Nigeria is under attack
On a Monday in September 2015, former finance minister, Chief Olu Falae was on his farm in Ilado near Akure when some armed men came looking for him. At gunpoint, they abducted him and held him until the following Thursday. At the age of 77, he was made to walk several kilometres. He was made to sleep in the rain. According to his own account published in some national dailies, every half an hour, his armed abductors threatened: “Baba, we are going to kill you. If you don’t give us money we are going to kill you.”
By 2018, herdsmen were wreaking havoc in the states of the middle belt of Nigeria. Then, a retired Chief of Army Staff, a veteran of military intervention in Nigerian politics, General Theophilus Danjuma, warned that there was ethnic cleansing in the middle belt. Having lost confidence in the government’s willingness or ability to deal with the situation, General Danjuma called on the people of the middle belt to take responsibility for their own security. The reaction of aides to the President of the Federal Republic was to insult him and call him names he did not deserve to bear.
Recently, former President Obasanjo added his voice to those of Chief Falae, Gen. Danjuma and many others, voices warning us of heightened insecurity in our country. President Obasanjo spoke of “Fulanisation and Islamisation”. But in what has become a typical reaction from aides to President Buhari, President Obasanjo’s concerns were not addressed. What he received were gratuitous insults from President Buhari’s aides. Nonetheless, it is highly significant that one of President Obasanjo’s most virulent critiques, Professor Wole Soyinka, urged the federal government to address the issues he raised.
The issue is neither the character nor the political affiliation of those who are speaking. The issue is insecurity and the government’s inability or unwillingness to address the issue. Nigeria in her vastness is within the firm grips of kidnappers, armed robbers, herdsmen, bandits and insurgents.
Government officials tell us that Boko Haram has been “technically defeated”. But there is a wide abyss between government propaganda and the experience of the citizen. Despite government propaganda, Boko Haram, with frequent and convincing repetition, demonstrates that it has more firepower than the Nigerian military. Our highways are unsafe. A major highway like the Abuja-Kaduna Road has become a theatre of operation for kidnappers. The northwestern states of Zamfara and Katsina have become utterly unsafe. They have been taken over by armed bandits. Yet, all that presidential aides have to offer concerned Nigerians is insolence.
Shortly after Chief Falae’s abduction, Nigerians woke up to hear of clandestine and illegal importation of arms into Nigeria. There were reports that arrests were made. But Nigerians no longer hear of any judicial process to which these importers are being subjected. The matter appears to have died. Little wonder we now live in a Nigeria saturated with ammunition.
How on earth can we claim to be living in a democratic polity when presidential aides forget or ignore the fact that the President was put in office by the votes of the people? For if they knew the principles of democracy, they would not be disrespectful to Nigerians who happen to hold views divergent from those of government on how affairs of state are to be handled. One would have thought that, by now, four years since 2015, presidential aides would have grasped the difference between insolence and competence.
One does not need to hold any brief for former President Obasanjo to know that his concerns on this matter are genuine. One only needs to read carefully the text of his intervention. One need not be his friend or political ally to observe that there are one-sided actions on the part of the government in matters of security. Well-meaning Nigerians express concerns that herdsmen are treated with kid gloves and allowed to get away with murder while some other agitators are called terrorists, proscribed and gunned down. A “technically defeated” Boko Haram continue to hold Leah Sharibu in captivity while the federal government secured the release of her Muslim schoolmates and the release of Zainab Aliyu and Ibrahim Abubakar from death row in Saudi Arabia.
Obasanjo is pointing to an open secret, and that is: there is a synergy between Boko Haram, herdsmen and ISIS. This synergy, leading to a gradual implementation of the Islamisation agenda of ISIS, is what is being referred to as “Fulanisation and Islamisation”. It is about the imposition by ISIS of its own version of Islam. Whoever opposes it, be that person Christian or Muslim or Fulani, is eliminated.
The security situation in Nigeria has become worse than deplorable. Nigeria is being attacked. Is this how we all will be watching while our country becomes more inhabitable than it has ever been in her history? Is there leadership in this country? If so, what type of leadership do we have?
It is the responsibility of the president and his aides to address the situation in ways that are manifestly even-handed. There are fears that some people have taken over this country. We are held hostage on our land. This country is in the hands of invaders, bandits, herdsmen and kidnappers. Nigeria is under attack. Will the President and Commander in Chief show leadership?
Anthony Cardinal Okogie, Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos
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