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Dairo, Igboho, Kanu and those on trial

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When Abayomi Dairo was shot down from the sky on Sunday July 18, it marked a new milestone in Nigeria’s fight against terror. For several years now, the Federal Government has chased the terror gangs ravaging the North-West and the Middle-Belt of Nigeria on land and in the air. When these criminals strike in these zones, they are called bandits. When they operate in the North East, especially in the old Boko Haram theatres of Yobe, Adamawa and Borno States, they are called terrorists. When they strike in the Middle-Belt states of Benue, Plateau of Taraba, they are mostly identified as rogue Fulani herdsmen. It is clear now that they are members of the same terror family. These are not just ordinary kidnapping and robbery gangs. Their target is the state itself.

Many Nigerians, especially those living in the South, seem not to be aware of the new war going on in our country. The Boko Haram sect has been seriously scorched, but not killed, and the North-East, occupied by soldiers, is in fitful ease. Many of the escaped terrorists, have turned into moonlighting. They are the arrow-heads of the banditry in the North-West. Their main operation is mass kidnapping. When their victims could not come up with the expected ransom, they simply kill them. They have stopped all pretenses about Islam and such puritanical preachments. They are in the business for the fast bucks.

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President Buhari has sent his troops after them. These are no longer the kind of criminals that the police can handle. Therefore, once their base is identified, the Air Force is called to rain death on them from the sky. Every day, our gallant airmen and women, fly sorties against these criminals and hundreds of them are eliminated. They are not about to disappear however. With the shooting down of Dairo’s plane, they have now announced that they have upped their game. They now have anti-aircraft guns.

Nigerians must brace themselves for a long drawn crisis. When Nigeria attained independence in 1960, its entire military force was less than 20, 000 men. We had the army and the Navy. The Air Force then was just a department of the Nigerian Army until it became an independent force shortly before the Nigerian Civil War. Now we have almost 500,000 men and women under arms and they seem not to be enough.

In the 1960s, in the immediate post-independence era, Africa was under intense watch by the Western powers determined to keep the continent for itself against the ambitions of the Communist East dominated by the defunct Soviet Union and an emerging China. We were at peace with Niger, Cameroun, Chad, and Benin Republic. They all look up to Nigeria as the big brother. When the Nigerian crisis degenerated into a Civil War in 1967, all these countries stood by Nigeria until the war ended in 1970.

But now Nigeria and her neigbours have become victims of events over which they have no control. The Soviet Union collapsed and the dynamics of international politics changed. Economic competition has replaced the era of geopolitical hegemonic contest. Before we know it, large sections of our economic interest have been wiped out by new economic imperialism. Today, Nigeria is perhaps the only major country with a large population that does not clothe itself. All our textile manufacturing concerns have been wiped out by competition from China, India and other places. We have a population of 200 million mostly wearing clothes manufactured in Asia and rags imported from Europe and the Americas. Our youths are especially in love with those European and American rags and they wear them with swagger.

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All our neigbours, though they remain friendly, have become a problem to us. For many years, Libya under Colonel Muammar Gaddafi had been a stabilizing force in North Africa, helping to shield the Sahel Region as long it suited his ambition and large ego. Then after four decades in power, his regime collapsed into chaos, his military disintegrated and his impressive armoury looted. During his years in power, Gadhafi had encouraged other Africans, especially youths from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Burkina-Faso and Cameroun, to join his army. When he fell, many of these well-trained men returned home to become free agents of terror. They found a good launching base in the emerging Boko-Haram terror group, which was originally the creation of the Nigerian political class. Now terror has mutated and Pilot Dairo was shot down from the sky.

By the time Boko Haram happened on the scene, Nigeria had become the international headquarters of the poor. The preaching of Mohammed Yusuf, the founder of Boko Haram, resonated with the poor of Maiduguri and other places. If you are deprived of the goods of this world, prepare yourselves for the goods of the hereafter, he told them. Eighty percent of the people living in the North-East live below poverty line. All social statistics were pointing to a crisis waiting to happen. Many of them have lost hope about life on earth. They are placing their hope on the hereafter.

The crisis is here now and Air Force sorties alone cannot solve it. It requires scientific sociological approach and political courage. Reacting to the crisis in the North, many northern youths moved south in unprecedented numbers, many of them serving in different trades as farmers, okada riders, odd-jobbers and petty criminals. Many of them, often in collaboration with locals, also took on the lucrative crime of kidnapping, especially the rogue Fulani herdsmen (different and distinct from the normal herdsmen who till today are still well occupied in their traditional vocation).

In the wake of the crisis, we have the rise of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and its unorthodox tactics and the Yoruba Nation Movement almost gestating to follow the same path. Both campaigners apparently were responding to the spill-over effect of the terror and mayhem in the North, but they also embraced the same theology of intolerance and bellicosity.

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Today, both Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Adeyemo, alias Igboho, are facing the consequences of their leadership style, the other side of what Thomas Gray called “the pomp of power, the boast of heraldry.” Our country waits on the outcome of these new soap operas. What an interesting time to be alive!

The people who are really on trial however are members of the Nigerian political class; their excellences and those stumping paladins in the corridors of power. All these crises are simply the symptoms of a mass army of disillusioned youths; able, ready, willing to work, but not gainfully employed.

There have been reports that the Federal Government, through the Central Bank of Nigeria and other agencies, has released hundreds of billions of naira to support start-up companies and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Unless the list of beneficiary companies is published in the newspapers, Nigerians would continue to be skeptical about this programme. Indeed, it is the general belief that a substantial part of this enormous sum may have been kidnapped by the corrupt, the powerful and the mighty. Let the government publish and be damned!

The leaders must create jobs and more jobs and still more jobs until the restless energy of the Nigerian youths have creative outlets. This cannot be done by Abuja alone. We need regional response to this crisis because power and responsibilities must devolve to the regions as the new federating units. If we fail to find jobs for our youths, the devil will employ them.

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