By Ochereome Nnanna
A TIME comes in the life of rational human beings when they need to sit back and ask themselves critical, searching questions. Nigeria is 60 this year, so am I. I am taking stock about me and my country, Nigeria. I hope that come October 1, Nigeria will also sit back and do some soul-searching of its own and decide whether it has behaved well enough to deserve the love, respect, pride and sacrificial honour of those who call it their country.
But if I know my country (and I sure do), it will allow the momentousness of its diamond jubilee to come and go in low-key, unsung and disdained like an aged, deadbeat dad.
Why should I fight for Nigeria? As Ochereome Nnanna, an Igbo man from Abiriba in South-East Nigeria, if I were still a young man of 20 years, why should I enroll in the Nigerian Armed Forces to fight and possibly die for Nigeria of this era?
This is not the country I was born into as colonial Nigeria prepared with zest for independence. We were going to be “the Giant of Africa”, the pride and Jerusalem of every Black person on the surface of the earth! Sixty years later, we are like a sick old elephant covered with self-inflicted, ulcerated sores.
Here is a country where, in August 2019, the Inspector General of Police sent his Intelligence Response Unit, IRT, to Taraba State to arrest one Hamisu Wadume, a notorious, heartless kidnapper and murderer. This was a man who kidnapped a businessman, Usman Garba. Wadume murdered Garba even after extracting N106.3m ransom because the family failed to raise an additional N20 million that he demanded.
The gallant policemen: Inspector Mark Ediale, Sgt. Usman Dan Azumi and Sgt. Dahiru Musa, successfully arrested the erstwhile elusive Wadume. But they were intercepted en route by some soldiers led by Capt. Tijani Balarabe and murdered in cold blood and Wadume set free. Following the usual outrage, Wadume was rearrested and arraigned for trial. It took an order by Justice Binta Murtala Nyako for the Army to grudgingly agree to bring the military suspects for trial.
But out of the blue, the Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami, took over the case and dropped the names of the soldiers from the charge list. Now, do you get the same impression I am getting that Malami’s unconscionable action could be part of an agenda that has nothing to do with ministering justice to our slain police officers?
Till date, Malami has stonewalled all efforts to return Capt. Balarabe and company to the dock. Nigeria has become a place where police officers are “rewarded” for their gallantry with a summary extrajudicial execution for arresting a highly-connected criminal suspect, while the killers are shielded by the government.
Why should such a thing happen, and Nigerians are not even calling for Malami’s head? Who is Malami really working for? Why has Buhari failed to call Malami to question? If the president had done so, Capt. Balarabe and co should be in the dock by now.
We have been hearing the same story, even from the battlefronts of the North East. Young, patriotic men and women join the Army and are sent to fight Boko Haram and restore Nigeria’s territorial integrity. But in the war front they begin to see things that immediately raise doubts as to whether everybody is actually here to fight Boko Haram. Apart from some senior officers trading and getting rich with the war and denying the troops crucial arms and welfare, troops notice that some of their colleagues actually harbour soft spots for the enemies!
Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s “there is Boko Haram in my government” is still real, even on the war front. Battle plans are given away and innocent troops are ambushed and massacred. The enemies within have rendered the Boko Haram war a quagmire.
Some of these inhouse enemies are occupying the highest positions of power, pursuing their selfish and ethnic agenda and endangering the lives of our young patriots fighting for Nigeria. If I were a young man, I would not be part of such. I would not be part of an armed organisation that has been recreated to wear the face of a particular religion (our Army motto is even written in Islamic Arabic instead of the English language which is our official lingua franca).
The entire Armed Forces and defence sectors are headed by people of a particular religion and ethnic mix contrary to our Constitution’s equity demand. I will fight for a true Nigeria, but I will not fight for a Northernised Nigeria. When Northerners are killing Northerners with their foreign hirelings and I am sent into the melee, I will be a fair, sitting target for both sides.
Where would I get the heart to continue fighting an endless war when back home my mothers, sisters and aunties are being raped in their farms by the so-called herdsmen, who are kidnapping and killing indigenous people at will without response from the authorities?
Nigeria is faced with three sectors of insecurity, all from the North: Boko Haram, “Bandits” and armed herdsmen/militias. Buhari’s government has deployed the military against Boko Haram and the “Bandits”. But it has refused to officially recognise the herder-terrorists for what they are. They kill, rape and kidnap people in the Middle Belt and South, and Buhari’s government merely describes their atrocities as “farmers-herders clashes”.
While our young people are in the North fighting to protect Northerners in the spirit of “One Nigeria”, their communities and people back home are left unprotected to attacks by empire-building armed herdsmen seeking to conquer new territories for their tribe from all over Africa. I don’t blame those who say they have lost interest and want to go home.
Count me out. When Nigeria is ready to be a country again where everybody is given their due, we can resume the march together.