Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: The Occupation of the North

It may sound extraordinary but giving it even a curious understanding, the reality is that most Nigerians of Northern extraction have been living in occupied territories. Army of occupation have dictated our lives since the election of Goodluck Jonathan as the president of Nigeria in April 2011 and the subsequent escalation of violence from the militant groups in the Northern areas.

Today, it is a big issue driving into Abuja due to the heavy military checkpoints in all the entrances. The same is the nightmare in states of the North East and several North West states. Equally is the case with Niger, Plateau and some other states in the Central zone.

For the months that these roadblocks have been staged, I am not aware that fundamental discoveries have been made as a result. I am not also aware of the objectives that have been achieved by the central government apart from the unfortunate exposure of the nation's armed forces to the vagaries of the Nigerian society.

The soldiers on roadblocks in several areas have now been badly compromised and are receiving tips and bribes from unsuspecting motorists. This is really unfortunate and has the capacity of not only reducing the morale and alertness of the soldiers but also completely destroying their capacities and thus putting the nation at greater risks.

When there was flood across the country, those we saw going their first were civil men of the Emergency Agencies instead of the military personnel who we see in other parts of the world saving lives and humanity whenever such natural catastrophes occur.

Another visible achievement of such massive deployment of soldiers on our highways is the drain that they have become on the purse of the unfortunate states. Millions of the very scarce resources of these states are drained towards the maintenance of these troops of occupation.

I wonder why states like Kaduna, Gombe, Borno, Yobe, Plateau, Bauchi, Niger, Kano and others would be made by the federal authorities to spend so much money in funding the federal troops that are occupying their territories.

A more serious wonder is the whereabouts of the huge sums of money that were appropriated for security in the federal budgets. In the 2012 estimates, about a trillion Naira, which constituted about 35% of the entire budget, was approved for security and we all know that the situation only began to improve when General Azazi was sent packing.

Why so much money and yet the weight of the 'peace keeping' was shouldered by the states affected?

Many people have proffered far-reaching solutions to this intractable crises facing Nigeria. Agreed that the root cause is social disequilibrium arising from age long neglect; the solutions that have been advanced to government are though anchored equally on the need for effective social policies, the present military action that has only succeeded to aggravating the resurrection in my view requires vigorous overhaul.

I am afraid that this military approach even if it succeeds may just be for the time being unless the roots of the issues are tackled and they cannot be tackled by this aggression and seeming vengeance on the part of some political and military officials of the state.

I want to see a Nigeria where my children and those of other citizens and even foreigners in our midst in the next five or ten years are living in harmony in no matter what part of the country. The brutal approach by the president in cohort with the army chief suggests that the genuine intention to resolve this unfortunate national crisis is either weak or lacking.

There are serious issues of credibility and capacity to address the problems that some parts of Nigeria are facing by the government of the day. I am not sure if this occupation apart from the hardship and difficulty that innocent citizens are subjected to in the hands of soldiers and the seeming compromise of the integrity of the soldiers has so far achieved any meaningful result.

There is the need for the authorities in Abuja to parley with the governments of the affected states immediately with a view to not just reviewing the situation but importantly deploying better alternative strategies that would lead to the realization of lasting peace in the affected areas.

Take the soldiers away from our streets, return them to the barracks and lets all use social resolution mechanism in addressing these crises now and for the future. Majority of Nigeria that is silent cannot afford to continue to live with this difficulty. I am sure that the same government cannot impose this difficulty for this long in any part of Southern Nigeria. So why the North?

Sad enough the political authorities and Army high command in Abuja have turned deaf ear to reason and rationality.

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