Christmas, the annual Christian festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ the world over, has just taken place. Christendom participated in the religious observances for which the festival is known. There were carols. There were fireworks. There was also fanfare. But the Nigerian story was different. It was a bleak one in Nigeria. The cityscapes wore a mournful look. They were devoid of the boisterousness and conviviality that usually herald the sacred religious holiday and worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon.
There was reason for the subdued halo that pervaded the atmosphere in Nigeria. All through the year, the country had battled with insecurity. The country had become a killing field. Life no longer mattered. The country’s misery index had risen to an all-time high. Grinding poverty, hunger and privation had become the order of the day.
But the situation reached a crescendo in the build-up to the festivities. Some 48 hours to Christmas, multiple grenade attacks killed five persons in Maiduguri, Borno State, shortly before the arrival of President Muhammadu Buhari to the city. The rocket-propelled grenade attack was believed to have been fired into Maiduguri by Boko Haram and its ally, ISWAP. The Presidency and the entire Nigeria was yet to come to terms with that oddity when the Nigeria Immigration Service raised an alarm over plans by foreign terrorists to attack Abuja, the federal capital. Reports say Algerians, Nigeriens and Malians were involved in the plot. The revelation has heightened the tension in the land.
A day or so before then, bandits kidnapped over 70 Kano-bound travellers in Kaduna. On that same day, gunmen attacked a village in Katsina, killing seven and abducting so many others. We need not go any further. The list of abductions and killings is pretty long. This was the scary atmosphere that heralded Christmas. The situation has been hopeless for Nigerians. Apprehension and uncertainty have become etched in the consciousness of the people. This explains the bleakness and despondency in the air.
As if the nasty and brutish state engendered by insecurity is not bad enough, the people’s condition has been worsened by the collapsed economy. Prices of goods and services have shot sky-high amid the declining purchasing power of the country’s currency. The government of the day has absolutely no clue about how to save the country’s economy from total collapse. Rather, it merely ambles along, believing that some kind of voodoo would rescue the economy from the doldrums. The country has simply been mismanaged in every way and in every sense. As a matter of fact, the people had, long before now, told one another that merrymaking would be a tall order this time. The people are merely eking out a living. The greater majority can hardly boast of a decent meal.
But there would have been hope for a bright new year if government had any sense of urgency. The incompetence and insensitivity that rule and reign in the land have become almost axiomatic under the present dispensation. Here, banditry is dismissed as mere happenstance. Kidnapping is written off as enemy action, while terrorism is being rationalized as a global phenomenon. Government always has a reason why it should not accept responsibility for its embarrassing failure. Government is succeeding with its bold-faced disposition. It has cowed the public to the extent that the majority are beginning to feel that government is not to blame for the anarchy in the land. Fingers are pointing randomly. We no longer seem to know where the buck stops.
The general public is not alone in this state of confusion. Even the famed human rights community is in disarray. Criticism and protest have gone sour in their hands. They no longer know how to deploy them as instruments of resistance. Everyone appears mesmerized. No one is thinking about the way out or the way forward. Rather, the government appears to have been granted license for its failure. Its inability to govern has been accepted by the people. Nobody is asking the government to get it right. Rather, the people have chosen to embark on an illicit jump. They are looking beyond the present government. They are looking towards a government that will come after this one. This is abandonment. It is abdication. It is defeatism of the worst order.
The state of entrapment that has left many motionless is being made to appear light. Travelling from one part of the North to another is the riskiest venture in today’s Nigeria. Kidnappers and murderers are lying in wait. They abduct and kill at will. Many of those who would have left the North for the South are equally stranded. How do they do it? Where are the roads? Where is the safety? This situation has reduced the people to mere morons. Their power of ratiocination has been rendered redundant. The bad situation has absorbed them.
The disconnect is total. The other day, Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State expressed hopelessness over the country’s security situation. He said the security agencies were overstretched. They are engaged in defense operations across the country. We all know what this situation has reduced our armed forces to. They are in the streets, exposed unduly to the civil populace. This, in a way, is beginning to affect their perception. The Nigerian soldier is no longer that rarely-seen breed that marches out only in extreme circumstances. He has become an everyday man, a regular feature of the streets. Contact, as it usually does, has humanized him in a most dangerous way before the people. He is becoming as cheap as those he set out to whip into line. The debasement has begun. It will soon assume a life of its own.
The way it is, Nigeria has become a tinderbox of potential time bomb. Even though the people are resilient and hopeful, their staying power is anchored on nothing. Mother Luck is simply propelling the country. Unfortunately, luck is not a survival strategy. Nigeria may run out of this luck if it does not evolve creative ways of dealing with its challenges. This should be food for thought for those who have chosen to do nothing about the present disorder but have opted to wait for the Buhari era to end in the hope that it will answer all the questions that we have been asking.