No country should be so unfortunate to acquire the dubious distinction of being a huge and rolling crime scene and a killing field at the same time. It is worse and staggeringly disturbing if these two ailments are not the only major terminal diseases afflicting that country. To get a better picture of a country in acute distress, you have to throw in low-intensity but no less bloody civil war, banditry, growing separatists’ agitations and agenda, sectarian battles, terrorism, deceitful and selfish political and governing elite, a nepotistic and divisive regime, a clueless and grossly incompetent leadership, a special purpose vehicle masquerading as a governing political party by the name of All Progressives Congress [APC] and an inept, rudderless and self-seeking so-called main opposition party christened the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP]. For the APC, the only thing progressive about it is its manifest exhibition of feudalism and ranka dede and kabiyesi and eze onye agwala m [Igbo for a king that never heeds advice] democracy.
This is where Nigeria is today because it has had to endure a succession of bad and visionless leaderships since 1999 and since 2015 the country has lived with an affliction for a leader. For seven years and counting, Nigeria has been ticking the boxes for everything ugly and depressing. Nothing has been sacrosanct. The sentence and bywords for Nigerians for several decades: ‘’It cannot happen here’’ has since 2015 been consigned to the refuse bin of history. Anything and everything can happen here. And they do. Routinely. And nobody, virtually nobody raises eyebrows again. In my neck of the woods we say that aru gbaa aho or aro, o buru omenala. A poor translation of this saying in Igbo is that when an abomination or evil endures over time in a community, it acquires the status of custom and tradition.
And so Nigerians are steadily becoming accustomed to bloodletting including executions by mobs for alleged blasphemy of a prophet; wholesale looting of the commonwealth by a few in positions of trust; a leadership that fails deliberately and miserably in delivering its promises to the people; kidnappings for ransom and for murder and for exchange [of criminals captured by the state with kidnap victims]; farmers being killed by assault rifle-wielding terrorists called herders; and a regime that pretends it is helpless. It could have been easy to believe that the regime has been helpless and indeed overwhelmed if the same leadership has not frequently exhibited cruelty in calling out the military for scotched earth operations in the homeland of the five percent voters. Human rights organisation, Amnesty International, has had cause to describe the activities of the Nigerian Armed Forces as genocide during its Operation Python Dance and Operation Crocodile Smile.
But the same troops and sundry security agencies appear impotent in confronting and defeating Boko Haram, Ansaru, killer-herdsmen, bandits, kidnappers, unknown gunmen and sundry violent criminals. Perhaps, our fearsome security agents are only adept at shooting and killing unarmed protesting civilians in the south east and elsewhere, and the national flag-waving children and youths at the Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos as happened on October 20, 2020. That day may yet go down in history as the lowest of the lows recorded by this scourge of a regime.
Elsewhere in a different era two British politicians spoke 78 years apart across two centuries. There was no doubt they spoke about politics in the United Kingdom. And probably elsewhere but certainly not about Nigeria. Joseph Chamberlain was a liberal politicians. In 1886 he was recorded as having said: ‘’In politics, there is no use in looking beyond the next fortnight’’. He may have actually set the tone for a former British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, who was reported to have said in 1964 or 78 years after that ‘’a week is a long time in politics’’. If they had Nigeria in mind, they would have missed the mark by a country mile. In our country, and especially under this regime, 24 hours is a very long time in politics, economy and governance. Events, most of them negative, unfold at dizzying speed. For instance, Miss Deborah Yakubu, a second year student of the Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto state, was executed a few days ago by her fellow students for allegedly insulting a prophet. But for a poorly crafted charge in court against two suspects in the execution of Deborah, a charge that is likely to collapse, not much is now being said about the gruesome murder.
In our country, no 24 hour-day passes without a plethora of incidents, all of them ugly and heartbreaking and shocking. On May 15, a member of the Anambra state House of Assembly Okechukwu Okoye was reported kidnapped. He hailed from the same community as the two months old governor of the state, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo. Six days later, the severed head of the lawmaker was put on display in a motor park. An obviously flustered Soludo has placed a N10 million bounty on the murderers. Okoye is not the first victim of the increasingly deteriorating security situation in the South East. In late April, two soldiers who were reported to be about to wed were said to have been murdered in an unknown place by unknown persons at an unknown time in Imo State. The story of that murder was unclear, which made it susceptible to being discredited.
Last Sunday, a cleric and his son were said to have been plucked off the highway by kidnappers who subsequently demanded a ransom of N10 million. The victims’ family was said to have raised N1 million, which the kidnappers flatly rejected. Police spokesperson in the state, Funmilayo Odunlami, said it was “true that the cleric and his son were kidnapped by unknown gunmen’’ but that efforts are ongoing to rescue them. In Kaduna, particularly the Kaduna-Abuja highway, high-profile kidnapping is almost a daily fare. Meanwhile, the over 100 persons taken off a hijacked train travelling from Abuja to Kaduna about one month ago are still in captivity. Recently a woman captive who was delivered of a baby in the kidnappers’ forest abode was freed. The rest of the victims are as good as forgotten and abandoned. Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai, has already declared that elections may not hold in parts of the state which have been occupied by terrorists. To solve the blight of daily kidnappings on the Kaduna-Abuja Expressway, the governor proposed the wholesale relocation of all the communities on that stretch. Weird indeed.
And in the last few days, the media have been awash with a new but peculiar Nigerian absurdity. The Accountant-General of the Federation, (a strange title in a federal system, Alhaji Ahmed Idris, has been arrested on allegation that he stole N80 billion from the public till. He was accused of using several companies linked to family members and associates to divert billions of Naira. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC], who by the way are specialists in media trials, are already about town with their latest feat. Already there have been leaks about some of the assets which Idris allegedly used the diverted funds to acquire, prominent among which is the Gezawa Commodity Market, a sprawling complex of massive structures and warehouses. Reports have it that the complex is located about 22 kilometres from Kano city centre. Apparently to spruce up Idris’s alleged perfidy, a story has also been leaked that the suspended accountant-general was further given away by his lavish spending on a minor who he wants to marry.
Idris is innocent until proven guilty by a competent court of law. But the thought that one man who is a public officer can be accused of stealing or laundering or diverting N80 billion should be concerning. But the greater concern is that Idris, in all likelihood, will ultimately walk away with a slap on the wrist.