By Sunny Awhefeada
Spiritual leaders owe their societies a sacred duty to act as moral compass. Apolitical as they are supposed to be, they are often compelled to intervene in moments of grave crises which seek to destroy such societies. Spiritual leaders see tomorrow. They draw our attention to pitfalls. They caution and admonish. Above all they suffer discomfort and make sacrifice for the society. Theirs remain an onerous task of social reclamation in the face of assaults occasioned by socio-decadence. Such assaults if not averted often spell doom for the societies concerned.
Whether Nigeria’s spiritual leaders fit the bill is left for posterity to judge in the fullness of time or when the Nigerian story shall be told. Everybody will account for his or her role in the making or unmaking of Nigeria; prophets and professors, poets and pastors, teachers and talakawas, doctors and dogaris, soldiers and singers and what not.
A video of an Imam who took umbrage at Nigeria’s present debacle is making the social media round. The Imam is playing his role. Some commentators described the Imam who spoke in clear terms as the Imam of Aso Rock. And not only did he speak with authority and conviction, he spoke bitter truth to power. He must have rejected Aso Rock’s meat and milk. He spoke in a manner that was truly befitting of a religious leader. It is now left for those for whom the message was meant to absorb it or as usual jettison it. The Imam speaking to the approbation of his audience did say: “Is there nobody to take responsibility? I want to believe that we have all failed. I mean I failed as an Iman to teach you that life is sacred. You all aspirants failed to teach your children that killing is Bad. Our politicians failed. Our community leaders failed. Governors failed. Especially His Excellency the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria you have failed us. We have your video telling Nigerians that the military is capable, our military is capable it has all the requirement to tackle this insurgency. And if you are voted into power you are going to make sure that happens in a short time. You are given four years and addition yet people are dying like fowls. Killing is becoming a norm, under your watch Mr. President. If there is no Nigerian to tell you I will take the responsibility of telling you. And I will take the responsibility of the consequences….”
The Imam’s declamation is a scathing indictment of all those who have the responsibility to rein in the anarchy confronting us, but chose to look the other way or fan its incipient embers. The Boko Haram’s bloody insurgency and acts of terrorism threatening to undo Nigeria didn’t begin today. When it reared its ugly head in the mold of a band of riffraff, governments at all levels treated it with levity. The problems of socio-economic discontentment that birthed it were largely ignored. Lack of access to education, unemployment, poverty and their attendant ills added to the discomfiture of the underclass as their number grew in leaps and bounds. In branding themselves Boko Haram which in its simple interpretation means tabooing western education, the terrorists denounce the inequality arising from the impoverishment of the masses by the leaders who have benefitted from western education and thus have access to power and its economic benefits. The North has ruled Nigeria for most of her years as an independent nation, yet the region remains the poorest and least underdeveloped.
Deriving impetus from the usual government’s incapacity to tackle burning national issues, Boko Haram gradually evolved into a more daring and murderous gang after its leader Mohammed Yusuf was killed. Marauding gangs from other climes saw the group as an ally that could be relied on in their quest to undermine Africa’s most populous country. Today, that amalgam of forces manifest as killer herdsmen, bandits, terrorists and unknown gunmen. They have taken Nigeria hostage. They daily abduct people, especially school children. They maim and kill. They collect ransom in millions and also target and kill government security forces. The recent attack on the nation’s premier military institution, the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) in Kaduna reflects where the terrorists now hold Nigeria.
The Imam was right in emphatically submitting that we all failed Nigeria by shirking our responsibilities. Truth is that many Northerners took sides with Boko Haram when it began some years ago. They saw the group as having the capacity of intimidating the then president of southern provenance out of office. Many of those in power today, including the President, were eloquent spokespersons defending Boko Haram and condemning the government of the day for trying to quell the insurgency then. Today, the chicken has come to roost and the insurgency has gone out of control. The little snake pet that they nurtured ten years ago has grown into a boa constrictor that is devouring the nation and sparing no one.
Many commentators have drawn attention to the recent upheavals in Afghanistan and the likely consequences for Nigeria. Yes, all right thinking Nigerians must brace up and government must go to work to make sure that Afghanistanism does not become our lot. The frightening reality is that those who should act are playing Nero as the Nigerian house burns. The nation has become so fragile and vulnerable. The Sultan of Sokoto lamented the condition of the North last year as a region that has not only been ravaged by war and extreme poverty, but also under siege. The Sultan told us about gunmen who bestrode communities in the North levying and collecting taxes. The Imam also made reference to this act of brazen affront on the authority of the Nigerian state. The Imam in unmistakable terms declared President Buhari a failure. Buhari rode to power on a tripod promise of eradicating corruption, revamping the economy and ending insecurity. A simple check reports a woeful failure on all counts. The Imam’s verdict was apt.
What is starring us in the face is the reality of a failed state. All the indices which point in that direction have been adding up for Nigeria.
The bandits, terrorists, killer herdsmen and the unknown gunmen are already at the gate. But all hope is not lost. Those concerned should take the Imam’s verdict seriously. They must look inwards and make deliberate efforts to reclaim and redeem Nigeria. The State must strive to maintain and assert its monopoly of violence. Time is of the essence. Many communities are arming themselves and setting up vigilantes for their own protection. They no longer believe in the ability of the Nigerian state to protect them. This is scary and dangerous. The Edo word for “it is finished” is ofone. Let it not be ofone for Nigeria!