WEDNESDAY COLUMN by USSIJU MEDANER
When shall we begin to enjoy some respite as a nation destined for greatness, concentrating on issues with direct and positive bearings on national growth and development? Hardly have we had that opportunity over the last two decades which has been marred by episodic existential threats, disturbances and manifest killings that have undisputedly become one too many; from the incursion of the Niger Delta militancy, to the rise of Boko Haram insurgency, to the spreading menace of banditry, spikes in kidnaping and highway robbery and the list goes on of a host of other disturbing vices and criminalities of epidemic classification. We have been totally distracted and stagnated.
It is unfortunate that the actions and inactions of certain elements among us in the past brought upon us these menaces; though crime and criminalities are inalienated component of every society, the magnitude, structure and nature of their existence in Nigeria is unique, self-inflicted and propagated in such a way that make our case peculiar.
The world woke up that unforgetable day to the ugly news of the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. in 2001. On a number of times, there had been other attacks on cities in France, England and a couple of other European countries, but the responses by these nations’ and their respective citizens have been the same: they have said no to insurgency on a common font. There citizens, apparently, could be divided on any other issue but not on the one that bothers critically on their collective security. Their hatred for terrorism was unanimous making it impossible for the insurgent to have an in-road and base in those countries.
In Nigeria, the scenario is remarkably different. Without any viable rational explanation, we are numerically divided, substantially, into two main groups: the first group though not in the numerical majority possesses more of the political power that controls the other group which is the larger population. From all indications, the former seem to be either in favour or unperturbed at the least to the continuous attacks in the country by these killing machines. They seem to prosper from the continuous attacks and bloodsheds that have been ravaging the nation unabatedly in the past years. This would be the only rational explanation to the responses of several members of the elite population, that seem joyous by their responses, actions and dispositions to each and every attacks that have been claiming lives in the country.
It is here in Nigeria, that individuals, politicians wake up each day wishing for the news of yet another killing to discredit their perceived political “enemies.” They are always the first to heinously comment on any news of killing, creating more tension than necessary and instigating the masses against the government. It is this same population that has corrupted some section of the media space to serve purposes that are detrimental both to the cherished doctrine of journalism and the wellness of the nation. The brown envelop syndrome which most of you might have heard of wasn’t magical; it was the device to buy off the conscience of journalism and shift the focus from investigative journalism to bias, inimical news dissemination. That is why apologising for propagating fake news by our various media organisations has become a norm in recent times. That is why our media houses see propagating the Nigerian Armed Forces’ gallant efforts at repelling and defeating the Boko Haram as not news worthy, but would waste no time to boldly and rashly disseminate any news of killings be it formally confirmed or not.
It is this same population that made a caricature of the religious bodies in the country, especially CAN, making it to lose focus and become, unfortunately, a shameless appendage of political parties and individuals. There used to be an apolitical, non-partisan CAN once upon a time under the leadership of Cardinal Okogie and Bishop Mbang, but that has since become a sweet past. Today, we have men of “God” who collect and share monies from politicians to sell the supports of their national congregations. The undisputed story of the billions of naira collected by the leadership of CAN to support former President Goodluck Jonathan before the 2015 presidential elections as exposed by a certain Pastor Musa K. Dikwa and the disgraceful support they gave Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in 2019 are indelible. A supposedly reputable, nonpartisan organisation of the caliber of religious bodies , would, to maintain its chain of intentional deceits and support for a self aggrandising cause, bend the truth by asserting that a criminal caught red-handed is of a particular religion when they know quite well he is not. The harm this groups has done to the peace, security and unity of Nigeria by virtue of their congregational control is limitless and is indirectly responsible for the continuous spate disunity in the fight against terrorism and and other criminality.
A week ago, a terror attempt was recorded, intercepted and foiled and the suspected terrorist was apprehended. When we were all supposed to be more concerned about getting viable and useful information from the arrested culprit, this same population, using Fani Kayode, Deji Adeyanju and CAN as arrowheads were more interested in the label and identity of the suspect; the need to identify him with Islam became more pressing than any other considerations.
