By Donu Kogbara
The abduction of 230 girls from their school in Chibok, Borno State, has shocked Nigerians and made headlines all over the world.
On Wednesday, hundreds of anguished, angry and mostly female protestors took to the streets of Abuja, chanting and brandishing placards.
The heart-rending requests and poignant questions on their placards included: “Where Are Our Sisters?”, “Please Find Our Daughters”, “Let Peace Reign”, “Can Anyone Hear Me?”, “Please Protect Us” and “Please Do Something”.
One of the leaders of this laudable and necessary demonstration was Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, a former Minister of Education. She stood shoulder-to-shoulder, like the Amazon she is, with the demonstrators…and joined them as they marched to the National Assembly to present a letter in which the government was accused of not doing enough to secure the release of the kidnap victims.
I have often complained, on this page, about the excessive docility of the average Nigerian. I have pointed out, again and again, that our rulers constantly mess up and take us for granted because we don’t demand respect or progress assertively enough and rarely sustain legitimate protests for long.
I salute Oby and the other women who decided to brave bad weather – it was raining – to make their feelings known. I hope they keep up the pressure.
Crisis of confidence
I am in London at the moment and have just watched a really depressing and seriously embarrassing British TV news discussion about the Chibok disaster.
The foreign commentators were appalled that this kind of thing can happen “in this day and age”, sympathised with the helpless parents of the traumatised teenage captives and expressed the view that the Nigerian government and army lack the “appetite” and capacity to tackle enemies of the people.
The Goodluck Jonathan administration has acquired a chronic image problem and is facing a major crisis of confidence, both domestically and internationally, because of its under-performance and arrogant, selfish insistence on ignoring public opinion.
I have always said that those who expected Jonathan to eliminate Boko Haram overnight were being extremely unfair, given that sophisticated Western nations have also not curbed terrorism overnight.
The Americans are still battling with Al Quaeda’s Islamic guerrillas despite their famed military might and their second-to-none global intelligence network.
The Basque Separatist group, ETA, only agreed to a ceasefire this February after waging war on the Spanish state for four whole decades.
When I was growing up in the UK, the Irish Republican Army, IRA, inflicted all manner of outrages on the populace and seemed unstoppable for many years.
The IRA bombed the London Stock Exchange building and a hotel in which several senior politicians (including the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher) were staying. The IRA maimed and killed indiscriminately and even managed to assassinate Queen Elizabeth’s distinguished cousin, Lord Mountbatten, a decorated naval officer, statesman and former Viceroy of India.
If those who run countries that are more well-equipped on every imaginable level struggle for ages to get rid of violent insurgents, it is hardly surprising that those who run a relatively underdeveloped country like ours have yet to whip Boko Haram – which hasn’t been around for long – into total submission!
However, the Jonathan administration is not completely bereft of skilled security personnel, modern weapons or financial resources…and should be confronting this terrible challenge more dynamically and efficiently. Boko Haram cannot be destroyed tomorrow, but it can be MUCH better controlled.
The Jonathan administration should also be A LOT more caring. It was in SUCH bad taste for the President and his cronies to attend a rally in Kano so soon after the recent Nyanya bus station bomb blast. Worse still, they were seen dancing and grinning. How insensitive can any head of state be?!
Given that he was willing to cancel this week’s Federal Executive Council meeting because his Vice, Sambo, lost his brother, why couldn’t he display a similar level of concern for the ordinary citizens who lost their lives and limbs in Nyanya?
Meanwhile, Mr President has still not sacked Abba Moro, his widely despised Interior Minister…who should have been officially held responsible for the Immigration Service recruitment debacle that led to several deaths last month.
Jonathan also comes across as being reluctant to punish the massive corruption that is making government agencies like NNPC utterly dysfunctional.
The positive moves Jonathan has made – in the power and agricultural sectors, for example – are overshadowed by multiple lapses and failures.
Even on his home turf – the Niger Delta – where most folks are instinctively loyal to their “Big Brother”, there is increasing disillusionment. I have encountered many Ijaws, Ogonis, Uhrobos, etc, who used to say that they would definitely vote for Jonathan in 2015, but are now bitterly changing their tune.
Nigeria is not a happy place right now and if Jonathan does not get a grip, become more organised/focused, transform his leadership style and discipline his less savoury sidekicks in the coming months, he will only be able to win the 2015 election by force or by fraud.