Columns

February 3, 2024

We suffer because we are not our nation’s keeper, by Muyiwa Adetiba

We suffer because we are not our nation’s keeper, by Muyiwa Adetiba

Muyiwa Adetiba

An In-Law and Big Brother had to go from Abuja to Otukpo in Benue State for an event that could neither be shifted nor avoided. Ordinarily, the trip is a breeze. I had taken that trip with him a few times in the past and I usually looked forward to it as it afforded me the opportunity to see yet again, the scenic beauty – in land and vegetation – the Lord, through nature has blessed this country with.

But that was at another time and place as the saying goes. Times and seasons are markedly different now. This time was during the yuletide season and Nassarawa State through which he and his wife must pass, had become infested with bandits and kidnappers as with most places where mining activities take place. The usual rhetorical prayers for journey mercies had therefore, taken a new meaning and urgency.

Fortunately, they made the trip safely. A couple of years ago, at the height of kidnapping along the Oyo/Ondo axis, it was my turn to have my heart in my mouth as I had to make an unavoidable trip to Ilesha. You could literally hear my heartbeat as we passed Ikire/Osogbo area, then as we veered off Akure road to the lonely stretch towards Ilesha. I do not envy those who have to take the Kaduna/Abuja ‘express’ road these days. Some of the travelers would probably have died a hundred times before reaching their destination.

But it wasn’t always like this. I had friends in our youthful years who went from Lagos to Kano on a whim or drove to Port Harcourt and back just to greet a girlfriend. I was not that adventurous but I also had my share of road travels which included leaving for Ibadan or Ife at midnight to attend parties; or leaving a Lagos party in the small hours of the morning to buy suya in Shagamu. You could say many things about the state of our roads back in the days, but kidnapping would not be one of them; banditry would not be one of them.

Just as one could say many things about our villages and banditry and kidnaping would not be listed. But the signs,which are political in places and economic in places. had been coming for a while. They had been creeping slowly, but inexorably on us. If only we had leaders who were competent enough to read these signs and patriotic enough to heed them. I will list a couple. When Lake Chad started drying up, a proactive leadership would have anticipated the socio/economic, as well as political consequences and would have done something about them.

Very little was done beyond lip service and tokenism. It is even sadder thatwhatever was earmarked for drought alleviation was typically embezzled by people whose grandchildren and kinsmen would suffer the consequences – it was a replay of the greed and self-centeredness that plagued the Niger-delta. When displaced and neglected herdsmen from the Chad area were forced out of desperation and survival to come south to look for grazing land, we refused to see the danger for what it was. Instead, we resorted to playing the usual religious and parochial cards. We had leaders who would rather defend tribe than nation and leaders who couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

 Secondly, when the data on out-of-school children in the country became alarming, pro-active leadership would have sat up. Ours didn’t. Instead, some northern leaders urged the birth of more children as a political tool – imagine organizing and funding mass weddings for people who have no means of livelihood. And when the idle hands of uneducated and unemployable youths became the devil’s workshop, these political leaders who had used these youths as thugs and enforcers, abandoned their States and ran to Abuja to cocoon themselves against the consequences of their acts of greed, incompetence and self-centeredness.

And now that Abuja is surrounded and infiltrated by bandits and kidnappers, there is nowhere else to run to –which accounts for their loud cries. They should look at the mirror to see how their actions have led them and the rest of us to where the nation is today. We should be the one blaming the north for the trillions of Naira spent to fight insecurity in that region. Instead, they are the ones blaming the central government for what is really an own goal. When Chief Awolowo, the late sage, said the next revolution could come from the so called docile north, no one took him very seriously. Isn’t what we have now a revolution of sorts?Where the poor and the desperate are attacking and demanding their ‘entitlement’ from the rich and the middle class? 

Finally, the areas that are hard hit by insecurity are largely areas where legal or illegal mining is going on. Our political leadership cannot claim not to know the remote causes of the insecurity in these areas. Yet again, it has allowed individual interests to override national interests. We have refused to learn from our own experience with crude oil exploitation over the years. We have refused to learn from other African countries where greed and self-interest have led to unregulated mining which has in turn resulted in untold devastation and even wars.

We have also refused to borrow some knowledge from those countries that have put the interests of their nations first in regulating mining for the betterment of all. Is there any reasontherefore, to believe that we would learn from what happened in Ibadan beyond looking for scapegoats? The absurdity of someone sitting in Abuja and granting a mining license to a foreigner in far-away Osun State for example, has come to light. In this case, Oyo State is having to bear the trauma of what was not its fault while the culprits are sleeping comfortably hundreds of kilometers away in Abuja. What happened in Ibadan should encourage the nation to restructure the entire extractive process. It is also yet another argument for community policing.

The last time I checked, Bodijaof Ibadan was like the Ikoyi of Lagos or the Asokoro of Abuja; it was home to the elites of the old Western Region. How it became a warehouse for explosives is beyond me. As it is, people who know nothing about mining, who see their homes in elite Bodija as their castles have lost everything except the skin on their backs – some even lost that. The investigation should be thorough and its outcome must not be buried by vested interests.Otherwise, we would merely be kicking the can of another waiting catastrophe forward.