It was the immediate-past Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, who somewhat captured the stark reality of our country’s situation in an audio recording where he said, “Nigeria is helpless and hopeless.” It is difficult not to agree with him on some aspects of his assessment and conclusion. There is an irony here though, because the man is part of the problem of Nigeria – a country frozen in a nightmare of insecurity, lawlessness, helplessness, and near hopelessness. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the land, as evil people unleash violence, arson, kidnapping, banditry and terrorism upon Nigeria, peaking in alternate fashion. The spectre of death and destruction now casts a long shadow on our lives and has become an ominous companion of daily living.
You see, Nigeria is tethering on the brink of collapse as the country’s leaders fiddle away. The fault lines have never been so visible. Those in positions of leadership who unfortunately came to power with an ethnic agenda are the ones stoking the fault lines with such contemptuous disregard for the consequences in a way that leaves you numb with disbelief. Some of those who were loud in condemnation of the impunity and abuse of governmental power in the past are now silent in the face of tenfold abuses, impunity, spiralling insecurity and decadence. It frightens me to no end how what was bad and unacceptable in the past is now glorified with sure vein pomposity and reckless arrogance.
As if that wasn’t enough, many who should know the frightening implications are applauding the actions of these ethnic jingoists and feudal lords with medieval mindsets; to the extent of even minimising the dangers staring us in the face. Even the ones we once held in high esteem have become lead actors in deliberate misinformation and embellishment of falsehoods and revisionism of our most recent history. Nigerians are watching helplessly and hopelessly as the country is being picked apart by desperate political scavengers, moral harlot, and their dark messengers of death.
It’s a haunting tragedy how offhandedly and callously we now tolerate and normalise heinous crimes such as kidnapping, banditry, mass murder, etc. It is frightening how reluctant the government in power is to deal with what is turning to be an existential danger to our republic. It is just incomprehensible. The acceptance of President Muhammadu Buhari’s incompetence in the management of our national affairs has brought difficult consequences and lasting danger to our societal fabric and culture.
As is always the case, the enthronement of evil doesn’t come all at once. It creeps in slowly, normalising itself bit by bit, until you don’t realise the danger until it’s too late. From colony settlements for terror herdsmen, a bizarre N100 billion handout to the same Miyetti Allah herdsmen to end the kidnappings, to a Fulani radio station, everything is moving in slow motion to achieving the ultimate conquest agenda. The security of lives and properties was a major plank of Buhari’s campaign in the 2015 elections. Midway into the president’s first term, this insensitive government went to great lengths to compare the number of killings under former President Goodluck Jonathan’s government (Jonathan was in power for about five years) with those that had occurred under it, making astonishing and puerile claims that it had brought down the figure. It gave itself a pat on the back for a job well done. Now that Buhari has done four years, this government dare not make that comparison.
The security situation across the country has become so precarious that no one is safe anymore, either in their homes, at places of work, churches, mosques, or on the road. Interstate travel in the North has become a death wish. This is not an exaggeration of the situation, as to say otherwise is to normalise the reigning evil in the land. There is a list of roads now (from the North to South) that Nigerians are scared to travel on. It never used to be this bad. But the supporters of the government are telling us that the insecurity in the land is not new, and that the ethnic agenda being gradually foisted on the country is a figment of our imagination.
Emboldened by an incompetent and corrupt security apparatus, docile citizenry, compromised and conniving pro-democracy/human rights groups that even defend the government’s impunity and human rights abuses, the perfidy of the preachers of change and their “nauseating hypocrisy” are in full flourish. It’s a major tragedy that people no long cringe at the horror of mindless human carnage taking place all over the country. Human life counts for nothing anymore. The acceptance of Buhari’s mismanagement of our country and values on every front has brought disaster on our society, and has even coloured our definition and understanding of national values. It’s just incomprehensible.
