Things have gone totally awry in Nigeria; logic now walks on its head and the country has become a huge jungle where impunity reigns. It would be dishonest to suggest that it is any surprise though. For years, leaders of Nigeria have been warned that the seed of mindless governance they were sowing would one day yield harvest, bountiful enough to sweep the country away. But no one listened. Now, the situation is upon us all, neither the rope nor the bird perched on it is at peace.
A report released earlier this week by Lagos-based Financial Derivatives said categorically that Nigeria was sitting on a keg of gunpower. Of course, it is not a new story but this research and investments company once again pulled our ears like the hunter blows his whistle to recall a dog that is bent on getting lost.
That report said that an estimated 91million Nigerians live in extreme poverty. That is 43 per cent of the country’s population. It suggested that a new 21 million people have joined the extreme poverty club since 2016 and that in 10 years, the figure would climb by another 15 million unless there is a rethink of how the country is run. It identified unemployment, which it put at 27.1 % and suggested that those living in poverty are the product of years of low investment in education, evident in the number of out-of-school children (put at 13 million and the highest in the world by UNICEF).
Yet, chronic disunity is the most serious evil Nigeria contends with. This is an irony that should, in fact, worry anyone who calls themselves a Nigerian. While poverty is a debilitating evil that does the country no good, it is perhaps the only widespread and universal phenomenon the country can brag of. North, South, East and West, our people groan in hunger, disease and lack but that does not give them a sense of unity against their oppressors. Rather than the mass of the people uniting against bad governance, they are given to the manipulations of selfish political and religious leaders who fan the embers of polarity for selfish ends. So, as predicted, the winds of purposeless governance and divisiveness planted by leaders have over the years, grown into a consuming whirlwind currently shaking the foundations of the country.
This was why the appeal for a carrot and stick approach pitched by Kaduna-based cleric, Sheik Abubakar Gumi, on the banditry currently ravaging North-western Nigeria is worth considering.
The idea is that Nigeria has prepared most of these misguided youths for nothing but life on the streets. It is only a matter of time before the failure to invest in education and skills development, which renders a large proportion of our youths unemployed and with little hope for socio-economic advancement, snowball into social tensions and criminal tendencies that undermine national cohesion and stability. This is the juncture Nigeria has now found itself.
Now, in dealing with the overwhelming level of criminality the country faces, a lot of pragmatism is needed. Aside from the fact that the country itself is complicit in pushing its young ones into crimes, there is also the question of how much of these confrontations the country can take at a time.
Currently, there are over 30 military operations in Nigeria’s 36 states. Yet, how much of the country’s little over 300,000-sized armed forces can be deployed to fight against insurgent citizens at one time? So, it makes sense to limit the areas of conflict, throw the carrot at those who are willing to repent and wield the stick in cases where you find recalcitrance, as Gumi preached at the beginning of his intervention.
Lately however, the cleric has begun to impeach his reputation as a non-partisan arbiter. Forgetting or neglecting to acknowledge the fact that there is no constituent part of Nigeria that has not suffered from the pangs of the country’s directionless leadership, he has continued to paint the Fulani as the only victim of oppression in Nigeria.
Not only that, but the Islamic scholar also equates sleep with death when he compares these bandits, whose cause is not clear, to Niger Delta militants or any other group of ethnic nationalists. He is even trying to twist facts by suggesting that the criminals in the forests of the North-West are not bandits but militants and that they do not kill people deliberately. So, what happened to the stories of killing, rape and arson that we glean from escapees?
Unlike what you will expect of an arbiter, Gumi speaks like he has taken sides. He seeks forgiveness for bandits who have killed hundreds of Nigerians, maimed more and turned numerous children into orphans, yet he subtly justifies their criminal activities. And while going about this increasingly suspicious mission, he is fast becoming the go-to person even for those elected to govern the states.
The other day, Governor of Niger State, Abubakar Sani Bello, was waiting on Gumi to get an update about the students, teachers and family members abducted from Government Science College, Kagara. That is a typical example of when a state surrenders its authority to non-state actors.
But it is worse when you have leaders who forget the remit of their offices and put on the toga of ethnicity. A typical example is Senate President Ahmad Lawan, who, rather than speak like a servant of the nation, recently took on governors of the South-West in defence of northern Nigeria. Another example is the Minister of Defence, who gives the impression that government was no longer able to defend the people; or a governor who suggests that anyone who has suffered killings or depravations in the past was free to carry sophisticated arms; or the wife of a governor who turns the whole state into a personal estate. In situations like these, public trust wanes and non-state actors like the Gumis and Sunday Igbohos exploit the opportunity.
Government ordinarily exists to solve societal problems, but those elected to lead Nigeria have abandoned the people in favour of their own pockets. Most young Nigerians grow up without any taste of good governance and a total distrust of government. The result of this is the impoverishment of the people economically, intellectually and otherwise. This is now rearing its head in kidnapping, cattle rustling, banditry, insurgency and all forms of rebellion against the state.
The fundamental problem with the Nigerian state is that the current crop of leaders has no philosophical foundation other than personal gratification. The lack of peace and progress in Nigeria is a function of the inability of leaders at all levels to seize the opportunity and turn the country’s current challenges into catalysts for progress. That is why non-state actors, who may have their own sinister motives, have suddenly become the loudest voices.
It is good news, however, that the Governor Kayode Fayemi-led Nigeria Governors’ Forum is committing itself to seeking urgent solutions to the end of the violence that is taking over the country. And after then, “to give attention on a much longer-term basis to the root causes of the social dislocation responsible for what we are witnessing, all around,” Fayemi said on Tuesday while leading an NGF delegation to Niger State where schoolchildren were abducted. The root causes of Nigeria’s trouble are known to all those in government and one only hopes that they find the wisdom and courage to tackle the issues sustainably and comprehensively before the country is consumed by violence.