By Ikechukwu Amaechi
YESTERDAY, July 6, 1967, is very significant in the annals of Nigeria’s chequered political history. That was the day, 55 years ago, that Nigerian troops fired the first bullet at the border town of Gakem near Ogoja in present day Cross River State, signalling the beginning of a fratricidal war that lasted 30 months, ending only in January 1970. Millions of Nigerians, mostly Igbos, lost their lives in that needless war of attrition.
Many, mostly children, were deliberately starved to death by those who claimed that starvation was a legitimate instrument of war. It was genocidal. Sadly, nobody paid any price for the war crimes. Instead, those who orchestrated the Nigerian genocide were amply rewarded.
Today, those who prosecuted the bloody war, known as the Class of 66, are still in charge, making authoritative allocation of our collective values with reckless abandon, so much so that some people now refer to them as the “owners of Nigeria”. Writing this piece while seated at the sacred grounds of St. Brigid’s Catholic Church, Nnarambia, Ahiara, in Ahiazu-Mbaise Local Government Area, where the late leader of the short-lived nation of Biafra, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, made the famous Ahiara declaration, espousing the underpinning philosophy and ideological framework of the ill-fated Republic, got me thinking.
Why did Nigerians carry arms against each other? What lessons were learnt? Are we not at the brink of another war? Ironically, 55 years after, Nigeria is still firmly in the grips of the Class of 66. One of them, General Muhammadu Buhari, is ruling the country, and slowly but inexorably pushing it to the brink. Writing this piece and thinking about the parlous lot of Nigerians under the Buhari presidency, 52 years after that civil war ended is very depressing. But even more so is listening to the endless lies, tales by moonlight, told by the chieftains of the regime and the apparatchik of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
A government deliberately lying to the citizens at every turn is unconscionable. And that is what this government does every single day. It is a dishonourable act, very disheartening and saddening. How could human beings with blood running in their veins look fellow citizens in this beleaguered country in the eyes and declare magisterially that the country is safer today than when Buhari became president more than seven years ago? The president himself claimed recently that he will leave Nigeria better than he met it. The question is how? If he has used seven years to create the mayhem that he calls governance, what can he possibly do in the winter of his presidency, his lame duck years?
How can a government, democratically elected, behave as if it owes the citizens no obligations? Nigerian students in public universities have been at home in the last five months due to an industrial action by their lecturers under the auspices of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, and the government is carrying on as if it is normal. Yet, Buhari boasts that he will bequeath the people a better and more prosperous country than the one he met on May 29, 2015 even as inflation rate which he inherited at single digit is now over 18 per cent. There is hardly any indices of human development that is better today than it was seven years ago.
But the worst is insecurity. Thousands of compatriots are right now being held forcefully in what has become Nigeria’s evil forests in all the nooks and crannies of the country without a president who swore to protect the lives and property of citizens caring a hoot. Some of these unfortunate abductees have spent months in the custody of their abductors waiting for when their loved ones will raise the millions of naira often demanded as ransom.
The only reason why Buhari would tell Nigerians that he is leaving Nigeria more secured than he met it without any qualms of conscience is because he has perfected the inelegant art of taking Nigerians for granted. He has always done that but the APC becoming the linchpin in the conspiracy of silence smacks of extreme contempt. The barefaced lies are becoming more obtuse because an unhealthy dose of triumphalism has been injected into the saga.
Just this week, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, claimed for the umpteenth time that Nigeria is safer today than it was before the Buhari presidency. While the Presidency plays the ostrich, burying its head in the sand and believing that nobody is seeing its body, the APC vuvuzelas are busy massaging the over-bloated ego of those cocooned in their inelegant bubble of make-beliefs and illusion, yet the sad reality is that Nigeria has never been this insecure since after the civil war.
When the government is not lying about the defeat of Boko Haram and other merchants of death, it is claiming that they have been so degraded that they can only attack soft targets. But each time such spurious claims are made, the daredevils launch audacious attacks on hard targets. It is scary. Last week, terrorists struck at an illegal mining site in Shiroro, Niger State, leaving scores of military and police personnel dead. How hard can a target be? On Tuesday, an advance team of President Buhari going ahead to prepare for his Sallah visit to his Daura village was attacked by terrorists.
How close can it get? Mallam Garba Shehu, presidential media aide, was busy announcing to all who cared to listen that his principal was not in the convoy as if that matters. Truth is, it doesn’t. Whether Buhari was physically present when his convoy was attacked or not is beside the point. The fact remains that a presidential convoy was attacked. Those who staged the attack knew exactly who they attacked. The fact that they could contemplate and execute the plot is in itself a victory for them. A presidential convoy cannot be a soft target.
The same Tuesday at about 10 p.m., terrorists launched a ferocious attack on the Kuje Correctional facility in Abuja. Kuje is only a few kilometres away from Aso Rock where Buhari is cocooned. That cannot be a soft target. You can win power by outright lies and daredevilry subterfuge. But you cannot govern travelling that same route. This is exactly the case with the Buhari presidency.
Reflecting on the import of the July 6, 1967 events and the tragedy that is Buhari’s presidency, I came to the inevitable conclusion that Buhari and the entire Class of 66, the so-called owners of Nigeria, should belong to the country’s past. As long as they hang around and insist on calling the shots, Nigeria can never make progress.