Nigeria in 2012: Between Fear and Doubt!

by SOC Okenwa

My beloved country, Nigeria, has always been in the news for some wrong reasons. Can someone just mention any good news that emanated out of the ‘giant’ of Africa last year? Perhaps the ‘discovery’ of cassava bread by the first family or the naming and shaming of the oil cartel that is heartlessly milking the nation dry forcing Aso Rock to want to remove the so-called fuel subsidy by the first quarter of this year? Or maybe the triumph of the PDP once again in the presidential poll against the lanky man from Katsina? Or the official death of Musa Yar’Adua after months of unannounced presidential power vacuum as the man struck by the Chaug-Strauss syndrome struggled to remain alive in Saudi Arabia with Turai trying to mask his fatal condition?

Okay, fellow Nigerians, the good news could as well be that we managed to survive 2011 inspite of Boko Haram, ubiquitous kidnappers and roaming armed robbers, right?! And that we tolerated cowardly the political intrigues and schemes of the Abuja gang whose indifference to our collective nightmare was too obscene that the Host of heaven must have seen the need for a change! Is enough not enough? Enough of the organized looting by few privileged elite? Enough of nonsense before sense?

As one big confused African country Nigeria has never ceased to amaze critics and admirers alike. For critics she represents everything wrong with the black man in terms of self-governance; a lawless country where gun-men overpower the police in broad daylight, a big modern jungle with little or no power supply, no good roads and no good drinking water. For these unrepentant critics Nigeria is a nation overwhelmed by corruption and blinded by unpatriotism waiting to fail or implode before 2015! The admirers are found only in the ruling party, the PDP!

As 2011 became history last Saturday we ushered in a brand new year pregnant with unholy uncertainties. 2011 went down in history this troubled part of the world as about the bloodiest under this tortured democratic dispensation hurriedly cobbled together by the military in 1999. What was put in place (with the OBJ imposition) was a defective system, for the spirit of “we the people” in the constitution remained non-existent. June 12 and its national symbol, late Bashorun Abiola, were then defeated and buried by reactionary forces hell-bent on preserving the giddy status-quo.

From political violence occasioned by the presidential and guber polls to bomb-throwing and terror war (being) waged by the faceless terror group based in the north called Boko Haram; from daily road mishaps that claimed thousands of innocent lives in the death-traps called federal highways across the nation to the social miseries: unemployment, poverty, frustration and want, 2011 was indeed one bloody year we cannot forget in a hurry. But thank God we are survivors of its fury, its blood thirstiness!

As the huge storm gathers menacingly over the landscape Aso Rock gives itself away as a confused secure place of power whose chief occupant wallows in ‘progressive’ cluelessness and ringing mediocrity. In a desperate times like these what is called for is responsive and pro-active leadership, something the Ijawman clearly lacks. Who will, then, liberate Nigerians from this suffocating condition in which life is no longer worth anything? Or are we doomed living dangerously in a nation that has no heart, no head and no morals?

President Goodluck Jonathan ought to abandon his diplomatic sermon of godliness and meekness and ‘transform’ himself into a Herod, a Pharaoh and a General put together in order to strike at the heart of the terror machine decimating our compatriots even in church premises. He may be naive but duty-bound to impose order! Yes, evil must not be allowed to prevail in this clime. He should consider it expedient ‘jumping’ out of the ‘transformation train’ for once and doing the right thing expected of a serious-minded deep-thinking President.

The United States and Israel are two powerful nations terrorists targeted — and still target. America, in order to vanquish the global menace of the late Osama Bin Laden’s Al Queda, went to an all-out war exporting same to places like Afghanistan and Pakistan where they operated from. Israel, on the other hand, took the war to Hizbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine on more than one occasion. And in each occasion the terrorists were given a bloody nose and forced to have a re-think before firing rockets into Israel or committing suicide missions.

The message was expressly sent boldly without compromise that the best approach to dealing with organized terrorism is not through negotiation but by military means. It takes the deployment of effective security mechanism to check terror antics, it takes strong decisions by the leadership to be able to send a dreadful message across to the perpetrators of horror: force for force, blood for blood until they are smoked out and run out of town.

