By Bisi Lawrence
One of the exasperating and sometimes tragic aspects of situations that are patently intractable is their tendency to develop unpredictable ramifications.
That often happens when measures introduced are either ill-timed, or hypocritically motivated, or both. The visit of General Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria, to the family of the late founder of Boko Haram has only added a sickening dimension to the continued horror of the Islamic terrorist group which now holds the entire country in thrall, regardless of his purpose in making that seemingly mindless journey.
The only reason, or justification, his apologists could summon to explain the irrational timing of the visit to fall on the same day when the nation was honoring the memory of those who died in the bombing attack on the Abuja UN building, was that he probably did not know about it.
That is not easy to believe. If he felt concerned enough to visit the birthplace of Boko Haram, he could not have been far from the information about the arrangements of the national effort to pay our last respects to the victims of the fanatical religious group.
It is rather far easier to surmise that he was not formally invited, and that he would naturally have considered a slight. And, knowing him, one would find it quite in his character to react on the scale of megalomania from which the scenario of that visit would flow. And that fits in perfectly with Professor Wole Soyinka’s reference to an “ego trip”.
To some uncharitable minds, the professor’s incisive criticism of this latest of Obasanjo’s antics was no more than a continuation of the disagreement that is well known to exist between both of them. But the Nobel laureate is well known to be definitely of a more noble nature than that.
The suggestion is an insult he must shrug aside. The entire incident is made more poignant by the fact that it occurred just around the first anniversary of Gani Fawehinmi’s death. That would have been another voice to condemn the unfeeling pettiness of a man who is burdened by the hollow sense of his self-importance. Obasanjo set out to demonstrate nothing more than that.
He himself could not put a tag on his unpatriotic action other than that of “a learning process”, even before the tragedy that sprung up in its wake. But what did he learn? What could he have learnt? The operations of Boko Haram could not have been revealed through a cursory visit to one of the relatives or associates of its founder. His apologists had even tossed it up and tossed it down that he had displayed commendable boldness by what they saw as his attempt to mediate peace between the Boko Haram and the Federal Government.
But would that be appropriate on the day that the country was mourning the tragedy that was caused by the brutality of the terrorist organization? Well, if he wanted to engage himself in a “learning process”, he has indeed been given a lesson.
The killings continue unabated. It hurts because we are left with the fearsome impression that no one really seems to know what to do. We change National Security Advisers like dirty underwear. With the latest revelations of one the co-founders of the Boko Haram that the warnings he gave to some security officials were ignored, more heads may roll.
But what was the purpose of these warnings other than to intensify the effect of the terror already planned?
These senior officials in our security hierarchy are men of sterling antecedents in law enforcement, or military tactics. But raw security circumstances seem to proclaim them as no more than semi-professionals in that area. Thus we are slapped on the face every day, by nuggets of advice presented on the pages of the newspaper to our national advisers by you and me, and every other home-grown security expert. How droll!
Without a doubt, the spate of counsel and recommendations is in good faith. For instance, we too have suggested on this page that the discovery of the source of its funds would go a long way towards exposing the identity of its sponsors. That, in fact, is elementary – as a theory.
But we have even been supported by distinguished citizens who declare that the identity of those sponsors is a basic step that must be taken if we are to move forward. Was there any information in that regard among the so-called warnings that are purported to have been afforded?
However, it all seems easier said than accomplished. But we have to appreciate the fact that the situation is a novel one to our security apparatus. We have had to contend with little more than sporadic civil unrests now and then, not a sustained tide of terror in our country. We have never been called out by a well-trained, well-disciplined band of murderers and marauders equipped with sophisticated weapons like this before. We did not have to engage an implacable enemy who knows everything about us but yields so little of himself to our knowledge. We are faced by a foe without a known face.
Obviously, what is called for here is a paradigm shift. Our fundamental concept of peace-keeping must be moved away, in physical as well as psychological terms, to a terrain different from where we were once domiciled and comfortable.
It does not begin and end with our grouch against the inadequacies of our security system, but must extend to an appreciation of the fact that the system has to be updated as a matter of urgency, to a level of competency. This would involve both the citizens and the officials who have to cooperate by recognizing that the change is for the benefit of all. And so, the members of the public must learn, very quickly, to imbibe a culture of patience, for instance at check points, and the security personnel must carry out their duties with efficiency matched by courtesy.
