One Chance

Posted on 10/11/2011


Ojuelegba…Masha…Kilo…one chance!” The scrappy urchin yelled at the top of his croaky, shekpe-laden voice, as he deftly balanced miraculously from the sliding door panel of the swerving danfo bus, as it cut a jerky, zigzag through the chaotic Lagos traffic – in opposite direction, albeit, and at top speed! He could have performed top billing as a trapeze stuntman at the Ringling Brothers circus, if so he wished! Bus, driver and conductor equally looked like they’d spent the better part of the day panel-beaten beyond redemption through the harsh streets and hazards of the city’s metro life – if you are accustomed to that route, you would appreciate the major daily battles that ensued between commuter, okada, Keke Marwa, danfo, petty trader and hawker. Oh! Not forgetting the ‘area’ boys, touts, louts and the myriad of local council, State and Federal governmental ‘officials’ in their dreary-coloured, fading uniforms – no point going into detail; before you round up a figure, a couple more governmental pseudo-parastatals’ are set up – they call it ‘finding jobs for the ‘boys,’” or ‘dividends of democracy.’

The crowd at the bus stop rushed towards the bus, then backed away suddenly; no one wanted to be the first person to enter the rickety contraption! You would understand why. The term “one chance” probably means different things to different people, but to the people of Lagos it could mean a death warrant! The would-be passengers had found out it was a practically empty bus, sans the driver, his uncouth, dirty conductor, and one intrepid individual who sat down cloaked at the darkened right-hand corner of the back seat. There is a Nigerian saying that goes: “If you have lived in Lagos for a while and you are still not smart, you will never be a smart person all your life!”

Oga, jade si egbe re. Go on soun, joo. Ojo l’awon eleyi ooo.”

That was the conductor to his driver, literally: “Let’s get out of here, fast. These ones are police informants.”

With the recent occurrences around the nation, and the lack of any credible economic or political solutions in sight, it seems to me as if the present Nigerian leadership has put Nigeria on a ‘One Chance’ bus ride.

On April 18th 2011 President Goodluck Jonathan had said that the violence in the country that followed his re-election “was not a spontaneous reaction.” He had meant that it was pre-planned, a well prepared strategy to destabilize the inauguration process and his concurrent Presidency. Events since then seem to prove otherwise. Although the Boko Haram phenom was birthed well before this present regime, it has spawned rapidly under the inactivity or indecisiveness of the Jonathan government to provide any form of opposition against it. A catalogue of Boko Haram (BH) attacks since then has embarrassingly revealed the ineptitude of the security policy and strategy of government. The first of what appeared to be a season of bombings began on 27 May 2011when a group of around seventy suspected BH gunmen killed eight people including four policemen in simultaneous gun and bomb attacks on a police station, a police barracks and a bank in Damboa, Borno State, near the border with Chad. On 29 May 2011, three bombs ripped through a social relaxation spot in a military barracks in the northern city of Bauchi, killing 13 and wounding 33 – BH claimed responsibility. On 6 June 2011, Muslim cleric, Ibrahim Birkuti, who had been critical of Boko Haram, was shot dead by two motorcycle-riding BH gunmen outside his house in Biu, 200km from Maiduguri. On 7 June 2011, attacks on a church and two police posts in Maiduguri, blamed on the sect, left at least 14 dead. On 16 June 2011, the radical Islamist sect showed supreme nerve by targeting the national police headquarters in Abuja, killing two, and exposing the belly of our national security apparatus. The Inspector General of Police has since been rewarded with national honours, I gather? On 20 June 2011: Seven people including five policemen were killed in gun and bomb attacks on a police station and a bank in Kankara, Katsina State. It got worse – on June 26 with a bomb attack in the North Eastern Nigerian town of Maiduguri that killed at least 25 people and wounded dozens. On 27 June 2011, BH’s gun and bomb attack on a beer garden in Maiduguri left at least 25 dead and dozens injured. 25 August 2011: Gun and bomb attacks by BH on two police stations and two banks in Gombi, Adamawa State, killed at least 16 people, including seven policemen. On August 26th 18 people were reported killed and many more injured when an unprecedented blast rocked the United Nations building in Abuja, finally putting Nigeria firmly on the list of terrorist nations. (AbdulMutallab was a mistake!) At least 19 people were also shot or hacked to death in a brutal attack in a village of Lingyado in North-west Nigeria. On 4th September 2011, Muslim cleric Mallam Dala was shot dead by two BH members outside his home in the Zinnari area of Maiduguri. 12 September 2011: Seven men, including four policemen, were killed by BH gunmen in bomb and shooting attacks on a police station and a bank in Misau, Bauchi State. The attackers robbed the bank. The following day,

