When the military authorities announced recently that they had killed the top Boko Haram commander who usually poses in its propaganda videos as Abubakar Shekau, (the sect’s leader that had been reportedly killed last year), not a few Nigerians were skeptical. That is essentially because the same military authorities had several times in the past sent out information that turned out to be embarrassingly unfounded. But when the photographs of the dead body of the man who was killed were released, I was one hundred percent convinced they got “Shekau”. And I am sure many people also were.
Even though I did not imagine that the death of “Shekau” would mark the end of Boko Haram, I nonetheless felt that it would be a turning point in the battle against the insurgents; afterall, when you strike the shepherd the sheep would scatter. Unfortunately, I am no longer sure of what to believe and there must be several Nigerians who are as confused as I am after watching the latest clip released by the same Boko Haram guy who has been churning out such videos in the past. As ridiculous as it may sound, I am also now one hundred percent certain the man in the video is the same “Shekau” reportedly killed by the military.
Whatever the explanation for the mutation of “Shekau”, what is now very clear is that the forces behind the Boko Haram insurgency are much more sinister than we give them credit for and if we don’t wise up to the reality that our country is in danger, then we are doomed. Two issues indeed confirm the fact that we have not come to terms with the menace posed by the Boko Haram insurgency to our national well-being. One, rather than mobilize available resources within our country to fight the war, we are seeking some foreign loans. I do not think that is a sign of seriousness.
I am almost certain that whatever it would take to conduct the coming elections which would make little or no difference in the lives of our people, we will find the ways and means to raise the money just as we will not default in paying the jumbo remunerations of our public officials. But to fight an internal war in the bid to make our country secure, we have now resorted to seeking foreign loans. Against the background that we did not borrow a dime from abroad to prosecute a three-year civil war at a time we did not even have as much oil money as we have at the moment, such decision tells a compelling story about the state of affairs in our country today and the disposition of those in authorities to the Boko Haram insurgency.
The second thing that depicts our lack of seriousness is the rate at which the South African authorities are seizing scandalous amounts of cash from our government, almost as if we want to buy arms to prosecute the war from Shoprite! For the second time within three weeks, the Asset Forfeiture Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in South Africa last weekend seized another $5.7?million that was said to be for an arms deal. If, as we have been repeatedly told, the Nigerian army is ill-equipped to take on the Boko Haram insurgents, then the kind of arms and ammunitions we expect are not the ones to be bought in the manner in which these transactions are being handled and definitely not for such paltry sums.
Incidentally, following the initial seizure of $9.3 million cash, the South African authorities had stated that while Nigerian government had provided “various explanations about the money”, those explanations “were flawed and riddled with discrepancies.” Not only was this a serious indictment of our government, it is even more unfortunate that barely two weeks later, we would be caught in the same mess and in the same country. Even if we choose to ignore the damaging implications (for the image of our country) of such patently untidy financial transactions, a pertinent question still remains: How do we prosecute a serious battle for the soul of Nigeria in such a cavalier manner and expect to win?
Yet if there is any Nigerian that is still in doubt about the gravity of the situation confronting our country, last week’s death of Alhaji Ali Gilari, father of the former presidential adviser, Ahmed Gulak, should drive the point home. The old man had been ill but could not access medical attention as hospitals have remained closed since the invasion of Gulak, headquarters of Madagali LGA of Adamawa State, by the insurgents. But the tragic story of the late Pa Gilari could hit the headlines simply because of his prominent son. We can only imagine what several other families are going through in a state where Boko Haram commanders have been so emboldened as to have shared among themselves the country homes of several prominent citizens, including that of the man who until yesterday exercised the powers of acting governor.
Just last weekend, Mr. Solomon Kumangar, the Chief Press Secretary to Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri (who is still laying claims to the office the court said he occupied illegally), said that those trapped in Boko Haram controlled areas have been cut off from medical facilities. He added that some residents of the state have had to trek to Cameroon border villages through mountainous paths in the bid to seek medical treatment. Despite that unfortunate situation, the local authorities in the state have been more interested in power politics than in attending to the plights of their people.
