The Unknown Gunman – My Man of the Year!
Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
That officials of the Nigerian state have made the spurious claim that the gunmen who have unleashed a savage orgy of bloodletting and violence in many sections of the Nigerian federation are unknown, is a profound, if miserable contradiction in tragic terms. Ours is drama without a hero, of only villains in power, because there is no nobility of deeds to attract such elevated comprehension of the order if order of things we have. It is also a fundamental commentary on the question mark which currently defines and interrogates the existence of Nigeria made severe by the fatalistic detachment of the Presidency from the grim realities of everyday life in the country. But we are not surprised or shocked, not anymore. Our sensibilities have been so assaulted by official complicity in the nefarious that we now believe the late Dele Giwa who proclaimed Nigeria as an ‘experiment on the impossible’.
The contradiction is heightened by the fact the incumbent Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a retired Army General, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, a man who once fought for the unity of Nigeria and who promised in 2015 to bring the raging insurgency to an end within a short time. Unfortunately, neither his antecedents nor his election promises have amounted to much in the aftermath of victory. These aside, our beloved but beleaguered country is the very definition of contradictions. Rulers as brigands, brigands as protectors of the State. How? For the reasons above, I have elected to proclaim The Unknown Gunman my Man of the Year!
The choice of the Unknown Gunman as Man of the Year was tragically easy for my one-man Editorial Board. Gory pictures of the brutally murdered always leap to my conscious and unconscious imagination each time I engage Social Media platforms. A governorship election in Anambra State was almost halted on account of the activities of unknown gunman. Imo State, and indeed the South-eastern states have witnessed high-profile killings by gunmen. In the northern part of the country, gunmen have attacked serving and former state officials, with impunity. Retired Army generals have been slaughtered, men who survived the battlefield only to die in the hands of gun men whom the State says are unknown. Such serving Generals as Dzarma Zirikisu, Major General Hassan Ahmed former Provost Marshall of the Nigerian Army have lost their lives to unknown assassins. Retired Major General Mohammed Shuwa was murdered by Boko Haram scoundrels in November 2012. A former Chief of Defence Staff of Nigeria Air Chief Marshal Tony Badeh died from gunshot wounds after his vehicle was attacked by unknown gunmen along Abuja-Keffi Road in December 2018. Also, retired AVM Muhammed Maisaka was shot dead along with his grandson in Kaduna in November 2021. No credible security force allows killers of its senior officers to go unpunished. Undetected is outside the codes of engagement. While I was writing this essay, a news headline arrived on my smartphone: ‘Bandits Strike hard, kill, Abduct many DSS Operatives’. I have left out the names of high-profile civilians who have been killed.
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Official perfidy and an egregious embrace of all that is odious with statehood and statesmanship have become the face of governance in Nigeria. Despicable and irascible as the late General Sanni Abacha was, his submission that ‘if insurgence lasted for more than 24 hours hold the government in power responsible’ has come to confront us as we grapple with that which is, but which the government denies: the active presence of terrorists in the land in the character and modus operandi of Boko Haram and the notorious Fulani herdsmen. This denial is invariably associated with the President’s perceived reluctance to take decisive actions against his kith and kin. Some of this have to do with President Buhari’s antecedents in his days as a candidate for the Number One seat in the polity! His declaration that actions against Boko Haram were palpably anti-north has come to haunt him in a most brutal manner.
This then is our dilemma, or the dilemma of the President and the security forces in the land. To know that herdsmen and Boko Haram are a threat to the polity, that these have been given an ethnic coloration, that the security architecture currently dominated by one region gives room for suspicion. Yet, ironically, the northern part of the country suffers the devastating impact of banditry and kidnappings more than the south. Kaduna, Katsina, Borno, Niger, and Zamfara States have been virtually turned into a special den of criminality, with some areas under the unofficial control of non-state actors. Professor Usman Yusuf writes that ‘Sabon Birni, Isa, Goronyo, Illela and Wurno LGAs in eastern part of Sokoto State are now under the control of a notorious bandit called Bello Turji’. This along with other factors has led to the ‘North is Bleeding’ protests that rocked some states and Abuja in the month of December, highlighted by the active participation of the sister of northern establishment poster-girl Kadaira Ahmed, Zainab Ahmed. Poignantly, the protesters declared: ‘We are here to tell the government to secure our lives. We bury hundreds of people on a daily basis yet there is no action, not even a sorry from our leaders. We are here because we are angry. Because we are children of Baba Buhari. We called on our followers to vote for Buhari in 2019 for the next level and this next level is killing us. We are dying, this is not what we voted for’. Abuja-Kaduna Road is a near-certain death trap for travellers!