How can one even begin to understand the lackadaisical attitude of this government to the security of the country and its people; more painfully, its aloofness to the daily deaths, banditry and the utter lawlessness in the land? What of the indescribable lack of empathy and the scandalous inability to stop the drift into chaos and anarchy? How can one even begin to rationalise this strange behaviour of a government that swore to defend the security of the people? How can we accept that despite the huge budgetary vote to secure the country, our security forces are failing so badly under Buhari, an ex-army General? The security of lives of the people is the first obligation of any government, failure which that government loses whatever reason why it is in power. This government at the moment has failed in its duty of securing the country, failed to grow the economy and failed in its own anti-corruption war.
The Kaduna-Abuja expressway has become a traveller’s death wish and kidnappers’ prized treasure trove. Hundreds were kidnapped in one fell swoop in broad daylight recently on that road. Strangely, there was neither a whimper of condemnation of the incident, nor was there any explanation, show of empathy for the victims and their families, or reassurances to a frightened citizenry come from either the federal government or the Kaduna State government. Unfortunately, the nation is so saturated with bad news of killings that we were not even kept abreast of their fate as everyone has simply moved on, hardly able to digest the steady stream of unpleasant news. It is unbelievable just how normal and acceptable killings and kidnappings have become. All Buhari and his Vice President Yemi Osinbajo are interested in is to be in power for the sake of it.
Our country increasingly looks big for nothing as aptly captured by the late Col. Kaduna Nzeogu in this timeless statement so long ago: “Our enemies are the political profiteers, the swindlers, the men in high and low places that seek bribes and demand 10 percent; those that seek to keep the country divided permanently so that they can remain in office as ministers or VIPs at least, the tribalists, the nepotists, those that make the country look big for nothing before international circles.” Decades after Nzeogu uttered those immortal words, Nigeria’s torment has only grown worse, orchestrated by more vicious and corrupt actors.
The tribalists, the nepotists not only make our “country look big for nothing” before the world, the political profiteers, the swindlers, the men in high and low places that seek bribes and demand 10 percent; those that seek to keep the country divided permanently, have grown in number and are determined to make sure Nigeria does not progress. They have mismanaged our national co-existence and are setting up tribal armies to subjugate the country and its people to their feudal rule.
There is insecurity everywhere. Nigeria has become a huge killing field. Just flip through the newspapers and see the appalling carnage in the country: Bandits kill 26 in Zamfara, 25 in Katsina, 40 in Kaduna, herdsmen kill 23 in Jos, 31 in Taraba, 19 in Makurdi, 12 in Kogi, bandits kill 25 in Sokoto, suicide bomber kills scores, injures 30 In Maiduguri, etc. This is happening on a daily basis. And no concrete action is being taken by the people in power to arrest the situation, or bring the perpetrators of these heinous crimes to justice.
Indeed, here again, I beg to disagree with Professor Wole Soyinka’s view on how Boko Haram was allowed to fester for which he blamed former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Again, Soyinka’s position holds the facts of our recent history in contempt. Recall that in his BBC HARDtalk interview, he had said: “The issue of Boko Haram, if action had been taken at the beginning, and we are not talking about the time of the reign of Jonathan, when the first governor decided to make his state a theocratic state, that was when action should have been taken.
“The president of that time compromised because he was ambitious and he needed the support of that governor. And when you start operating a theocracy, a movement will get up and say you are not holy enough and they begin by killing, first of all those who don’t believe in their faith and then turn on to even the co-believers. Well, he (Buhari) certainly has made progress in that aspect…”
Really? I pinched myself several times in paranoia and rage at the deliberate misinformation. What progress was Soyinka talking of?
It appears our Nobel laureate has allowed himself to be sucked in by propaganda rather than facts. Boko Haram has neither been technically defeated, as Buhari had claimed nearly four years ago, nor degraded as subsequently and repeatedly claimed by his government. One of the deadliest massacres of Nigerian soldiers by Boko Haram occurred in November 2018 at the 157 Task Force Battalion in Metele, Borno State, wherein scores of soldiers including the commander of the battalion, Lt. Col. Ibrahim Sakaba were killed. The exact casualty figure is still a closely-guarded secret.
