We have challenges in our society. On this issue, there seems to be unanimity in agreement; even the leadership class that was playing the ostrich has come to terms with reality. We are glad. Before this time, questions of ethnicity, religion and self-interest would have come in between sound comprehension. Yes, we have had times of tyranny of opinion with individuals and groups who perceive themselves as having advantage holding tenaciously to their side of the story but the trend is no longer the same now. Everyone is getting up to admit the perilous times, in their various interjections. Nearly all are beginning to call a spade a spade, a development that is reassuring.
The most interesting thing in all of this is the observation that government officials who all this while looked impervious to the awful developments around the country are loosening up and coming to terms with reality. Last week, the Senate, that council of elders, stood up to be counted. Most citizens were happy with few “cannon” shots that came from that direction. Senator Smart Adeyemi, who obviously redeemed himself from a very recent blunder as well as Senator Dani Bello showed us that public officers, when properly psyched up can be the true voices of the people. The House of Representatives was not left behind. In fact, it led from the front; the Speaker visited the President after which they articulated possible solutions. That was exemplary; they deserve commendation. Also, key officials of states now openly admit that we are in bad times, a rebaptism if you like; this disposition should be noted and encouraged because a problem is never well sorted out except it is properly identified.
Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman who talks his boss into far greater trouble agrees that the prevailing situation is bad. Never mind his poor knowledge of the genesis, but his admission is a big boost. The Defense Minister after felons invaded a school in Niger State suggested to us to make arrangements to defend ourselves. It wasn’t very clear if he was advocating self-defense but his brief explanation suggested so. Our Defense Minister, who is a retired General of the Nigerian Army, told us these invading barbarians usually don’t have enough weapons, so they could buckle under mass chase by the victim population. It sounded such a good advice not until in the Southeast, a group, the Eastern Security Network, took up the challenge and decided to comb forests in their areas to fish out bandits who have made those places their bases that we began to see the Minister’s suggestion was about selective application or just plain case of double speak. The response of the Nigerian State has been to go after the group and to literally snuff life out of those they apprehend. Many of us think that is not the right way to go. Constructive engagement remains a vital part of what should be a collective master.
The question has been: why send soldiers to kill those who took up the challenge to flush out bandits? Why leave out the criminals to maintain their positions from where they have been committing outrageous crimes very inimical to the wellbeing of the larger society. Why hasn’t the state ordered security forces to enter the bushes to apprehend the strange elements in those places so as to rid those locations of unwanted persons? Just days ago, the Defense Minister was again on song telling us in very clear language that “our country is bleeding.” Those were his exact words. Many us who heard him couldn’t understand what he meant. Many still wonder what manner of speech that was. Was it about an alarm? Surrender? Helplessness? Confusion? Haluccination? Complacency or what?
What some take out of it is that the statement, if nothing else, gives us an inkling into the terrible time we are in currently. Yet something must be known and taken to heart: it is the fact that when a strategically placed government official speaks using such heavy words, citizens are bound to fear, basis being that those talking are not ordinary people, they men are in power, voted or appointed into offices not to act drama but to at all times identify challenges, then take measures to find solutions. So, when they turn round to talk to citizens with so much trepidation in their voices, they leave everyone in a state of greater confusion. What has the administration done or led other arms of government to do to solve the various challenges making life very miserable for the vast majority of the citizens? If we ask the government, the answer most of the time is likely to be, “we are doing our best.” The question then becomes why in spite of the claims is the situation moving from bad to worse? This is the point where the trouble or confusion begins, and further elucidation becomes very difficult to get. We have a President that is very distant from the people he governs. He has become a virtual president in the society with so many teething problems and where the governed are ever eager to see and interface with their leader. Our president can’t talk extempore so the aspect of magnetic linkage to his people is lost. Talking about leadership that inspires, he reads from a written script even then he still hardly talks, it doesn’t matter if hell has broken loose, he is just on his observatory post. This has made proffering of solutions a bit tedious. No substitute for a “hands on task” kind of leadership especially in the kind of situation we find ours now.
In the last ten days the society has been on fire. Lives destroyed in a manner we never saw even during the Civil War, yet by Thursday last week our president was yet to talk to his people either formally or informally. Yes, he may not give a national broadcast, that style is being abused these days but he can send a message to the people just by walking past State House correspondents. This he doesn›t do. His handlers have allowed our president keep to the pattern, as they say «it is a matter of style». Who keeps a retrogressive routine just because it is inherent? We hope it is not part of a grand design to mask incapacitation. Just hoping!
The officials of government are not helpful either; they have the responsibility to assist their principal get things done. Rather than do so they compound the situation. Mr Shehu told Nigerians the other day that the way insecurity is spoken about today it would seem like crimes were never there from the time of independence. Who in the modern time talks like this, much more a citizen in high public office? Few days ago the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, said the challenges facing our youths began about 50 years ago when the Gowon administration with a big purse failed to make education free. Who hears this and remains happy? Blame game all over the place. One would not want to do an over kill by harping on so much dissonance in the system. We saw a terrible example last week when our Airforce bombed life out of the ground troops and some of us wondered if military units don›t plan assaults together. Don›t they have communication between the ground troops and the other arms of the fighting forces?
The Reasons for our inability to have sound development is located in the poor attitude that expresses itself in the form of poor vision and lack of seriousness. There is nothing we live for as a society, no great ideal that drives us. It is vision that drives passion, where none exists base instinct takes over and that is exactly the reason we find it very interesting to hold on to primordial sentiments like tribe and religion at a time science, technology and development are doing wonders for others across the world. Our problems become intractable because we don›t make efforts to confront them head on and on time too. There is so much fear about consequences; which group will be offended and what will it portend for the society? This will not be if motives are altruistic. Who wouldn›t like qualitative and affordable healthcare for instance.
The challenge of nationhood has been there, so much has been said about Constitutional Amendment; those who say no to a conference have said the National Assembly is there, they have the majority and six years have gone.
The question is why hasn›t any substantial achievement been recorded on that front? What is holding everyone down from initiating action and why is the situation acceptable? Why would the National Assembly waste time talking about cattle data and Hijab bills when vast majority of the people are hungry and out of job? How come no one spares a thought for remaking the society at a time citizens are killed like chicken daily across the society? Why is it we know what to do to build a great society yet we delight in doing the contrary?
Why do our leaders like to indulge in naked dances while the cities are burning and lives lost in ways that should be unacceptable to any civilized society? Every society we describe today as great had and still have challenges, the difference is in attitude. Those societies when they see problems they make quick attempts to provide solutions. In our case we watch or even look away hoping that time will take care of it. Simmering race challenges in America took a different turn with the election of former President Donald Trump, then the unfortunate killing of George Floyd, a black. Americans resolved the contradictions with dispatch. The white supremacist Trump lost election, in the case of Floyd, the killer white cops were not only arrested, but within one year the trial was done with in the most transparent manner. Nigerians cheered but only very negligible few spared time to ask, what if this was to be Nigeria.
Why are our leaders always on the dance floor the while society gradually disintegrates? Insecurity is an issue now. What is the difficulty in changing the rules and allowing state and corporate organizations establish their police? What is the big deal in that? What is the big deal in unbundling the Federal Government and asking states and even local authorities to take up far greater responsibilities in rail, electricity, education, road, agriculture, health, etc? What is so difficult in giving state assembles and the judiciary autonomy granted them by the highly limited Constitution given to us by the military. What is so difficult about giving free education and health? What is so difficult?