BY SIMON REEF MUSA
Why should there be a silence of the grave in a democracy facing a myriad of problems plaguing the Nigerian state? Both the political class and critical stakeholders have embraced deafening muteness, with some of our citizens too fearful to oppose fireworks of criminals walking freely in the land. Our democracy that should be the platform for national development and unity has given rise to bloodshed and turned our besieged communities into human barbeques. With the United Nations warning the Nigerian government to wake up and contain forces committed to the destruction of the country, our leaders are still sleepwalking in their denials.
The silence of Nigerian critical stakeholders as the country burns was the focus of the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, when he spoke on Wednesday in Abuja. Speaking through the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II, the leader of Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), described the ongoing silence by traditional and religious leaders as hinged on fear and intimidation.
Speaking during the 3rd General Assembly of the Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace (IDFP), the Sultan who is a patron of the group with President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), His Eminence, Dr Samson Ayokunle, noted that both religious and traditional leaders have been coerced into silence in the face of evils haranguing the country.
In his words, “The traditional and religious leaders that are supposed to hold political leaders to account for the people are being muscled into silence. If you are an emir and you talk too much, you get removed. If you are an Imam or a Bishop, you need money for charity, but be ready to do business with the devil so that you can do charity.”
It is incontrovertible that our nation is gradually heading towards the path of self-destruction. Against the backdrop of violence and unmitigated security challenges that have set our country on edge, democracy is now proving a wobbling nightmare in addressing issues that threaten our corporate existence. Despite assurances from the Nigerian military that Boko Haram has been “technically defeated,” the insurgent group is still dreaded and leaving footprints of bloodshed and unparalleled destructions. Even those who had earlier heaved a sigh of relief that at last our country has been delivered from these blood-thirsty elements, the spate of insecurity and horrifying killings of Nigerians have become something of grave concerns to not only citizens but also the global community.
The recent gruesome killing of the CAN Chairman of Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State, Rev Lawan Andimi, by the militant sect has sent shivers down the spines of Nigerians. The heartless murder of the Christian leader was soon followed by yet another gruesome killing of an undergraduate traveling to Maiduguri. These two killings may have proved a turning point for a nation that has lost its conscience and almost given up its citizens as shooting targets for criminals. There is no basis to deny the fact that demons of death have taken a permanent abodes in our state as the military is being overwhelmed by the superior firepower of these felons.
Even the military has not been spared the horror of terrorism, as the Islamic West African Province (ISWAP) on Tuesday this week attacked a village in Kaga Local Government Area of Borno state and killed no fewer than eight soldiers. In Kaduna state, no fewer than 38 have been killed by bike-riding vicious bandits who abducted 48 people, including a breast-feeding mother with her six-month old baby. Nearly three weeks after their abductions, their whereabouts are still unknown. The last thing heard about them was the N100 million ransom demand from their abductors.
As the nation cringes under the fear of these killers and abductors mushrooming all over the country, the silence of the political class in addressing insurgence is self-indicting. As representatives of the people, lawmakers at both state and federal level have remained accomplices in the sustained acts of terrorism unleashed on Nigerians. Without a clear-cut vision in ending the interminable siege, the political class has become an open shame in ending the nightmare.
The government’s response to these attacks has always been the regurgitation of earlier statements on previous killings: Commiserations and promises to deal with the terrorists. After few days, all is forgotten. At the occurrence of yet another attack, government’s media minders simply recall previous statements and change names and venues of fresh attacks.
The National Assembly has not been creative enough to task the executive arm on ending these slaughters. Lawmakers whose constituencies have come under attacks simply embark on a Nicodemus visits under heavy security presence. Thereafter, the usual normal sympathy messages are given and miserable sums of money presented to alleviate the anguish of the displaced. This is done in the night to avoid attracting the wrath of those whose duty is to foist national silence on the people.
In keeping silence in the face of these attacks, the world is denied the knowledge of firsthand information from people who are elected to defend the people. When voices of elected representatives are absent, the space is opened for civil society groups and activists whom government often describe as trouble makers. These ‘trouble makers’ are now the illuminators of the dark truth confronting Nigeria.
The present fight against insurgence is not only a fight for democracy, but also a fight to defend the unity of Nigeria. As it is now, our country is gradually being divided along ethno-religious fault lines. With the political class unwilling to combat our common woes, the citizens are left at the mercies of these butchers. As long as politicians’ families are far away from the murderous path of these slaughterers, the country can burn ceaselessly. To them, our country is worth being a nation only when it serves their selfish interests.
Apart from few political officer holders that are committed to the service of their people, Nigerian politicians have become the greatest threat to democracy. Not a few Nigerians, including yours sincerely, are increasingly becoming weary of the capacity of our democracy to resolve the many problems troubling our nation. When politicians see politics as a milk house, democracy soon becomes atrophied for a nation that has become a cynosure of human barbarities.
Amidst the denials that Nigeria is not heading for the worst, happenings around us clearly portray we have a long way to pull ‘Africa’s giant’ from the smokes of frightening spectre of disintegration. For a democracy that has failed to ensure protection of citizens from terror of insurgents, banning states and regional groups from evolving security outfits to complement the police amounts to criminalizing the right to the defence of life.
Miracles do sometimes come from unexpected quarters. It is soul warming that the federal government and the South-west have struck a consensus over the Operation Amotekun. This could serve as a prologue to similar outfits in defence of lives and property. If that eventually pulls through, it could serve as an opener for realising the restructuring of the Nigerian Federation.
The demons of destruction have long flapped their wings in the Northern skies. When blood shall be mixed with flames, the inhabitants of the former Northern Region will be forced to drink the waters of endless afflictions. We do not need anyone to inform us that Nigeria is set for a turmoil if the present glitches that confront us as a nation are not quickly addressed with a sense of urgency. The Sultan is hereby called upon to rally traditional and religious leaders to save Nigeria from the hell politicians are plotting to throw the country into.