By Sylvester Asoya
If truly the morning makes the day, then the developing distressing story of Nigeria this New Year, should frighten everyone. We are just a few weeks in the New Year but Nigeria is already manifesting those well known scary signs and symptoms that depress. As usual, while men in power continue to give excuses for failure and absurdities visible everywhere, a good number of Nigerians appear to have resigned to the fact that things may never get better.
For me, the upsetting but unforgettable New Year opener was the horrible images on social media of hungry and desperate Nigerians caught on camera, struggling to receive a can of malt drink each, from Elisha Abbo, the sex toy shop senator. This is Nigeria, a country where all things were created bright and beautiful.
Nigeria this New Year is also witnessing a renewed wave of kidnappings and armed robberies, and this is unprecedented. Travelling by road in Nigeria is now more dangerous than it was in 2019 and everyone is now a victim, irrespective of class or social status. Recently, bandits attacked the convoy of an Emir, killed six and kidnapped many. Nigerians were also shocked and deeply saddened by the killing of Adamawa Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN chairman by those who kill in God’s name early in the year. The pain of losing a man whose only sin was holding on to his faith was further aggravated by the insensitive comments credited to official quarters. A few days after, another clergy was also captured and murdered in cold blood by the same group.
This year, our country, in addition to her many baggage, faces embarrassing moments with the never-ending ordeal of the Nigerian child, exemplified by Leah Sharibu and her travails.
Other Nigerians have also been kidnapped and killed on different locations across the country since the beginning of the year including the recent Kaduna train station attack by gunmen. In fact, no day passes in Nigeria without one security problem or the other, this is aside the declining standard of living and a deep feeling of anguish and despair that now pervade the country. Then the bombshell! Many of us were really not surprised by the damning report of the European Union and their insistence that there is no progress in the fight against Boko Haram.
Unfortunately, those in charge of Nigeria appear not to be interested in the solutions yet, and this is becoming very evident. The needless controversies around Operation Amotekun, the South-West vigilance group opened our eyes to where Nigeria and her leaders currently stand in the fight against violence and terrorism. In fact, Amotekun lifted the lid on the hypocrisy and incompetence on the part of those elected and appointed to serve Nigeria. As I write, Amotekun is still a major talking point and it will remain on the front burner for a very long time. In a way, many people are enjoying all the perspectives, including the earlier threat by the Attorney-General who was forced to eat his words and beat a retreat when he saw the handwriting on the wall.
Yet, in Kano State, Hisba, a religious police force that draws legitimacy from a religious doctrine is fully operational. Daily, we watch overzealous officials of Hisba arrest law abiding citizens, including officers of the Nigeria Police. There are also other layers of policing in Northern Nigeria like the Civilian JTF and other amorphous groups that spring up almost on a daily basis.
The good in all these New Year absurdities is that we are now closer to our realities. If the people who run Nigeria today and those vehemently opposed to unbundling our ineffectual structures are smart, they would have noticed the support for Amotekun by the oppressed and harassed people of Nigeria, including some persons in government. The plain truth is that we are now at our wit’s end, but as a people Nigerians should expect two possible results. I am sure that at the end the people will win because things will never be the same again.
Last year was horrible no doubt, but 2020 is promising to set a more dreadful record as it opened with the most awful.
The previous year ended on a very sad note with the execution of 11 Christians by Islamic State-allied group in Borno State. Before that latest mass murder, there had been kidnappings and killings of other Christians, aid workers, foreign nationals, ordinary citizens and even tourists in Northern Nigeria. 2019 also recorded countless other attacks on communities in the North East and military bases, resulting in the deaths of many, including officers and men of the armed forces. As a matter of fact, last year witnessed increased violent struggle between herdsmen and farmers with many casualties across the country. According to Global Terrorism Index Report, Fulani Herdsmen killed nearly 1,700 people in 2018 alone. The situation deteriorated in 2019.
In a similar vein, banditry, communal conflicts, armed robbery and related crimes also took centre stage in 2019. As the year came to a close, we heard the shocking story of how a boy and his mother, conspired and kidnapped a final year female student of Lagos State University, opened her and ate her heart for money ritual. It was indeed, a year of oddities.
But in many ways, our conduct during the Kogi State governorship election in November also revealed the shape of things to come and our character as a people. For holding a different political view, Salome Abuh, a Peoples’ Democratic Part, PDP woman leader, was burnt to death in her house by demented members of the All Progressives Congress, APC. The saddest part is that the powers that be, eventually congratulated the “winners” in the Kogi elections, fueling an old suspicion that the violence had official imprint.
Surely, 2019 was a year of rage and sectarian violence. The country recorded several protests arising from injustice, unlawful detention, disobedience of court order and discrimination. And the 2019 general elections, obviously the most significant event of the year, came with serious consequences for domestic peace and growth. It was an election like no other; in fact, it is considered one of the most acrimonious and contentious in our history. The elections brought Nigeria to a new all time low; it was an exercise that also took the country’s do or die politics to a new height. The election shattered every past record of irresponsible behaviour on the part of our political leaders. In fact, a sitting governor, in one moment of indiscretion, threatened to return foreign election monitors home in body bags if they meddled in our affairs.
Unfortunately, Nigeria also became poverty capital of the world under a party that promised change. According to development experts, corruption and bad government accounted for this unenviable status and there are indications that extreme poverty in Nigeria may escalate this New Year. So, how did the APC-led government return to power? The answer surely, is in Olu Fasan’s incisive article, Buhari’s re-election: the oddity of Nigerians voting to be poorer in BUSINESS DAY Newspaper of March 4, 2019.
But in Nigeria, nothing actually surprises anyone anymore. On Christmas Eve when the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki and the presidential candidate of African Action Congress, AAC Omoyele Sowore were released, some people insisted that the rest of us must commend those in power for an action that was long overdue. The duo had been granted bail on many occasions before December 24, so why congratulate the executive arm for finally obeying a court order?
However, another oddity of last year came from a pastor who once banished television set in the homes of his followers: “Don’t attack the President of the country whether in words or in the newspapers or through internet”, he warned. So, even in the face of overwhelming odds, we should clap for our leaders and cheer them on. Like other pastors who love playing to the gallery anytime they are around men of power, this cleric also reiterated this point during another private visit to Aso Rock. But I am sure he is unaware of the fact that to question the right of citizens to criticize is to deny them their freedom and liberty as there cannot be democracy without dissent.
Last December, another pastor did violence to a season we all love when he declared Christmas unbiblical. But this General Overseer forgot also to inform his readers and followers that the luxury and divine honour usually associated with famous new age pastors like him, are also unscriptural. Unfortunately, the unrestrained comments of other clergymen also provided materials for other prolonged and unnecessary public debates, even as Nigerians struggled to survive the hard times.
Despite the doom and gloom, there are still some hope and bright spots in the courageous words of some Nigerians who are speaking and demanding answers. We are in dire straits and recent developments show that citizens are gradually coming to terms with our common burden. However, how it all ends depends upon what we do to save ourselves from ourselves.
-Sylvester Asoya, a journalist who was of TheNEWS stable, writes from Lagos