ON September 21, 2001, the torso of a boy was found in the River Thames in London. Scotland Yard working with a network of security agencies across Europe mounted a manhunt for the person(s) behind such savagery and to find out the true identity of the victim. Head and limbs cut off, the sight of such mutilated infant outraged the whole of Europe. Nobody knew the ancestry of the decapitated little lad. For nomenclatural convenience, he was named Boy Adam. And through devoted inquest and unrelenting prodding of the UK intelligence agencies including the deployment of forensic technology, the mystery of Boy Adam was unraveled.
The UK detectives had to undertake several trips to Africa to meet with then President Nelson Mandela to seek his support in their effort to unearth what was suspected to be a voodoo ritual then traced to persons of West Africa descent. On March 29, 2011, a breakthrough happened. The jigsaw was at least pieced together. Boy Adam was a 6-year-old Nigerian who was suspected to have been trafficked from Germany to England for ritual. The UK security agents traced the ancestry of the boy to Benin City through a dragnet of inquisition that took them through the South West where, according to their findings, such voodoo involving chopping off people’s heads and limbs and other morphological accessories had been in practice.
Though nobody has been charged, but the efforts of the UK security agents and the media especially the BBC paid off: the identity of the woman and the man who were the two main actors in the sordid act was revealed. The lesson here is not about whether anybody was prosecuted or not; it is about the premium the UK government places on the life of a citizen. Boy Adam was just one person, a six-year-old boy who is not even of white parentage. But because he is a human being, victim of savagery on UK soil, the UK government left nothing to chance. It spent money and time to unravel the mystery. The UK government honoured a dead black boy of Nigerian origin.
But watch the government of Nigeria and how it responds to matters of death of Nigerians in Nigeria. Just last weekend alone, the grim reaper flapped its wings over Anambra, Katsina, Zamfara, Rivers and Borno states. Bombs exploded in Muna Park in Maiduguri killing no fewer than five persons and injuring scores; in Kaduna two cops were killed when gunmen attacked their station, many civilians were killed in the attack; in Anambra suspected herdsmen attacked a farm settlement and mowed down six persons with scores injured; in Zamfara, now the hotbed for violence and mass murder, gunmen were on rampage killing and maiming, kidnapping and hatching all manner of banditry. In Taraba, ethnic rivalry between the Jukun and Tiv claimed no fewer than 10 lives. All this in one weekend of madness. The list goes on and on.
And while these were happening, our President was away in United Arab Emirates wooing investors; the vice president was in Rwanda laying wreaths for victims of Hutu-Tutsi ethnic war of attrition; the Nigerian parliament was too busy worrying and scheming about who controls the lever of power in the next (9th) Assembly. The leadership of the nation’s security apparatchik was up and about mouthing empty assurances. And Nigerians died, killed by mindless mob and gorilla goons. Sad and goopy. While President Buhari was in the UAE boasting about his government decimating the Boko Haram sect, the same terrorists responded by attacking Muna Park in Borno State.
And that is the problem. Nigerian governments are long on speeches but very short in action in terms of securing human lives. When over 200 Chibok School Girls were kidnapped by terrorists in 2014, the government of Goodluck Jonathan was reluctant to buy into the theory of abduction. It tried to make a political capital out of a very dire situation, accusing the opposition of spinning a phantom abduction. Before the government and its security institutions could wake up from their self-induced stupor, the girls and their abductors were long gone. Till this day, some of the Chibok Girls are still out of sight, out of reach.
A couple of days back, a part of Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport in Owerri, Imo State, was up in flames. For a functional airport, you would expect an efficient fire service, ambulance and other emergency utilities. Never! The fire caused extensive damage to the terminal building before a sluggish fire service intervened.
Smaller African nations have demonstrated smarter response to the protection of lives of their citizens. From Ghana to South Africa, huge premium is placed on the lives of their citizens. A comedian made a joke of this recently. He said: “In other countries when a human being dies, they kill cow but in Nigeria when a cow dies, we kill humans”. Though intended as a joke but it is a reflection of what the Nigerian government has reduced human lives to.
The killings and kidnappings in Borno, Zamfara and everywhere is enough for President Buhari to sack his Service Chiefs and appoint fresh hands to inject some enthusiasm into the system but he won’t. It’s not in our character to resign our appointment because we failed to discharge our duties but it should be the duty of the one appointing to fire an appointee who has shown a clear lack of capacity to deliver on the job. This is the least expected of Buhari in the circumstance.
Rather than travelling the world boasting of how he has degraded Boko Haram, the president should stay back and confront this bogey of crime and insecurity. Boko Haram is still alive and bombing. No Nigerian highway is free anymore. Lagos-Benin road, Abuja-Kaduna, Abuja-Agbor, not to talk of the death-highways in the north east. Nowhere is safe. Nigerians are not safe. Foreigners are either killed or abducted. And you want more foreign investors to come here? They won’t come. No investor would invest in an unsafe clime. Yes, Nigeria has the market but she has no steady power supply and both life and investment are unsafe here.
As a retired General, I expected Buhari to be ruthless against terror and banditry. He hasn’t. Under Buhari Nigeria has experienced more killings and criminalities. We have become numbed to killing. Just one Boy Adam, the UK government refused to hold back. They spared nothing and they got result. Successive Nigerian governments, especially the incumbent, have consistently shirked their constitutional duty of securing lives and property of citizens. It aches, it rankles.
I still believe Buhari will rise to the occasion. Downplaying the wave of crime and needless bloodletting will never help this nation. Rather, it emboldens the criminals. But much more, it dims the confidence of the citizens in the leadership. These deaths are just too many. These killings must stop and it’s up to Mr. President to be a true General. I crave a Nigeria where human life would mean something to the leadership. I desire to see a new Nigeria where premium is placed on the life of the citizen. I still believe it’s possible.