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Reign of gunmen

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By Chioma Gabriel
I don’t know if Nigeria will survive this but I hope and pray she does. The impunity of  gunmen is getting more scary. Could it be that our leaders are running out of ideas on how to go about it? Is President Jonathan losing the battle against the menace of terrorism?

Are all the contractors and henchmen of Jonathan administration running out of ideas on how to tackle the issue? As it were, gunmen  have taken over our dear country.

‘Gun attacks’ have become a  regular cliché  in our  dailies. The political parties don’t seem to be aware that gunmen have  successfully hatched and executed a   ‘coup’ and they are now in ‘power’.  Political parties and the leadership of the day are busy throwing stones at one another and gunmen are consolidating their ‘government’.

All we do is condemn these attacks and killings and move on to continue politicking and then, it happens again and we condemn and move on. But the problem persists.

Ofcourse it’s a security situation and laymen like us shouldn’t comment but the truth is that those being killed are our relations, husbands, wives, children, siblings, and friends and that’s worrisome.

I have a dream that one day, PDP, APC and nPDP will get serious and realistic; forget their differences and join hands to build a secured Nigeria.

If things continue like this,  one shouldn’t be surprised if an association or political party under the aegis of ‘Gunmen Political Association of Nigeria’( that includes Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen,  extra judicial killers, armed robbers ,stray-bullet operators, kidnappers, assasins and ombatse cult members) one day gets  registered by INEC. They have gone haywire and waxing stronger by the day.

What is happening in government today is working up the fireworks. Our leaders have become like Emperor Nero of  Ancient Rome, who was busy playing the fiddle while Rome was on fire!

They are busy fighting on who contests 2015 elections  while Nigeria is under explosion by gunmen! Are we sleeping? Government has quoted millions voted to tackle the security issues confronting the country but all the money being spent seem to be going down the drain. It’s like using baskets  to contain water.

It’s more worrisome when it appears the combined efforts of the  police, the army, the Department of State Security, DSS, and the civilian vigilante are failing.

Recently, gunmen attacked a Kenyan Mall, sending many to an early grave.That should send signals  to Nigeria  that our markets and shopping malls should be more secured.

Just last Sunday, innocent  students of the College of Agriculture, Gujba, were massacred  at 3a.m. as they slept in their hostels by gunmen who later moved to other houses and killed residents. This attack came only  two months after a similar one on students of a boarding secondary school in Mamudo, near Potiskum, claimed the lives of about 29 school children.

What have innocent students got to do with the problems besieging the country? Are they not victims too?

Is there nothing to be done to pacify the fury of the gunmen?

Nigerians were made  ab initio to think the killings started because of the perceived extra judicial killing of  Boko Haram founder and leader, Mohammed Yusuf, but now, one is not sure what to think again.

Thousands have been killed since Boko Haram launched its uprising in 2009, turning itself from a clerical movement opposed to Western culture into an armed militia with growing links to al Qaeda.

From all indications, the  state of emergency in three North-eastern states declared by President Jonathan in May and the military offensive ordered to crush Boko Haram’s insurgency has not tackled the problem.

The initial lull in the violence after the declaration of state of emergency is over and the militants are back with full force and revenge attacks on schools, security forces and civilians.

Nigerians are tired of  hearing of huge sums of money being quoted in a bid to tackle a problem that is swallowing up the polity.

Shouldn’t our President call a spade by the name and ask himself some crucial questions? What is he not  doing right? What do they want? Who are the men behind the masks? Since these gunmen now operate under the cover of darkness, government has to come up with something to be done under the cover of darkness too.

The other day, JTF celebrated the ‘death’ of Shekau and  claimed  victory for defeating a ‘strongman’. Newspaper headlines eleborated on the last days of Shekau but just recently, Shekau resurfaced looking healthier than ever, claiming responsibility for  recent attacks and making JTF look almost stupid.

Recent developments should also serve as a pointer to schools to secure their premises and protect the lives of students  in their care. The next generation should be protected and if we have to make allies with other countries to combat this menace, why not? The future is threatened and we should wake up to this reality.

In favour of ‘Dialogue or National Conference’

President Goodluck Jonathan’s acceptance to conduct a national dialogue on issues affecting the country took many unawares, especially after many protagonists have shouted themselves hoarse to no avail and rested their case.  He has since been receiving kudos and knocks and also generating a fresh controversy over what it should be: dialogue or national conference? But that shouldn’t be an issue.

Indeed, the people of  Nigeria  have never had the opportunity to make inputs into, accept or reject any constitutional frame-work through a referendum. Consequently, the masses  have always been treated as aliens in all constitutional processes since 1914 as all constitutional frame-works have always been imposed on them whether or not they like them.