In the last four years under Buhari, Boko Haram has attacked and sacked 22 military posts, killing hundreds of Nigerian soldiers. The sacked military posts were in Gajiram, Mainok, Rann, Geidam, Sasawa, Magumeri, Malam Fatori, Gashigha, Kanama, Gamboru-Ngala, Mafa, Damasak,Gudumbali, Garunda, Kunduga, Kareto, Jilli, Arge, Zari, Arege, Metele and Buni Gari. It is an irony that long after its purported defeat, Boko Haram is the one on the offensive, and the military, now its primary target, is on the back foot.
It is not the hit-and-run style attack on soft targets as the former Information Minister, Lai Mohammed would want us to believe. Rather, what we have are full savaged and humiliating sacking of military formations and killings of several hundred soldiers including senior officers.
The United Nations recently revealed that Boko Haram was in firm control of three local government areas in the northeast, despite repeated denials by this government. To me, Soyinka was simply on an image-laundering mission. And he did a bad job, muddling up facts to suit the propaganda narrative of this government. Who is better to do a yeoman’s job than a Nobel laureate?
The truth is that Buhari has failed to guarantee the security of the country. He has made things worse than he met them: kidnappings, unprovoked killings, banditry, rape, arson are now so pervasive in the land, that it’s unbelievable how we got here.
Deadly danger lurks everywhere under Buhari but his supporters who live in an alternative universe continue to tell us things are better? At the rate at which his supporters are going, if Buhari pulls a gun and shoots innocent people at the Eagle Square Abuja, I can bet an arm and a leg that many of them including the human rights community will defend him for doing so in the national interest.
Now let’s take a stroll down memory lane: though the Boko Haram group may have existed since the late 1990s and was organised by the Muslim cleric Mohammed Yusuf, it was officially launched and galvanised into action in 2002 after the declaration of Sharia in Zamfara State in 2000 by then-Governor Sani Yerima. Eleven other Northern states followed suit. It is important to note that Yerima, a member of the APC, did nothing to bring policies of development to Zamfara State to alleviate the extreme poverty ravaging his people instead, he brought “political Sharia” on them. Is Zamfara better or worse off now? How many companies did it attract to the state? How many people did it lift out of poverty? How did it improve student enrollment in schools? One of the reasons Yerima gave for introducing Sharia was to reduce the crime rate in the state. But today, Zamfara has become a haven for bandits, daily breaking its own worst record in killings and medieval barbarity. Now there is a burial ground in every nook and cranny in the state.
The Sharia set the stage for nefarious groups, individuals and bigots who not only prefer feudal hegemony but despise and resent evolution in culture, religion and modern civilisation to hide behind it to advance their nefarious base and ruinous prepositions.
Buhari was one of those individuals who fuelled the Sharia movement with his radical utterances and great verve. In August 2001, Buhari at a seminar in Kaduna organised by the Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria, even called for the introduction of “total” Islamic law across the country. He had said with gusto to a charged nation: “I will continue to show openly and inside me the total commitment to the Sharia movement that is sweeping all over Nigeria. God willing, we will not stop the agitation for the total implementation of the Sharia in the country.”
In reaction to the pushback against Sharia, Buhari had queried: “Why should Christians be concerned when Muslims cut off their limbs? After all, the limbs cut off are Muslim ones.” Earlier in 2001, he had called on Muslims to vote at the 2003 presidential polls only for someone who would defend their faith. He eventually contested the election because he believed that with his track record, he had convinced the core Muslim faithful enough that he was someone that would do it.
From day one, he projected himself as the defender of the Muslim faith to get votes; a firm believer in theocratic state.
By all these utterances, Buhari helped to nurture the seeds of radical religious intolerance and division that has grown into full blown terrorism under the guise of wanting the full implementation of Islamic Sharia. In return, he amassed huge political capital in the form of support and votes from the Muslim North starting from the 2003 elections.
