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By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, these are not the best of times for our long-suffering country. I don’t even know where to start from. I have been in this state of stupor and confusion since the bomb blast of last Monday near Abuja. The location did not matter to me because it could have been anywhere. Any serious analyst would have known by now that the brains behind such an audacious act with maximum impact wouldn’t lack the capacity to detonate their massive explosives at any location of their choice and pleasure.
We are obviously at their complete mercy and must make bold to admit our failure and confess our helplessness. There is no point pretending to be a heavyweight when you are truly a featherweight. If we cannot take the battle to their conclaves wherever it may be, we must be ready to surrender. Those saying we shouldn’t negotiate with terrorists are speaking bollocks and should urgently have a rethink before these guys obliterate us out of the world map, or deplete the population of Nigeria beyond recognition and redemption. There is nothing shameful about accepting and managing your limitations in life. It is one of the grand rules that if you are not able to move forward you must know how to retrace your steps. We won’t be the first nation to do so.
As for our apparently overstretched soldiers, let no one blame them for doing the needful by dodging bullets, premature deaths and unnecessary heroism. Ours is a peculiar nation of oddities. Strange things do happen here. Our soldiers have perfected the science of killing but not the art of dying for a thankless country. They are like our footballers who have learnt the wisdom of not breaking their legs in the field of play because when you get injured, you are on your own. And your career is over. Pronto.
And for our Police, don’t even go there. They are poorer than church rats. I’m not trying to make excuses or provide a ridiculous hiatus but just being realistic and practical. I used to abuse them for taking bribes with reckless abandon. But I have since reconsidered my stance. It is impossible to survive on the pittance they receive as salaries and the filthy environment many are conditioned to live and operate. They are not adequately protected against potential dangers and other vicissitudes of life. They are ill-equipped and lack the modern appurtenances of policing and crime prevention. Let us start with the most basic of police equipment. Not just arms and ammunition but wearing apparels and communication gadgets that cost next to nothing these days. How many times have we seen policemen wearing bathroom or rubber slippers on duty? I can’t even tell. And these men and women are meant to chase burglars not to mention armed robbers and then terrorists in such disgraceful gears. This is why they have become sitting ducks!
Give it to the Americans they are experts at packaging death. They make it look so attractive and inviting. From the Commander-in-Chief to the smallest man, everyone participates in the rites of passage. Their nation stands ramrod for the fallen heroes. Dying for America is so prestigious that you may wish to die in advance of your real terminal date. The honour it brings to your family is immeasurable. And you are readily accounted for unlike in our clime where we don’t even know how to count our casualties let alone give them decent burials. Our matter is a sorry case. We know what to do but lack the will to do it right.
There is nothing worse than dying a worthless death. Many have laid their lives down for Nigeria but are soon abandoned and forgotten. Only the families are left to bear the brunt of the suffering that naturally follows. Attempts are even made to rubbish the memory of the dead by good-for-nothing characters seeking to justify every act of chicanery. Sixteen years after Chief Moshood Abiola died for the democracy we are bastardising today, we are still debating whether he deserves any honour or not. What nation argues over such obvious martyrdom except Nigeria? The reason is not far-fetched. Ours is a politics of life and death. Those who can never contribute anything tangible in life would always try to belittle every act of valour. That is the crux of the matter.
Many of us always try to hide behind one finger and as Abiola himself would have put it, it is nothing but a futile effort. If we must situate our present predicament properly, we missed our boat on June 12, 1993, when we refused to uniformly insist on the restoration of the mandate voluntarily given to Abiola. Abiola’s feat was never an accident but a product of assiduous hard work by an unrepentant and unapologetic bridge-builder. The passion of Abiola for the unity of Nigeria was uncommon and salutary. Other would-be Abiolas have only been paying lip-service to such lofty ideals. There was no religious consideration on June 12, 1993. Ethnic jingoism was buried on that day. Political rascality was jettisoned on that occasion. No skulls were broken. Everyone voted in peace and not in pieces.
Nigeria was on the march again. There was no question about it. We believed fervently that hope was about to return to our nation. Mass poverty was going to vamoose. And prosperity was going to follow. All the fabulous excuses later offered for terminating the fantastic election and suspending its results were nothing but mere after-thoughts. There was no reason to put our unprecedented progress in reverse gear. It was a victory worth exploring. But some powerful clique thought otherwise. We shall continue to remind our people of how we got things wrong lest we forget as usual.
Nigeria died the day June 12 was killed. Like Shakespeare’s Macbeth, that was the day we murdered sleep. What’s worse is the fact that we’ve refused to accept the collective stupidity and unbridled selfishness that gave birth to such irrational decision. It is all the more painful when we see what Nigeria has become since then. It is the same egocentricity that has given fillip to our present debacle; the attempt by a few control freaks to always want to be in charge. Abiola was considered too strong and would not be malleable or manipulatable. That was his only sin. And for that nothing was too sacred to be wasted.
