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Who feels it knows it

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“It is both sad and disheartening to observe the construct that some people try to give certain developments in the country. And that came out in bold relief in this week’s attack on the officers’ quarters of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), in which two people were killed, and one abducted.”

Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina

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Femi Adesina’s response to reactions to the dastardly and brazen assault on the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) Kaduna last month, which terminated the lives and sterling careers of two military officers, was almost predictable. Adesina has come to be known to brook no criticisms of his Principal, the President, and the APC government. As far as he is concerned, anything that is not in praise of President Buhari and the APC is constructed to portray both to have failed to deliver what they promised to the people. But it is what it is.

“The news headlines, the slant of the stories, the analyses and discussions, all tended to paint a narrative of the humiliation of our military, the failure of government, and the fact that anarchy had been unleashed on the land,” Adesina wrote on his Facebook page.

“What should we have in a less hateful polity at such a time? Cooperation with government, encouragement of our military and security forces. But what did we get? Complaints. Grumblings. Wailings. They should have done it this way. They didn’t put this leg right. They should have faced that direction. And all sorts. What a people! What a country!”

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Adesina believes, and never fails to assert, that Nigerians who are complaining, grumbling, and wailing are only playing “hateful politics.” At first, these were mainly opposition PDP politicians, but of late, eminent non-partisan Nigerians joined the chorus, singing the song for redemption. If the presidential spokesman has noticed this, it does not seem to matter to him.

For instance, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, spokesman for the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), believes that the north has paid the biggest price for the failure of President Muhammadu Buhari. Baba-Ahmed said at the second annual Ripples Centre for Data and Investigative Journalism dialogue in Lagos that the country might get worse than it is because there is nothing to show in the present administration that things would change for the better before 2023.

While Baba-Ahmed is concerned about things getting worse, Adesina believes that things have never been better and has good reasons for that. “As stated earlier,” he reiterates, “the security challenges mutated, becoming hydra-headed. But one thing was clear: we were not where we started, when bombs went off like firecrackers in major cities of the country, killing and maiming people in their scores. As of recently, insurgents, bandits, kidnappers, evildoers were on the back foot, being killed daily in their hundreds and surrendering in droves. Light had appeared at the end of the tunnel.”

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It is not possible to tell how many Nigerians see this light in the tunnel, but, definitely, His Eminence Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, the Sultan of Sokoto, is not one of them. On the contrary, he says the number of people killed by criminals across the country is under-reported. According to the Sultan, a retired Brigadier-General, “the level of insecurity in the country has worsened.” He declared on August 27 at the 3rd quarter 2021 meeting of the intra-religious council in Abuja: “In eastern Sokoto alone, there was a day we buried 76 persons, who were killed in cold blood by criminals who came from nowhere, people don’t hear about that one. There was another day we buried 48 persons in the same Sokoto, but you didn’t hear about it.” The Sultan should know. He who feels it knows it.

All that, to Mr Adesina, are complaints, grumblings, and wailings of haters of the president. He conveniently forgets that the president’s predecessor was the practice target for these complaints and grumblings by members of the APC in opposition. But history does not forget that easily. In an interview on the TVC’s Straight Talk programme in 2015, former FCT Minister, one of the arrowheads of the APC change machine that swept President Jonathan and the PDP out of Aso Rock, said complaints were in the interest of the government. Hear El-Rufai then:

“Leaders must be checked. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. So, leaders must be checked. It is in their own interest that they create a system that they are checked …. It is not just the leader. The people must be able to speak out. The people must complain. It is our duty as elites, you and I, those of us that are privileged with education, influence and a voice, to continue to make the call that leaders need to be checked. It is in their own interest. Secondly, this checking can only be possible when people are informed when people are mobilised, when people are angry about the state of their country and wanting to do something about it.”

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That was then.

Another pastime of the APC government is to blame the PDP’s conduct of yesterday for the woes of today. But El-Rufai, who is now in charge as governor of Kaduna State, where the NDA is located, told Nigerians in 2015 that anyone who did such a thing was not a leader but a joke:

“There is a tendency on the part of the Jonathanians to say, ‘Oh, the problem has always been there.’ Yes, but what was the scale of the problem? Are you going to say as a leader the problem has always been there and go to sleep and allow it to fester? Your job is to solve problems. When you do nothing but allow things to escalate, you’re not a leader; you are a joke. Once you are in charge, you have no time for blame or trying to find excuses. I was minister of Abuja. I did not inherit a perfect Abuja. Those before me did many things that were not right. But I did not complain once about what they did. I looked at the situation I had on the ground and tried to fix what I could. I didn’t solve every problem. But I was not whining and crying to say others created the problem, and so I couldn’t do anything about it. I solved the ones I could. That is all we are asking of every government; that is all we are asking.”

The APC succeeded in painting the governing party then in toxic colours. “The PDP has become a toxic party and is destroying this country. Nigerians need an alternative, and you can see from the media that the reactions to the formation of APC have confirmed the feelings of Nigerians and their frustrations with PDP.” The result of the 2015 presidential election indeed confirmed how much Nigerians bought into that idea of change. I digress.

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Back to the assault on the NDA, “what really happened at the elite military academy? What was the intention? Adesina asked no one, in particular, these questions and provided the answer himself:

“Simple. An attack on the soft underbelly of the forces of good. It was deliberate, contrived, orchestrated, all to make the government look bad, and pump discouragement into the military at a time they were poised to make a decisive end of the security challenges.”

