We are in an election season. So our governments, local, state and federal, have sufficient reasons for not governing. It’s no use asking what they have been doing in-between the elections of 2015 and 2019. And now 2022. At the federal level, we have had a lame duck President since 2015. And it can only be expected to remain so until May 29, 2023.
Ordinarily, the 11 odd months to the expiry of the bungling regime of this President, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, would have been longer than the seven years eaten by the locusts but, thankfully, if ‘thankful’ is the appropriate word, elections are here with the hustle and bustle and promises and deceit. And then heartbreak and gnashing of teeth.
If Nigerians needed a foretaste of the flavour of the upcoming 2023 elections, they had more than enough of it during the just concluded primary elections of the political parties, particularly the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). As we said last week, the primaries were bazaars and auctions combined and the only legal tender for the transactional balloting charade was the United States dollars.
Though it was wholly a Nigerian business, there was no place for the naira, Nigeria’s legal tender. For the parties to the transactions at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium (PDP) and Eagle Square (APC), both in Abuja, it was a lot more convenient to pass on the last gasp dish out bribe money in dollars.
It’s far easier and unobtrusive to pocket $50,000 even while dressed in trousers and shirt. A wrap of $10,000 will fit into the breast pocket; $10,000 each will go into the two side pockets of the trousers of the male delegates, while the same wraps would be tucked away inside the two back pockets of the trousers. That way, $50,000 would have been ‘warehoused’ without any telltale signs. But we know that many of our politicians wear flowing gowns or parachutes with cavernous receptors that pass as pockets. For the female delegates, and they are very few, their ubiquitous handbags would handily do the magic. Even the agents of the anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), who were reported to have ‘invaded’ the venues of the primaries, saw nothing, did nothing and arrested nobody for either giving or receiving bribe. So, as we say here, nothing spoil.
The gullible among us had believed this regime when it promised in 2015 that it would battle corruption and give treasury looters a bloody nose. Sadly, but not surprisingly for discerning Nigerians, corruption has become a monster. Not too long ago, the now suspended accountant-general of the federation was alleged to have stolen about N80 billion. The sum has since moved closer to N200 billion. And some persons have been named as part of the looting syndicate or as beneficiaries of the largesse.
As with the PDP, Nigerians would never know the extent of the heist perpetrated on them until and unless the APC and its honchos are voted out of power and office in 2023. It is probably only in Nigeria that a political party and its agents who have superintended the Nigerian carnage in just seven years would boldly but shamelessly offer themselves for consideration to continue in office. And they are desperate to remain in power ostensibly to cover their rape of the treasury.
The tragedy is that, while the ruling party does all in its power to remain in office, the country continues to bleed. Profusely. The only thing worse than this regime’s glaring failure in its anti-graft fight is the gripping failure in securing Nigeria and Nigerians. From the North-East hotbed of sectarian insurrection to the endless killings by the Fulani militia in the North-Central and the Hobbesian state in the South-East, Nigeria is in the grip of horrors. Add to the grim picture kidnappings for ransom in the North-West, Yahoo-plus in the South-West and the massive theft of crude oil in the South-South, you have a country on its knees, if not in the throes of death.
I have been a frequent traveller to the South-East in recent months and this has been in spite of the pervasive insecurity in the region. The North-East and North-West may be more insecure than any other part of the country at the moment but I am persuaded that state failure and probably connivance by relevant state agencies are complicit in the insecurity in the South-East.
Today, the Nigeria Police are virtually non-existent in many parts of Igboland. The excuse is that they are endangered species, given the onslaught on them by non-state, armed and dangerous criminals. The police are hardly on the roads and in neighbourhoods. In Mgbidi, Oru West LGA, my homestead, the divisional police station has added coaches of cement blocks to their compound and permanently locked up the main access gate to the station. Even the small gate is barricaded.
My understanding is that the practice of the police shutting themselves inside their offices is prevalent in many parts of the South-East. A police force that is preoccupied with securing itself and itself alone is of little or no use to the wider community. Ordinarily, a police station or army barracks should be a place of refuge for any citizen fleeing from danger. Not anymore in many parts of the East. In my neck of the woods, police now is your enemy. Not your friend.
The same applies to the army. At the best of times, army barracks are no-go areas. And these are certainly not the best of times. Soldiers have become the implacable enemies of Ndigbo. Happenings at army checkpoints that dot the Dot nation and the treatment of the Igbo as conquered people at the army roadblocks have driven a wedge between Ndigbo and the Nigerian Army. There’s no love lost.
With the police shuttered in for their lives and the army tormenting the people, the vacuum created has been filled by sundry non-state armed actors.
And this is where Umu Chukwu, Ebubeagu and the unknown gunmen come in.
Umu Chukwu (children of the Almighty God), I understand, is the armed and militant enforcers of the doctrines and policies of the separatists Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). It appears that the police have ceded swathes of territories of the South-East to them. They operate freely.
Then there’s the Ebubeagu, the supposed militia of the governments of the South-East states. The formal public launching of the outfit failed and the founding commanding officer, Gen. Umahi (retd.), left in a huff. He is the brother of the governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi. However, the Imo State government reportedly secretly launched Ebubeagu and unleashed the operatives on communities. The reports on their activities are less than salutary. Their codes of engagement are largely unknown but they are known to be trigger-happy and they appear to derive sadistic joy in terrorising communities in the guise of fighting Umu Chukwu and UGM. Wherever they operate, they leave behind a trail of mourning, sorrow and blood. There’s no evidence they are accountable to anybody.
The final mix in the prevailing insecurity in the South-East are the blood-thirsty UGM. In addition to their criminality, they appear determined to patent the act of instilling fear in Igboland. They kidnap. They torture. They kill. They decapitate. And they display in public places the severed heads of their victims, including in markets and squares and playgrounds.
In the hands of Umu Chukwu and Ebubeagu, to be a young man has become a cardinal sin. No young man is safe on the roads and at home. Your crime is that you are a young man. To Ebubeagu operatives, you are the elusive UGM and closet Biafran, while to Umu Chukwu you are an informant of Ebubeagu. Head or tail, you have to pay. With your life. And many have died. There’s no end in sight to the orgy of killing our young men.