Nineteen months and counting…, By Amma Ogan
Imagine that the world is a sphere, submerged between two elements each half subsisting in a different time warp. Both halves being inhabited by human beings, they share very many common characteristics, except for one or two.
It took the French security forces, scrambling in the shock and horror of last week’s attacks by ISIS, two days to confirm that the shredded body discovered during a police raid was indeed that of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 28, thought to have been the mastermind behind the latest Paris attack. French intelligence says he was also involved in five other terrorist plots that they have foiled this year.
How many times has Abubakar Shekau been killed?
Speedy but painstaking is the watchword when battling with terrorists who can take all the time they need to plan attack after attack, all they want is for one to hit. It is a constant battle for any security forces trying to foil them, requiring eternal vigilance encircled as they are, above and below, by eyes they cannot see.
The death toll from the Paris attacks of 13 November was 130.
The January 7 Charlie Hebdo bombing took 12 lives. These are exact figures, each individual identified and named.
More than 1,000 people have been killed by the activities of Boko Haram since Nigerian and joint military forces embarked on a campaign to regain territory captured by the terrorist group and President Buhari took office. Many headlines about Boko Haram coming out of Nigeria have this same inexactitude. “Over 300 Hostages Rescued from Boko Haram, Claims Nigerian Military”. The military campaign that preceded the election that brought Buhari to power achieved the goals it set out: beat back Boko Haram for the elections, but did not do so with clarity and precision. For example, mass burial sites were found but no reports of just how many victims or accounts of attempts to unearth and bury them decently followed.
If you don’t know who is dead, how can you confirm those who are alive and how do you determine who to continue looking for, if you are in fact looking? Buhari’s inaugural speech contained a commitment to find the Chibok girls and made no bones that doing so would be a signal achievement of his administration and set it apart from that of his predecessor. It goes without saying that the more time passes before this is achieved the less distinct Buhari’s government becomes from that of Goodluck Jonathan, who fiddled while our daughters were violated.
Of course questions of how many, how much and where, are fundamental to everything the Buhari administration says it wants to achieve. It is the one change that would lead to all the others. But how can you effect an outcome if you don’t change the method of pursuit? We can all sing ‘heigh ho’ about the former minister of petroleum, but it is not the government and people of Nigeria that have indicted her. The one ex-Nigerian state governor, who is sitting in jail for crimes of corruption, is doing so in England, not Kirikiri.
This is the president responding to questions from Nigerians in Tehran and assuring them of his commitment to his campaign promises, especially the principle of fighting corruption and making those who have stolen money in the name of the people, pay for their crimes and cough up what they have looted.
“But, we are collecting documents and some of them have started voluntarily returning something. But we want all.
“When we get those documents then we will formally charge them to court and then we will tell Nigerians to know those who abused trust when they were entrusted with public funds or when they took it by force for 16 years.
“So, the day of reckoning is gradually approaching,”
Seven months into the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari it is clear that the concept of speed, nay movement, even time, has taken almost an other world dimension.
Four years is not long and if you have already taken six months to appoint a cabinet it is clear that any other campaign promises will be like waiting for an elephant to gestate. (FYI: in the case of the African elephant, this takes 22 months.) This president is not going to move at any other pace but his own. Fourth time lucky, the old man will not be hurried or harried, will not attempt any new fangled ideas, will stick to what he knew. In fact, at his pace it is completely redundant for him to bother with a Twitter account. Snail mail will do. The buzzword for the age is instant. Baba Go-Slow does not even describe this current stride. Time is something Nigerians have wasted, and can truthfully, no longer afford, if we want to catch up with the rest of the world.
What to do? All those lieutenants of President Buhari who rode in on his coattails, will have to show that they are younger men and women with the ability to set goals and produce results and have something to hold up in 40 month’s time when the party will have to face the Nigerian electorate again and tell us why we should give them our vote. No bombast, no long thing, just facts and figures please. Evidence of things seen. Progress that can be reported: how many roads, how much more school enrollment, power generated, jobs created, potable water provided, health clinics built, maternal mortality achieved. Even that is a long shot, given that today’s governors are taking over from those who failed in the most basic arithmetic. Chief executives, clueless as to what governance entails, who generated no revenue, subsisted on handouts from the federal purse and were so bereft of ideas that they blew it all on themselves and ended up bankrupting their states and unable to pay civil servants or teachers.
Two days ago a young female suicide bomber detonated her explosives on the outskirts of Maiduguri in a group of people displaced by Boko Haram. The military spokesperson, Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman told the Voice of America that the suicide bomber was unable to take as many victims as she wanted because she was spotted by security forces at a checkpoint and so had to act quickly.
“There’s a new collective zeal and determination on the part of the citizenry to ensure that Boko Haram is defeated, is degraded, that it will no longer have the capacity to cause mayhem and wanton destruction of lives and property by the end of the year,” Usman is reported to have said.
The end of the year, is in a little over four week’s time and degrading Boko Haram, would make a great New Year’s gift. A similar zeal was displayed in March when the election that brought the current administration to power was postponed for six weeks on the promise of an operation that would mop Boko Haram up. Well, it did not last.
New collective zeal and determination is a fancy appellation.
Will it mean that the Chibok girls will be located, rescued or accounted for, dead or alive? Or will they have become women by the time the administration of Muhammadu Buhari gets to that?
Nineteen months and counting…