Soft underbelly? If the NDA, ‘the elite military academy’, as Adesina put it, is the soft underbelly, what then do we call parts of Benue, Plateau, Enugu, and other parts of the country with scant or no military presence ravaged by terrorists and criminal Fulani herdsmen? When the news of the attack broke, Chinwe, the Nigeria Correspondent of France 24, was live on TV, explaining to their audience the strategic importance of Kaduna, where bandits have been having a field day.

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Among the strategic military infrastructure in Kaduna State are:
The Nigerian Defence Academy, Nigerian Military School Zaria, Nigerian Army Depot Zaria, Jaji Military Police Cantonment Kaduna, Armed Forces Command & Staff College Kaduna

Air Force Base Kaduna, Nigeria Army 1 Mechanised Division Headquarters Kaduna and Airforce Institute of Technology Kaduna

If those who slept inside the house complaining that they saw evil spirits, what about those who slept in the open?

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For US-based communications professor and public affairs analyst Farook Kperogi,” an institution that is putatively equipped to fight and contain external aggression but which failed to repel an abduction of its members by domestic terrorists on its own premises can’t protect the nation. It’s like bearding the lion in his den and living to tell the story. That’s not a lion to dread and trust to protect the animal kingdom. That not even one kidnapper was shot and demobilized throughout their operation is indicative of the emasculation of not just the military but the whole country.”

For Adesina, though, this has nothing to do with the whole country. It was just a mischievous attack on the soft underbelly of the military.

The presidential image shiner tells us that the terrorists struck at a time the military was “poised to make a decisive end of the security challenges.” There are things one should learn not to say. Isn’t it weird that the terrorists knew exactly when the military was poised to make a decisive end to their activities and decided to strike right then? By the way, is this not the same security challenge that was technically ended over four years ago? Haba, Femi!

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In a condolence message, as usual, the president “commiserated with the families who lost their loved ones and prayed God to comfort them.” The pastors in the Villa should know that there must be something in your hand to activate deliverance; hence, at the commissioning of Moses for the herculean task of delivering the Hebrews from bondage in Egypt, God used the staff in Moses’ hand, which turned into a serpent when he was commanded to cast it on the ground, to demonstrate that He was with the Hebrews. What is the proof that God is with Nigeria in this intractable war?

The president said the attack was meant to throw a dampener into the morale of our military, indicating that the military is indeed fighting a demoralising war. Adesina stresses that the negative chorus, always on standby, is reinforcing that intention. Shouldn’t he instead have advised his Principal to take the 30 minutes or so flight to the NDA to physically condole with the victims and their families and let his action boost their dampened morale? Isn’t that how leaders of the countries we look up to for socio-economic succour do it? The troops will get a mega-dose of morale booster when the commander-in-chief starts leading from the front as he promised the world in his electioneering sermon on the Chatham House pulpit in early 2015 where he said:
Ekata, a communications consultant, member Nigerian Guild of Editors and Professional Editors’ Guild South Africa, writes from Pretoria.

“Let me assure you that if I am elected president, the world will have no cause to worry about Nigeria as it has had to recently; that Nigeria will return to its stabilising role in West Africa; and that no inch of Nigerian territory will ever be lost to the enemy because we will pay special attention to the welfare of our soldiers in and out of service, we will give them adequate and modern arms and ammunition to work with, we will improve intelligence gathering and border controls to choke Boko Haram’s financial and equipment channels, we will be tough on terrorism and tough on its root causes by initiating a comprehensive economic development plan promoting infrastructural development, job creation, agriculture and industry in the affected areas. We will always act on time and not allow problems to irresponsibly fester”.

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Buhari ended that memorable speech with a masterstroke:

“I, Muhammadu Buhari, will always lead from the front and return Nigeria to its leadership role in regional and international efforts to combat terrorism.”

One thing I share with Adesina and admire a lot is his love for music, especially Reggae music. Reggae musicians, to me, are among the greatest philosophers and prophets. Sometimes, you get a feeling that most of the legendary Reggae musicians sang about the Nigeria of today over three decades ago. Femi very frequently laces his essays with lines from Reggae icons. In this epistle, he sends a message to those playing ‘hateful politics’ with the assuring words of Bob Marley in his 1976 hit song, War: “For we have confidence in the victory of good over evil.” But he curiously left out the very instructive lines which aptly depict Nigeria’s current situation:

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The majority of Nigerians may not yet feel that there is war. But those out there, whose family members have been killed, whose wives and daughters have been abducted and violated, and whose livelihoods have been destroyed, feel it and know it. In all of this, can we really blame those playing political ludo with this tragedy? Legendary Reggae star Bob Marley sang in his 1980 hit track, Rat Race.

Quite a few think that the NDA breach by bandits if that is who they were, is a dress rehearsal along the lines of the Taliban putsch in Afghanistan. That may sound too ominous and too far-fetched, but who would have thought that the NDA could be attacked and two military officers killed without resistance? On this score, the president is right in urging members of the Armed Forces to “accomplish in the shortest possible time” the task of rooting out the terrorist menace in Nigeria.

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Those around the president might be telling him that everything is okay, making it impossible for him to feel the misery millions of Nigerians feel while he battles his own burdens in his cosy Aso Rock alcove. Again, Bob Marley makes it clear that every man thinks his burden is the heaviest; he who feels it knows it:

The words of the English-Australian singer-songwriter-musician Gerard Hugh (Leo Sayer) in Raining in My Heart, released in the US in 1978, also come to mind:

May the current misery in our land give way to victory very soon!

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