By Sylvester Asoya
Finally, those in elective and appointive positions in Nigeria are now at their wit’s end. This shows the futility of lies or anything for that matter, that cannot be substantiated. Yes, lies could create the illusion of truth temporarily, like the false information repeated over and over by the ruling party in 2015.
However, like everything, lies also expire. Lies backfire, too. In a way, it feels good to see the collapse of this well-orchestrated falsehood, right in front of its mindless creators. For those in doubt, it is now clear that lying does not pay; and the actors in government today are providing ample evidence.
I am not sure those in power anticipated the hopelessness they now face. No doubt, it is coming as a big surprise and this is understandable. They came to power promising Nigerians extreme happiness and a picturesque regime, free of troubles. Unfortunately, Nigerians are worse off today under this government that promised change. Now, they are asking citizens to defend themselves even in the face of rising adversity and new challenges that came with their regime.
We all know the frightening state of insecurity today and everyone is worried, including those paid to defend us. No one is safe, including a critical military institution like the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) and police formations across the country. This new era of violence is affecting everybody one way or the other. Certainly, Nigeria needs help but self-defence looks every inch, a nonsolution.
But the most disquieting part of this deafening and on-going call for self-defence is the ridiculous manner and mode of presentation. Clearly, the utterances of those in power today do not in anyway, inspire hope.
For me, finding the right path to go, remains this administration’s biggest challenge since it came to power. Apart from completely failed states where anarchy reigns, there is nowhere in the world where responsible governments openly promote self-defence.
It all began as a joke on 16 February when Major-General Bashir Magashi, Nigeria’s Minister of Defence told unarmed Nigerians to confront armed men. “Don’t be a coward, defend yourself against bandits”, he charged.
I like Magashi not necessarily because of his cool indifference and brazen disregard for citizens’ safety but because he reminds me of Medieval theatre actors.
That is the difference between Southern and Northern politicians. Under this administration, the Northern politician is casual and confident but his Southern counterpart is the one who grovels and does the explanation after every painful and unpopular government decision. There is even one from my region, a minister, who appears to have adopted the president as his patron saint. He wears a brooch with Buhari’s photograph everywhere and every time. The question is: for what purpose? Is this obsequious flattery or what?
Recently, Bello Masari, governor of President Muhammadu Buhari’s home state of Katsina, also called on citizens to acquire arms to defend themselves from bandits. This is very strange and unusual.
For those who may not know, bandits hold a special place in Masari’s heart and nauseating narrow world. A few years ago, he openly identified with crooks when he led his state to an unholy negotiation with armed men. For good measure, he even took photographs with the bandits. For this strange governor, that was the only way to halt kidnapping and attacks on the innocent in his state.
Before Masari, Samuel Ortom, governor of Benue State had also called on the federal government to allow “responsible citizens” to carry arms as a way of addressing insecurity in Nigeria. Ortom’s proposal is understandable. He is a powerless and frustrated governor who watches daily as his people die in the hands of gunmen. Benue, like most states in the Middle Belt, has suffered seriously in the on-going insecurity challenge facing Nigeria. For instance, on 10 January, 2018 alone, nearly a hundred people were laid to rest in a mass burial that drew the world attention to the horror going on in Nigeria. Unfortunately, these bloody clashes, displacements and deaths in the hands of herdsmen and bandits, continue unabated in Benue and other parts of Nigeria.
If you want a sneak peek of Nigeria’s bleak future and how these jesters in power are hastening the inevitable journey to the unknown, listen to them. Most of them are completely bereft of any ideas, and that is the crux of the matter.
I am very sure that some of the public officers talking about self-defence do not even understand what the Nigerian Firearms Act says about possession and regulation of weapons. It is also clear that they do not know the cost of procuring firearms, the bureaucracy and risks involved, the direct impact of weapons which revolves essentially around violent deaths and the fact that gun violence, which is now a public health issue, is surging. If an elected government asks citizens to defend themselves, it is an admission of failure. And this failure, I must say, is complete and extreme, both in measure and implication.
In Lagos, Nigeria’s condition today is akin to “one chance bus” phenomenon which is an unsuspecting passenger’s one-way journey of no return.
Nigeria is now a bizarre bazaar that promotes unsustainable political, economic and social practices. Everyone is appalled that a government is asking its citizens to defend themselves and interests, using physical force in this age of advanced technology, possibilities, knowledge, learning and creativity. Even as uncertainty reigns across the country, the better part of last week was spent on a presidential order bordering on the review and recovery of grazing routes.
The truth is that this country does not deserve to be in the hands of unenlightened leadership. After all, the people in power decide and design the future. They also speak and act for us. That is why we must work together and end this never-ending madness in Nigeria. We cannot continue like this.
Now, the federal government has added Soft Drink Tax, Tolling and Road Tax to the long list of absurdities in Nigeria.
We are definitely in for a very long night of tossing and turning but God will help us.
*Slyvester Asoya, journalist and public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos