MAKING COMMON SENSE
BY BEN MURRAY BRUCE
I remember very vividly that when I was a child, if people died, their surviving friends and family killed a cow to feed mourners at the funeral and wake keeping. Now to show you how things have changed in today’s Nigeria, when a cow dies, we now have a group of marauders who kill human beings to pacify their grief at losing a cow.
Desperate times are before Nigeria. Never did it cross my imagination that I would have to live at a time and in a country whereby the legitimate government elected by Nigerians would threaten citizens that it was either they gave up their ancestral lands or they died. When I was a child that was called conquest. Today we are calling it government policy.
Can we go on with a situation where seven policemen were shot dead by robbers right in the Federal Capital Territory where we have the seat of government and their deaths were so uneventful, so usual, so commonplace, so expected that there was no word of condolence from the Commander in Chief?
If not that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar had spoken up for them, I would not even have known that their deaths had occurred!
The Nigerian Army Officers Wives Association (NAOWA), recently cried out to the public over the increase in the number of widows in army barracks nationwide.
Their spokesman, Mrs. Fatima Hassan said:
“Last year, we had fewer widows that benefited from this programme compared to the higher number we have this year.
We are not happy with the increase in the number of widows in the barracks.”
And in the midst of death all around us we have only a shambolic response where a coordinated one is needed. Policemen are dying, soldiers are dying, and civilians are dying in even larger numbers.
When did death become so cheap in Nigeria that the only answer from the government to a systematic slaughter of Nigerians is to release what they called a list of killings occurring in the sixteen years that the opposition Peoples Democratic Party was in power in Nigeria, and say that their own deaths are not yet commensurate to the deaths of that sixteen year period?
Again, I read a book by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, also known as Lewis Carroll and titled Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (sometimes erroneously referred to as Alice in Wonderland). I catch myself wondering if like the main character in that book, I have found my way to Wonderland?
What is happening in Nigeria? How can a nation with a police and armed forces population close to half a million be overran by a group of herdsmen with an expansionist and 18th century jihadist agenda?
And how can we as leaders say “there is nothing I can do to help the situation except to pray to God to help us out”.
With all due respect, we did not pray about the issue with Shiites. We did not fast over the challenge with the Indigenous People of Biafra. We did not call a vigil when confronted with militants. Why is it that when the challenge is herdsmen we are suddenly in paralysis and can only resort to prayer?
Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, came up with a brilliant remedy to the issue of herdsmen of which he said the solution is for government and the private sector to invest in animal feeds industries, like he has done in Adamawa with Rico Gardo, his animal feeds company.
Why isn’t this administration pursuing such commonsensical approach to saving Nigerian lives instead of saying ‘Giving land for ranching better than death’.
As Chinua Achebe said in his book ‘The Trouble with Nigeria’, “the trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership.”
It took the Lagos state Emergency Management Agency only ten minutes to get to the scene of the Otedola Bridge tanker explosion. It took Governor Ambode mere hours to get to the scene for an on the spot assessment. Can we compare this to the shoddy manner we at the federal level responded to the killings in Plateau, Benue or Taraba?
The point I am making my fellow country men and women is that the time has come for us to put sentiments aside and acquire the type of Nigeria first leadership that can put strong emphasis on the safety and prosperity of Nigerian lives, or as General TY Danjuma said, we will all die one by one.
I give as an example Thailand. Thailand is a Third World nation like Nigeria, but look at how they are demonstrating to the world that human life matters in Thailand.13 youths are trapped in a cave. Their President did not fall for prayer or fasting. Instead he called in Thailand’s elite military forces. He called in helicopters. He called in millions of dollars. All these for 13 youths.
What Thailand has spent on rescuing those 13 boys, Nigeria has not spent on rescuing those in Benue, Taraba and Plateau state who are seemingly at the mercy of herdsmen.
And yet we boast that Nigerians in the diaspora want to come back because of the many opportunities we are creating? Except those opportunities are in the funeral business, I do not see any diaspora wanting to come back to face ‘giving land for herding is better than death’!
11 million jobs have been lost in the last three years. Rather than rhetorics about diaspora Nigerians coming home, Nigeria should focus on how to bring our recurrent expenditure down.
We are spending 1.4 trillion per annum on fuel subsidy. This is 5 times what we spend on education. There is no way Nigeria can end poverty, improve health and reduce unemployment if we do not educate our people. Rather than spending 1.4 trillion on fuel subsidy, let us spend it on education subsidy because the fuel you put in your car today is gone tomorrow but the education you put in your brain today is there forever.
Education is the only long term weapon we can use to fight insecurity and believe me my fellow Nigerians, when I tell you that that the state of our country is highly insecure.
Nigeria is now the world head quarters of extremely poor people since we overtook India a month ago. We have more out of school children than the combined population of Benin Republic and São Tomé and Príncipe.
The sanctity and value of human life has never been this low. Our economy is tottering, and we are faced with a famine because our farmers can’t go to their farms for fear for their lives.
The duty of any government, in any country is first and foremost the security of its people. Has is administration fulfilling its primary purpose? You be the judge!
What can we do about it? I will tell you what we in the National Assembly are doing. We have come up with an initiative to introduce state police into our constitution. Thankfully, strong voices like Atiku Abubakar and the incumbent Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, have lent their voices to this initiative.
What you can do is call on your own Senator or the Member of the House of Representatives representing you and pressure him to support the initiative.
I also endorse the call by Atiku Abubakar that the 150,000 officers and men of the Nigerian Police Force currently guarding Nigerian big men and VIPs should be recalled and redirected to core police duties of protecting lives and property of everyday Nigerians.
My name is Ben Murray-Bruce and I just want to make common sense!
- Being State of the Union address by Senator Ben Murray-Bruce