The other day the National Security Adviser, Rtd Gen. Azazi, shamelessly declared that the security forces could not be everywhere at the same time to tackle the uncircumcised elements making life unbearable for our people. That the security forces are powerless and unable to protect lives and property never started today but we have been living with it as though there is no other solution. The truth is that Nigeria is too big a nation to be policed centrally from Abuja. It is not working, has never worked and will never work. Anybody saying otherwise is an enemy of the people.

The reality today simply calls for the establishment of a state police; yes, decentralize the command structure of the police force and allow states to manage the security requirements of their states. The progressives have been calling for this and all these challenges are better discussed in peace through the sovereign national conference being advocated. The Ringim-led federal police has failed the nation and something must be done to restructure it now.

An average police officer in Nigeria is easily compromised without his conscience pricking him! When money is flashed his way he can throw his weapon away in merriment. He is badly remunerated and at the mercy of sophisticated men of the underworld. He is ready, out of frustration, to pull the trigger when issues, as petty as extortion of 20 Naira from commercial bus operators or Okada-men, turn against his wish.

The ominous signs were everywhere for every one to see and unfortunately they are still there: ominous signs of generalized near-anarchy; dark signs of political uncertainty, brutal signs of economic distress and social upheaval. All these signs (fuelled mainly by corruption and unpatriotism) point to one thing to be sure: an impending national conflagration — an unorganized revolution without a figure-head if you like — whose impact and consequencies will be far too grave to be imagined. As things stand today it is almost inevitable!

General Muhammadu Buhari bears certain responsibility in the ‘uprising’ in the north. During the campaign for the presidential election of April last year he was busy telling his teeming supporters to kill anyone that tried to rig the election. The General won in ‘his’ north and Jonathan swept the south and east. If an Arewa Republic were to be in existence Buhari would have defeated any other candidate that came his way but this is a Nigerian thing and a Jonathan that wanted to try his good luck despite the ‘zoning’ controversy.

It could be true a statement that some militants in Boko Haram are responding to the Buhari defeat by taking to terrorism in solidarity with his cause. Yet the Supreme Court has yet again declared him the loser in the election, so is it not a lost case and cause? One cannot stop wondering if Boko Haram would have continued its deadly activities if a northerner were to be in Aso Rock? That is, if Gen. Buhari had won the presidential poll would Boko Haram have continued exporting and importing mayhem beyond Maiduguri? Or

would they have been pacified and abandoned their destructive path?

In other words, are they fighting President Jonathan as a Christian from the oil-flowing south using terror? While they claimed ‘Western education is sin’ most of their sponsors went to good schools abroad. While they claimed they wanted to islamise the country via Sharia law the constitution says otherwise reminding them that Nigeria remains a secular state. What, then, is the objective? To over-awe the President and make Nigeria ungovernable?

If their aim is to secede from the federation then it is welcome, so be it; the late Ikemba Nnewi would finally be vindicated even in his grave 42 odd years on. And that, in all intents and purposes, would give the 1914 Lugardian amalgamation, as unworkable as it appears, a bloody nose from the unexpected quarters. The dying idea called ‘Niger-area’ would be thus proclaimed.

It is instructive to note here that Gen. Buhari was accused in the recent past by his many detractors of being a tribal jingoist and religious bigot — something he has repeatedly denied but it remains to be seen what or who motivates the islamic assassins in the north if not those opposed to the President whom in their eyes ‘usurped’ the zoning arrangement that guaranteed them power post Yar’Adua?

For millions of Nigerians back home the new year 2012 may well be one fraught with fear and doubt for the future. No doubt, it is a season of fear and doubt as reason has since fled! Between the fear of the unknown and the doubt of survival therefore their Nigerianess ebbs and manifests despondent feelings of resignation. In God we trust becomes the guiding principle in a failed experiment at nationhood.

For me however there is no better conclusion to be drawn than to declare solemnly that on the altar of growing failure of leadership our collective innocence has been sacrificed. We are together in this! I am afraid things might get worse and I very much doubt the government’s capacity to do anything drastic to make Section 14 (2b) of the 1999 Constitution ring true: “The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.”

Note: (This article was written before President Jonathan belatedly declared a state of emergency, last weekend, in some parts of the north. While the draconian measure is some sort of relief it does not warrant, in my reckoning, any change in opinion. My position above, therefore, remains valid.)
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