By the time this article gets to the newsstand today, Tuesday, November 1, 2022, Abuja, the capital of Nigeria may either still be standing or it may have fallen. Fallen. That is a war phrase that suddenly rose to prominence in the last seven days, as a possible, if not likely fate, of Nigeria’s capital city. Yet Abuja is not at war with any known adversaries. Cities do not go to war anyway. Countries do. In this case, however, Abuja has been placed in a rather peculiar situation, with the burdened prediction that it will fall, likely to a siege laid by some dangerous adversaries still in the shadows. Indeed, as the warning came a few days back, “in 196 hours, Abuja will fall”. The clock is still ticking, with the city’s dwellers are not sure what is in the offing.
In more ways than one, Abuja personifies Nigeria. The city has been bearing the weight of abuses, rape and contradiction of the larger Nigerian system. The possibility of such a city crumbling under the weight of mind-boggling systemic corruption and corrosive shenanigans in administering institutions of the state has always been there. If Abuja were to collapse to corruption, that can be understood. Falling to an armed assault is, however, an entirely different matter. Not many had averted their mind to such a prospect.
The air over Abuja in the last week has been delicate. Even the blind can feel the high temperature of the city. Nobody seems to know where exactly the first shot will come from. But then dwellers in the city had been warned to expect an assault and, eventually, the fall of Abuja. The Ides of March has not passed.
Into the hands of which enemies will Abuja fall? The answer remains largely unknown. The United States of America (USA) sounded the alarm when its embassy in the city issued a disconcerting notice that Abuja was about to fall. The alarm was loud and clear but fell short of full disclosure, although it spoke of terrorists at the door. It did not go further to give full details of the impending Armageddon. The superpower obviously had incontrovertible intelligence at its disposal and, not being interested in exposing its citizens to unnecessary danger, it promptly took the drastic and uncommon step of evacuating of them from Abuja. As a matter of fact, many of the US embassy employees not only departed Abuja, they left Nigeria entirely. The fear of an impending calamity is still hovering over the city.
The last time such a notice to quit was served on a people before an impending Armageddon was at Sodom and Gomorrah, when God graciously called up Lot to take his and flee without delay, before he rained down fire and brimstone on an iniquitous people. As it appears in this instance, none of the fleeing American citizens was in the mood to play Lot’s wife. They all departed without looking back.
Trust Britain to sign on the same page with USA. It asked its citizens to quit Abuja as well. They did. Various other countries, among them Canada, Ireland, Denmark and Australia, issued the same directive to their citizens at their diplomatic offices to leave Abuja. All of them departed. Such a situation has never risen in Nigeria.
Even Nigerians have been counselled to leave Abuja, too. The warning has been very unnerving. As it seems, the idea was to get as many human beings as possible out of Abuja and out of harm’s way so that when the city falls it will do so with minimal casualty, very much like a poorly constructed building under guided demolition with explosives.
Now, except for the Gbagyis, who are indigenous to Abuja, virtually every other dweller in the city came in from somewhere. As the advisory for people to leave Abuja as quickly as possible came, therefore, the message was in clear terms, “to your tents o Nigerians”.
The tension within Abuja and beyond about the fate of the city and, indeed, Nigeria, has been trailed by conspiracy theories. Allegations and reports of who is into which plot in the unfolding script to collapse Abuja are many. Although the security agencies have been out assuring citizens who care to listen that they are up and doing in tackling whatever the danger was (is), many Nigerians simply don’t have the trust in whatever the agencies are telling them. The millions of Nigerians who are stuck in Abuja, still going about their businesses, are certainly not staying back on the strength of the assurances from security agencies and the government. Not at all.
A retired senior military officer who spoke in a private chat late last week summed up the sudden deterioration of the health of Abuja thus, “No one knows what to believe anymore, or what exactly is going on. One thing is for sure, Nigeria has hit the bottom.”
If Abuja falls, as those who raised the alarm about its fate forewarned it will soon do, that will be reckoned to General Muhammadu Buhari as, obviously, the high point of his presidency, an office he sought with so much passion over four general election cycles.
Any such fate of Abuja and, by extension, Nigeria, will also be reckoned to the All-Progressives Congress (APC) forever as an ignoble feat. Liquidating Nigeria within the eight years of its reign will surely be a record to note for a ruling party and its leaders.
The hanging fate of Abuja and Nigeria is loaded with dangerously interesting edges. It is left to be seen, for instance, what the APC and its presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, have to say about this most indicting development. Will they still insist on their hairbrained pitch that the party has served Nigeria well? Maybe it has.
Allegations that whatever dark cloud is hovering over Abuja at the moment has been gathering for long and is contrived appear quite difficult to discountenance. Nigeria has always been a prized pearl over which all manner of forces, rogues, irridentists, fundamentalists, patriots and charlatans have struggled. Alas, terrorists and fundamentalists may have gained the upper hand.
The present threat to Abuja has been presented by various experts as part of a plot that has been on for long, designed in the main to thwart the 2023 general election. The plan, as it is said, is to eventually stand on such confusion to foist an unelected government on the country, a government that will not only be vicious but will also be given to primitive, parochial policies framed in the image of those who engineered the criminality.
Where the APC presidential candidate and the stubs in the ruling party outside the loop of those alleged to be stoking the looming conflagration stand on this unfolding liquidation plot remains unknown. These, indeed, are very unusual times, for Abuja and for Nigeria. Maybe, if Abuja falls, Lagos will rise. APC may have commenced the real journey of taking Nigeria to the next level, up or down?