Good news, bad news and the trouble in-between
It is truly cheering news that President Muhammadu Buhari met with the newly freed 82 Chibok girls last Sunday at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja, before flying to London for more medical attention. Freedom for the Chibok girls is a welcome interlude at this period of almost daily disturbing news. Our President is taking a well-deserve rest while his competent deputy, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, minds the shop.
In 1986 when General Ibrahim Babangida travelled to Germany for medical attention for his radiculopathy, it was difficult to know who was really in charge between the Chief of Army Staff, General Sani Abacha, and the official Vice President, Admiral Augustus Aikhomu. We had a similar situation when President Umar Yar’Adua disappeared into a Saudi hospital. We were not sure who the acting Head of Government really was. It was a time of serious power struggles between then Vice-President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and leading members of the Yar’Adua kitchen cabinet.
This time around, it appears the President and the Vice-President have established an almost perfect chemistry that is very good for our country. There is none of the cloak-and-dagger games that characterised the heated days of the Obasanjo Presidency when Vice-President Atiku Abubakar was locked in a hand-to-hand combat with his principal, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. That bitter rivalry was to affect the fortunes of Nigeria for better or for worse. When it was the turn of Yar’Adua to pick a vice-president, he settled for the dour scientist from Bayelsa State who, in the face of grave temptation, remained loyal to his boss, the controversial Diepreye Alamieyeseigha. Yar’Adua did not know that in settling for Jonathan against far more formidable and apparently competent candidates, he was picking for us a President of the Republic.
It is cheering that at this period when our country is facing challenging moments, our President and Vice-President are in good rapport. The situation tells more about Buhari’s maturity and integrity and his deputy’s decency and excellent breeding. This almost perfect chemistry between the two leaders has allowed the government to concentrate on solving the Boko Haram problem which took roots during the presidency of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. By consistent military action, the government appeared to have de-fanged the monster.
However, that the terrorist group still has the capacity to hold on to hundreds of hostages without being detected speaks of the group’s great internal command cohesion and capacity. We now know, despite its odious ideology and devilish religiosity, why the Boko Haram terrorist group has remained a capable machine of evil. They have succeeded in keeping in a secret location all these Chibok Girls for more than 1000 days despite the billions being expended on security by the Federal Government. This is an unnerving reality.
Nigeria welcomes the Chibok Girls back to life for they have returned from the land of the dead. Yet in recent weeks, we have had high-profile departure to the great beyond by citizens of distinctions and public records. General Adeyinka Adebayo, the second military ruler of the defunct Western Region, later State, departed in March 8 only to be closely followed by his colleague, Brigadier Samuel Ogbemudia, the sport-loving former governor of the defunct Mid-West (later Bendel) State. He was the founder of the University of Benin.
While both Adebayo and Ogbemudia may have truly fulfilled their earthly assignments, the same could not be said of Senator Isiaka Adeleke and Dipo Famakinwa. Adeleke, first elected governor of Osun State, was a serving senator who wanted to take another shot at the governorship and performed the feat once recorded by the likes of Chief Olusegun Osoba of Ogun State and Mr. Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti. Adeleke’s death on April 23, sudden, painful and controversial, is bound to affect the political calculations in Osun State.
Famakinwa was not a politician like Adeleke. He was a dreamer who took his vision seriously and from the pedestal of the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria, DAWN, Commission, he sought to affect the future of the Federal Republic. His sun set at mid-day. His brilliance lingered before us like the flickering tongue of lightening and it was gone. So it was with Onukaba Adenoiyi Ojo, journalist, teacher, dramatist, author and a wonderful human being, who died March 5. He was a former managing director of the defunct Daily Times. On October 10 last year, Adenoiyi-Ojo was the reviewer of our book, One Day and a Story, the reminiscences of an African Journalists, at its public presentation in Lagos. He will be sorely missed.
For Commodore Phillip Oladipo Ayeni, it was a long wait for the Great Reaper. On October 7, 1996, Nigeria’s then military dictator, General Sani Abacha, appointed Ayeni as the first Military Administrator of the newly created Bayelsa State. He was to serve in that office for only five months before he succumb to sudden illness in February 1997. Last month after a 20-years struggle against illness, he finally answered the call from heaven. It is heart warming that despite his travails, the people of Bayelsa State, whom he served with dedication and love, have not forgotten him. Only last year, Governor Seriake Dickson provided Ayeni with a beautiful country home in Okemesi, Ekiti State. The former Milad would be buried in that home on June 23, 2017.
All these passages cannot be compared to the gory harvest of Boko Haram. In the past seven years since it has been active on the field of battle, the terrorist group has caused the death of at least 30,000 people. We now know that during an early period when we should have been arming our troops for war, some of our generals were busy burying their blood money in soak-away pits. Some may have escaped with theirs loots to safe nests in the Caribbean or Asia but they cannot escape the wrath of God. Now that Boko Haram has virtually lost its capacity to hold on to territories, we have been jolted by the good news of the Chibok girls’ release.
Despite its evil ideology, it is cold comfort that Boko Haram still possess the managerial capacity to hold on in total secrecy to hundreds of hostages in relative comfort. That any organisation, not least a terrorist group, still possesses this kind of capacity beyond the glare of security agencies should be a source of serious worry. More worrisome however is that the group continues to market and find buyers for its extremist ideology that says Islam can only be spread by force.
Yet neither history nor the reality of today’s world, support this extremist view. Today, the fastest growing religion in the United States is Islam. Yet, there is no sign that Muslims in the U.S. are about to embark on a jihad to forcibly convert their neighbours and proclaim an Islamic Republic.
In its early days, Islam, proclaimed by Holy Prophet Mohammed, rose on the tidal wave of Arab nationalism to conquer most parts of North Africa and the Middle East and moving as far east as India and knocking at the gate of the Vatican in the West. Like all hurricanes, the early Mohammedan wars exhausted itself. Islam was introduced to West and Central Africa through mostly peaceful means through the Trans-Sahara trade. The Islamic revolutions of the 19th Century led by men like Samori Toure and Usmanu Dan Fodiyo were used mostly as instruments for political powers.
It is also on record that Islam spread far more rapidly after the armistice of 1886 that brought peace to Yoruba land after decades of warfare. Islam was embraced by Ibadan, the main opponent of Ilorin, which had been seized by Mohammedans after the coup that brought to a sorry end the regime of Aare Afonja. Today, there are more Muslims among Ibadan indigenes than adherents of other faiths. Even Offa, in Kwara State, that suffered more than any other Yoruba town in the hands of the Mohammedan warriors, is today a strong base of Islam. All these happened after almost 30 years of war.
The Boko Haram terrorists are gravely wrong if they think they can change the religious demography in Nigeria through terror and other instruments of violence. But they have already succeeded in doing violence to our psyche and our believability. They have taught us to ask questions and seek for answers. Therefore, we need to know, in this cloudy atmosphere, the names of the Chibok girls that were recently released. We also need to know the names of those we are still expecting. Keeping the records straight and open is a test of public accountability. That is the change that we expect.