By Toyin Falola
Owo, Ondo State, June 5, 2022. A day of bloodshed in a place of worship. All our fears are back. Far away in Europe, I could not sleep, and I lost the capacity to function. The imagery and symbolism are powerful, just too powerful that their significance must be explained to those who do not know. It occurred inside a Catholic Church on a Sunday morning – there is a spiritual (at least religious) dimension to that picture. Imagine such happening on a Friday noon prayer in Kano or Kaduna, where a group, calling itself Christian, goes on a rampage to kill, maim and unleash other mayhems on the people inside the mosque, including capturing the Chef Imam and holding him for ransom. It occurred in the Yoruba town of Ọ̀wọ̀ – one of the most sacred towns of the Yoruba (it is called “Ọ̀wọ̀” because of its sacredness); and remember, Ọlọ́wọ̀ is believed to be the last of the eight sons of Ọ̀rúnmìlà – the Yoruba god of wisdom and divination. It occurred in a Church almost directly facing the palace of the Olowo of Owo; what an insult! It occurred in the town of the seating governor of the state, Governor Akeredolu. It occurred in the home of one of the most revered Yoruba politicians and statesmen, Adekunle Ajaṣin. It occurred right in the center of the town (around Oja Oba). It can’t get any worse than that!
These are trying times for every peace-loving, industrious, and patriotic Nigerian. Watching our dear nation (our home and pride) degenerate into a theatre of unabating terror—from the enduring insurgency in the north-eastern region to the banditry gradually engulfing the entire nation and the ugly acts of jungle justice—has to be the most harrowing experience we have endured since the civil war of 1967, which claimed over a million lives and nearly tore the country apart. If we could ascertain the exact number of Nigerians who have lost their lives from the early days of Boko Haram bomb attacks to this period of rampant killings and kidnappings, we might be compelled to rethink the comparative cost of the civil war. In fewer words, scores of Nigerians have died due to nationwide insecurity. The southeast is a major zone of insecurity, with rampant killings and the existence of a “state within a state” that makes its own rules.
The last twelve weeks have been particularly brutal on our collective psyche as a people. Scarcely recovering from the shock of the attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train, which left many dead and many others kidnapped and still languishing in the camp of their terrorist captors, the news came from Sokoto on May 12, 2022, of a student murdered in the most gruesome manner by her classmates for alleged blasphemy. Unknown to many, on that same infamous day, another innocent citizen, 37-year-old Sunday David Imoh, was brutally beaten, killed, and set ablaze in Lekki, Lagos State, because of a disagreement with an Okada rider over transport fare.
While the dust was yet to settle on that incident, a vigilante, Ahmad Usman, was attacked, killed, and also set ablaze in Lugbe, a suburb of Abuja, for refusing to listen to pleas to grant a pass to a trader who had stayed on in the market beyond curfew. His offense was insisting that even if they begged him “in Allah’s name,” he would still effect the arrest. For that, he was branded a blasphemer and brutally murdered. Then there was Sunday’s terror attack at St. Francis Catholic Church, Owo, in Ondo State, where dozens of worshipers—including women and children—were gunned down in cold blood!
Amidst this non-stop terror, our people have tried to hold it together. Decent, hardworking, and law-abiding Nigerians have tried to continue with their daily endeavors despite the terrifying knowledge that, as they leave their houses every morning to seek their daily bread, there is an increasing possibility of being victims of either the kidnapping for ransom schemes, senseless terror attacks, or frequent “jungle justice” actions of angry mobs. However, beneath this misleading calm is a palpable tension that can be felt within the polity, as group relations have notably taken a dive given the assumed ethnic and religious connotations of many of the attacks.
Alarmingly, all it would take today for anyone to be butchered in the full glare of the public is a shout of “Thief!”.
