Today is significant on the political calendar of Nigeria. As with remarkable days in history, today means many things to different people. No matter how divergent our interpretations of today may be, it is laudable that it has been accorded its deserved place in our political chronicles. Thanks to President Muhammadu Buhari for lifting the stone no one dared to touch. Although the president has secured the momentousness of this day, it still seems like a well- prepared dish without salt and pepper. Given its epochal hue, it is safe to infer that today has not been accorded a deserving recognition.
Where are the national parades? Where are the public lectures and speeches to honour this day? Where are the street decorations in celebration of this day? Where are MKO Abiola’s banners and billboards? Where are the jingles on radio and TV? Beyond declaring this day a national holiday, we collectively have a moral responsibility to turn it into a national festival given its symbolism in our political repertoire.
As we mark our democracy day, Nigerians are looking over their shoulders in disconcerting apprehension, confronted by their current worst enemy, insecurity. Many people may argue with me over what occupies the ignominious position of Nigeria’s worst enemy. While some people will vote for a castrating economy for that position, many others will raise their hands in favour of corrosive poverty because it is palpable and easily identified. Well, people are entitled to their opinions but since I have the prerogative on this page, I overwhelmingly vote for insecurity as Nigeria’s worst enemy, at least for now. In our present reality, we are always confronted by a myriad of new enemies large enough to constitute a national scandal. Suddenly insecurity is staking a claim in the list of anomalies that beset us. Yes, insecurity is Nigeria’s worst enemy right now. By this declaration, I provide a contrary view to William Shakespeare’s position in his play Macbeth where he states through Hecate that “security is mortal’s chiefest enemy”. Shakespeare’s context and my context are quite different.
While the playwright uses his quote to underline how King Macbeth is intoxicated by a false sense of security, in my case, I mean no pun, no parody, and no literary stunts. I state categorically that insecurity is Nigeria’s worst enemy. Over the years, Nigerians have grappled with the menace of Boko Haram, however, unknown to them, bloodthirsty demons reincarnated in kidnappers, bandits, and herdsmen. Nigerian roads are no longer safe, not because of their dilapidated conditions, but because of marauding gnomes from the pit of hellfire, who daily lurk around in the bushes, ready to intercept vehicles and cars, lead their occupants far into bushes and subject them to treatments with disembowelling narratives.
It all started as mere misunderstandings between farmers and herdsmen, but gradually, the herdsmen have grown in confidence, bold, daring and defiant. Of course, Nigerians were used to bandits who will kidnap, keep their victims safe, feed them, and ensure they are alive in order to use them as a bargaining tool to negotiate for ransom. But nowadays with herdsmen in the fray, kidnapping comes with rape, sodomy, and death irrespective of the gender or age of the victims. Slowly but surely, after vanquishing parts of Northern Nigeria, the herdsmen have made steady incursions into Southern Nigeria occupying forest and bushes along the way. Hitherto, the Abuja Kaduna road was unarguably the most unsafe thoroughfare in Nigeria but now, many major roads have challenged that position with bushes populated by herdsmen kidnappers. All across the country, the story is the same, men and women, children, and even babies are kidnapped, raped, killed, and buried in shallow graves or left to scavengers.
A 34-year-old man in my neighbourhood was travelling from Warri State to Lagos when their bus was intercepted by heavily armed herdsmen. According to a co-passenger’s account, about four young men in the bus were ordered to join the herdsmen’s bus and they were driven into the bush. Three days later, the family of the young man was contacted on the phone. The speaker at the other end spoke incoherent English with an accent that betrayed an inevitable ethnic origin. He mentioned a certain amount of money and the young man’s mother tried to bargain. The line went dead instantly. That was last year. Up till now, the young man has not returned, leaving his young wife and two kids behind.
Many such stories happen every day. Nigerians are led into the bush, debased, violated, and summarily slaughtered like animals. It defies reason that these acts of violence occur irrespective of armed security men mounting roadblocks across the country. My emotions hit the lowest ebb last two weeks when I read the account of a woman who returned from the US with her husband and a nine-year-old daughter. On their way from Akure to Ibadan via the Ilesa road, their car was intercepted by herdsmen who led them far into the bush, sodomized the man, raped the nine-year -old daughter, and turned the woman into a sex toy. By her account, the herdsmen spoke Fulani because she schooled in Adamawa and understood a bit of the language. At the end of their ordeal, they paid eight million naira for their freedom. During the negotiation, the kidnappers said they were charging so much because they will need to remit money to higher quarters.
What is the way out of the strangulating grip of insecurity across the country? Today, the cities may be safe but who knows what will happen tomorrow. What must the government do to return safety to these climes? Nigerians are absolutely defenceless. It could be deliberate or it could be pure coincidence that since the federal government asked Nigerians to return their arms even if they have licenses, the incidences of banditry and kidnapping have increased in no small measure.
The level of insecurity across the country puts those clamouring for state police in a very reasonable position. Besides providing jobs for our teeming youths, state police, like in the US, will check insecurity and save the federal government of the burden which it clearly appears incapable to carry. Unfortunately, there is a conspiratorial silence in the land. The government has not made any pronouncements, no assurance of any kind, no explanations to outline what efforts are being made to restore safety to the motherland. To safeguard the lives and property of citizens is the primary responsibility of any government. So far, that privilege has eluded Nigerians as insecurity, their worst enemy, continue to subjugate them.
As another term of four years for this administration commences, it is expected that the president will see through the pain Nigerians are going through, rise to the occasion with his security chiefs, and return our country to safety.
Dr. Adiele writes from Lagos via [email protected]