by Ayobami Oyalowo
No sane man goes to sleep while the roof of his house is on fire.
~ A Yoruba Proverb
Nigeria is an interesting country where absurdity thrives and impunity holds court, unchallenged and unmolested. She is probably the only country where, literally is at war, her so–called leaders can rest easy with their feet up, relaxed as if there is not a care in the world. I am still at sea, wondering if there is any nation on the earth that can move on, unperturbed after several damning allegations of financial impropriety ranging from the missing $20bn, to several billions of naira stolen from pension funds, to billions spent by female ministers either on spurious bullet proof cars, fuelling private jets etc. Indeed, Nigeria is a conundrum where the more you see, the less you understand.
Welcome to the land of savage and crude criminal appropriation of obscene national wealth by a few at the expense of the majority, millions of whom can barely afford to live from hand to mouth on less than $2 a day.
What the president and his inept bunch of handlers fail to understand is that Nigerians have the right to ask questions concerning their president. How private can his visit be if he travelled with a delegation and on a “public” presidential jet, fuelled and serviced by tax payers?
For over 5 years, Nigeria has been at war with the Jama’atu Ahlis SunnaLidda’awati wal-Jihad, a sect called Boko Haram in the local Hausa parlance, roughly translated as” book or western education is sin.” But as it appears, the sect is gaining the upper hand and has recently moved from being clandestine bush attackers to the position where they now have territories within the country. They have not only captured a chunk of Borno and Yobe states, they have also hoisted their flags and even appointed an Emir.
The sound bites coming from the Nigerian authorities are, at best, confusing. They started with denial, then came tepid acknowledgement to the point where they are now claiming they won’t cede any territory to terrorists. What the Nigerian authority have failed to show is how exactly they intend to put their empty rhetoric into concrete actions, because while they are making empty boasts and promises,Boko Haram is spreading their evil and extremely bloody tentacles far and wide.
Had Boko Haram been tackled with the seriousness it deserves from the onset, we may not have been where we are today. Sadly, the attitude of the Nigerian authority to dither and wobble in the face of serious issue, instead of taking a strong stand and following through with equal actions has been our bane.
When the sect was still small and not as sophisticated as they are today, rather than take action, the authority pretended as if they had it covered while hoping it will fizzle out, like some Nigerian problems sometimes do. Today, we are all the worse for it. When supposed leaders are inept and incompetent, this is what you get. A visionary leadership ought to have braced up and taken concise action, most especially in the face of global terrorism that had bedevilled our world. Alas! The Nigerian leadership went to sleep until it has become too late and now no Nigerian citizen can sleep easy any more!
Most parts of the north have experienced one bomb blast or another, even Lagos had been attacked at least once, with several attempts purportedly foisted. How did we get here? Our president is at rest.
Just a few days ago Nigerians woke up to the news of the president “private” visit to Germany. No explanation, nothing. In fact, if you make too much noise, you are deemed an opposition, aka Enemy of the State. What the president and his inept bunch of handlers fail to understand is that Nigerians have the right to ask questions concerning their president. How private can his visit be if he travelled with a delegation and on a “public” presidential jet, fuelled and serviced by tax payers? How private can his visit to Germany be if his retinue of aides collects per diem, financed by the tax payers? Until the leadership of this country understands responsibility, they will keep moving from one gaffe to another disaster. Nigeria is NOT a private estate to be privately administered; it is a country with laws and responsibility.
The president’s spokesman, Reuben Abati, another person who has been a total disappointment since he was appointed a presidential spokesman, went further to prove to Nigerians how far from reality they all are, when he told us that the president was not sick, rather he went on a private visit and as such we have no right to know? How jejune? The president is a public figure, elected by the people and therefore owes a duty and responsibility to the public. All his actions and inactions must be open to public scrutiny while he remains in the office. His power is derived from the people, not in spite of the people.
It is lackadaisical and irresponsible attitude like the above that has fuelled the insurgency and corruption that pervaded the land of Nigeria and has pushed us to the brink that we are today. Corruption is a hydra-headed monster and has the potency to consume and devastate any land or people that welcomes it with an open arm. While corruption is a worldwide phenomenon, the problem with Nigeria is twofold. Firstly, the impunity and scale of corruption is largely unprecedented and secondly, there appears to be no consequence. In fact, the joke in Nigeria now is to steal very much as you are likely to be praised and even conferred with national honour and traditional titles. Yes, it is that bad.
Gamboru and Gworza are territories within the north eastern part of Nigeria. Sadly,those places are currently in the hand of terrorists. It was reported that the terrorists were so superior to the Nigerian Army that about 480 of our men fled to Cameroon. Whether they defected is unclear. However, instead of the military authorities to be ashamed and seek better ways to counter terrorism, they resorted to cheap propaganda and outright lies, culminating in the phrase “tactical manoeuvre”. Recall how the same military authority had earlier lied to the world that they have recovered about 85% of the Chibok girls earlier, only for them to recant and give flimsy excuse when they were confronted with hard facts?
When a national military descends into the arena of “roforofo” and market women propaganda in the face of serious challenge, then it is time to be very afraid indeed. How can a military that can’t defend our territorial integrity against a largely untrained rag tag band of “janjaweed” criminals, be able to defend us against a sophisticated and more structured foreign aggression? One hope that we do not have ambitious foreign army willing to take on Nigeria, because as things stand, we are mere sitting ducks to a band of Jihadists and religious criminals.
Trillions have been allocated to national security and especially in the face of the threats of these insurgents, more money have been allocated to security than ever, yet the insurgency mounts, while our military appear weak, inept and reactionary. Poor or lack of intelligence gathering, no proactive plan to dispel and dislodge the terrorists, reports of poor funding and inferiors arms and military hardware are what we hear daily. Rather than address these issues, the military high command prefers to make empty statements, defend the indefensible and pretend to be in control. How long can we sustain lies and propaganda in the face of such monumental threats?
I will expect the National Assembly to investigate claims of senior military commanders profiting from the war against terror. By now, some people should be answering questions on how the trillions allocated to security are being spent. Recall how some equipment that ought to fire, refused to fire during the Giwa Barracks attack? Yet, not one question have been asked. The insurgents are so bold that they overrun military installations, police barracks and recently entered a police college almost unchallenged, killing and maiming anybody on their way. Yet nobody is being questioned, rather we pretend all is well and move on, but for how long?
The president is the Commander In Chief and the buck stops at his table. Going to rest or on a “private” visit to Germany when the nation burns is nothing short of abdication of responsibility. All we can we see today is preparation for the next election while money is being thrown around for the 2015 elections without recourse to the human lives and properties being destroyed daily in the north-east. It is asinine to think all is well since it is “far away” in “Awusa” land. What we fail to grasp is that ISIS is on a similar campaign and be sure if they aren’t already in collaboration with Boko Haram, they will be soon. The consequence of such is better left to the imagination.
This is not the time for unnecessary “private” visits, we are at war, yet pretend all is well. As I write, there is no “War Room”, no definite strategy nor plan to combat terror, what we can see is a confused, jumbled and incoherent reactionaries to a serious security challenge. We can’t win a war without a concise plan to. We can’t win a war on lies. We can’t win a war when corruption defines us. It is best the president wakes up and smells the coffee, or he quits. Napoleon Bonaparte, Winston Churchill etc didn’t become legends by surrounding themselves with propagandists; they took charge and did what they ought to do.
Jonathan either emulates real leaders and make a name for himself in the annals of history or continue to play the ostrich. The choice is his. Come February 2015, that choice will be our
Ayobami Oyalowo tweets from @Ayourb
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.