by Eze Onyekpere
Nigeria is under siege; the people are distraught and hope seems to be a scarce commodity in the land. No arm of government seems to inspire hope any more. Sories of bombs, deaths and rumours of bombs abound everywhere. This sounds like the Biblical apocalypse. Is it already here with us? Boring re-affirmations of what shall be done without lifting a finger to get it done follows another and many more continue to perish in the rain of bombs. Kidnappers are on the prowl taking innocent children away from school. Sadly, the leaders do not simply care. It is business as usual accentuated by the focus on the 2015 elections. It seems that the leaders do not mind if the population is decimated before the elections in as much as they will have the opportunity to run for political positions. Is anyone out there listening? Can Nigerians scream? Would screaming do the magic of awakening the leadership from their deep slumber? If we scream, will anyone listen to us? Where are the statesmen, nation builders, bridge builders and the bi-partisans? Where are the men and women who understand that life is the most fundamental of the fundamental rights. That rights, entitlements, positions of authority are only for the living? If we are on this auto pilot, as it were, of mutually assured destruction, who will the leaders rule over?
No, we cannot continue with this season of hate, deaths, malfeasance and destruction as one tragedy follows another. We want to hear and see something new and we know it is possible. Another Nigeria of goodwill, good governance, abundance, care and fellow feeling is possible. It is also feasible and in the collective interest of all. Another Nigeria of a bi-partisan approach to combating terrorism, where we stand shoulder to shoulder to say no to devils masquerading in human flesh, who spread death and hate. The opportunities of this unity of action are there. But who understands the currents and is discerning enough to see them? The most basic duty of government is the protection of life and property and a government that cannot fulfill this basic duty is not worth that appellation.
This discourse seeks to make a number of recommendations on the way forward for a resolution of this crisis and to forestall future unnecessary crisis. The first recommendation is that our leaders in government and opposition should admit that this crisis had its origins in our winner-takes-all brand of politics, although it has degenerated and gone out of control of those who thought they would benefit from it. It started like a joke taken too far and today, it seems to have been chartered and given a franchise from al Qaeda. Thus, the consideration and resolution of the national question are central to winning this war and preventing another in the future. The resolution of the critical issues of good governance, power sharing, devolution of powers, nature of federalism including its fiscal aspects, citizenship, economic and social rights and a sense of belonging to all will promote peace, tolerance and respect for life and property. It will also facilitate a “nip-in-the-bud” approach for future insurgency. In this direction, the opportunities provided by the National Conference should be grabbed with both hands by all stakeholders. The delegates must make far-reaching recommendations and should not be content with the status quo. But the caveat is that the President and the National Assembly should not allow their personal egos to get on the way. The President has set up a conference that he is at a loss as to what to do with its resolutions. The earlier a referendum bill is sent by the President and passed by the National Assembly, the better.
The second recommendation is that our leaders on the sides of the political spectrum should put heads together and come out with strategies to fight the insurgency. This is on the condition that the elected leadership opens the door and extends a hand of fellowship to the opposition for the rescue of the sinking ship of state. It is nothing to be ashamed of to ask for and get ideas from fellow Nigerians to arrest the drift considering that human lives are involved. We did not seek in 2011 to elect the most brilliant man or woman as president. We elected as a president, a fellow who we thought can coordinate our affairs and lead the most brilliant of men and women to achieve results. There can be no economic growth and development without peace and stability. Indeed, the 2015 elections may not hold in some parts of the country if the bombs continue to rain.
The third suggestion is that we need to deploy all the resources at our disposal in this struggle. Nigeria once paid for satellites and they were supposed to be deployed for various uses. Now that we have this challenge to our sovereignty, if these satellites are still in orbit, we should activate their antennas to gather sufficient intelligence on the movement and deployment of these terrorists. What is the fun in paying so much for such complex scientific innovation if we cannot use it to save lives and defend property? Is the satellite still in orbit, in perfect order? If the answer is in the affirmative, what are we doing with the pictures it sends down to earth? Do we need to re-programme it for specific military purposes? Or do we have another scam on our hands in the name of deploying a satellite?
Nigerian soldiers and policemen have excelled in peace keeping missions outside our shores. We were pivotal in ending the wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone. We have demonstrated commitment and competence as our brothers’ keeper through the ECOMOG initiative. So, why are we appearing helpless like a basket case with attack after attack and all we get are promises of action which never materialise? Thus, the men and women who made this our feat possible are still around. If they have retired, those they trained and imparted knowledge upon are still alive. So, we have the personnel to engage these terrorists. Therefore, a fourth recommendation is to mobilise our gallant officers and men and provide them with a conducive environment to excel on home soil. We must give them the greatest encouragement and latitude within the law to operate and flush out these cowards. The fifth is that we have built up a lot of goodwill in West Africa and in the international community. Now is the time to present the goodwill which I liken to a cheque to the banks – our neighbours and international friends. We have to request assistance. There is nothing to be ashamed of about seeking for help when you are attacked. They can assist us with intelligence information and/or use their troops to stop terrorist mobilisation against us from their territories.
On another note, let no one consider the uprooting of trees or burning of the Sambisa forest given its notoriety as a safe haven for terrorists. Such an action will further accentuate the ecological imbalance in the region and expose residents to another hardship beyond the terror. This forest may not be as thick as the jungles in the South. What is needed is proper policing and surveillance over the forest