Nigeria News

Nigeria’s expanding war zones

NIGERIAN governments are known by the many wars they fight. Each Nigerian government is a kind of war council that chooses its own kind of war.
Our ‘corrective’ military regimes are particularly notorious for their many wars, especially the war against corruption. The purge initiated by the Murtala Mohammed regime in the mid- 1970s was meant to restore sanity to our sense of national existence.
Both the civil service and military were dealt heavy blows in a series of purges that saw to the return of thousands of Nigerians to private lives as they lost their means of livelihood for very mundane reasons. These ranged from laziness, incompetence, lack of productivity and old age, etc, but all under the broad rubric of corruption.
It wouldn’t matter that a Nigerian military regime holds what one might call the record for the worst heist against the national treasury, military regimes are adept at starting and prolonging social wars. The Obasanjo regime that continued the unfinished business started by Mohammed would bring down the war dance to something of a military as opposed to a ‘police operation’ of the kind that started the civil war.
The regime, led by a man with the rustic upbringing of a farmer, called its campaign ‘Operation Feed the Nation’ that mischievous Nigerians call ‘Obasanjo Farms of Nigeria’.
It was meant to save us from mass starvation but many thought it was a self-serving initiative of Obasanjo, hence the re-christening. The successor government of Shehu Shagari, although a civil administration, adopted the Obasanjo rhetoric but saw its own campaign in very grand terms which it called a revolution. Thus began its ‘Green’ and later ‘Ethical’ revolutions.
But this administration was peopled by Nigerians of assumedly weak moral fibre. They were booted out by a Buhari/Idiagbon regime that saw itself as an incarnate of the Mohammed/Obasanjo regime. Its own version of the national war was against indiscipline and it called this WAI: War Against Indiscipline.
It was the era of ‘turn-by-turn’ during which Nigerians learnt the value of queuing for services in the hardest of ways as they were flogged like children and common thieves in public for their moral infractions. Others were made to do ‘frog jumps’ while the very big politicians each bagged many lifetimes in jail for treasury-looting.
Ibrahim Babangida took on the WAI campaign but with a different tempo and emphasis that turned to agriculture. Uncharitable Nigerians who thought Babangida began the ‘settlement’ syndrome in Nigeria would argue that the change in focus was deliberate.
The more to loot the treasury without calling attention or, more precisely, diverting attention from it. Anyway, the regime set up a directorate, one of several such agencies set up over eight years period, with a long name that was better known by its simpler moniker- DFFRI. Thereafter Sani Abacha took over like he had not, that is without calling what he did to his ousted predecessor (a coup) by any name.
But no sooner had he pushed over the Ernest Sonekan ‘interimist’ government than he launched what he called a War Against Indiscipline and Corruption: WAI-C. In one fell swoop Abacha proposed to combine the military campaigns of the Mohammed/Obasanjo regimes with the Buhari/Idiagbon regime.
It is a measure of this regime’s success with its campaign that nearly two  decades after the death of Abacha Nigeria is still prosecuting members of the Abacha family for stolen funds kept in secret Swiss accounts and other foreign accounts around the world.
The return to civil rule has not seen much change in the initiation of national campaigns. But the focus now is on projections and visions of the future. Somehow this talk of vision, if not the idea behind it, was first bruited under the Abacha regime with its so-called Vision 20-20 campaign.
The Umaru Yar’Adua and the succeeding Goodluck Jonathan administrations decided on pursuing versions of this 20-20 Vision with their different agenda which were supposed to be either of Seven-Point or, in fact, of a ‘Transformational’ hue. Theirs was not a complete abandonment of the war against corruption as every Nigerian leader must be seen to be talking against corruption even while actively promoting it.
No, these leaders did not abandon the fight against corruption but they came with their individual ‘agenda’ to the war. The short-lived and tragedy-prone Yar’Adua administration was able to escape scrutiny. But with Goodluck Jonathan, there has been ample opportunity to view the administration’s type of war. Clearly, it has returned to the war against corruption with very little to show beyond rhetoric that is as empty as it is uninspiring.
But what is even more alarming is that under this administration there is increasing prospect of Nigeria actually going to war with itself or an outcast part of it- in other words another civil war. This time it is a war being waged at great loss to the state by religious zealots and terrorists.
And the terrorists are again gaining the upper hand in the North East theatre zone that has been the hub of terror activists in the last four years. This part of the country does not seem to be part of the Nigerian civil arrangement anymore. Indeed, the war going on here is without punning of the very uncivil type. Innocent lives, young lives are increasingly being lost in a manner that puts a question on the legitimacy of any claim that this part of Nigeria is still part of the Nigerian state.
The Jonathan administration has all but lost its war against corruption given the time it has left in office. In light of its plan to continue in office, this means it has no time to either win or at least give a good showing in the war any more. Its major preoccupation, the new war it is interested in, is how to hold on to the reins of power.
The grim harvest of young, innocent lives brutally cut down in schools across Bauchi, Yobe and Adamawa states in the last six months may continue for a while to come. What is worse, the series of successes being recorded by the terrorists may gore them into expanding the theatre of war beyond the North East into other parts of the country hitherto safe from terror activities. With the war against corruption lost is Jonathan also prepared to lose the war against terror?
 

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