Many theories have been developed to explain why the Nigerian state is witnessing such unprecedented cases of terror incidents. Environmental and political arguments have been put forward about the issue of the increasing terror attacks and kidnappings inflicted by the infamous “unknown gunmen” and “Fulani herdsmen.” Some maintain that the herdsmen were not originally the gun-slinging, bloodthirsty terror groups we see today. Rather, they were mainly pastoralists who were forced into kidnapping and banditry, both by the effects of climate change forcing them to leave their traditional locations and the attacks from cattle rustlers who stole their main source of livelihood. Hence, they have resorted to crime only to compensate for this loss. As for the political angle, which also accounts for the existence of “unknown gunmen,” the narrative is that these groups are political thugs and mercenaries hired by desperate politicians to serve their nefarious agendas.
Regarding the growing insecurity in the country, the official government position has remained that these acts of terrorism are committed by unscrupulous elements working to destabilize the country, undermine the government’s efforts, and give its administration a bad reputation. In line with this stance, the state policy for counteraction has mostly comprised ineffectual or limp statements claiming that it identifies with the sufferings of the citizens, meaning that, like the lives of Nigerians, its reputation is also under attack and at risk. The simple truth is: that a government that genuinely cares about the safety and welfare of its people will go beyond offering serial condemnations and assurances that “the perpetrators would be brought to book.” Now, this begs the question, how many perpetrators have ever been brought to book?
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The Nigerian government appeared to have taken a more measured stance in its fight against terrorism after the extra-judicial killing of then Boko Haram leader Mohammed Yusuf by state security forces and the clash between the Shia Muslim sect and personnel of the Nigerian Army in Zaria, leading to the killing of many of the Shia members and the incarceration of its leader, Sheik El Zakzaky. This might not be unconnected to the intense scrutiny and criticism both incidences brought on its fight against terrorism. This is not taking anything away from the gallantry and patriotism of members of the country’s security forces—Army, Navy, Air Force, Police, Civil Defence, and other volunteer groups—who have given blood and tears in the long fight against the peddlers of terror. Rather, it is to recall, among other things, their many cries of neglect from the battlefield. We must also remember the many billions pledged to this fight against terrorism and the allegations of financial misappropriation involving politicians and soldiers. These recollections, I dare say, lead to one important question: What can we show for all that commitment, which has cost the nation dearly in terms of human and infrastructural development?
For the average Nigerian citizen trying to navigate the scattered landmines of kidnapping and the menace of “unknown gunmen,” “herdsmen,” and jungle justice, it has become very difficult to put the finger on any advances made in the fight against insecurity, especially as it is daily becoming apparent that the terrorists, formerly located at the infamous Sambisa Forest and other north-eastern locations, have made their way southwards to the north-western, middle-belt, south-western, and the south-eastern regions of the country. Let’s take a moment to also consider the plight of refugees and internally displaced peoples and the number of people still in captivity in bushes and creeks across the country. We will begin to realize how dismally this war against insecurity has been prosecuted.
Today, as witnesses to the unwarranted and horrific murders of Deborah Samuel, Sunday David Imoh, Ahmad Usman, the victims of the Abuja-Kaduna train attack, and those of the Ondo church massacre, we must ask the question: Did they have to die? The answer is a resounding “NO!” Their deaths were preventable. For a moment, let us daydream, not just to momentarily escape the many terrors on our heels but to imagine that we have a responsible government that understands that the constitution does not exist for the sole purpose of ensuring its privileges; one that appreciates that as a constitutional democracy, it is the constitution and not any religious doctrine that is supreme; a government committed to a prosperous future for Nigeria; a government chosen by the people and not by money; a government representative of the people’s interests, and not elite interests. If we had such a government, addressing many of these issues would be faster, and politicians will show sympathy for victims and promote the spirit of orderliness.
Therefore, there is no gainsaying that the criminal elements within the general populace, as well as those from without the country’s borders, have taken advantage of the government’s growing lukewarm approach towards checking criminality in the country to advance their agenda and wreak untold horrors on innocent people. Law-abiding citizens are reduced to moving targets abducted randomly, with little or no intervention from the state, and woe to any citizen whose family cannot come up with the ransom in the case of kidnap. Many have been lost in this way.
Fortunately, the day of reckoning for the country’s political representation is around the corner. This is our opportunity to query the state’s conspiracy of silence. We must ask the right questions and demand satisfactory answers. And we can start by asking why those identified as sponsoring terrorism in Nigeria have not been arrested and brought to justice?
