By Casmir Igbokwe
The burden of a columnist is that he stands the risk of repeating himself in a country like Nigeria. He keeps writing, drawing attention to the ills of the society, but the more he writes, the worse the situation of things in the country turns out to be. Last year, I wrote a piece entitled, ‘Mr. President, give Nigerians real independence’. It was published on September 28, 2020, and it was my intervention on that year’s 60th Independence anniversary. Between last year and now, things have worsened rather than improved.
I must confess that I did not listen to this year’s Independence Day broadcast by President Muhammadu Buhari. What else would I have heard outside the usual empty rhetoric and blame game? What else would he have said beyond what he said before? What else would he have said to bring back the life of Dr. Chike Akunyili, the husband of the former director-general of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Professor Dora Akunyili? Chike was killed by yet to be identified gunmen in Anambra State on Tuesday, September 28, 2021. Six other people, including Akunyili’s driver and orderly, were also killed. The motive behind the attack is not very clear yet. Some reports say those who killed them were chanting “no election in Anambra.” The puzzle here is that the man was not known to be a politician.
I have been in the South-East for some days now. Shuttling between Enugu and my village in Anambra. I see fear and despair on people’s faces. There is confusion. Killing of innocent citizens has become the pastime of a people hitherto known for their humane disposition to life. At Ajalli in Anambra State, a police station was attacked and some policemen killed last Thursday. Some innocent people associated with political parties have also been killed. The greatest risk anybody can take in Anambra State now is to be seen with any political party insignia.
The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) says it is not behind these killings. According to the group, it has not made any statement concerning election in Anambra. So, who is behind these attacks? And to what end?
IPOB had ordered sit-at-home protest in the South-East on October 1. This is to draw attention to the plight of the people of the region in an independent Nigeria. It is the first time such would be held in the region on Independence Day. Hitherto, the sit-at-home protest usually took place May 30 of every year, to honour Biafran fallen heroes, especially those who sacrificed their lives during the Nigerian Civil War of 1967 to 1970. And then, since August this year, they added another sit-at-home to be observed every Monday in solidarity with IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, who has been in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS) after his arrest in Kenya late June.
IPOB has since called off this Monday protests. But some hoodlums have hijacked it and have unleashed mayhem on the people. On September 14, they killed a priest of the Anglican Communion, Rev. Emeka Merenu, in his parsonage at Ihiteukwa in Orsu Local Government Area (LGA) of Imo State for daring to invite soldiers to protect the mission school where he was the principal. They also set his car ablaze. A day before the tragedy, the hoodlums had invaded a secondary school at Nkume in Njaba LGA of the same Imo State, chased away students writing their West African School Certificate Examination and torched the motorbikes of their invigilators. These are strange happenings in a region known to value education and life.
In any case, we are in strange times. Elsewhere in the country, strange and senseless killings occur on a regular basis. Nobody is spared. Schoolchildren are abducted and sometimes killed. Travellers always have their hearts in their mouths as anything could happen on the way. The worst is that those who we hope to protect us are vulnerable to attacks as well. Recently, daredevil bandits invaded Nigeria’s elite military school, the Nigerian Defence Academy, in Kaduna. They not only killed two officers, they abducted a major and left without any serious challenge. Happily, the abducted officer has been rescued. Officially, Nigeria is the third most terrorized country in the world. But with what is happening, I won’t be surprised if the country emerges first most terrorized country in the next ranking.
What these indicate is that we have lost the humanity in us. They show that government is handicapped and at its wits’ end. Granted, we have always had leadership deficit as a country, but the current crop of leaders appears to be the worst.
President Buhari went to the United Nations General Assembly in New York to ask for debt forgiveness. I wonder if he thinks the creditor nations are stupid. In 2017, we borrowed N21.725 trillion. By March 2019, we increased the debt to N24.95 trillion. In 2020, the thing rose to N33 trillion. We are itching to borrow more. This is amid scores of private jets flying all over the place. Many of these jets were on display when the President’s son wedded recently in Kano.
