By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, this must be a most trying and harrowing period for most patriotic citizens of our dear country. Nigeria is under siege no doubt. The word “siege” was appropriately used to describe the horrendous situation by no less a personage than the embattled Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur. Nothing could be truer. His ruling party is the root cause of the pestilence that has taken over the soul of Nigeria. When a political party jettisons its primary and traditional role of formulating good policies and producing competent, selfless and visionary leadership, everything must fall apart. Thus it is no surprise to normal and reasonable Nigerians that we’ve found ourselves in a cul de sac.
I sincerely sympathise with our President and Commander-in-Chief, Dr Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan, on whose shoulders the entire burden rests. What he’s carrying on his head must be heavier than an elephant. His critics will see him as incompetent while his supporters will see his enemies as working hard to make the country ungovernable. But we are tempted to ask why it is so difficult for him to win this battle of wits and war of attrition. Did he not envisage and prepare for the deep division amongst Nigerians after so many years of each ethnic group fighting for its own share of the proverbial National Cake?
I really don’t know how he hopes to wriggle himself out of this extraordinary mess. Somehow President Jonathan has become everyone’s cannon-fodder. The cacophony of ideas and proliferation of advices being pumped into him appear to have left him mystified and confounded.
How to treat the Boko Haram menace is the latest of his headaches. And this is the big one because the very soul of our nation is at stake. The conundrum for the President is that he now calls them ghostsbut he is the same gentleman who seems to have studiously forgotten that he once told us he knew some of the brains behind the daredevil sect and that some of them were even his own staff. They are yet to be identified and exposed! The security agencies had also regaled us with tales of how they arrested the arrowheads of this terrorist groups yet the carnage has continued unabated. The pitiable President has been forced to eat his words endlessly.
One day, he talks tough against terrorism and terrorists and sounds very confident in his conviction that they should not be treated with kids’ gloves. In a rare display of audacity and courage, he dares the Supreme Leader of Nigerian Muslims, His Eminence, The Sultan of Sokoto, by waving off the suggestion of granting amnesty to Boko Haram members as nonsensical and a non-event.
The next day we are hearing that our President has now been persuaded that the only way forward is to pamper and massage the ego of the terrorists for peace to reign.Where do we go from here? Trust me, if we must be fair to him, this cannot be an easy choice. Nigerians are too divided over this issue that the President has found himself at crossroads leading to nowhere.
For once, I seem to be on the same page with him and he enjoys my sympathy. The dizzying pace of unfolding events in Nigeria has left me totally confused on his behalf. Our President has been boxed into a tight corner. If he tries to come out of that suffocating corner, he may be pummelled into a state of stupor in the open ring. Head or tail, escape is looking impossible. He must take either of the two poisons and hope one or the other is less lethal or at worst provides a peaceful suicide.
The ruling party he leads has also not made matters easy at all. All his garrison commanders love and know how to do is to tear at each other’s throat and worry less about how to activate national integration and development. They fight over the spoils of their offices, competing for political appointments the way kindergarten kids agitate and fret over lollypops. It does not matter how old they are, no position is too big or small. The essential thing for them is to remain in government and power till death comes knocking. That is the biggest shame of our nation when geriatrics take over anything and everything and forget in the process that they ever gave birth to some children. In saner climes, these pensioners would stand back and every now and then allow the young ones to utilise their moments of honour and glory because of the belief that a successful man without a well-groomed successor is a useless being.
Everywhere I go, the questions being hurled at me are the same repetitive clichés: can Nigeria ever change?Who will change Nigeria?Will 2015 elections ever count?Are Nigerians ready for change?Do we have honest leaders in Nigeria? Is it possible for the opposition forces of APC to uproot PDP out of power?Is there any difference between APC and PDP? Should amnesty be granted to members of Boko Haram and other terrorist organisations? And so on and so on.
The truth is we all know the answers to some of these agonising questions and we seem to recognise the solutions to our intractable problems but not one of us is willing and ready to risk his comfort zone or downgrade his personal lifestyle. It is as if we are awaiting the coming of some Angels from heaven who would perform the miracle of extinguishing our humongous problems. As for me and my house I’m not so sure there are easy solutions again. I used to be one of the greatest optimists in Nigeria. I was as theoretical as they come. But seeing is believing.