Nigeria has continued to throw up all manner of leaders, the good, the bad, the ugly. We are blaming the wrong people for not performing. A man cannot give what he doesn’t have. We should place the blame appropriately at the doorsteps of the godfathers and Mafia dons who have continued to hold Nigeria by the jugular. I’m no longer under any delusion or illusion that this crazy trend and evil pattern would end very soon. I believe we have crossed the Rubicon. As we move closer to 2015, the situation will in fact get far worse. Sorry if I sound irredeemably despondent and like a prophet of doom. You can’t blame me. Experience is the best teacher. We have reached that point zero and except something very extraordinarily drastic happens, our situation will not get better. For once my dose of optimism has expired and I doubt where the next supply would come from.
If you think I’m being excessively jittery, please consider the following. Our politicians are already warming up for the next electoral battle and getting their dangerous arsenal ready. Everything else is immaterial. Those blaming our President for going to Kano for the PDP unity rally, and Ibadan to felicitate with our royal father, The Olubadan, on his centenary birthday, are missing the point. The ubiquitous scammers in the corridors of power have succeeded in doing “wash-wash” for our dear President.
They have sold him the dummy that he needs to visit every part of Nigeria ahead of his declaration for a second term in office. Such advisers are never in short supply. They are always in place to mislead every leader. The budgets for such contracts are usually hefty. Otherwise, how could anyone have gone on such flights of fancy a day after such a calamitous event occurred in Abuja? Shortly after, so many young girls were abducted from their school in Borno State. Yet life continued as normal as if these were normal occurrences. Whilst the world media sought to update us with news of both gruesome events our own friends especially downplayed the events. Even our soldiers threw honour to the winds and began to concoct fiction. The whole world watched in utter disgust and amazement as we bungled the opportunity to show the humane side of us.
We also failed to rally our leaders together as one at a time we needed to stand strong and confront a national tragedy and an international embarrassment. Our politicians have been busy trading blames and fighting like kids over cookies. Our military too have been speaking from both sides of their mouths. And information has become a scarce commodity. To whom then do we turn in this season of stark raving lunacy? The solution is not going to be as simple and straight-forward. I will offer a few simple ideas in good faith.
Our President and Commander-in-Chief should, in the name of God, resist the demons of power and suspend the PDP jamborees until further notice. Everything has a season. This time calls for sobriety. I’ve said it before. The President’s body language is the thermometer with which we measure the temperature of the nation and the tachometer for measuring the speed or inertia of governance. I sincerely sympathise with our President who seems to be receiving unkind bashings from every angle. This barrage of attacks is beginning to take its tolls on him. This was palpable in Kano where the President exploded in public and resorted to the use of expletives. I wish to plead that he should resist such temptation in the future, no matter the degree of provocation. What he’s carrying on his head is heavier than the elephant and he should not worry about crickets on the ground.
The President needs to convince our beleaguered nation that he truly cares about protecting every inch of the Nigerian land mass and that he’s not a tribal warlord. We have reached the stage where we must swallow our pride and call for foreign input and help without further delay. Our first port of call should be the United Nations, where Nigeria had always contributed immensely to missions of peace-keeping abroad. We must urgently get our armed forces and UN peace-keepers to occupy the most porous parts of our borders. There is no doubt the challenges faced by our security forces, Immigration and Customs have made it difficult to keep away the invading marauders. To complement them we must deploy technology to monitor our land borders. For some reason we seem scared of employing scientific solutions to assist us in the area where we need it most. We embrace biometrics in every other sphere of our lives, even in breach of the constitutional rights of our citizens to private life. But in the case of security where the constitution allows such intrusion we shy away from the use of such technological tools that would have helped us stem some of this madness.
We must saturate the areas most affected with surveillance equipment particularly CCTV cameras. These must be monitored round the clock. We need to employ, mobilise and deploy far more security personnel than the few we are sending to war at this time. We must overwhelm the battle fronts with so many well-equipped Army, Air force, Navy, Secret Service agents, paramilitary forces. The proliferation of security forces would aim at intimidating intending troublemakers. The ease with which those guys saunter in and out suggests a superior firepower. This cannot continue unchecked.
Governments at all levels must intensify efforts at ameliorating the suffering of most citizens in Nigeria. Crime and criminality will increase when people are driven to the walls with no hope in sight. The seeming indifference of our politicians to the plight of the people must change. The people are not asking for too much. What they want are the basic necessities which Nigeria can definitely afford. Our students should enjoy quality and affordable education. Incessant closure of schools must be discouraged by fulfilling government promises and agreements to academic unions. Our chronic infrastructural decay must be speedily addressed. The daily hardship faced and the agony suffered by Nigerians has become too unbearable. They are enough to keep most people on edge. The issue of mass unemployment is the most desperate. There are just too many jobless youths floating around. We should not be surprised if some become easy prey and ready recruits for terrorists.
There are many more ways in which we must combat these heinous activities of a few bitterly disgruntled elements. They include use of state and community police forces, greater involvement of our traditional rulers, education of the citizenry, social awareness, use of cultural beliefs and above all dialogue with the approachable ones in these terrorist groups. We will continue to amplify on these measures in the near future.
I wish I could say Happy Easter but there is too much sorrow in the land.
Dele Momodu Write the Pendulum For Nigeria’s Thisday Newspapers, Email: Dele.firstname.lastname@example.org
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