I FOUND it hard to believe last year and it is still hard for me to believe now, that the men we trusted with our lives aided and abetted what led to the death of thousands of Nigerians. Okay, I bet you are wondering what I’m talking about. That is because I started in the middle. I’m sure even you are tired of reading all those ugly stories about how some service chiefs under the last administration ‘took’ tons and tons of money meant for arms to fight insurgents and used it to buy mansions for themselves and their sons. Me, I am totally sad. The figures are depressing. There’s nothing wrong with furnishing an apartment with N90m if it is our money and want to splurge, but taking money meant to keep Nigerians safe to buy designer furniture is like turning off life support machines of a patient gasping for breath. How did those people sleep? How could they sleep? How did they feel each morning they woke up to see those casualty figures on front pages of newspapers? On television? How were they able to eat with their families at their Italian dining tables, three course meals after watching villages reduced to rubbles, and once happy families wiped out in one night?
It has been a long journey from those months when every day broke with blood on our streets, when every Friday was filled with body parts blown apart after Jumat service and Christians got killed in their dozens just for going to church. Now that luxury buses no longer explode at motor parks, those days of limbs and heads being gathered like rotten fruits into plastic bags seem far away. The fear, the tension, the apprehension are gradually receding. Women do not suddenly move from wives’ clubs to widows’ zones in 90 minutes just because their husbands went to watch a Manchester United versus Chelsea game at a viewing centre.
Boko Haram, hmmmn, that dreaded sect. Once upon a time, took away our peace, pleasure and pride. They came, they seized, they destroyed. They were like thieves in the night, except they came at all times of the day. They did not bother with masks. They walked into schools and shot teachers. They slaughtered our sons while they slept in their dormitories. They took away our daughters in the dead of the night to unknown parts. They threw bombs at our military formations, bombed our Police Headquarters and then the UN building. They harassed our soldiers until they ‘tactically’ ran away. Those insurgents attacked not just our bodies but our souls. Our spirits were at breaking point. They made us wonder if we were truly a sovereign state, if we truly had something called Nigerian Armed Forces.
Those marauders castrated Nigeria, virtually. They were like armed robbers who went into a man’s house, loaded everything he had into a van, then went on to rape his wife, ordering him to hold the lamp in one hand and a fan in the other to make the ravishing of his wife, his workshop (the one he paid in full for) pleasurable for the invaders. That is one of the ways you can describe the reign of Boko Haram in Nigeria.
How many children did we bury? How many were burnt beyond recognition? How many fathers became carcasses that were eaten by wild birds when entire towns were razed and there was nobody to bury the dead? How many 10-year-olds were made to watch as their parents were slaughtered in their presence? How many widows, widowers and orphans did Boko Haram create? As an editor, I saw so many photographs that ethics did not allow us to publish. Many of them will remain in my mind forever. The gory stories came in torrents, daily. One tries to keep once sanity without letting the ball drop. I remember vividly the days when I couldn’t reach our correspondent in Maiduguri. The telecommunication masts had been blown. We were not sure if he was alive, dead or dying. What about our bureau chief who was tactically ordered along Kaduna highway to return to Abuja ? How did they know he was going undercover into a meeting?
And of all the stories that ever passed my table, I’d never forget the story of the woman who lost two sons, two undergraduate sons in one minute. And she was there watching. The two young men had gone home for the weekend, most likely to ‘obtain’ their mother. They went to meet her in the shop, most likely to help out and convince her to part with some money before going back to school. The evil men chose that day, that evening to strike. This woman watched her boys blown apart in front of her shop. One minute, her boys were there, the next, they were just bloody human parts strewn in the sand…
That was where we were coming from, days of blood, mangled flesh and fear. And here we are, closing down IDP camps, reopening highways and welcoming back the abducted, rebuilding our waste places. Yes, the Chibok girls are not back but we are in a better place than we were and we have hope. The manhood of this nation is no longer in doubt and I can thumb my chest that there is indeed something called Nigerian Armed Forces. This is not to say I’m in love with President Muhammadu Buhari but this is a feather in his cap. The man has chased the evil men away. He hit the ground running, visiting our neighbours and getting them on board this project. He overhauled the dysfunctional topmost hierarchy of the Nigerian military . He refigured military partnership the United States and now we have 24 mine-resistant armoured vehicles (MRAP) protecting Nigerian troops against improvised explosives devices.
The economy is tumbling down the slope. We are hungry. The future looks non-existent. A new club of evil is in town but with killing Boko Haram, Buhari has done well. Mr President, rise and cut your anniversary cake.
Does Tambuwal know something the rest of Nigeria doesn’t?
Most Nigerians didn’t have any doubt that he would give a good account of himself. He was one helluva Speaker. For the four years he held the saddle as first among equals in the House of Representatives, he enjoyed unequalled loyalty. And then to the shock and admiration of all, he kept his hands clean. So, there was no fear that as governor he would do well. But then, he became governor in a dry season. There was drought because it was no longer raining at the monthly FAAC party. Almost all the states owe salaries. And indeed, I had to report the governors to Mr President on Friday. On doing some digging, I found out Governor Aminu Tambuwal, and a few other governors are determined to stand out. Here are some of the things I found out.
At a time most states are writhing in pains of heavy overhead, Tambuwal has engaged 213 doctors and health professionals, 500 teachers, 500 junior and middle-cadre civil servants and absorbed all health workers in ministries and agencies working in the local government areas into the state Primary healthcare Development Agency. And he still paid 1907 retirees their pension.
Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Does Tambuwal know something the rest of Nigeria doesn’t?
Mr Tambuwal is not done, please. Collaborating with French health charity organisation, Medecine Sans Frontier, the Tambuwal administration facilitated free plastic surgeries for 583 patients and 6,500 epilepsy and psychiatric patients received free medication from government.
While most states are owing JAMB and WAEC, 8,000 Sokoto students benefitted from Government’s free JAMB forms ahead of the 2016 joint admissions and matriculations board unified tertiary institutions admission examinations. And now the one that excites me most; the state has signed an MoU for the establishment of a Tomato Processing Factory by a private company in Sokoto and land has already been provided for the project. That will diversify Sokoto’s economy and provide jobs for both skilled and unskilled labour.
So, is Sokoto now among the oil-producing states or what exactly is Tambuwal doing differently?