By Ernest Omoarelojie
Anezi Okoro probably did not have today’s Nigeria in mind when he wrote his book, One Week, One Trouble, way back in 1972. But the title is a fair and far reaching representation of the country’s evolving travails. The only snag, if one is to use it as a reflection, is that it no longer captures the reality in its entirety given that the nation’s troubles. The truth is that they have gone far beyond arithmetic progression if they are to counted in their weekly numbers. One day, many troubles seems to be more like it if the disturbing events that unfolded in the last few days are anything to harp on.
On Saturday, March 26, 2022, the Nigerian news space was agog. The troubling information was that the Kaduna Airport, a beehive of internal and international travels, was attacked by rampaging terrorists in their number. Though the attached video was later written off as fake, the incident, the attackers were largely unobstructed, so much so that at the end of their run, they left one person dead.
A few days later, another disturbing news enveloped the country. This time, an Abuja train, enroute Kaduna, was bombed out of its rails, a few kilometers away from its Rigana station. In what seems like an action movie, the attackers swam into the coaches and visited a cocktail of traumatizing bullet rain on the travellers, shooting any and everyone within their site. In the aftermath, eight persons, official reports say, lay lifeless, with many still unaccounted for. Indications are that the terrorists frisk away those that are yet to be accounted for, to be ransomed later.
Yet, barely 24 hours later, terrorists, arguably stragglers of the same bunch that visited sorror, tears and blood on the Abuja/Kaduna train, struck again in Gidan, not too far from the first attack point. Though it was largely unsuccessful, it still succeeded in leaving a bileful taste on the mouth of Nigerians who are increasingly losing fate in the system.
In between the Rigana and Gidan attacks, a rather ominous but largely unreported security breach took place in Lagos. According to sources, tens of Unknown Gunmen stormed the sprawling, test-running Dangote Refinery and made an unsuccessful attempt to allegedly sabotage the company’s power plant. One is said to have been neutralized perhaps conveniently, while the rest melted into thin air with the police adding the now soured cliche, “with bullet wounds.”
And the long besieged Abuja/Kaduna road was again, reportedly condoned off by bandits on Wednesday, March 31, 2022 forcing commuters to abandon the route for hours.
For an average Nigerian, the question, among many more, that requires an urgent answer is, what’s going on?
The answers are not far to seek. Terrorism is at its peak. Kidnapping is festering. Banditry is the order of the day. Above, there is now the disturbing trend to deliberately destroy the country’s critical instrsstructure. Obviously, Nigeria is at war. The facts are too glaring to be in dispute.
The situation is escalating largely because of the seeming reluctance by the Nigerian state to convincingly deal decisively with the situation. Those found culpable over the time have not been seen to have paid the right price. The unsaid message is that crime and criminality are no longer as bad as we think after all. Thus the people have not only lost fate in the essence of state since it is unable to be of use to them as they go through daily and regular travails.
Let it be noted that this piece is not meant to pronounce the Nigerian government guilty as charged. It is more to remind the state of the people’s general view, if it is not already established, with a view to making it sit up with regards to the performance of its primary responsibility of securing lives and property.
Evidently, millions of Nigerians no longer have fate in the system. They no longer use the roads because the roads are death traps where, besides enduring the effects of long years of neglect, they are easy targets of kidnappers, armed robbers, name it. At best, only those who have little or no option now use the roads.
Certainly and for obvious reasons, going through air is not an option for them at all. Little wonder they heaved a huge sigh of relief when the revamped rail system came on stream. But now, they have received clear instructions to the effect that that option is as deadly as traveling on the road, if not more. The Rigana and Gidan attacks drove home the point.
Not surprising, the message has also be delivered that even the air option is potentially a catastrophe waiting to happen. The attack on the Kaduna Airport succinctly situates the fact enough. If the instruction goes unheeded, no one will be surprise to find out one day that the country’s largely unreined terrorists successfully brought down a fully loaded plane. The possibity was recently captured in the discovery of the remains of an Airforce plane deep inside the Sambisa forest. No where is safe for anymore, anymore.
Ironically, even though Nigerians may not have anticipated the scale of the challenge, they saw it coming. Even the government saw it coming too. Doing something about it is what Nigerians have not seen. That much was established by the minister for Transportation, Hon Chibuike Amaechi who, while assessing the attack scene, was certain of the billions needed to fix the destroyed train even when he had no idea about how many people are missing. Money that could be misappropriated is more important than Nigerian lives. Wonderful!
Going forward, we need to rescue Nigeria. It is a job for both the people and government.
This writer holds the view that countries don’t make people. It is the other way round. For the now, most Nigerians hold the belief that the country owes them everything, no thanks to our entitlement mentally. We do not believe that we are obligated to the country. But we do and it’s time to realign our thinking in the direction. We do not need to question the right of government over our statute-requested obligations if, as it is, we do not ask our General Overseers and Imams to explain what they do with our tithes, offerings and zakat.
We need to understand that it is incumbent on all of us to own the Nigerian project. We need to see it as a duty to pass relevant information to security forces where and when needed. We need to realise that the criminals are among us-relations, neighbours, etc, not spirits. We must see it as a duty to point them out because the next victim may be you, your loved one or the person you know. It is pointless just crying wolf daily.
We need to bring bring back our core values, values of responsibility and accountability. They must be taught in our homes, in our schools and in our religious houses.
Terror is escalating in the main because terrorists acts are being emboldened by government’s inability to act decisively. They are having a field day because of the seeming inability or reluctance, on the part of government to convincingly deal with them. Assuming government is doing something, not informing the people is akin to doing nothing at all. For instance, Nigerians do not have to ask to be told of what happened to the persons caught vandalizing rail tracks, removing sleepers, etc. They want to be updated about the fate of terrorists in custody. Not updating them is conspiratorial. It means they are not important. Losing fate in the system is, to that extent, is very reasonable.
The bottom line is that the task of saving Nigeria is one that both the people and government have equal roles to play. It is time to play those roles.