By Sunny Awhefeada
A hallmark of Nigerian leadership has been grand delusion complemented by a perpetual propensity for self-denial. Nigerian rulers often frame their sense of grand delusion by referring to Nigeria as “a great nation”, “the giant of Africa” and ascribing other grandiose sentiments to our wobbling nationhood! Their propensity for self-denial manifests in the “refusal to recognize unpleasant realities”. Hence, an Ibrahim Magu would come out to trumpet the great success being recorded in the fight against corruption.
A Lai Mohammed would come out piping that insurgency has been “technically degraded”, the Service Chiefs and their spokesmen would reinforce it a day or two later that insurgency was over! Yet, the opposite of their claims is the ugly reality. And when anybody comes up with a view that is indicative of the nation’s sad reality, government apparatchiks go on the offensive with all the aggression and gall at their disposal. While government’s security agencies will demonstrate aggression to the truth speaker, its spokesmen will spit gall at him or her. Characters like Lai Mohammed, Femi Adesina, Garba Shehu and Lauretta Onochie will rummage the dumpsite of vile expressions and in a bovine manner pick up acerbic words with their mouth and haul at the truth speakers.
So it was when Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, social scientist, thought leader, polymath and engaging newspaper columnist, a few days ago retold the nation what Nigerians already knew that Boko Haram was preparing to wage war on Nigeria. He added that a northern governor was the commander of the insurgents who are also the same as the bandits terrorizing all of the north. Mailafia merely reechoed what had been in the public domain. One of Nigeria’s soldiers of fortune, Lt. Gen. T. Y. Danjuma not only made a similar claim two years ago, but called on Nigerians to rise and defend themselves since the security forces can no longer defend them. One of Danjuma’s successors as Chief of Army Staff and later Chief of Defence Staff, General Alexander Ogomudia, also sounded the alarum in November 2019. The United States has also recently joined in intensifying the warning that danger was close by as the insurgents have perfected plans to overrun southern Nigeria.
What was the response of government to the foregoing warnings? Denial, denial and denial!!! Name calling, outright abuses and hurriedly assembled press release lacking the most basic element of logic, coherence and persuasion, but shoved down the ears of the unbelieving and doubting public. The truth is that as Mohammed, Adesina and Shehu were denying the reports and raining abuses on the truth speakers, and as Tukur Buratai and Sadique Abubakar are claiming victories over the insurgents, Nigerians hear bombs and mines going off as well as the ratatat of insurgent riffles with soldiers fleeing the frontlines. In one instance, it was men of the Nigeria Police that rescued Nigerian soldiers that were taken captive by the insurgents. A few years earlier, some of our soldiers running from insurgent fire ended up in Cameroon hands over head in surrender.
The Nigerian state in self-denial played down these embarrassing occurrences. Officials of state denounced Danjuma, Ogomudia and the others. The Department of State Services (DSS) invited Dr. Mailafia for interrogation. Mailafia went prepared with lawyers. But people of goodwill didn’t abandon him. They mobilized overnight and camped at the office of the DSS in Jos waiting for Mailafia’s arrival. In spite of the hooded DSS and their smoking guns, the people waited and insisted that Mailafia must be released after the interrogation. Acting unusually, the DSS released Mailafia, plenty of thanks to the people who didn’t abandon him. The DSS we know are good at taking people hostage and detaining them even against court orders. The DSS must have sensed the people’s determination in ensuring that Mailafia’s rights were not violated.
The Nigerian state has a lot of work to do, but those in the saddle are either playing Emperor Nero who fiddled while Rome was burning or are conniving with the forces that are hell bent on throwing Nigeria into civil strife. That the Nigerian state is unable to crush insurgency that began as a gang of miscreants for over ten years now calls to question the sincerity of purpose of the government.
The Nigerian Army has a track record of peace keeping and quelling of revolts. Since 1962 when it engaged in Congo, 1964 in Tangayika, to the Nigerian Civil War, to Lebanon, to Chad, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the Nigerian Army proved itself as a strong force capable of dominating any environment. So what happened?
Most Nigerians now believe, and strongly so, that the ruling Hausa/Fulani hegemony is giving fillip to the insurgents who are seen to be pursuing an Islamization agenda to actualize Sir Ahmadu Bello’s vision of making Nigeria an extension of Usman Dan Fodio’s estate. The murderous onslaught that has been going on in the North, especially in the Middle Belt and Southern Kaduna, is nothing short of genocide. There is hardly a day that passes without the gory news of death in the hands of herdsmen and bandits in synthesis with Boko Haram. The US and Mailafia’s warning of an imminent invasion of the south is already here.
The invasion started long ago. The abduction of Olu Falae, the murder of Pa Fasoronti’s daughter, the murder of a monarch in Delta State, the murder in Uwheru and other parts of the south all by herdsmen attest to the reality that the section of the country is already under siege. In all the cases government security forces do nothing thus lending credence to the suspicion of state connivance. In the case of the Uwheru massacre, the soldiers drafted to maintain peace not only threatened to burn down the community, but actually killed one of the victims.
That Mailafia spoke the way he did was a courageous act inspired by patriotism and concern for not just his people of Southern Kaduna, but for Nigeria. That many people ranged on his side and even besieged the DSS office demanding for his release attest to the altruism that marked his comments and how he has become a moral conscience of the nation. The government cannot silence Nigerians of goodwill. The people of southern Nigeria will not be held in thralldom. If the sponsors of insurgency and the Islamization agenda mistake the Nigeria of today for the era that enabled the Jihad of Usman Dan Fodio, then they must have calculated wrongly and tragically so. It is true that there are political and economic quislings in the south who are ever ready to sell out, but the majority of southerners will oppose and neutralize them.
As I write, many communities in the south have outlawed herdsmen and hold every Hausa/Fulani in heightened suspicion. But for intervention of some well meaning southerners, there would have been an outright ban on Hausa/Fulani in many southern communities.
The failure of the security agencies to protect the people is also making them to seek self-help. Governor Ortom of Benue has made a case for “responsible” Nigerians to be permitted to arm themselves with AK 47 riffles.
But many communities and even ethnic nationalities are already warming up to confront any offensive. The Amotekun in the South-West is a response to such an offensive. Many more of such organized and coordinated responses are bound to materialize. Those wanting to plunge Nigeria into a civil war will end up being the victims. 2020 is not 1967 and the circumstances are not the same.
Right now, centrifugal voices are loud, much louder than centripetal voices. Those who want to plunge Nigeria into a civil war will at the end of the day not only be routed, but they might have no country to rule over.