Nigeria and the Nadir of Power
Following the ‘unconditional release of 104 girls by Boko Haram last Wednesday and the reactions that have continued to trail the “morality” of the terrorists, Our Associate Editor, Jacob EDI, raises some posers surrounding how the abduction has played out:
No responsible government will announce it paid any form of ransom to kidnappers for the release of her citizen(s). Such a line has come to be an acceptable norm for governments, the world over, to save face. On that note, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information, spoke the truth when he said the Nigerian government did not pay a dime for the release the Dapchi girls, instead the directive by the president to all security agencies “to do everything possible” to secure the release of the Dapchi schoolgirls did the magic.
It is hoped that President Moahammdu Buhari will give the same directive in the case of the remaining Chibok girls who are still in captivity four years after.
However if the reason for the unprecedented return of the girls is a result of some ceasefire deal between the government and the terrorists, then certain questions are begging for answers. Is Nigeria at war? Is Nigeria under occupation? What are the terms of the deal between the federal government and the insurgents? Is government in same deal with the rampaging Fulani herdsmen? If the answers to the above posers are in the affirmation then it will not be far wrong if government is talking about a ceasefire, otherwise one will be tempted to ask if the so-called deal is only in adherence when it has to do with returning the young girls that were seized and not to prevent the insurgents from attacking.
When 110 female students of Government Girls School Dapchi, were kidnapped by terrorists, suspected to be members of Boko Haram and then last Wednesday, all the girls, except five, were reunited with their families. It is instructive that no member of the BH sect has taken responsibility for the kidnap of February 19.
For a government that boasted of technically defeating Boko Haram and a military that kept “arresting” the BH leader without really arresting him, the abduction of the Dapchi girls must have come as not only a rude shock but a huge embarrassment.
Mention must be made of the ease of operations when the girls were picked and returned. Very few Nigerians will rise in defense of government when suspicion of complicity in high quarters is raised and this is even without prejudice to the confusion between Aso Rock and Federal ministry of Information over the number of girls released by their abductors. It is cheering news that the hapless girls have been reunited with their parents, though.
If things were normal, the development of Wednesday would have been a landmark achievement for the struggling administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
But things are not normal!
Without ceremony, or according to the Presidency, non-payment of ransom, Boko Haram leaders drove into Dapchi of their own free will and released the girls they had kidnapped to their parents. This specie of terrorists sure deserve a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. It is unprecedented that a terrorist group will waste it’s time to plan and execute a kidnap of such magnitude for the fun of it. No exchange of prisoners. No money exchanged hands. Nothing… Just like that… Phew! But this is a matter for another day.
There is no gainsaying that many Nigerians have been in a quandary on whether the Dapchi girls were returned, released or rescued. Indeed, some incurable pessimists strongly believe the whole story about the Dapchi saga was stage-managed to gain political mileage. It will be utterly shameful if this whole drama is scripted just for that purpose. But many indicators seem to authenticate such perception. The way and manner the girls were picked as well as how the entire security around the area was reportedly comprised, the alleged warning by Amnesty International among others. The body language of top government functionaries has done incalculable harm to the confidence level of this government. No sooner had the kidnap taken place than the Defence Minister, Mansur Dan-Ali, went to town and gave an impression the girls will be found in no time.
While some government apologists see nothing wrong about the matters arising from the Dapchi story, concerted effort is being made to change the narrative. For them, the Buhari administration deserves commendation especially that the girls were returned in record 30 days unlike the Chibok saga. Yet the nagging question is whether the president will continue to sing the song of its swiftness in handling the Dapchi saga and consider the Chibok abduction as a Jonathan/PDP challenge or a national problem that should be given equal attention.
Since the return of the Dapchi girls, all major outlets of governments’ information machinery, both formal and informal, have concentrated their efforts at playing up the fact that this administration was swift in handling the matter, hence the release of the girls. Of course this is a very sweet narrative. But it beats commonsense that every effort of government is geared towards measuring its achievement against that of the previous government.
The challenges confronting this administration are enormous. Nigerians are daily living in fear and generally feel unprotected. The economy is far from being strong. It is embarrassing that Nigerians cannot even tell which years’ budget is in use. State governments are not, or better still, can’t pay salaries so government workers go months without salary while government officials live in affluence. The government pays deaf ears to some officials who are neck deep in corruption and yet carry on the toga of anti-corruption. Nigerians are no longer interested in excuses. They want answers.
The sustained and rather coordinated attack of Fulani herdsmen has left another dent on this administration. Just last week the social media was agog with gory pictures of innocent men, women and children from the eastern part of Kogi state. Several villages across three local governments in the state, Bassa, Dekina and Omala, were reportedly sacked and a lot of people are currently homeless. Adamawa, Taraba, Nassarawa, Plateau and Benue have had their share of the bestiality. In the case of Benue, the anti-open grazing law was said to have angered the herdsmen, even as unjustifiable as it sounds, but no credible reason can be adduced for the attacks in Kogi state.
No credible arrest has taken place even when leaders of the Fulani socio-cultural group has made comments that should ordinarily indict the group. This has fuelled insinuations that there is more than meet the ordinary eye. Are they above the laws of this country?
Even after President Buhari announced that the Inspector-General of Police had disobeyed his directive, the nation waited in vain for any consequential order or any form of sanction for that matter on the Niger State born IGP. It is unheard of that the orders of the Commander-in-Chief was not carried out by the nation’s top cop. It is disloyalty. It is disobedience. In other climes even the IGP will toe the path of honor as the presidents’ comments is not far from a vote of no confidence.
It is apparent that the president and his managers need to up the game. They should sing a new song as 2019 elections is getting closer. Nigerians need more than the euphoria of the return of abducted girls that create doubts in the minds of citizens. Government needs to do more to instill confidence in the minds of Nigerians and that will give it more political mileage that it so desperately seek.
The major function of government is the protection of lives and property of all citizens. Sadly, the situation we have in Nigeria is a far departure from the philosophy of safety as enshrined in the constitution. It is instructive that the merchants of CHANGE need to change tactics in order for Nigerians to change their perception.