The narrative of woe is not any different in the south. Aside from the federal troops onslaught in the South-eastern states, there are unexplained killings of traditional rulers, businessmen, politicians, and ordinary citizens. On Mondays, business life is paralysed on the orders of the proscribed IPOB which has proved to be the de facto government in the region. Police posts and stations have been attacked by unknown gunmen with the police recording a high casualty rate. In Delta and Edo States, Fulani herdsmen, ensconced in the deep forests, sometimes with local collaborators routinely seize wayfaring citizens and collect ransoms. Too many people have lost their lives to random shootings from these known yet unknown criminals between Sagamu and Asaba, and between Benin and Auchi. How did we degenerate into this chaotic geographical space that once held great promise for the continent of Africa?
It is inconceivable to anybody who has a passing knowledge of the sociology of criminality to believe that unknown gunmen can operate in a country for twelve months or more without being known or detected. There is the suggestion of official complicity. There is a lie, a big lie out there, an offensive and rude one. There is a denial. A wicked reluctance to express the obvious. This denial is official criminality. It is irresponsible. It offends the collective notion and Constitutional obligation of the State versus security for the citizens who elected officials to various offices.
By default, and by design, we, that is, the Nigerian State created the Unknown Gunman. He has emerged from the ashes of official plundering of State resources. The resources are controlled by a few who have had access to political power. How do we explain the humongous sums that have been traced to individual accounts while the nation suffers a disgraceful infrastructure deficit? If non-state actors could not gain access to wealth, was it not inevitable for the Unknown Gunman to arise? In plain terms, State capture by insensitive rulers has created the monster of the Unknown Gunman. Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu are variants or activist symptoms of the Gunman virus. Added to this is the rise of fundamentalists whose defeat in Libya, Syria and other parts of the Middle East has created a diffusion of forces to Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa.
The Unknown Gunman lives with us, and is from us, and is us. The bandit lives with us. The savage herdsman lives with us. There are foreign elements, yes, foreign elements among the herdsmen who had been imported for political reasons as explained by some angry politicians. The incumbent government’s policy of accommodating strange elements from across the borders on account of ethnic affiliation is our undoing. They created a monster. The monster has grown beyond them. They are now eating up the flesh of innocent Nigerians for breakfast. The Unknown Gunman is the legacy of failed governments in Nigeria. It is not Buhari. Not Goodluck Jonathan. It is a collective failure of all past governments. It is the failure of the people who compromise their votes for a mess of the proverbial pottage.
The Unknown Gunman therefore is my Man of the Year. The rapacious phenomenon has produced the rapacious Nigerian that was once hidden in the dark recesses of the nation. The federal government is complicit. The state governments, except Rivers and Benue, have been bullied into acquiescence. The federal system is in the breach in practice. It exists only in notion. The federal government is accomplice to the Unknown Gunman. Metaphorically, the federal government is an Unknown Gunman waiting to be unmasked. Hand in hand, the federal government and some gun-toting scoundrels have decimated lives, truncated dreams, traumatized millions, and seized our liberties.
If 2023 elections will be free and fair, the Unknown Gunman will stand no chance in entering Government House at national or regional or state level. That would be our only opportunity to save Nigeria from the vagrants who now hold the nation’s jugular as bandits, herdsmen, kidnappers, policy makers, and security personnel!
Professor Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha can be reached on 08023220393
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Death At Dawn, Rebirth At Dusk
By Toyin Falola
Twilight-zone, Afterlife, What-Mays, and Whatnots;
Questions that transcend mortal thoughts.
Uncertainties plucked by the hands of certainty
pondering life beyond the galaxy.
Philosophies, religions, and sciences;
Ancient lenses to dissect and ponder.
Beliefs, opinions, and standpoints in their multiplicities;
Scalpels that open the heart of certain death
Blazing free the skins of uncertainty.
