POLSCOPE BY Eddy Odivwri
“If we get the opportunity, we will make the Nigerian military capable again because if we could go through ECOMOG forces to stabilize troubled zones and go to Darfur and to other places of the world to perform, why can’t we perform at home when our national sovereignty is being threatened”….. Buhari in December 2014
In the run up to the primaries of the All Progressives Congress in 2014, THISDAY Newspaper published what it called PRESIDENTIAL SERIES, featuring the lead aspirants at the time. The first in the series featured then aspirant Mohammadu Buhari . The quote above was one of his declarations amongst others.
This column shall undertake an exegesis of that interview next week, for us to, not only see how far we have wandered away from set goals, but also to underpin the point that among politicians, talk is indeed cheap
Perhaps more than ever before, this week had been the bloodiest in the nearly six years of President Buhari’s rule under a democracy. Everyday, listening to news has become a trying time for most people as your heart is bound to drop at the avalanche of gory and bad news that will hit you. The torrent of bad news wafting in from the north, south, west and east, one cannot help asking, if indeed, the much talked-about Jihad has come. Faithfully, the next news item you hear, helps to suck off the smidgen of hope that is ever left in you.
Without necessarily being in a clear war situation, Nigeria had appeared like a large killing field, and the god of peace appears insatiable and unappeasable with the barrels of blood being shed in the land every day. And we are all worried, to say the least.
The national lawmakers merely stopped short of passing a vote of no confidence on Mr President for his cluelessness in handling the menace the bandits and Boko Haram terrorists have long become. While the House of Representatives resolved that a State of emergency be declared on the nation’s security issue, the Senate resolved to summon the NSA, service i chiefs (hoping the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, will not rake up some clauses that forbid service chiefs from appearing before lawmakers). The emotions expended by Senator Smart Adeyemi (kogi West), last Tuesday, in driving home the frustrations and near hopelessness of Nigerians is aptly depictive of the way Nigerians feel about the insecurity issue.
The harvest of killings and abductions in the last one month will suggest that the country has lost control of its security. Perhaps the sadder end to all these is that all those who should be speaking to reassure us of safety are numb and wringing their hands in utter helplessness. Just when I had compiled the list of all the killings before starting this article, the killing of seven persons in an IDP, in Benue State by suspected Fulani herdsmen, once again, altered the casualty figures. Gov Ortom lamented that in two weeks over 70 persons have been killed in his state. It is bad enough that people have been sent packing from their ancestral homesteads and forced to settle in Internally Displaced Persons’ camps, yet it is doubly evil that their attackers still trail them to the ID camps to kill them there. How bestial can these killers be!
Weeks ago, Mr President had given a shoot-on-sight order to those illegally bearing firearms. But the Minister of Defence, Maj Gen Bashir Salihi Magashi (One of the problems of this administration)—citing 37 years as a lawyer– countered the President when he said people caught with arms should be arrested and prosecuted, not shot as directed by Mr President. This same Magashi had faulted the law banning open grazing in Benue, arguing that the Fulanis have always had a traditional grazing route stretching from the Sahel to the Savannah.
And so till today, none of the platoons of illegal arm bearers has been shot. And they keep multiplying.
The level and spate of insecurity is simply overwhelming. Perhaps, not even during the Nigerian civil war did we record as many incidents of killings as this.
Professor Wole Soyinka rightly declared that “we are at war”, just as the Niger State governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello lamented that “we are in trouble”. In the same way, even the APC National leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, acknowledged that the nation’s security forces are struggling with the Boko Haram terrorists. There is danger in every nook and cranny. And it smells like the advent of a Jihad, as we seem to have an emperor Nero picking his teeth, as Rome burns.
Long before the debate of amnesty for bandits opened, the spate of killings and unrest in Kaduna State were essentially in Southern Kaduna where there have been historical issues of distrust and tension between the Katafs and the Fulanis. Yes, the attacks on communities, killings and destructions were frequent. But all that doubled and worsened when the state governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai swore that he will never negotiate with bandits who have been abducting people and lately students in the North-west. That avowal seems to have drawn the kidnappers into Kaduna, perhaps to cause the governor to bend. Public and private tertiary institutions have been broken into and students abducted at will.
While a few students of the School of Forestry have been released, five students of the Green Field University have been killed and dumped in nearby bushes.
I cannot imagine the agony of concerned parents, nay we are all casualties! My heart bleeds. The abductors demanded ransom of N800 million. Yes, N800million! And to prove that they are dead serious, they have started killing the students. What is this life! Late Chinua Achebe must have been prophetically right to have titled his last work, There was a Country…..
How can it be reconciled that innocent children who were sent to go acquire knowledge, for no fault of theirs, end up being killed by mindless marauders? And we all wring our hands in utter helplessness
In the last one month, there have been six abduction of students from their hostels , three of which are from Kaduna State.
In the same Kaduna State, bandits broke into a Baptist church, killed the pastor and abducted some worshippers. Weeks earlier, some members of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) who went on evangelism were abducted on the highway. They were released after about three weeks in captivity.
In no mean measure, Kaduna has become the killing capital of the North.
