By Hassan Gimba
Every patriot currently has gloom written all over him. The defence minister told us a few days ago that the country is ‘bleeding.’ Indeed, Nigeria is sick, very sick. Perhaps, was it the sickness of one part, the body can manage and pull along. The sickness, unfortunately, is for the entire body. Is it the North or the South, the East or the West, that is not ill? But we ought to be a nation in the season of its bloom.
For more than a decade now, the North has been haemorrhaging and in the doldrums, sort of. Thought to be “one of those” crises that will soon pass, the Boko Haram insurgency has yoked the North East with a more devastating effect on the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, in that order. Borno State is the worst hit with most parts of its northern, eastern and western territories under the heavy presence of Boko Haram. Maiduguri, the state headquarters, currently breathes through only one nostril – the Maiduguri-Damaturu road. Even that is at the risk of being closed by them. The other four or five roads leading into or out of the ancient town are Boko Haram-patrolled most times.
Yet the insurgency is threatening to remain with us till God knows when. Well, it took no less than the former chief of army staff, retired General Tukur Buratai, to tell us that “There is the likelihood of terrorism persisting in Nigeria for another 20 years.”
The activities and effects of the insurgents have been treated deeply by yours truly and many other writers at various times. Boko Haram recalcitrance has affected the economy and social harmony of the areas it is dominant. Because of the insurgents’ incessant attacks, farmers and livestock rearers now find it almost impossible to continue with their occupations.
The North Central has become a kidnappers’ colony. It is a traveller’s nightmare. From Rijau, Birnin Gwari, Gwanin Gora, Rijana through Kaduna and down to the suburbs of the Plateau, one travels at one’s risk. Even four-star generals are not safe. They killed one at one time and that was that. Herdsmen kill at will and sack villages, burning everything down to ashes. Kidnappers are also having a field day. Are some of them, especially the herdsmen and kidnappers, another face of Boko Haram getting them much needed cash? We have been querying this for years now.
Even though sanity has returned to the Abuja–Kaduna road and the Jos axis, people are yet to relax psychologically.
Bandits, too, kidnap and pillage villages at will. In some of these villages, people seek permission from these bandits before any wedding ceremony. The bandits can also come to a wedding gathering and demand for the bride to be given to them. Anyone who refuses does so at the expense of his life. It was in the news some time ago that they went to a man and asked him to “borrow” them his daughter for a week. The man had to comply because there was no one he could report this humiliation to. Even if there was, who would come to his aid? Bandits have to issue permission to farmers to farm and also to harvest. It is that bad.
The North, which prides itself as the food basket of the nation, now cannot even meet its needs comfortably, not to talk of that of the nation. The activities of Boko Haram, bandits, and kidnappers have conspired to keep those who till the land at home, dead or as refugees elsewhere away from home. As a result, the nation faces the possibility of food scarcity for its ever-burgeoning population.
Add to all these woes is the threat of instability in the Chad Republic, our northern neighbour. Long-serving autocratic ruler, Idriss Deby Itno, killed from wounds sustained at the battlefront while fighting to defend his country from Libya-based rebels under the name of Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), has kept the country relative peaceful.
Some Nigerians saw him as a dictator who came to power through the barrel of the gun, sustained it that way and so they did not give a hoot because he died through the barrel of the gun as well. And they disparage him. Perhaps we may tell them to ask Libyans and Iraqis what they now prefer: Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein who assumed and sustained power through the barrel of the gun – and died through it – or their current conditions. Your guess is as good as mine.
Deby left a stronger and more united nation than he met but, above all, he was Nigeria’s ally in the fight against Boko Haram. We must forever remain grateful to him for giving the insurgents good hiding and, many times, bloody noses.
Any instability in Chad now would give us a serious headache. In 1980, beginning from March that year, Borno took in the influx of Chadian refugees in their tens of thousands. It was because of crises generated by the country’s 17-year civil wars and struggle for power. Then, the Chadian Transitional Government of National Unity (GUNT) led by guerrilla leaders Goukouni Weddeye and Abdulkadir Kamougue was being challenged by another guerrilla leader, Hissene Habre.
I was in Government College, Maiduguri, class two going to three and already a Scout Master. The army, police, customs, immigration officials and we – Boy Scouts, Boys Brigade and Red Cross – all teamed up to help the refugees at their camp along Dikwa road in Maiduguri.
They were well-fed, well catered for, and surely there was no fear of crimes, save for the occasional pick-pocketing now and then.
Now, more Nigerians are looking for what to eat, where to get sheltered. We cannot adequately take care of our internally displaced people and we now look over our shoulders more than ever before because of deadly crimes. Our sworn enemies, Boko Haram, can infiltrate the refugees and cross into the country. However, not only Borno, nay, Nigeria itself cannot afford a single refugee on top of our hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons.
But this is just the North. Yet, unfortunately, the gloom, instead of the bloom, is not limited there. The bleeding is everywhere.
Do we see what is happening, or pointing at what’s going to happen, especially in the South East? Do we think the burning of security forces’ offices, killing them and even breaking of prisons are just happening by chance? And perpetrated by “unknown” gunmen or hoodlums? The ordinary citizen may be forgiven if he thinks so, but it is unpardonable for leaders to assume so. An Igbo proverb goes thus: “The owl cries at night, the child dies in the morning…who does not know who killed the child?”
Can our security agencies not link the “command” to “kill police officers” during the #EndSARS protests that turned into riots to the formation of the Eastern Security Network? Where were the security agents when the ESN got formed just after, and video clips of thousands of its recruits at training went viral?
The security agencies need to be proactive because the things that are happening now could just be teasers. We must fear the South East being plunged into another messy situation the nation is trying to stop in the North East. The country can ill-afford that; our military does not need any other distraction. The government must work deliberately to reverse what looks imminent by appeasing anyone with grievances, perceived or real.
The South West has its issues but the region will not resort to arms, save for some accomplished thugs muddying the waters. It is adept at arm twisting and browbeating to achieve its political goals.
Therefore, the average southerner, from Shaki to Ogoja, Oron back to Ilaro need to know the “true truth” as opposed to the “false truth” – the narrative their political leaders want them to take as the whole truth. The “Fulani” (read: the North) have no thought of taking over their lands. No agenda to “Islamise” the country and, as sure as the rains will fall, no Northerner harbours the intention to kill them.
Their leaders want them kept isolated in their cocoons through perpetual ignorance that breeds asphyxiating and debilitating fear rather than allowing them to make rapprochements with their brethren north of the Niger. To their selfish leaders, a bleeding nation has advantages.
But making the average southerner see the “light” is achievable through large-heartedness and justice. After all, Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio said in his book, Bayan Wujub ul-Hijrah alal Mukallafi, that a kingdom (nation) can endure with unbelief, but it cannot endure with injustice.
Those God has entrusted with power must make those without it feel they are also stakeholders in nation-building. No people will want to run away from a union as long as they believe they are treated justly. After all, even in America where we copied our system of governance from, there is a disparity in the number of presidents produced between the North and South, but hell has not been let loose.
Lest I Forget
The House of Representatives last week resolved to investigate the “export of 7000 refrigerated penises” from Nigeria to China. On March 19, this year, World News Daily Report (WNDR), a satirical website with the slogan “facts don’t matter”, wrote that Chinese authorities have seized a cargo ship that sailed from Nigeria with 7221 penises.
The WNDR describes its output as being humorous or satirical. “WNDR assumes however all responsibility for the satirical nature of its articles and the fictional nature of its content,” it claims.
I thought they had media aides that would advise them about such websites.
Gimba, a renowned columnist sent in the piece from Abuja