Donu Kogbara

ON Tuesday, President Muhammadu Buhari took off to Monrovia to celebrate Liberia’s Special Independence anniversary (commemorating 175 years of self-rule) with other African leaders. According to Garba Shehu, his Senior Special Assistant (Media and Publicity), one of the important issues Mr. President was going to address in his speech at this event was West Africa’s security.

A couple of days before this announcement was made, a harrowing video clip went viral globally. It depicted terrorists flogging male passengers who were abducted from a Kaduna-bound train on March 28 and are still stranded with their tormentors in the middle of a forest, alongside female captives who were seen weeping and wailing. Since Buhari became our head of state, Nigerians in all six geopolitical zones have been subjected to endless security disasters.

Read Also: What Nigerians say as Buhari leaves for Liberia to lecture on security

In every single region, armed robbers, vigilantes, militants, separatists, cultists, ritualists, pirates, bandits, terrorists, kidnappers, rapists, oil bunkerers, illegal refiners, etc, are running amok without meeting much resistance from the authorities.

Let me briefly highlight a handful of the most recent incidents: Dozens of worshippers were slaughtered when a church in Owo was bombed on June 5. On July 6, about 1000 inmates escaped from Abuja’s Kuje prison (there have, by the way, been no less than a staggering eleven jail breaks across Nigeria since 2020).

On the same day, Buhari’s convoy was attacked by jihadists in Katsina, his state of origin. In a different part of Katsina, a Deputy Police Commissioner was murdered by unknown gunmen. Last weekend, the train hijackers threatened to kidnap the President and Nasir el-Rufai, the Governor of Kaduna State.

Meanwhile, insurgents whose weapons are superior to the weapons issued to security personnel are getting closer and closer to the seat of power and ensuring that the capital of the supposedly almighty Federal Republic can no longer be regarded as safe. This week, another traumatising video emerged and was distributed on social media platforms. The footage showed the bloodied corpses of soldiers who had been slaughtered in an Abuja suburb.

But none of the above terrifying humiliations prevented Garba Shehu from triumphantly informing the world that his boss’s trip to Liberia “signifies the importance attached to the security and wellbeing of Liberia and the rest of West Africa.”

I and most of the people I have spoken to are gobsmacked that Mr. President chose to travel at a time when terror stalks the land, and “escalating” is the most polite way of describing the completely avoidable state of emergency that his government faces.

But if you must travel, is it not better to do so quietly and not sound preachy and gung-ho around security challenges that you are not managing adeptly? Who are you to lecture other West African countries about wellbeing when your own house is on fire?

Apparently, he was the Special Guest of Honour at the Liberian shindig. Lord knows why the Liberians asked him to play this role. I hope it wasn’t linked to financial contributions!

Whatever the Liberians’ reason for elevating Buhari over other visitors whose countries are less dangerous, Nigerians would have felt so much better – as in respected and cared for – if he had declined the invitation on the grounds that he needed to stay home and focus on trying to protect those he was elected to protect.

Buhari is a retired senior soldier. Many of us voted for him because we thought he would know how to destroy the forces of evil. Does he have no professional pride? Or is he just exhausted by the difficulty of the task because he is no longer a vibrant young army man?

Midweek, senators awoke from their customary slumber and quite rightly lost their tempers and threatened to impeach Mr. President if he didn’t start to do his job properly and sort the mess out. And what was Garba Shehu’s response? He accused the legislators of overreacting and being “babyish”.

What, pray, is babyish about them putting their feet down on behalf of the frightened constituents they represent? What, pray, is babyish about them panicking when tremendous hazards are on their collective doorstep and it’s entirely possible that the National Assembly building and the people who work in it will be targeted by increasingly emboldened hoodlums?

I have always pitied presidential spokespeople because they frequently have to be economical with the truth and say ridiculous things with a straight face, in a desperate bid to impress their principals and hang onto their positions and privileges! And most of them used to be good journalists, so it can’t be easy to go against the grain and say that white is black and black is white.

The late great Chinua Achebe based the title of his famous 1959 novel, Things Fall Apart, on the opening stanza of William Butler Yeats’s poem: “The Second Coming”. Things Fall Apart, The Centre Cannot Hold, said Yeats, alluding to the chaos that ensues when a system collapses.

Achebe was referring to the way in which imperialism and the arrival of Christian missionaries had undermined the African tribal system. Now we are confronting another type of systemic disintegration. Things are truly falling apart. The centre is truly failing to hold. I wonder what Achebe would say if he was around today.


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