Our society is in a parlous state. This much we all agree. Even those who reap gains from chaos agree the situation is going beyond what is tolerable. I have said ours is not a society that runs on statistics else we would be dazed by revelations of dastardly events that happen almost hourly across the land. Yet, without benefits of daily official statistics, we can have a glimpse into the extent of trouble in the land by developments around us. In Owerri, capital of Imo State in just one week two resourceful citizens lost their lives in very abhorrent circumstances.
First was the case of Divine Nwaneri, a first year student of Imo State Universiry, shot and killed by soldiers guarding the Government House and its vicinity. Victim was not going to the seat of power, she was passing through a thoroughfare by the seat of power. She got shot by those who should protect her, putting her family into eternal loss and the country also because nobody is sure if she lived she would not have turned out to be another Okonjo-Iweala. She died a victim of bad times and of course negative attitude to policy executions. The other is Mr Noel Chigbu, 39, a businessman with a verifiable company, who closed for business around 9:00, went round to drop a friend and then head home; he didn’t get home. Soldiers shot and killed him barely three minutes after he dropped his friend, just at the next check point.
The friend said, «As he drove off I heard gun shots, but nothing suggested to me my friend was the victim.» The deceased›s vehicle was demobilised, while his phone ran without ceasing. For a while the wife and close relations couldn’t fathom what was happening; wife and others began to call his phone and those who had possession of the phone refused to answer. A case of double jeapardy. Not so? The military chaps were “kind” enough to take the corpse to Federal Medical Centre, dump it, head to police headquarters, dropped the phone and the car keys and nearly left without explanation as to what happened. Pressed to explain, all they could say was, “He broke our checkpoint rules.” In Lokoja axis, Queen Ogar, a graduate of biochemistry and her co-travelers became hostages.
The new danger in the kind of terrible atmosphere assailing us is that under threat to security so many atrocities of unimaginable kinds could be the order of the day. A government with proclivity towards tyranny will define national security in ways that if one critically cross examines it will show what is on display is regime survival and not national security. In other places national security is a legal prescription, to avoid a hurt on citizens and the wellbeing of the larger society, with the make ups clearly defined. Nothing is left to imagination of any one leader no matter how high the office. In our case no such thing exists. Definition of what is national threat is left to the perception of the President in the case of country and to the governor in terms of state. This is where the danger begins; without hesitation; the troubles arising from this misnomer are here with us causing tensions and pains. The Owerri examples are classical case studies of those fallouts; they are typical examples of what is prevalent everywhere in the land.
Let me make this point before I get to the other aspects of our deliberation: hawks are coming to the president›s aid. There is greater danger in allowing mean and limited men take over hallowed spaces including the presidency. Their suggestions would definitely be precursor to unintended consequences with high negative implications for the health of the larger society. Possibility of excalation in state killings is very high. These days it is a common sight to see state security personnel hunting down citizens in the manner hunters go after bush preys. What is more intriguing over issues constructive engagement could solve. This trend should never be allowed to expand.
It was for me a frightening sight when I saw a northerner on Channels television last Monday speaking as if he were the President, he alleged a southern conspiracy against the President and the only fact he adduced was the stringent clamour for restructuring when a northerner is in office, asserting that Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, two presidents of southern extraction had their time and had all powers to run through the project but promoters of restructuring failed to initiate it. He said the administration “will deal ruthlessly” with all elements known to be troubling Nigeria. Who are these and what criteria are used to identify the troubles of Nigeria were not made clear.
The first stanza of the man›s position I can tell is valid to a reasonable extent. Obasanjo who assumes the position of a messiah was not only a military head of state, he has the honour of serving eight years as civilian president, he claims to know the trouble with Nigeria including restructuring but while in power he never gave a thought to starting any process; the conference he convened, he discarded when it would not serve narrow interest. That wasn’t good, if anything it was proof of superficial nationalism; true nationalism entails possible loss of everything including making the ultimate sacrifice. Obasanjo was not ready for either of the options. Jonathan his protégé whom he helped to be president told us in very start of his government there was no need for a national dialogue, that was part of his vain attempt to placate the north in search of new tenure. Of course the north took the goodies and laughed him to scorn.
Jonathan in power did not realize he came from a minority group and that the minority question even though a long drawn matter has remained unresolved till now. In power he pretended not to know. He was so enamoured in power he couldn’t register one signature project in the whole of the much marginalized Niger Delta region, he gave away all to the old northern region. Today, he is one of the loudest voices in demand for a new Nigeria. Where then lies the credibility, when a man have had a golden chance and you frittered it away on account of lack of courage or knowledge of what to do? Buhari, a northerner has on the other hand moved the East/West highway far more farther than what their son did in all of six years. This was also the example Obasanjo his benefactor left, getting into Ota where he lives is a nightmare.
To some extent some concessions can be given to the incumbent Muhammadu Buhari, he can’t solve all the problems in an eight-year tenure. But when his approach touches on dealing ruthlessly, it must raise concerns. In a democratic setting, leaders are not permitted to deal ruthlessly, what they do is resolve to find quick answer to whatever challenges may be plaguing the society. They begin by consultations, followed with application of decent force in which case every effort is made to arrest culprits of criminal offenses and taking them to a court of competent jurisdiction. Summary killings should not be encouraged under any guise. I perceive this trend looks attractive and may be on increase in the coming days. This is the exact reason those who have the reach should intervene and on time too.
For people in the Buhari government and the sizable number of northerners, there is this morbid fear of what they call secession. The moderate Ohanaeze executive in place has told those who care to listen there is no secession. That is true, what exists is agitation for self-determination, these are two different things, one wouldn’t go into that. Behind every agitation are grievances. This is what the government should try to resolve peacefully but rather than take that path, it has chosen to shoot her way through. Dislike for a group should not reach obsession levels. Never! A good way to start would have been to run an all inclusive government.
All segments of power are in the hands of people from a section of the country. Security is sensitive yet the commanding heights are in the control of one ethnic or religious group. Best way to show good conscience would have been to have spread. Nobody is giving a thought to this including advocates of united Nigeria. That is the problem.
One thing Nigerians should insist and get from the incumbent president is spread of security chiefs positions. The present configuration is not only suspect but provocative. It is abominable to sit in judgment over issues of life and death and not have all shades of opinion sit on the table. Asking a core northerner and moslem to make security prescriptions for South East, hmmmmm! The other will be consent to open discussions perhaps using resolutions of past national conferences as working documents. Where the powers that be refuse this, then let them start implementing what resolutions they think will bring peace, but to sit and maintain existing order, is to do great disservice to our society and the people. It will turn out a very costly move.