Nigeria’s tragedy in a nutshell

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Adamu Adamu

Safar 08, 1436 2014-12-01

News & Analysis

by Adamu Adamu (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 43, No. 10, Safar, 1436)

Far from confronting the Boko Haram terrorists, the Nigerian army, governors, government functionaries and amirs are running away from the threat.

With the fire of terror tearing through Nafada and the environs, dynamite disappearing from TNT vaults in Ashaka, and internally displaced federal troops finishing the marathon from Mubi to Yola, no one knows exactly what is happening here or anywhere else in Nigeria. Since Mubi fell to Boko Haram and all the towns up to Yola began bracing themselves for the worst, and since Nafada and Ashaka temporarily fell without resistance, confusion has compounded fear, and lack of dependable information has turned everyone into a panic-stricken pheasant on the run.

The Nigerian in the northeast is a dead statistic, an internally displaced person or an externally displaced soldier taking refuge in Cameroon or Niger Republics, unable to defend even himself.

What is the matter with Nigeria, this hapless country that is beyond every conceivable shock; and what is wrong with Nigerians, who, in the face of an existential threat, are not doing anything?

What is the matter with Nigeria, this hapless country that is beyond every conceivable shock; and what is wrong with Nigerians, who, in the face of an existential threat, are not doing anything? People are daily being killed in their hundreds, uprooted and made homeless in their thousands, their daughters and sisters made comfort women, and their amirs and chiefs exiles in other domains. Leaders are not doing anything — and no one can claim to be doing anything behind the scene when people are dying on the scene — and they will not allow anyone to disturb their not doing anything.

How can a nation go back to business as usual with parts of it sleeping soundly and other parts on fire? But ours is a country where senators can suspend the legislative process sitting in protest over their re-election bids but cannot suspend sitting to protest the level of insecurity in their realm. Lawmakers boycott deliberations over the control of delegates to primaries but have not boycotted the legislature over the abduction of the nation’s daughters. University lecturers boycott classes over salaries and allowances but will not do the same over the nonchalant attitude of the government over the Boko Haram threat.

And even the highest advisory council — the National Council of State, comprising all former heads of state, who are held with great respect; all former chief justices, who are held in great awe, and all governors, who are held immune from prosecution — has apparently not been able tell the president the truth.

If they could, they would not, and if they had they did not share the fact with the people. Because of this we have all been left in the lurch, on our way back to square zero, way behind the confines of square one, each in his cocoon clutching a single branch of a terrorist reality.

According to the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) the Boko Haram attack in Mubi targeted Christians. From its antecedents, if Boko Haram did that, it should not be surprising, but it is not something that the people should be reminded of now because this is a fact that will not help solve any aspect of the problem. Boko Haram is a collective problem for whoever lives within the borders of Nigeria. Indeed, it is a problem for whoever has humanity left in them, wherever they happen to be. Trying to project it as genocide against Christians, no matter how patronisingly or matter-of-factly stated, automatically assumes wrongly — and sends the wrong message — that this is an agenda supported, or even plotted, by Muslims.

But by saying that, do they mean that when Christians are targeted in Mubi that is a crime for which all Muslims are culpable? If it is, how on earth can it be justified? And if it is not, why say it? Or, is the desire to set Nigeria on the path of religious conflict not just the preserve of Boko Haram alone? Christians and Muslims are both caught up and have suffered in the throes of this tragedy. They are human beings in difficulty needing the help of all people of goodwill. The matter must stop there or no one can predict where it will end.

While all the sad and tragic drama was unfolding in Nafada, another orgy of killing was unleashed on Shi‘is commemorating ‘Ashura in Potiskum, only a stone’s throw due south east. ‘Ashura is the day on which the entire household of the Prophet of Islam (pbuh) was wiped out. While we here celebrate it with cika-ciki and ram-tail pepper soup, Shi‘is believe it is a day of sadness that should be marked with mourning. And as the ‘Ashura procession went round Potiskum, a bomb thrown into its midst killed some people, which was then used as a pretext by the troops to go and open fire on unarmed demonstrators without the slightest provocation.

