Editor’s Note: Last Sunday, due to a technical glitch with the article and comments, Obi-Uchendu’s FrontPage wasn’t uploaded in full. The full version is presented for today.
The body language of the Federal Government leaves Nigerians with a confidence level that is below zero. There is an almost conscious attempt to constantly remind us that we are on our own.
My second choice when I wrote my JAMB exams in 1996 was the University of Maiduguri. I had an uncle that lectured there at the time and only had good things to say to my parents about the school.
I also had this wonderful idea that I needed to be as far away enough from my parents as possible all in the name of being free from parental control and what not. Add that to the fact that one of my elder sister’s closest friends had schooled there and couldn’t stop talking about how cheap food was in the north eastern city, and I was sold.
I ended up getting admitted to my first choice; the University of Abuja, in the same city where my parents stayed—yeah, so much for trying to run away from them. Thankfully, the six years I spent there studying law and going on uncountable strikes, wasn’t as bad as I had thought it would be with mum and dad breathing down my neck. I didn’t miss going to Maiduguri after all and life went on.
My younger brother wrote his own JAMB exams last year and while he filled out university choices, my parents gave him strict instructions not to include any school north of the nation’s capital. He found it funny because he wasn’t even planning on staying in ‘their’ Abuja. The barracks and UN buildings had been bombed at the time and he was freaked out by the idea of being around the ‘marked cities’. It was the south or nothing for him.
I watched bits of the South-South Economic Summit on Thursday. It was a session on security and the need to fix it before the much-needed foreign investment could come in and the National Security Adviser (NSA), General Andrew Azazi took to the podium and talked about how much the citizens needed to work with government, as it was everyone’s duty to fix the terrorism mess we currently find ourselves in. He assured Nigerians as usual; that government would not rest until things got back to normal. Then there was a question and answer session.
A lady wanted to know why after the monstrous security allocation in the 2012 budget, the security agencies were still constantly found wanting. The bombing of the ThisDay offices had just happened and in her words: “Why are security agencies never at the right place at the right time?”
It made a lot of sense to me because one would have thought that the budget also made provisions for some sort of intelligence to be one step ahead of the terrorists. You don’t earmark almost a trillion naira to security only to keep playing catch up.
General Azazi took to the podium again to reply to questions. When he got to the woman’s question, he smiled. Then he said something along the lines of: how can you say security agencies are never at the right place at the right time? Look at this hall. If it weren’t secure, it would not be this packed. The fact that it is packed, tells you that the security agents are here at the right time. Then he laughed.
I didn’t understand what that meant. Neither did I understand where the comedy was supposed to be. The sheer insensitivity of the whole thing threw me off completely but I honestly did not expect a concrete answer from the NSA to that question. We already know that this government loves rhetoric. What I didn’t understand was the need to be so insensitive and crack jokes about that issue just a day after lives were lost in Abuja and Kaduna.
How many Nigerians can fit into The Events Center in Asaba at a time? Since all security agents were there for most of last week, were we all meant to pack and relocate to the hall till it was all over? So, Mr. Nduka Obaigbena, publisher of ThisDay newspapers was in Asaba as a moderator of some of the panels. What about his other staff who could not be there too and had work to do at Jabi and Kontagora Road when the brainwashed suicide bomber decided to take lives for no reason?
The body language of the Federal Government leaves Nigerians with a confidence level that is below zero. There is an almost conscious attempt to constantly remind us that we are on our own. We all agree that we have a part to play in making sure that our society is safer and more secure. But our powers are limited to reporting what we see. We are not the ones with the billions in security votes or with intelligence people as our staff, so there’s only so much that we can do.
What are we left with when our government believes their job in securing their people, is limited to conferences where foreigners show up and they have to take their ‘eye service’ to the next level.
I want the Nigeria of my JAMB days back. When, traveling to a city regardless of its geopolitical zone was not a problem; when the Yankari Game Reserve and not bombs comes to mind when you think of Bauchi. The Nigeria of my younger brother’s JAMB days have lasted longer than we thought and sadly it isn’t looking like it will end anytime soon. What gives?
Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.