By Muyiwa Adetiba
“They came in numbers, wielding dangerous weapons. I heard my late husband reciting prayers from the Qur’an. They shot and killed him….in our presence. Oh Allah!!! Where is the government? Who will take care of our numerous children? Is this how the government will allow these bandits to be killing us?
Oh Allah, where is government? Where….’ This was the anguished submission of a wailing woman whose husband, a local monarch, was killed by bandits in the ‘Yantumaki Community’ of Kaduna State recently according to a Sunday Vanguard report which took the story from VOA Hausa service.
I can just picture the scene. You are surrounded by ferocious bandits whose sole mission is to loot, rape and kill. You are begging with everything you have but they are acting deaf and contemptuously because they know you have nothing to bargain with. Everything you have – including your body and those of your young daughters – is already theirs to take if they so desire. An hour stretches into eternity as you hope for a miracle, any miracle. The waiting is in itself torture.
The bandits take their time, prolonging your humiliation, your torture. You both know help is not going to come until it is all over when their thirst for blood and hunger for flesh would have been satiated. They leave after stripping you of everything; property, dignity and faith – if you are lucky to be spared. Even then you know it is not all over. They can come at will; in the brightness of day, or in the darkness of night. And who is to say if you will survive the next time.
So the vigil starts. You see them in the shadows of night; you hear them in the faintest of noises. They dominate your thoughts. They dominate your dreams. They become your nightmare. Oh Allah, where is government?
This is the story of many villagers in certain areas of the north as we speak. They sleep with the proverbial one eye. They have become rootless and are completely at the mercy of bandits. Some of the bandits are from outside the country. Some from within. Like a Northern Governor said in the Vanguard report ‘it is becoming harder and harder to distinguish us from our enemies’. This is because the jobless, roaming youths have teamed up with outside marauders to terrorise the land. It is a classic situation of a failing State where law and order has collapsed and crime pays.
The cause of the present situation in the north is complex and multifaceted. I don’t pretend to have all the answers but if I may summarise, I will opine that it has to do with religion and the manipulation of it.
It has to do with population and the manipulation of it. With ethnic divisions and the manipulation of them. It has to do with education and the neglect of it.
With grinding poverty and the denial of it. It has to do with governance and the abuse of it.It all boils down to the leadership style which the north has chosen. This same governor put it succinctly when he said ‘there was no shortage of early warning signs but we ignored them all. We are paying for our collective negligence.
As it is, we are trapped in a prison of mirrors where lies are answered with new lies. Violence is taking root because our leadership model has been exposed as a lie, an empty ideology used to satiate greed instead of addressing social inequality and injustice’.
Even when some bandits were infiltrating some parts of the north like Benue and Taraba and could have been dealt with swiftly and decisively, leadership was still using other considerations. The time so called Fulani herdsmen started using AK47 to kill and destroy farmlands would have been the time to be decisive with crime and criminals. But government stayed its hand until other groups joined to enjoy the spoils of crime and the situation became hydraheaded. Oh Allah, where is government?
Unfortunately, indecisive or outright dearth of governance is everywhere you turn. It starts from Aso Rock itself where there was reportedly an incident involving gun shots between First Lady’s security details and a President’s aide. It goes on to the President’s party where the Chairman played jury and judge in a case that also had him as a litigant.
It is compounded by the resultant undisciplined scramble for the chairmanship position. One gets the impression in the three scenarios, of people grabbing power because there is no control, no line in the sand and the more brazen you are, the more you can get away with.
Another area of our lives is COVID 19 which is threatening to get out of control; where all the guidelines that should lead to a better containment are observed more in the breach. You find people travelling from the farthest part of the north to the deepest part of the south in spite of inter-state travel restriction. Yet the roads are littered with law enforcement officers.
A governor from the north recently gave up and opened his borders because he said he was merely making money for the border patrol officers. The officers are not punished for gross dereliction of duty. You find people congregating in large numbers without respect for face masks or social distancing. There are no sanctions or even the will to sanction.
Even the rank and file senses the absence of authority in the country. This also reflects in the way we are treated by foreign countries. I can’t imagine what happened in South Africa and Ghana recently happening under Murtala Mohammed and Joe Garba, his Foreign Minister. Oh Allah, where is government?
I don’t know whether it is apt or not, but my mind keeps going to Genesis 1 vs 2 in the bible where the account of creation was mentioned. This portion claimed the earth had no form and was void until God put it in order.
Nigeria seems to be in that state of void andcrying for a leadership that will put it in order; that will care for her. She needs men and women on a salvage mission. Then the bereaved lady’s plaintive cry of ‘Oh Allah, where is government?’ can be answered in a more positive way.