Two: they murdered the innocents. They have murdered our sleep again. I join millions of others in offering words of comfort to the families of every victim of the bloodshed. Drawing from Chapter 4 of the book of Psalms, I pray for every Nigerian who currently lives with the fear of what horrors the next minute could bring:
“Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
have mercy on me and hear my prayer…
In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, LORD,
make me dwell in safety.
To all the victims and those of us who suffer along with them, I fortify you further with Psalm 121:5:5.
5 The Lord is thy keeper:
the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
6 The sun shall not smite thee by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil:
he shall preserve thy soul.
8 The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in
from this time forth, and even for evermore.
May security and safety return to our land!
Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.
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Tussle For Supremacy: A Catastrophic Phenomenon Of Power Failure In A Lawless Society
By Grace Ego Omoni
In the literary world appreciation of the works of art such as the novel and the play is used to explain the author or playwright writing style. One major feature is the plot. Sometimes, a novel or play might have only one plot but is not uncommon to see or identify a plot or plots within a major plot in the narration or drama. The essence is to make the work more interesting and exciting. The subplots hang on the main plot tenaciously. In other words, there is harmony between the subplots and the main plot. The subplots act as support to the main story.
The writer sees the happenings in this nation from the perspective of the above literary style used by authors and playwrights. The events and occurrences in such a time as this in Nigeria can be labelled as a dilemma of a collapsing nation. How do you fathom a situation where some areas in this country especially in the northern geopolitical zones where they now have illegal and unscrupulous individuals governing, making obnoxious policies or laws and imposing them on the citizens of a democratically elected government with impunity ? How do you describe a nation where this new breed of lawless bandits impose taxes of various kinds and degrees on helpless rightful inhabitants? How do you explain a situation where people are restricted from the freedom to live, to work, to worship, to express themselves and of movement? Are we being made to conclude that there is another “government” within a GOVERNMENT legally and democratically elected to govern the people?
On the 27th of June in Channels Television, two Honourables from Kaduna State and specifically in Birin- Gwari Local Government area were interviewed about the state of security there. The responses are very worrisome.
According to the Honourables, their people are being taxed unabated three times a year for the past three years. It was also revealed by one of them that about 300 to 400 million naira has been paid to these imposers to allow the people plant, grow and harvest their crops. Apart from the above, the farmers are forced without any choice to give these men two bags of grain from every ten bags produced at the end of the harvest season! The farmers cows are rustled indiscriminately.
Moreover, this new breed of unconstitutional governance has a team of soldiers with their own outfits parading and harassing the inhabitants. It was also stated that movement from one village to the other or the farms is now highly restricted because of the the insurmountable insecurity saga in this local government where there is a chairman with his elected leaders and a state government with a sitting governor.
When Channels Television interviewers asked whether the government in power was aware of the situation and the predicament of the people, he cleverly dodged the question by asserting that everybody knows about it! Incredible!
Why are the State and Federal Governments not saying or doing anything? Would they say that they are ignorant or oblivious of the fact that there are people exercising power and authority in this Local Government and probably other constituencies in and around the country? Why the silence knowing very well that silence means consent? Do they not have security agents and CIDs who from time to time give pieces of information and security reports to the government? How do these men communicate with one another? Is the government no longer in control of the communication networks in this country? Is this illegal “government” making policies and laws and imposing them on the helpless inhabitants being recognized and authorized to carry on like this? This unconstitutional independence seems to have come to stay.