The injection of foreign experts into the overall efforts can only bring appreciable profit in the end. It will provide immediate relief and sustained sufficiency in confronting the enemy. All the same, the ultimate benefit will be in the awareness that Nigerians themselves must bear the burden of their own security and safety.
In one of the Northern States, the carrying of hand bags in public is now prohibited. This for the fear that such might be used to transport a bomb. Over the week-end, a Lagos State Local Government was gripped by panic over an object which was mistaken for an incendiary device. Happily, it turned out to be something else. At the beginning of this week, the National Assembly was evacuated by a bomb scare which, at the end, was nothing short of a hoax. It is to the credit of the honorable members, men and women, that they retained their composure and filed out in good order. We must shake off this mantle of insecurity which the Boko Haram has cast around our shoulders as a nation.
the viper sting
The Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, was arrested and detained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission recently – and there hangs a tale or two.
In the first place, the EFCC’s action was said to have been in response to a petition forwarded to it , alleging that the Speaker had defrauded his government by a tidy sum of money running into millions, pardon me, billions of naira. (No one, but the most handicapped of public servants, misappropriates mere millions these days.)
There was also a “rider” about a criminal record that should have been disclosed before now to the appropriate authorities. The three-term speaker has, of course, vehemently denied all the allegations. In any case, we are not really concerned about all that.
Of more concern to us is the method of investigation of a crime which has now become the norm in our criminal system. A simple petition against anyone, no matter how upstanding he is in the community, is enough to have him “investigated” by being dragged to the police station, and not quietly either.
He is inflicted with the trauma of the negative publicity which should be experienced by only those whose indictments had been examined and deemed to have a case to answer. Without being charged to court, he is made to go through the inconvenience and humiliation of someone already arraigned.
It used to be that investigations were conducted without any unnecessary assault on the dignity of those involved. Now they are kept in durance vile for hours, and sometimes in violation of their fundamental human rights under the law, just because of a written accusation which, in fact should be the object of primary investigation, in the first place.
This has to improve, especially since some of these petitions are authored by faceless monsters, writing under horrid names like “concerned citizens”. They are usually granted impunity despite the anxiety, grief and worry they might have piled on the head of an innocent man. It would at least serve as a deterrent if they are sanctioned whenever their allegations are found to be false and based on malice or sheer mischief.
Anyway, let us thrash around a bit in the muddy waters of Lagos State politics. In the case of Speaker Ikuforiji, the identity of his accuser was said to have been unconcealed.. The man is himself a politician, a former member of the Lagos State cabinet, Muis Banire. Now, hereby lies another tale.
The former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, recently seemed to be all for the replacement of Babatunde Raji Fashola, his successor in office. Governor Fashola’s offence was never publicly disclosed, though some people felt it was a case of “personal politics”.(That translates crudely into “jealousy”.) Anyway, it was a poorly concealed secret that Tinubu wanted Fashola a few paces away from the governor’s seat. It would not then be amiss to associate a petition that was raised against Fashola’s administration with that desire.
And guess whom he was said to have wanted as a replacement? None other than his protégé, Muis Banire who was then in Fashola’s cabinet. Furthermore, the proponent of the removal of Fashola was our dear Speaker Ikuforiji, who insisted adamantly, that Governor Fashola should be probed by the House, over the allegations contained in the petition against the governor. It took no less than a court order to turn the Speaker around.
So it would appear that there was a time when Adeyemi Ikuforiji and Muis Banire, must have been “pally-pally” over the mutual fell purpose of getting Babatunde Raji Fashola out of the Governor’sd seat in Lagos State. That was when the going was good. Now the whole repast appears to have turned sour. And, as for our former bantam Speaker, if you ask me, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. How does it feel when the shoe is on the other foot?
That is as far as we shall go in this episode. I am sure you know the rest. But if you would like to delve into the “whys and wherefores” as the lawyers say (and all of them, barring Ashiwaju Bola Tinubu, are lawyers, by the way) tune in, same time, same station, next week.