The dark tendency to ethnic and religious colouration of crimes and terrorism in Nigeria, also a child of this particular population, has become a cankerworm eating deeply into the national fabric of the nation. And the more we continue to focus on blaming these crimes on one people or the other, the more the killings would continue. It is natural, psychology that those animals who were behind the killings would get trilled each time we engage ourselves in these stupid, unbecoming fight over what tribe and what religion the culprit(s) are instead of congregating to fight the menace. These crimes are not religion or ethnic sensitive; the men that took the entire south-south down and hostage for years in the name of militancy, killing and maiming along the creeks and riverine communities would not be christened Christians or Niger Deltans but Nigerians; the perpetrators of the thousands of Tiv/Jukuns killings and conflict that continue to ravage the region are perpetrated by Nigerians.
For as long as religious bodies and the political organisations derive joy in the continuous christening of the Boko Haram invasion as an Islamic tool to annihilate other religions and see the Fulanis as the sole perpetrators of kidnapping and militancy, the more we will keep perambulating around the menace and would further record no lasting success in the fight against the menance.
When, in the build up to the 2019 elections, Former President Olusegun Obasanjo strategically unveiled and sold the islamisation and fulanisation agenda to Nigerians as a tool to help Atiku win the presidential election; when the Atiku and PDP campaign train were permanently stationed to report and daily exaggerate the killings by purported herdsmen in Benue and part of the eastern states; when a large number of Nigerians began deriving ultimate joy in putting the names “Muslim” and “Fulani” in front of every killings even when the perpetrators are unknown; when some section of media houses would report every known killings where the killers are non-Muslim and non-Fulani, without stating the tribe and religion of the perpetrators but would gladly caption every killing without evidence of the perpetrator(s) boldly as “Fulani herdsmen attacked…” as one of their favorite phrases, I finally understood how the insecurity and killings in Nigeria gladdens their hearts.
But what is more worrisome and capable of jeopardising the continuous effort of the crush insecurity and insurgency in Nigeria is the manner more Nigerians are looking up to CAN and the opposition party PDP for information and believing the lies and propagandas they disseminate. Playing and toiling with the emotions of Nigerians; taking advantages of biting economic situations, these groups spread the deadly virus of plan to exterminate the Christians and certain ethnic groups from existence in the country by another group and religion.
That was the campaign narrative of PDP and some religious leaders before 2015 elections; yet the President is on his second term and no reality of plan to islamise the nation beyond the false opposition rhetoric. At the height of attacks across the south eastern states and in the Benue axis, when the so called herders/farmer crisis had become a national menace and we were losing precious lives to the crisis, the Federal Government, came up with the idea of RUGA settlement scheme as a feasible measure to take the cows off the communities and streets and then be able to identify terrorists that are hiding behind herdsmen identity to foment trouble, these same people stirred up Nigerians to reject the scheme. Why? Because the scheme has the capacity of permanently ending the herdsmen/farmers conflict and they would prefer it doesn’t end. Yet that was the same scheme they had all to a large extent clamoured for under the past administration of Goodluck Jonathan.
Somehow, they have created a system by which their followers become blind to all efforts to rid the country of insecurity but see only the attacks that occasionally occur across the nation. They dulled their memory not to remember what it used to be like when Boko Haram had free reign to perpetrate their trade in Nigeria.
We forgot what it used to be like in the past. Early days of January 2015, during the reign of the inglorious PDP and in the full view of the present CAN leadership and members, Nigeria recorded the deadliest Boko Haram massacre; over 2000 citizens were killed in a single attack by the blood thirsting, directionless sect. in its reaction, Amnesty International calls the killings ‘a disturbing and bloody escalation’ and a local defense group says its fighters have given up trying to count the bodies. That was in Baga, near Nigeria’s border with Chad. Hundreds of bodies, of children, women and elderly people who could not run fast when the sect drove in into their community, too many to count, littered the streets of the community. The campaign for Jonathan to win was on the highest gear, the president and his government nearly ignored the attack. The following day in Lagos, the president made no official comment on the massacre while speaking in front of thousands of cheering supporters in Lagos. CAN was more preoccupied with how to deliver after allegedly huge envelop they had taken from PDP to deliver their member votes to the party ( as alleged by o e of their member , pastor Musa Dikwa. (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/09/boko-haram-deadliest-massacre-baga-nigeria)
In 2014, the insurgents killed more than 10,000 Nigerians as quoted by the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relation. In the same year, more than a million Nigerians were displaced by the insurgency and thousand fled into Chad and Cameroon.
