I hail the initiatives of the Nigerian women who have taken to the streets, finally, to express their frustration at the inability of the Federal Government to recover the kidnapped girls, but also generally to tackle the menace of these insurgents.
If we read between the lines and make a good reflection on the facts detailed at the beginning of this article, it does not take so much intelligence to know that this whole fight against Boko Haram is greatly undermined, lacking real political will to end it all, or at best, lacking the courage to name and stump out the root of this whole menace.
If not, how could such a sorrowful phenomenon as the kidnap of hundreds of students be receiving a setting up of a fact-finding committee only after about three weeks? Such an event makes one remember the turn of things in December 2011/January 2012 when the government announced the plan to remove fuel subsidy. Almost for the first time in the history of the country, a good part of the nation rose in protest. The flesh of man has been touched: food and economic survival was enough to make people rise up for a change. Yet when 200 students are carted off into the forest or into the oblivion (for all we know for now), life just generally goes on for us. Events after events thus show that we have all failed in our priorities in this country. It is not just a government thing, it is that such events that have happened in the recent past have highlighted the point that a people gets a government it deserves.
The question may be raised as to the seeming helplessness of the Nigerian government before terrorism, a helplessness which however requires a qualification since there have been enough intelligence in the past to make this whole insurgence a history. However, the greater question is “how could any parent comfortably sleep in Nigeria with the knowledge that hundreds of our children are being held hostage in some forest or wherever?” Yet when there is as much as a plan to remove fuel subsidy the whole nation is up in protest? Haba my people, we do not need any supernatural revelation to make us see that this is not about the helplessness of a government but about a misplaced priority of a nation; it is about our inability to see that our destiny indeed lies in our hands and our choices as a people.
It is true that what these terrorists probably want to achieve is a pandemonium in the country which would cause a revolution or some confusion, but is a pretentious peace in which we do not stand up to act when our whole life is being threatened equally a rational response?
I do think it is about time that the Nigerian nation started doing more what these women have done in the past few days. We are living in a dire time and we cannot continue living to the tune of smiling and suffering which Fela warned us of several decades ago. These times, I do think, beg for a collective action from us all. It is not just the price of petrol that should engender such an action. The very life which we hope to better nourish by asking for lesser price of petrol or for the continuation of the fuel subsidy is what is being snuffed out not only by these insurgency but also by a lack of a comprehensive and decisive action against such insurgency!
These are the same terrorists with whom months ago we were considering dialoguing with. Of course following the precedence in the country where militants who formed the first wave of terrorism in the delta of the nation have now been heavily rewarded with millions of Naira and are in fact now brave enough to tell us who is going to be the next president or not, what more don’t we expect from this new wave of terrorism? It is clear that mere reliance on the government without coordinated and spirited efforts from the populace is a big dream. You only need to remember such accusations like those coming from the Arewa Consultative Forum that the military is aiding Boko Haram or those coming from the government itself that the opposition has a lot to do with the insurgency to realize that relying on the government alone is a tall dream! Even the government is trading blame rather than tackling the issue.
That being said, one cannot forget to mention that these trying times as evidenced in the insurgency of these merciless cowards manifest the fact that the terrorists triumph because the various institutions that can curb them have been run aground. If the military and police today are not able to withstand these terrorists and put a stop to their rave of about five years, it is because these institutions have been largely neglected. You would want to imagine the billions of naira voted for these institutions for their formation, training and maintenance. How much of that is eventually spent on the same? If it were spent and these security institutions well maintained would the military be reported to be fleeing from terrorists in their attack in Maiduguri? At the end of it all we return to the mother all problems of the country: corruption. But not just that. I continue to insist our problem is not so much corruption but the lack of the bite of the law. The rule of the law does not catch nothing, as the Americans would interestingly put it.
These are reflections that must ginger us to action to know that the good of the country cannot be merely abandoned in the hands of some government. They are reflections that also indicate the seriousness with which each and every Nigerian must take the forthcoming elections. What we give, we shall get. If we take it with levity, people of levity would enter into power again, and we shall continue these lamentations about “the government”, whereas we are the government. The people are the government! If there are sick governments, it is because we encourage same, fail to stand up to same or worse still, gain in some way from same.
Boko Haram in this sense is but a sign of a greater danger: the danger of a moral indolence on the part of the entire nation, an indolence first of all in choosing a government that can realize the aspirations of the nation, and secondly an indolence in insisting on appropriate and fruitful actions from the elected government in the face of issues such as this. This indolence has now reached an unprecedented level and has produced such rotten, dangerous consequences. We are the greater danger, not Boko Haram. They have merely seized on the moment. But the danger has been sitting all this while under different forms in our entire polity while we smiled away.
I salute again the courage and role model of Obiageli Ezekwesili and the thousands of women who have come out to wake up a government that claims to be working tirelessly against terrorism but sets up a committee to recover the kidnapped children three weeks after the event. Whether it set up such committee because there are conflicting information on the number of missing students (which is the reason the government cites, itself an indication of a sickness in the nation: are there no accurate statistics in the school with points of contact, or is that the principal is now late and has carried the office of such statistics to the grave?), or it sets it up because it is truly at a loss as what to do about these insurgents, the point remains that entire country cannot leave the government to this exercise.
Perhaps it is apposite to ask where are the different important public persons in the country at this time? I know a few artistes have stood up and participated in some programs of late to create awareness about this situation in the country. But what of the rest? Artistes and academicians represent a major part of any meaningful culture, how many have come together to put together comprehensive initiatives towards assuaging these societal maladies? Or is it just about producing films and singing rap songs? The import of artistes is in fact better felt in the actual and immediate social realities of the people. It is for such a reason that they have the people’s immediate attention, not just for themselves, or for mere fame, or for pecuniary purposes. It is about time they put such vantage to use. The comedian Gbenga Adeyinka’s comment in the Punch of May 3rd, 2014 is representative.
Finally the required actions are not just for the entire Nigerian nation alone. The current assault in Nigeria is an assault on the dignity of the human person. Thus the international world cannot afford to watch-on, nor give some weak condolences and indications of support which does not at the end amount to a tangible action. In as much as those over 100 or over 200 girls remain missing, as the case may be, no true mother in the entire world, no true father in the different countries of the globe, none of the leaders of so-called developed world can afford to sleep peacefully without a sale of conscience and responsibility.