There is wisdom in the saying that he whose house is on fire does not pursue rats. It would be foolhardy for one to leave the fire razing one’s house and start chasing after a rat. Abandoning effort to put out the fire and dissipating energy chasing after rats would lead to one thing: Destruction. The house would be engulfed and completely razed. And the rat would still escape.
It is becoming more apparent that the Federal Government led by President Muhammadu Buhari is behaving like that man whose house was on fire and chased after rats. At a time when the country is engulfed in hydra-headed crises caused by insecurity, bad economy and bad politics, the government is rather engaging in a ‘rat race,’ instead of tackling the problems and finding solutions to them. Government has engaged in tokenism, half measures, witch-hunt, victimisation, division as well as trying to make scapegoats of some people, instead of taking proactive and holistic measures that would solve the problems.
The other day, the Federal Government announced that it had devised special security measures for the South-East and the South-South of Nigeria. Although it did not reveal what the measures were, the government gave itself away as taking Southern Nigeria as its major problem, when indices show that this thinking is absolutely wrong. Singling out the South-East and the South-South for any special security measure whatsoever, when such action has not been taken or celebrated about the other parts of the country where insecurity has reached boiling point, shows the narrow-mindedness of those in government and their desire to subtly and tactically impose a state of emergency in these two geopolitical zones.
There is insecurity across the nation. The situation in the northern part of the country has reached an emergency level, as bandits and insurgents are running riot. In the North, communities have been overrun by Boko Haram insurgents and bandits. Nigerians have been told that flags of the insurgents and bandits have been hoisted, to show their total control. In the North, criminals are abducting pupils and students and collecting ransom. The situation is so bad that the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Saad Abubakar III, had had to bring the attention of the world to the problem when he declared the zone as the worst place to live or be in. When pupils and students are abducted, government, state or federal, does not take major security measures. Some of them hide under the policy of not negotiating with terrorists and refuse to engage the kidnappers. They leave parents of the kidnapped pupils and students to solve their problems themselves or their children perish.
The government has never celebrated any newfound solution or devised any special security measure for the North, where insecurity has gone out of hand. Rather, the government wants to sell the dummy that the South-East and South-South are the worst hit by insecurity and, therefore, need special security attention. No doubt, there is a level of insecurity in the two zones. Yes, police stations and headquarters have been attacked and policemen killed. A prison facility has been attacked and destroyed. One student of a state university had once been abducted, among other victims. However, there is no territory taken over by criminals. There is agitation by some youths against marginalisation but, instead of addressing the highlighted issues, government prefers to wield a sledge hammer, while playing the ostrich about the situation in President Buhari’s North. Certainly, this is not how to address Nigeria’s crises.
Knowing Nigeria for what it is and the way government people behave, the special security measures for the South-East and South-South cannot be further from an orchestrated programme to clamp down on people from the zones. Already, policemen have been given the mandate to shoot on sight anybody whatsoever. Soldiers are combing the zones, arresting people at will. They arrest or take out people and tag them secessionists. They kill people and brand them commanders of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Since dead men cannot defend themselves, the authorities’ profiling is believed.
Pray, if this kind of measure was taken in the North against bandits and insurgents, the situation would not have degenerated to the level where it is now. When the former Chief of Army Staff, General Azubuike Ihejirika, during the government of President Goodluck Jonathan, worked hard to displace Boko Haram insurgents, elders from the North, including some of those in government today, shouted genocide. They alleged that the army was killing their people and threatened to drag the then army chief to the International Criminal Court (ICC). This blackmailed the government in power at that time. The resultant effect is what the country is seeing now. Boko Haram insurgents have gained confidence, dug in and, like “Bolekaja,” dare the country to “come down and fight.”
I believe that the Federal Government knows what to do about insecurity. It should do it. Treating the problem with kid gloves in places where the situation is bad and applying maximum force where the issue is mild is not a way to end the problem. Until the government knows that a criminal is a criminal, no matter his race or creed, the problem of insecurity in the country would not be solved. You cannot give the tendencies or actions of criminals any degree of allowance. Criminality is criminality, no matter who is involved.
The government should stop the blame game and do its duty to Nigerians. The allegation recently that some religious and political leaders were planning to topple the government was of little worth. When a government begins to cry wolf where there is none, when the wolf eventually comes, nobody would take it seriously. The government should not play with the allegation of coup plot and give the military ideas. It should not use this coup plot brouhaha to begin to victimise and rein in people who are critical of its failures. We have seen government use allegations of coups to silence the opposition. It happened in Nigeria before and it was obvious that it was phantom coup. However, people were punished. Coups are out of fashion and are not the solution to the country’s problems. Coups would rather exacerbate matters.
Nigeria is on the precipice. When insecurity appears to be overwhelming a nation, disaster looms. The government should do what is needed to arrest the situation. Nigerians and groups have asked for a national conference to address the issues causing the problems. Someone had suggested the institution of a commission of inquiry. Others have asked for restructuring of the country, to bring about equity, justice and fairness. These are at the heart of the problems bedevilling Nigeria. The government needs to address them.
That the southern governors had to, with one voice, tell the Federal Government to convene a national conference, allow state police, review revenue-sharing formula and address the lopsidedness in federal appointments shows the feelings of the majority of Nigerians.
The government of President Buhari should govern the country with an open mind. All component units of the country should be treated equally, for the sake of justice. Nigerians generally should take all parts of the country for what they are and give them their due respect and entitlement.
I have wondered why the Igbo are singled out and blamed for unthinkable things. President Buhari’s problem is not the Igbo. Nigeria’s problem is not the Igbo. Always singling out the Igbo and trying to make them scapegoats is a mark of injustice. The recent pronouncement by the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, that Igbo, nay IPOB, are plotting to attack Lagos is the kind of stereotype that leaves the country the way it is.