However, Nigerians have not been officially informed that the country now has another “government” within this nation called Nigeria. Is it not a shame and unthinkable that a group of mad infiltrators have overrun some parts of the country just like Russia is doing to Ukraine? Unlike Ukraine, there seems to be no resistance on the part of the leadership of this nation. Are there no strategic synergy and efficient professionals to track down these imposers? Are the security plans being given prominence in the social media just a mirage? Are the Federal and State Governments by their slow actions and silence implying that the tussle for supremacy between them and these bandits or terrorists or rebels or secessionists has overwhelmed them? Can there be any tangible explanation why the government of the day cannot crush and squash this mindless killers but could proscribe IPOB from existing? Why this lopsided mentality? Why this nonchalant attitude from the powers that be? Why this unwritten compromise? Are the State and Federal Government technically waiting for these bandits, terrorists and killer herdsmen to hold the other geopolitical zones to ransom, topple and take authority over a democratically elected government? Has insecurity now become one of the rights of the Nigerian citizens today? Is the government of the day not seeing the impending catastrophe speedily meandering into the nation? Is Humpty- Dumpty the new name for the government that is supposed to be in control of all affairs in this nation? The situation reminds me of a poem titled: “Humpty-Dumpty”
“Humpty-Dumpty sat on the wall;
Humpty-Dumpty had a great fall;
Not all the kinsmen and and not all the horsemen can put Humpty-Dumpty together again”!
Take it or leave it, Nigeria is tearing apart. There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria has been overrun by a deadly generation of evil men and are operating an “illegal government system” in various parts of the country. The people are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Loyalty to the terrorists is now being forced on the inhabitants. The people are under serious pressures! Insecurity is becoming more threatening than ever before. There is defence for them and the government is not forthcoming.
Solutions to this situations are not being wholly accessed by the government of the day. The economy has deteriorated and crippled. Farmers can no longer produce crops to sustain them not to talk of distributing to other consumers near and far. The common man is helpless. School children in these affected areas cannot access quality education due to the vulnerability of the terrain. Travelling as part of life has been terminated. Movement from one place to the other is now restricted for fear of being kidnapped, raped, robbed or killed by these infiltrators.
Traders cannot engage in businesses for fear of being stripped of their goods and money. Worshippers stand the risk of losing their lives in their churches and mosques. In fact, these so-called bandits are by their actions, placing ban on Christianity as a religion. Thus, freedom of worship as the individual’s right is already being wiped out in this nation.
Again the latest according to one of the Honourables is that a law has been imposed by these bandits that there should be no election campaigns in the area for the forthcoming general elections. Politicians cannot go to this area to campaign due to this instruction. Do people abide by it? Do we have a government within a government just like we have a story within a story in literary works? What a disaster!
Strategies towards the government restoring and regaining authority and supremacy over those trying to usurp power
*Government should legalize the possession of firearms. After all bandits, terrorists and killer herdsmen are freely moving about with sophisticated guns and weapons without being arrested and prosecuted. This suggestion has become inevitable so that people can defend themselves when attacked. The Zamfara State Government and some others are advocates of this suggestion. If implemented, it will curb the excesses of these bandits. The Judiciary, the legislature and the State Government should as a matter of urgency pass a bill and implement this policy;
*The security system of the country should be beefed up; sophisticated weapons, walkie talkies, good network services and sound vehicles should be made available for the law enforcement agencies to combat insecurity. You do not expect the police or the army to confront terrorists with inferior weapons;
* The police, navy, army and the air force need to facilitate their people with modern tactics and methods for maintaining peace and order;
* The communication networks in this country should be utilized by the government to fight and win this tussle for supremacy;
*Government should come up with a policy or a statement to condemn and crush the activities of these culprits trying to usurp power. Arrest, prosecute punish them accordingly;
*Government should find a way of handling this issue of paying ransom to kidnappers. Imagine paying criminals and authentic government workers do not get good pays or even being paid on time. University lecturers have been on strike for the past five months because of failure of the government to do the needful;
* The security and care of those in the IDP camps should be improved upon;
*Government should create jobs for the teeming youths. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. Today, the only jobs available in Nigeria are Yahoo syndrome, Keke and Okada riding, Uber driving and permit me to say, banditry, kidnapping and killing;
*In the meantime, the government should stop pursuing shadow! This madness of election campaigns should stop. Who are these politicians going to govern? The people who have no means of livelihood, dying of hunger, living under fear of insecurity and whose land are being grabbed under their noses?
* Government should in all ramifications rise up and squash and crush the activities of these men now operating as a “governing body of a new nation” within a democratically elected government with immediate effect and alacrity.