That unfortunately is also the national disposition to the challenge. During the week, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) reported that Nigeria has the largest displaced population in Africa and the third largest in the world behind Syria and Colombia. According to the IDMC, the scale of internal displacement of Nigerians that the Boko Haram insurgency has provoked should be cause for the most serious concern while calling for a national policy that will “guide the response to the displacement crisis Nigeria faces. It should be adopted and implemented as a matter of urgent priority”.
In sum, there is an unmistakable stamp of unseriousness in the approach to the challenge of insurgency in the North East. While politicians are trying to play down the gravity of the situation, ordinary Nigerians living in the affected areas are in no doubt that the sovereign in Abuja that should ordinarily protect them has lost control of a vital portion of our national territory. Therefore, to expect normal social services in a region under effective enemy occupation is to succumb to the tragic delusion that somehow the Boko Haram scourge will simply give way to Nigeria as usual. To that extent, whether or not two or three “Shekaus” have been killed is no longer relevant. What is important is for the authorities to recognize the fact that we are a nation at war and begin to respond with our critical assets and national might.
Here They Come Again!
As a member of the Niger State Chapter of the Christian Corpers Fellowship in 1989/90, I was close to one particular sister who happened to be the prettiest in our set. My closeness to her put me in a position to know that in the course of our service year, no fewer than five brothers “received” for this sister (a Pentecostal euphemism which means God had directed them to seek her hand in marriage). Curiously, every of these brothers had an interesting account of the way God ‘spoke’ to him about the sister. But this, as I would find out later, did not also prevent ‘God’ from speaking to these brothers about other sisters. The truth, however, is that the brothers were not led by God; they admired the sister, evidently for her beauty, and lacking the courage of their conviction, they had to come in spiritual garb.
Incidentally, that is what most Nigerian politicians do when they want to seek public office. Rather than tell us they want to be President or Governor or Senator or House of Representative/ House of Assembly member because they like the job (or the money they know would accrue therefrom), many would want to hoodwink us with lies about God leading them to seek such offices. Even when they have prepared all the infrastructure of rigging (money, marabouts, arms) and were certain to run, they would still tell us they are waiting for ‘God’s direction’. This time, we should be able to tell anyone who comes out to say he/she is contesting to be president, governor, senator, etc., because God has told him/her to do so that he/she is nothing but a fraud!
Unfortunately, given that Nigeria is a very ‘religious’ country, we are going to hear a lot of these tales in the next couple of weeks as politicians strut the landscape. That explains why it is incumbent on us all to be wary of those who would play the religious card, those who would want to use the faith they profess as the launching pad for their ambition. Not many are brazen in this direction and that is why we should be careful in that some can be rather subtle about it. But it still boils down to the same thing: anyone who would use the name of God to rationalise a personal ambition is not worthy of our votes.
In fact, I am always suspicious of people who use the name of God frequently within the political arena because it is most often pure gimmickry since such Godliness hardly reflects in their character. While we desire that our public officials be religious, it is in the conduct of such a person that we prefer to know how much he/she believes in the God he/she professes. What we expect of our public officials is that they be fair and just to all, maximize our potentials and put our people to work.
However, I need to state that while I do not believe that religion should influence the way we make our choices, this is not, and cannot even be assumed to be, an endorsement of any presidential or gubernatorial ticket that is insensitive to our diversity, including in religion. What I am saying in essence is that those who seek to be president/governor should be bold enough to say why they are seeking such offices so we can assess them on merit rather than hide under the shadow of the religion they profess. For 2015, as the aspirants come to the threshing floor, we should weigh each against his/her background of integrity, capacity to do the job and track record.
Adieu, Remi Oyo
Former presidential spokesperson and my immediate predecessor, Mrs. Oluremi Oyo, died last week. A trail blazer who was also a former president of the Nigerian Guild of Editors and the Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Mrs. Oyo was a solid professional, a reliable sister and a good woman. I pray God grants Uncle Vincent (her beloved husband) and their children the fortitude to bear the loss
The Verdict Written By Olusegun Adeniyi and Culled from Thisday; [email protected]
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