13 September 2011, four soldiers were shot at and wounded in an ambush by BH members in Maiduguri shortly after the arrest of 15 sect members in military raids on BH hideouts in the city. 17 September 2011: Babakura Fugu, brother-in-law to slain BH leader Mohammed Yusuf, was assasinated outside his house in Maiduguri by two members of the sect, two days after attending a peace meeting with Nigerian former President Olusegun Obasanjo in the city. Independence day, 1 October 2011, after warning government to desist from holding any anniversary celebrations, which, by the way, were heeded by the Presidency, a butcher and his assistant were killed by BH gunmen at Baga market in Maiduguri in a targeted killing. In a separate incident, three people were also killed in a shoot-out following BH bomb and shooting attacks on a military patrol vehicle delivering food to soldiers at a checkpoint in Maiduguri. All three victims were civilians. 3 October 2011: Three killed in BH attacks on Baga market in Maiduguri, Borno State. The victims included a tea-seller, a drug store owner and a passer-by. The most recent attack is perhaps the most vicious so far, when on Sallah day, November 5th 2011, hundreds of innocents were killed in bomb and gun attacks in Damaturu, North-eastern Nigeria.

More recently the United States government put out a terror alert to its citizens in Nigeria to avoid the top luxury hotels in Abuja. It is believed by US Embassy officials that these Hotels like the Sheraton, Transcorp Hilton, Nicon Luxury etc. might become the next targets of Boko Haram. Many of the top Abuja hotels have recently discounted their charges due to a huge drop in patronage as a result of these insecurity issues.

As all this is ongoing, the government is telling Nigerians not to panic – “assuring that security agencies have put in place adequate measures to secure lives and properties.” Sounds like a quote out of the Press Secretary’s Ready-made Answers for Niggling Reporters Rulebook. Balderdash! Armoured Personnel Carriers have since been deployed to such hotels as Transcorp Hilton, Sheraton, Nicon Luxury and NANET Hotels. Yeah! And how well would you sleep at night, with a tank parked outside your window?

The US government intelligence once made dire predictions about Nigeria’s immediate future and although I disbelieve the notion that the entity presently known as Nigeria will cease to exist by 2015, it’s hard to lay a bet on it, considering the absence of any such encouragement, by word, by design or by action. Take a look around, what you see is a manifestation of failure in all departments – lack of national zeal and moral degradation, wanton robbery and brigandage, pathetic greed and selfishness of public office holders, rampant social and infrastructural decay, official irresponsibility and lack of responsiveness, a completely corrupt and inefficient police force, hordes of unemployed/unemployable youth – a result of an education policy in rigor mortis; and to crown everything sits a wimpish leadership that seems to have not a clue about where or how to steer the ship of state. Is Nigeria doomed to self-destruct? Incidentally a 2025 Global Trends Intelligence Report has also been released. From it the following are excerpts of its Executive Summary:

Sub-Saharan Africa will remain the region most vulnerable to economic disruption, population stresses, civil conflict, and political instability. Despite increased global demand for commodities for which Sub-Saharan Africa will be a major supplier, local populations are unlikely to experience significant economic gain. Windfall profits arising from sustained increases in commodity prices might further entrench corrupt or otherwise ill-equipped governments in several regions, diminishing the prospects for democratic and market-based reforms…

Terrorism, proliferation, and conflict will remain key concerns even as resource issues move up on the international agenda. Terrorism is unlikely to disappear by 2025, but its appeal could diminish if economic growth continues and youth unemployment is mitigated in the Middle East. Economic opportunities for youth and greater political pluralism probably would dissuade some from joining terrorists’ ranks, but others—motivated by a variety of factors, such as a desire for revenge or to become “martyrs”—will continue to turn to violence to pursue their objectives. The force of ideology is likely to be strongest in the Muslim world—particularly the Arab core. In those countries that are likely to struggle with youth bulges and weak economic underpinnings—such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Yemen—the radical Salafi trend of Islam is likely to gain traction.”

In the midst of these local security issues and global predictions the present Federal government of Nigeria seems hell bent on a Fuel Subsidy removal deadline slated for January 2012. Many have warned, but still Abuja plays its fiddle. The masses are shouting, yet the ostrich searches for solution in the sands. Was it not Aliko Dangote who said: “Fuel subsidy removal is a foregone conclusion.” Easy for him to say; what does he know? How could he ever feel the pinch? After all, he’s a Grand Commander! Sometimes the thoughts of 2012 and beyond just make me shudder. Have you ever heard the tale of General George W. Custer? Custer had fought in the American Civil War, after which he was despatched to lead the fight against the American Indians. His overwhelming defeat in his final battle overshadowed his achievements in the Civil War. Custer was defeated and killed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876, fighting against a coalition of Native American tribes in a battle that has come to be popularly known in American history as “Custer’s Last Stand.” He had entered the battlefield with bombast, but he had not known that all the neighbouring Indian tribes had bonded together, as one united front, to fight the common enemy. Some say Custer was outnumbered, 15 -1.

I usually prefer to play the optimist, but at times like these it’s wiser just being the realist. What is real is that Nigeria stands on a precipe, and this Fuel Subsidy palaver might be the holding block that tilts the balance. Is this our last dance? You don’t have to be a General, Mr. President, but even David was no Goliath. Abi we don enter one chance? God forbid!

Guidance, always.

Posted in: Politics