Nigerians rise and demand your security, peace and tranquility now instead of selling your votes to those who are out to keep you in perpetual slavery and fear of a bleak future.
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End Of A Beautiful Debate On Women
By Tony Afejuku
At the point when I was readily ready to bring to an end a debate with happiness on the subject of women in our polity of politlies of politrickians, my inspiration waned because it lost its enthusiasm. I don’t know why. I didn’t know why. I could not know why. On my writing table there was no wine of inspiration for me to sip from. And the idea I earnestly wanted with excelling quality in its galloping train neither yielded nor illuminated itself to me forthwith. But something else did. It created its peculiar raptures which indicated that what was debated was worth it and that what I am going to express now to sum up the debate is worth saying. Now what is this something that entered me to toss my heart into raptures and to remint my brain with flavours of fragrant sensations which yearn after thirst that is thirst after thirst on behalf of women?
A day before this column appeared last Friday, an event of monumental significance world-wide escaped us all in this land of lands: your country my country our country. Thursday, June 23rd “marked on the United Nations Calendar” the “International Day for Widows.” And the broad theme was “Invisible Women, Invisible Problems.” All the professors who debated what I wish to call the Nigerian women conundrum did not remember the event, and made no ounce of reference to it. Of course, their respective blossoms of ideas reached me before Thursday, 23rd of June, but it is still bewildering that they did not anticipate the event in their submissions. Even yours sincerely the seemingly ingenious columnist did not remember the great day. Why? The answer is simple. A widow is a woman. And no widow in our part of the world is in full fig in our imagination. June 23rd never rang a bell in Nigeria. It was invisible here despite the visible problems they face month by month, week by week, day by day, second by second, minute by minute, and hour by hour. Our governments – central and states – did not galvanize us to mark the day. Our civil societies’ organizations completely ignored or did not remember the day. Our media also unremembered the day. Even Nigerian women themselves in vantage positions by-passed the day without qualms. And surprise, surprise, surprise. Professor Mrs. Razinatu Mohammed, the only female debater mysteriously forgot to give form to the “International Day for Widows” in her lavish debate. How could this sumptuous writer, critic and feminist to the core forget to defend widowhood in her delivery which she did with grace and sweetness in this column? Widowhood has its challenges in our society. It degrades the woman immeasurably. And the younger the woman, the younger widow, the more immeasurable is her degradation and predicament and trauma. Even if she is rich and a woman or widow of substance, nothing is guaranteed in her favour. Her status, whatever it is, has no bearing to her advantage.
Our men in politics in their Ogbonistic characteristics, sensibilities, temperament and countenances victimize the widow exceedingly without inhibitions. Their ogbonism (as Tony Eluemunor would say) overshadows their concern, regard and sympathy for widows whom they show no kindness as they should. Widowhood is victimhood with a greatly tragic theme in Nigeria. I don’t want to navigate the depressively depressive nuances of widowhood – because widowhood and its tragic theme of victimhood was never really carved or scripted into any shape in my initial delivery and the debate it inspired. But it should have crossed the minds of the debaters starting from the irrepressible columnist Mr. Tony Eluemunor and Professor Agharese Osifo, the eater of books, on to Professors Igho Natufe, Razanatu Mohammed and Ibrahim Bello-Kano. In fact, let me take Professor Ibrahim Bello-Kano to the dock. His rich remarks were rich perplexities which he expressed in terms of ANTINOMIES, contradictions that cancel contradictions and re-introduce contradictions – as his reflections clearly did or seemed to do – as I perceived. And some examples he tendered in his endeavor to lay blame on women in politics sounded as those of the far-gone pessimist and the ultra-conservative male chauvinist who would want us to see or admire him as a “Feminist-Not-Feminist-Enough.” He called the late British female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher “milk-snatcher,” for example, to undermine her political sagacity, combat of light philosophy and intellect. For Ibrahim Bello-Kano, a Professor of Critical Light, a term I am coining for him, Margaret Thatcher was possessed of the treacherous spirits of darkness.
