By Tonnie Iredia
Daily reports from different parts of Nigeria painting vivid pictures of killings, kidnappings and arson collectively imply that insecurity in the country is biting harder by the day. More Nigerians from different political divides including legislators are becoming less tolerable of what they now see as feeble efforts by federal authorities to deal decisively with the situation. The increasing anger in the land is premised on the argument that the primary duty of government as clearly spelt out in our Constitution is the security and welfare of the citizenry.
If so, what then is occupying the attention of government? As answers to questions such as this do not appear clear, could it be that critics are misled or deliberately mischievous just to raise false alarms? As if to respond to this, the Presidency issued a statement last Thursday controverting the critical posture of Samuel Ortom, Benue State Governor on the subject. Could it be that we all do not have all the facts? This question reminds this writer of his piece many years ago titled “The parable of the driver and his passengers.”
The story concerned governance in the old Bendel State at about 1984 when the then military governor was General Jeremiah Useni. He was quite an effective and amiable administrator but somehow, the late Brigadier John Inienger who was then the Brigade Commander in Benin was secretly loved. Each time Useni was out of the state, Inienger took control as acting military governor, undertook inspection tours and made ‘welfarist’ pronouncements that warmed the hearts of many.
He would throw open government stores where certain scare goods were kept for future use,directing immediate sale of the goods popularly known as essential commodities captioned in local parlance as “Essenco.” Many people prayed secretly for Useni to travel more so that Essenco would flourish. In less than a year, the prayers were answered; a change of government occurred, Useni was moved and Inienger became substantive military governor.
Surprisingly, the new governor could no longer perform his essenco wonders and no one knew why! Many started praying for Useni to return but it was too late. It was at that point I interviewed Governor Inienger. I pointedly asked him the position he would prefer if he had a choice, governor or popular acting governor? To assist him to appreciate the context of the question I added that many Bendelites were no longer happy with his changed attitude to essenco. He then gave a beautiful answer that a passenger would naturally be angry with a driver for falling into pot holes on a journey.
It is only when he becomes the driver that he realizes that no matter one’s driving skills, the vehicle must fall into pot holes in an untarred road because the entire road is made up of pot holes. The lesson is that those who criticise so furiously do not get to know the enormity of an assignment until when put in charge of it. When related to what is happening now in Nigeria, we remember the politics of 2015 when the present ruling party was seeking to form government. They told us at the time that the then President and his government were clueless etc. Now that the roles have changed, cluelessness has become elastic.
Last week, Dr Isa Pantami, the current minister of Communication and Digital Economy used a sober prism to tell the nation that he now knows better than he did in the past when he made comments that everyone now condemns. Based on the philosophy of this column which is centred on solutions to problems we did not join in asking for the minister’s sack. Instead we asked that he be made to play a leading role in converting all those who had been wrongly tutored to be inflexible about ethnic and religious diversities. For example, many youths in Niger state were seen the other day on different social media platforms celebrating the invasion of their state by insurgents.
Understandably, many of them are frustrated over the limited opportunities which the stunted growth of our nation offers. If we wait for such youths to grow and by chance find out that theirearlier posturewas wrong, no one can guarantee that theywould be lucky tomeetsuch transforming opportunities. Indeed, many of them could be converted to join separatist groups to undermine their nation. But if we get influential leaders in our communities,especially converts,to help deradicalize our citizens, a greater understanding of tolerance among our people will dissuade this daily calls for war by different groups.
Similarly, except value reorientation is embraced, it would be difficult for those in power to convince the opposition to join in nation building when that was not the case when the roles were reversed. So, the Peoples Democratic Party PDP would appear justified now in adopting a fault-finding approach by drawing minute by minute attention to what the ruling All Progressives Congress APC fails or omits to do.
No one can blame the PDP if they refuse to appreciate any sermon on patriotism now from those who were no less tolerable in times past. Certainly, that would not augur well for us all, at a time like this, when the nation is virtually under the bus and when what should matter now is national survival. The current blame game featuring claims and counter claims must come to an end with the President inviting different experts into several committees to give a helping hand provided such committees are not made up of only members of the ruling party. All relevant Nigerian resources irrespective of political affiliation should be galvanized.
The call on all to support national unity would make more sense if the approach of blaming every problem on political opponents is de-emphasized at this point. In fact when the state of the nation is reviewed objectively, it would become clear that APC officials are themselves blaming their own government. The allegations made by Governor Sani Bello of Niger state that the federal government abandoned his state is instructive. He spoke more than once.
First when the Kagara students were adopted he said there was no support from anyone. On a second occasion, he reminded the nation that invasion by insurgents could easily destabilize even the federal capital territory because where they had landed in his state, was less than 200 kilos from Abuja. Yet Governor Sani Bello is an APC governor.
On his part, Senator Smart Adeyemi (Kogi west) broke down in tears while contributing to the debate on the fast-declining level of the nation’s security. Adeyemi is in the Senate on the ticket of the ruling APC. A few days after Adeyemi spoke, fiery clergy, Fr. Ejike Mbaka, specifically called on the President to resign or be impeached. Mbaka’s position was significant because he had severally supported the same President in the past.
Considering that Mbaka, Adeyemi and Sani Bello are not APC’s political opponents, we call on government to take urgent steps to rescue Nigeria by prioritizing our security. The testimony by Senator Ali Ndume that the Army is ill-equipped must be quickly handled. We cannot claim to be addressing insecurity when the few police personnel are still attached to politicians instead of to critical infrastructures. Let’s operate like passengers who know the challenges of drivers by facing security now instead of 2023 elections.