The North-East Travels Solo, By Garba Shehu
Are the people of the North-Eastern Nigeria willing to accept that they have been abandoned by their leaders, and therefore need to wake up to take their destiny in their hands?
Asked whether the Presidential Declaration Committee would scale down the elaborate ceremonies planned for the next day, following the extremely painful and worrisome killing of 50 children in a science school in Yobe State, the Chairman of the Publicity Committee for President Goodluck Jonathan’s declaration, Senator Aniete Okon said to do so was to give in to the terrorists. The Presidential Declaration Committee, Sen. Okon said, wants to show the world that terrorists cannot stop or even slow down the government of Nigeria.
The loud explosion of the bomb that ripped through the lives of the 50 or so children at the school assembly in Potiskum was heard all over the world, drawing condemnations from the United Nations, the European Union, the White House, No. 10 Downing Street moments after the bomber had struck. The reaction of the Nigerian Government came when the pages of the early editions of some newspapers had been rested.
From this, and the entire body language of the President Jonathan administration, it is clear that the government is prepared to move on without the North-East.
How much of this do the leaders of the region know and accept? Why are they dead silent instead of speaking up and grabbing their destiny with both hands?
Only if those questions are answered can the alienated people of the region work towards redressing the injustice against them as citizens of Nigeria.
First of all, it must be recognized that we are in a society in a quick transition. Values and stand points are rapidly changing. As a consequence, many of our leaders who are the actors on stage are carrying on without a sense of history. Our political system is run by a dominant political party that started well as a massive bulwark against military dictatorship only to transform into one of civilian dictatorship. The ruling party at the center has become a personal possession of the President, any sitting President and this is partly responsible for the consequences we are reaping. Every infraction, denial of right, including injustice of any make is considered as a family affair and passed over. In this system of dictatorship those who rebel are censored. Party members, in the circumstance will not do anything to rock the boat because rewards of loyalty which is mostly by way of direct cash payments may be withheld.
As tragic as it might be in the North-East sub-region, their leaders are unable to confront the government or even speak to be heard because for many, their unquestionable following of the government of the day is linked to their survival. An elite that is used to lifestyle of lavish existence at the expense of their poor folk at home is desperately determined to cling to those privileges.
A few of them, such as the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who have broken ranks and are using their clout to speak against the threats of government sanction and blackmail are able to do so because of their foresight in cultivating independent means of existence. But the danger such bold individuals face is that they can be isolated and victimized, which raises the need for a united voice of the North-East – all of their governors, parliamentarians, labour groups, civil society, judges, lawyers, youth and women groups etc to come together to make a bold statement that can be heard at the United Nations in New York. The people of North-East must do this themselves – speak with one voice, saying that “all of us, Muslim, Christians, are endangered by the slaying and the bombings about which our government, the government of Nigeria appears unwilling or unprepared to bring to an end”.
The North-East should look to the world for help because, in addition to the incapacity of the home government, the situation is compounded by the military’s long tenure in government, which wasted three to four decades of peace that could have been used to move forward and modernize the armed forces.
With the current halt of arms sales to Nigeria by some countries and the winding down of our global diplomacy and influence under the current administration, question mark hangs, not only over life and property in Northern Nigeria but the existence of Nigeria as is currently mapped.
To all these, add the disarray caused by controversy in which the Defence Ministry, the National Security Council and the service chief are mired, and you have a perfect recipe for mindless bombing and killing on the scale of genocide.
Against all these, the North-East must speak for themselves, with one voice, because truly as things now are, they are left to their own fate. They are on their own as we say in the Nigeria parlance. Calls upon them by both Atiku and Emir Lamido Sanusi to take up,self-defense must be heeded. To overcome, the region must let the world know that the fight against Boko Haram, like other wars against terror, is both domestic and global and that the international community should come to their aid.