By Yemi Adebowal; firstname.lastname@example.org; 07013940521
The statement issued by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s media aide, debunking reports quoting him as saying that “kidnapping in Nigeria is exaggerated and not entirely new,” did not in any way help him. Rather, it simply confirmed an earlier story by the News Agency of Nigeria that Osinbajo made a jest of the appalling security situation in Nigeria during a town hall meeting with Nigerians in the United States on Tuesday. There was evidently nothing “misleading” in the NAN report based on the clarification by the Vice President’s media office the following day.
Now, let me do a quick analysis of Osinbajo’s official statement, to buttress my point. The VP was officially quoted as saying: “I really will urge that you don’t rely entirely for information on social media. I think that the social media tends to be hysterical about practically everything.” Here, Osinbajo was evidently saying that kidnappings are exaggerated without necessarily using the word, “exaggerated.”
Osinbajo went further in the official statement: “I think there is also a lot of politics involved in some of the information as it comes up. I think it is also important to point out that this new wave of issues of security came immediately after the elections… But let me dimension it so that you can really understand it better. When people say there is security problem here and there, it is not one thing, it is several different things but if it is described as one thing, then it will look bigger than it really is… With respect to general kidnapping, which we have seen in certain parts of the country, again this is not entirely new. When you listen to some of the stories, some of them are simply not true anyway. Some are fueled by politics, but there are cases of kidnapping, there is no question at all about that….and every story we try to track and trace. When you track them, you find out that people just tell some stories, but the truth anyway is that there is kidnapping in places where it has taken place.
“I am not so sure how many follow the number of arrests that have been made in different state police commands, several have been made. I don’t think the problem is as massive as that, I think we can deal with the question of kidnapping quite easily. I am sure that not so long a time, the news will be a lot better in terms of kidnapping and we will feel more comfortable about life at home.”
The instructive part is the portion where Osinbajo said, “with respect to general kidnapping, which we have seen in certain parts of the country, again this is not entirely new. When you listen to some of the stories, some of them are simply not true anyway.” He also said, officially, “I don’t think the problem is as massive as that.”
The VP need not use that exact word, “exaggerated” for us to understand where he was headed. He clearly said some of the abduction stories were not true. So, what the VP said in summary remains that kidnappings in Nigeria are exaggerated, not massive and not entirely new.
Honestly, Osinbajo misfired in New York. It lends credence to the story that those running this country do not connect with the people they govern. This is why they trivialise this very sad stage in the history of this country. The abductions in the last four years of the Buhari government are manifestly unprecedented. My dear Osinbajo, the situation is extremely bad. Is our VP unaware that a National Youth Service Corps member, Abraham Amuta, who was abducted by Boko Haram in April, is still in captivity as thousands of others in his batch passed out last Thursday? Amuta, who was a Batch B (Stream I) of the 2018 NYSC set, was abducted with three other members of the Living Faith Church (Winners Chapel) by Boko Haram on their way to Chibok to distribute relief items to internally displaced persons and to evangelise.
Another NYSC member, Value Akhigbe, who served in Plateau State, had been missing since December 11, 2018, two days before he was to participate in his passing out. The House of Representatives Committee on Youth Development, in May, called on the NYSC management and the police to investigate the circumstances surrounding Akhigbe’s disappearance. No result till now. The parents are distraught.
The Akure-Ado Ekiti Expressway has suddenly become notorious for kidnapping. Just on Wednesday, the Ondo State Police Command confirmed that one person was again abducted on this axis at Ita Ogbolu town, headquarters of the Akure North Local Government Area. The police identified the victim as Akinde Felix, and said he was heading to Akure from Ado Ekiti.
We won’t forget in a hurry the abduction of Saifura Khorsa and Hauwa Mohammed Liman, both Red Cross workers by Boko Haram in the IDP camp in Rann, Borno State. They were subsequently murdered, despite numerous appeals for their freedom. What about the district head of Daura, in Katsina State, Musa Umar-Uba, who was abducted at his residence in Daura, 60 days ago? What about the three Lebanese abducted in Rivers State on June 8, who only regained their freedom on Wednesday? The expatriates of Raffoul Nigeria Limited were kidnapped by gunmen at construction site of the Andoni-Opobo-Unity Road.