It is generally acknowledged that the language of his campaign in 2011 election led to the violence that claimed several lives, including the lives of 12 youth corps members after he lost the election.
In November 2012, Boko Haram nominated Buhari among six northerners to negotiate with the federal government on its behalf. Why the choice of Buhari? Of course the terrorists trusted him more than any other person to defend their interests due to his track record.
On June 4, 2013, the Jonathan government approved the proscription of Boko Haram and splinter group Ansaru as terrorist organisations. What was the reaction of many Northerners? They condemned the action of the government.
Many Nigerians won’t forget in a hurry the role played by the Borno Elders’ Forum to undermine the war against Boko Haram. Is it not instructive that since Buhari assumed power, no one has heard about them despite the worsening security situation in Borno State?
In the same June 2013 that Boko Haram was proscribed, Buhari flayed the way the Jonathan government was handling the security situation, saying unlike the special treatment being given to the Niger Delta militants by the federal government, the Boko Haram members were being killed and their houses demolished by the government. For more damaging effects, he upped the ante in his poisonous ethno-religious comments saying, “A declaration of a state of emergency would be anti-North.
Buhari did all he could to undermine the government of former President Olusegun Obasanjo with his strong support for Sharia and radical religious urgings to Muslims to only vote someone who would defend their faith. The Sharia he supported nurtured the seeds of radical Islamic groups such as Boko Haram that the nation is today grappling with. To twist the knife still further, Buhari also voiced support for Boko Haram and lamented the killing of members of the sect. He did this purposely to undermine Jonathan’s government. It is noteworthy that Buhari like members of the northern intelligentsia never condemned the terror group then for all the atrocities it committed. His utterances arguably emboldened the sect in its reign of terror.
Don’t be fooled, he only began to move away from the group when it was looking likely he would seek the presidential ticket on a broad coalition platform; he would later on become the standard-bearer of the then-newly formed All Progressives Congress (APC). He went on to campaign on the mantra of “Change” just as he assured Nigerians that he had also changed from his bad ways.
Well, in the land of my fathers, there is this saying: “The chameleon changes colour to match the earth, the earth doesn’t change colour to match the chameleon.” Buhari only pretended to have changed when his promoters packaged and rebranded him in 2015. And I should borrow this quote from Soyinka’s description of Jonathan when he endorsed Buhari in 2015: “The predator walks stealthily on padded feet, but we all know now with what lightning speed the claws flash into action. We have learnt to expect, deplore and confront certain acts in military dictatorship, but to find them manifested under supposedly democratic governance?”
Now, between Buhari and Jonathan, who is a better fit for this description? Soyinka must be gasping with embarrassment. Obasanjo’s government as well as Jonathan’s was a victim of Buhari’s harsh and destabilising ethno-religious rhetoric.
It is therefore most uncharitable of Soyinka to play to the gallery and blame Obasanjo for compromising on Boko Haram because he was ambitious and needed the support of “that governor” who wanted to turn his state into a theocratic one. Blaming the victim of Buhari’s undermining tactic, while giving him (Buhari) credit for fighting a Frankenstein’s monster he helped create but has turned on its creators flies in the face of reason. Sometimes I wonder what kind of spell was used on these people.
You see, despite the withdrawal of support for Boko Haram by the Northern intelligentsia and other groups, thereby giving Buhari a head start over Jonathan in the fight against the sect, he has failed to defeat the terrorists he once gave moral support. Nigeria is now a Savage Kingdom under him.
Buhari’s reign since 2015 has reinforced the public’s perception of him as an ethno-religious irredentist.
After being sworn in for a second term in the midst of spiralling insecurity, his first official act was a hurried departure for Saudi Arabia for a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) without delivering his inaugural speech. What does this particular behaviour tell those who pretend Buhari cares about them and the country? He doesn’t, he cares only about himself.
With a track record such as this, is it any surprise that the government under him has sat back while anarchy is loosed upon the land?
By Shaka Momodu (This Republic)