By Ladesope Ladelokun

WHEN a great number of Imo citizens shunned repeated calls by the Imo State Government to ignore the Independent People of Biafra’s, IPOB, sit-at-home order during President Buhari’s recent visit to the state, it, for the umpteenth time, signposts a country appearing to be dangerously lost to gunmen.

Of course, it would be dubious to speak with finality that every Imolite that made empty streets welcome Nigeria’s number one citizen to the state that prides itself as the Eastern Heartland was sympathetic to the cause of the secessionist group.

It was also not for nothing that, on Nigeria’s Independence Day celebration, major cities in the South-East became ghost towns in compliance with the sit-at-home order handed down by the dreaded group.

As aforestated, it would be completely dishonest to state that the entire Igbo are solidly behind IPOB. What cannot be punctured is the fact that a people have lost confidence in the ability of their leaders to protect them and they fear what the gun can do to them.

Forget those who boast of bullet-repelling juju, the gun makes the most powerful of men cower in terror. Even dispatch some to early graves. History is replete with examples. Remember Martin Luther King Jnr.? What about our own Cicero, Chief Bola Ige? So, it is safe to say the fear of IPOB is the beginning of wisdom for the people of South East.

Truth be told, Nigeria is currently a country in bondage. A bondage of fear that is occasioned by daily mindless killings by Boko Haram, bandits and killer herdsmen. It is a case of democratisation of fear across Nigeria. Sleeping with two eyes closed is now a luxury in a country where classrooms have morphed to restrooms for bandits.

As a former corps member observing the compulsory one year service to fatherland, yours truly had flirted with the idea of buying cattle from Nigeria’s arguably largest cattle market in Potiskum, Yobe State, and selling them in the South-West. But only the living can fantasise business. Not when travelling to some parts of Nigeria is synonymous with slapping the head of a cobra.

Little wonder the management of National Youth Service Corps in the controversial handbook issued to corps members admonished that “when travelling in high risk roads such as Abuja-Kaduna, Abuja-Lokoja-Okene or Aba-Port-Harcourt roads, then alert your family members, friends and colleagues in order to have someone on hand to pay off the ransom that could be demanded”.

Though the NYSC initially distanced itself from the bizarre advice, it later backtracked after probably realising the foolishness of denying what is in print.

But we can forgive the management of the NYSC because we did not elect its head to provide security for Nigeria. It has only mirrored the concerns of troubled Nigerians who are victims of incompetence and failure of leadership. It is one reason it is hard to fault Governor Nasir el Rufai who likened the North west to Afganistan – the country afflicted by crisis and the worst human development indices.

The Kaduna governor explained: “When you disaggregate the national data into zones and regions, it’s clear that most of the southern Nigeria have statistics that are leading income in the country while most of the North-west have development indices that are closer to those of Afghanistan.

Our region is in crisis. We have the largest population of any geopolitical zone in the country. That is both a blessing and a curse; a blessing if we keep the population healthy and educate our children and give them skills for the future. A curse if they are not educated, they are not healthy and they feel hopeless. This is what we are seeing with our insecurity.”

It is instructive to note that Nasir el-Rufai is of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. It is not impossible that the pen of any of the president’s men would have dripped bile and vitriol if a Governor Ortom had likened any part to Nigeria to Afghanistan. But facts are stubborn things.

They stare you in the face, even when terribly ugly. Or, what evidence do we need that Nigeria is on the road to Afganistan when citizens pay heed to the advice of gunmen to desert streets, ignoring pleas from their elected leaders to go about their businesses?

With 330,000 Nigerian refugees, according to the Minister of Humanitarian Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouk, scattered in Chad, Cameroon and Niger Republic owing to unremitting violent attacks by the scoundrels terrorising different parts of Nigeria, it can be argued that Nigeria is a country at war with itself.

Nowhere appears to be safe anymore because the lethal weapons of ‘unknown’ gunmen have continued to sentence the poor and privileged Nigerians to early graves. Not even the holiest of holies is spared.

We have screamed ourselves hoarse, calling on the Federal Government to name and shame the sponsors of the purveyors of agony. But the Buhari regime would have none of that because it curiously prides itself as a respecter of the constitutional rights of Nigerians.

Hear the Attorney General of the Federation Abubakar Malami: “Naming and shaming of suspects is not embarked upon as a policy by the Federal Government out of sheer respect for the constitutional rights of Nigerians relating to presumption of innocence.”

Was it even up to a year that the now ‘born again’ Federal Government made public the name of alleged prominent EndSARS supporters for financing terrorism. At what point did the Buhari government realise publishing the names of suspects disrespects the constitutional rights of citizens?

Why, for instance, would Buhari give a hint on the sponsors of secessionist agitators like Sunday Adeyemo and Nnamdi Kanu during his Independence Day broadcast while he maintained a shocking silence on the sponsors of the original tormentors – Boko Haram, bandits, Fulani herdsmen et al – of the Nigerian people? Could it be that secessionist agitators are a bigger headache to the president than terrorists?

A juxtaposition of Federal Government’s reactions in the aforementioned cases sums up how the Buhari government prioritises killing an ant with a sledgehammer while it appears to allow a raving monster an elbow room.

In recent times, calls for bandits to be designated as terrorists have reached a crescendo. It is hard to miss the loud but influential voice of the National Assembly. But, whether we call the merchants of sorrow and tears bandits or gunmen or terrorists, Nigeria is currently bleeding on all fronts.

We have a hydra-headed monster threatening to consume us all unless we have a purposeful leadership with the political will to tackle Nigeria’s worsening security situation.

For a president that has expressed his desire not to leave office as a failure, rescuing wailing Nigerians from the claws of gunmen will be one acid test he must not fail, especially when guaranteeing security of lives and property is the primary responsibility of government. Buhari has less than two years to write his name in gold.

As the 2023 election year draws near, the Nigerian electorate must insist on demanding aspirants’ blueprint for tackling Nigeria’s protracted security problems. Nigeria no longer deserves irresponsible leaders who shirk their primary responsibilities by demanding that  unarmed and distraught citizens to protect themselves.

Ladelokun, a social commentator, wrote via [email protected]


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