The leaders we entrusted this country to care less about the raging abductions in Nigeria because their family members are hardly abducted. This is why Osinbajo will get up and say that the problem “is not as massive as that.” This carelessness is often taken to embarrassing levels. While the followers are grieving over the abduction of their loved ones, the leaders will be partying. What a country! Many will never forget a post-abduction charade in Kano, March last year, which featured President Muhammadu Buhari, 22 state governors and key leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress. While parents of the 110 girls abducted at Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, by Boko Haram on February 19, were grieving, our leaders converged and partied in Kano at the wedding of Governor Abdullahi Ganduje’s daughter to the son of the then Governor Abiola Ajimobi.
In decent societies, Buhari and his governors would have trooped to the homes of the grieving Dapchi parents. They cared less because the Dapchi schoolgirls are from poor homes. I am very sure that this wedding would have been a modest one if the daughter of one of the governors was among the abducted girls. In fact, the school would not have been callously unprotected in the first place, if one of their kids was a student of this college.
The fact that the Kano wedding took place amid fanfare, just two days after Boko Haram killed four UN aid workers in Rann, makes this scenario even more depressing. A yet to be verified number of soldiers and policemen were also killed in the Rann fiasco. Also, during the days preceding the wedding, 20 people were killed in Gwamba, Demsa Local Government Area of Adamawa State.
These so-called leaders elected to be part of an awkward show of opulence in Kano, financed with public funds, instead of empathising with bereaved Nigerians. I could not comprehend what Buhari and the 22 state governors were doing at the Kano wedding, while 110 Dapchi schoolgirls were still in captivity. Do they really care that over 100 Chibok schoolgirls are still in captivity? Do they really care that Leah Sharibu is still with her kidnappers? Do they really care if daily, Boko Haram, bandits and herdsmen slaughter scores of innocent Nigerians? Daily, we are assaulted by gory tales of abductions from virtually every state in Nigeria, yet Osinbajo says he does not think the problem is massive.
I guess I need to remind our Vice President that the acting Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, recently released grisly statistics of abductions in the country. Adamu said the crime statistics showed that between January and April, at least 685 persons were kidnapped across the country. The IGP revealed that 546 or 79.8 per cent of the total national abductions were recorded in the three northern geopolitical zones. He said the highest zonal prevalence rate occurred in the North-West where 365 persons were kidnapped within the period under review. This is followed by the North-Central geopolitical zone where 145 persons were kidnapped.
“It is pertinent to mention that Zamfara State has the highest national kidnap rate with 281 victims in what has been directly linked to the activities of bandits in the state. This is followed by Kogi and Niger states where 65 and 51 persons, respectively were kidnapped within the period,” the IG added.
So, what was Osinbajo thinking by backfiring that the problem is not as bad as painted in the social media? The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBL) was right when it accused the vice president of being insensitive to the plights of suffering Nigerian masses.
“We have not seen such inconsiderate, uncaring and totally sadistic comments from any man trusted with position of responsibility anywhere in the world in recent time. It is as if he is unaware that we are in a digital world. America and Britain have issued travel directives to their citizens not to travel to more than two-third of Nigeria. The Vice President, without much thought for his integrity, stated that some of the kidnapping stories are simply not true anywhere, some are fuelled by politics,” the SMBL said in a statement by its spokesman and National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin.
I sincerely hope that the vice president will learn to connect with the people. This is what it means to run a people-oriented government.
A Word for Ahmed Lawan
The President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, has already started his tenure on a malicious note, with his ingenuous statement that he earns N750,000 monthly. My dear Lawan, you were too clever by half. You know quite well that nobody is troubled about the monthly salaries of federal lawmakers. Nigerians are worried about the N13.5 million received by each senator monthly as running cost, amid so much poverty in the country. They are worried that the presiding officers even receive more. As President of the Senate, I learnt that you will receive N50 million monthly as running cost. Traumatised Nigerians are worried about the N9.5 million received by each House member monthly as running cost.
This is the tension I expect you to douse as the President of the National Assembly.
You have promised a change in the manner the National Assembly is being managed, please, start by cutting this maddening running cost. Yes, you guys will have to run your offices and go for supervisory functions but it should no longer be with this infuriating figure. This can’t continue in a country where many go to bed without meals and wake up not sure of breakfast. It must not continue in a country where millions of graduates are roaming the streets without jobs.
The remarks of the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Itse Sagay, on this issue is suitable. “Lawan knows that nobody will take him seriously. I respect and like him but what he has done is to give half-truth. He is telling us the actual salary without mentioning anything about the allowances,” said Sagay.
Lawan, you have to do the needful to reduce the embarrassment. Public office should be service to humanity; not an opportunity to make megabucks. For me, no federal lawmaker should get more than N2 million monthly as running cost. This is the only way forward for a “change” leadership in the National Assembly.