When President Godluck Jonathan cancelled his official engagements in the wake of the cowardly and satanic attack on innocent Nigerians at Nyanya, near Abuja, on Monday, many Nigerians hailed him that at last, the president was now showing some sensitivity and shoring up his own public rating. Part of the schedule of the president included a visit to Ibadan to felicitate with the monarch of the ancient city, Oba Samuel Odulana Odugade 1, who clocked 100 years earlier. He was also scheduled to go to another ancient city, Kano, to attend what was purely a partisan event, another unity rally of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP).
Rather than attending these events, some of which advanced party had gone, the president chose to cancel them and his convoy faced Nyanya where agents of death had just struck. With over 70 dead, according to official figures, and another 124 injured, it was a black Monday for the country. Dressed in a simple long sleeved shirt and a cap to match, his dressing matched the occasion. He empathised with the injured, commiserated with the bereaved and assured a beleaguered nation that all would be well. Everyone was happy with the president. Or so it seemed.
On Tuesday, however, the president seemed to have undone all he did less then twenty-four hours earlier. The president was in Ibadan to still felicitate with the Olubadan. In fact, if the president had been a private person, some might have said he went with the first flight to Ibadan. But he went in presidential jet. If the visit to Ibadan could still be pardoned, considering the fact that the monarch deserved all the honours and respect being bestowed on him by a nation which respects the aged, same could not however be said of the political visit to Kano to receive those who had just decamped to the PDP and hold another unity rally.
Many are of the opinion that the president should have, at least, postponed the visit to Kano to a later date and a more conducive time. Nigerians believed that it was insensitive on the part of the President to have gone ahead with a visit that was purely partisan, when many families had been thrown into mourning as a result of the bomb blast that claimed lives of innocent Nigerians.
Perhaps, if the president had anticipated the negative reactions to these visits, he would have been more circumspect, especially the Kano visit.
Betty Abah, journalist and activist said of the visit: “Let’s face it, is it even proper, as a father, for the president to be dancing at a rally and clinking glasses at a chief’s party just the day after?” She added: “What really would happen if he sends representatives while he pretends he’s meeting security chiefs? Even if he doesn’t care, is this even good for his image? What message is he sending out? He did same during the Centenary celebrations. How do you explain this crass insensitivity?”
Lawyer and rights activist, Bamidele Aturu, said it was just insensitive on the part of the president to have embarked on the Kano trip. “It is plain insensitive, really. It is evident that the leadership of this country does not take our lives seriously at all. People were killed by Boko Haram insurgents and less than 24 hours later, the president was in Kano on political mission. That tells you they don’t take us seriously and our lives don’t count for much. That is the height of insensitivity I have seen in recent times. He wouldn’t have lost anything if he had postponed the campaign for another one or two months and let the people who are bereaved come to terms with the gruesome reality,” Aturu declared. He added that people need to know that “to understand that there is a big disconnect between them and the people that leads them who only require them to vote to be in power.”
Festus Keyamo said it was “very insensitive and irresponsible.”
The tragedy of this for the image of the president was that it was a week that started with an opportunity for him to be a positive newsmaker. Good enough, he grabbed the opportunity. But twenty-four hours later, he it away in the frenzy of a rally with imprimatur of politics. From a president being hailed for cancelling appointments, he turned into one being accused of insensitivity.
And as he was raising the hands of former governor of Kano State, Ibrahim Shekarau, up having officially decamped to the PDP, in far away Chibok, a sleepy town in the besieged Borno State, terrorists hit the Government Girls Secondary School there and abducted 129 students of the school who were busy writing their exams. The gunmen came around 9pm and started herding the girls into tipper lorries and carted them away like goats. A security guard who dared to challenge them was killed. And it was this that has been raising questions begging for answers. Since Chibok is not a border town, how come these men were able to get into the school undetected to the extent that they spent over six hours ‘packing’ the students and no security team was able to come to their rescue? How come, also, that only two soldiers were stationed in the school going by the fact that these insurgents have been targeting schools lately? Earlier last month, the same Boko Haram insurgents have attacked a secondary school near Maiduguri, the state capital, and killed about 35 students who were sleeping in their dormitories. How come security has not been beefed up around secondary schools, especially those that operate boarding system, in the state? Where is the effect of the intelligence community in all these attacks?