Science, a nobility I revere,
But it stammers answering to the afterlife.
For science is knowledge and knowledge from experience
But the dead neither speak, nor take records.
Their journeys, ordeals, triumphs or woes?
No one bears witness.
But as dead, we must all be witnesses;
witnesses that testify not.
So, for now, we survive the knowledge of death.
On my Agbàlàgbà head lies my Ọ́kpụ́ Ágwụ́
With eagle feathers, rare and honorable
Adorning it for three scores, a decade, and some more days.
I had flipped my Kente given by the Gaa
And danced to crescendos from Gàngàn drums
I have been celebrated and celebrating
For the miracles, I have worked with pen, paper, keyboard, and brain
I have taken the tales we tell in my village square beyond the Atlantic
Changed the songs that disdain us into appraisals
I have called my brothers not to point to our fathers’ house with their left hands
I have honed Africa and beyond
To answer the calls of the people’s need
I have reached the thinkable and done the unthinkable
So, I danced and keep dancing.
Suddenly, I felt a touch on my host?
Electrifying my hand, leg, brain, and my whole
Telling me that my jur from the Dinka people awaits me.
That my hourglass tells of crossing the bar.
I thought I knew what it was like,
But my grasping convictions of approaching jur were perceptions
Just surviving the death of the knowledge of death
So, arms wide open ready to abound
What was there to fear?
No catacomb of secrets
No palm oil-drenched white garments
I have taken many to my gourmet
To feast and to see.
What was there not to fear?
With medicine men and women,
Syringes, lights, water, ECG, Oximeters, voices, and touches
Hovering around me like a sacred etutu
Making conversations with me and beyond
I was thrown into a pool of reminiscence
one leg and a part of me were already in the boat
It beckoned but I heard another.
A loud voice like my mother’s.
Who takes a journey without locking his home?
Who takes the jur with unpatched palm fronds on his hut?
While the thunder rages up the sky?
The walls are broken and Balogun journeys?
So, I left the sea to clear the cobwebs and light up the night lamb.
The past few weeks have opened new lights of understanding to me. I now see the world from different hills and have helped to reach new resolutions. I know I have written about “transitioning to nothingness,” but my emphasis was on the “nothingness” with lesser attention on “transitioning.” I think we need to continue to ask questions. Philosophies, religion, sociology, psychology, science, and other ramifications are mere perceptions and we are uncertain. The transitioning occurs when death becomes an angel to hug not a beast to fear. We do not know what it entails but one must always endeavor to go with clean hands.
My recovery from an illness may have offered me a fresh opportunity to shout some more, point to societal needs, and settle unfinished businesses. No, not those caused by my personal undoing, but rather those of the people who would be left unguided, and for matters untold about life, society, and individuals. I can say I have passed through the lessons of tantra transfiguration, to use an elegant phrase that I recently came across, to move from secular to sacred activism. No one survives death because of its finality, but when it seems that you did, it is a renewed quest, offering a new purpose.
Professors On INEC’s Will (3)
By Tony Afejuku
The debate has progressed well so far. Our professors, whose strokes have centred on their fellow professor’s manned INEC have tried as best as they could not to confine their impressions solely to the prism of subjectivity. Even when their impressions seem to be subjective, they still make allowance for contrary views, for opposing views. This obviously gives clarity, objectivity and logic to the subject at hand. Is the will of INEC of a professor minder and mincer of words’ control the will of the people or of the masses? On whose side are the Professors who are as concerned as almost everybody is with what is going – or with what has gone on – primarily about our Presidential 2023 elections? Our Professors who are debating the subject constitute the courageous and prophetic Nigerian voices of our day. Their authentic and responsible thoughts are not restricted to the local or regional. They are also not confined to electoral duties and responsibilities expected of the umpire and the will that belongs elsewhere. The truth about the quality of leadership about our country and elsewhere is also told in the debate of the literati.
Professor (Mrs.) Razinatu Mohamed in her submission, in her salvo-cum-explosion actually, drew attention to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s explosive explosion in the presidency. If Professor Osinbajo had provided the right vice-presidential leadership there would not have been the need for him to explode as he did as per a viral video Professor Razinatu Mohamed referred her fellow debaters to. “What has he been doing in the eight years of their administration? Irritated my foot; he is complicit.” Not done, Professor Razinatu drew attention to the kind of leaders that Nigeria and Africa need: “Leaders that understand the rudiments of modern socio-economic development and systems; Leaders that understand the crux of requirements for economic growth. Leaders that could demonstrate to the rest of the world that just as the world needs Africa, African countries need the world in a symbiotic relationship and partnership context where assistance becomes a dual role…..”
