I wish I was not in Abuja yesterday, the day of President Goodluck Jonathan's inauguration. The state security forces virtually had to capture the capital city: they blocked perhaps a half of the roads in the territory, blockaded all mobile networks and shut down the airspaces.
Those who had to leave the city were trapped and there was no internet connection for people to do their daily job. The only thing that was missing to remind us of the era of military coups was martial music.
The action was understandable. With about 30 world leaders expected, no stone should be left unturned in providing security. The last time an event like this happened, October 1, last year, which was the day marking the 50th anniversary of the nation's independence, bombs exploded a few metres to where the president and a few world leaders were sitting. Some of the visiting presidents had to abandon the programme and scampered back home. It was a disgraceful spectacle, and MEND, which had warned of the impending act earlier, claimed responsibility. Though the president embarrassingly and unwisely attempted to exonerate MEND, the terrorist organisation maintained its position. The bombs were said to have been detonated through mobile phones, which could explain why mobile phone operations were blocked throughout yesterday.
But, then, it's now almost eight months since MEND terrorists detonated their bombs in Abuja, murdering several innocent people and disgracing the nation in a felony that clearly fits the definition of treason. Apart from a few arrests that were made, nothing has been heard about the matter since then. None of those arrested has been tried and no one is sure whether any trial is even going on. Only in South Africa do we get regaled, once in a while, about the trial of Henry Okah who was arrested there. Since after the October 1 bombings, the first ever in the history of Abuja, a lot more bombs have exploded in the capital city and many more northern cities, but not a single person has been tried and convicted in Nigeria as a result, thus indicating that the bombings will continue for a long time to come. There was once a report that a bomb-making factory had been uncovered in Plateau State.
Nothing came out of that very serious story. It remains a puzzle why President Jonathan has been so clueless in tackling security issues since he became president. Even though he claims to be making efforts to resolve the issues, Nigerians cannot see progress in this regard. Considering the level of desperation the government had to go in protecting the president himself and the visiting heads of state, it is clear that the Jonathan government has not made any headway in the matter. If the government had to shut down the capital city, including our telephones and airports, it just means that the government still does not have a handle on the matter - and its display of such kind of nervousness is troubling. So, then, what happens to the rest of us? The frightening answer to that is that we are on our own!
And this is not even adding the Boko Haram security conundrum in Borno State which has defied any type of resolution to the mix. The Boko Haram threat to security in Nigeria is far worse. At least when MEND claimed responsibility for the Abuja bombings, everyone knew the goons at MEND. Even when the president tried to exculpate them, their insistence on claiming credit for the terrorism and mass murder led to the apprehension of Okah in South Africa and a few of their ring leaders here. But nobody knows the real faces of the leaders of Boko Haram. So far, only ragtag messengers and operatives have been apprehended; even so, like the MEND cases, none of them has been tried and convicted. And every now and then, they carry out their murderous acts unchallenged as if there is no authority in Nigeria. Three days ago, they sacked a police station in Maiduguri. And they have been strenuously trying to create bases in Niger and Kaduna states. Here, however, the efforts of the Niger State governor, The Master Servant Babangida Aliyu, should be commended for checking what appeared to be their inexorable advance. The governor has had to arrest several of them and raise an alarm, but it is doubtful how far he can go if the federal government does not appreciate the magnitude of the problem. Then, we have the murderous lot in the Plateau axis who must kill people who do not belong to their faith. Even there, too, no one of substance has been arrested and tried. And so the bloodletting continues.
The international community considers Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan failed states. These countries are considered failed states because each state has been unable to protect lives and offer meaningful security for the people.
Congo and Somalia in Africa are also considered failed states for similar reasons. In Congo, there is a government in place, but that is all that there is: the government cannot protect anyone. It is only a matter of argument whether Nigeria is already in the same league with these nations. If we consider how many lives have been wasted in Nigeria in the last one year as a result of sundry terrorist operations, we may even have surpassed the record of some of these countries. If you add Nigeria's security dilemma to the fact that the government still cannot provide electric power, health services, potable water and decent education to its people, then, the verdict is clear. The Nigerian government cannot meet its responsibility to its people. The definition of a failed state doesn't get better than this. The only thing we should be doing now is try to pull ourselves out of the hole.
Last week, some unknown gunmen went on the rampage in Lagos, killing a police DPO and several other police officers. A day earlier, a soldier had been shot dead by a policeman, so it was reasonable to have thought that what happened was revenge killing from aggrieved soldiers. But the army has been vehement that the perpetrators were not from its ranks. There are also people who say the murderers are not soldiers on revenge mission as is popularly believed. Knowing Nigeria well, the perpetrators would probably never be found. Are we still trying to get the definition of a failed state?
E A R S H O T
It's Their Shadows!
Gbenga Daniel, former governor of Ogun State, almost caused a stir running to catch a British Airways flight out of Nigeria two days to the expiration of his tenure. He could not even wait to formally hand over to his successor. As I write this piece, the whereabouts of Ikedi Ohakim, former governor of Imo State, is unknown. He did not wait to hand over power to his successor on May 29. He did his own two days early. He is now at large. Aliyu Akwe Doma, former governor of Nasarawa State, also handed over informally two days early and scampered out of Government House. At least one other former governor has been fighting desperately - as if his life depends on it - to take over as Senate president the very first day he steps into the Senate chambers so as to procure some security - even if not constitutional immunity. Nobody appears to be chasing these people but they are running. They are scared of their shadows. Many more former governors are expected to scurry out of the country, some of them even through the borders. Many of them didn't know the end would come so soon. Eight years appeared like a lifetime for many of them. There are many others who are not running because there is nothing to run from. But those that are running probably have very good reasons to do so.