This issue has taken the centre stage in our newspapers recently with many recommendations coming in. Everybody who counted himself somebody wanted to be heard but there were those who think Jonathan has succeeded in creating another political distraction so that issues arising from PDP and nPDP crises will die a natural death.

The late  Chief Gani Fawehinmi believed that the primary duty of  a National Conference is to address and find solutions to the key problems afflicting Nigeria since 1914. The concern, according to him, is to remove all obstacles which have prevented the country from establishing political justice, economic justice, social justice, cultural justice, religious justice and to construct a new constitutional frame-work in terms of the system of government-structurally, politically, economically, socially, culturally and religiously.

National Conference, he believed  will give ethnic nationalities an opportunity to examine the questions that have made Nigeria such a disaster and come up with some answers such as the right of every nationality to have greater control over their resources.

Fawehinmi acknowledged that the root cause of our national tragedies is the fundamental defects that have always afflicted the process of determining every constitutional frame-work of the polity. Our constitutional arrangements since 1914, according to him, have never truly reflected the political, economic, social, cultural and religious realities of the country.

National conference at this time is very crucial. The polity is on fire and there is need for stakeholders to come together and discuss the way forward for our nation.

Unfortunately, there are many who see it as a conference of ‘come-and-chop’ for pseudo elected “ethnic” representatives; giving a boost to the on-going greed and inordinate desire by our  leaders to wittingly blast Nigeria into smithereens. That shouldn’t be.

It should be an avenue for the regions to speak their minds and resolve issues at once; an opportunity to review approaches to our mutual co-existence. It should be a forum to choose for ourselves whether to continue with the marriage of administrative convenience foisted on us by the British colonialist or to dissolve it; a forum for us to decide whether the Yoruba should go with the Ports; whether the Niger Delta should go with their oil; the Igbo with their erosions and Hausa with their desert.

At present, History, as a subject, has been abolished in schools and our children are being deprived the knowledge of hindsight. But for the benefit of those who should know, long before 1914 when Nigeria was amalgamated, the present space called Nigeria was not a void . People, empires and modes of production existed. The far North was ruled by Hausa Habes which was the home of many tribes, Hausa Magajiya, Abyssinian or of coptic stock until 900 to 1500 AD when the Hausaland was besieged by political forces from Bornu, the Berbes, Tuyaregs and Arabs. The most formidable being the Jihad in 1804 which swept the Habeland, imposed an oligarchy, seized the people and the land until the advent of British rule.

The Yorubaland had the Oyo empire which triumphed until about 200 years ago.

There were also the Igbo, Bachama, Birom, Angas, Tiv, Kaje, Nupe, Ijaw and numerous others.

British rule was not forged on negotiations with Nigerians, but negotiations with ethnic nationalities. So,  there was no “Nigerian position,” but ethnic nationality positions.

The 1960 independence, was preceded by a curious finding conducted by Henry Willink supported by Gordon Hardow, Philip Mason, and JB Shearer which compiled a report on July 30 1958  known as the Willink Commission of Enquiry. It is of note that every nationality in the space called Nigeria had a position and there was not and will never be a ‘Nigerian position’ except that imposed by the few people in power.

Those who think Nigeria does not need a national conference are missing the point. These people believe that each time the National Assembly meets, a  National Conference is going on; that the Assembly has all the elements of a National conference.

This school of thought opines we cannot have a National Assembly and also have another National Conference going on.

There are still others who think national conference will bring to the fore the problems of the people and break up Nigeria faster than we think.

But how many ethnic nationalities do you have in the National Assembly? There’s also the possibilty that if we go ahead  with Jonathan’s proposal, we may discover to our pleasant surprise that we have more ties that bind us and Nigeria will not break up as these people think.

And what if we break up? Do we have to stay together in misery? If the national conference or dialogue or whatever name it is called was the only tool to employ to break up this country, and Nigeria was not meant to be, delaying the conference is just delaying the Evil-Day.

So, let the conference roll on. Let Jonathan’s Committee  go to work. It is only a fool that joins a union that doesn’t profit him.

One hopes, though, that this will not be another endless circus show because, in the days of General  Abacha, there was a national confab to discuss the corporate existence of Nigeria.What was the outcome of the confab?Nothing. Obasanjo’s administration also hosted a national confab. What was the outcome?

Jonathan Administration should not engage in a fruitless exercise that will not change the status quo. This should not be  an agenda  borne out of insincerity to perpetuate himself in power.He should accept the outcome of the confab if one of the decisions is for him to step down for a restructuring of the whole system to take place! He should be ready to demonstrate true statesmanship and  that hanging to power at all cost is not the only way to move Nigeria forward.

Nigeria will surely be greater if we can put our acts together and do what is right.

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