Razinata’s concern is clear. Nothing in Nigeria will climb out of its hollow hole. In fact, the will of the people will remain hollow so long as a hollow mincer and minder is in charge of its electoral affairs.
Professor Da Sylva perhaps responds better to Professor Razinatu Mohamed’s algebraic stroke. “Unfortunately, Nigeria’s democracy is trapped in its primordial self-made ethnic and religious sentiments and so, standards, merit, competence and pedigrees are measured by their curious divides of religion and ethnic inclinations. Until we all come to realize that heavens help those who help themselves, Nigeria ain’t going no-where – meeen!”
But below is Professor Da Sylva’s sledge hammer response to Professor Razinatu Mohamed’s Osinbajo hammer blow:
“Prof Osinbajo’s office demands he does what he did. Besides, it shows maturity and spirit of sportsmanship on his part. Every loser in a game “healthily” contested, is naturally expected to do the same. The only difference which again shows Osinbajo’s magnanimity is that in this context, the contest under reference was neither healthy nor just. The umpire seemed compromised and merely worked to a prepared answer. Yet the gentleman did the needful. I guess, brothers and sisters, that we should put all that behind us, and work for our common good, and the wellbeing of the country, provided the mythical Aso cabal will let the President-elect be, and let the masses be, and as such, they should not create any cause for us to think otherwise, lest they provoke our sense of patriotism to take appropriate action! I guess that those were the reading or feelings of the dirty-minded Aso Villa cabal. People that kill with sword never wish that any folk should pass a sword over their heads, a wise saying goes in Yoruba. The human principalities simply suspected that should they allow PMB to give the VP the intended latitude, they might not be able to control him. I remember on his return from London, he commended the efforts of his VP while he was away. He said he would still continue acting while he would still have some more rest at home. The following day everything changed, PMB decided to take charge as the President. I suspected some back door politics was playing out. My co-debaters, quite naturally, you’ll agree with me that, it is not over-ambition or sheer opportunism as you might insinuate for any deputy in an office to aspire to the next higher office, in a legitimate manner, there is nothing really unusual about it, and it would amount to killing a mosquito with a sledge hammer, should Oshinbajo be crucified for that, if at all. And as for his wishing Buhari’s non-recovery, I think that, again, like my Sister R, is a little unkind and not fair to the gentleman who I know to be a servant of God. He knows as much as I do, by our true Christian orientation and Biblical injunctions that, should he ever wish Buhari’s death or wish him any form of misfortune in those trying periods of the President, God Almighty who we serve would deal mercilessly and ruthlessly with him. That is what Psalm 41:1-13 is all about. So rule that out, because it is not, and could never be in his character. I can vouch for him. Rather, I saw him in those times that he acted for his principal, as someone zealous and appreciative of the trust his principal invested in him, and as such he tried to do his very best to merit the trust and the opportunity! I know and I am also sure that this is what an IBK, or a Razinat, would have done too had they found themselves in a similar situation! It does not amount to wishing one’s principal any evil, not at all. Not everyone can be like Chief Obafemi Awolowo who resigned his position under Gowon when the regime became financially reckless shortly after the civil war. Awolowo also gave very profound argumentation to justify convincingly his actions. He also turned down some other appointments including the “49 Wise Men of the Constitution Drafting Committee.” Oshinbajo couldn’t have resigned, normally, and naturally his principal, PMB should have supported him as a capable successor, but again, the President’s ethnic and religious bigotry took the better part of the President. Besides, PMB’s mind was long poisoned against his VP, a clean job by the Aso Villa cabal. IBK, Lady R, until the faceless cabal is permanently silenced the wheel of Nigeria might continue to go round in a circle, and to nowhere in particular”.