I’ve since acquired enough facts and figures to educate and convince me that we’ve arrived at the brink of monumental disaster without giving a damn or even blinking an eye. What is baffling is the fact that Nigeria has waltzed its way into the bad books as one of the most dangerous countries on earth yet everything goes on as normal and it is business as usual. We’ve developed such thick skins that nothing moves us as long as the catastrophe has not touched us directly. Nothing could be much worse than a whole nation and its entire citizenry going schizophrenic. We do not seem to know the magnitude and enormity of the danger at stake. In our careless tradition, we ignore leprosy and start to treat not even ringworm but acne and eczema. The world is watching us with utter disgust while we continue to live in absolute denial. Lucifer has abdicated his evil throne in hell to naturalise and take permanent residency in our nation. We must tell ourselves nothing but the gospel truth. I have never seen the level of callous indifference that has descended upon us.
I hear such reckless and irresponsible statements like: let the Northerners kill themselves if they like and I ask, when did we become so cold-blooded that we care less if innocent people die in the hands of terrorists as long as they are Northerners?Such parochial sentiments have no place in a country which seeks to be a continental leader in the 21st century. It is a primordial sentiment only valid for the Dark Ages. In the senseless annihilation of this terrible moment, Muslims, Christians and animists are all targets. The old and the young are being killed. The Lords and Royals as well as commoners are all at par in this home-grown revolt that does not discriminate. So, please tell me why anyone should rejoice at the calamitous violence ravaging the North! Any sensible person would know that it is only a matter of time before this malaise spreads to the South. Better then to do everything to be our brother’s keeper and jointly seek solutions that will nip this scourge in the bud, although, it may be said, that it is no longer in the bud but has blossomed into something frighteningly ferocious.
I hear such incoherent talk like: Boko Haram should not make the mistake of moving down South, and I wonder what the South can do in case, God forbid, a deadly attack by terrorists is let loose on Southern Nigeria, as will surely happen if we do nothing soon! Who will spearhead the fight against a group of ghosts, a la Mr President? Who will boldly confront suicidal persons who are obviously willing and ready to die for their beliefs, whatever it is?
Is it the new billionaire militants who have supposedly paid and earned their dues in the creeks that would now be prepared to enter the trenches again? Does the South possess enough ammunition to fight a group that has shown sufficient capacity to hit highly-fortified institutions like the United Nations’ edifice in Abuja and several fortified police and military establishments in the capital and elsewhere? Do we have any group of the calibre of this shadowy group who have deployed weapons of mass destruction with incredible ease and speed? If the South can meet force with force in case of an explosive conflagration, why then did Nigeria commit so much money to the current South-South amnesty programme and apparently paid for a stockpile of the weakest weapons in their armoury? If the Odua People’s Congress is being empowered to police the pipelines as being rumoured, are we not laying a grand foundation for the Somalisation of Nigeria? Already, our territorial waters are being policed by militants. Very soon, we may have to galvanise the Egbesu boys, as a matter of their own right to police our motorways and genuinely protect the hapless citizens against marauders, ritualists and kidnappers. As they say, what is good for the goose must be sauce for the gander!
My observation and submission in all these is very simple and straight-forward. No miracle is going to happen soon. What the President needs to do is now beyond his scope and power. It is not too bad that he sees this challenge as a power game. If true that this plague is political, he should know that the politicians who may be fuelling this rebellion will not relent as we move closer to 2015. If it is religious, it is even more dangerous because a fanatic can never be persuaded to dump the God he worships. In that case, the President would have to reach out to the religious leaders who may be able to appease them.
If the terrorists are after money that is the simplest of things because we already have a template at the Ministry of Niger Delta. All he has to do is upgrade the Ministry to a full-blown Ministry of General Amnesty and Insurgency and allocate sufficient funding to it. But there is no guaranty that peace will reign even if all these appeasement methods are put in place as more warlords see the common-sense in waging war against a very weak country and leadership. But it is a risk the President must take. It is too late to seek or think through other options.
Perhaps, it is the opportunity Nigerians have been waiting for to terminate the PDP behemoth. In this season of superlative commotion, Nigerians are getting gradually united in suffering. The National Association of Sufferers is bound to hold its annual general meeting at some point sooner or later. That is when the enemy of your enemy becomes your friend.
What is my simple conclusion? It would no longer matter whether the APC represents our long awaited Messiahs. The people out of acute frustration may wish to try any alternative that presents itself even if they would regret it later. The PDP may decide to scoff at this possibility as is their practice. But the ways of God are not the ways of man. When the time is up for the reluctant market crowd to disperse, it is always very easy. All it takes is a heavy downpour.
What has befallen us is worse than a Tsunami.If this is not the end time, I wonder what it is.
Perhaps it is time for these over-recycled politicians to go home. They are tired and deserve to retire.