Badeh: Tears for Nigeria, By Dele Agekameh
It is in the interest of all Nigerians for the mystery of Badeh’s death to be unravelled. Although his life is no more important than the lives of others who have died in the same way he did or in other ways, there is a greater effect on the sense of insecurity that has plagued the country.
On Friday, February 13, 1976, General Murtala Ramat Mohammed was on his way to Dodan Barracks when his black Mercedes was attacked, and a hail of bullets tore through the automobile, killing the then head of state. That incident occurred during the tense period of military rule, when the gun was law and men were quick to take laws into their hands. Many years after the return to civilian rule, vehicles bearing generals are still getting riddled with bullets. This was the shock of the nation on December 18, when Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, former chief of defence staff (CDS) was shot dead in his car along the Abuja-Keffi expressway, on the way from his farm.
Regardless of one’s opinion of the now late former CDS, or about the allegations of corruption he was facing in court before his demise, his killing is another red mark in the unimpressive security record of the country. It shows how easily ordinary Nigerians can be exposed to the adverse effects of mismanagement in all sectors, especially as Badeh was entitled to much coveted state protection by reason of his rank before retirement. The killing of the ex-CDS is also likely to heighten the sense of insecurity that usually accompanies the Christmas period in Nigeria, especially with elections looming closer.
When the military were in power and Nigerians stared down the barrel of guns everyday, there was fear in the minds of Nigerians. Today the fear is gradually returning, not only because of guns, but because of the darkness of the decisions taken by otherwise civil men. The military had a clear motive – to hold and retain power. When the motives are less obvious, then is the time for real fear. Today, the tyranny of the unknown is greater than the menace of uniforms and the military hierarchy.
Badeh’s killing is just one of many concerns this December, but like all the others, we may never find out the truth about the individuals behind it. Residents of the Gitata community, near the stretch of road where Badeh was killed, say that people have been shot and kidnapped in the area by criminals in the past. Whether he was a victim of a wider conspiracy or of commonplace crime, the failure of the country’s security apparatuses to protect him is symptomatic of the wider failure and absence of security in the country. At any rate, the endless speculation about Badeh’s death is currently causing more harm than the fact of his murder, and there are many more unanswered questions that the government and ordinary people need to contend with as the current festivities continue to roll on into the new year.
To rejoice in Badeh’s death is to descend into the depths of immorality that his killers and possible masterminds have descended. Worse still, it is a display of crass ignorance of the implications of the act and the greater failures that it portends.
As we mourn the death of the late four-star general who was casually cut down a few weeks ago, we may all need to be reminded that perpetrating crime, in whatever form, is a personal failure of morals, while the suffering of one individual because of the criminal activity of others, is carried by the entire society. To rejoice in Badeh’s death is to descend into the depths of immorality that his killers and possible masterminds have descended. Worse still, it is a display of crass ignorance of the implications of the act and the greater failures that it portends.
As we prepare for a new year, which begins with decision making about the future of the country, there is need for sober reflection about our priorities as a nation and the things that drive us. We need to prioritise integrity and let the ties that bind us be the driving force in our decision making as a people in public and private life. There have been a number of national embarrassments we have faced over the last few years, and accepting these events for what they are, is, at least, the starting point for addressing their root causes.
There is no taking away the festive mood of this time of the year, but we need to remember those who could not be with us yesterday, today and in the new year. I mean the victims of our collective failure. Alex Badeh falls in this category, an embattled but entitled former member of the privileged hierarchy of the military, who was killed between military checkpoints on a road where criminal activity occurs repeatedly. Regrettably, he now lies in the same state as others less entitled, as equal victims of the failings of Nigeria.
The nation likes to celebrate, but our celebrations this December will, again, be dotted with thoughts about general insecurity, the rising rate of unemployment and the many other problems that have bedevilled the Nigerian society in recent times. The death of a former CDS and the many other societal ills we now face are unlikely to interfere in the jollof rice consumption of this week and in coming days. However, every bite of meat and sip of drink ought to be contemplative; contemplative of the direction the country is headed towards and of the hydra-headed beast of corruption that may now be swallowing its own stewards. In this regard, the possible loss of one’s appetite may just be worth it.
Ordinary Nigerians, while being thankful for proper investigations that may lead to a resolution of the mystery of his death, will be all the more thankful for a proper security architecture in the new year and as much fervour poured into investigations into the loss of normal Nigerian lives.
It is in the interest of all Nigerians for the mystery of Badeh’s death to be unravelled. Although his life is no more important than the lives of others who have died in the same way he did or in other ways, there is a greater effect on the sense of insecurity that has plagued the country. Recently, there was report of alleged lobbying by soldiers for placements outside the war ravaged North-East zone, where troops continue to suffer heavy casualties. However, this may not have been independently verified. But where battle-ready troops take this stance in their home country, it is a troubling sign for the wider country and an indictment of the management of our security affairs. There is no substitute for peace of mind and this may have become a scarce commodity this festive season.
For those who love Nigeria, the pounded yam should be heavier in the mouth as the year draws to a close. If Badeh’s killing does not guarantee a moment of pause, then the soldiers of Metele, Leah Sharibu and other victims of our state of affairs should trigger reflection and resolve to contribute to a solution. We are all to blame, in varying degrees, and this sense of collective responsibility may cure us of selective amnesia and our warped sense of tolerance that leads us to seek quick fixes.
It is left to the government and security forces to do the utmost to restore order and sanity in the country. The signals we send out as a serious member of the international community depends on our handling of domestic affairs. There is no country that can boast of strength on the international scene without having a solid system that works at home. When high profile individuals can be cut down on a regular Tuesday evening close to our capital, it tells a story we should be ashamed of.
Like in the General Alkali case, there is likely going to be a rush of military activity in the investigations that are sure to follow Badeh’s killing. Ordinary Nigerians, while being thankful for proper investigations that may lead to a resolution of the mystery of his death, will be all the more thankful for a proper security architecture in the new year and as much fervour poured into investigations into the loss of normal Nigerian lives. Some may be crying for Badeh, but we all cry for the souls still in danger through insecurity and the seeming triumph of evil in the country.
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