It was difficult deciding on the title for this piece. It was even more difficult trying to figure out where exactly to begin this ‘wailing’. I guess this will be my most difficult writing since I officially joined the Wailing Wailers Social Club of Nigeria, where we do nothing but wail and wail “like a child whose lollipop was taken away.” At our last monthly meeting, which held under the almond tree by the canal off my street, which has become the prime refuse dump for waste collectors, we did another review of our dear republic and wailed bitterly about how it is now being ruled by unknown gunmen. We were, however, consoled by the one fact that women are not competing openly for honours in this game of bloodletting and reckless dumping of human remains by the roadside. At least, we still have a species of the human family that has restrained itself from bloodletting but goes home to wail and mourn the killing of loved and unloved ones. We proposed a toast to the womenfolk and wish they never compete for laurels in this ‘sport’.
You see, a few years ago, we would sit in the newsroom of Champion House at Ilasamaja, out of where came the very fantastic football team, Ilasa Bombers, to reminisce on the reality in Syria and Iraq where no day would pass without reports of bombing, killings and even destruction of property. We would see images of these realties on international television channels and wonder how humans in those cities survived. Every evening, we would retire to Iya Eka’s spot to unwind and convert the liquid contents of green and black bottles into urine over some garnished animals and birds. At such times, we would re-imagine the realities and picture life in those far off countries where life had taken the Hobbesian dimension.
On Fridays, we would retire to our conclave, The Web, where Lord Budha, may God bless and rest his soul, would sit on his throne to lead a dissection of the realities of existence in the present milieu. The discourses were always more heated than what you get from the present Senate of the Federal Republic. The Web never rubber-stamped any issue, irrespective of Lord Budha’s preferences. I still recall that one of our most daring conclusions at the web was that Nigerians so much love themselves and love life too that they would not descend to such realities that we saw on television about Iraq and Syria. History has proved us wrong.
Well, we were right then because even with our minimum wage, life was still relatively good. There were killings, yes, but they were mostly related to politically motivated assassinations or communal strife, etc. Never did we know that we would ‘grow’ to a stage in Nigeria where Thomas Hobbes would be seen as a philosopher who foretold Nigeria’s future. Hobbes, an English philosopher, was born in 1588 and died in 1670. In 1651, he published his most important work, The Leviathan, in which he espoused his understanding of government as a social contract between the people and the government, where the people subject their will to a government, which administers society on their behalf and offers them protection. That man made famous the argument that the absence of government returns society to a “state of nature” where life is “brutish, nasty and short”. He did not know of Nigeria when he wrote The Leviathan. And as he rightly proposed, life has become brutish, nasty and short in Nigeria. The pendulum of rudderless leadership is now pointing at Nigeria and you now begin to feel that a day without reckless waste of life by the unknown gunmen would be another festive day in Nigeria. It used to be Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Libya. It may get worse.
The signals are there to conclude that it will worsen. A few months back, Nigerians mounted a very strong campaign for the replacement of the service chiefs on the argument that they had become rusty. Of course, they were. President Muhammadu Buhari and his ruling council yielded to pressure and replaced them. That was on January 26. With that came a sigh of relief. There were visual images of soldiers dancing and celebrating their ouster. The celebrations suggested that they were the clog in the wheel. With that, too, many believed that an end was in sight. However, a few days ago, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, one of Nigeria’s 109 senators whose constitutional mandate it is to screen and approve the appointment of the service chiefs, told Nigerians that the new chiefs need at least six months to understand the security architecture of the country. Mind you he said “at least”. This is mindless of the fact that these guys have been in the military for no less than 25 years each. Implication is that Nigerians need not expect any magic from them against insecurity till after the study period of six months. Within this period, the unknown gunman is free to run amuck, deliver death and destruction, while Nigerians may retire to the state of nature where survival is for the fittest.
For now, there are no more talks and social media props about the “new sheriff in town” whose “body language” only has forced orderliness in society. Only a few still make excuses for the federal leadership. Even the most ardent backers now feel the impact of the reign of the unknown gunmen. Perhaps, the only secure places in Nigeria now are the buildings concealed within the rocks of Aso in Abuja. The summary is that Nigeria has never been this insecure. This development has created a reign of fear and destroyed society. The situation is made worse by reports of resignations in the security services. The implication of this is open. Fear has enveloped that section so much so that operatives are quietly walking away. The meaning of this, to my mind, is that it tells of a systemic failure, which even a change of baton at the headship cannot immediately cure. Simply put, it is about the maturity of a system of governance that respected no rules and abuses every norm that creatively binds the people. That system, which was begun in 2015 with a new definition of justice, has started yielding fruits. What we may see as the reign of the unknown gunman is another manifestation of that abuse, an abuse of a globally-accepted workable and effective governance system of crime and punishment. It was supplanted by a system of crime and a pat-on-the-back.
The first signal to that mindless abuse of an entrenched and workable system that had seen the country trudge on in divided unity since 1960 was the sudden resort to the creation of regional security outfits by the different peoples of Nigeria. That was an open response to the understanding, and acceptance, that the federal police was no longer so federal and that the other security services had become disjointed as to actually render service to the Federal Republic of Nigeria without a consideration for ethnic affiliations and religion. Sheikh Abubakar Gumi gave a hint on this not too long ago. Nature abhors a void. The spaces had to be filled and they are being filled with armed people who claim to be defending their own people, not Nigeria.
So, while those with the resources to sail through have fixed themselves with private security guards, armed and unarmed, the proletariat is left to the protection of a police that have become weakened by lack of equipment and very low morale. That police are now overpowered by the unknown gunman. And, in a republic where the unknown gunman rules, the game is of survival.
Gradually, Nigerians may have to go seeking out the unknown gunman so as to pay ‘tithe’ to him for protection. It could be a matter of time.