It is clear that there is so much impunity here, and ever so obvious that some forces are so desperate and intent on opening a second bloody front in the north. Clearly, there is determined desperation to introduce a Muslim-Muslim or create another Muslim-government dimension, and exacerbate the existing Christian-Muslim dichotomy or perhaps something even more sinister. It is as if we have all been transported back to the beginning of this tragedy when every Sunday, we would sit with cocked ears, heavy hearts and sad faces waiting for the bad news. And with gratitude to God, we all thought we had gone beyond and past that. The lull in church attacks, whatever caused it, had given time and chance for greater understanding to develop; and this was probably what the current resurgence was being promoted to erase.

But for the moment, the victim in the spotlight is not interfaith relations; it is the supposed defenders of the nation who have been severely worsted. And the lowest point for the Nigerian army came on November 12, when hunters and other local toughs liberated the town of Maiha after Nigerian soldiers had failed and fled for dear life. How times have changed! The decorated peacekeeper in the Congo, the noted peacemaker in Lebanon, the praised conflict resolver in Sierra Leone and Liberia has become the long-distance runner of Gwoza!

So much has Boko Haram dented the reputation of our fighting force that it is now a disgrace to be associated in any way with the military in Nigeria.

So much has Boko Haram dented the reputation of our fighting force that it is now a disgrace to be associated in any way with the military in Nigeria.

The seriousness of the situation — the rot in the army, the repeated rout it has suffered and the several hasty retreats it has been made to beat — has become such a national disgrace that has lent renewed credence to accusations that government is not really interested, or putting its best, in fighting the Boko Haram insurgency. Or that it is in fact fighting the people, something that northern leaders believe but fear to say: as amirs fear governors, governors fear the president and all the elders fight and fear each other.

Meanwhile, everyone knows what is happening: but is afraid to say it. Everyone is a coward — and, if truth be told, we are nothing but a milksop nation — officially unable to face its own internal enemy, forever afraid of its own shadow — on the verge of jumping to conclusion in some formless state of disorder.

Then suddenly, a massive bomb goes off in a school in Potiskum, immolating dozens of very young children but the president decided to go ahead with the declaration of his candidature for the election in spite of it. For one who wished to pretend that Boko Haram was the handiwork of northern political leaders, it was probably indicative of a belief that it was a dare that must be taken. It all smacked of desperation that would not be stopped by anything — not even by this extremely sad and devastating death of the nation’s children out of a genuine sense of mourning — if ever this was felt by president.

For them, it was no failure: it was a grand success and actually perhaps the nation ought really to have been grateful to the president because, unlike what the choreographed dance steps in Kano meant for the victims of Nyanya bomb blast, the declaration at Eagle Square was by comparison almost sober and solemn. He did dance but didn’t dance a full tango over the Potiskum massacre; he only swayed!

But even if it is true that his political opponents arranged the bomb blast to stop him from declaring his candidacy, he should still have called it off out of respect for the dead. In any case, the heinous and grossly criminal act and its poignancy and pain are facts. This is the case for all Nigerians and for all rational people that have been saddened by it. They remain so irrespective of motive that prompted the bomb blast leading to the deaths of so many innocent children. It all underscored the cheapness and depreciated value of life and lack of solemnity in, and the ever-increasing inconsequence of death in the northeast in this administration’s perspective and in the president’s growing repertoire of moral failures.

For them, it was no failure: it was a grand success and actually perhaps the nation ought really to have been grateful to the president because, unlike what the choreographed dance steps in Kano meant for the victims of Nyanya bomb blast, the declaration at Eagle Square was by comparison almost sober and solemn. He did dance but didn’t dance a full tango over the Potiskum massacre; he only swayed!

The heroic act the nation expects of its president is not merely to ever so gallantly defy these supposed politically-motivated killers and go ahead to make the declaration for a dare. Since he has such solid information about their identity as would make him hold so cheap the sad departure and memory of our children, what the nation expects him to do is first, to arrest these people and bring them to justice, or at least to court; and, second, to show sensitivity and respect to the dead by solemnly and symbolically deferring the declaration for a day or two. And third, even if he doesn’t consider himself a failure, to ask himself what it is he can offer the people in the next four years if in his six years in power, he has signally failed to just secure it.

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