He may be right (without my conceding that he really was/is). But was/is he right to employ her to make a blanket statement regarding infamous political leadership and fallible rule of women? Certainly not, I submit. Angela Markel, a Ph.D. in Chemistry, like Margaret Thatcher, until recently was Chancellor of Germany for several years. Until the end of her healthy tenure Germans felt and enjoyed the fortune of happiness. Most of their debatings were preciously in her favour.
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I can go on and on to deconstruct Professor Ibrahim Bello-Kano. But he is my reader whose response(s) to my essay and column I should applaud whether or not I am in perfect agreement with him. I am glad that he and others read me. But he cannot be criminalizing and decriminalizing women at the same time; he cannot be invalidating and validating at the same time; he cannot be validating and invalidating at the same time, and his intellectual gymnastics and acrobatics in argumentation do not really do credit to his intended point, effect and result. The confusion and contradictions contained in his sumptuous submission put our women-folk in jeopardy. Nigerian women should unite, as Professor Igho Natufe, a foremost Political Scientist of uncommon objectivity and transparent radical engagements, enjoins them to do if they must eject themselves from the clutches of their male oppressors. In the great Warri Kingdom of the Itsekiri centuries ago two enchanting sisters and princesses – Uwala and Iye – did precisely this – what Professors Natufe and Razanatu Mohammed, rainbow writer from the savannah, have enjoined them to preach without a mask that grieves or grins. The men must loose, untie their tyrannical hold on the women. And they must compel themselves to change their attitude to widows in the spirit of nobility that should give us a new society – as Professor Igho Natufe informed me via a post of an ample helping. Professor Rajan Barret of Mahatma Ghandi’s land concurs. Nigerian women are not the property of Nigerian men. I concur and re-concur. Women, unite! Break the yoke of oppression! You must! You have the power! You have the bosom of positive courage! Unite!
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
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Poverty, Ignorance As Political Weapons
By Victoria Praise Abraham
The Nigerian people have been reduced to a bowl of rice and Amala, come every election cycle and this time it is no different, but worse. Poverty has been weaponized to the point of no return. We have never had it so bad.
Poverty has been weaponized. Ignorance and illiteracy rule the average Nigerian and we are in dire straits, totally impoverished by the politicians who rule as kings and Lords in Nigeria today. It is a sad day to be a Nigerian
This particular pathetic situation started many decades ago but over the years, it has become magnified and greatly enlarged to a horrific point .
Politicians are ready to kill to win elections, they engage in open vote buying and selling in our political landscape.
The same obviously played out in the Ekiti elections of last weekend. The same happened in the Osun elections and we are in a very perilous time because Nigerians have never been poorer.
Poverty has become weaponized and sadly the average Nigerian is very hungry and has refused to think beyond his belly.
A hungry man or woman is totally desperate and can only answer the call to satisfy his or her stomach nudgings.
The years of political mismanagement have gone on to pulverize the economy and the average Nigerian.We are now in sad times. The Ekiti elections show us that our politics is now for the highest bidder.
Unfortunately, all political parties use this political tool of trade called vote buying.
Where do we go from here? How do we stop this menace? Where did we miss it? Who do we blame for this disease called vote buying in our political landscape?
It seems that we are bedeviled with bad leaders, politicians and bad people who cannot always do right by their conscience.
This whole charade will certainly play out in a bigger version in the 2023 general elections and this means that the entire process will play out in the interest of the highest political vote buyers winning most if not all the elections.
Poverty has been weaponized. The Nigerian people have been pulverized and we have all entered one chance! The word one chance is a Nigeria word for a bad situation…… Entering a kidnapper’s vehicle.
Only God can deliver us from the hands of our politicians, and only God can help the average Nigerian because it is a very pathetic situation that they have to go through every election year that continues to leave them with bad choices of leaders decades after decades.
May God Almighty be the 3rd force that will save the Nigerian nation from further sliding and degeneration come 2023.
Let us all be prayerful as true patriots and lovers of Nigeria so that we can be saved from ourselves because Nigerians are the biggest problem of Nigeria. We must become the solutions to our problems going forward.
. Abraham is a writer based in Lagos.
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