Abubakar’s warning, spot-on
Abdulsalami Abubakar is a retired General of the Nigerian Army, a former Head of State and the Chairman of the National Peace Committee. Since he successfully handed over the headship of Nigeria in 1999 to an elected government headed by retired General Olusegun Obasanjo, he has remained essentially, quietly, doing his duty to Nigeria. His role as an honest broker in Nigerian affairs is often amplified through his creature, the National Peace Committee, which plays a very important role in ensuring that our fiercely combative politicians play the game by the rules and give Nigeria’s democracy a chance to thrive. His organisation is always able to make the high caliber politicians to sign an agreement to be of good behaviour before, during and after the elections. This has contributed immeasurably to the little successes we have so far achieved in our elections.
The principal reason for that success is Abdulsalami Abubakar and the patriotic team he has chosen for the tough talk that the National Peace Committee undertakes on behalf of all of us. Since he retired, Abubakar has kept himself strictly out of partisan politics, but makes occasional interventions when he finds the need to do so. Because of the infrequency of his interventions, the weight of his non-partisanship and the high offices he had held before now, his statements carry a lot of weight. No one from any side of the political divide is able to call him Divider-in-Chief or a hater or a wailer. Every one shows respect for him on account of his manifest interest in seeing Nigeria succeed as a democracy and as a nation. That high esteem that he enjoys from Nigerians makes his recent intervention on our fault lines spot-on.
He said recently: ‘in the last two weeks or so, tension has been growing in the country and the embers of disunity, anarchy and disintegration are spreading fast and if care is not taken, this might lead to a point of no return’. This is a very ominous language. It becomes more ominous because it comes from a man who speaks sparingly, speaks measuredly and speaks responsibly. There’s nothing new about what he has said. There is nothing that anybody can say now about Nigeria’s insecurity and our drift towards disintegration that has not been said before. Heavy hitters such as Obasanjo, Theophilus Danjuma, Wole Sonyinka, Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Middle Belt Forum, Afenifere, PANDEF and several other high caliber persons and groups have sunk their teeth into various aspects of our life and how Nigeria came to be paralysed rather than galvanized by its leadership.
As we are now, we can’t even find a fig leaf to cover our existential inanities. Everywhere you turn, you find mayhem: insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery. Everyday, several families in Nigeria are thrown into the abyss of grief by the evil people that have practically overrun Nigeria while our leaders engage in the ridiculous pageant of false promises of a better tomorrow. As calamity strikes everyday from one part of the country to another, these promises of tackling our problems fade into nothingness. All kinds of suggestions have been made on how to resolve these problems through a meeting of minds, structural readjustment of Nigeria and the dismantling of this Unitary Federalism but all the suggestions and recommendations keep falling on deaf ears. The fire brigade approach of sending the Chief of Staff to the President for meetings with regional leaders on problems whose solutions are right there within the covers of various reports including the 2014 National Conference report and the Nasir El-Rufai report is just the equivalent of moving in circles.
I edited a book called “Moving in Circles”, which is a collection of columns written by four Nigerians in the last 40 years. I discovered that most of the problems that these men wrote about in the 80s and 90s are still with us today without being satisfactorily tackled. From electricity, to road development, to election problems, to insecurity, to propriety in governance, all of them have remained recurring decimals of underachievement. That is why I titled the book “Moving in Circles”.
Today, we are still moving in circles, groping for solutions to problems that are waiting to be adopted because some of our leaders have metamorphosed from political leaders into ethnic bigots who can no longer think straight. Every day, these solutions wait to be adopted.
Everyday, those solutions only wait in vain because for those leaders, champions of bigotry, if those solutions do not fit into their ethnic arithmetic then, they are no solutions. So they are ready for the country to go down so that their ethnic groups can go up but no ethnic group will triumph if Nigeria goes down. That is an existential fact that our blindsided leaders cannot see. Those who are infected with the bug of ethnic irredentism have driven Nigeria to a point of near denouement. We are now a nation that is on its knees crawling begging, crying and pleading with criminals to accept our hard-earned money as ransom and free our children kidnapped from various schools. I disagree with those who say we should not pay ransom to bandits and kidnappers.
It is the path of least resistance since those who rule us lack the ability and the wisdom to keep us safe. Let them go to China and borrow money with which to pay for ransom because our children are more important than money. In any case, if the money is not spent on ransom, won’t it fly away into some private pockets?
Don’t believe anyone who says we are not paying ransom. That is foolish talk because the kidnappers and bandits are working basically for money. They are not going to kidnap our vulnerable property, children, and take them into the forest only to release them without ransom. What then was the purpose of capturing them in the first place? Don’t believe anyone who tells you that the kidnappers always release their captives because they know that the security forces have surrounded them. That is rubbish. The bandits know that as long as they are keeping our children, the security forces cannot attack without putting the lives of those kids at risk. Government will, of course, be homered if the lives of those children are wasted in the process of attempting to rescue them.
So, since the government is incapable of protecting us as they promised when they took their Oath of Office, let them continue to borrow money to pay ransom as people are captured daily and taken into the forest. Boarding schools are soft targets because many school kids can be found in one place, either in the hostels or classrooms and many of these schools have no meaningful security.
The puzzle, however, is that these criminals can drive through towns and villages in rows of cars or buses, kidnap school pupils and go away without let or hindrance. Are all the schools where these abductions have taken place close to these forests? Not likely otherwise the criminals would not be able to operate safely. This fact emphasises the country’s nudity in matters of security. It means that we are in a pathetic state of helplessness, security-wise. It means that our children in boarding schools are just lame duck targets waiting to be plucked away by criminals. It means that on any day of the week, our citizens are more likely than not to be rendered homeless, lifeless, limbless, childless because of our leaders’ lack of political will to do the needful. Nigerians are simply fed up with the tons of lame excuses for failure given by our leaders.
Abdulsalami Abubakar’s words have an intuitive accord with the murmuring and moaning of the moment by Nigerians. His speech is spot-on but will it make an impact on the stiff-necked persons in leadership positions today? Doubtful.
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