And Professor IBK takes the floor: “Prof. DAO, yours is a powerfully convincing submission, at least in a large measure. Now I am willing to hold a slightly different opinion about Osinbajo. Yet, I cannot fathom why he chose to run against Tinubu, days or weeks after the latter had begun his campaign in the party primaries. There’s much we don’t know about why OSBJ decided to run against BAT. Nothing is wrong with that politically but a little problematic from an Ethical or, at least Moral, point of view. Osinbajo did a poor job of it and came out a distant 4th in the primaries. I think he didn’t read the situation correctly and was probably misled by some cabal of sorts. Either way Osinbajo made a politically fatal error in this regard. Perhaps he must have sensed, or was told, that BAT was not the anointed candidate, or that BAT would be crippled by some ill-health or a medical condition. I remember the party’s screening committee publicly recommending that only younger contestants would be recommended to the NWC or such. Clearly there was an attempt to sideline BAT. Whatever the explanation, Osinbajo make the error in his campaign of promising to be more Buhari than Buhari. A man despised by whole sections of the northern population, a man whose reputation for laziness and incompetence was on the ascendant. Anyway, all is now history and Osinbajo has not given a good account of himself in this particular case. Prof DAO, I think your concept of the Trickster should account for Osinbajo’s situation here. FULL DISCLOSURE: a very close family member of mine was drafted to head Osinbajo’s campaign effort in Kano. We discussed extensively about Osinbajo’s pledge to carry on with Buhari’s policies. There was bewilderment and shock within the members. A week later half of the membership resigned on account of Osinbajo’s increasing identification with Buhari’s policies. Many mistakenly thought that Osinbajo was Buhari’s anointed one! I could go on…”
Interestingly interesting and intriguingly intriguing, dear, dearly dear readers: this debate.
To be terminated by the columnist-terminator and terminator-columnist next week after Professor Olu Obafemi’s summation of the debate he presided over.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
With Us, Not For US
By Ijeoma Fynecountry
The 21st of March of every year is international day for the celebration of persons living with down syndrome. The advocacy and push for communal and political recognition of the basic fundamental rights for persons living with various types of disabilities, particularly intellectual disability, just as enjoyed by their peers who do not have any form of challenge – physical or intellectual has recorded a substantial success around the globe, especially in more developed climes.
While the same cannot be said of the situation in Africa and Nigeria in particular, scanty breakthroughs have also been seen over the years, with the consistent and dogged efforts by some specialized organizations such as Down syndrome Foundation, Nigeria (DSFN).
The theme for this year’s celebration is “With us, Not for us”. This theme is apt particularly in the current era where the push for inclusion has taken a center stage in the campaign worldwide. While it is comforting to know that people, government and communities alike are now becoming more empathetic to the plight of persons living with disability, it is also necessary and most important that their rights as human beings deserving of not just empathy but actual concrete benefits accruable to other citizens without disability, is massively taken into consideration and actually provided for.
Therefore, it is not enough for the government to map out and create as in Lagos state and few other states, sections in the public schools to admit children or persons with intellectual disability, it is necessary to adequately equip these special schools with the needed “specialized” manpower, infrastructural and educational aids to attain the targeted educational goals for these persons. Likewise in the provision of better healthcare, economic, social needs of persons with disability etc.
Persons with intellectual disability do not just need to be specifically educated in accordance with his or her type of disability, but MUST also necessarily be able to aspire to or expect to be employed according to his or her learned ability. That way, a full right, befitting of a person, be him a person with disability or not, is assured. For what is the need of going through a learning process, acquiring a specialized knowledge about a craft or handiwork and eventually still not being given the opportunity of gaining employment as supposed, not due to lack of knowledge but for having a disability? No human being should be subjected to such. Our government should do better. The society at large should do better.
The theme for this year is enjoining all stakeholders – the government, communities, corporate organizations, religious bodies/organizations, individuals to open up their hearts, and recognize the very urgent and important need to help in the actualization of these basic human needs, rights of persons living with intellectual disability as we are all human. No human rights or needs should be prioritized over the other no matter the state of their health, mental and physical capacity. Stand with us by taking actual intentional steps towards uplifting and elevating the humanness of persons living with disability. It is not enough to say that you are for persons living with disability, your specific, intentional, targeted actions toward ensuring the practical applicability of these rights matters.
Fynecontryis a Lagos-based legal practitioner and the legal resource person for the Down Syndrome Foundation Nigeria.
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