It is to the eternal shame of our nation that our security operatives have lost the capability and capacity of coercion and the will to fight and defeat a few thousand rag tag terrorists. They have lost the fundamental reason for their existence – to protect and defend the nation against threat and more importantly, to protect lives and property. And the reason for this is not far fetched. Corruption. This plague has eaten so deep into the fabric of our lives that nothing is sacred anymore.
This is the shame of our nation. As the Ogas at the top continue to steal security vote, allowances of soldiers in the frontline, counter intelligence funds etc, they increasingly lose the moral authority to command and take decisive action to stem the rolling assault of the terrorists. They lose their professional integrity and compromise the fundamental calling of the military. The terrorists are getting the better of our soldiers because they know the predicament of the military authorities. Corruption and lack of patriotism have compromised our military. Boko Haram know that a little greasing of their palm, will open the country’s armoury to them for use to kill innocent Nigerians. They know that those on the frontline are daily being robbed of their on field allowances and are therefore unwilling to fight. The military top brass are now so rich, that they own choice properties in choice locations across the country. Where did they get the money from? They collude in stealing the nation’s oil. As
If the version of the kidnap story by some publications was to be believed, the kidnappers made several trips to be able to ferry the girls away from the school. They even had all the time to ask the girls to count themselves before herding them into the vehicles. If this is true, then Nigerians must be genuinely worried about their personal security. All the time the terrorists allegedly spent in the school premises, nobody made a call to the police or JTF that terrorists were in the school? And then proceed to drive the lorries on the road into the bush in an area where state of emergency is still in force? Something is surely wrong somewhere.
Top government officials are treating the Boko Haram threat with levity and have turned it into money making venture because they are not personally affected by the rising death toll.. They have not lost loved ones to the blood thirsty killers, so they are unable to feel the pain, fear and anger of ordinary Nigerians.
The false rescue claim on Wednesday by the Defence Headquarters, that the military had rescued 107 of the 129 kidnapped girls had been rescued has further showed that the military high command is unserious and is yet come to terms with enormity of its responsibility. The disgraceful false claim is not only dishonourable, it is a big embarrassment to the military, it is a big shame on every Nigeria and its people in the eyes of the rest of the world. Why did the military make such a false claim? After failing to stop the kidnap, it turned round to tell the whole world barefaced lies about rescuing some of the victims. What kind military is this? Nigerians are beginning to worry whether senior elements of the military are not aiding Boko Haram in its killing and bombing spree.
The allegation that the DHQ was alerted about the Nyanya bombing and did nothing about it, until the attack took place with scores dead and property destroyed, calls to question the loyalty and commitment of the military to stamping out the terror group.
Many have often criticised the Nigerian security community for being only good at protecting VIPs. And those who level this criticism have their points. Perhaps due to the fact that they have only hapless and armless civilians to deal with, Nigerian security operatives can condone off a whole towns and villages because a governor is visiting or rich fraudster is having a party near by.
All over the country, police and soldiers have become body guards to government officials, bank MDs, business men powerful politicians etc. They push motorists off the road when these ‘VIPs’ are on the road.
Yet, innocent lives are lost every day to terrorists who seem to be besting the nation’s security apparatchik all the time. Just like they did on Monday April 14, 2014. It is a shame on the military. Despite the huge security vote for the military, the foot soldiers are still poorly motivated and poorly armed. While the top brass feed fat, indulging themselves in pepper soup and chilled beer in Mammy Markets in the barracks.
The President must personally take charge of the rescue operation to free the girls from the nightmarish horror they are currently going through in the hands of their captors. They must be rescued at all cost, even if the President has to relocate to Borno to oversee the operation. Those girls must be set free. Every passing minute in the kidnappers den is a minute too late.