The Benue Pogrom Continues…
Long before many states started feeling the heat from the Fulani herdsmen, Benue had been a long standing victim. The state governors, right from the time of Gabriel Suswan down to Samuel Ortom, have shouted themselves hoarse, but all to no avail. Fulani herdsmen had taken very vicious hit on Benue people. From Agatu to Makurdi, the spate of killings and destructions is inexplicable. And nobody seems to be willing to do anything. Even the governor narrowly escaped being killed recently when bandits chased him from his farm. The attacks on Benue communities have been fierce apparently because of the state’s laws that banned opened grazing in the state. The herders have thus been visiting the communities with fire and brimstone. Homes are being burnt, people are being killed, almost on a daily basis. I do not understand how a Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces is able to eat and sleep in the face of so much unrest across the land.
Just last Sunday, again, the so-called bandits found their way into the Benue State University of Agriculture campus and abducted three students from where they were reading.
Is it any surprise that the cost of food items has literally hit the roof? If the Food Basket of the nation (Benue) as well as many northern states are under siege and turmoil and farmers are held down in IDP camps and not their farms, why won’t food items be scarce and expensive?
Niger on its Knees
It got to a height that the governor of Niger State, Gov Sani Bello had to raise the alarm that Boko Haram terrorists have taken over some communities in his state and gone ahead to not only cease the wives of the people and converted them to their own wives, but have also hoisted their (Boko Haram) flags in such communities, after distributing pamphlets and some literature espousing the ideologies of the terrorists. Niger is less than 200 kilometers from Abuja, the seat of Government. On the other flank is Nasarawa State which has been severally harassed by terrorists. What it all means is that even Abuja is not exactly safe. Indeed, pockets of abductions, killings and attacks have been recorded in Abuja and its satellite towns. It is instructive that Gov Bello has long repented of his advocacy for amnesty for repentant bandits.
Geidam’s Girdle Groans
Geidam, in Yobe State, is the home town of the acting Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba. Perhaps to test the vulnerability of the nation’s security system, the Boko Haram terrorists literally seized Geidam, causing many residents to flee the town, just as the Nigerian soldiers battled the terrorists for days to regain control of the town. The statement the Boko Haram terrorist seeks to make is that if the hometown of the acting IGP can fall, then everywhere else is similarly vulnerable.
Before Geidam, Damasak, in Borno State had also fallen to the terrorists, after the community was razed, some eight persons killed and injured a dozen. The residents fled the town and the Boko Haram flag was hoisted there for some days, before the military recovered the community. Early this week, over 30 soldiers were killed at Mainok, by the terrorists when they laid ambush against the Nigerian soldiers who were escorting some arms to Maiduguri. They overwhelmed the soldiers during a prolonged shoot out and eventually seized some of the weapons the soldiers were escorting to Maiduguri.
As if all that was not bad enough, last Monday there was a friendly fire that killed an officer and six other soldiers when an Airforce plane mistakenly (?) bombed Nigerian soldiers taking them for Boko Haram members.
From all prisms, it’s been an awful week for Nigeria. A national newspaper aptly described it as Black Monday at the beginning of the week.
In the South, the story has not been less terrible.
South East Umbrage Raged on
Following the attacks on Imo Police Command, Correctional facilities wherein over 1,884 inmates were set free from custody, the scale of disquiet and raw crime has simply increased in the South east region.
Police commands, and stations have been attacked in Anambra, Imo, Ebonyi and huge threat of same in Abia States. These attacks come with killings of uniformed personnel. Last Tuesday, armed men attacked a High Court in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, setting ablaze sections of the court building. The attack did not end until some two policemen were killed at a checkpoint. Before that attack, the country home of the Imo State governor, Hope Uzodinma, at Omuma, was attacked with petrol bomb, again burning parts of the building and killing two security personnel guarding the compound.
In the South East region, there has been a running battle between the IPOB separatist group and government establishments. While the IPOB sees every organ of government as a traitor that must be brought down, the state governments also see IPOB as agents of destabilization and a disgruntled group.
The plan by south east governors to establish their own regional security outfit, Ebube Agu, has not offered any reprieve to the spate of insecurity and destructions in the region.
In the neighbouring Rivers State, it’s been hell to the armed personnel as uniformed men have been killed too often in various parts of the Port Harcourt city. Suddenly, the police, Civil Defence, Soldiers etc., have become soft targets and endangered species, prompting the state governor, Nyesom Wike to declare curfew in the entry points of Rivers State. Only the Government Houses across the country have remained unassailable. But how many people live in Government Houses?
In one week, over a hundred persons have been killed with scores.
The vibes and body language of the President and many of his allies suggest that falsehood has been institutionalized and now truth is appearing like rebellion.
So, What Next
Last Tuesday, President Buhari appealed for support from the United States of America. An appeal coming too late in the day. But why is there this silence on the $1 billion released for arms and ammunition? Did the former service chiefs not order them? Why is it taking eternity for the arms to arrive, even when it is true they are hardly bought off the shelves? Too often, our soldiers are overwhelmed because of the superior fire power of the assailants. And pray, where are the terrorists getting their own arms and ammunition plus all the sophisticated weaponry including special purpose gun trucks, whereas Nigeria is nibbling at it? How? Enough of the silly excuses!
Would the volume of deaths we have harvested in recent weeks enough to get President Buhari cracking? We wait!