by the Editorial team
Why an extravagant commemoration of British rule is more important to this administration than the disturbing loss of young Nigerian lives is unclear and goes to show just how out of touch this government has become, detached from the realities of people it claims to be serving.
On Wednesday, the nation woke up to shocking news. Boko Haram terrorists had struck again, this time , a dastardly attack on the Federal Government College Buni-Yadi, a boarding school. The terrorists went on a deadly rampage, shooting and slaughtering helpless students and setting fire to property. The carnage lasted for hours, and at the end, the initial death toll was 29, this figure has since been revised upwards by eye witnesses.
This was the latest in a series of attacks in the North East region that have unfortunately become daily occurences. Only last week, embattled Borno state governor Kashim Shettima reminded a non-plussed presidency that over 300 Nigerians were killed as a result of attacks by the Boko Haram sect in the towns of Gwoza, Izge and Bama. Other estimates put the value at 500. This is aside similar killings in Adamawa and Plateau states that have brought the entire region to a standstill.
After maintaining a deafening silence for most of these killings, President Goodluck Jonathan surfaced in a presidential chat session, obviously more interested in regaling a shell shocked nation with details of his centenary celebrations, a needless jamboree celebrating Lord Lugard’s jagged amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates into one fractured entity.
While such celebrations stand within reason and have indeed been planned for a long time now, it is disrespectful to the victims of this insurgency and to a grieving nation that its president is totally uncapable of gauging the national mood. At times of grief like this following a tragedy, the president assumes the toga of mourner-in-chief and leads the nation to do a steadier place with his words as well as his actions and body language. He becomes a beacon of sympathy, someone the people can trust, comforts his people with genuine words that show that he is indeed one with their pain. If necessary he visits such affected areas and seeks personal communion with the victims, assuring them of at least a bit of hope.
President Jonathan has done none of these. Perhaps because the state of attacks has become out of control of recent, a fresh one is greeted with a shrug, a half-hearted condemnation from an aide and then back to other pressing manners. A minister to be fired, a traditional ruler to visit, a church to preach. There is a troubling lack of conviction or compulsion from the government and security forces that the next attack will be thwarted. Or that the victims have not died in vain. No one talks about fighting with their last blood to bring the perpetrators to justice. Governor Kashim Shettima, overwhelmed by the whole crisis was even chastised and overtly threatened by the president for making public his helplesness.
After the Nigerian people had made it clear exactly how they felt, Mr Jonathan put together a hurried address and in a bizarrre twist, totally disrespectful and out of touch with the national mood spent the greater part, talking about the centenary celebrations. Why an extravagant commemoration of British rule is more important to this administration than the disturbing loss of young Nigerian lives is unclear and goes to show just how out of touch this government has become, detached from the realities of people it claims to be serving. Indeed apart from his all black attire, nothing else about the broadcast indicated we were mourning. Mr president even found time to plug his blasted national conference once more. Earlier in the week, a good portion of the presidential media chat was devoted to the centenary celebrations as opposed to the rapid loss of lives in the North East.
This is not divorcing the myriad of very real and acute problems that Nigerians are currently battling with. The fuel scarcity, missing funds in the NNPC, unstable power, high cost of living, the list is endless. This keen sense of perception totally lacking in this administration is worrisome. How does one address a problem he does not even know exists.
GEJ’s supporters say the crises in the North East is a ploy by members of the aggrieved Northern elite to make the country ungovernable for him but even if it were so, one finds it difficult summoning any form of sympathy for him. He has refused constantly to take ownership of his share of the responsibility by not tackling this issue squarely and summoning the gravity required to deal. How many more of our young ones have to die before we realise that it is our sacred responsibility to protect every Nigerian life? When did we become a nation that looks the other way while our children are slaughtered like animals? Are we a country that no longfer values human life? And is it not ironical that the president is celebrating the anniversary of a union that cannot protect one half from itself? Is it until the bombs come to Lagos that we shall begin to be outraged? 29 students aren’t tragedy enough Mr president? Pray tell, what is the present value of a Nigerian life?
It is a remarkable feat that our union has lasted a hundred years and we congratulate ourselves but Mr President, look beyond your bubble and see the cold stark reality. There is nothing to celebrate. Children have given their lives, continuing this charade is in extremely bad faith. The nation is mourning. We expect the same from you.