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Save the country, By Dan Agbese

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Since the conclusion of the party primaries, the politicians have engaged themselves in the unproductive labour of throwing brickbats. Allegations, accusations, and denunciations are part of the game, obviously. A presidential candidate markets himself by denigrating the competence of other presidential candidates. Angels versus the devil. The footpath cuts through the jungle of politics. 

With their eyes trained on who occupies Aso Rock Villa from May 29 next year, our politicians do not appear to realise that the times are different for, and in, our country. They may pretend to be deaf and blind, but they cannot in conscience deny that who becomes the next president, or which geo-political zone produces him, is less important than the survival of this nation itself. You have to have Nigeria before you can have a Nigerian president. I thought that was pretty elementary.

We are descending into chaos, anarchy even, where the law of the jungle supersedes the constitution and our common law. This country is today comprehensively overwhelmed by myriads of avoidable crises. It is on fire from the growing insecurity that has reduced us to cowering in fear of our safety from day to day. It is paralysed by the virtual economic collapse. We can no longer make sense of the rising prices of foodstuff when, for lack of money, buyers have made themselves scarce in our markets. Our university education is paralysed by the six-month strike by ASUU, thus throwing the future of our children and our nation into uncertainty in a modern world in which national development is knowledge-driven. And nations do not toy with the current and future knowledge-driven development paradigm.

Labour has weighed in in solidarity with the lecturers and virtually grounded what is left of the open window for the daily struggle for millions of us. There are security breaches everywhere, as witness Kuje. Terrorists target our security personnel. Only three days ago as of this writing, terrorists ambushed soldiers responding to a distress call in Bwari. Two young officers, both of them army captains, were killed. Nor can we forget that last month, terrorists similarly ambushed and killed 30 soldiers in Niger State. Terrorists now casually walk into police stations and shoot officers and men there. If our military and policemen are not safe, how can the country pretend to be safe? 

In countries that value the lives of their citizens, the killing of security men is considered an affront to the nation state, and they respond accordingly to protect and preserve the integrity of their governments and the sanctity of the nation state. Abuja, arguably the most secure city in the country, is not even safe anymore. In 2021, more than 30 people were reportedly kidnapped in the FCT in one month. Nor can we forget the attack on the UN office in Abuja a few years ago.

Still, those to whom the people gave power and submitted themselves for their security and welfare behave as if ignoring problems and failing to take on challenges make them absent in the lives of the people. Nero was said to fiddle while Rome burnt. History cites him as an example of how a leader ought not respond to existential threats to his country. Our political leaders do not fiddle but I suspect they dance to Davido music.

In spite of the looming shadow over the nation, the politicians refuse to pause in their primitive struggle for power to find ways and means to collectively commit to rescuing the nation from the myriads of criminals roaming and controlling much of the land. It is beyond pathetic that the Nigerian state is reduced to watching from a position of apparent and abject weakness as these criminals and non-state actors boast of, and use their AK-47 power, to subdue communities and our security forces. Traditional rulers are forced to sup with them, as witness bandit king Ado Aleru’s coronation as Sarkin Fulani in Zamfara State.

The terrorists who attacked the Abuja-Kaduna train in March are still holding their hostages. The Nigerian state merely grinds its teeth. They had the audacity a few days ago to threaten they would kidnap Buhari and Ahmed el-Rufai, governor of Kaduna State. Buhari was unaware of the threat until El-Rufai told him. The presidency laughed it off as propaganda. It was a mistake. The threat to a country’s leader is serious enough to be treated as treasonable felony. These people have shown their consistent audacity and preparedness such that their threats must not be laughed off but be taken seriously. They dared at Kuje and they pulled it off; they dared in NDA and they pulled it off. We thought they were a rag-tag armed men. They never were. They plan, they dare and they execute.

The president and his men must accept that the security situation is much worse today than at any other time in our national history. That the president does not seem to feel sufficiently challenged to end the reign of terrorists and make our country and its citizens safe and secure is a tragedy. Buhari is overwhelmed. His repeated response to give security forces marching orders. Those orders now ring hollow. We don’t even know where they are marching to. The man needs help. 

Part of the confusion is that the presidency, in defending the president’s handling of the security situation, chooses to feed the public with alternative facts to make us believe that Buhari is more on top of the security situation than his predecessor, President Goodluck Jonathan. The spin doctors are at work to show that everything under Buhari’s watch is better than what obtained in previous administrations. Alternative facts fly in the face of facts. They are used to bend the truth in defiance of the facts hidden in plain sight. The president needs help. No president has all the answers. And this president clearly does not

What is happening to our country is a huge shame for the giant of Africa. Kaduna, Katsina and Zamfara states are at the mercy of bandits. The north-central zone is at the mercy of killer herdsmen. The north-east is more or less controlled by Boko Haram. The north is encircled by criminals. In the South-East, IPOB and other Biafra agitators have turned themselves into killers. The bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers, killer herdsmen and other killers reign but the Nigerian state and its political leaders rule in vacuum. 

These criminals making life hell for all of us are not faceless criminals. The leaders of the bandits are known to the state authorities. Again, Zamfara presents a good recent example of how enemies of the people become their gun-toting leaders. If this were not serious it would be laughable. The criminals are so powerful that each time they strike, terrified state governors panic and cower in justifiable fear. 

Things are getting worse. Things do not get better on their own or with prayers. Leaders make them better and turn the nation from sunset to sunrise. It would be a disservice to the nation for our political leaders to sit on their haunches and entertain themselves to the hollowness of their self-delusion that everything is all right because they fear to face the profoundly disturbing facts that we are once more dancing on the edge. Ethnic tension exacerbated by ethnic attacks in some parts of the country has added fat to the fire of criminality and compounded the situation. 

We are living a nightmare in the hands of our fellow citizens. It is as bad as never before. This is not the country for which the people gave Buhari their mandate in 2015 and 2019. Seven years later, the people ought to reap the dividends of his welter of beguiling promises. They believed he had the capability and the presence of mind to make the country rise from the ashes of its immediate and past mistakes; what he called the “mess.” Whatever the spin doctors might like to say, that country we had hoped would emerge under Buhari’s watch has become a mirage. 

Instead, we now live in a country that has failed to make us safe on the roads, in our homes, on our farms and in our offices. We merely survive from day to day under the darkening cloud of criminals and heartless killers. The ubiquity of AK-47 cheapens lives in the world’s most populous black nation. Nigeria was once the hope of Africa. The world looked up to it to give black people everywhere a sense of pride. We have lost that pre-eminent position and been pushed away from the highway to the sidewalk.

Let’s save our country. And then build our democracy on it. To save Nigeria from criminals and ethnic champions is a task that must be done – and urgently too. Our country needs to be secure and peaceful to meet the challenges of modern nation-building unencumbered by the menace of poverty in the midst of plenty. Save the country.

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