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Democracy or repression as the next level

By Owei Lakemfa

FOUR years ago, the Nigerian  social media had two major groups. ‘The Wailers’, so called because they were said to be wailing the loss of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the general elections. The other group was called the ‘Hailers’ because members hailed all that was good, bad and ugly in the new ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.

When there was seeming improvement in power supply without the new government adding a single megawatt to power generation, the hailers attributed it to President Muhammadu Buhari’s  “body language” and mystic! Later, the government announced that power supply had jumped to 7,000 MW even when the maximum installed capacity was 5,000MW. In 2015, the new government announced the “defeat” of the Boko Haram terrorist group. When the terror attacks continued, it was said to be “technical defeat’ but that the terror group had been so degraded that all we need do is wait for its demise.

Nigerian,Democracy

The third group of Nigerians who saw the politicians as belonging to the same camp with no fundamental difference were crowded out by the Wailers and Hailers. Today, the Hailers have virtually all become Wailers as the country reels under poor governance, terrorism, banditry and an insensitive political class still busy fighting over the spoils of the 2019 elections.

After launching a myriad of “operations” including Python Dance(s) and Lafiya Dole, the armed forces and security agencies seem to have run out of ideas. The Nigeria Police tried in April to restore some confidence by launching the latest ‘operation’ called Operation Puff Adder, OPA, which it noisily launched across the country. Acting Inspector-General of Police, IGP, Mohammed Adamu made a grand show of launching OPA on the Abuja-Kaduna highway which he claimed had put that road, and adjoining communities extending to Kogi, Niger, Katsina, and Zamfara states under security blanket.

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The highway was later declared safe. But travellers who took the police assurances on face value were like lamb led to the slaughter as they were packed off in their dozens by kidnappers and bandits. With this, and growing insecurity in Kaduna, the IGP did not apologise, all he did was sacrifice the State Commissioner of Police. As for Zamfara State, insecurity actually worsened with the bandits killing more people and invading the Government Girls Secondary School, Moriki where five persons were abducted.

The security situation in Katsina State also further deteriorated. On May 1, daring bandits invaded Daura, President Muhammadu Buhari’s home town, killed some people and kidnapped the District Head, Musa Umar who is also the father-in-law of Buhari’s ADC. In January, Governor Aminu Masari who is also the chief security officer of Katsina State had raised an alarm about bandits taking over the state and that he himself, despite the huge security around him, is not safe.

In a sad reflection of the country’s sorry state of insecurity, the Director-General of the Department of State Services, SSS, Mr. Yusuf Bichi, speaking Tuesday at a retreat of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum said politicians (which included the governors) trust marabouts and Babalawos (traditional diviners) more than the security agencies!

Amidst this escalating violence and descent into anarchism in many parts of the country, President Buhari was off the radar screen in the United Kingdom where he was on a “private visit”. A man of vision, Buhari has in four years as President been incapable of even upgrading the State House Clinic to take care of his own ailment for which he frequently visits London. The Yorubas say when a man promises to dress you in rich robes, you should examine the clothes he himself is wearing; if a President with all the powers and resources of the country cannot, in four years, fix the presidential hospital so he can be treated at home, how do you hope he can fix the basic health needs of the country? If the home towns of the President, the Defence Minister, retired Brigadier-General Mansur; Muhammad Dan Ali, National Security Adviser, retired Major- General Babagana Monguno and Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai are under the siege of terrorists and bandits, how does the Ogun farmer, the Onitsha trader or Bayelsa fisherman hope to be protected by the Nigerian state?

The anti-corruption ‘war’ is turning into a circus show. Take the drama at the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS. The Executive Secretary, Prof. Usman Yusuf, was indicted of fraud to the tune of N919 million and was in July 2017, suspended by Health Minister, Prof. Isaac Adewole. In response, Yusuf told the media, “F**k the Minister of Health” and was restored to office by the Presidency.

Months later, Yusuf was freshly indicted by the NHIS Governing Board, amongst other things, for paying consultants N508m without due process. In response, the Presidency sacked both Yusuf and the anti-corruption Board!

The primary concern of a government that cannot provide security or check the slide to anarchism, stem resurgent corruption or hyperinflation, reduce the 33 per cent unemployment rate or the over 87 million under the poverty line, should not be how to install stooges in the National Assembly leadership.

Government must realise we are in a state of emergency, even if undeclared, and concentrate on how to rally Nigerians for the defence of the country. It should stop such diversions as holding hostages like Sheik el-Zakzaky and causing disruptive mass protests by his followers. It should obey court orders and stop threats of detaining people it considers its enemies.

Government needs to mobilise Nigerians as a family, listen to all, tap the best brains, bring into the security leadership people who can deliver the desired results, bring close or into government, any Nigerian that can add value even if he be in the opposition and irrespective of his religion, region or beliefs.

Having run a closet government with his relatives, hangers-on and Hailers, the President needs to run an open government in which all Nigerians will have a sense of belonging. We cannot have a country where some have a sense of entitlement; the mentality of a ruling class, and others feel like a conquered people even on their ancestral lands.

In this wise, government has the duty to retake all lands and territories, especially in Plateau and Benue states occupied by terrorists, marauders and bandits  masquerading as ‘herdsmen’ and allow the farmers in those areas return home rather than be permanent tenants in Internally Displaced Persons, IDP,  camps.

Going forward, the Buhari administration has two options: either to run a government based on the basic tenets of democracy built on the constitution, security, people’s welfare and social justice, or a repressive one built on propaganda, rule of might, vindictiveness, intolerance and gross incompetence. Either has consequences.

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