mailafiya I often emphasised my frustration with the system, which he often concurred albeit with moderation. Although in the more than five years he was in the UK we hardly saw we had very generous telephone exchanges. My wife once joked that our discussions were endless. It’s true we always debated round and round issues until something suddenly came up, forcing us to adjourn. But the next time we ‘reconvened’ we usually picked up from where we left it and progressed to another issue.

Once we had a very passionate chat about the numerous contradictions that typify the system and the widening gap between those at the bottom and those at the top; we talked about the astounding arrogance with which those at the top take undue advantage of the ignorance, inarticulateness and disorientation of the hapless majority at the bottom, despite their numerical advantage; and concluded the situation would endure for as long as possible, despite the 2015 election victory, considered a people’s revolution.

His apparent disgust with the trend notwithstanding, Dr Ibrahim calmly reminded me Nigeria was home and home was he heading back to, to give back his bit. I concurred and hoped I would head back soon too, regardless of my perception. But from that exchange and a few more afterwards, it was obvious that like me, he understood that ours is a system that lets down its prized possessions.

In our last conversation, or an attempt at it, he sent me a quick message, after failing to answer my call moments earlier, that he was on a highway. I sent him a quick reply, summarising what I wanted discussed and he replied: “Nigeria is in chaos…I am seriously interested in this discussion.” We agreed to chat later, but it never was.

One very sad manner the Nigerian state has abdicated its responsibility, apart from the failure of policing I mentioned last week, is its deliberate ceding of its monopoly on violence and the legitimising nature of the monopoly to amorphous individuals and groups, some of which have since transmuted to hydra-headed monsters and, presently, hold the state by its genitals.

While the state maintained its aloof manner, mercenaries de-incentivised by the collapse of regimes in places as far afield as Libya and disengaging and migrating to potentially bloodier climes, crossed through the borders and, with their lethal weapons, melted into unsuspecting communities. No one ever noticed their arrival let alone questioned their motive. They only needed to lie low and wait for an unmissable opportunity to inflict a fatal harm.

As records suggest, in the bloody Kano invasion of January 20, 2012 and many more terror raids afterwards, these nebulous criminal groups fully utilised the ruthlessness of those migrating social misfits to cause maximum fatalities on often armless and defenceless populace, whose only crime is a pact with a state that notoriously reneges on even basic bits.
Acting like the de facto government, to whom all levies must be paid, some years ago criminal groups began sending residents letters prior to their visit, with a clear proviso: pay up or pay a costly price. Many of the victims, who were in no way oblivious of the fact that rogue groups have effectively wrestled power from the state, usually paid up without batting an eye.

On the night Dr Ibrahim died, from the accounts of those around, it was clear that he was let down by several different groups and individuals who, ordinarily, should have done all within their power to save his life. Not far away from the spot he was shot, I gathered, was a police checkpoint and patrol team. But they apparently had no business saving his life.

In the hospital, the medical team didn’t see any urgency in the emergency his case clearly was and, as such, unabashedly handled it with levity, despite his wife’s repeated emotional appeal. And, sadly, he breathed his last knowing full well that Nigeria let him down. But his is just one of several thousands of cases, most of which no one ever cares to write about because we are holding our conscience hostage.

The West and Mugabe’s ouster
Like Saddam Hussein, Robert Mugabe was the darling of the West until his land redistribution policy tore the friendship to shreds and forced them to part ways. As head of Daily Trust’s foreign and diplomatic desk at the time the controversial land policy caused diplomatic ripples I was privileged to interview some of President Mugabe’s top officials at different times.

From what I gathered, which I double-checked with British officials, the land redistribution programme was originally to be funded by the British government in such a way that there would have been compensation for every farmland taken off the white farmers. But Mr Mugabe government’s claimed Britain reneged, which was why the president carried on with the programme, somehow, vindictively.

The British officials countered Mugabe’s claim by arguing that he (Mugabe) wanted to be given the fund directly, which they couldn’t trust him enough to do. “If Mugabe thinks we are going to give him money directly he’s mistaken”, said one of the officials.

After many years of the initiative the question we should ask is whether it was successful or not. In my opinion it was successful only in partly reversing the injustice of Cecil Rhodes and his progenies by taking much of the land, expropriated by a handful of white farmers, and handing it back to black landless Zimbabweans.

But economically it has been a huge failure. Someone I once interviewed told me it was practically impossible for it to result in any economic gains if someone who got handed a vast farmland full of livestock could not account for nearly 90 per cent after only a few years.

But the ‘beneficiaries’ were mainly cronies of the president and friends of the regime, which was why their misdeeds were overlooked. This summarises the tragedy of Mugabe’s entire 37 years in power. But a military coup is not right way out of the woods.



To be concluded


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