This ostentatious display of wealth flies in the face of serious economic downturn in the country. Unemployment is at all-time high. The rate of inflation is high as well. Poverty is endemic. In 2018, 86.9 million Nigerians fell into the extreme poverty trap. And by next year, an estimated 20 million more people will join the poverty club of Nigeria, bringing the number of the poor to over 100 million. Will we ever relinquish our gold trophy in poverty?
I seriously doubt. Corruption and profligacy in government will not allow us. The money that should be deployed to better our society is either embezzled or spent frivolously. Last year, it was reported that a former governor of Bauchi State spent N50 million for each trip to Abuja from Bauchi. I suspect that to get a bite of this largesse, sycophants who double as aides would have punctuated the ex-governor’s every speech with a chant of ‘Your Excellency’!
It is our education and health care systems that suffer these inanities. While we celebrate and chant ‘Your Excellency’, over 13 million of our children are out of school. While we thump our chest for turning 61, our universities lack the basic things that define a citadel of learning. Libraries and laboratories are outdated. Lecture halls are overcrowded. Hostel facilities are inadequate and some of them are glorified slums. Workers are always on strike, with serious disruption to the academic calendar. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is threatening another one even when we are yet to get over that of last year, which eclipsed one academic calendar.
The same strike affects the health sector. The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has been on strike since August. Government is yet to fulfill some of the promises made to the doctors. For many of these doctors, the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Saudi Arabia and so on present a conducive atmosphere to ply their profession.
It is still a miracle how we have survived as a nation. But luck may not continue to smile on us. Britain brought some diverse nationalities together as one country. There is every need for all the nationalities to sit together and determine their fate. They need to discuss whether they want to remain as one country. They need to determine how to rotate leadership positions so that no region feels marginalized. They need to talk about how to devolve powers to constituent states. We will be postponing the evil day if we don’t do it now. I just hope that my Independence anniversary intervention next year will not be couched in similar lamentations.
Re: Nigeria should beware of passive support for terrorists
Dear Casy, a proverb has it that one who abhors dog meat, soon after, turns round to request that he be given same dog meat to be cut with his teeth. This signifies insincerity, double standard, playing the ostrich; all packaged in PASSIVITY in dealing with an issue, in this case, the FG’s handling of insecurity. For passivity to die, FG should effect the OBITUARIES/OBSEQUIES of the above-mentioned factors as well as ethnic jingoism, clannish sentiment, nepotism, sectionalism; and should be replaced with nationalism, patriotism, sincerity laced with gusto. My advice: the President should sculpturise this poser; Insecurity: Where is my place in history? He should place one by his bedside and the other on his office table, with the scrolled side facing him, as constant reminders for lasting solution via self appraisal rather than sole reliance on his security buffs.
– Steve Okoye, Awka, 08036630731
The issue of terrorism now remains an intractable malady. Everything points to government’s loss of control and resort to mere face-saving political statements each time the terrorists strike. Negotiating and politicking with the terrorists is now the new norm. In this uncertain direction, why won’t this state of weakness serve as an invitation to aggression? Terrorists have been emboldened. Invariably, there is passive support for the terrorists.
– Edet Essien Esq., Cal. South, 08037952470
Dear Casy, the man who you advised to beware of passive support for terrorists is highly supportive of Miyetti Allah terrorists codenamed herdsmen and bandits. When Nnamdi Kanu and his national agitators emerged, Malami and his oga tagged them terrorists while members of the international community recognised them as a lawful group. Now the Aso Rock emperor disarmed the Nigerian citizens and allowed the Miyetti Allah terror gang to bear AK-47 automatic guns which they use to kill members of other ethnic groups in the country, seize and forcefully occupy their ancestral lands. The Aso Rock oga sent his men, Gumi and co, to pacify the bandits through cash payments. No sane government pampers terrorists all over the world. APC government led by Buhari hasn’t shown good leadership since it assumed office. May God save us!
– Eze Chima C., Lagos, +2347036225495
Dear Casmir, according to a Chinese proverb, the cure for a sickness lies in knowing the root cause of the disease. I had written on sabotage as the main bane of JTF. To defeat Ojukwu’s Biafra, Nigeria applied financial and economic blockade. Why can’t they do same to terrorists and bandits, if they are serious?
– Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +234 909 538 5215
- Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, October 4, 2021