The list is endless; November 4, 2011, Damaturu attack that claimed over 150 lives; the December 2011 Maiduguri and Damaturu attack that claimed over 72 lives; the Madalla, Niger state, attack that killed more than 41 and injure 73 worshippers in a Catholic Church; the January 5 and 6 attacks across Mubi, Yola, Gombi and Maiduguri that led to the death of more than 37 Nigerians; the January 20, 2012 Kano attack that claimed the lives of about 190 Nigerians; the April 8, 2012 Kaduna bombing with a death toll of 38; the June 7, 2012 Wusasa and Sabon Gari church bombings in Kaduna that left over 33 dead and 80 injured; the Deeper Life Church shooting on august 7, 2012 in Okene that killed 19; the April 19, 2013 massacre at Baga that left over 228 bodies; Mamudo government secondary school, Yobe shooting in July 6, 2013 that killed at least 41 students and a teacher; the about 50 student killed at the male dormitory of the College of Agriculture, Gujba, Yobe state on September 29, 2013; the Kawuri massacre on January 11, 2014 with a death toll of 85; February 11, 2014, about 39 Nigerians were killed at Konduga in Borno state in an attack that lasted for over 9 hours without help from anywhere – it was on record that the sect arrived on Tuesday night in a truck, operated almost all-night, raized down a mosque and more than 1000 houses; at Federal Government College Buni Yadi in Yobe state, on February 25, 2914, 59 student were gunned down; April 14, 2014, two bomb explosion at Nyanya, the outskirt of Abuja killed about 71 Nigerians; more than 300 people were gunned down as they tried to escape at Gamboru, Borno state on May 6, 2014; between 200 and 300 people were killed in an attack in a village in Gwoza, Borno state on June 2, 2014; at the Kano State School of Hygiene, in June 23, 2014, more than 200 were killed by a bomb blast.
That was the time when Boko Haram onslaught was at its peak while resistance from the government was minimal and poorly coordinated. The morale of the men of the Nigerian military force was at its minimum. When Boko Haram became the lord over the North-East region of the country, holding and controlling territories; when they enter the cities and villages in convoy in absolute defiance to the military might of the country and killed, maimed and vandalised the various settlements with impunity.
How could we ever compare the operation of the Boko Haram and insecurity in general in pre-2015 to what is happening now. Nowhere in Nigeria was safe before 2015; Abuja was unsafe; Gwagwalada people slept in fear; Suleja was constantly under attack. Soldiers littered every settlements in Abuja; government building were not safe; official meetings were held indoors; villages were completely overtaken in the north-east, Boko Haram marched into towns in convoy and wreak havoc on the people. Schools were closed, airport closed, farms deserted, women and children captured in their hundreds every now and then.
We cannot ever have genuine reason to rationalise ignoble killings, regardless of where it happens or who the victims are. It would serve the nation no profit on the way to end these maniac behavior and killings across our land by wanting to proof that majority of the victims were Muslims and debunking attacks on Christians; what is necessary at this point should be what we all should do to stop this menace.
It is high time we disregarded those who operate only to benefit from the peril. The same PDP who superintended the sharing of capital vote meant for fighting the insurgency and watched children, women and the old dying like chickens while they were getting richer shouldn’t in a saner community have the audacity to take the position it takes now. CAN that was busy campaigning for PDP and its candidates and taking blood money during those years without condemning the glaring failure to save the country then shouldn’t suddenly become the voice of the masses.
On a final note, the war against insecurity in Nigeria is ongoing. We are still a long way from winning the war; not because the government isn’t doing enough but because the citizens aren’t doing enough. We must pragmatically change our orientation, begin to appreciate every effort, constructively criticise, make useful suggestions to the government and offer prayers.
God Bless The Federal Republic Of Nigeria!